The Vikings' second-round pick Kyle Rudolph is drawing first-round comparisons.
Rudolph was expected to be a late first-round pick, but his road back from a severe hamstring injury may have played a part in teams shying away from him and letting the first round of April's draft pass without a tight end being selected. The Vikings didn't pass him up when their second-round selection (43rd overall pick) came. For good reason. He is compared to some of the best tight ends in the game.
In NFL Scouting's predraft analysis of Rudolph, they compared him to Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski,
"Rudolph's comparisons to New England's Rob Gronkowski are inevitable," the report read. "Both are blessed with that impressive combination of great size, strength and deceptive speed, along with displaying tremendous ball skills when attempting to snatch the football out of air. However, both are linked in another fashion – injuries that sidelined them during their sophomore and junior campaigns."
At 6-foot-6 and 265 pounds, Gronkowski caught 42 passes for 546 yards (an impressive 13-yard average) and 10 touchdowns as a rookie in 2010. The measurables are nearly identical between Gronkowski and Rudolph, who was 6-foot-6 and 266 pounds before the draft.
The Vikings are excited to work Rudolph and see him as a potential star in new offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave's offense. Of course, Musgrave is coming from an offense in the Atlanta Falcons that has used the tight end plenty.
Despite being in his 13th NFL season when he joined the Falcons in 2009, Tony Gonzalez's career continued its potential Hall of Fame ways in Atlanta, where he caught a combined 153 passes for 1,523 yards the last two years.
Those numbers haven't been lost on Rudolph, who sees how Musgrave's offense puts a premium on tight ends in the passing game.
"Definitely. You can just look at what Coach Musgrave did in Atlanta. He had a great tight end there," Rudolph said. "With the guys we have and the talent we have at that position, we can do a lot of stuff with multiple tight ends."
The Vikings already have an accomplished tight end in Visanthe Shiancoe, who has averaged 48 catches for 564 the last three years. While the Vikings are expected to feature two-tight-end sets often, selecting Rudolph also protected them at the position since Shiancoe is in the final year of the free-agent contract he signed with the Vikings in 2007.
But when it comes to Rudolph, he sees another comparison.
"Gonzalez has always been my idle, a guy that I look up to, but I think my game compares a lot to a guy like Jason Witten, who's a little bit bigger," Rudolph said. "He's effective in the pass game, but also is efficient in the run game as well and can be an inline blocker."
Rudolph certainly picked an accomplished tight end for his own comparison. Witten has averaged 91 catches for 1,032 yards over the last four years. Despite playing in only 29 games at Notre Dame, Rudolph finished his career there with 90 receptions and 1,032 yards.
There is good reason for the Vikings' desire to get working with Rudolph as soon as possible. When working out in Florida earlier this month, Rudolph showed impressively quick feet for a big-framed guy out in pass patterns.
"For me, it's something that came naturally my whole life, being a basketball player. Something that I did all the time," he said. "After I got hurt, that's something that I had to work to get back. I healed great, but it's taken me a couple months to get that explosiveness, to get my footwork back to where it was before I got hurt."
Now it's just a matter of waiting to see if he can live up to the comparisons he and others have put on him.
Rudolph embraces the big-time comparisons
Viking Update Top Stories
Notebook: Problems extended beyond pass proThe Minnesota Vikings had obvious problems with pass protection, but there are other areas head coach Mike Zimmer is addressing, too.
Viking Update7:41 PM
Vikings will look at ‘all options’ to improveComing off a loss that Mike Zimmer termed “embarrassing,” a 21-10 defeat against the Philadelphia Eagles, the Minnesota Vikings will look at all options to rectify the situation.
Viking Update2:42 PM
VIDEO: Zimmer: 'This is a gut-check day'Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer recapped the first loss of the season by pointing out "several dumb things" he found to be uncharacteristic of his team.
Viking Update1:06 PM
Counting snaps: Vikings vs. EaglesDespite a “soft” performance on the offensive line, according to coach Mike Zimmer, the Minnesota Vikings seemed interested in getting a rotation going there.
Viking Update6:23 AM
Holler: R-E-L-A-XMike Zimmer wasn't kind in his assessment of the Minnesota Vikings Sunday following their humbling 21-10 loss to Philadelphia, but it isn't as though the season is going down the…
Viking UpdateYesterday at 10:11 PM