The upstart Tennessee Titans are emerging as a trendy favorite in the AFC South, thanks in large part to a renovated receiving corps featuring veteran Eric Decker and the rookie duo of Corey Davis and Taywan Taylor.
For all of the attention on the wideouts, though, third-round tight end Jonnu Smith shouldn’t be overlooked.
Delanie Walker, ranked No. 75 on NFL Network’s The Top 100 Players Of 2017 countdown, believes the former Florida International star has the potential to become one of the most productive tight ends in franchise history.
“One day he will be better than me,” Walker said recently, via Jason Wolf of USA Today. “And that’s his ultimate goal. And if he didn’t feel that way, I wouldn’t want him here.”
Owner of the franchise single-season records for most catches (94) and receiving yards (1,088) by a tight end, Walker has been a Pro Bowl selection in each of the past two seasons.
At an athletic 6-foot-3 and 248 pounds with impressive run-after-catch ability and experience as an in-line blocker, Smith drew pre-draft comparisons to Walker entering the draft. More than just a top-notch SPARQ sensation, Smith led all tight ends nationally with 61 catches for 710 yards and eight touchdowns as a sophomore in 2015.
“He’s made less mistakes. He’s playing faster,” coach Mike Mularkey said during organized team activities. “This young man wants to do [well]. It’s really fun to coach him because everything’s important. He looks you dead in the eye; he takes every word in; and he wants to please you. He wants to do right for his teammates. So he’s a fun guy to coach.”
General manager Jon Robinson went a step further, praising Smith as a “phenomenal young man.”
It’s a testament to the depth Robinson has compiled over the past 18 months that a rookie as promising as Smith will enter the season no better than the fifth or sixth option in Marcus Mariota‘s exciting aerial attack.