There were plenty of questions surrounding California tight end Richard Rodgers entering the NFL Draft in May.
He played in a system ill-suited for his talents as a senior at Cal, as new coach Sonny Dykes brought in the air raid offense he learned at the hand of Hal Mumme at Kentucky and Mike Leach at Texas Tech before taking that system to Arizona as offensive coordinator for Mike Stoops and eventually to Louisiana Tech as head coach.
But Rodgers—at 6-foot-4 and 257 pounds—was often asked to line up in the slot and was graded by scouts prior to the draft as a poor inline blocker because he was seldom asked to be one.
ESPN.com’s draft profile of Rodgers said:
Rodgers is a developmental guy who is not a finished product but has some skills and is very competitive.
The son of Carolina Panthers special teams coordinator Richard Rodgers has turned some heads early in training camp for the Green Bay Packers, who took Rodgers with the 98th overall pick as a compensatory choice near the end of the third round.
Rodgers may not be as much of a “developmental guy” as scouts might have thought.
He’s been making big plays and according to most reports, has been the best tight end in camp through the early sessions.
It’s not uncommon for rookies to start fast and taper off, but Rodgers was also impressive during the offseason program.
The defenders assigned to cover him in practice are noticing.
“(Rodgers) definitely has really good hands and he’s strong, he kind of bodies you out,” safety Micah Hyde told the Green Bay Press-Gazette. “You can tell he’s a pretty big, thick guy. When you try to get your hands on him, it’s like you’re hitting a wall. He’s a tough guy to guard.”
Cornerback Tramon Williams said Rodgers is a different athlete than Jermichael Finley, the Packers’ regular tight end for the last five seasons before he was sidelined with a neck injury last October.
“I don’t think he’s as fast as Finley was and Finley has a little shake to him also,” Williams said. “But as far as the size, the body, catching ability, (Rodgers) has it all. The size of his body definitely is going to be a safety blanket for the quarterback. We still have some other tight ends that can get the job done, but he’s intriguing.”
Rodgers is one of several tight ends in camp competing for spots.
Among the tight ends last season, fifth-year pro Andrew Quarless led the way with 32 receptions for 312 yards and two touchdowns, starting 10 games after Finley went down.
Finley had 25 catches for 300 yards and three scores before he was hurt.
From there, it dropped off dramatically. Brandon Bostick, entering his third season, caught seven balls for 120 yards and a touchdown. Ryan Taylor, coming into his fourth year, had six receptions for 30 yards.
And that’s about it.
Finley is an unsigned free agent and is not in the Packers camp.
Quarless is thought to be the leader for the starting job coming into camp, but he’s being pushed—primarily by Rodgers.
Bostick is still there, while Taylor’s best shot at making the roster appears to be on special teams.
Green Bay also has Jake Stoneburner, who played in nine games last season as an undrafted free agent but did not have a reception, spending most of his time on special teams.
There are also two undrafted free agents in camp—former Oregon standout Colt Lyerla and Justin Perillo, who played at Maine.