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Season Rewind: Rudolph Delivers Career Year, Sets Standard for Future

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Kyle Rudolph's personal benchmark has been set.

The Vikings tight end produced the best season of his career in 2016, setting personal bests with 83 catches for 840 yards. The sixth-year player also caught a team-high seven touchdowns, the second-most of his career.

Rudolph had battled injuries over the first few years of his career. But after playing in every game for the second straight season, Rudolph said future seasons will be compared to 2016.

"I spoke before the season about expectations and my first five years, and that I was nowhere near my expectations in terms of production," Rudolph said after a Week 17 win against the Bears. "A lot of things go into why this year was more productive than others, but this is a standard I'm setting.

"I'm going to have to work all offseason to top (this) next year," he added.

The former Notre Dame standout set a handful or records in 2016.

Rudolph now sits alone in first place among Vikings tight ends with 29 career touchdowns catches, and his 83 receptions are also a franchise record for the most in a single season for a player at his position.

"Any time you're up there with some of the great tight ends that have played for this franchise … guys have set the standard for my position," Rudolph said. "Just being mentioned in the same category as those guys is an honor." 

And while Rudolph was not selected to the Pro Bowl, he established himself as one of the premier tight ends in the league. He ranked third among tight ends in catches, was fourth in yards and had the second-most touchdown catches.

The former first-round pick also played an integral role in helping Vikings quarterback Sam Bradford adjust on the fly when he was acquired in a trade a week before the season started.

Following the Week 17 win over the Bears, Bradford said he wasn't at all surprised at the impact Rudolph had on the Vikings this season. 

"Kyle is just a really good football player," Bradford said. "He's one of those guys that when I first got here, it seemed like we clicked immediately.

"He's just really easy to read as far as his body language and routes," he added. "He's a big target, and he's got a really big catch radius. That's what you're looking for as a quarterback because you know that if you put it in his area, he's usually going to come down with it."

Rudolph was joined by Rhett Ellison and David Morgan.

Ellison had nine receptions for 57 yards and no receiving touchdowns, but he did manage to find the end zone on the ground. Ellison's only carry of the season was a 1-yard score in Week 9 against the Lions.

Morgan, a rookie who was a sixth-round pick out of the University of Texas San Antonio, had one catch for four yards. He also had a pair of kickoff returns for 29 yards when opponents kicked short to keep the ball away from Cordarrelle Patterson.

Notable Number

Rudolph led the team with seven touchdown and established himself as Minnesota's top red zone threat. Of his seven scoring grabs, six occurred at the 20-yard line or inside of it.

Only Rudolph's final touchdown catch of the season — a 22-yard catch and run — did not come in the red zone.

Memorable Moment

Rudolph saved his best for last this season, as he capped off his stellar campaign by posting career highs in catches (11) and yards (117), and added a touchdown catch in a 38-10 win over the Bears in the 2016 season finale.

Rudolph, who was targeted by Bradford a career-high 15 times, hauled in a 22-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter that put him atop the record books. The play was his 29th career touchdown catch, moving him past Steve Jordan for the most all time by a Vikings tight end.

View the top 40 photos of Vikings tight ends from 2016.


Kyle Rudolph

83 receptions, 840 yards, seven touchdowns

Rhett Ellison

nine receptions, 57 yards

David Morgan

one reception, 4 yards

MyCole Pruitt

One reception, 7 yards

Pruitt did not spend all of 2016 with the Vikings

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