5 breakout stars to watch for Minnesota Vikings in 2020

Brian O'Neill, Minnesota Vikings. (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)
Brian O'Neill, Minnesota Vikings. (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images) /
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Credit: Tom Pennington/Getty Images
Credit: Tom Pennington/Getty Images /

1. TE Irv Smith Jr.

In a vacuum, Smith’s rookie season (36 receptions for 311 yards and two touchdowns) does not stand out. But he ranks well in league history for catches by a rookie tight end and catches by a player his age (21). He was on the field for 60 percent of the Vikings’ offensive snaps for the season (612 total), with at least 49 percent of the snaps in 13 games. He also won’t turn 22 until August.


After Minnesota’s Week 12 bye last year, counting the two playoff games, Smith ran more routes than fellow tight end Kyle Rudolph.

The Vikings have a target and production void to fill with Stefon Diggs gone, and it’s worth wondering how instantly a rookie wide receiver will make an impact if/when they draft one.

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Smith’s season developing rapport with Kirk Cousins stands to matter in what will be a unique and truncated NFL offseason. The second-year man out of Alabama is lined up for a breakout in 2020.