Ellison left Minnesota to sign a free-agent contract with the New York Giants and Line, the fullback coming off offseason hip surgery, remains unsigned. Those were two blockers the Vikings relied upon heavily in different roles.
Kyle Rudolph is the team’s go-to pass-catching tight end and David Morgan is coming off a rookie season in which he was used sparingly but showed some promise as a tight end and H-back. Behind them is untested Kyle Carter, leaving plenty of room for additional competition at the position.
Because of the veteran losses, it’s no surprise that the Vikings have shown interest in tight ends among the draft prospects and one of those is Florida International alum Jonnu Smith, who took a predraft visit to Winter Park earlier this month and worked out for the team on another occasion, according to NFL Network. Smith also reportedly took visits to New Orleans, Miami, Tennessee and Atlanta.
Smith started all 43 games he played over his four-year career, but he suffered a knee injury in 2015 and missed some time last year after suffering severe burns when his pregnant girlfriend intentionally poured boiling water on him.
Despite those missed games over the last two years, he has proven to be productive when available, totally 178 catches for 2,001 yards and 18 touchdowns over four years, including a career-best 61 catches for 710 yards and eight touchdowns as a sophomore, the last year he played a full season. He earned All-Conference USA honors as a sophomore and again as a senior, when he caught 42 passes for 506 yards and four touchdowns.
Smith is intriguing because, as a competitive weight lifter in high school, he shows the promise to turn into a solid blocker and he has the speed to be a big threat in the passing game.
“Plays with urgency and looks to squeeze the most out of each play,” NFL.com wrote in its analysis of him. “Flashes an electric burst up the field and into his routes. Seam buster with ability to race over top of the linebacker and into a throwing window quickly. Plays fast.”
Smith certainly has the athletic traits to be a successful NFL threat, as his combination of 40-yard dash (4.62), bench press (22 reps of 225 pounds), vertical jump (38 inches) and broad jump (10-foot-7) was one of the best all-around performances among tight ends at the NFL Scouting Combine.
However, he was the shortest tight end (6-2¾) at the Combine, and, despite his speed and fire to play fast, he dropped 10 passes over the last two seasons, according to NFL.com, and too many other catches didn’t display soft hands.
NFLDraftScout.com has Smith ranked ninth among tight ends with a fourth- to fifth-round value.