Updated: April 29th, 2011 5:58pm
Tight end Kyle Rudolph 'a no-brainer' for Vikings in second round

Tight end Kyle Rudolph 'a no-brainer' for Vikings in second round

by Phil Mackey
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- This time, the Minnesota Vikings had a chance to make a deal. And this time, they stuck to their draft board, drafting junior tight end Kyle Rudolph out of Notre Dame with their second-round pick (No. 43 overall) on Friday night.

"I know we have three tight ends that are on our roster right now," vice president of player personnel Rick Spielman said, "but when you have a player like that who is too good to pass up ... we just wanted to stay true to our board. And he was by far the highest player on our board at that time."

A junior entry, Rudolph (6-foot-5, 266 pounds) caught 90 passes for 1,032 yards and eight touchdowns in 29 games over three seasons for the Fighting Irish.

He missed the last six games of the 2010 season because of a serious hamstring injury and also sat two games in 2009 with a shoulder problem. But he is widely regarded as one of the best tight ends in recent Notre Dame history and was the first one off the board in the draft.

"We had no issues with him medically once he was cleared by our doctors, and when he fell to us, it was too good of a player to pass up," Spielman said. "We felt that he has a lot of unique skills as a tight end and we were going to stay true to our board."

All three of the tight ends on the Vikings' roster -- Visanthe Shiancoe, Jimmy Kleinsasser and Jeff Dugan -- are at least 30 years old and are set to become free agents after the 2011 season. Coach Leslie Frazier had made no secret about wanting to inject youth at the position as offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave implements his new offense.

"One of the things (Musgrave) mentioned to me was being able to have (Rudolph) and Visanthe on the field at the same time," Frazier said in quotes distributed by the team. "Would really create some mismatches for defenses."

Rudolph's versatility was viewed as a plus, given the way Musgrave hopes to deploy multiple-tight end sets. He has experience playing inline, splitting out wide and moving as an H-back.

"He's going to develop into a solid starting tight end in this league," Spielman said. "The most unique thing about him right now is his ability to catch the ball and his route-running ability, and he'll develop as a blocker when we go along. But the skill set there, it's hard to find guys like that."

Unlike on Thursday, when the Vikings received no offers for the No. 12 pick they ending up using on quarterback Christian Ponder, Spielman the No. 43 selection "got very hot" while they were on the board.

"But unless it was a deal that was just going to totally blow us out of the water, we weren't going to move out when he fell to us," Spielman said. "We had a defensive player we wanted to take as well. But we felt with Rudolph, it was a no-brainer for us."

The vitals

From Rudolph's pro day on April 7:

• 40-yard dash: 4.83 seconds.
• 10-yard dash: 1.67 seconds.
• 20-yard dash: 2.80 seconds.
• 20-yard shuttle: 4.37 seconds.
• Three-cone drill: 7.24 seconds.
• Vertical jump: 34 1/2 inches.
• Broad jump: 9 feet, 5 inches.
• Bench press: 19 reps of 225 pounds.
• Hands: 10.6 inches.

The tape

Phil Mackey is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Phil | @PhilMackey | Mackey & Judd