In January of 2020 (seems like a decade ago!)
Patriots Head Honcho Bill Belichick had this to say about then
Titans tight end Jonnu Smith:
“He’s just a really good tight end. Can do a lot
of things. Blocks well. Runs well. Is a good receiver. Played
him at tailback, he looked pretty good back there. He’s
a very athletic player. Hard to tackle. Catches the ball well.
(He’s) great after the catch, probably the best in the
league. I mean, I can’t imagine anyone better than him
after the catch.”
So it should hardly be any surprise that the Pats made a splash
(one of many on the semi-opening day of free agency) by signing
the 5th year pro to a very lucrative deal, featuring 31.5 million
guaranteed. So while New England fills a gaping hole in their
offense with a flashy, versatile, and uber athletic new toy,
what can fantasy owners expect from Smith in the 2021 season?
For years Smith languished behind Delanie Walker as a “dripping
with upside” 3rd round pick. 2020 was supposed to be the
TRUE breakout as the Tennessee offense seemed poised to explode.
But it was teammate Corey Davis and not Smith that took the
giant step forward, as the former FIU Panther barely surpassed
his 2019 reception and yardage numbers. Yes, Smith asserted
himself in the touchdown department with a career high eight,
and was a top-10 option in Standard and Half-Point PPR leagues,
but I felt like the production didn’t quite match the
potential or the hype.
In the Pats offense, Smith immediately ascends the offensive
hierarchy. While he might have been the 4th best option on the
Titans, the money thrown his way (2nd highest tight end salary
in the league) means he’ll be a much bigger part of his
new team. With the all-around game to be on the field on all
downs and distances, and the athleticism and versatility to
play inside, outside, inline, and even in the backfield, look
for New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels to game
plan plenty of looks for Smith.
Cam Newton, back in the fold for another year, helped Greg Olsen
to a handful of the best seasons of his career, so there is
an on-paper match with his quarterback. This offense has a history
of running through its tight ends, and I wouldn’t be shocked
to see Smith set career highs across the board. The signing
of Nelson Agholor may eat into his reception totals, but hitting
700+ yards and 6+ touchdowns should be his floor, making him
an easy TE1 with upside.