Over the past few years, no position in the NFL has seen a bigger transformation than the tight end. While the elite pass-catching tight end was once a true rarity, top tight ends across the league now put up the huge receiving numbers that were once reserved for the game's best wide receivers.
This development alone has made the tight end more important than ever in fantasy football, particularly given the emergence of tight ends as scoring options in the red zone. And while the Minnesota Vikings don't have one of those special ball-snagging tight ends yet, observers around the league appear to be warming up to Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota's second-year tight end.
On Thursday, SB Nation Fantasy ranked the league's best tight ends for the upcoming season, and Rudolph comes in No. 12 on Ray Guilfoyle's list. Even though the 22-year-old didn't blow up the box scores in his rookie season with the Vikings, analysts around the country view him as one of the top up-and-coming tight ends in the entire league.
While Guilfoyle doesn't rank Rudolph among the likes of Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski, or even Brandon Pettigrew, he does consider Rudolph to be arguably the top riser on the list:
One sleeper in the bunch is Viking TE Kyle Rudolph. I don't think there has been any tight end who has received more praise this offseason than Rudolph. Rudolph has gained the confidence of QB Christian Ponder, and some think he could lead the team in targets this season.
Last season, Rudolph caught 26 balls for 249 yards and three touchdowns while the Vikings dealt with an inconsistent quarterback situation. As second-year quarterback Ponder looks to establish himself, expect the young tight end to see more action in the passing game this season.