As the Vikings recent draft picks and free agent signees acclimate to their new surroundings, they will get to know a number of veteran players who have been with the team for several seasons.
One such player is Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota's longest-tenured offensive player.
John Holler of *Viking Update *said that Rudolph, who is entering his eighth season in Purple, "has become the most dominant red zone tight end in the league over the past two seasons."
Holler also said that "few Vikings have made bigger impacts in recent years" than the tight end. He wrote:
While other tight ends get more notice as being red zone threats, like Jimmy Graham, Rob Gronkowski, Travis Kelce, Antonio Gates and Zach Ertz, no tight end has been more prolific than Rudolph. Over the last two seasons, only Graham (45) has been targeted in the red zone more than Rudolph (41). However, when it comes to receptions and yards in the red zone, no tight end has been better than Rudolph.
Only three tight ends have had 20 or more receptions in the red zone since the start of the 2016 season –Rudolph (29), Graham (23) and the recently retired Jason Witten (20). In that same span, no tight end has more receiving yards than Rudolph (211). In fact, only three players have more than 152 red zone receiving yards – Rudolph, Graham (194) and Witten (188).
In perhaps the most important red zone statistic of them all – scoring touchdowns – Rudolph is again near the top of the list. Only six tight ends have scored double-digit touchdowns over the last two seasons – Graham (14), Rudolph (13), Cameron Brate (13), Ertz (12), Hunter Henry (11) and Gates (10).
Holler went on to point out that Rudolph's performance has been with multiple quarterbacks, and he will again take the field with a new one this season. Kirk Cousins and new Vikings offensive coordinator John DeFilippo have earned positive reputations for the ways they've used tight ends in the passing game.
With renewed excitement about the potential of the Vikings offense with Cousins bringing an improved passing attack and Cook expected to breathe explosive life back into the running game, perhaps the most important player to help make the Vikings offense capable of dominating games may well be Rudolph and his red zone ability.
Vikings reaching goals off the field
It's been a big couple of weeks for Vikings rookie Devante Downs.
The weekend following rookie minicamp, Downs returned to the West Coast, where he graduated from Cal. The seventh-round pick tweeted a photo of the accomplishment Sunday.
Downs isn't the only Vikings player to have recently reached an academic benchmark. On May 4, long snapper Kevin McDermott announced that he received his MBA from Kelley School of Business.