With money to spend and some clear needs, the New England Patriots have had an active opening legal tampering day in free agency. To that end, they have agreed to terms with tight end Jonnu Smith on a four-year, $50 million deal ($31.25 million guaranteed).
Smith spent the first four seasons of his career with the Tennessee Titans. He’s a poster boy for untapped potential, with all his career-highs coming last season (41 receptions for 448 yards and eight touchdowns).
Smith is coming in to be a big part of the Patriots’ offense, and their best tight end since Rob Gronkowski retired.
Here are three way-too-early bold predictions for Smith in 2021.
3. Smith Will Lead All TEs in Receiving Touchdowns
Last season, Travis Kelce and Robert Tonyan shared the lead among NFL tight ends with 11. Kelce got there by volume (145 targets), and Tonyan got there by unrepeatable fortune (52 catches-59 targets). Smith registered eight scores on 65 targets, with all of them coming in the red zone on 18 red zone targets. Pro Football Focus was high on his red zone work.
Double-figure touchdowns feels like a slam-dunk for Smith in 2021. If all it takes is 12 to lead tight ends, I’ll go all the way and predict at least that many.
2. 70-75 receptions and 90-100 targets
Smith had the aforementioned 65 targets with the Titans last season, in 15 games. A nearly 54 percent increase seems like a stretch, but with a bump in target share (13.9 percent in 2020) comes a push toward 100.
Over the last two seasons, when his snap share increased, Smith posted a 69.7 percent catch rate. Let’s call it 70, so with 100 targets the math is easy. Then I’ll bump it up a handful of catches to get to 75 at the top end.
1. Smith Will Be A Top 3-5 Fantasy TE
Spurred by those eight touchdowns through the air, and one rushing score, Smith had a mini-breakout in 2020, finishing as TE9 in standard fantasy scoring. And that was without 50 catches (or even 45) and getting to 450 yards. Add more catches and yards to a few more touchdowns, and you get a full 2021 breakout into elite fantasy tight end territory.