Today we continue our college tape series with the Packers' rookie class as I look at California tight end Richard Rodgers. So far from what most people (including myself) have seen from Rodgers in OTA's, he's looked pretty good. Throughout drills and 11-on-11's, Rodgers has shown the established catching ability that made him a good prospect coming out of college. Even though he's showing all of these skills with projected started Andrew Quarless out, and backup Brandon Bostick just now coming back from injury, it's still a good sign that the skills that made him standout in college are transferring well early in the practice. Despite everything going on while just he's just wearing shorts and a helmet.
Weight: 257 Ibs
40-yard dash: 4.87 sec
While playing for the Golden Bears, Rodgers played the tight end position his first two seasons from 2011-12, and then he transitioned to the inside receiver position for the team in 2013. He previously weighed around 275 pounds before dropping 30 pounds to 245 so he could become a receiver in the team's offense.
For his tape, I watched clips courtesy of his game against Stanford and Washington State via Draftbreakdown. Everything that I wanted to show about his traits (good/bad) I felt I could show in these two clips (even though the Cardinals shredded the Bears in one of these particular games).
If you haven't heard this a thousand times already, Rodgers has natural soft hands and great receiving skills, and that's something he's always had dating back to his high school days. As an athlete, he isn't elite, but he has long arms so he's able to adjust to football on plays and make difficult catches. At Cal, he still managed to put up fair numbers in his last season (39 catches, 608 yards) even with not-so-good quarterback play.
In the game against Stanford, he had some really good cut-blocks, too, opening better lanes for their tailback. Here's one clip:
And here's a clip of a nice grab he made near the sidelines from a pretty bad throw from his quarterback against Washington State. He's not elite as an athlete, but his receiving skills are that good.
Now it's time to look at the downside. For a tight end, Rodgers doesn't have a good body frame to match up with players at the next level. He doesn't have breakaway speed to get away from defenders in coverage, and his blocking technique is poor, forcing penalties like this hold:
There are also questions about whether he can play in-line consistently. When watching his blocking, he hesitates too much when getting set for contact, and doesn't show a whole lot of movement. Those are the three main things that I noticed from his tape that he lacks. With time, he can certainly work on getting his weight back up (I mean, he did weigh 275 before) and during OTA's this week he even said he wants to work of his technique. At Cal, he also only had one receiving touchdown this past season (two for his career). Is he any type of threat in the red-zone? Not for now.
In OTA's so far, we've been able to see what made Rodgers a solid prospect coming out, but we other than his skills as a receiver, we haven't seen anything impressive to convince most why the Packers took him in the third round. He's gotten a lot of praise so far, but it's not towards anything in regards to what he needs to improve on (once again, because we're watching in shorts). His catching ability has always been there, but how will he physically match up against linebackers and safeties at the next level? Right now, he doesn't have the ideal build for the position to break tackles or hold onto to blocks. He's developing, but the skills he needs to really make an impact at the next level aren't there yet. That doesn't mean he still can't be used in Green Bay's offense as a threat down the seam and sidelines, though in his rookie year, but he'll likely be eased into the offense in his first season.
We'll see how things progress with the tight end battling going forward into training camp, but even with an impressive start, Rodgers still has a lot of work to do.
Common comparison: Garret Graham, Houston.