(Photo by William Purnell/Icon Sportswire)
It was not a good weekend on the tight end front. Already a thin position, fantasy owners saw Greg Olsen re-fracture his right foot, which will keep him out most, if not all, of the season. Additionally, Titans tight end Delanie Walker suffered an ankle injury which is expected to keep him out for the entire season.
It goes without saying that many fantasy owners will be scrambling to find a new tight end this week. There are a few who stand out from Week 1, including Eric Ebron and Will Dissly, each whom pulled in a touchdown in the opening weekend.
However, for those in deeper leagues, one name to keep a close eye on is second-year Jonnu Smith.
Smith will immediately step into Walker’s place on the Titans. While he is unlikely to replicate Walker’s numbers (74|807|3 last season) he should hold fantasy relevance in 12-teamers by seasons end.
Smith, a third round pick in 2017 out of Florida International University, hauled in 18 catches for 157 yards and two touchdowns last season. That’s right, in a year where Walker only had three touchdowns, his backup had two. Smith has the size (6’3, 248) and the sure hands to be an immediate threat in the red zone – something the Titans will sorely be missing with Walker out. He also has pedigree as a pass-catcher, having hauled in 178 catches for 2,001 yards and 18 touchdowns in his four year career at FIU.
Under Marcus Mariota, the Titans threw 42.8% of their touchdowns to tight ends in 2017, 31% in 2016 and 40% in 2015. Most of these have gone to Walker, but Anthony Fasano had a few and of course Smith had two last season.
Smith will have to battle with veteran Luke Stocker to be Tennessee’s primary tight end this season, but most expect he will take the lion’s share of the touches vacated by Walker’s injury.
The Titans have long favored the use of tight ends, and even without Walker that game plan is unlikely to change. If you lost Walker to injury, Smith is not the worst pickup in the world. I suspect he will put up borderline top-ten TE numbers for the rest of the season, and I’d be comfortable rolling with him in 12-teamers going forward.