Minnesota Vikings, NFL Draft

Vikings fans react to drafting tight end Irv Smith Jr.

The Minnesota Vikings made tight end Irv Smith Jr. their second-round pick, and the sentiment on the choice was overwhelmingly positive.

It feels a year overdue, but the Minnesota Vikings are adding some pieces around quarterback Kirk Cousins in the 2019 NFL Draft. After taking NC State center Garrett Bradbury No. 18 overall Thursday night, the Vikings stood pat at No. 50 and took Alabama tight end Irv Smith Jr.

As a junior in 2018, Smith had 44 catches for 710 yards (16.1 yards per catch) and seven touchdowns. His 157.7 passer rating when targeted led SEC tight ends, and his 2.56 yards per route run was tight for first in this year’s tight end class (via Pro Football Focus). At the NFL Combine, his 4.63 second 40-yard dash time tied for third-fastest among tight ends.

The Vikings have a top-tier wide receiver duo in Adam Thielen in Stefon Diggs, but they sorely lacked other weapons last year and No. 3 receiver Laquon Treadwell simply racked up too many targets (53). Smith is a more athletic player than No. 1 tight end Kyle Rudolph (9.9 yards per catch in 2018), and certainly far more dynamic after the catch.

As could be expected, Vikings’ fans and followers were pretty high on the selection of Smith.

During Cousins’ best season with the Washington Redskins, 2016, six pass catchers had more than 40 receptions and the same six had at least 59 targets. That included two tight ends, Jordan Reed (66 receptions for 686 yards) and Vernon Davis (44 receptions for 583 yards), who also combined to catch eight of Cousins’ 25 touchdown passes that season.

For some reason, with no real evidence he was an elite quarterback, the Vikings counted on their better overall situation as the driving force to push Cousins to a higher level. With the hiring of Gary Kubiak as an offensive consultant, and their first two picks in this year’s draft, there’s a commitment to supporting Cousins that really should have come immediately last offseason.

Next: 2019 NFL Draft: Grades Tracker

Better late than never though, when you’ve narrowed in on a three-year window to win with the current quarterback. Smith, like Bradbury, should be an immediate contributor for the Vikings.

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