What separates good tight ends from great tight ends is making the tough catch and the ability to stretch a defense and make big plays. While Vikings TE Kyle Rudolph and QB Christian Ponder have yet to develop a deep downfield rapport, Rudolph has become Ponder’s security blanket in the red zone – the area of the field inside the opponent’s 20-yard line.
In two seasons, Vikings quarterbacks have thrown to Rudolph 23 times in the red zone. He has caught 20 of them – a whopping 87 percent of those throws. They weren’t always accurate. They weren’t always easy. But he made them.
For the purpose of comparison, in that same span, Antonio Gates has caught 67 percent of red zone passes thrown his way. Rob Gronkowski has caught 65 percent. Tony Gonzalez has caught 63 percent. Heath Miller has caught 60 percent. Jimmy Graham has caught 53 percent.
Rudolph hasn't had enough non-red zone opportunities to be ranked among the league's elite TEs, though he certainly has upside in 2013.