29. Richard Rodgers (Ray’s pick)
It was a couple of years ago that the Green Bay Packers were on the clock during the third round of the NFL Draft and every Packers fan watching the festivities were awaiting the announcement.
When the name Richard Rodgers was announced, most of us were glad that Ted Thompson had gone out for a tight end, considering that Jermichael Finley‘s status with his injury was somewhat unclear.
With several tight ends on the roster at the time – guys like Andrew Quarless, Brandon Bostick, Ryan Taylor, Jake Stoneburner and some other guy by the name of Colt Lyerla – the Packers were loaded at the position.
In addition to Rodgers’ selection in the third round, the Packers would eventually go out and also pick up Justin Perillo – a player who stuck with the team for much of his first season on the practice squad and then captured some playing time last year, as well.
From the start, Rodgers was criticized by the draft experts as a player who had struggled with his weight in college and was seen as a player who might struggle at the next level.
Though he hasn’t been the dynamic player that many had hoped for, he has been a big play tight end who has made an impact the past couple of years – just not the huge impact that other Packers tight ends have made through the years.
In his rookie year, he worked through those issues during training camp and had a solid preseason, making the 53-man roster on his own volition, but also because Lyerla was injured and eventually got in trouble off the field again, and because he simply beat out Taylor and Stoneburner.
Though Rodgers made the team, his impact wasn’t immediate.
It wasn’t until the fourth game of his rookie season at Chicago that Rodgers began to show what he was capable of contributing. Aaron Rodgers found his tight end twice on the team’s first drive of the game and opened the eyes of many.
From that point on, Rodgers slowly emerged and matured.
By season’s end, his statistics weren’t eye-popping by any means, but he did catch 20 of the 30 balls thrown his way for 225 yards (11.3 yards per-catch) and two touchdowns. One of those touchdowns came in late November when Aaron Rodgers connected with him against the New England Patriots. Rodgers got behind the Patriots’ defense on the play and made a nice over the shoulder catch for the score.
Rodgers continued his climb in respect during the playoffs when he caught five balls for 48 yards and the game-winning touchdown against the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC Divisional Playoff game that sent the Packers to the NFC Championship game at Seattle.
Last year, it was Rodgers’ catch of the Hail Mary pass at Detroit to win the game the boosted Rodgers’ confidence and propelled him into the national spotlight.
Rodgers has been durable, not missing a game in his first two seasons, starting 17 games and catching a total of 78 passes for 735 yards (9.4 yards per-catch) and 10 touchdowns.
Last season alone he caught 58 balls for 510 yards and eight touchdowns.
The biggest disappointment with Rodgers has been his lack in ability to secure yards after the catch. His lack of speed also keeps him from splitting the seam and providing big plays down the middle.
That aside, Rodgers has been a productive blocker and seems to fit into the Packers system adequately.
We all hope that in his third year that a breakout season emerges for the big guy.
Next: No. 29 (Freddie's pick)