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Is Kyle Rudolph a reliable fantasy starter?

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Rudolph might not even be worth his salary

NFL: Arizona Cardinals at Minnesota Vikings Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

In my first Fantasy Football article for DN in August, I wrote the following regarding Kyle Rudolph:

Kyle Rudolph has been nothing short of an enigma for fantasy football owners. He has never exceeded 840 yards and has never posted double digit touchdowns in a season. He isn’t particularly outstanding running with the ball in the open field, but towers over defenders, making him a factor in the red zone. This season he will play alongside the most polished quarterback he has every played with by a long stretch. Anything short of 800 yards and eight touchdowns would be a massive disappointment. Another big reason he’s in the top 10 is because the talent pool at tight end this season is not very deep. He could fall as far as the 12th round in many drafts.”

Through 7 games, Rudolph sits at 28 catches, 282 yards, and 2 touchdowns. Not eye popping numbers. The fact that his 28 catches is in the top-10 for tight ends is less of a good statistic for him, and more of a sad commentary of how awful the talent pool at tight end is in the NFL right now. What’s more disturbing is that he is among the highest paid tight ends in the league, and not remotely performing like it.

Coming into this season, many thought the presence of Kirk Cousins would lead to improved production from Rudolph. What most ‘experts’ missed was that Jordan Reed and Vernon Davis are much more athletic, and do much better in terms of YAC. Rudolph has never been spectacular with the ball in his hands, and doesn’t separate particularly well against competent coverage. So whether or not he is worth the money needs to be on the mind of Rick Spielman, especially with a contract year in 2019 where none of Rudolph’s money is guaranteed.

All of that being said, this comes back to what I stated earlier. The talent pool at tight end is so thin, that most fantasy owners don’t have another viable starter on their roster to justify benching, or even cutting Rudolph. The fact is, he has the most receiving touchdowns by an NFL tight end since 2016. But this season, he is not the red-zone threat he has been the past 2 seasons. Having only 3 red-zone receptions, which is where he brings home the bacon for his fantasy owners, it just doesn’t seem like he is worth his salary on the team. Yes, he also plays a big part blocking, but that doesn’t help fantasy owners.

Going forward, be cautious with him. However, this doesn’t mean he can’t turn his season around statistically over the next 9 games. It might not even be a bad time to buy-low on him. Again, do it with caution, as his production has gone from mediocre to poor.