Minnesota Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph had a bit of a breakout season in 2012, with nine touchdowns (tied for second among the league’s tight ends) along with 53 receptions for 493 yards. For what it’s worth, and perhaps hinting at his potential, Rudolph capped the season with five catches for 122 yards and a touchdown in the Pro Bowl as he earned MVP honors.
Can Rudolph take another step and become a top-tier tight end for fantasy football owners in 2013?
The up-and-down play of quarterback Christian Ponder yielded inconsistent production for Rudolph last season. He had 25 receptions and five touchdowns over the first six games, but had just two catches for 17 yards (including two games with zero receptions) in the next three games as Ponder struggled through the middle part of the season. Then starting in Week 10 against the Detroit Lions, Rudolph had 18 catches for 170 yards over the next three games, with a touchdown in each contest.
The Vikings made some changes at wide receiver this offseason, adding Greg Jennings in free agency and using a first-round pick on Cordarrelle Patterson after trading Percy Harvin. Rudolph’s role as a primary red zone target for Ponder will not go away, and his dismal yards per catch average from last season (9.3 ) has nowhere to go but up with the potential for an increased overall role.
The tight end position does not have a lot of sure-fire top tier options for fantasy owners this year, and that group has gotten even thinner with the off-field issues that led to Aaron Hernandez being released and questions about Rob Gronkowski’s health after multiple offseason surgeries.
Rudolph is in line for more targets this season with Harvin gone, making 60 receptions a virtual certainty. With even modest improvement in yardage and something close to last year’s touchdown total, he is worth targeting as a low-end TE1 in 12-team leagues. Just be prepared for an occasional dud performance if Ponder continues to struggle at times.
Brad Berreman is a contributing writer at Rant Sports.com. Follow him on Twitter @bradberreman24.