The most recent retirement of Rob Gronkowski opened the door for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to add a veteran to the roster — the impetus to longtime NFL tight end Kyle Rudolph being signed.
One of the most underappreciated aspects of Gronk’s game among casual fans was his masterful blocking skills, which especially was overlooked in fantasy football since points aren’t awarded for doing the dirty work. The Buccaneers won’t be able to one-for-one replace his receiving skills, but the duo of Cameron Brate and rookie Cade Otton will give it their all. Acting as a line extension happens to be where Rudolph fits in best. Another rookie, Ko Kieft, also could be in the mix as a blocker.
Also see: Tampa Bay Buccaneers TE outlook (before Rudolph)
Entering what will become his age-33 season in November, Rudolph is a 12-year fixture who spent all but last year with the Minnesota Vikings before signing with the New York Giants. He hasn’t played a full campaign in the last two years (27 of 33 games), and we have to go back to 2016 to find his career-best stat line of 83-840-7. Since that season, Rudolph has generated 12 total touchdowns and 958 yards in 63 appearances.
Fantasy football outlook
It would be foolish to expect a strong fantasy season from him, but there is still room for utility in best-ball formats or if Brate gets injured. Tom Brady loves to spread the ball around to as many weapons as possible, and there will be added emphasis on working in the peripheral players while wide receiver Chris Godwin (knee) recovers from a Week 15 ACL tear. He may need time to get back into football shape, which could come at the expense of missing a few games or being limited early on.
The Bucs could work in both veterans for a one-two punch, although the praise placed on Otton and him being cleared for camp (November ankle surgery) warrants a close eye over the next six weeks.
Barring a setback in Otton’s recovery and/or an injury to Brate, it’s tough to see Rudolph offering frequent service in fantasy lineups. He could score a few touchdowns here and there, particularly with the attention paid to Mike Evans and a healthy Godwin. Nevertheless, Tampa’s backfield will get its receptions, and Rudolph has to prove himself following three straight years with fewer than 370 yards as well as consecutive one-TD seasons. Avoid him in drafts for now.