As we count down the days until the Vikings' opener against the Packers on September 13th, InsideTheVikings will be previewing every single player on the roster. The amount of days remaining corresponds with the jersey number of the player being examined on that day. Today is June 22nd, and there are 83 days until kickoff for the 2020 regular season. That means it's time to look at the Vikings' current No. 3 tight end.
Countdown to Vikings-Packers on September 13th: 83 Days
Player Preview: Tyler Conklin (No. 83, Tight End)
- College: Central Michigan
- Drafted: 2018 fifth round (157th overall)
- NFL experience: Two years
- Age: 24 (Turns 25 in July)
- Size: 6'3", 254
- 2019 PFF Grade: 52.8
- Notable 2019 stats: 8 catches, 58 yards
- Notable career stats: 13 catches, 135 yards
Tyler Conklin is the favorite to retain his job as the Vikings' No. 3 tight end, but he'll face some competition for that role in training camp. The former Central Michigan TE saw his snaps nearly double last season, and he'll look to continue developing while contributing on both offense and special teams.
A two-sport high school star in Michigan, Conklin began his college athletics career as a basketball player. He accepted a scholarship to Division II Northwood University and played in seven games as a freshman. However, he decided to transfer to CMU midway through the year, where he walked on to the football team. Conklin redshirted during the 2014 season and appeared in eight games as a backup in 2015.
In 2016, Conklin emerged as the starting tight end for the Chippewas. In a stunning season-opening upset win over Oklahoma State, he had seven catches for 96 yards and two touchdowns. Conklin finished the year with 560 receiving yards and six scores. Despite missing four games due to injury as a senior in 2017, he nearly matched those stats with 504 yards and five touchdowns, including three games of at least 98 receiving yards.
Conklin's strong performance in the pre-draft process helped him get drafted by the Vikings in the fifth round. He was impressive at the Senior Bowl – catching a touchdown from Josh Allen – and showed off his athleticism at the combine, posting outstanding numbers in the vertical jump, broad jump, and shuttle drills.
During his two years in the NFL, Conklin has provided valuable depth for the Vikings while making an impact in multiple phases of the game. He has just 13 career catches, but still has upside in that area if he were to see more opportunities; Conklin caught four passes for 68 yards (17.0 YPC) during the 2019 preseason. He has also improved as a blocker and has played over 150 snaps on special teams in each of his two seasons.
In 2020, Conklin will look to hold off Brandon Dillon and Nakia Griffin-Stewart to keep his job as the No. 3 TE. That would likely come with around 300 offensive snaps (he played 274 last year), with the potential for more if either Kyle Rudolph or Irv Smith Jr. were to miss any time.
From a long-term perspective, the best-case scenario for Conklin is that he eventually takes over Rudolph's role as a starting TE and red zone target in the passing game. The Vikings could be tempted to move on from Rudolph and his contract as soon as next offseason, though his status as a beloved community figure may motivate them to find a way to keep him around.
Even if Conklin never turns into a highly productive NFL tight end, he looks like he'll be a solid depth piece in Minnesota or elsewhere for years to come.
Other recent player previews:
- No. 89: Bralon Addison
- No. 87: Nakia Griffin-Stewart
- No. 86: Brandon Dillon
- No. 85: Dan Chisena
- No. 84: Irv Smith Jr
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