The numbers game works for and against Notre Dame tight end Kyle Rudolph, according to ESPN NFL draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr.
On the plus side for the 6-foot-6, 265-pound Cincinnati native is the lack of quality tight ends in the upcoming draft.
Rudolph is the only tight end in the draft who elected to skip his senior season.
"You look at the senior class, this is not a great group," Kiper said during a teleconference Wednesday. "I think that's why he is going to benefit. Even Mike McNeill from Nebraska, people are looking at him more as an H-back/fullback type. There is no highly rated senior tight end. There's no senior tight end that I thought deserved to go in the first two rounds. You are talking about all third-, fourth-, fifth-round guys.
"Consequently, Rudolph is the only entity, and I've compared him a lot to Todd Heap, I think he can have an impact like Todd Heap did coming out of Arizona State to the Baltimore Ravens with his size, pass-receiving skills, the ability that he has. I think second round would be a nice area for him to come off the board."
On the negative side, there are not a lot of teams in the market for a tight end.
"Tight end in the top four needs that I give for each team, right now, there are only two teams that have tight end as one of their top four needs," Kiper said. "That would be Buffalo and Atlanta. Nobody else … at least in the research and information I have, and looking at all of these teams and studying these teams, which I've been doing over that last month looking at the NFL for this need-based area, I don't see anybody but two prioritizing tight end as something that we have to address early in the draft."
Teams will also have to consider Rudolph had two injuries in the last two seasons.
In 2009, he missed two games because of a shoulder injury that required postseason surgery. This season, he missed the final seven games because of a hamstring injury that also required surgery.
"They will look at that, just like they do with any injury. They make their assessments based on what the doctors and their medical people say," Kiper said.