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The Vikings have a breakout tight end in 2021 after all

Just not the one that everyone expected

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Los Angeles Chargers Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Leading up to the 2021 NFL season, the expectation was for a young tight end to have a breakout season in the Minnesota Vikings’ offense. So far, that’s exactly what’s happened.

No, not Irv Smith Jr., who was lost for the season after getting injured in the team’s final preseason game, but rather Tyler Conklin, who is quietly putting together one of the better seasons for a tight end in team history.

According to this article by Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, Conklin is on pace to finish the season with 64 catches. Yes, there’s an extra game involved for him to accumulate numbers in, but that’s still a pretty impressive figure for someone that, coming into 2021, had caught just 43 passes for 329 yards and a touchdown in three NFL seasons.

If Conklin can reach the level that Tomasson’s story has him getting to, it would be just the seventh time in team history that the Vikings have had a tight end catch at least 60 passes in a season.

Here’s the current list of the most catches by a tight end in a season in Vikings’ history:

  1. Kyle Rudolph - 83 (2016)
  2. Joe Senser - 79 (1981)
  3. Jermaine Wiggins - 71 (2004)
  4. Jermaine Wiggins - 69 (2005)
  5. Steve Jordan - 68 (1985)
  6. Kyle Rudolph - 64 (2018)

This season comes at a pretty good time for Conklin, who is in the final year of the rookie contract that he signed in 2018 and could, potentially, be looking to cash in elsewhere in 2022. With the Vikings potentially being tight against the cap again next season, they might have some difficulty in bringing Conklin back and being able to team him with a healthy Irv Smith Jr. as they had likely envisioned.