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Fantasy owners may be unhappy, but Kyle Rudolph is playing a valuable role in Vikings’ offense

Kyle Rudolph was among the league’s leading tight ends with 83 catches last season. He’s nowhere near that pace this year with 42 receptions through 10 games, but the veteran tight end has played a much more valuable role in the Vikings’ offense because of his usage in the passing game and diligence as an improved run blocker.

The stat that best displays the difference between 2016, when he was the most targeted receiving option on the team, and this year is on third down. Last year, the Vikings targeted Rudolph on 44 third downs and converted just 17. This season he’s 13-for-22 and 11-for-13 on third downs with fewer than six yards to go.

One of the key concepts of the West Coast offense is to use passing plays almost like running plays – extremely high percentage throws that keep the sticks moving. Rudolph has been a significant part of that with screen passes and play-action rollouts setting him up for short – but significant- gains.

Take for example a play late in the third quarter on Sunday against the Los Angeles Rams. The Vikings and Rams were tied at seven with a third-and-4 from the Rams’ 6-yard line. Quarterback Case Keenum tossed a short pass to Rudolph, who reached out just enough for the first down.

Nothing impressive in fantasy leagues, but a huge play in the game as the Vikings slammed the ball in the end zone with Latavius Murray. Without that first down, the Vikings likely opt for a field goal.

Rudolph did add a downfield catch on Sunday for 28 yards – only his second reception of more than 20 yards this year. Offensive coordinator Pat Shumur has worked to Keenum’s skill set with the types of plays he’s called to go in Rudolph’s direction.

Fitting the ball into tight windows to tight ends – a la Rob Gronkowski and Tom Brady – takes tremendous arm talent. Keenum doesn’t have pinpoint accuracy, so trying to fling seam routes between the linebacker and safety wouldn’t be wise. In fact, the last time the Vikings faced the Lions, Keenum missed several passes to Rudolph in which the Vikings’ tight end was open downfield.

Since then he’s simply been used to create successful plays. Last year, the 28-year-old was second-to-last on the team in catch percentage, only ahead of receiver Charles Johnson . This season Rudolph catching 68% of throws his way, No. 2 on the Vikings among receivers/tight ends with more than 25 targets only behind Jerick McKinnon.

Head coach Mike Zimmer mentioned this offseason that he’d been pressing Rudolph to improve his run blocking. Last season he struggled – although some of his issues may have been caused by the Vikings’ shortcomings at tackle. During the regular season, Zimmer has pointed out Rudolph’s improved blocking on several occasions.

The Vikings’ run game is massively improved from last year, jumping from 32nd in 2016 to 8th in total yards. That jump is part of a combined effort, but Minnesota’s starting tight end has played a role.

Of course, you won’t see his run blocking show up in fantasy analysis, so Rudolph may be pegged as having a down year. Instead he’s been an important part of Shurmur’s attack.

  • Gordon Guffey

    Coller as long as your not talking QB you can do a OK to a good job ~ And this goes back to the trading for Bradford when you thought he would take the job from Teddy for good after last season ~

    Hopefully the Vikings move on from both Bradford and Teddy and their bum knees just so most of us dont have to hear your and your Teddy Fan club BS anymore ~

    That being said Nice read ~

    • cka2nd

      Jeez, Gordon, when did you become such a sourpuss? Some of us would like to see what Teddy can do before we cut him loose. Case has done a good job, but he’s not the second coming of St. Francis (that was one of Fran Tarkenton’s nicknames, for you young whippersnappers out there).

      • Matthew Rowe

        Awfully critical of a professional writer, no? Disagreeing is one thing, but you’re in no position to tell him how he’s doing – meant for Gordon.

        • Gordon Guffey

          Thats fine Matthew if we dont agree ~ We just dont ~ Smiley Face 🙂

      • Gordon Guffey

        As for Case being the second coming of anyone ~ If you have been reading my posts for the last 3 months then you know I want to draft a QB high ~ Like in the first two round ~ So I’m not on the Case band wagon ~ So please dont try to make it sound as such ~ However IMHO he is still the best healthy QB on the roster because he has been starting and winning even if some want to try and put the 3 fumble lose to the Loins in which Case had no part in ~ Then there are those who want to pin the Steelers lose on Case knowing he was told he would start just 90mins. before the game ~ However if this has been Teddy those Case haters would have been up i arms if other tried to pin those two loses on him ~ Its the old double standard ~

        So you would like to see what Teddy can do even though it could cause a ripple effect through the who offense ~ Maybe it doesn’t but you dont care just as long as you get to see Teddy ~ Right i got you now ~

        Where is the sourpuss i my math ~ I just want win ~ I want a chance at the NFCN title ~ I want home-field throughout the playoffs ~ No I’m not willing to take a chance on a ripple effect just to see what Teddy can do ~ Zimmer looks to be changing his tune of late also ~ So we will see ~ He loses the NFCN over a QB change he might as well kiss his butt goodbye ~

    • linus

      “Hopefully the Vikings move on from both Bradford and Teddy…” Does that mean you’re convinced that Spielman should give Keenum $20-plus million a year?

