January 15, 2003
Chuck Rogers Worth the Bucks?
by Keith Weiland
The Detriot Lions made an interesting hire this weekend, one that could have significant draft implications. Former Michigan State head coach, Bobby Williams, has been hired as the team’s running backs coach.
Williams is the former coach of Spartans wide receiver, Charles Rogers, quite possibly the prospect sitting atop the Texans’ draft board. The Lions also hold the second overall pick in the 2003 NFL Draft, the pick immediately in front of the Texans, posing a problem should the Texans have their hearts set on Rogers.
Is the hiring of Williams any indication that the Lions are set to take Rogers in April’s draft?
Here’s why it may not be: The Lions are a bad team; yes, worse than the expansion Texans, as judged by their overall records. Like the Texans, they have needs not just at wide receiver but everywhere on their roster, save for franchise quarterback.
Last year, Detroit’s "brain"trust of Matt Millen and Marty Mornhinweg courted the idea of drafting cornerback Quentin Jammer before taking Joey Harrington, reportedly at the request of the team’s owner. Might the Lions be leaning toward another corner this time around, possibly Kansas State’s Terence Newman?
Then again, how could the Lions possibly pass up a talent like Rogers? The hole at wide receiver in Detroit is at least as big as the one in Houston, and probably bigger. As a local product, Rogers could be to pro football in Michigan what Earl Campbell was here in Texas.
So yes, the hiring of Williams has everything to do with making Rogers a happy camper at the M&M Ranch in Detroit. Williams was the primary reason why Rogers chose to attend Michigan State, and having him on the Lions’ staff to mentor Rogers will help make the underclassman receiver adapt to the NFL quickly.
Rogers has also publicly stood beside his former coach. He voiced his displeasure with Michigan State after Williams’ mid-season firing, adding "We’ll be lucky if we win another game." (They did, winning their next game against Indiana, thanks in large part to the two scores by Rogers.) Rogers has also remained in contact with Williams since he left the Spartans.
So does this mean it’s curtains for the Texans and their hopes of drafting Rogers? Not exactly. The Lions could of course trade down to a team in need of a quarterback and leave Rogers there for the Texans… but don’t bank on it.
All the talk about the upcoming draft, much of it even coming from the brass at Reliant Park, has suggested that the Texans themselves will be looking to trade down from their third spot in the draft. What if general manager Charley Casserly pulled a fast one and traded up with the Bengals for the top overall pick?
The Texans could afford to do so under the cap, as they have plenty of room. The cost for moving up two spots may not be that rich, either.
Keep this in the back of your mind, too: The Texans had twelve draft picks last year as an expansion team, and three of them failed to make the opening day roster. With fourteen picks heading into the 2003 draft, the Texans need to focus on improving the quality of their selections by trading up to get the player that they want.
Trading down for quantity could prove futile unless the picks are for future drafts in 2004 or 2005. Plus, the 2003 draft could hopefully be the team’s last shot at drafting this high for awhile. Why move down to a double-digit pick when the team will likely have them for the years to come?
To get a sense of what it may take to trade up to the number one spot in the draft, compare what happened in the 2001 draft. The Falcons gave up a third round pick, a future second round pick, and a so-so wide receiver/returner in Tim Dwight to move up four spots for the chance to draft phenom quarterback Mike Vick.
The Texans only need to move half that distance to obtain the number one selection, and they have plenty of third rounders to spare, too, owning three of them this year. Heck, they’ve even got two so-so wide receivers/returners in Jermaine Lewis and Avion Black!
This is a win-win situation for the Bengals, too; that is, if they’re smart enough to do it. Even if they drop to the third pick, the team will still have the opportunity to select one of the top two quarterbacks on the board in Byron Leftwich and Carson Palmer, filling a big need and doing so at a discounted bonus.
The question then becomes whether Rogers is worth the price for the Texans. As evidenced by Michigan State’s 2002 campaign, Rogers alone isn’t enough to make a mediocre team great. He also dropped just enough passes this season to make more than a couple people wonder if concentration lapses weren’t an issue as well.
Rogers is worth it, though. At 6’4" and 205 pounds, he is the most electrifying talent to enter the draft since Vick and the best receiving prospect since Keyshawn Johnson.
On a team that suspended its quarterback for substance abuse and fired its coach for losing control of his players, Rogers still posted eye-popping numbers for the Spartans. He caught 68 passes for 1,351 yards and 13 touchdowns. Those numbers followed an impressive 2001 season in which Rogers caught 57 balls for 1,200 yards and 12 touchdowns and that doesn’t even include his bowl performance in which he outshone David Carr for 10 catches, 270 yards and two scores.
Rogers set an NCAA record this fall, scoring in 13 consecutive games across the 2001 and 2002 seasons. He walked away with the 2002 Biletnikoff Award for best NCAA Division 1-A college football receiver in the nation.
It’s nearing high noon, and Casserly and Millen could be staring each other down with disintegrating guns for the chance at drafting Rogers. The question is, will Casserly pull the trigger first?
Keith Weiland believes that TiVo is a gift from the 25th century. Charles Rogers Home