Notre Dame Junior
40: 4.65 (estimated)
Has good hands and does a good job attacking the ball in the air. Has good body control and uses his size well to get position against the defender. He'll make most of the grabs in traffic and is a reliable security blanket. Does a good job working the middle of the field and has a nice feel for working in space in the passing game. Shows decent pop as an inline blocker and does a nice job finishing his blocks. Shows some ability to get position as a blocker in space when working at H-back or in the slot.
Is coming off a torn hamstring injury that limited him the entire year. Struggled with his speed and burst in and out of his breaks. May not be a guy that is going to get great separation. Struggled to get a good release and didn't look like he was a consistently option to challenge teams vertically. Limited as an inline blocker because he doesn't use his hands very well and struggles to get position there. Will whiff on blocks out in space.
Rudolph was a very productive tight end for Notre Dame. He played a lot more in the slot this year in Brian Kelly's spread attack, but was used very similarly to the way we use Tony Gonzalez in Charlie Weis's offense. He's a two year starter that has played extensively all three years of his tenure. This past year, he caught 28 passes for 328 yards (11.7 avg) and 3 touchdowns in only 6 games. For his career, he has 90 catches for 1032 yards (11.5 avg) and 8 touchdowns. He's been limited by injuries the past two seasons. He injured his hamstring this past summer, but it never really healed and he tore it in the sixth game, forcing him to undergo season-ending surgery. Missed two games due to shoulder injuries late during his sophomore year. Durability has to be a concern.
While I wouldn't say Rudolph is as a dynamic a tight end like say an Antonio Gates or Aaron Hernandez, but I think he'll be a very good complementary option that in the right system can be a guy that can catch 60-80 passes in a season in a similar mold as Jason Witten. His future in the NFL I think corresponds well to what we've seen from Tony Gonzalez the past two years in Atlanta. I'm not sure he'll be the type of guy that will be as good as Gonzo was in his prime. But I think he'll be a guy that can be a Pro Bowl candidate on a yearly basis because of his production if he can stay healthy. I think he'll earn his paycheck in the redzone and moving the chains on third down. I don't know if he's going to be a guy that can reliably make big plays down the field, but it's hard to tell because he definitely looked much quicker a year ago before the hammy and I'll be curious to see what he runs in the 40 at the Combine, assuming he's 100% by then. I can only assume that he will be since, if he was going to miss that I doubt he'd come out. As far as a blocker goes, I think he has room to grow, but he may never be considered a top blocker. His main value will be as a receiver, and I think he'll be a good No. 2 option that can work the middle of the field.
As a Falcon, I think Rudolph can make a smooth and easy transition as an heir apparent to Gonzalez. If Gonzalez were to hang it up after this season, I think Rudolph can come in right away and be a productive starter as a rookie if he's healthy, able to catch 30-40 passes in 2011. If he was asked to sit a year behind Gonzo and develop, he'd be even better in 2012. While he's not as polished a blocker as Justin Peelle, he can ably fill in the role as the No. 2 tight end in the Falcons offense and give them a better option in the passing game. Going forward, he would fill a very similar role to Gonzo in the Falcons offense, working the middle of the field and moving the chains on third down.
In the same vein that I thought Rob Gronkowski was a year ago, I think Rudolph is worth a first round pick despite his injury. But because of the injury, he probably is a safer pick in the first half of the second round. He's going to be a productive tight end and No. 2 option in an offense. And if he plays in an offense that has two good outside options at wide receiver, he'll be even more money in the middle of the field like Witten is in Dallas.
1-poor, 2-weak, 3-above average, 4-very good, 5-elite
BODY CONTROL: 4.5
"Vincere scis, Hannibal, victoria uti nescis" -- Maharbal, 216 B.C.E.