Notre Dame got its first bit of bad news on Tuesday night when reports began surfacing that junior tight end Kyle Rudolph has decided to forgoe his senior season and enter the NFL Draft. Both Irish Illustrated and Keith Arnold from NBC has reported that Rudolph will enter the draft and has selected an agent.
No official word has come from Rudolph or Notre Dame, but these reports are not that surprising as many have felt that Rudolph was most likely headed to the NFL even after missing the final seven games of the 2010 season with a severe hamstring injury.
Back in December, Rudolph and teammate Michael Floyd requested evaluations from the NFL Advisory Committee. Those results came in before last week’s Sun Bowl with Brian Kelly telling reporters he would share the results with his star players when they returned to South Bend.
Despite the hamstring injury Rudolph suffered this season and the shoulder injury he sustained during the 2009 season, he is considered one of, if not the best, tight end in this year’s draft.
“I still think Kyle Rudolph would be the first tight end selected, although his injury and recovery time is obviously a major question mark,” NFL Draft Countdown’s Scott Wright’s told me in December. Wright also said he thought Rudolph might fall to the second round, but if he is the top tight end selected he very well could go in the first round as there has been at least one tight end selected in the first round of the draft since 1999.
It’s hard to fault Rudolph for opting for the NFL if he was advised that he was going to be at least a 2nd round pick. Last year Rob Gronkowski missed his entire junior year with an injury, and was still a second round pick by the New England Patriots.
If Rudolph is indeed finished with his Notre Dame career, he will leave South Bend with 90 catches for 1,032 yards and 8 touchdowns.
Unfortunately, Notre Dame fans never got to see what Rudolph could really do. Slowed by injuries and for some reason not used more often when he was healthy a year ago and then missing more than half of this season with the hamstring injury; Rudolph was never able to be the game changing tight end he clearly has the talent to be.
Notre Dame fans will, however, always have the memory of Rudolph’s ridiculous 95 yard touchdown catch and run against Michigan. That one, singular played showed just why Rudolph is considered one of the top tight ends despite his injury. The only tight ends that could make a play like that are playing on Sundays.
We’ll wait for official word from Rudolph and Notre Dame, but with both Irish Illustrated and Inside the Irish reporting it, it’s safe to say that at the very least, it’s likely Rudolph’s Notre Dame career is complete.
We wish Rudolph well at the next level and hope that Tyler Eifert is ready to pick up where he left off at the end of this season.
And for your enjoyment, here is that 95 yard touchdown against Michigan.