BBD Staff Writer: Eric Samulski
On Monday, Joe Buscaglia of WGR 550 released his projection for the Buffalo Bills’ 53-man roster. On Thursday, BBD editor Dan Hope released his projection for how the Bills’ depth chart will look this season. On neither projection will you see the name Da’Rick Rogers. Both Buscaglia and Hope project that the undrafted rookie wideout will be cut by the Bills.
This is a mistake. In fact, this is a mistake that the Bills absolutely cannot afford to make. Let me explain why.
1. He brings a dimension to the game that no Bills receiver can duplicate.
The Bills’ wide receiver corps is promising and the infusion of new talent has been exciting, but this is not a group that has guys like Julio Jones, AJ Green, Dez Bryant, etc. The Bills corps doesn’t have any legitimate No. 1 guys by NFL standards.
The wide receiver group is comprised of solid route runners, burners, and smart football players; guys who know how to get open and can make you pay once the ball is in their hands. I think this is a tremendous way to build at the wide receiver position, but I also think it’s nice to have that legitimate No. 1 guy. The Bills have only one guy with that kind of potential skill set: Da’Rick Rogers.
For starters, take a look at Rogers’ numbers from the 2013 NFL Scouting Combine. He is 6’2”, 217 pounds, has 9 1/2″ hands, runs a 4.52-second 40-yard dash and was a top performer in the broad jump, three-cone drill, 20-yard shuttle, 60-yard shuttle and the vertical leap, in which he jumped 39.5 inches. There is no receiver on the Bills roster that has that kind of supreme athleticism. Even Bills third-round pick Marquise Goodwin, who many believe was one of the best athletes in the draft, was only an NFL.com “top performer” in the 40-yard dash and the broad jump.
I know that football is played against a defense and not at the combine, but Rogers has performed on the field as well. As a sophomore at Tennessee, he had 67 catches for 1,040 yards and nine touchdowns while playing in the SEC, the best conference in college football. He has shown deep speed and a large catch radius. He uses his body well when he goes up to fight for the ball and has proven to be difficult to bring down after the catch. The Bills have a lot of guys who have certain pieces, but only Rogers has the potential to have them all.
2. He’s more valuable than anybody that would be kept over him.
To me this might be the most important part. As I mentioned above, I love the wide receiver group that the Bills are putting together. They’re like the NBA’s Denver Nuggets, a group of solid and diverse talent that is not dependent on stars.
Stevie Johnson might not be a traditional No. 1 wide receiver, but he runs precise and unorthodox routes and seems to get open at will. T.J. Graham has really come along, Goodwin possesses real big-play talent, and Robert Woods seems to be headed for a career as a dependable guy who may never make you gape in awe, but will always make a play when you need it.
After that, the situation is promising but tricky. Chris Hogan has had a great training camp, but doesn’t possesses great speed, elusiveness or run after the catch ability. Brandon Kaufman seems to be a solid red zone threat, but his best asset is his large frame. Marcus Easley is finally putting it all together, and is a favorite of mine to make the roster, but he’s had a history of injuries that may have sapped some of his explosiveness.
Then you have Brad Smith, who is an old standby with special teams value. However, Buscaglia’s report that has him making the team is, to me, absolutely crazy. What does Brad Smith offer that the Bills don’t get from somewhere else?
Smith doesn’t play QB anymore, so the Wildcat experiment is done. He’s not as good of a returner as Goodwin, Graham or McKelvin, so he’s not valuable there anymore. Johnson provides veteran leadership for the wide receiving corps, and Rogers and Easley both have more natural talent as a receiver than Smith does. Smith has done little to help the Bills since he was signed in 2011, and him making the Bills would cost a roster spot for somebody like Rogers with explosive upside.
3. The Bills aren’t good enough to cut Rogers
The Bills are not playing for a Super Bowl this season. Let’s be realistic. This is a strong team and a much improved team, but this is still a team whose primary goal is building toward a promising future.
We have no idea what we’re going to get from the Bills’ quarterback play, the left guard situation is a mess, nobody has stepped up yet as a No. 2 cornerback and the linebackers are young and inexperienced. Could it all come together in a magical season? Sure. Should we be planning for it? No.
That means the Bills need to be focused on keeping guys around who could flourish in that promising future. The Bills are not in “win now” mode. The Bills need to be building the best roster possible for two years from now, and I just don’t see anyway that Rogers two years from now is not one of the six best receivers on this roster.
4. If he doesn’t make the 53-man roster, he’ll be picked up by somebody else.
This is not a situation where the Bills can stash Rogers on the practice squad like they might be able to with Easley or Kaufman. If Rogers hits waivers, he will be gone. What the Bills should really be asking themselves is, “Do we want to see this guy in another uniform?”
The answer to that in 2013 might be different than the answer is 2014 or 2015. As I mentioned above, the Bills are a young team that needs to be looking towards the future, not just at this season. If they evaluate Rogers and believe that he has the talent to turn into a top-flight receiver, as many people believe, then they have to find a way to keep him on the roster and have him fulfill that potential within the organization. If the Bills let Rogers go so they can keep Brad Smith, then watch as Rogers turns into a legit No. 1 or 2 wideout in the next two to three years, there is no way to defend that decision.
Yes, Rogers has some maturity issues that derailed his career a bit, but none of that has shown up in Bills camp. Many claim he would have been a first-round pick if it hadn’t been for his character red flags. Even if we assume he would have been drafted in the second or third round, those players are hardly ever cut after their first camp, regardless of how inconsistent they are. So, if his character hasn’t been an issue, why would the Bills not take the time to let him develop and see if he can fulfill the immense potential he has shown flashes of in camp?
While Buscaglia and Hope did not have Rogers on their 53-man roster projections, BBD staff writer Ryan Talbot did choose Rogers for his projection.
“Brad Smith’s name was written as the sixth wide receiver and then I deleted it to add Da’Rick Rogers,” Talbot wrote. “Rogers has been buried on the team’s depth chart, but has definite talent. Perhaps I’m too big of a Rogers fan, because he hasn’t played like someone the team intends on keeping. That said, I’m keeping him on the list.”
The Bills took half of the risk by signing him. It’s time to take on the full share.