Fantasy football: Minnesota Vikings tight ends breakdown

Fantasy football: Minnesota Vikings tight ends breakdown

Fantasy football player analysis tips and advice

Fantasy football: Minnesota Vikings tight ends breakdown


As recently as a couple of years ago, the Minnesota Vikings had one of the deeper tight end rooms in the league with veteran Kyle Rudolph, Tyler Conklin and promising youngster Irv Smith Jr.

Two years later, Rudolph and Conklin are both gone, and there are a lot more questions about Minnesota’s tight ends than there are answers.

Irv Smith Jr.

He was hailed as the future of the position for Minnesota when selected in the second round of the 2019 draft. Playing the role of second fiddle to Rudolph his first two seasons, Smith posted modest numbers – 66 receptions for 676 yards and seven touchdowns in 29 games.

With Rudolph out of the picture in 2021 having been released following the 2020 season to get out from under an onerous contract, Smith was primed to see his role in the offense grow significantly. The organization praised his athleticism – 4.6 speed to go with a 6-foot-2, 240-pound frame that could create mismatches downfield.

That all came to a screeching halt in the third and final preseason game when Smith tore a meniscus in his knee that required surgery and wiped out his entire 2021 season. He has been at the team’s training facility for the last 10 months, working diligently to rehab his injury and learn the new offense being installed.

Smith has millions of reasons to work tirelessly to get back on the field, because he is entering the final year of his rookie contract and a potentially lucrative deal hangs in the balance, whether with the Vikings or someone else.

Ben Ellefson

An undrafted free agent signed by the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2020, Ellefson played in seven games, catching one pass for 10 yards. He was claimed off waivers Sept. 1, 2021, by the Vikings. He played five games, primarily as a special teams player, before landing on injured reserve with a foot issue after playing in five games without a reception.

With the lack of depth at the position, Ellefson has a very good chance of making the 53-man roster, but he has yet to prove he belongs in the NFL as a regular contributor.

Johnny Mundt

Mundt spent five nondescript seasons with the Los Angeles Rams, serving most of his time as a blocking tight end and special teams contributor. In 47 career games, he has caught just 10 passes for 93 yards – more than a third of those yards coming on one reception.

The best thing Mundt has going for him is that he played under new Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell during his time in L.A. His familiarity with O’Connell’s offense will give him a shorthand in learning the system, but he has never shown the ability to force his way on the field and be an offensive contributor aside from as a blocker.

Zach Davidson

A fifth-round draft pick from Division II Central Missouri in 2021, Davidson spent last season on Minnesota’s practice squad. Because much of Division II football was cancelled the 2020 season due to COVID-19, Davidson hasn’t played a meaningful game since 2019, when he had a massive 15-touchdown effort for the Mules and set himself up to be one of just three DII prospects to be drafted in 2021.

His best argument to make the roster may be his versatility. He doubled as a punter in college and averaged more than 42 yards per punt. He didn’t show enough last season to make the 53 man roster last season, but with a new regime in place and an opportunity to be seized, he gets a second chance.

Fantasy football outlook

Of these tight ends, the only player with any fantasy value is Smith, and given his injury history – missing 20 of a possible 49 games – he comes with injury red flags. He has the talent to be a solid TE2, but anyone who selects him will do so being aware that there are health issues associated with him.

Depth behind Smith is almost nonexistent, so if he can stay healthy and play the entire season, he could be an intriguing fantasy tight end sleeper candidate. As he begins the final season on his rookie contract, Smith has a lot to prove and a lot of incentive to have a big season to ignite his NFL career.

Should Smith yet again fall to injury, Davidson is the guy with some appeal off the wire, provided he lives up to his potential and makes the team.


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