It's Regression Time for Kyle Rudolph

May 02, 2018
It's Regression Time for Kyle Rudolph

After finishing back-to-back seasons within the top six (TE6 in 2017, TE2 in 2016) among tight ends in total fantasy points, Kyle Rudolph's gravy train could be pulling into the station. He has combined total of 1,372 receiving yards and 15 touchdowns over the past two seasons.

As we hit May on the calendar, Rudolph’s ADP hovers at TE9, coming off draft boards somewhere in the sixth round in best-ball contests. Despite his recent successes, the 28-year old’s draft spot is just too high for my liking. Below you'll find my reasons why.

Pat Shurmur Void

In the pre-Pat Shurmur era in Minnesota, Rudolph’s on-field action was pedestrian at best, never seeing over 53 receptions and 495 yards in a season. In the last two years with the offensive-guru calling the shots, Rudolph was targeted 213 times which resulted in 140 catches—ending 2016 as the most-targeted tight end. In 2017, he was the 11th-most targeted player at his position. It’s uncertain what direction new OC John DeFilippo will take Minnesota's offense this season, but Rudolph’s production could suffer as a result of Shurmur’s departure.

Rudolph's Output Both With & Without Pat Shurmur
Year Targets TE Target Standings Standard Fantasy Points TE Standard Fantasy Points Standings
2013 46 TE36 49.3 TE36
2014 34 TE39 35.1 TE37
2015 72 TE22 79.5 TE14
2016* 132 TE1 126 TE2
2017* 81 TE11 101.2 TE6

*Indicates with Pat Shurmur on staff.

High Touchdown Dependency

Rudolph ended last season tied for second in total tight end touchdowns, with only Jimmy Graham grabbing more balls in the end zone than the veteran pass-catcher. His receiving yards ranked 14th among the tight end group, though, which isn’t the ideal ratio for consistent fantasy success. Despite his eight touchdowns (tied for second-most at the position), Rudolph only posted three games with double-digit standard fantasy points in 2017—and that percentage could drop even lower this season.

New Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins isn’t exactly a red zone superstar, boasting an even 50 percent completion rate within the 20-yard line last season. He did end 2017 ninth in touchdowns in the red zone though, which bodes well for Rudolph when it comes to scoring. Here’s a look at 2017 red zone numbers from both Cousins and former Vikings signal-caller Case Keenum, to get an idea of what Rudolph can expect in 2018.

Cousins vs. Keenum's 2017 Red Zone Stats
Player CMP 20 ATT 20 CMP % 20 YDS 20 TD 20 INT 20 CMP 10 ATT 10 CMP %10 YDS 10 TD 10 INT 10
Cousins 36 68 50 268 17 3 9 25 34.62 32 7 1
Keenum 33 53 60 233 17 0 15 26 53.57 58 11 0

Four’s A Crowd

Having a plethora of talented guys who can catch the ball is not a bad thing for the Vikings in real life, but for fantasy purposes, it can create a cloudiness that’s tough to predict. Both Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs ended among the top-16 wideouts in standard fantasy points last season, and when healthy, both are capable of solid production.

The receiver duo was targeted more in 2017 than Rudolph, with Diggs only playing in 14 games. Thielen and Diggs’ target rates per snap were 13.8 percent and 12.2 percent, respectively. Rudolph’s target rates per snap was 8.8 percent. The return of Dalvin Cook after playing in just four games last season could also impact the number of balls the Rudolph gets his hands on in 2018. Cook averaged four targets per game when on the field his shortened rookie year, with Rudolph targeted an average of 5.1 times per contest.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not implying to fade Rudolph completely this season, I just feel he is currently being overvalued in best-ball drafts. Instead of grabbing him in the sixth round, it may be beneficial to beef up your RB or WR corps for greater points potential, and then waiting to select someone like Cameron Brate, George Kittle, or Austin Seferian-Jenkins in the later rounds for what could be a similar fantasy output.

Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images.

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