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Lunchbreak: Rudolph Ranked Among NFL’s Top 5 Tight Ends

The rankings are in, and former NFL quarterback-turned-analyst David Carr tabbed Kyle Rudolph among the league’s top five tight ends.

Carr created the list for NFL.com and placed the Viking at No. 5. He wrote the following of Rudolph, who signed an extension this spring that will keep him in Minnesota for the foreseeable future:

Rudolph reminds me of Jason Witten when he was in his heyday, and signing him to a four-year extension this offseason was huge for the Vikings. Rudolph has been extremely reliable in starting 104 of 112 games played since he was drafted in the second round in 2011. Over his eight seasons, he’s averaged 9.8 yards per catch and his 41 receiving touchdowns in that span are tied for third most among players selected in the 2011 draft behind only A.J. Green and Julio Jones.

The Vikings added to their tight ends room when they used their second-round draft pick on Irv Smith, Jr., but Carr said that Rudolph “will remain a big part of the offense” for Minnesota.

Carr did not include Witten, who came out of retirement after one season to re-join the Cowboys, in this year’s top 10.

Ranked ahead of Rudolph by Carr were Eric Ebron (Colts) at No. 4, Zach Ertz (Eagles) at No. 3, Travis Kelce (Chiefs) at No. 2. George Kittle (49ers) topped the list. Behind Rudolph were Hunter Henry (Chargers) at No. 6, Vance McDonald (Steelers) at No. 7, Jared Cook (Saints) at No. 8, David Njoku (Browns) at No. 9 and Darren Waller (Raiders) rounding out the list at No. 10.

The Vikings will face Kelce at Arrowhead Stadium in Week 9. Carr called him a “fantastic athlete who is always in the right position” and pointed out that Chiefs Head Coach Andy Reid “isn’t afraid to split him out wide against a cornerback.”

The seventh-year veteran enjoys a size advantage against just about everyone he lines up against and more often than not gets separation at the top of his route. As one of two tight ends to post at least 1,000 receiving yards in three consecutive seasons (Greg Olsen did so in 2014-16), Kelce will be as dangerous as ever […].

Coller dives into Cook’s performance in passing game

The Vikings have made it clear that they want to run the ball more in 2019 and have a more balanced offense.

Dalvin Cook, who has missed time in his first two seasons due to injury, will likely shoulder a large part of that load. But it also will be interesting to see how the running back is used in Minnesota’s passing game.

Matthew Coller of SKOR North dived into Cook’s performance and posed the question, “How often will the Vikings throw to Cook?”

In the passing game, the former Florida State star caught 40 balls on 49 targets and averaged 4.5 targets per game in 2018, which over 16 games would have translated to around 72 passes in his direction. Last season, 13 running backs exceeded 72 targets, and six players saw more than 90 passes in their direction.

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The Vikings 2017 second-round pick was among the most efficient backs when targeted, averaging 6.2 yards per throw in his direction. That ranked ahead of Ezekiel Elliott (95 targets) and Saquon Barkley (121 targets). Overall, Kirk Cousins posted a 107.0 rating when targeting Cook, which ranked seventh among running backs (per PFF).

Coller pointed out that Cook’s “best performance through the air” came in Week 1 against San Francisco when he was targeted six times and gained 55 yards.

The Vikings offense will be under new direction this year with Offensive Coordinator Kevin Stefanski and also include the influence of Assistant Head Coach/Offensive Advisor Gary Kubiak.

According to Mile High Report, Gary Kubiak offenses average 15 percent of targets going toward running backs during his career as an offensive coordinator and head coach. Over 600 passes, that would translate to 90 throws toward the running back.

Vikings Hall of Famer continues to give back

Vikings Hall of Famer Randall McDaniel has consistently been involved in the Minnesota community, and recently he announced an upcoming charity golf classic.

McDaniel’s tournament is scheduled for Sept. 20 in Victoria, Minnesota, and will benefit the Open Arms Home for Children in South Africa.

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