With offseason training activities in full swing, the Minnesota Vikings are officially in the first phases of preparations for the 2018 NFL season. The team spent the spring retooling key parts of their roster in the hopes of finally getting over the proverbial hump after coming up short in the NFC championship game.

Full Press Coverage’s next part in the Vikings 2018 Roster Preview will focus on the tight end position.

Tight End

Projected Starter: Kyle Rudolph
Reserves: David Morgan II, Blake Bell, Tyler Conklin, Josiah Price, Tyler Hoppes

The Starter

Rudolph goes into his eighth season as the unquestioned leader of this group. He tied for the team lead with eight touchdown catches in 2017, one shy of his career best set back in 2012. He possesses some of the best hands at the position and knows how to get open, particularly around the endzone. His skillset makes him a favorite target for any quarterback.

After overcoming injury concerns earlier in his career, consistency is the only remaining issue with his overall game. He still disappears for stretches far too often to be among the league’s elite at the position. He went from gaining 840 yards in 2016 down to 532 in 2017.

One thing is certain: when Rudolph is on his game, he brings an important dimension to the offense that makes it difficult for opposing defenses to stop.

The Reserves

Morgan returns for his third season firmly entrenched as the Vikings’ primary blocking tight end. With the attention that the team’s playmakers attract, he’s also capable of taking advantage of his catches for big gains when given the opportunity.

The third tight end spot is up for grabs. Bell currently occupies the spot but will be hard pressed to hold on to it. He was used sparingly and had just three catches in 2017.

Fifth-round pick Tyler Conklin may be more in the mold of what DeFilippo is looking for as a move-tight end in certain situations. He may lack the speed to stretch the seams but has a big catch radius that could make him a dangerous weapon in red zone and goal line situations.

Hoppes and Price will also compete for the third spot. One of them will need to show something that neither Bell nor Conklin have in order to make the team over them.

Project Outlook

If the Philadelphia Eagles 2017 game film is any indication, the Vikings’ tight ends could become a more critical part of their offense’s success. DeFilippo’s scheme involves heavier usage of the position to move the ball. Rudolph could be in line for a career year in this system. His talents and skillset are a match for this system and quarterback, Kirk Cousins, targets his tight ends as much as any quarterback in the league.

Morgan is likely a lock as the blocking tight end. Only the third spot is uncertain. As to who it will be is anyone’s guess at this point in time. Conklin could ultimately win the spot with his catching ability, but he’s not a lock. Bell could make the competition tough for the coaching staff to choose. The one who can show the best capability to make plays when called upon will be the number three.

Final Spring Evaluation

If someone can step up in the third tight end spot and provide a target when called upon, this group could become more dangerous than just Rudolph.

Rudolph is one of the better tight ends in the league and could be in line for a big year. Morgan will provide needed blocking and the occasional catch when everyone else is covered.

Whoever wins the last spot will need to be able to make themselves a receiving threat. Bell is a three-year vet but has shown little in that time. Conklin’s college film would suggest he could fit the role that DeFilippo’s offense uses, but was slowed by a bad foot injury last fall.

If this group can become a more complete unit in the way needed for this scheme, this group will be an even better compliment for the receiver group than it’s been in past years. If not, it’ll be more of the same: not bad, but could still be better.

Final Spring Grade: B

 

– Clayton R. Brooks II writes for Full Press Coverage and covers the Minnesota Vikings. Like and follow @ClaytonRBrooks2. Like and follow @fpc_vikings on Twitter and Full Press Vikings on Facebook.

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