It is all but a foregone conclusion that Irv Smith Jr. will be TE1 for the Vikings this upcoming season. The more important question is: Who else do the Vikings have behind him? They’ll run some two Tight End sets of course and we saw Irv Smith get injured last season so they’ll need some help from the rest of the group.
They do have a few names on the roster that they are hoping can fill that role throughout the season. Most of the backup TEs will be used as pass protection or lead blockers on different running plays. The most interesting development will be who the new coaching staff decides is the best receiving option outside of Smith.
I am going to take a look at all of the Tight Ends currently on the roster as well as one candidate that is currently on the roster but playing a different position. I will be comparing their last year of college stats in order to create as level of a playing ground as possible since one contender hasn’t played an NFL snap.
The first and most legitimate receiving option comes in the form of Ben Ellefson, who the Vikings picked up last season as a free agent. He started 14 of 15 games for the NDSU Bison back in 2019 and was their fifth leading receiver with 15 receptions for 199 yards and 5 TDs. Another thing to note is that he was born and raised in Hawley, MN, for those of you who appreciate a good hometown guy.
The second option currently on the Vikings’ roster comes to Minnesota by way of the LA Rams just like their new head coach. His name is Johnny Mundt and he technically has the most professional experience out of the group. As a senior in 2016 for Oregon, he compiled stats of 23 receptions for 334 yards and 4 TDs
The third option comes by way of the 2022 NFL Draft and his name is Nick Muse. In his senior season of 2021 for South Carolina, he was able to haul in 20 receptions for a total of 222 yards and 2 TDs.
Another option for the Purple is a very recent addition to the roster in Shaun Beyer. He was just added to the roster this week after the team had opened up a spot by releasing QB Nate Stanley. They both played for the Iowa Hawkeyes but only one of them has a chance, as of right now, to play for the Vikings when the season comes around. His senior season stats of 2020 are not eye-popping by any means. However, he was still serviceable as a receiver with 11 receptions for 158 yards and 1 TD.
The fifth and final option that I will discuss is already on the roster but currently occupying a different position, FB. His name? C.J. Ham. He is a bit undersized to be a TE at only 5-foot-11. However, I could see him being used in a hybrid (TE/FB) H-back position this season. He of course is a stout run-blocker and he has shown himself to be a more than a serviceable receiver with career stats of 60 receptions for 524 yards and 2 receiving TDs.
I can only imagine how difficult it would be to defend a lineup of Smith Jr. at one TE, Ham at the other TE, and having a two-back set with both Cook and Mattison in the backfield. If Kellen Mond continues to progress as we all hope he can, then we would have a nearly impossible to defend RPO (Run Pass Option) set of plays.
This group as a whole definitely presents as a weakness at the moment but there will be a lot of opportunity for the guys to improve.