Cal tight end Richard Rodgers isn’t at the top of this class, but he has the tools to climb an NFL depth chart.
The difference between a college star and an NFL starter is a player’s ability to integrate skills into meaningful play. Otherwise, his value to the team will be little more than that of a bright and shiny athletic object sitting on the bench and collecting rust.
Cal’s tight end Richard Rodgers is a player I’ve been meaning to cover for months, but this No Huddle Series has been sitting in my “drafts” bin since February. Rodgers was one of those prospects where there was a wide range of upside-downside based on how a team saw his fit in its offense. The reason is that Rodgers has played at an H-Back weight below 250 lbs and at an inline weight of 270 lbs.
You don’t see that range too often and it can create a lot of different scouting takes on a player. I liked him most as a move tight end. Here are three plays versus Stanford that a good reflection as to why he’s impressing in Green Bay.
Works Well As A Receiver In Tight Quarters
The first is an 11 personnel set with receivers 1×2 with 3:14 in the third quarter from Cal’s two yard line. The outside linebacker is over the top of Rodgers at the line of scrimmage (bottom right). To earn his release, Rodgers plants hard to the outside and dips inside to avoid any contact with edge rusher.
He then does a fine job of using a swim move to bring inside the safety and establish position in the middle of the field near the right hash. What I love about this part of the play is his comfort with establishing position in tight quarters. Rodgers’ move and break only earns him inches on the safety, but this is “open” in the NFL.
Rodgers looks the ball into his hands while moving away from the target and his back to the defensive back. He makes the catch, earns yards after the catch, and shows some strength and determination to finish the run for a gain of 17.
Potential For Route Quickness/Suddenness
This first-quarter target is a dropped ball. Rodgers doesn’t get his hands up fast enough after he makes his break. However, I like the quickness of the turn on this stop route. It’s not Tony Gonzalez-quick, but the potential for him to get quicker in and out of his breaks is there. I see it with the way he bends his knees and pivots his turns.
The ball was already in the air before Rodgers finishes his turn and the pass is a foot from his head when he gets his hands to his chest. The end result is a ball that sails between his mitts and all Rodgers can do is tip the end of the ball. Still, I like the plant and turn. There’s athleticism to be mined here.
If he’s keeping his hands high during the turns in Packers’ camp, he’s catching this balls and getting separation. Based on the coaches statements that they’ve seen good stuff from him on film on a consistent basis when looking at the practice clips, I bet he is.
This is a just a short flare to the right, but note the snap with Rodgers’ turn once he breaks to the right. This is sudden and it’s the type of turn I can see him integrate into other routes.
Rodgers has an aggressive streak as a blocker. He often explodes from his stance with a low pad level and punch. Here’s a play in the early second quarter where he seals the edge for his running back, standing up the opponent and turning him inside.
Here’s a nice cut block that give his running back the edge. It’s not perfect, but he cuts across the body and stays with the contact rather than flopping to the ground after not earning perfect position. It’s that big of a “fighter” tendency that I like to see with skill players that block. There’s also a replay of his block at the 18-second mark.
Here’s a nice job finding the inside linebacker and turning him inside for a second-down conversion for the runner in the first quarter.
Athleticism-Works Back To The Ball
This third and nine doesn’t work out for Cal, but Rodgers does a fine job of working from a flat route that does break open to adjust to his scrambling quarterback. Rodgers breaks inside and gives the quarterback a window to make a throw. There’s also a replay after this queued portion that shows Rodgers’ position a little better.
This effort is what you want to see from a receiver. I also like the athleticism Rodgers displays to get low on a ball placed at an awkward spot. The tight end doesn’t make the catch, but a slightly better ball makes the target a little easier. More important, Rodgers creates a target opportunity that forces the defense to remain aggressive and earn a penalty on the quarterback.
One consistent theme from these highlights is that effort pays off over the long haul. Rodgers has the athleticism and flashes the effort. If he puts it all together, he could be a nice find for Green Bay.
For analysis of skill players in this year’s draft class, download the 2014 Rookie Scouting Portfolio – available now. Better yet, if you’re a fantasy owner the 56-page Post-Draft Add-on comes with the 2012 – 2014 RSPs at no additional charge. Best, yet, 10 percent of every sale is donated to Darkness to Light to combat sexual abuse. You can purchase past editions of the Rookie Scouting Portfolio for just $9.95 apiece.