So, You Want to Draft Irv Smith Jr. For Your Fantasy Football Team?

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Bo Mitchell and John Tuvey have roughly a half-century of experience in the fantasy football industry between them. Scholars maintain the actual number of years could even be much higher. Co-hosts of The Fantasy Football Party Podcast, Bo and 2V concocted this series to help you stay true to your Vikings fandom while dominating your fantasy league.

Back in March, I suggested in this space that we’d bear witness to a breakout season from second-year Vikings tight end Irv Smith Jr. in 2020. As it turns out, the prediction wasn’t exactly revolutionary. It appears many in the fantasy football industry are reading leaves from the same Camellia sinensis shrub, as his average ranking is running well ahead of veteran teammate Kyle Rudolph. The proverbial passing of the torch seems to be at hand, and fantasy football team owners are here for it.

So are Minnesota Vikings fans.

One need not wander too far down the tracks of Vikings social media to encounter the Smith hype train. His popularity in Vikings country is chugging right along. As such, getting Smith on fantasy football rosters is becoming a priority for Minnesota fans who want to have their Spam and eat it, too. And of course, if your fantasy league is based in Minnesota, where Smith’s approval ratings are soaring, you’re going to need a good draft day strategy to ensure you get him.

The mission of drafting Smith is the basis for this, the fifth installment in our ongoing series that meets at the crossroads of fantasy football and rooting interest in the Vikings. In case you missed the first four articles, I’ve linked them below for your convenience. You’re welcome.

Now, back to the task at hand. So, you want to draft Smith for your fantasy football team? Let’s figure out how to make that happen.


Given his newfound ascension in the fantasy industry, there’s a fairly wide variance in Smith’s perceived draft value, which makes zeroing in on where to rank him problematic. In addition, the tight end position is pretty loaded with young, up-and-coming players who have a chance of busting out. Projecting and comparing all of them yields all kinds of potential outcomes.

A quick sampling of ranking data reveals little consensus on Smith. He’s ranked as high as the late teens and as low as the mid-30s among tight ends in re-draft leagues. His value is higher in keeper and dynasty start-ups for obvious reasons. It’s also higher – or at least should be higher – in PPR leagues, not unlike Adam Thielen. In PPR or half-PPR leagues, Smith can usually be found ranked in the 18-25 range among tight ends.

Rudolph had only one more target, three more receptions and 56 more yards than Smith in 2019. However, Rudolph outscored Smith six touchdowns to two. In 2020, it is anticipated that Smith will surge past Rudy in targets, receptions and yards.

Touchdowns are another matter. While it would make sense to expect more than two scores for Smith this season given the increase in touches, Rudolph is still a great end zone target. Hence the difference in ranking in PPR leagues. In non-PPR leagues, Rudolph will still be ranked lower than Smith, but not by nearly as much. Rudolph’s fantasy value has become very touchdown-dependent, so if your league still uses a touchdown-only scoring system from 1986, he remains the better option. That’s probably the only scoring system in which Rudolph should even be drafted this year,

In any case, even for leagues based in the heart of Vikings country, Smith is a backup tight end for fantasy purposes. If you plan to draft him in a league with pretty standard scoring rules and roster sizes, plan to have someone else as your primary tight end.

So, we know Smith’s approximate value. What does that translate into for draft day?


If you read my first two articles in this series, you’ve seen me mention that reaching in your draft will be necessary to lock down Cousins and Thielen. The same is true for Smith – or really any player that you absolutely have to have on your squad.

In 10- to 12-team industry leagues based across the country, Smith is going undrafted in most leagues and going off the board in one of the final three rounds on average when he does get selected. Using that as a rock-bottom basis for his value, you need not plan to reach too high in order to ensure you get him. Again, don’t plan to make him one of the top 10 tight ends off the board. Even in Minnesota leagues, nobody should be willing to commit to Smith as their TE1. That’s taking things too far, even if you’re drinking the Purple Kool-Aid from a firehose.

At the same time, we’re operating under the assumption that your Vikings-loving soul absolutely has to have Smith and you’re drafting in a worst-case scenario environment – in a league where several of your fellow team owners are also Vikings fans and also likely to covet Smith. If this is you, waiting until the final three rounds clearly won’t get the job done.

When do you take him then?

The answer is less about the round and more about how the draft unfolds. Your best indicator is to watch for teams to begin selecting their second tight ends before pouncing on Smith. Once each team has drafted one tight end, be one of the first owners to pull the trigger on a backup by grabbing Smith as your TE2. If that means he’s the 13th or 14th tight end of the board, so be it. It’s not good value at all, but reaching for players in a fantasy football draft is never about good value; it’s about getting that player you just need to have.

With a little planning and foresight, bad-value reaches can be offset by getting good value with other picks during your draft to even things out. If you’ve got a handful of steals, it makes rolling the dice more palatable.

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