Tight end Tyler Conklin
Weight: 254 pounds
Hometown: Chesterfield, Mich.
College: Central Michigan
Drafted: 157th overall, as the fourth tight end drafted by the Vikings in the fifth or sixth round since 2015.
Current jersey: No. 83
What we’ve learned
Conklin has his sights set on being an all-around player for the Vikings after catching 77 passes for 1,064 yards and 11 touchdowns in two seasons for Central Michigan. He didn’t waste time standing out, making a couple extended grabs in rookie minicamp to start his bid for playing time alongside Kyle Rudolph. “The way they use him, it just makes me excited to come in there and use my ability to play off of everybody,” Conklin said. “I think I can be a huge piece on offense.”
Visions of a ‘mismatch guy’
The Vikings got one of the draft’s best athletes at tight end. Conklin put up top-five marks in the 20-yard shuttle, three-cone drill, vertical and broad jumps at the combine. He lined up all over the field at Central Michigan, which is how first-year coordinator John DeFilippo envisions using him for the Vikings. “DeFilippo always wanted a tight end that could be a potential mismatch guy,” general manager Rick Spielman said. “You can do a lot of things with him. He has tremendous hand-eye coordination.”
Another hoops convert
Conklin was a scholarship basketball player at Northwood University for one season when he decided to transfer to be a walk-on football player at Central Michigan. “A lot of people kind of look at that as not the smartest thing in the world,” Conklin said. “Obviously getting a free education and coming out of college with no debt is something not a lot of people get to do.” It didn’t take long for Conklin to earn another scholarship in a different sport.
What we’re watching for
The Vikings and other NFL teams evaluating Conklin had to go back to his 2016 tape, since he missed the first five games of his senior season due to a Jones fracture in his foot. Has he fully regained his stride to be ready for the NFL? “When I hurt my foot, I wasn’t really sure how it was going to work out,” Conklin said. “After I came back, I felt great and I haven’t looked back since.”
A clear path?
While the Vikings have drafted four late-round tight ends in the past four years, only Conklin and David Morgan are on the roster. Behind Rudolph, the Vikings have snaps to offer depending on the competition this summer. DeFilippo was the quarterbacks coach for an Eagles offense that featured three tight ends with at least 300 snaps last year. The Vikings could find niches for Rudolph, Morgan and Conklin similarly to how the Eagles used Zach Ertz, Brent Celek and Trey Burton.