The Vikings have five tight ends entering 2015 training camp, including returnees Kyle Rudolph, Rhett Ellison and Chase Ford, as well as athletic offseason additions Brandon Bostick and MyCole Pruitt.
Total going to camp: 5
Total on 2014 opening day roster: 3 (plus one on the practice squad)
Average age: 25.0
Most experienced: Kyle Rudolph — 25 years old; going into 5th season with 40 starts in 48 games played
Rookies: 1 (MyCole Pruitt)
Position coach: Kevin Stefanski
Rudy Ready to Return
There are few discussions about Vikings tight ends that don't start and end with Rudolph, who suffered injuries in 2013 and 2014. Rudolph required surgery on a sports hernia he suffered in Week 3 last season, causing him to miss six straight games and finish the year with career lows of 24 receptions, 231 yards and two touchdowns. He revamped his personal offseason training program and hosted teammates in California for sessions this spring.
Rudolph's 6-foot, 6-inch length and his smoothness at running routes should help* *Teddy Bridgewater considerably in his second year as a starting QB. Offensive Coordinator Norv Turner will look to capitalize on mismatches with Rudolph, who can also serve as a security blanket when other options are taken away by an opponent's coverage.
Multitasker at hand
If the greatest value provided by Rudolph is what he can do in space, Rhett Ellison's best attribute could be what he does in tighter quarters near the line of scrimmage. Ellison is skilled as an in-line blocker, and Adrian Peterson's return could place an increased demand for those duties. Ellison, however, showed reliable hands in catching a career high 19 passes for 208 yards and a touchdown in 2014 and is a player that likes to go to work and to prepare for any task.
Answering opportunity's knock
Ford began last season on the practice squad but was elevated when Rudolph needed in-season surgery. Ford tried to answer as opportunity knocked and delivered a combined 11 catches for 127 yards and a touchdown at Tampa Bay and against Washington. Like Rudolph, Ford is 6-6, runs well and has shown steady hands in catching the football. He finished with 23 catches for 258 yards and a touchdown.
Claiming Brandon Bostick off waivers and drafting MyCole Pruitt in the fifth round enabled the Vikings to add athletic players to the roster. Pruitt nabbed some great catches during rookie minicamp and the offseason program that gave Vikings coaches an opportunity to learn more about both players. Further assessment could continue at camp when pads go on at a position where blocking can be an important part of the job.