Even as a block-first tight end in a run-oriented offense, Vikings nine-year veteran Kyle Rudolph can’t think of a better time to be playing his position.
“It’s a lot different than it was 10 years ago,” he said. “And it’s a fun time to be a tight end in this league.”
The joy is mutual among most of this year’s 12 playoff teams. And, ironically, the one glaring exception is defending champion New England, whose uncharacteristic vulnerability this year is due in large part to last year’s early retirement of Rob Gronkowski, one of the best tight ends in league history.
This year’s playoff field features four tight ends who lead their teams in receptions and receiving yards, including Kansas City’s Travis Kelce, who ranks fourth in the league with 1,229 yards. Three of them lead not only those categories but also rank first in touchdown catches.
In Philly, the top two in each of those categories are tight ends Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert.
“It’s a great position to play right now in the NFL,” Rudolph said. “A lot of teams use tight ends in all kinds of different ways to create mismatches.”
Here’s a ranking of the top playoff tight ends as the postseason kicks off this weekend:
TOP 10 TIGHT ENDS
1. Travis Kelce, Chiefs: Team-high 97 catches for NFL’s fourth-most yards (1,229).
2. George Kittle, 49ers: Leads a No. 1 seed in catches (85), yards (1,053) and TDs (5).
3. Mark Andrews, Ravens: Leads best team in catches (64), yards (852) and TDs (10).
4. Jared Cook, Saints: Leads No. 3 scoring team in yards per catch (16.4) and TDs (9).
5. Zach Ertz, Eagles: Leads Philly in catches (88), yards (916) and TDs (6).
6. Dallas Goedert, Eagles: Philly’s No. 2 in catches (58), yards (607) and TDs (5).
7. Kyle Rudolph, Vikings: Unselfish blocker also tied for team lead in TD catches (6).
8. Darren Fells, Texans: Tied for team lead in TD catches (7).
9. Jimmy Graham, Packers: He’s had a quiet two years in Green Bay, but don’t overlook him.
10. Jacob Hollister, Seahawks: Has 41 catches with three TDs in three starts over 11 games.