Da’Rick Rogers could have been a second-round draft pick. Hell, in a draft with little separation nearly three weeks ago, it wasn’t a reach to project him as a late first rounder.
But both of those projections neglect his shady past, which is something general managers don’t do. Rogers was once a Tennessee Volunteer alongside Cordarrelle Patterson and Justin Hunter, but he was given the boot last August after failing multiple drug tests.
That didn’t stop Tyrann Mathieu from being a mid-round pick, but Rogers’ luck was lacking. He fell, and then fell some more, and eventually he wasn’t drafted at all even though he’s only a season removed from being the SEC’s leading receiver (1,040 yards and nine touchdowns in 2011). With the risk associated with his behavior minimized, the Bills signed Rogers as an undrafted free agent, hoping he can do his best Vontaze Burfict imitation by doing the football things that led to his once high draft status, while drifting away from the drug things that could lead to his burnout status.
Early (really, really, stupid early) indications are that Rogers is big, and fast, and able to beat coverage deep. So he’s pretty much exactly what the Bills expected.
During the first day of Buffalo’s offseason training Monday, Rogers caught passes for 80 and 65 yards, and in the process he may have planted a fantasy sleeper seed which could blossom with the proper amount of water and sunshine.
I know, usually I’d scoff at two long catches in a May practice, and I partly still am. But there’s a little more than just one pleasant spring jog in shorts at play here.
After he was signed as a UDFA, now former Bills general manager Buddy Nix said he had a first-to-second round grade on Rogers. That’s how highly regarded Rogers the football player (and not the drug fiend) is, which speaks to his talent level after he thrived against SEC defenses and the often NFL-level cornerback play in that conference.
Then there’s this little piece of joy from Walter Football‘s scouting report which highlights Rogers’ ability to play the slot…
When watching Rogers, a number of things leap out at you. First of all, he has toughness in spades. Rogers is fearless across the middle and makes many tough catches while taking big hits from safeties. He has fabulous concentration with great hands. The senior makes sure to secure the ball even though he knows he’s about to take a big hit.
Rogers’ toughness is also displayed in his physicality. Regularly you see him deliver the blow to the defensive backs when he is running with the ball. Rogers finishes his runs well and is dangerous with the ball in his hands. The ability to rack up some yards after the catch is undeniable.
Oh look, I found more nice words about Rogers’ ability to be a mean and bad man while catching footballs up the middle and absorbing hits, this time from CBS Sports…
Despite playing in the ultra-physical SEC, Rogers proved too strong for most teams to consider pressing. He’s also versatile, showing the ability to line up outside, as well as in the slot. While it is easy to get excited about Rogers’ size-speed potential, one of his greatest attributes is simply his toughness, as he absorbed several big collisions on games viewed and never dropped a pass due to a hit while at Tennessee. Rogers is a powerful runner who fights for additional yardage and has the agility and speed to run away from the pack for explosive plays.
His speed may be more ideally suited for some field-stretching outside, but those spots will be occupied by Stevie Johnson and second-round pick Robert Woods. However, if Rogers’ rise continues throughout the offseason, he could push Woods for looks, leading to possibly a similar time share to what we saw in Indianapolis last year between Donnie Avery and T.Y. Hilton.
Both receivers still had fine flex and sometimes WR3 fantasy value. But they were especially volatile, as predicting which one would be featured more prominently opposite Reggie Wayne on any given week caused hairs to change color multiple times.
Is that an aggressive possibility for Rogers now? Sort of, sure. Reaching and hoping is how we roll here in May, with deep-coma sleepers identified long before they wake up. Rogers is one of those guys, as even if he falls short of challenging Woods, he’s versatile enough to compete with T.J. Graham for slot touches.
Watch this man.