This time of year in the fantasy football community, many are trying to sort out who might be the upcoming season’s sleepers. Young Indianapolis Colts running backs Marlon Mack, Nyheim Hines and Jordan Wilkins have been pretty popular picks so far — I like them too — but there’s still a guy I feel is being slept on. If I had to bet on one young Colts offensive player to have a breakout in 2018, it’s wide receiver Chester Rogers.
Outside of the Colts fan base, a lot of people don’t know much about “Chester from Grambling”, the third-year undrafted wideout. As a rookie, Rogers narrowly made the Colts’ 53-man roster and didn’t see much playing time until an injury to return specialist and reserve receiver Quan Bray forced Rogers into a bigger role. He was impressive as a punt returner, averaging 9.2 YPR, but he also flashed on offense. Rogers had a handful of chunk plays and averaged 14.4 YPC on 19 catches.
Expectations were a bit higher entering the 2017 offseason, and Rogers delivered. In offseason workouts, OTA’s and especially training camp, Rogers was roasting the Colts’ defensive backs with his crisp route running, agility and speed. That included former Pro-Bowl cornerback Vontae Davis, who coaches said was having the best offseason of any of their defenders. Rogers’ obvious skills set him in as the WR3 behind T.Y. Hilton and Donte Moncrief.
Unfortunately for Rogers, he suffered a hamstring injury in mid-August that kept him out for two months. When he did return, he was behind Hilton, Moncrief and Kamar Aiken in the lineup and was worked back slowly, only catching a couple of passes each week.
In Week 10, Rogers was inserted back as the WR3 while Aiken was out with injury. With that, we got our first taste of a big game from Rogers as he hauled in all 6 targets for 104 yards and this touchdown:
The coaching staff couldn’t deny Rogers after that. Aiken returned to the lineup but was set behind Rogers. Then, Moncrief had his own injury to deal with, an ankle sprain that caused him to miss the final four games of the season (Weeks 14-17). During that time, Rogers didn’t just ascend and take over as the Colts’ WR2, but he saw more total snaps and percentage of snaps than any other Colts receiver over that period — even Hilton.
From Year 1 to Year 2, Rogers increased all of his receiving stats despite playing three fewer games. His receptions per game went from 1.4 to 2.1, catch percentage from 54.3% to 62.2%, yards per game from 19.5 to 25.8 and scored his first career touchdown.
Looking ahead to this offseason, Rogers has been getting praise yet again. The wide receiver group has looked good to new head coach Frank Reich in general so far, but general manager Chris Ballard has been impressed with how Rogers has taken the steps necessary to be a true professional. That includes making changes off the field, such as an emphasis on nutrition, in order to keep his body right and to get the most out of his game.
When the season starts, we could see Rogers as the Colts’ WR2 behind Hilton. The Colts signed Ryan Grant in free agency, who is a solid player, but doesn’t necessarily offer the upside that Rogers does. Rogers runs really nice routes, is both fast and quick and is agile. That equals a really good ability to make plays after the catch as well.
Let’s also not forget that franchise quarterback Andrew Luck is finally expected to be back under center, slinging the ball around the yard. That’s kind of a big deal. Another underrated factor is that former Colts legend Reggie Wayne is now working with the team’s receivers. Wayne helped Hilton get to his Pro-Bowl level and could have a big impact on Rogers as well.
If Rogers stays healthy this summer then my money is on him as a must-have fantasy player to pick up late in your drafts or the waiver wire.