Breakout seasons at the tight end position are also becoming rather common. Combine the emphasis on passing and that so many tight ends are 6’5 or 6’6 and can run by linebackers, it’s a formula to put up big numbers. Here are some tight ends that I thought would put up some impressive stats in 2012 and how they fared. What I wrote about these players going into last year can be found here.
Kyle Rudolph, Vikings: Rudolph wasn’t always the focal point he should have been in the Vikings passing game, but he made enough of an impression to represent the NFC in the Pro Bowl. Rudolph had 53 catches for 493 yards and recorded nine touchdowns. Most of those came in the red zone where he could use his 6’6 frame to his advantage. With the Vikings adding Greg Jennings via free agency and Cordarrelle Patterson in the draft, Rudolph should put up even better numbers this year. There’s a very good chance that this past Pro Bowl will not be his last.
Hit or miss: Hit
Lance Kendricks, Rams: Kendricks got a lot of hype entering the season and had a solid sophomore campaign. He recorded 42 catches for 519 yards and four touchdowns. His best came in week 16 against the Buccaneers where he had four catches for 119 yards and a touchdown. That touchdown came on an 80 yard play that showed the speed that Kendricks has to offer. This offseason, the Rams signed Jared Cook to a big contract so Kendricks will now be the second tight end. In terms of pass catching, you could do a lot worse as he could start for a good amount of teams (his skills are something the Patriots could really use right now). The Cook/Kendricks combo could be very similar to the combination the 49ers had of Vernon Davis and Delanie Walker in terms of having two pass catching tight ends with speed. The Rams have made improving the passing game a focal point this year so Kendricks should still see opportunities.
Hit or miss: Miss
Jacob Tamme, Broncos: Teaming back up with Peyton Manning seemed like it would lead to a huge breakout season for Tamme. That didn’t quite work out as Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker broke out and Manning spreads the ball around so much. Tamme did record 52 catches for 555 yards and two touchdowns despite starting only eight games. Not bad, but I thought he could have put up even bigger numbers. Targets could be even tougher to come by this season with the addition of Wes Welker who has been a lock for 100 plus receptions in recent years.
Hit or miss: Miss
Greg Olsen, Panthers: Olsen had a career year in 2012 setting career highs in receptions and yards. For the season, he caught 69 passes for 843 yards and five touchdowns. His best work came in week ten against the Broncos as he had nine catches for 102 yards and two touchdowns. Olsen has been a popular breakout pick for years now but at this point, this might be what he is entering his seventh season. That is a very good overall tight end that should be able to produce numbers in this range for the rest of his prime. He should put up another nice season for the Panthers with Cam Newton continuing to grow as a quarterback.
Hit or miss: Push