Kyle Rudolph, Notre Dame, Tight End
Hands: 10 ¾
Wing Span: 80 5/8
2010 Best Games: Purdue, Michigan, Michigan State
2010 Worst Games: Stanford, Boston College
2009 Best Games: Michigan State, Purdue, Washington, Washington State
2009 Worst Games: Southern California, Boston College, Stanford
Body Structure: Rudolph has a big, well-proportioned frame with good overall muscle definition, long arms, large hands, wide hips, good bubble and thick thighs. He has a wide, thick frame with broad shoulders, good chest width, minimal body fat, a tight midsection and a good bubble.
Athletic Ability: Rudolph has the size that makes him an imposing presence when he challenges a deep secondary. He is taller than most tight ends and has impression explosion and burst to get to the top of the route. He has the frame to add more bulk without it affecting his quickness, but there are major "red flags" appearing on some draft boards over issues with his surgically repaired back. He is a much better receiver than even Lance Kendricks. He is the type that opponents need to game plan, as he is equally effective going over the middle or running up the seam. His has a knack for consistently getting open and making the tough catches (see 2010 Michigan and Michigan State games).
Football Sense: Rudolph is no neophyte when it comes to playing tight end, as he has very good field vision and instincts along with the techniques of playing the position. He is an alert route runner who has good ability to work back when he feels the quarterback is being pressured. He is not going to be one who can line wide like Jermaine Gresham (Cincinnati), but is more of a power oriented runner whose goal is to smartly move the chains, knowing where to locate and settle into the area's soft spots.
Character: Rudolph has no off-field problems and gets good family support. He has a good attitude towards the game, and is described by the staff as very team oriented.
Competitiveness: Rudolph is the type that would much rather run through tackles than act like a ballerina and executes nifty moves to escape. He shows good nastiness after the catch, but his blocking skills are still a work in progress. He needs to do a better job of looking for targets to block down field, but he displays a good competitive attitude, both in practices and on the field. He hustles and competes well as a receiver, but while willing, he has not had the success as a blocker. With his rash of injuries (shoulder and hamstring) the last two years, he has not had much of a window to improve upon his blocking skills in preseason camps before the season began as a sophomore and junior.
Release: Rudolph has no problem negotiating a clean release vs. smaller defenders, but must do a better job of using his hands to push off and jerk down strong-side linebackers. He will need time to adjust to playing in a three-point stance, and with his back issues, this could be a problem until/if he fully recovers from injury woes. He gets much better speed into his route progression when split wide than when he has to navigate through traffic. He must learn to be quicker shooting his hands up from the three-point stance, but when he keeps those hands inside the frame, he has the power and club moves to defeat the chuck. His change of direction agility and lateral movement allow his to slip past the second level defenders and he gets into his route quickly, building acceleration on the way up field. Still, his best ability to get free is from a two-point stance. When he plays too tall, he will not get his feet set properly and can get walked back.
Acceleration: Rudolph is a typical tight end-quick type, but even though he's mostly lined wide, don't expect him to pose too many challenges doing that vs. NFL safeties. He has very quick feet and when he gets a clean release, he gets to the top of his route in a hurry. He shows a good burst and balance out of his cuts, but is not the type that will win too many long distance foot races. He is more suited for being a big target in the short area, as he has the large hands and big body to secure the ball and shield it from defenders. He also knows how to use his frame to sink his pads and come up with the underneath throws, but it remains to be seen if the hamstring problems have robbed him of any of that flexibility.
Quickness: Rudolph shows good initial quickness to release from the line of scrimmage and get into his route. He is just not as quick to position as a blocker. He is quick enough to make the backside cut-off when aligned in a two-point stance (compared to a bit labored coming out of a three-point stance).
Route Running: Rudolph has very good straight-forward speed to get up the seam and challenge the deep safety. He is a savvy route runner with good head and shoulder fakes to lull a second level defender, but prefers to power through arm tackles when at times he should be looking to save his body by just eluded that defender. He does a good job of lowering his body (before the injury and surgery) weight when making his cuts. He knows how to work back to the quarterback, but his vision is excellent when trying to locate the soft areas (see 2010 Michigan and Michigan State and 2009 Purdue and Washington games). His best success has come on slants and comebacks, as he is not the type that has the sudden explosion or timed speed to win open field foot races.
Separation Ability: Rudolph has a nice "bag of tricks," with his head and shoulder fakes to sell the route and escape from second level defenders in man coverage, but not the second gear that New England's Aaron Hernandez has to race up the seam. He has good strength, but line-backers do have a degree of success pressing him and once taken off his route, he struggles to recover. He gets most of his separation from precise cuts, but has to use his hands better to push off to separate vs. tight coverage.
Ball Adjustment: Rudolph has good athleticism, but word from his recent workout indicate that he appeared to be slower than normal adjusting to the thrown ball when he had to high point them. He shows impressive body control to run under the pass and catch it in stride, but due to the hamstring problems, he might be better suited not leaving his feet much until he is 100% recovered. I like him better when used on drag routes over the middle anyway, as he does not trap the ball. His long reach lets him adjust to off-target throws, showing adequate ease of movement extending to catch away from the body. When he plays tall, it negates his ability to twist and swivel his body well enough to come up with throws outside his frame, though.
Leaping Ability: This is an area of concern, as he looks very mechanical going up for the ball and tends to double jump, as he is prone to leaving his feet too early, preventing him from high pointing the pass (appears better catching the ball in stride). Yes, he has a verified leap of 33", but it serves no purpose if he can't time his leaps.
Hands: Rudolph has soft, large hands (10 ¾-inches, biggest of all tight ends at the Combine). He has good flexibility to reach high or go low for the tossed ball. He is a natural hands catcher, but will use his body to absorb the ball when working in a crowd with defenders draped all over him. He does a very nice job of catching the ball without having to break stride on slants and posts. He rarely drops the pigskin, but even before his hamstring injury, his timing was off going for the jump balls, resulting in a high amount of passes getting batted away from him by smaller defenders (see 2008 UCLA, Oregon and Notre Dame State games.
Run After the Catch: Rudolph is more of a power runner than one who can tip-toe around a defender. He just doesn't have the timed speed to be elusive anyway. He is tough to bring down in isolated coverage due to his size and strength, reminding me of former Raiders standout, Dave Casper and Giants great Mark Bavaro for his drive-through-the-pack mentality. He runs hard and gets most of his yardage after contact. He just doesn't appear to have any elusiveness, but is a load to bring down in one-on-one situations.
Blocking Ability: Rudolph is better blocking linebackers in the open than he is taking on defensive ends at the line of scrimmage. I truly feel the back injury is going to affect his blocking when he has to fire off the snap from a three-point stance. He is able to get out on backers and seal for the ground game, showing a good concept for angling. But, even before his hamstring problems, he did not always do a good job of sinking his hips and playing with proper knee bend blocking in-line. He has the long arms and good upper body power, but has to be more consistent maintaining contact in the backfield.
Special Teams: Does not apply.
Compares To: ROB GRONKOWSKI-New England. If fully recovered, Rudolph could be the best tight end to come out of Notre Dame in recent years. He is a big, physical tight end, but because of some durability concerns, no owner or GM will be willing to risk first round money on him. The rewards would be great if he's fully recovered, but look for him to be on board until the draft's second day.
Full scouting report: TE Kyle Rudolph
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