Prepare for Blast Off: Jonnu Smith Breakout Season on the Lookout



Last year, in almost all my dynasty drafts I was picking Mark Andrews around the 10th round, in 12 team PPR. I was dead set on him being a top Tight End in fantasy. See the tweet below for proof. So, who is the tight end I like this year to be a TE1, that can be had in as late as the 10th round? That man is Jonnu Smith.


Jonnu Smith is coming into his fourth season with the Tennessee Titans. His first two seasons he spent backing up Delanie Walker but last year he got thrown into the featured tight end role with Walker struggling with injury issues most of the year. 2020 will be his first year going into the season knowing he is the TE1. The Titans receiving weapons haven’t changed much, with AJ Brown, Corey Davis, and Adam Humphries still atop the receiving corp. This will be Ryan Tannehill’s first full season as the Titans starting QB though. At age 25, Jonnu will be looking to prove himself heading into the last year of his rookie contract. I believe he will prove himself and the following are some of the reasons why.

Bursting with Athleticism


First and foremost, if you didn’t know already, Jonnu Smith is an athletic monster at the Tight End position. Looking at his SPARQ-x on Playerprofiler.com, he ranks in the 93rd percentile. To add further context, he’s in the 88th percentile for his 40-time, 84th percentile for speed score, 94th percentile for power score, and 82nd percentile for catch radius. He has the athletic tools to be a mismatch in the NFL.

Opportunities will be there


Jonnu Smith looks to be without a doubt the starting Tight End for the Titans. Delanie Walker is no longer on the team and Jonnu Smith doesn't have much competition behind him. Representing his competition in-house are Anthony Firkser, MyCole Pruitt, Parker Hesse, and Tommy Hudson. Firkser and Pruitt are the only two with experience but neither has produced much. Firkser has 33 receptions, 44 targets, 429 yards, and 2 TDs in his 2 seasons in the league. Then Pruitt, 27 receptions, 37 targets, 294 yards, and 2 TDs in his 5 years in the league. These two will be fighting for the TE2 role but don't expect them to steal much of the Tight End shares from Jonnu Smith.

Along with Jonnu Smith being the true starting Tight End for the Titans, expect him to have a higher snap share than in 2019. Despite playing in more games in 2019 than 2018, his snap shares went down. According to Playerprofiler.com, his snap share in 2019 was 74.1%, ranking 18th out of all Tight Ends. In 2018, his snap share was 82.9%, ranking 9th out of all Tight Ends. Look for that number to be closer to his 2018 season in 2020.


Similarities Between 2018 Mark Andrews and 2019 Jonnu Smith


Both the 2018 Baltimore Ravens and the 2019 Tennessee Titans were run first focused offenses, who transitioned QBs in the middle of the season. These are just two general similarities but if we look at the numbers for Mark Andrew in 2018 and Jonnu Smith in 2019, they come out quite similar.


Retrieving these stats listed above from Fantasydata.com, the two players basically came out looking identical. The only big difference is Andrews produced more with the yards he gained overall and per reception. But if we dig deeper, Jonnu Smith created yards for himself more than Mark Andrews did in those years. According to Playerprofiler.com, Jonnu Smith had 277 yards after catch in 2019, whereas Mark Andrews had 188 yards after catch in 2018. So, its not that Jonnu Smith has any problems creating yards for himself, he actually does that rather well.


Now obviously, the big difference is one team had Lamar Jackson when Mark Andrews had his breakout season in 2019. Do I expect Ryan Tannehill to be an MVP caliber QB in 2020? No, I actually believe he will regress. Even if he is to regress though, I still could see his overall passing volume stats being quite similar. In 2019, Lamar Jackson threw 401 attempts, for 3127 yards, and completed 36 TDs in 15 games. If we took Ryan Tannehill’s passing numbers in the games he started in 2019 and stretched them out over 15 games, they would be as followed: 405 attempts, 3897 yards, and 33 TDs. So, Tannehill could still regress in 2020 and give the opportunity for Jonnu Smith to have a breakout season.


In the End


I don’t think Jonnu Smith will be a top-end Tight End that will break out in the same way Mark Andrews did (into being a top 5 fantasy Tight End). I do think he has what it takes to be considered a TE1 (rank top 12) in PPR in 2020.


The chart above shows the PPR score for TEs who finished the season ranked 12th in the past 5 seasons. On average, to be considered a TE1 they need to score 140 points. We can also see this has been trending downwards since 2016. So, if Jonnu Smith was to score 140 points in PPR, he would need to increase by roughly 25.2% or 35.3 points. A feat I believe to be realistic with the evidence presented beforehand and one that would take a breakout season. According to Fantasy Pros, Jonnu Smith’s ADP averages at 151.3, which would put him at TE19, and going in the 13th round in 12 team leagues. That is not a lot of risk for a player who has the potential to be a TE1. Go get Jonnu Smith in any last-minute drafts you still have.

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