Brace Hemmelgarn/USA TODAY Sports

Assessing metrics for Minnesota Vikings tight ends

Kyle Rudolph had a career (and record-setting) year, but what do the metrics say about him and the other tight ends for the Minnesota Vikings?

As the Minnesota Vikings find themselves in evaluation season, they have assessed every position on the roster with the pain-staking precision required by general manager Rick Spielman.

As they look at their tight ends, one thing seems clear: Kyle Rudolph’s career year was, in part, bolstered by his opportunities. No other tight end on the roster played even one-third as many snaps as Rudolph as the pass-catching tight end also proved effective enough in a lackluster running game.

None of the Vikings’ tight ends produced a positive net yards above the league average in the running game, but Rudolph was more effective than any of the others, according to that NFL statistic that uses the net yardage gained by the team while the player was on the field over a rolling six-year NFL average factoring in field position, down and distance. Example: for the 2011 season the league average gain for first-and-10 on the offense’s 20-yard line was 5.99 yards. If the player participated in a play at first-and-10 on his own 20 that gained 8 yards he’d earn 2.01 net yards over the league average. The defenders on that play would each earn minus-2.01 net yards over the league average.

When Rudolph was on the field, the Vikings averaged minus-0.11 yards fewer than the league average in similar situations when running the ball when Rudolph was on the field. In fact, that number was about five times better than any other tight end, with blocking specialist Rhett Ellison at minus-0.51, rookie David Morgan at minus-0.79 and MyCole Pruitt at minus-0.56. Considering the Vikings averaged only 3.2 yards per carry, blame in the running game can be placed at the feet of many.

Rudolph finished with 83 catches (one short of team leader Stefon Diggs) for 840 yards (third on the team behind Adam Thielen and Diggs). His 83 receptions were the most in single-season franchise history for a tight end, and his 11 catches in the season finale tied for the most in franchise single-game history. His 29 career touchdowns also broke a franchise record set by Steve Jordan, whose career ended 23 years prior.

Rudolph played in an impressive 92 percent of the offensive snaps and, not surprisingly, earned the highest grade (78.1) among Vikings tight ends from Pro Football Focus.

Ellison and Morgan finished within one point of each other (64.6 for Ellison to 64 for Morgan) for PFF’s other grades among Vikings tight ends. Morgan had the biggest impact in the passing game in (very) limited use, and had a healthy 4.27 net yards above average when he was on the field for those plays, but had only 12 of his 61 snaps when running routes.

Pruitt only played in 2 percent of the offensive snaps, as he was released at midseason.

What it all means is likely this: The perception that there is Rudolph and then everyone after that has some proving/improving to do. With Ellison being a free agent, he didn’t do a lot to make himself indispensable, but another year removed from his knee injury could have him seeing improvement.

  Snap counts
  Off Off % Def Def % ST ST %
Players 1053   1035   429   Rush Diff Pass Diff PFF Grade
K Rudolph 970 92.12% 0 0.00% 65 15.15% -0.11 0.14 78.1
R Ellison 259 24.60% 0 0.00% 172 40.09% -0.51 0.39 64.6
D Morgan 63 5.98% 0 0.00% 58 13.52% -0.79 4.27 64
M Pruitt 23 2.18% 0 0.00% 9 2.10% -0.56 -1.62

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