Jonnu Smith: 2019 Fantasy Football outlook for Titans TE
By John Lowell
How will Tennessee Titans tight end Jonnu Smith fare in fantasy football in 2019?
If last night’s preseason game versus the Philadelphia Eagles was any indication, tight ends for the Tennessee Titans will be heavily involved in the 2019 aerial attack. Unfortunately, due to a lingering knee injury and PUP list designation, we were unable to see tight end Jonnu Smith on the field.
However, he is still the heir apparent to the Titans’ first option at the position, Delanie Walker — make no mistake about it.
To fully understand Smith’s fantasy relevance, assuming he’s healthy to begin the year, we’ll have to take a deep dive into the history of the position. The most known qualifier for fantasy-relevant tight ends is experience.
In redraft formats, high draft picks of late — such as Detroit Lions TE T.J. Hockenson and Denver Broncos TE Noah Fant — won’t necessarily acclimate quickly enough to become fantasy studs.
Tight ends have a similar breakout period than wide receivers do in that it typically takes around three years to develop. Roster construction is a factor if they are buried on a depth chart, or maybe they don’t run block or pass protect well enough to stay on the field.
Mike Tagliere over at Fantasy Pros recently released an article about when TEs decline, but I’ve used it for the opposite. Instead, I’m looking at his data and determining the age at which TEs have the most upside.
According to his research “we see that age-25 season be one of importance to tight ends, as there’s been just 24-of-129 (18.6 percent) TE1 seasons from sub-25-year-olds, which is much lower than the mark of 28.0 percent once they hit 25 years of age.”
That’s not exactly ideal for the former Florida International product.
What about Jonnu?
Smith is only 23 years old, and to date, has been a raw prospect with evident athleticism. There’s a world in which Smith is utilized more this year in the slot, which is a good idea on paper. It would create mismatches with linebackers and safeties that would have trouble keeping up with his size and speed.
This design is the normalcy that the league is trending toward—more athletic and versatile tight ends that double as large WRs.
The problem is, the Titans just brought in wide receiver Adam Humphries to decimate defenses from the slot. Most of those targets will go to the former Tampa Bay Buccaneer, and that does not bode well for Smith. He already has an uphill climb coming back from injury and challenging incumbent starter Walker.
For me, it’s just a little too early for Jonnu Smith. Even if we assume that he’ll make a jump, he’ll still be entirely too touchdown-dependent to stream with Walker in the spotlight. Last year, Smith saw 30 targets—that’s not going to cut it.
Granted, he started only 12 games, but while he flashed with three touchdowns in a four-week span, his target share was on pace for a dismal 7.4 percent. Not nearly enough for consistent fantasy stardom, and that was with Walker sidelined. He may serve a purpose to stash on deep dynasty league rosters, but for redraft, I don’t see much value.
Current redraft ADP: Undrafted
Current dynasty ADP: Late-round flier