One of the first major dominos of the 2021 free-agency period has fallen, as Jonnu Smith is headed to the New England Patriots on a four-year, $50 million deal. This move obviously has massive implications on his fantasy football outlook as well.
While this should improve his value in 2021, the jump may not be as significant as some fantasy managers are hoping for.
Jonnu Smith Patriots - Fantasy Football 2021
It always felt like Smith was capable of doing more than he was asked to do with the Tennessee Titans. Inking a contract that makes him the third-highest paid tight end in the league (in terms of average annual value) is certainly a signal that New England will ask him to do a lot more. He was already fantasy's TE9 in standard-scoring leagues last year, so that's a recipe for success.
But fantasy managers surely would've liked to have seen Smith land in a more pass-happy offense. Last year, the Patriots had the second-highest run percentage in the NFL (53.3%). Smith's former team, the Titans, were third in that regard (51.8%). That means his opportunities could be limited, just as they were in Tennessee.
The difference is that he will likely be used a lot more as a receiver in Foxborough. Smith was the third option in the passing game behind A.J. Brown and Corey Davis with the Titans. New England doesn't have any receivers that are anywhere near as talented as those two. Right now, he's probably the Patriots' de-facto No. 1 option (or close to it), which should lead to a significant uptick in targets.
But even that comes with a caveat. New England still has tons of cap space and draft capital to play with this offseason. Considering just how bad the receiving corps is, the Patriots probably aren't done adding talent in the passing game. Smith's value could take a big hit if he ends up being the third option on a run-heavy team again.
Still, even with the downgrade from Ryan Tannehill to Cam Newton, Smith is firmly on the TE1 radar due to his position in the Patriots' pecking order. But he might not have the top-five TE upside that he would've had if landed in a better passing attack.
He's likely to be a really buzzy name come draft time, though, so be sure to manage your expectations for the 25-year-old TE.
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Max Staley is not a FanDuel employee. In addition to providing DFS gameplay advice, Max Staley also participates in DFS contests on FanDuel using his personal account, username mstaley1212. While the strategies and player selections recommended in his articles are his personal views, he may deploy different strategies and player selections when entering contests with his personal account. The views expressed in their articles are the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of FanDuel.