Although it appears Colts’ general manager Ryan Grigson only spends draft picks on wide receivers, injuries to Andrew Luck’s top targets have left the team scrambling to find able-bodied targets. Suddenly, the healthiest wide receiver atop the depth chart is undrafted free agent rookie Chester Rogers. Despite targets and receptions slowly ticking up over the first few weeks of the season, Rogers is only now getting recognition as a fantasy option and is slowly getting added to dynasty rosters. This article will dig into whether he is a long-term or short-term (or perhaps no-term) option.
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Rogers attended Grambling State (GS) as a quarterback, running back and wide receiver before focusing on the latter as well as special teams at college. After playing sparsely as a freshman, Rogers proceeded to catch 147 passes for 2,154 yards and 15 touchdowns between 2013 and 2015, leading the team in receiving over that time as he averaged nearly 15 yards per reception. He also rushed seven times for 72 yards and played a key role as a kick- and punt-returner on special teams.
At 5’11” and 180 pounds, Rogers’s consistency on- and off- field contributed to his success. A strong understanding of the game from playing so many positions helped his versatility. Strong hands and route running, in combination with 4.49 speed (per his Pro Day 40-yard dash) and success in finding yards after-the-catch, gives him the ability to play either in the slot or on the outside. This skillset has earned Rogers strong comparisons to another undrafted free agent wide receiver in Victor Cruz, even to the point that perhaps the biggest profile concern is his ability to withstand hits and stay healthy in the NFL.
Rogers didn’t receive an invitation to the NFL Combine, largely due to his production at a FCS school so small he shared his Pro Day with athletes from Louisiana Tech. He had a strong showing in front of the small crowd with a 40-yard dash that would have placed him eleventh at the Combine among wide receivers, 15 bench reps (also eleventh), a 6.85-second 3-cone drill (tenth), a 36-inch vertical jump (ninth) and a 4.07-second 20-yard shuttle that would have tied him for first with Braxton Miller and D.J. Foster.
Though he aspired to become the first GS graduate since Jason Hatcher in 2006 to be drafted, Rogers had to wait until after the draft had concluded to get called with good news. He chose to sign as a free agent with the Colts over the Giants, Jets, and Patriots because they were the first team to call him and hadn’t drafted a wide receiver, which helped assure him the chance to battle for a roster spot immediately.
The preseason could not have gone any better for Rogers as he not only led the Colts in receiving, but his 14 receptions placed him second in the NFL behind only Paul Turner of the Eagles and 174 receiving yards was only bested by Robby Anderson of the Jets. His standout performances throughout training camp and ability to play special teams earned him a spot on the 53-man final roster.
Since the beginning of the season, the Colts’ wide receiver depth chart has thinned dramatically. Initially, T.Y. Hilton, Donte Moncrief and Phillip Dorsett had all staked claim to the top three spots for targets. However, Moncrief has missed several weeks with a shoulder injury and his status remains up in the air. Dorsett left last week’s game with a hamstring injury, and even before that had arguably been outplayed by Rogers. Even the “healthy” Hilton has missed practice this week with a hip injury.
Already below Rogers on the depth chart, fellow rookie Tevaun Smith was added to the roster after Quan Bray was placed on Injured Reserve with an ankle injury. There is a chance Bray may return before the end of the season, but he was more of a threat to Rogers’ special teams duties than his snaps on offense. Devin Street, formerly drafted by the Cowboys, was signed off New England’s practice squad in September but has been inactive each week since then. In short, Rogers is the best healthy wide receiver the Colts have.
If Rogers is able to seize the opportunity week seven, which appears to be likely given his measurables and increased usage even with a healthier receiving corps, he could stay in the conversation for the remainder of 2016. Luck has shown confidence in throwing to Rogers, and with a porous defense and several likely shootouts ahead in the schedule there is potential for several Colts receivers to be fantasy relevant the rest of this season.
The long-term outlook is not currently as optimistic. Moncrief, Dorsett and Hilton are all signed through at least the 2017 season, with Hilton’s recent extension good through 2020. Rogers himself has two full years left on his deal, which is lucrative for an undrafted free agent signing, so he should be part of the receiving and punt return equations beyond this season but a prominent role is not imminent.
Despite being completely off the dynasty radar (except in the deepest of leagues) until this month, Rogers has a good shot at surpassing Larry Donnell as the most fantasy-relevant product of Grambling State. Don’t let his lack of draft pedigree or small school competition defer you from taking a flier on Rogers, even considering him as a flex option in favorable matchups with Moncrief out.