With the news that the Minnesota Vikings have traded for tight end T.J. Hockenson, it’s also been reported that Irv Smith Jr. will miss the next 8-10 weeks due to a high ankle sprain. For those playing along at home, that puts him on track to miss the rest of the regular season. Effectively, it could end his Vikings career.
The Vikings took Irv Smith Jr. in the 2nd round, 50th overall, of the 2019 NFL Draft. The former Alabama star was seen as a pass-catching threat that could spread the field as an athletic talent from the tight end position. Potentially a bit undersized for the position, his athleticism was always going to be viewed as off the charts.
Suffering yet another season-ending (potentially) injury this season, he’ll have played in just seven games over the past two seasons. Smith Jr. got behind the eight ball this year when he broke his thumb prior to the regular season, and that was coming off a 2021 meniscus surgery that required him to sit out the entire season.
If this is it for the dynamic tight end, Minnesota fans will be left wondering what if.
Across four years of his rookie deal, Smith Jr. played in only 36 games, drawing 14 starts. The only season in which he was available for each contest was his first, and he never topped 365 yards in any given season. Smith Jr. did record five touchdowns in 2020, which led to plenty of excitement heading into 2021.
Looking for targets alongside the likes of Stefon Diggs, Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen, and even Dalvin Cook, an inability to establish consistency often held Smith Jr. back.
While the Vikings have jumped out to a 6-1 record this season, Smith Jr. has drawn just 33 targets, or less than five per game. There’s still plenty of opportunity to go around even with Jefferson stealing the show, but Smith Jr. has not capitalized on it.
Minnesota will certainly not exercise Smith Jr.’s fifth year option, and he’ll be looking for a new team this offseason. There’s no reason to believe he can’t be a dynamic player for another team in the NFL, but the recipe to find that remains the same. The talent doesn’t matter if it isn’t available on the field.
Ted Schwerzler is a blogger from the Twin Cities that is focused on all things Minnesota Twins and Minnesota Vikings. He’s active on Twitter and writes weekly for Twins Daily. As a former college athlete and avid sports fan, covering our pro teams with a passion has always seemed like such a natural outlet.