Countdown to camp: Tight end stability?

Tight end could be the only position on the Vikings without any change on the roster, but there are a couple of practice squad candidates to consider. We look at the numbers, the locks, the sleeper, the longshot and our overall analysis of the position.

The numbers: Last year—3. Current count—5. Projection this year—3.

The candidates: Colin Anderson, John Carlson, Rhett Ellison, Chase Ford, Kyle Rudolph.

The locks: Kyle Rudolph, Rhett Ellison, John Carlson.

The sleeper: Anderson might need to add a little bulk, but he was a reliable pass-catcher in the offseason practice sessions that were open to the media. Still, it's not likely anyone but the incumbent tight ends is going to crack the 53-man roster.

The longshot: Ford has similar size (6-foot-6, 255 pounds) to Rudolph and spent time on the practice squads of Philadelphia, Dallas and the Vikings last year.

The analysis: The official roster and realistic roster will disagree slightly on the numbers count between running backs and tight ends. Officially, Ellison is listed with the running backs. Effectively, however, Ellison is part tight end, part H-back, part fullback. For our projective purposes, he is a tight end and has the third and final roster spot at that position, behind Rudolph and Carlson. Rudolph could be in line for one of the best seasons in Vikings tight end history. He has possessed immense skills the last two years, but he hasn't always been targeted as much as he should have been — expect that to change this year after his Pro Bowl MVP performance and an additional shot of confidence. Carlson, meanwhile, needs to dramatically improve on his eight-catch season if he wants to see another year in purple. Ford and Anderson are likely only practice squad candidates at this point in their development.

Kyle Rudolph: The Vikings have known about Rudolph's potential since their 2011 training camp. That first year, he was still getting over a hamstring injury from his senior season at Notre Dame. Last year, he emerged as a Pro Bowl talent and became the MVP of the Pro Bowl after a five-catch, 122-yard game. This year, even bigger things could be in store if the outside threats help loosen the middle of defenses.

Rhett Ellison: On the outside, Ellison may have been one of the most underrated draft picks of the Vikings. He played only two fewer snaps (247) than Carlson and was versatile in his responsibilities. He started seven games and played in 16, ranking third with 13 special teams tackles and catching seven passes for 65 yards.

John Carlson: He represented the Vikings' biggest free agent move of 2012, but he didn't live up to expectations. He restructured his contract in the offseason, a move that may have helped him avoid being released after only eight catches for 43 yards in 14 games of action.

Chase Ford: Ford spent a week each on the practice squads of the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles before joining the Vikings' practice squad for the final week of the regular season and the playoff game. He started only seven games at the University of Miami, so experience is still building.

Colin Anderson: He was a first-team All-Southern Conference player in 2011 and 2012 for Furman, but the best-case scenario is the practice squad, given the big jump from Furman, where he caught 90 passes for 1,541 yards and 11 touchdowns, to the NFL.

The projection: Rudolph, Ellison, Carlson.

Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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