Many Jets fans out there are hoping to grab a TE early, like the first round or second round. However, the Jets don’t always do what the fans hope they do. It’s possible they could look to bolster the TE a little later in the draft, and one guy they could look at is Richard Rodgers, the TE from Cal.
Rodgers was a 3 star WR from Massachusetts who decided to follow in his father’s footsteps by playing for Cal. For those who don’t know, Richard Rodgers is a former player for Cal who was a central player in the infamous game winning kick return touchdown against Stanford now known as "The Play". It was Rodgers Sr. who made two of the laterals, including the final lateral, that led to the TD. Rodgers Sr. is currently a special team’s coordinator for the Carolina Panthers under former Cal teammate Ron Rivera. After a freshman season of nothingness, Rodgers began to show flashes as a sophomore before having a breakout of sorts as a junior.
In 2012, Cal coach Jeff Tedford boldly proclaimed that Richard Rodgers would be the best TE in the nation. While that did not happen, we did see a glimpse of the potential Rodgers has. In 2013, new head coach Sonny Dykes moved Rodgers to "receiver". In Dykes’s system, Rodgers often lined up in the slot and ran routes from there, however he did play some in-line as well. Rodgers shows a willingness to team needs, as he dropped from 275 to 245 last season to play as an oversized WR in Dykes’s system.
Projected 40: 4.74
Athleticism: Rodgers has above average athleticism for the position. He displays a good feel for getting down the seams and running deep routes. Has a career 15.2 YPC which is impressive for a TE-type player. Good leaping ability to come down with balls.
Cut blocking: Is a solid good cut blocker, attacks the cut in the right place and gets his guy on the ground. It may not be a highly regarded skill, but it is one in his tool belt.
Route Running: Playing WR has helped Rodgers’s development, as he displays deceptive speed and crisp routes. In the video below against Stanford, you’ll see Rodgers run some ins, crossing routes, and a very nice angle route to beat a Stanford safety for a first down.
Circus catches: Displays the ability to make the highlight grab. Had a one handed catch this year. However, with this comes some propensity to drop passes.
Drive blocking: The guy simply isn’t much of a drive blocker. While he can wall off defenders well enough, In the run game he simply doesn’t push defenders backwards. He also tends to let his hands get outside of defenders for leverage, which could lead to some holding penalties.
Can he play in-line?: As mentioned earlier, Rodgers slimmed down 30 pounds to fit his new role at Cal as a slot WR. While he was still deployed in-line, there is plenty of question as to whether he can fit. There’s a chance he could be pigeon-holed into an H-Back or joker type role.
Physicality: Does not deal well with physicality. Has been known to drop a few passes in tight coverage. Not the biggest guy around at TE at 245, though has played at a larger weight.
Red zone receiving: Despite what would be very big WR size, Rodgers only has 2 career TDs, and one of them was a 75 yarder against Portland State. I’m not sure if it’s due to his deficiency or his QBs, but for whatever reason Rodgers hasn’t gotten into the end zone much.
Pro Comparison- Garrett Graham, Houston
Boom Scenario- Aaron Hernandez, Bristol County Freebirds
Much like Graham, Rodgers has deceptive athleticism and can get downfield to create plays in a hurry. Unfortunately, also like Graham, he does not have the blocking ability you look for out of a starting TE. However, Graham does have value as a "move" TE who can be a backup to a legit #1 and utilized as a mismatch in the passing game. I think this is a role Rodgers could play at worst. The boom scenario, I see some similarities in his game to Hernandez in that he can be moved all over the field in a Joker role like Hernandez was back before his getting caught for slaying people (allegedly) days. While Rodgers does not have Hernandez’s athleticism or strength, he can present some of the same skills.
Rodgers is not an elite athlete or an elite talent, and that could lead to some slippage in the draft. But with the new age offenses utilizing the TE split out wide and in the slot more and more, Rodgers fits the direction the league is heading. With a 6-4, 245 pound frame and the speed to attack the seams, Rodgers could be a nice ancillary target to a team in need of some offensive punch. He’s not going to give you a ton as a run blocker, but he won’t kill you in that regard either and does do well protecting the QB as a cut blocker. I think he could be an intriguing option.
Would I take him on the Jets?
I don’t suggest the Jets take Richard Rodgers with the intention of making him their starting TE. My hope is that the Jets grab one of the higher tier TEs like an Eric Ebron, Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Jace Amaro, or Troy Niklas, and supplement it with a guy like Rodgers. He could fill the role Cumberland fills more cheaply and with more intelligence than Cumberland. Opinions on this guy seem to be extremely varied. I have seen anything from 2nd round projections to 6-7th round projections. To me, I think he’s a mid-4th round talent. He doesn’t have elite, top level potential but he’s a guy who I think will be a nice move TE. If he’s there in the 4th or 5th, the Jets should absolutely consider Rodgers, hopefully in conjunction with an Austin Seferian-Jenkins.