NFL Draft 2011: Is Kyle Rudolph a Forgotten Target for the Cleveland Browns?

Brian MurtaughAnalyst IApril 14, 2011

SOUTH BEND,IN - SEPTEMBER 13:  Ethan Johnson #9 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish yells during the game against the Michigan Wolverines on September 13, 2008 at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, Indiana. (Photo by: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Much of the 2011 NFL Draft hype surrounding the Cleveland Browns is based off of which prospects the team may acquire in order to help their new and improved defense next season. After the teams' first round selection, many fans and experts expect nearly every pick to be on the defensive side of the ball.

Kyle Rudolph may have the chance to postpone that defensive trend as the top tight end in the nation could be a target for Cleveland in the second-round.

Rudolph missed most of his final season at Notre Dame due to injury but still managed to show enough talent to be ranked as the top tight end in the class. He has since fallen into the second-round projections due to the lack of need at the tight end position and some slight injury concerns.

Cleveland had a bit of a re-birth at the tight end position last season as Benjamin Watson stepped into the starting role and led the team in receiving statistics. Watson had 68 receptions for 763 yards and three touchdowns in 2010. However, 2011 will be Watson's ninth season as a NFL player and the threat of injury always comes with age.

Evan Moore is currently listed as the backup tight end on Cleveland's roster, but after a surprising showing near the end of the 2009 season, saw little action in 2010. Moore caught only 16 passes in 2010 but did manage to haul in one touchdown.

Rudolph could step in and be a factor early for Cleveland as the Browns will likely put a large emphasis on the tight end position, especially if there is a lack of talent at wide receiver. Rudolph and Watson could become the best tight end duo in the game as Cleveland's new West Coast offense is expected to rely heavily on short passes and screens.

Rudolph has not yet met with the Browns on an individual basis but has met with many other teams that will select in the beginning of the second-round. Cleveland will likely have some sort of a workout with Rudolph before draft day as the team continues to evaluate their pool of 30-40 prospects.