Why Must the Titans Re-Sign Jonnu Smith?

  • Jonnu Smith
By Yossi Khebzou January 31, 2021 0 Comment
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The Titans 2021 Free Agent class has some big names: Jonnu Smith, Corey Davis, Jayon Brown, Desmond King, and Jadeveon Clowney are all poised to hit the open market. Even though all five of them are important to the team’s success, Jonnu may be the most irreplaceable man of that group. Here is why keeping him should be the highest priority.

Performance Value

Using Pro Football Networks (PFN) Performance Value (OVM) metric,  this stat tries to account for how much a player’s statistical production they were responsible for. For example, a broken tackle would be a point in the player’s favor, while a miss would hurt it. Over the past two years, Jonnu’s Performance Value has been above average. He led the league with 44.32 OVM in 2019 while posting a respectable value of 33.38 this past season.  

Yards After Catch

The Titans’ offense is built to be physical and gain yards after contact: AJ Brown, Corey Davis, and Derrick Henry are difficult to bring down. Jonnu Smith is a perfect fit in that group, and TEs like him are hard to find. 

Ever since he was drafted, Jonnu Smith has been one of the best NFL Tight Ends regarding Yards After Catch (YAC). According to Next Gen Stats, Jonnu Smith averaged 6.3 YAC this year and 8.4 in 2019. In both seasons, Jonnu has ranked second in the league among TEs with at least 25 catches. 

Yards Per Target

Yards Per Target (YPT) is another good measure of efficiency, as it evaluates what a certain player has been able to do with his opportunities. QB play and offensive system matter, but YPT generally indicates a player’s quality and ideal usage. Over the past two years, Jonnu Smith has been elite in the category. With 10.0 YPT in 2019, he ranked tenth among all receivers in the NFL and second among TEs. In 2020, he was eighth among TEs with 6.9 yards per target.

Jonnu’s PFF Grade

While not perfect, Pro Football Focus (PFF) grades help indicate how well a player has played in comparison to his peers at his position. Through an eye test, multiple Pro Football Focus evaluators assign grades to a  player’s performance. Although they may be subjective, they are generally reflective of level of play. In 2020, Jonnu Smith posted the highest PFF grade of his career at 75.2. 

Tight Ends’ Career Arc

Aside from Jonnu Smith’s abilities as a player, re-signing players of his position has some inherent value. Examining Tight Ends career arc, it’s notable that they peak after their second contract. Using Performance Value, one can see that TEs have a slow decline, as opposed to RBs or WRs. Jonnu has steadily improved through his career with the Titans, and history shows that his best years have yet to come.

Moreover, rookie TEs typically take time to adjust to the NFL. If the Titans were to try and replace Jonnu Smith’s production with a rookie, it would likely take some time to see immediate results.

Conclusion

Jonnu Smith is key to the Titans’ offense and how they want to play football. Due to his position, he would be hard to replace in the 2021 season. Therefore, Jon Robinson must make re-signing him long-term a priority.

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Titans fan. Mathematician and Mechathronical Engineer in progress. A host of Batalla de Titanes and Los Tiempos de Canton. Writing for Enlace Judío, El Informal, and The Brawl Network.

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