Kyle Rudolph has signed a five-year extension to keep him in Minnesota for the foreseeable future. Rudolph became a breakout talent in 2012, catching 53 passes for 493 yards and 9 touchdowns. He missed half of 2013, but he produced when healthy. Last year, he averaged more than 10 yards per catch, on nearly four catches per game.
Big things could be in store for Rudolph this year, as the Vikings are clearly putting faith in Rudolph going forward. This contract implies that they expect him to be an important part of their offense. It also shows faith that his foot is healthy, after he broke it last season.
Everyone seems to have mixed opinions on quarterback Matt Cassel. While he’s far from being a stud at QB, having a year under his belt with the Vikings should work in his favor. If Cordarrelle Patterson can have a breakout season, Rudolph should see more open field, and more targets. Greg Jennings looks like his best days are behind him, so Rudolph could legitimately emerge as Cassel’s number 2 target.
Rudolph has proven his ability as a capable run blocker as long as Adrian Peterson is on the field, the Vikings will be a run-first team. Rudolph’s blocking ability and great hands will keep him on the field for nearly every snap.
According to Fantasy Football Calculator, Rudolph has been selected in the 8th to 9th round, and he’s the 10th tight end to leave the board in drafts. This is great value for Rudolph, especially if you pass on the studs like Jimmy Graham, Rob Gronkowski, Vernon Davis, and Julius Thomas. I’d much rather wait four rounds for Rudolph than draft Jordan Cameron in the fifth round. I like his upside more than Dennis Pitta and Greg Olsen, and his experience sets him apart from Eric Ebron.
A big reason to like Rudolph is actually because he’ll be operating out of the very tight end-friendly offense Cameron did a year ago. Norv Turner takes over the offense in 2014, giving Rudolph immense upside if he can come anywhere close to Cameron’s 80+ catches, 900+ yards and seven scores of a year ago.
Rudolph projects to be a big part of Minnesota’s team this year, and could be a very nice sleeper this season. He also might be a solid handcuff for Gronkowski owners, if they can somehow manage drafting two tight ends in the first 10 rounds. If you’re drafting Gronk, you’re likely going to be counting on your tight ends to carry your team. Gronk is still recovering from knee surgery, and despite reports, I still feel he’s a long shot to be starting in Week 1. Rudolph could fill your starting slot for the first couple weeks of the season before moving to flex, or being traded to a team with an injury. That said, if you draft Gronk, you’ll probably be more concerned about depth at running back and receiver in the 9th round than you will be about a second tight end.
Much of Rudolph’s success will be directly dependent upon Matt Cassel, and indirectly dependent upon Greg Jennings and Cordarrelle Patterson, but 70-75 catches for 750 yards and double digit touchdowns is not an outlandish prediction. I think those are very attainable numbers. The Vikings aren’t quick to abandon the run, but their defense is still porous, and they should find themselves trailing fairly often.
*Photo Credit – Joe Bielawa