Kyle Rudolph caught touchdown passes at a historic pace in 2012, and that may not be a good thing. Rudolph became just the third tight end since 1960 to catch at least 9 touchdown passes with less than 500 yards receiving. The other two tight ends on that list (Joe Walton and Bubba Franks) never caught that many touchdowns in a season again. Franks (who was also a 23 year-old sophomore when he caught nine touchdowns) is an example of how Rudolph could stay relevant in fantasy without the gaudy touchdown numbers. Franks caught 50% more passes in the following year for an additional 120 yards. Of course, Franks had Brett Favre.
Rudolph plays on an offense that is built around the running game first and second, with a quarterback that has yet to develop into more than an also-ran. Christian Ponder's development to this point in his career has been slow to say the least. He increased his completion percentage considerably in 2012, but only up to barely acceptable levels. His inability to stretch the field makes things much more congested for Rudolph in the middle of the field, which partly explains the fact that Rudolph caught only 55% of his 96 targets.
Despite posting mediocre reception and yardage totals, Rudolph was actually 11th among tight ends in targets, and only 9 targets behind Brandon Myers who finished 7th. What's more troubling is that he was 29th out of 33 tight ends that received at least 50 targets with a 9.3 YPR. The positive spin on this is that while his touchdowns may decline in 2013, there's a lot of room to grow in virtually every other statistical measurement.
It's hard to believe that a tight end with Rudolph's size and ability wouldn't continue to improve in his third season. At 6' 6" and nearly 260 pounds, Rudolph is the prototypical red zone threat, and arguably one of the most promising tight end prospects in the league. Even with a sub-par quarterback, if Rudolph continues to develop as a receiver he should be at worst a low-end TE1 like he was in 2012. Furthermore, the Vikings have added some weapons, and lost one that took a lot of the targets in Minnesota.
The subtraction of Percy Harvin from the passing game means everyone should have an opportunity for more touches. Greg Jennings gives the team a legitimate #1, and Cordarelle Patterson adds speed on the outside. If these weapons gel and Ponder takes a giant step forward, Rudolph could be one of the better tight ends in the league, but that's a lot of ifs.
- Rudolph has the size and skill set to be a quality fantasy TE1
- At 24 years old he should continue to improve, as should his quarterback
- For all the new weapons the Vikings brought in, no one has the rapport that Rudolph has built with Ponder
- There is good reason to believe Ponder may never develop into even an average NFL quarterback
- The Vikings will continue to pound the ball on the ground with Adrian Peterson, and limit Ponder's drop backs
- Rudolph's touchdown numbers are likely to drop
|Heath Cummings Projections||58||580||7|
|David Dodds Projections||58||568||6|
Kevin Seifert at ESPN.com wrote:
As we've discussed before, Rudolph's most important physical attribute is his enormous wingspan and catching radius. He stands a legitimate 6-foot-6, has 34-inch arms with enormous hands (10 3/4 inches). Any quarterback would love to throw to a player who has such a physical advantage over his opponents, and more often than not over the past two years, Rudolph has managed to catch passes that no defender could reach.
Read more here.
Ryan Lester at Bleacher Report wrote:
Rudolph’s success is tied to Ponder, which is a bit scary, but as the fifth or six tight end coming off the board in most fantasy drafts, he should be a solid value pick.
Read more here.
Josh Alper at Pro Football Talk wrote:
Rudolph caught 53 passes and scored nine touchdowns during the regular season and then was named MVP of the Pro Bowl after catching five passes for 122 yards and a touchdown in Hawaii. Coach Leslie Frazier believes that Rudolph is just starting to scratch the surface of his abilities.
Read more here.
More from Heath Cummings:
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