Brace Hemmelgarn/USA TODAY Sports

Minnesota Vikings TE Kyle Rudolph led NFL TEs in red zone production

Nobody was more prolific in the red zone last year than the tandem of Sam Bradford and Kyle Rudolph for the Minnesota Vikings.

There are times when numbers don’t tell the entire story, but can give coaches, players, analysts and fans alike an insight that doesn’t immediately strike the eye at first glance.

Once such stat has to do with red zone receiving. Who would you guess was targeted most and caught the most passes in the red zone last year?

Would you believe Minnesota Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph?

While known to Vikings fans as being a favorite target of Christian Ponder when the two got in the red zone, no tandem was more prolific in terms of targets, receptions and yards inside the opponent 20-yard line than Sam Bradford to Rudolph.

When it came to QBs locking in on a tight end in close, nobody could touch Rudolph – not Antonio Gates or Jimmy Graham, or Travis Kelce or Greg Olsen of Jordan Reed.

A total of 21 tight ends were targeted at least 10 times in the red zone last season, but nobody was targeted more than Rudolph (25). Only three players were targeted 20 times or more – Rudolph, Gates (22) and Graham (20).

When it came to catching those passes, nobody could touch Rudolph’s 15 receptions. Six tight ends caught 10 or more red zone passes – Rudolph, Jason Witten (12), Cameron Brate (11), Hunter Henry (11), Coby Fleener (10) and Jack Doyle (10).

In terms of yardage in the red zone, Rudolph was king there as well among NFL tight ends with 119 yards. Only four players had 85 red zone receiving yards or more – Rudolph, Henry (110), Witten (102) and Graham (100).

The only area where Rudolph didn’t lead NFL tight ends was in touchdowns. His six TDs tied him for fourth in the league, behind only Brate (8), Henry (8) and Gates (7). His six TDs tied him with Delanie Walker and Martellus Bennett.

There are a lot of the little nuances of the game that are expected to be new with the Vikings given the turnover in personnel on the offensive side of the ball. But one thing would appear to be rock solid and likely won’t change in 2017 – as long as Bradford and Rudolph are healthy, they’re going to have a football love connection in the red zone.

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