2012 NFL Fantasy Football Tight End (TE) Rankings and Projections

Sean E. DouglasSenior Writer IIIJuly 17, 2012

I like What The Rudolph Is Cooking!
I like What The Rudolph Is Cooking!Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

While we only have so many dynamic slot tight ends like Aaron Hernandez and Jimmy Graham in the game of football, more traditional inline options can still get it done on the field for fantasy purposes. One of these young talents we need to keep in mind on draft day is Vikings Kyle Rudolph.

Outside of Percy Harvin, Minnesota is still looking for suitable options in the passing game, and while free agent Jerome Simpson has drawn praise from the coaching staff, he's been somewhat inconsistent in his career and will face a three-game suspension to start the season.

Even if Simpson should make an impact upon his return, the game scripts are likely to see the Vikings throwing the football often, perhaps more than they would like due to playing in a pass-heavy division with a shaky secondary.

Factor in that Adrian Peterson will be coming off a major knee injury suffered late last season, and they likely won't have him at full strength to lean on.


Signs Of Growth

If we read through the tea leaves of the offseason, the signs are pointing to Rudolph making an impact in the Vikings offense. In camp, beat writer Tom Pelissero pointed out Rudolph actually looks faster and attributed this extra burst to perhaps finally overcoming a hamstring tendon avulsion he suffered back in his final year of college.


The St. Paul Pioneer Press reported that even starting quarterback Christian Ponder has admitted Rudolph is "going to make a lot of plays" and why not in what looks to be a friendly situation for any pass-catcher who is willing and able to step up and produce.

The Vikings are set on using a two tight-end set often this year with John Carlson possibly seeing more time as the inline option. This means we will see the Vikings move Rudolph around some for mismatch purposes, and while he's not Hernandez, Graham or Jermichael Finley, we will see times where a nickel corner is over-matched by Rudolph's size and ability to go up and get the football.

This makes Rudolph the ideal option in the red zone, and there's nothing a young quarterback likes more than a big framed tight end with good hands who can win on challenge throws, one on one or even two on one.

While Ponder has much to prove, I believe he will make significant strides this season, and opportunity will be there to up the passing attempts through the season because the Vikings are going to struggle against quarterbacks like Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford and Jay Cutler.


Going Unnoticed

The test will come early for Rudolph as to proving whether he can play at a TE1 level for fantasy owners. The Vikings will face off against two respectable defenses in the first three weeks as they play the Jaguars Week 1 and the 49ers Week 3. Rudolph does get a tasty matchup against the Colts in Week 2, so if he's active in the passing game Week 1, we might want to consider him a starting option.

At this time Rudolph is virtually going unnoticed in recent ADP trends as he has yet to crack the list of tight ends off the board over at Fantasy Football Calculator.

While I expect Rudolph to move up a little over the course of August, you should land him comfortably as your TE2, but he has the upside to be starting for you weekly before you know it.

2012 Position Rankings: Top 200 | QB | RB | WR | Cheat Sheets