Over the past few weeks, Zone Coverage has broken down the Minnesota Vikings post-draft roster by position group and taken a stab at which players will make the team.
Today’s focus: Tight ends
The Vikings returned their top three tight ends from a season ago and added another in the draft in addition to a pair of prospects. Minnesota has long been searching for another offensive weapon to pair with Kyle Rudolph at tight end. Is he in this group? Let’s take a look.
Departures: Kyle Carter (waived during postseason)
Additions: Tyler Conklin, Josiah Price, Tyler Hoppes
Returning: Kyle Rudolph, David Morgan II, Blake Bell
THE STALWART: Kyle Rudolph
After two injury-riddled seasons in the early part of his career, some wondered whether Rudolph was destined to be injury-prone. They especially worried about his durability after a 2014 groin injury cost him half the season just weeks after signing a five-year extension. Rudolph has responded to those doubts by playing every game throughout the last three seasons, despite having to play through an aching ankle late in 2017.
Rudolph has scored 20 touchdowns over those three seasons, 16 of which came in the red zone. Now he’s paired up with Kirk Cousins, who helped produce a tight end with over 650 yards each of the past three seasons in Washington.
While Rudolph has been knocked for his blocking in the past, he ranked second in pass blocking efficiency last season, according to Pro Football Focus.
THE GRITTY GUYS: David Morgan II, Blake Bell
David Morgan II grabbed 10 passes and scored a touchdown last season as Minnesota’s chief backup at tight end. Bell was picked up from San Francisco before the season to give the team an upgrade over rookie Bucky Hodges, but he made just three catches on the season while playing under 13 percent of snaps. Neither are explosive in the passing game but both have a knack for blocking, especially Morgan, who was a huge asset in the run game last year.
David Morgan with a brutal pancake block to set up this 9-yard run. pic.twitter.com/SPMMMosuFf
— Nick Olson (@NicholasJOlson) April 16, 2018
With two cheap years left on his rookie contract, Morgan has the edge to stick around over Bell, who’s entering a contract year.
THE DRAFT PICK: Tyler Conklin
Taken in the fifth round from Central Michigan, former Division II basketball player Conklin could bring an athletic dimension to the position, particularly in the red zone. He grabbed 11 touchdowns over the past two seasons with the Chippewas and had the fourth-highest yards per route run of any tight end in the draft, according to Pro Football Focus. On the other hand, he had the sixth-highest drop rate.
Conklin had surgery on a broken foot last season and is dealing with an undisclosed injury at Vikings OTAs. His health will be something to watch moving forward.
THE LONGSHOTS: Josiah Price, Tyler Hoppes
The Vikings re-signed Michigan State product Price in March after bringing him to training camp as an undrafted rookie a year ago. He was a casualty of roster cut day last September and is once again an underdog to make the final 53. He caught 21 touchdown passes in his college career.
Hoppes only had one season of contributions on offense at Nebraska, but he made his mark, collecting 34 catches — a Nebraska tight end record — for 377 yards and three touchdowns. Maybe Rick Spielman has the scoop on Hoppes since the general manager’s son, J.D., was also a member of the Huskers offense.
Making the roster: Kyle Rudolph, David Morgan II, Tyler Conklin
Released: Blake Bell, Josiah Price, Tyler Hoppes