Veteran Kyle Rudolph will lead Vikings tight ends into the 2016 season. The former Notre Dame standout is heading into his sixth professional season.
Rudolph is rejoined by MyCole Pruitt, a fifth-round pick in 2015 who is back for his second year, and veteran Rhett Ellison, who has spent the offseason working his way back from an injury suffered in Week 17 at Green Bay.
The Vikings used another draft pick on a tight end in 2016,selecting David Morgan in the sixth round. Minnesota also signed veteran free agent Brian Leonhardt and undrafted rookie Kyle Carter.
The group will be coached by Pat Shurmur, who is in his first season as Minnesota's tight ends coach. Shurmur's career includes experience as a head coach in Cleveland and as the offensive coordinator in Philadelphia.
View the best images of the tight ends from the Vikings' offsesaon program.
Rudolph led the Vikings with five touchdown catches in 2015. It was the first time for a tight end to lead Minnesota in touchdown catches since 2012, when Rudolph totaled nine scoring grabs.
Rudolph finished second on the team in catches (49) and yards (495), and the Vikings won four of the five games in which he caught a touchdown.
Like all positions, Minnesota's tight ends don't focus on a single task during practices or games.
Rudolph explained the intricacies of the tight end position in June during offseason workouts.
"It's a great position to play, because you have to do it all," Rudolph said. "Outside of the quarterback, we pretty much have to know everything that's going on on offense – there are things in the run game, in the pass game, pass protection, route running.
"If you name it on offense, we're involved in it some way, shape or form," he added. "We take pride in that in the tight ends room – knowing everything, being able to do everything, and it's fun. That's why we all play the position – to have the opportunity to be a part of the big guys up front and also be out and run routes with the receivers."
Shurmur said he was excited to work with the entire tight ends group but said one of the newest additions has made an immediate impact.
Shurmur said Morgan opened some eyes during offseason workouts.
"We're happy he's here, and through the offseason he's really impressed us," Shurmur said. "When you draft a player, you have a decent idea of what you're getting, but he's certainly been a pleasant surprise.
"This is a guy who can block, he's got good size, he played as a wide out as well as an attached tight end," he added. "He had all the attributes we were looking for as he's done a great job for us."
The Depth Chart
Pruitt progressed as the season went along, catching 10 passes for 89 yards in 2015.
Morgan hails from the University of Texas-San Antonio and was considered as the draft's best blocking tight end.
Ellison was an integral blocking option last season and added 11 catches for 124 yards and a touchdown. He also turned in a career-long 41-yard reception at Arizona.
Leonhardt, a Minnesota native who has spent time with the Raiders, Browns and 49ers, signed with the Vikings in March, and Carter joined the team in May after wrapping up at Penn State.