It’s a vital position in Norv Turner’s offense, yet the Vikings didn’t get the most from their tight ends last year. Kyle Rudolph played just nine games due to injuries, and he was the only complete tight end on the roster. The Vikings had to rely on Rhett Ellison, a blocking tight end, and Chase Ford, a pass catching tight end, for most of the season.
Before the Vikings drafted a wide receiver, they took tight end MyCole Pruitt in the fifth round with hopes of adding another well-rounded tight end to complement Rudolph. All of a sudden, there’s competition at the position once players report for training camp next Saturday.
We continue our training camp preview by analyzing the tight ends.
SAFE BET STARTER: Kyle Rudolph
He hasn’t been the most durable player on the team over the last two seasons, playing just 17 games during that stretch. Rudolph signed a five-year extension worth $36.5 million during training camp last year, and he’s been determined to prove his worth this offseason. He switched up his workout routine by working out his smaller muscles, incorporating yoga and having a stricter diet.
We’ll see if it’ll help keep him on the field all season, but Rudolph is a good tight end when healthy. He’s capable of blocking in run and pass situations while also serving as a solid option for quarterback Teddy Bridgewater down the field. Rudolph’s presence makes this offense more potent with running back Adrian Peterson and a slew of wide receivers that can all stretch the field. If he battles with injuries again this year, it’ll leave a similar gaping hole that the Vikings had to deal with at the position last year.
BACKUPS: MyCole Pruitt, Chase Ford, Rhett Ellison, Brandon Bostick
CAMP BATTLE TO WATCH: The backup tight end situation will be interesting to watch when you factor in the limitations of Ford and Ellison along with the inexperience of Pruitt.They will all get a shot at winning the backup job. Ellison was the only Vikings tight end that played all 16 games and led the unit with 564 snaps. Ford entered camp last year on the physically unable to perform list with a foot injury. He played just 11 games but finished with better stats than Ellison with 23 receptions for 258 yards and a touchdown.
Unless the Vikings carry four tight ends on the roster, there will also be a battle for the third tight end spot to make the team. Pruitt appears to be a lock to make the roster. Unless Bostick makes a strong case this summer, the third tight end spot might come down to Ford and Ellison.
THE BURNING QUESTION: If you want to label one of the 10 rookies as a “boom” pick, Pruitt might be your guy. But how quickly can Pruitt develop in Turner’s offense? The coaching staff has been impressed with the rookie so far, but we haven’t seen Pruitt in pads yet. General manager Rick Spielman considered Pruitt as a complete tight end after the draft, and we’ll get our first shot in Mankato to see how well he can block. In shorts and shirts though, Pruitt showed that he has good hands.