Vikings by position: Can John Carlson take advantage of second chance?
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Editor's note: Each day until the NFL Draft begins on Thursday night, Tom Pelissero is breaking down the Minnesota Vikings' roster by position, based on observations of games and practice, tape studies and interviews with NFL coaches and scouts.
On the roster (5)
Rudolph (6-foot-6, 259 pounds) is the strongside, inline tight end -- a role he moved into last season with some mixed results. He has the frame for it but remains a stronger receiver than blocker. He doesn't pose a matchup threat with his speed either and hasn't been involved consistently in the passing game, though he's a beast in the short area because of his size. Ellison (6-5, 250) is an "H"-movement player who brings attitude and toughness everyone loves. There was some debate in the offseason about reclassifying him a fullback, but the Vikings aren't in their base personnel enough to justify the move. The big question is what the Vikings can get from Carlson (6-5, 251), who took a pay cut on his 2013 base salary from $2.9 million to $1.5 million last month. He does have good hands and a knack for finding the soft spots in zones when he's healthy -- which he hasn't been the past two seasons. Brown (6-3, 225), a Minnesota State product, worked with the receivers after joining the Vikings' practice squad in early December and might be more likely to compete there. Ford (6-6, 245) joined the Vikings' practice squad the final week of last season after stints with Philadelphia and Dallas as an undrafted rookie out of Miami.
Rudolph and Ellison are part of the young offensive core. Carlson has $1.2 million of his base salary fully guaranteed, likely keeping him around if he can stay on the field. That makes it a long shot the Vikings would consider adding a tight end in the first three rounds. But they didn't appear to have a pressing need when they took Rudolph two years ago either, and they still don't have a tight end who can stretch the field vertically. Tight ends can be valuable special teamers, too, as Ellison has shown. Adding another in the late rounds for depth wouldn't be a shock.
Last 10 drafts
• 2012: Ellison (fourth round, 128th overall).
• 2011: Rudolph (second, 43rd).
• 2010: Mickey Shuler (seventh, 214th).
• 2009: None.
• 2008: None.
• 2007: None.
• 2006: None.
• 2005: None.
• 2004: Jeff Dugan (seventh, 220th).
• 2003: Giles Cole.
The Vikings have had no known visits with tight ends.
• Mel Kiper, ESPN: 1. Tyler Eifert, Notre Dame; 2. Zach Ertz, Stanford; 3. Dion Sims, Michigan State; 4. Vance McDonald, Rice; 5. Gavin Escobar, San Diego State.
• Mike Mayock, NFL Network: 1. Eifert; 2. Ertz; 3. Escobar; 4. Travis Kelce, Cincinnati; 5. McDonald.