KYLE RUDOLPH, NOTRE DAME
Rudolph is projected as the top tight end in this draft, but there are injury concerns about him.
Rudolph, 6-6 and 259 pounds, played in only six games in 2010 and needed season-ending surgery after tearing two tendons off the bone of his already injured right hamstring in October against Pittsburgh. He caught 28 passes for 328 yards and three touchdowns before getting hurt.
In 2009, Rudolph suffered a separated left shoulder and missed two games; he underwent surgery that December.
Rudolph completed his three seasons at Notre Dame, ranking fourth in school history in career receptions (90) and receiving yards (1,032) by a tight end. He also had eight touchdown catches in 29 games.
Scouts like his pass-catching ability and feel he will only get better as a blocker. The fact Rudolph looked good at his Pro Day this month should help his cause. He reportedly posted times of 4.78 and 4.8 in the 40-yard dash. Those aren't great, but Rudolph isn't known as a speedster.
"Tony Gonzalez is the best tight end who has ever played in my time, and I really try to model myself after him," Rudolph said. "But I feel that [Dallas'] Jason Witten, I feel really comparable to his game. A guy that can hold the point and is a great blocker but at the same time he makes huge plays in the passing game."
Rudolph played for Charlie Weis in his first two seasons with the Irish before Brian Kelly took over last year and brought along the spread offense. "I was able to pick up on that pretty quick," Rudolph said of the spread. "He created a lot of mismatches offensively, and I got to play a lot of different spots."
1. LANCE KENDRICKS, WISCONSIN
Kendricks had some off-the-field issues related to drinking early in his time in Madison, Wis., but developed into a reliable pass-catching tight end. He has graduated and is working toward a second degree. As a senior, he led the Badgers with 43 catches for 663 yards with five touchdowns in 13 games (11 starts). Listed at 6-2, 243 pounds, there isn't much question about his athletic ability, but there is some concern about his strength and thus his ability to block when required.
2. VIRGIL GREEN, NEVADA
Like Kendricks, he originally was recruited as a receiver and then shifted to tight end. Green is considered to be on the raw side but still is projected as a second- or third-round selection by Pro Football Weekly. Last season as a senior, the 6-3, 249-pound Green had career highs with 35 catches for 515 yards. He tied his total from the previous season with five scoring receptions. He possesses excellent speed and also can adjust to make a catch.
3. LUKE STOCKER, TENNESSEE
A starter for the Volunteers the past three seasons, Stocker (6-4, 258 pounds) has good size and is viewed as a very consistent player who is a good receiver and blocker and could be plugged into an offense. Stocker, who served as a captain at Tennessee, had a career-high 39 receptions for 417 yards with two touchdowns in 2010. Has the ability to line up at different spots and also can go in motion.
ROB HOUSLER, FLORIDA ATLANTIC
Housler helped himself in a big way at the NFL scouting combine in February, posting the best time among tight ends in the 40-yard dash (4.46). He also had a vertical jump of 37 inches. Housler, 6-5 and 238 pounds, has struggled at times with receiving but was able to catch 39 passes for 629 yards and four touchdowns last season. He redshirted in 2009 in order to save his final season of eligibility and get more playing time in 2010. Projected by Pro Football Weekly to end up as an H-back.
Do not be surprised if the Vikings select a tight end in the later rounds. Team executives were not happy last September when seventh-round selection Mickey Shuler was claimed off waivers by Miami, and the Vikings would like to get younger at this position. Visanthe Shiancoe turns 31 in June and will be entering the final season of his contract.