By: Chris Sanchez (@Chucky__Sanchez)Early in the 2016 offseason, the 49ers went out and signed former CFL standout wide receiver Eric Rogers. Rogers was dominant in Canada during the 2015 season, hauling in 87 passes for over 1,400 yards and 10 touchdowns. Now I know he put up those numbers in the CFL, which doesn’t necessarily have a bounty of top-tier talent. However, those numbers are still nothing to sleep on. It’s hard to produce like that, even against mediocre talent. Surely impressed by his production, the 49ers awarded him a two-year, $1.1 million dollar contract. They expected him to compete for one of the split end spots, and possibly blossom into the red zone target they have been missing.
Unfortunately, all those plans came to a screeching halt when Rogers tore his ACL during training camp last year. While Rogers was busy working on rehabbing his knee this year, the 49ers were making wholesale changes to the front office and coaching staff. The arrival of John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan sparked a new era for the 49ers in many different aspects. Not the least of which is a huge shift in offensive philosophy. Shanahan can draw-up and call plays with the best of them. However, as is the case with any scheme, coaches need playmakers to make their unit tick. If Rogers is healthy, I expect Shanahan to give him a long and hard look and, if he proves himself, allow him to be one of several steady contributors on offense. Rogers is no Julio Jones, but he could potentially fill the Jones role in Shanahan’s offense, at least as a short-term answer. After reviewing the tape, the following are some of Rogers strengths and weaknesses.
- His length and leaping ability present matchup problems for opposing defenses.
- High-points the ball and typically comes down with jump balls. Many times with two or more defenders around him.
- Outstanding red zone target. Always in position when battling defenders in the end zone.
- Very good straight-line speed. Was constantly burning DB’s on go-routes.
- Route-running needs work. Possesses a limited route tree.
- Slender frame and subpar strength. Will struggle versus strong press corners.
- Below-average run blocker. Will probably come off the field during run plays.
- I hate to say his injury is a weakness, but it is definitely something to keep an eye on. Regaining pre-injury speed and explosiveness is difficult after a torn ACL.
At the end of the day, Rogers has a very specific skill set that the 49ers have lacked for years. His straight-line speed, length, and leaping ability are weapons that Kyle Shanahan clearly values for his passing game. If he is back to 100%, I expect Rogers to get a shot at being a solid contributor, especially in the deep passing game and in the red zone.
Don’t expect him to explode onto the scene in 2017, but he has a chance at being an important role player for the 49ers.