Fantasy Football 2021: Patriots Sign TE Jonnu Smith

Jonnu Smith is an intriguing fantasy tight end in 2021
Nov 26, 2018; Houston, TX, USA; Tennessee Titans tight end Jonnu Smith (81) celebrates after scoring a touchdown during the first quarter against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The New England Patriots continued their busy opening day of the NFL free agency period by signing tight end Jonnu Smith to a 4-year, $50 million contract. The lucrative deal includes $31.25 in guaranteed money, the most guaranteed money for a tight end in the NFL. With an average annual value of $12.5 million per year, the deal makes Smith the third-highest-paid tight end in the league overall.

The deal makes a ton of sense for the Patriots as their offense performed very poorly in 2020. New England’s tight end production has also seen a massive decline since Rob Gronkowski retired. The team’s starting tight end in 2020, Ryan Izzo, managed 13 receptions for 199 yards and no touchdowns. With the addition of Smith, they added a young vertical threat tight end to an offense that is desperate for pass-catching weapons. 

Smith racked up 41 receptions for 448 yards and 8 touchdowns in 14 games for Tennessee last season. In his 4-year career, Smith has amassed 114 receptions for 1302 yards and 16 touchdowns. While the stats do not jump off of the page right away, there are a number of reasons why fantasy owners should be excited about this move.

Fantasy Football Implications

Fantasy owners need to remember how scarce the tight end position is. Smith’s 2020 season was good enough to rank him as the 9th best tight end in all of fantasy football last year. In a Titan’s offense that fed Derrick Henry and A.J. Brown, Smith still managed a top ten fantasy ranking in just 14 games. Smith now heads to New England where he will be looked at as one of their top receiving options. He should command a great target share in the New England offense, which is exactly what fantasy owners should look for.

Along with what should be a consistent target share, Smith is dangerous in the red zone and after the catch. All of Smith’s eight touchdowns in 2020 came in the red zone. Smith has also averaged an impressive 9.0, 7.8 and 5.8 yards per catch in the last three seasons, respectively. He is a dangerous player with the ball in his hands. Big play capability exists with Smith too, as he has receptions of 50+ yards in each of the last three seasons. Packer fans might remember Smith in Green Bay’s 40-14 rout of the Titans in 2020. He had a great diving 12-yard touchdown catch. 

Fantasy owners can expect more of this in New England.

Another thing worth mentioning here is that Cam Newton’s best career seasons have come with the help of an elite tight end. Newton’s stellar 2015 season led to the then Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen racking up over 1,100 receiving yards. Newton is nowhere near the MVP level player he was in 2015, but the addition of Jonnu Smith could lead to improved seasons for both the QB and his new weapon.

The move to New England almost guarantees Smith to have another top ten fantasy position rank if healthy. Smith has top five fantasy tight end potential next year in a New England offense that desperately needed his skillset. Fantasy owners should be moving him up their tight end rankings ahead of next season’s draft.

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