Kyle Rudolph – TE
Veteran tight end Kyle Rudolph has nothing to prove to a Vikings coaching staff who know all-too-well the sort of skills he brings to the table. But there is a slight chance he might see a more reduced role in 2020.
This is down in no small part to the presence of Irv Smith. The second-year tight end showed tremendous promise during his rookie campaign. And there is real hope within the organization that the former Alabama standout can become the NFL’s next great pass-catcher at the position.
Rudolph’s influence will continue to be strong. One only needs to look at the trust Kirk Cousins showed in him during Minnesota’s outstanding playoff win against the New Orleans Saints last season to see just how valued he still is.
Having Smith breathing down his neck should bring an increased sense of urgency next season. The Vikings will be counting on both to provide some valuable catches across the middle. But not having any preseason games will impact Smith more than Rudolph.
This should ensure that the Pro Bowler keeps the No. 1 tight end position on Minnesota’s depth chart. But it will be hard for the Vikings coaching staff to ignore Smith’s potentially elite skill set for too much longer.
Having a one-two punch at the tight end spot is something that Minnesota offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak can utilize heavily in 2020. And connecting over intermediate routes is an area in which Cousins excels.