Access Vikings Logo


Access Vikings

Breaking news and year-round coverage of the NFL's Minnesota Vikings. Access Vikings is the Star Tribune's blog covering team news, rumors, games and all things purple.

Rudolph could flourish under DeFilippo's tight-end friendly attack

The Vikings begin reporting to the first training camp July 24 at the TCO Performance Center in Eagan. The first full-team practice is July 28. Check here for new details on tickets, parking and times.

Before then, the Star Tribune will take a look at each position group. Friday: Tight ends

On the 90-man roster: 6 tight ends

Locks: Kyle Rudolph, David Morgan

On the bubble: Blake Bell, Tyler Conklin

Practice squad candidates: Josiah Price, Tyler Hoppes

(+) Drafted Tyler Conklin in the fifth round (157th overall) out of Central Michigan. … Re-signed former Michigan State Spartan Josiah Price, who spent last summer in Vikings camp. … Signed one UDFA in Nebraska’s Tyler Hoppes.

(-) None.

Rudolph progressed sooner than expected from offseason ankle surgery, taking part on the back end of OTAs and minicamp in June. That’s a good sign after Rudolph was admittedly limited at the end of the season while playing through the severe ankle sprain. The Vikings return every contributor from last season, adding fifth-round pick Tyler Conklin to the room. The move creates competition for the No. 3 spot. David Morgan, a strong blocker, is expected to take a step forward entering Year 3 and could be more involved after catching 10 of 12 targets for 95 yards and a touchdown.

“Boy, he’s a friendly target,” Kirk Cousins said of Rudolph while mic’d up during spring practice. “It’s like throwing into a mattress.”

Top question
How many tight ends will contribute in DeFilippo’s offense? His work in the past, specifically with Gary Barnidge’s Pro Bowl season for Cleveland in 2015, has been lauded. Carson Wentz often targeted his tight ends in Philadelphia with Zach Ertz leading the team in receiving yards in each of his first two seasons. That bodes well for Rudolph a year after he was one of the NFL’s best red-zone threats, catching eight touchdowns and dropping just one ball.

“What [DeFilippo] was able to do in 2015 with Gary Barnidge, and then obviously last year [Zach] Ertz had an unbelievable year in this system,” Rudolph said. “It’s not just us. Obviously, he’s had great success with tight ends. What he is able to do with all the playmakers and all of the chess pieces that we have on offense, it’s been a lot of fun to see.”

What you should know
Rudolph has strung together 52 straight games played. He’s stayed relatively healthy, albeit while gritting through a bad ankle last season, since missing half seasons in 2013 and 2014. His availability has been one of the lone constants in an unstable period for the Vikings offense.

Notable number
300 — The number of snaps taken by the Eagles’ No. 3 tight end, Trey Burton, last season with DeFilippo as quarterbacks coach. The Vikings’ third tight end, Bell, saw 145 snaps. The Eagles were rich with talent at the position, so it remains to be seen how DeFilippo can divide snaps among Vikings tight ends this season.

Top competition
No. 3 tight end — The Vikings selected a late-round tight end in each of the last four drafts. Morgan has established himself a capable No. 2 while two other draft picks (MyCole Pruitt, Bucky Hodges) are already on other rosters. Rookie Tyler Conklin should compete with Blake Bell, last year’s third option, for a spot on the Week 1 roster.

Diggs and Thielen: Can Vikings keep one of the NFL's top receiving duos?

The Vikings begin reporting to the first training camp July 24 at the TCO Performance Center in Eagan. The first full-team practice is July 28. Check here for new details on tickets, parking and times.

Before then, the Star Tribune will take a look at each position group. Thursday: Receivers

On the 90-man roster: 12 receivers

Locks: Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs, Laquon Treadwell

Good bets: Kendall Wright, Stacy Coley

On the bubble: Brandon Zylstra, Tavarres King, Korey Robertson

Practice squad candidates: Chad Beebe, Jeff Badet, Jake Wieneke

Suspended: Cayleb Jones (4 games)

(+) Signed ex-Bears receiver Kendall Wright to a one-year, $1 million deal with $400,000 guaranteed. … Signed CFL-leading receiver Brandon Zylstra to a boilerplate three-year deal, guaranteeing him $275,000. … Signed ex-Giants receiver Tavarres King to a one-year minimum deal. … Signed four UDFAs in Robertson, Beebe, Badet and Wieneke.

(-) Jarius Wright was cut in March and signed with the Panthers on a three-year, $7.5 million deal. … The Vikings let Michael Floyd’s contract expire. He remains unsigned.

The change for 2018 revolves around the Vikings’ star receiving duo of Thielen and Diggs. The middle class at receiver was gutted with money flowing to the quarterback and star defenders. With Wright and Floyd gone, Thielen and Diggs will see turnover on the bench behind them. Both top receivers will also catch passes from their fourth different quarterback in four years in an offense orchestrated by their third different coordinator since 2015. The Vikings invested minimal guarantees to acquire Kendall Wright and Brandon Zylstra, both of whom could be on the Week 1 roster, along with Treadwell and Coley returning.

Diggs is entering his contract season. If he isn’t re-signed before free agency, he’d easily be one of the league’s most coveted targets. That’s why extending Diggs is a focus for the Vikings this summer, prior to a potential-filled season with Kirk Cousins under center.

Thielen is entering the second season of a four-year deal that runs through 2020.

Top question
Will the Vikings secure one of the league’s top receiving duos? Locking up Diggs, with Thielen under contract through 2020, would give Minnesota a top skill group for seasons to come. The question is at what cost? Jarvis Landry just got $34 million guaranteed at signing on a five-year deal with the Browns. Davante Adams got $18 million guaranteed up front in December on a four-year extension in Green Bay. Both players average at least $14 million per season. Another domino could fall if Diggs gets paid in Minnesota: Will Thielen’s camp understandably ask for a restructure given he’s one of the league’s most underpaid players?

“For me, I don’t really focus on the numbers. I’m happy for the guys that get paid around the league,” Diggs said. “These are men that have been playing football for their whole life. As far as them securing something for their kids and stuff like that, it’s very special, so I like to congratulate guys every chance I get. As far as my particular situation, I want my resume to speak for itself. It will figure itself out.”

What you should know
Thielen, the Vikings’ first 1,000-yard receiver since Sidney Rice in 2009, was given last year’s Korey Stringer Good Guy Award by the Twin Cities chapter of the Pro Football Writers of America. The award annually honors the Vikings player who best displays professionalism, cooperation and sense of humor with reporters.

Notable number
8 — Stefon Diggs’ eight touchdown catches last season tied for the most by a Viking receiver since 2004, when Randy Moss (13) and Nate Burleson (9) both eclipsed that number. The Vikings finally have the receiving talent again for double-digit scorers; do they now have the passer and the system?

Top competition
Receiver No. 3 — Treadwell looked leaner as he ran through spring drills as the primary No. 3 receiver for Kirk Cousins. Time will tell if veteran Kendall Wright sees top reps in camp after he learned the offense catching passes from Trevor Siemian in OTAs. Also keep an eye on second-year receiver Stacy Coley, who was seeing some first-team reps this spring before suffering an injury in practice.

NFL Scoreboard

No NFL games today

Poll: What chance do the Twins have of catching Cleveland?

See more polls