Kyle Rudolph: Injury Concerns Limit Vikings TE's Fantasy Upside

Tim DanielsFeatured ColumnistNovember 26, 2012

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - SEPTEMBER 16:  Kyle Rudolph #82 of the Minnesota Vikings scores a touchdown  during the NFL game against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium on September 16, 2012 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Kyle Rudolph was on track to become a popular waiver-wire target for fantasy football owners after catching a touchdown for a second straight game. The Minnesota Vikings tight end left with concussion symptoms, however, which limits his upside.

Tom Pelissero of ESPN 1500 reports head coach Leslie Frazier would only go as far as saying he would update Rudolph's status on Monday. Dan Wiederer of the Star Tribune had previously reported Rudolph was undergoing concussion evaluation.

Kyle Rudolph back in the locker room being evaluated for a concussion.

— Dan Wiederer (@StribDW) November 25, 2012

As fantasy owners have surely learned by this point in the season, concussions are being taken extremely seriously. Rudolph will have to pass a myriad of tests in order to get back on the field in time for next week's game.

Knowing that, using a waiver claim on him would be a risky move. Owners have to make their moves count at this point of the season because playoff spots and positioning are up for grabs. One wasted move could make a major difference.

While Rudolph caught everybody's attention with 23 points in the last two games, he topped the 10-point mark just twice in the team's first nine contests. That makes it hard to have confidence his recent hot streak will continue.

Aside from the injury, the most worrisome thing is the lack of consistency in Minnesota's passing game. Christian Ponder has improved since his lackluster rookie season, but is still averaging less than 200 yards per game.

That means there are limited opportunities for Rudolph to make plays. Although he's been the hot hand over the past couple weeks, he could easily slide right back down the pecking order moving forward as defenses focus more on stopping him, especially in the red zone.

When you put all the factors together, it doesn't make sense for owners to use a valuable waiver claim on Rudolph unless they are in desperate need of a tight end. There are too many variables that have the potential to make it a waste.

Those looking for a tight end should look to see if players like Dustin Keller, Scott Chandler or Jacob Tamme are available. They all present some risk as well—like most free agents—but don't have the hype, and shouldn't need a top waiver spot to get them.

When scouring the free-agent market, it always comes down to balancing the risk and reward. The injury tilts the balance from reward to risk for Rudolph.

Owners would be better off using their top waiver claim on another position of need. Then target a different tight end afterward.