Scouting Report: In a draft that lacks real elite top end talent, Notre Dame's Kyle Rudolph is one who could come in and have an immediate impact for whichever teams drafts him. His size is ideal for the position. He's a tall, natural athlete looking more like a fit power forward and at times plays like one as well. He's got great natural hands, catches the ball away from his body and does a nice job making catches in traffic. One of the things that is so cliche' about a guy like Rudolph is the matchup problems he causes. He's too quick and athletic for a linebacker but too big and physical for a corner or safety. This could particularly come into play in the red zone where a big body like Rudolph will draw lots of attention. Another aspect of his game that translates well to the NFL is that he works hard after the catch as well, getting up field breaking tackles and finishing plays.
Draft Status: If not for some serious injury concerns Rudolph would be a first round lock. He's a dynamic talent and a complete player, but two serious injuries in two seasons is going to be more than teams can overlook. Assuming he checks out medically, I would guess Rudolph gets a look in the second round weighing out talent and risk alone.
Final Analysis: In the 2011 NFL draft class, there are far more questions than answers when it comes to the athletes in it. Some very good football players that have significant concerns. Same thing applies to Rudolph. There's nothing to dislike about his game. He was on a spread offense at Notre Dame for a good chunk of his career that didn't regularly feature the tight end but the flashes he showed were more than enough to convince me he's the best tight end in the nation. If you want to nitpick his game some, it's that he's not the dominant blocker that some teams want out of their tight ends, but when you look at his size, speed, athleticism, exceptional route running, physical nature and great hands you can easily overlook he's not an offensive tackle out there. Offensive tackles won't catch 12 touchdowns a year. The rub with Rudolph is of course his injury history. You hate to think about making Rudolph a top draft pick and being unsure if you'll be able to count on him to be on the field.
Reminds me of: Heath Miller TE Pittsburgh Steelers - Miller came out of college recovering from a significant injury and even though he was the most talented tight end in the nation, wasn't draft as such because of injury concerns. They are both big targets with soft hands and the ability to get open and work hard. Miller has been nicked up during his career but has shaken the injury prone label he entered the NFL with. I hope Rudolph can do the same.
Red Flags: None
Scouting Report written by Curt Popejoy