      • Gordon Guffey

        No linus ~ It means I hope the Vikings draft a QB in the first two rounds if someone like Cook drops to them ~ I would be fine if they could trade the farm to move up to get their guy if good one is there ~ No reaching please ~

        I’m done with all the hate ~ I was talking to my wife about the BS taking place here and she brought up a very good point ~ This has become a trigger point for many ~ Use too I didn’t care who the QB was just as long as he was playing winning football ~ Now with all the hate for Case I hope they move on from all of them other than Kyle Sloter who looks to have the makings of a good backup ~ They can sign a FA to pass the time till the rookie is ready ~

        Case is going to get paid well for sure ~ But like Teddy he is nothing more than a system QB ~ If it fits either they will be fine ~ If it doesn’t then they are going to have problems ~ I wouldn’t give either big money ~ Teddy’s kneeknees would be enough to keep me from resigning him after see how a ACL has effected him ~

        • HeWhoKnowsAll

          Bridgewater is better than Case Keenum. Period.

          • Gordon Guffey

            Oh know Teddy has his family posting now ~ Run for the hills guys ~ Team fans or no longer allowed ~

          • Gordon Guffey

            Go set on Teddy’s lap ~ You will be much happier ~

        • Greg Quiggle

          Bahaha. Quit posting please.

          • Gordon Guffey

            Bah ~ I love you too man ~ LOL ~ Smiley Face 🙂

        • Theguds

          Sell the farm for Josh Rosen:)) I’m prototypical QB pure passer guy. Cannon for an arm with some scrambling ability. But like always there are no Mannings or Lucks coming out in this next draft. The problem is this dang team always usually finishes well enough to where we are never in position to draft a top QB prospect. I’m interested to see how Grappolo turns out, if he does turn out, chalk that up as another miss by Spielman. Every QB that turns out be good that we were able to take I’m holding Spielman accountable. I’m still hoping on Sammy boys return because I think he’s got what it takes to be elite. But of course it goes without saying you’ve got to play if you want to be great.

          • Gordon Guffey

            Thanks Theguds for that info ~ I dont follow college ball like I use too ~ Oh is Sam made it back I would love out chances much better ~ But I wouldn’t want him back unless he was fully healthy ~

          • Theguds

            I agree Guff daddy his track record is not a good one, which makes it a very tough decision in the off season and we probably should part ways.

        • linus

          I have no hate for Keenum… I’m where you say you used to be, I don’t care who plays QB as long as they win. But if you don’t think the team should commit $20 million/year to Keenum as their long term-starter, then it seems to me that you (like me) think his current run of success will eventually end. So if you feel that way, why are you so offended when people suggest that Bridgewater might be starting before the season is over?

          • Gordon Guffey

            I’m not offended by anyone who loves Teddy linus ~ I get upset with Coller and Judd keep pushing nothing but ~ And then the Teddy Fan Club and Teddy Only Fans join hands and follow Coller and Judd blindly IMHO ~

            I have seen nothing were Teddy might be starting ~ I posted links with one to Zimmer interview with Deon Sanders where he said he would have trouble benching Case ~ Question is who would he have trouble with ~ Spielman ~??? The Wilf’s and their partners ~ ??? The plays would be my guess ~ Not one who has been ask want a change ~ Did you see the links I posted from Griffin~Diggs~Thielen~Murray~ and some of the OL as well ~ I can remember which ones they were but its all been in the last week or two so they should be easy enough to find if you wish to look ~

            Also linus you know I have been calling for drafting a new QB of the future ~ I add it to my posts all of the time ~ I have gone back and watched many of Teddy’s games with the Vikings and what I can tell you is he too is a system QB ~ Link to games but you have to pay ~

            With that being said if the Vikings were going to pay {{{ if they had their mind set on signing one of the two }}} one of the two it would be Case as my pick ~ Healthy knees for now and better arm on the deep throws and throws into tight coverage would be my reasons ~

            Speaking of knees I think its time for the NFL to look into the turf thats being used ~ Far to many knee injuries of late ~ Or maybe its just that seem to worse these days ~ When I saw the video of this on NFL Network it almost made me sick ~ It made me think of what Teddy’s must have looked like from the info the Vikings gave out ~

            Video Link
            Bears TE Zach Miller released from hospital
            Bears tight end Zach Miller was released from a Chicago-area hospital Monday, 23 days after he was hospitalized in New Orleans for a dislocated left knee that caused severe arterial damage, Colleen Kane of the Chicago Tribune reports.
            Miller required urgent vascular surgery on Oct. 29 to ensure the viability of his left leg. On Nov. 6, he was transported via private airplane to the Chicago area, where he had been hospitalized since.

          • Bob T.

            I might be your lone supporter of drafting QB high in 2018. Right now I am watching as many Okla ST games as I can. Hint hint. I think of it as trade material/ arsenal at the QB position. Sam, Teddy, Case, Kyle and a 2nd round pick to pick and chose from, and make a 3 QB roster. It seems to me the chance of making a mistake in your choices are less than if you don’t have choices like these. The two that don’t make it, should bring enough bargaining chips to warrant the shot. Put the best team possible on the field. SKOL Mr. G

          • Gordon Guffey

            I will have to take you word on these young QB’s as I dont watch much college ball ~

            However if Case keep playing like he is the Vikings might look at resigning him ~ He has come a long way with the right OC who can get the most out of his talents ~

            I’m not saying the Vikings should resign Case because its going to take some real cap space with the way he is playing ~ He could have folded today when thing kind of when flat in the second half ~ But he didn’t ~ If he keeps playing this well over the next 5 games it going to be tough to just turn and walk away ~ I’m glad I don’t have to make the call on things like this ~

  • cka2nd

    I know they’re not God’s Holy Writ, but does anyone know what Rudolph’s blocking score is over at Pro Football Focus?

    • Mary

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    • Gordon Guffey

      Not me ~ I watch the tape myself ~ And thats not always a good thing ~ LOL

      • Jennifer

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