Fantasy Football: Jonnu Smith Is Instantly Relevant at the Tight End Position
The sight of Delanie Walker's ankle injury was one of the more upsetting scenes from a scintillating Week 1 of NFL action. The veteran tight end is almost certainly done for the entire 2018 season, leaving the Tennessee Titans short one of their key playmakers.
The Titans face a difficult challenge in replacing Walker, a player who has been among the most productive at his position during his time in Nashville. But Walker's injury creates an opportunity for second-year tight end Jonnu Smith to assume a larger role on the offense.
Is he worth scooping up off the waiver wire? Let's take a look.
A High-Volume Vacancy
Obviously, there's no guarantee Smith sees the same amount of targets -- or anything close to it -- that Walker has gotten in Tennessee, but it's worth noting that the tight end position has been a high-volume role for the Titans.
Walker joined the Titans as a free agent prior to the 2013 season. Since then, no tight end has seen more targets than Walker's 538, and no one at the position has had more catches than his 356. Only Rob Gronkowski, Greg Olsen and Jimmy Graham have amassed more receiving yards than Walker, who had 4,123.
This production has made Walker a quality fantasy option, with only Graham and Gronkowski topping his 934 PPR points during that span.
Again, Smith probably isn't going to see that kind of big-time volume, but Marcus Mariota has proven that he likes to throw to the position. Walker has seen 133, 102 and 111 targets over Marcus Mariota's three years, so Smith isn't a bad bet for decent volume if he's close to an every-down player for the rest of the campaign.
The Young Gun
The Titans drafted Smith in the third round of the 2017 NFL Draft out of Florida International. He averaged 44.5 receptions a season in his four years as a Golden Panther, as well as 500 yards and 4.5 touchdowns. He impressed as an athletic prospect at the Combine, especially with regards his speed. His 40-yard dash time of 4.62 placed him in the 86th percentile, according to PlayerProfiler.
Stuck behind Walker, Smith's opportunities were limited as a rookie. Despite playing in all 16 games, he was targeted only 30 times. He secured 18 of those looks for 157 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Assuming Smith takes over the majority of Walker's role, he could see plenty of opportunity to make an impact. Between 2015 and 2017, no team sent more passes the way of their tight ends than the Titans did (484). While the Titans may not be a particularly pass-heavy offense and they're under a new play-caller, Smith is at least an intriguing fantasy option by virtue of his likelihood of being on the field a large amount.
Should You Pick Him Up?
Given the weekly uncertainty at the tight end spot in fantasy football, fantasy owners who drafted Walker may have felt quite secure in the knowledge that they had someone who could offer a safe weekly floor.
While we shouldn't assume Smith will offer that same comfort level, Smith should be on the radar for any fantasy owner who doesn't have one of the elite tight ends.
Unless the Week 2 streaming options in your league are pretty barren, it's probably best to take a wait-and-see approach with Smith. But if he ends up playing close to an every-snap role for the remainder of the year, he would, at worst, be a solid streaming option when the matchup is right, and Smith could possibly flirt with TE1 (top-12) numbers if he sees good volume.