5 early winners from the Minnesota Vikings 2021 offseason

(Photo by Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports) Dalvin Cook
(Photo by Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports) Dalvin Cook /
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Minnesota Vikings
(Photo by Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports) Tyler Conklin – Minnesota Vikings /

Tyler Conklin – TE

It’s going to be weird seeing the Vikings competing without Kyle Rudolph. The tight end played a huge contributing factor in the team’s success over the years, and even though releasing him ahead of time hurt, it was a necessary evil in the current financial climate.

Rudolph is now on the New York Giants. But the Vikings have plenty of hope two young stars can step up and fill the Pro Bowler’s void.

Irv Smith Jr. has shown glimpses of being a real star ahead of a big Year 3 for the Alabama product. Mike Zimmer also hinted at an increased workload for Tyler Conklin, who could be the one who benefits tremendously from Rudolph’s departure.

This is a huge vote of confidence in Conklin. It’s now vital he takes advantage of what appears to be a massive opportunity to become a starting NFL tight end.

Conklin has steadily progressed during his three seasons in Minnesota. He was never going to earn meaningful reps when Rudolph was at the top of his game, but what the former fifth-round pick showed with the targets that came his way in 2020 leave plenty of reasons to be encouraged.

The Vikings will probably use a tight end by committee approach with Conklin and Smith, who faces a pivotal campaign after coming into the league with the highest of ceilings.