The last time a tight end was drafted in the first round was in 2006. That year, there were actually two tight ends taken in the first round: Marcedes Lewis and Vernon Davis. Both tight ends have ended up working out for their respective teams (I only say that now because Lewis broke out in 2010).
In fact, since Tony Gonzalez was drafted in the first round way back in 1997, there have been 14 tight ends drafted in the first round. There are two that no argument can be made for (Daniel LaFleur and Dan Graham), and the rest have all been solid contributors to their teams.
Historically, there is enough evidence that tight ends that grade out to a first round caliber are somewhat decent bets. With that in mind, it isn't shocking that Notre Dame product Kyle Rudolph has been put in the conversation of first round worthy. The NFL is a copycat league too, by the way. The Patriots got great production out of two rookie tight ends last season, so surely there will be a few teams that try and copy that success.
One of those teams may be the St. Louis Rams. The Rams are sitting in an awkward position. You know they are begging for talent like that of A.J. Green and Julio Jones to fall to them, but the chances are highly unlikely. The Rams could then address needs on the defensive line or the offensive line
Or they could go with another receiving threat: Kyle Rudolph.
The idea of the Rams taking Rudolph in the first round has been picking up steam over the past two days. Many thought Rudolph would fall to the third round after he missed half of his senior season with a hamstring injury. Instead, it is looking like the Rams could shock the NFL by taking Rudolph with the 14th overall selection (Jeremy Shockey went 14th in 2002 and Tony Gonzalez was 13th in 1997).
The Rams will have to shell out first round money to a tight end that missed half of his last season of football. That is a truth the Rams won't be able to avoid if they select Rudolph, which should also be the biggest reason not draft him. But I'm not saying Rudolph wouldn't fit in well with the Rams...
Last season, there were about 100 different receivers that suited up for the Rams, and they each had their own varying success. This year, the Rams will likely have to draft a receiver in the second or third round, giving them yet another No. 2-No. 3 receiver, but still lacking a clear No. 1. The addition of Rudolph wouldn't crowd the receiving depth chart anymore, and it would also provide the Rams with a solid receiving threat.
Sam Bradford showed that he has the ability to lead the Rams to success. Now they just need to give him the tools. Unfortunately for Bradford, he will miss getting a No. 1 receiver this year. But he could pick up a future Todd Heap-esque tight end.
Let's just hope the similarities of the two don't include time missed from injury.