San Francisco 49ers: New Receiver Eric Rogers Ready for Success?

Nov 29, 2015; Winnipeg, Manitoba, CAN; General view of the field surface at Investors Group Field prior to the game between Edmonton Eskimos and Ottawa Redblacks. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 29, 2015; Winnipeg, Manitoba, CAN; General view of the field surface at Investors Group Field prior to the game between Edmonton Eskimos and Ottawa Redblacks. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports /

The San Francisco 49ers are in the process of rebuilding a roster. With an offensive-minded head coach, no position may need an upgrade more than the wide receiver group. Could newly-signed receiver Eric Rogers be the next player to produce in Chip Kelly’s system?

The San Francisco 49ers started building their roster almost immediately after announcing Chip Kelly as the new head coach of the team. Shortly after Kelly’s press conference on January 20, the 49ers announced the signing of Canadian Football League star wide receiver Eric Rogers.

Rogers was reported to have worked out or visited with 16 teams and chose the 49ers over all. He may have looked at the wide receiver position and determined, as many fans and draftniks have, that the 49ers are experimenting with the unknown. 

The receiver group last year largely underwhelmed. That could have been a product of a shaky quarterback situation and leaky offensive line play, but the offense as a whole was unsuccessful far too often.

The 49ers have receivers on their roster that keep fans saying “What if?”. They seem on the edge of becoming solid contributors and almost immediately find themselves fighting for minimal playing time. 

Whether because of poor coaching, injury concerns or lack of talent, the 49ers receivers are leaving fans guessing who might contribute next season on offense.

Sure, it would be wonderful if Quinton Patton could display some emotional control and finally establish himself as a productive receiver. Or if Bruce Ellington could stay healthy long enough to make a lasting impact. The reality is, however, that fans are hedging their bets on largely unproven players.

Rogers, despite playing in the CFL, may be the most proven player on the roster at the wide receiver position besides Torrey Smith.

There’s no guarantee that wide receiver Anquan Boldin will be back with the team. As much as fans would love to see him return, he could decide to finish his career elsewhere. If so, that leaves the 49ers with Smith and then a whole lot of question marks to line up in Kelly’s offense next season.

In an offense that spreads the ball out as much as Kelly likes to, the 49ers will need to have a clear idea of who can be productive moving forward. The Philadelphia Eagles had four different receivers, as well as two tight ends and a running back, all post over 280 receiving yards each last season. The 49ers, needless to say, did not have that kind of variety in their offensive attack.

Kelly will bring a new system to San Francisco that requires some depth among the wide receiver position. While guys like Patton, Ellington and recently-drafted DeAndre Smelter battle for complementary roles, Rogers has an opportunity to develop into a high-quality receiver in Kelly’s system.

At 6’4” and 215 pounds, Rogers is built similarly to Jordan Matthews of Kelly’s former team–Matthews is listed at 6’3″ and 212 pounds. Matthews led the Eagles in receiving last year with 87 catches for 997 and eight touchdowns.

Obviously, Matthews played at a large program and has had an opportunity to compete against starting NFL talent. To suggest that Rogers will certainly post similar stats is naive. But the potential for Rogers to be successful is off the charts.

Former NFL Scout John Middlekauff tweeted a picture of his scouting report on Rogers shortly after the signing and, although Rogers was raw coming out of college, he’s been able to develop in the CFL for the past two seasons with the Calgary Stampeders.

Matthews’ scouting report on looks similar to some of the highlights of Rogers’ report. Both receivers are big-bodied guys with strong hands that are immediate redzone threats. Matthews is certainly a more polished route-runner and a better receiver after the catch. Despite his limitations, some of Rogers’ CFL highlights display more than enough talent to be effective in the NFL.

The weaknesses of Matthews game, such as a lack of runaway deep speed, could also be said of Rogers. If Matthews can produce in Kelly’s system, it’s hard not to assume that Rogers could as well.

The transition from the CFL to the NFL may be the most challenging aspect of Rogers’ time with the 49ers. In the CFL, with receivers moving towards the line of scrimmage pre-snap, Rogers was able to build up the deep speed to get behind defenders.

In the NFL, he’ll have to train to explode immediately out of his stance and still get open against bigger, stronger and faster defenders. Certainly, he has practice as a college receiver at Cal Lutheran University. Nonetheless, easier said than done. The 49ers signed him with all intentions of utilizing the skills that made him the CFL’s leading receiver last year. If his development stalls, it is squarely on Kelly and his coaching staff. 

If Rogers can prove to be successful off the line, the rest of his skills naturally translate to an NFL offense. In particular, Kelly’s offense that utilizes short and well-timed routes to create natural separation from defensive backs may mask Rogers’ deficiencies.

Ultimately, until Rogers has a chance to face better competition, the knock on him will be that he hasn’t proven anything against legitimate players. The 49ers will give Rogers a chance to do so this season.

Acquiring Rogers could be seen as one of general manager Trent Baalke’s patented moves. Signing low-risk and high-reward players to relatively inexpensive contracts is typically the method of operation for Baalke and his staff. As was the case with Australian sensation Jarryd Hayne, Baalke has managed to lure another international star player to the 49ers.

Whatever Baalke says to the players in the meetings, he is one hell of a salesman. Despite a relatively poor image among the fanbase, Baalke secures talent when available. Hayne saw his first year full of ups and downs. Rogers might see the same sort of trajectory. Both players, however, possess immense talent that will surely be useful for a new head coach.

In the case of Rogers, that talent might provide immediate payoffs for a team looking to develop a group of receivers that compliment one another. If Kelly and his staff are able to continue the growth that Rogers has seen during his time in Calgary, the 49ers may have themselves a new number one receiver without spending any draft picks to find him.

Next: 5 Late-Round Prospects the 49ers Should Target

All statistics, records and accolades courtesy of and ESPN Statistics unless otherwise indicated.