- Brian Bennett, ESPN Staff Writer
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Rudolph had a more interesting call here. He missed almost all of the 2010 season with a hamstring injury, a year after missing time with a separated shoulder. Those health issues might have raised some red flags with pro scouts, and Rudolph might have wanted to come back strong for his senior season. But he also had to weigh the possibility of getting hurt again and killing his draft stock.
He, like Floyd, got an evaluation from the NFL draft advisory board and was projected as a late first- or early second-round pick. Most analysts call Rudolph the top tight end prospect in this draft. So even with the looming threat of a lockout, Rudolph made the right decision.
"I came to Notre Dame with the intention of helping to return the program to the BCS and get us back to where we belong," Rudolph said in an official statement. "There are still many things I would have liked to accomplish, but I felt this decision was best for my family and myself."
Rudolph was a major force in the passing game when healthy and would have helped next year's Irish greatly. However, the emergence of Tyler Eifert at tight end means that Notre Dame can still get high production from the tight end spot.
"Kyle Rudolph has a very bright future ahead of him and he will instantly make some lucky NFL team much better next year," Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said in a statement. "I know this was a tough decision for Kyle because of the great relationships he formed at Notre Dame and he will be missed in the locker room next year. But we are happy for him and his family and are excited to watch him represent the University of Notre Dame during this next chapter of his life.
"Kyle is a terrific talent and I enjoyed coaching him this year. He made some incredible plays for a guy his size. Who will ever forget that 95-yard touchdown play against Michigan? When I recruited Kyle as a high school senior in Cincinnati, I knew he was a special player, but over the last year I witnessed what a great person he is, too. I look forward to seeing him around campus in the future and watching him on TV from my office on Sunday afternoons."
Now it is up to Michael Floyd to make his decision. The receiver spot is more loaded in this draft, and Floyd probably won't be a first-round pick. But he has proved just about everything he can at the college level and must also weight the threat of injury, as well as the lockout situation.
I would expect Floyd to go, and for Notre Dame to be searching for new playmakers in the passing game this spring.