When breaking Rudolph down the first thing you can’t help but notice is the guy’s overall size and physique. At 6-6, 265 pounds, the kid looks like a miniature offensive tackle at times. He’s a long-armed athlete with a big, strong set of hands in which he uses extremely well in both the run and pass game. When taking a look at him last year as more of a traditional “on the line Y,” Rudolph did a nice job coiling up into his stance, kept his pad level down and extended his arms well off the snap in the run game while keeping his base under him through the play.
He did get a bit ahead of himself at times, especially when asked to block in the pass game, and would lose balance lunging into blocks at times. However, he displayed impressive coordination and strength when asked to stick to blocks in space on perimeter runs and really did a number on some talented defensive ends last season sealing them from the action when asked to get his feet around and set the edge.
He strikes me as a guy who you can certainly win with in the run game at the next level and has the type of power, flexibility and violent/heavy hands needed to hold his own vs. NFL-caliber defensive ends early on in his NFL career.
However, what might be even more impressive about the guy’s game are his overall movement skills in the pass game for such an imposing physical specimen. I love the fact that the guy possesses the type of bend and short-area quickness to cleanly side step defenders off the snap, keep his base down and take a positive first step into the pass game. He loves to work his inside jab step in order to free himself off the line and quickly/cleanly is able to get into his routes. He possesses a good first step and plays quick in tight quarters.
Does a nice job using his strong hands with linebackers who want to get physical, using his length to keep himself clean before suddenly changing directions, using his size to box out underneath and then plucking the football off his frame. Plus, he showcases good fluidity for his size when asked to run the sharply breaking routes underneath, using a subtle head fake to set off a defender in man coverage before initially gaining a step and separating back out of his breaks.
Now, the guy doesn’t have elite straight-line speed down the field and will start to lumber when trying to run away from a defender in the open field — like any 6-6, 265-pound athlete. However, he does have the necessary straight-line speed to certainly threaten the seam down the field and go up and make a play on the football. He also does a nice job changing gears in order to set up defenders and loves to work the double move, looking outside and selling the out, before cleanly turning up the field and making a play high pointing the football.
Overall, this is a big, very impressively put together kid who can win for you consistently at the next level in both the run and pass game, and that type of tight end is becoming harder and harder to find. Rudolph has experience both with his hand on the ground and playing off the line as well. And I not only think this is the best tight end prospect in the 2011 NFL Draft, but he’s the one guy who can come in and start for a team during his first season and could end up maturing into a potential Pro Bowl-caliber option at the next level.
There are some concerns about his hamstring at this stage and how his rehabilitation from surgery will affect his postseason workout schedule, which could ultimately cause him to fall slightly come draft day. But when he’s healed up and ready to go, I expect him to contribute to an offense early in his career and mature into a very good starting tight end in the NFL."
His wingspan also provides the quarterback with a big target as he is able to make plays on passes that are wide as well as high. The security blanket is at his best in third-down situations. Despite missing the final three games of the 2009 season due to a shoulder injury, Rudolph was the lone sophomore to be a John Mackey Award semifinalist and is the only nominee to return in 2010. So he is not only the top junior prospect at the tight end position, but many believe he will be the first tight end selected should he declare for the 2011 NFL Draft. To do so, he will have to build on his sophomore success and recover fully from the shoulder injury, which needed off-season surgery. If Rudolph has the type of year he is capable of as the Irish’s second option behind Michael Floyd, the versatile tight end could vault into the first round.
The Notre Dame product might be the most pro-ready junior tight end the NFL has seen in years. Standing at 6’6” and tipping the scales at 265 pounds Rudolph is the absolute prototype for a three-down, inline tight end—if teams were to build a tight end from scratch, those would be the measurements they would input. Combine that with his unique athleticism, superb instincts, great motor, natural gigantic hands, his ability to process information, and the fact that he is a great teammate and it’s easy to see why this young man has been on the radar of pro scouts since his freshman year in South Bend. From a purely athletic standpoint Rudolph moves exceedingly well for a man his size. His light feet, smooth hips, and great burst give him rare separation ability, as well as surprising wiggle in the open field. What makes Rudolph such a complete prospect at the tight end position is his ability to run block. His natural strength and explosive hips allow him to not only be a deft run blocker, but excel in pass protection as well.
While Rudolph has good short-area quickness and light feet his long speed is not elite for a tight end, which limits his potential. What this means is that Rudolph’s route tree in the NFL is likely going to be limited to about 20 yards down the field, as he will offer little as a deep threat. Rudolph also has injury concerns, which mostly stem from his style of play and his recent off-season shoulder injury. Comparing him to last year’s top tight end at the same stage in their development, Rudolph is more balanced than Jermaine Gresham but lacks the former Sooner’s upside. Nevertheless, if the tight end has a healthy and productive junior year then there is an excellent possibility of him being both a first round pick and the first tight end taken in the 2011 NFL draft."
Negatives: Needs to show better release moves... Injuries have plagued him his entire career... More of a receiving threat than blocker... Still developing as a blocker... Could add some muscle mass... Missed the final two games in 2009 with a shoulder injury, tore hamstring Oct. 9 vs. Pittsburgh and will miss the remainder of this season... Offseason will ultimately determine his draft stock."
The time it takes to come back from such a surgery is usually about six months. That puts Rudolph's timeline right in the middle of April. He does not need to be at 100 percent to enter the draft early, but he needs to be well on his way to recovery to take that risk when the draft deadline approaches. Rudolph is talented enough that NFL teams will look past the injury, but his stock would slip if he cannot do any full workouts prior to the draft.
It remains to be seen how close Rudolph will be to a full recovery before the draft, but this is not the first case of an injured player heading to the NFL early and getting drafted in the first round. Half of Oklahoma's team, give or take, did it last year. Rudolph has proven to be that good of a tight end and getting out of Notre Dame right now would not be the worst idea for Rudolph's future."
Sources say he is leaning toward returning to school. If he decides to exit early, he will need to improve his base strength and improve as a blocker, being more advanced as a receiver. Nonetheless, he still could compete readily."
He will very likely get drafted in the 1st Round, as he is clearly the best Tight End in the Class.
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