Most of the "evidence" used when hyping Rudolph revolves around a single fact. That fact is the arrival of Turner in Minnesota.
The sentiment goes, "Look what he did for Gates and Jordan Cameron! Rudolph is bound to blow up!"
According to Matt Lutovsky of Sporting News, "This year, there's good reason to think he'll produce even more than that, mainly because of Norv Turner's presence as offensive coordinator."
Bill Pivetz of Rant Sports writes, "Turner is a great offensive-minded coach. Rudolph will have a much bigger role in the Minnesota Vikings offense."
"Bottom line, everyone on the Vikings offense should benefit from Norv Turner’s hiring, but Rudolph will be relevant again in that offense," suggests Heather Flatgard of Gridiron Experts.
Is it that simple? Of course not.
Turner was the offensive coordinator of the San Diego Chargers for one season, 2001, and Gates wasn't a member of that team. Instead, that squad featured two tight ends who started 19 combined games. Steve Heiden and Freddie Jones were not prolific.
They combined for a meager 43 catches and 443 yards between them. The duo managed five touchdowns, too.
Again, though, that's between two players. Since you are looking for one TE to start, not two, this isn't favorable.
Let's go back to Gates. Based on the amount of rhetoric focusing on Turner's impact on the tight end position of any team he graces, one would think he took a no-name kid out of the Kent State basketball program and turned him into a Hall of Fame-bound tight end.
While he didn't hurt Gates' career, it certainly doesn't seem he was the cause of it either.
Gates struggled in his rookie year. "Struggled" is, of course, a term relative to his own performances since then. His first season was still debatably better than Rudolph's.
|Antonio Gates (2003)||24||389||2|
|Kyle Rudolph (2011)||26||249||3|
His second year in the league, 2004, was arguably the best of his career. Gates hauled in 81 catches for 964 yards and 13 scores. Compare this with Rudolph's 53/493/9 stat line. While Rudolph impressed as a sophomore, it's easy to see he was still nowhere near Gates' production.
After his third year in the NFL, another dominant one, Gates was joined by Turner in 2006, when Norv took the position of head coach for the Chargers. Gates continued to be an elite tight end in the league, but statistically, Turner's regime oversaw a general decline for Gates—not a sparkling emergence.
It's hard to believe Turner has reaped so much credit for a man who was already lighting it up when he got there.
There are other considerations in the comparison between Gates and Rudolph as well. While Gates was blessed with talented quarterback play, Rudolph has not been.
Gates has caught the vast majority of his passes from either Drew Brees or Philip Rivers.
Rudolph has enjoyed the company of Christian Ponder and Matt Cassel.
It can easily be argued that Rudolph plays with the best running back in football, Adrian Peterson, and Peterson's presence should free things up for the young tight end.
With that said, it would be much harder to argue that Peterson is more productive than all-time great LaDainian Tomlinson was when he shared the field with Gates.
One thing that should be noted is that Turner did command the 2013 Cleveland Browns offense that produced the breakout season of Jordan Cameron. Cameron finished 2013 as the fifth-best TE in fantasy football.
However, a single season with a young player who may have broken out with or without Turner is hardly proof that he had anything to do with it. If Cameron is successful again in 2014 without Turner, will people suggest that Turner taught Cameron how to catch the ball?
Given Turner's track record of garnering much more praise than he is due, they probably will.
With all this in mind, drafting Rudolph in your fantasy league as anything more than a low-end starter or even a backup is hardly advisable.
ESPN.com indicates Rudolph is currently being drafted ahead of both Jordan Reed and Martellus Bennett, who were both superior to him on a per-game basis in 2013. Both of them are also in better offenses with better quarterback play. It's a no-brainer.
Pass on Rudolph.