Commentary | The Minnesota Vikings are eager to configure a dynamic set of tight ends for quarterback Christian Ponder to utilize.
In 2011 the Minnesota Vikings drafted Kyle Rudolph, tight end from Notre Dame. The following year they signed John Carlson from the Seattle Seahawks, giving the Vikings a premier two tight end set. Unfortunately things didn’t go as planned when Carlson was ineffective most of the season due to lingering injuries, nonetheless Rudolph didn’t disappoint.
After the beloved Jim Kleinsasser retired from the NFL, the Vikings looked quickly to find a worthy replacement. In the 2012 draft, they used one of their fourth round pick on USC tight end/fullback Rhett Ellison. Ever since becoming a Viking, Ellison hasn’t shown any setbacks in both the offense and special teams. In his rookie season, Minnesota gave Rhett the opportunity to contribute in many different aspects of the game.
“He (Ellison) is a guy that we can count on and we expect in all phases,” said Kyle Rudolph via Vikings.com . “We expect him the be ‘the guy’.”
Rhett easily impresses his teammates and coaching staff with his flexibility around the field. He can play several offensive positions and is an active special teams player.
“Rhett plays all four units of special teams, Rhett can play tight end, Rhett can play fullback,” said Kyle Rudolph. “Whether you need Rhett to lead block, pass block, he’s capable in every aspect of the game.”
On special teams last year, Ellison recorded nine total tackles and the Vikings refused to give any opposing team the satisfaction of taking a kick back to the house. Offensively, he did a steady job occasionally leading the way for Adrian Peterson down field. Rhett’s quick feet enables him to remain in the pocket and offer pass protection to quarterback Christian Ponder as well as get open for a dump off pass.
In terms of running routes, Ellison recorded seven receptions for 65 yards last season. Listed at six-feet-five-inches and 250 pounds, his great size works well to his advantage down the field against smaller defensive backs and linebackers. Although he isn’t fleet of foot, he still knows how to break a tackle or two.
The importance of an all-around tight end like Rhett Ellison is vital for a team like the Vikings. Although he isn’t Jim Kleinsasser yet, he offers a dynamic set of skills, his main feature is blocking. Ellison has yet to give up any pressure in his 36 pass-blocking snaps, while in comparison, Pro Bowl fullback Jerome Felton has forced two hurries and a hit in just 51 snaps.
According to profootballtalk.com, Jerome Felton was suspended the first three games of the NFL season for violating the leagues substance abuse policy. A big blow for the Vikings running game could be a vital opportunity for Rhett Ellison. It’s no guarantee but Ellison could be a likely candidate to fill in for Felton while he serves his suspension. Although it’s only temporary, it could be a big opportunity for Rhett to prove himself as a lead run and pass blocker.
As of right now Rhett’s main importance to Minnesota stands on special teams, but youth and establishment are the only things holding Ellison back from being a key offensive weapon for the Minnesota Vikings.