Irv Smith, Jr., had a quiet first few weeks of the season in the passing game, but the second-year tight end was involved early in Week 5.
Smith was targeted by quarterback Kirk Cousins on Minnesota's first two plays of the game and pulled in an impressive catch for a gain of 23 on Cousins' second pass attempt.
The 2019 second-round pick was recently highlighted by Arif Hasan of The Athletic as one of the top performers around the league from Sunday's action.
Rather than focusing on Smith's pass-catching ability, Hasan directed praise to the former Alabama standout for his blocking. Smith's ability to move defenders out of the way helped Minnesota run for 200-plus yards against a stout Seattle run defense.
This might be the first time a tight end made the list solely as a blocker, but it hopefully won't be the last. While Kelce has been an underrated blocking tight end this year, Irv Smith did quite a bit to enable the Vikings run game as their guards and fullback consistently missed the mark and couldn't make room.
It doesn't hurt that he earned 64 yards through the air, including a tough 25-yarder — but the fact that the Vikings earned 200 yards on the ground against the stoutest run defense in the league with struggling blockers is the biggest reason. Hindsight is 20/20, but they perhaps could have used Smith as the lead blocker on fourth-and-1.
Smith entered Week 5 with just two receptions for 14 yards. He now has six catches for 78 yards on the season.
PFF: Jefferson shining, Gladney improving in 2020
Analytics website Pro Football Focus released their weekly update on all first-round picks, and had positive reviews for Justin Jefferson and Jeff Gladney.
Jefferson, who was the 22nd overall pick in the draft, has a grade of 84.3 through five games, which is the highest of all first-rounders.
Sam Monson of PFF wrote:
Sustaining the incredible run of the past two games was always unlikely, and Sunday Night Football saw Justin Jefferson relegated to more of a bit-part player while Adam Thielen took the bulk of the targets. Jefferson caught three of the five passes thrown his way for 23 yards, dropping one of the incompletions in the rain in the Pacific Northwest.
He is still one of the highest-graded receivers in the league while boasting a top-10 figure among wide receivers in yards per route run, and he has clearly transformed the Vikings offense since he became an every-down starter.
Jefferson has a team-high 371 receiving yards, with 19 receptions and one score.
Gladney was the 31st overall pick, and has a grade of 57.7 thus far. That grade is the sixth-highest among all first-round defenders.
Trying to contain the Seattle passing attack is a serious task, and the Vikings managed to do so well for most of the game before falling apart late and allowing the Seahawks to snatch victory back at the death. Jeff Gladney forced a pass breakup on a target to running back Chris Carson out of the backfield and held up better than the rest of the Vikings corners for the game.
He allowed just two catches for 30 yards in the game, though they both gained a first down and were the only two passes thrown his way. Gladney's play has been slowly and steadily improving since his debut, and he may still prove he was worth a first-round pick after more playing time.
Gladney played all 54 defensive snaps against Seattle. He was one of six total defenders to do so along with Anthony Harris, Eric Wilson, Eric Kendricks, Cameron Dantzler and Harrison Smith.