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When the Minnesota Vikings drafted tight end Irv Smith Jr. in the second round out of Alabama, it felt like Kyle Rudolph's days in purple and yellow could be numbered. However, now that Rudolph agreed to a four-year, $36 million extension with the team, the fantasy football waters are now muddied when it comes to the value of both tight ends.
While Rudolph is listed as the starter, ahead of Smith Jr., on the Vikings' official depth chart, just because they play the same position, doesn't mean the two will play the same role in 2019.
Rudolph finished as the ninth-ranked fantasy tight end in 2018, and is in position to finish as a TE1 yet again this season, even with Smith Jr. in the fold. One big reason is that the Vikings ran two-TE sets in 33 percent of their snaps last season. That means both players will likely be on the field together a lot in 2019, making them both fantasy relevant – one more than the other.
The Red Zone Reindeer surprisingly finished with four touchdowns last season – the lowest total of Rudolph's career when he plays all 16 games. He still caught 64 passes on 82 targets with a 78 percent catch rate and should continue to be a go-to red zone target for QB Kirk Cousins this coming season.
Smith Jr. could add another dimension to Minnesota's offense, adding to an already-stacked receiving corps that includes Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen at wide receiver. But the Bama product is likely the team's fourth receiving option, limiting his 2019 fantasy potential. Expect around 500 yards and less than half a dozen TDs.
Rudolph remains the Vikings' tight end to own in fantasy this season, but Smith Jr. could be a useful bye-week fill in or a dynasty-league play. Either way, you won't touch either of these players until outside the top 150 picks in upcoming fantasy football drafts.
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