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Da’Rick Rogers has a questionable past, but no questioning wide receiver’s talent

02.22.13 at 2:57 pm ET
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INDIANAPOLIS — The Patriots are all about value, and they’re all about talent. Factor in their need at receiver and their history of overlooking positive tests for marijuana (Aaron Hernandez), and you should start getting to know Tennessee Tech product Da’Rick Rogers.

From a skill standpoint, Rogers has first-round talent. He’s got the size (6-foot-2 4/8, 217.7 pounds) and speed that’s drawn comparisons to Julio Jones, but he was also suspended indefinitely from Tennessee last year after failing a third drug test in as many years and had to transfer.

After a season at Tennessee Tech in which he had 78 receptions for 1,207 yards and 11 touchdowns and passed 10 drug tests, he declared for the draft and wants to introduce the new and improved Da’Rick Rogers to anyone willing to shake his hand. He knows that he’s going to get grilled by teams talking to him, and he’s got no problem with it.

“I wouldn’t expect them not to,” he said. “If they’re going to invest in me, I’ve got to be honest and be up front with them. That’s what I’ve been doing.”

Give Rogers credit for this: He’s actually being honest rather than saying he’ll be honest. Asked if his suspension was due to drugs, he responded “most definitely.” Asked whether it was the first failed test, he specified that it was his third. Asked what it was for, he said it was marijuana. He could have said it was “in the past” as many do, but Rogers wants to set the record straight.

“It’s simple, immaturity,” he said of why he’s in his position. “I had to take full responsibility, look in the mirror at who I was and what I was and what I was doing wrong. I did those things when I went to Tennessee Tech and it humbled me a lot. I was working on those things and I’m still working on those things. It’s a work in progress, but we’re going in the right direction.”

Of course, there’s a lot of record to set straight. His issues aren’t just limited to smoking a bunch of pot and getting in trouble with the law (he was arrested in 2010 for his role in a bar fight in Knoxville). Rogers was seen yelling at wide receiver coach Charlie Baggett on the sideline in a loss to Kentucky in 2010. Rogers sang Baggett’s praises to no end Friday, but that doesn’t take away the red flag.

Consider the difficulty the Patriots have had with developing a top wide receiver. They run a real risk assuming everyone can get on the same page when a guy has a history of yelling at his coaches.

“I’d say when I was younger, I wasn’t as coachable as I should have been,” Rogers admitted. “That goes along with being immature, but since then I’ve been making long strides to get where I want to be.”

Rogers knows that no matter how well he tests on the field, his character is going to be what stands out. Asked where he would rank among this year’s receivers, a group that includes Tennessee stars Cordarrelle Patterson and Justin Hunter, Rogers said his production and talent should rank him high. As a sophomore, Rogers led Tennessee with 67 receptions, 1,040 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns.

“I’m right near the top, most definitely,” he said. “As far as physical ability goes, I have a lot of confidence in myself, and I feel like I can compete with just about anybody.”

When it comes to marijuana, he says he “hasn’t picked it up” since leaving Tennessee. Even so, he knows the likelihood of his past coming back to haunt him when the draft rolls around, and he’s prepared to put in the extra work to earn his spot should he fall to the middle rounds.

“It’s no big deal to me,” he said of being drafted later. “Just getting my foot in the door is a blessing from God. All I can do is go in and work hard and take my opportunity, get my way onto the field any way I can.”

If he does end up falling, the Patriots would have to give him a good look. Rogers would be an interesting pick in the second round, but he could be a steal in the third.

Read More: 2013 combine, 2013 NFL draft, Da'Rick Rogers,
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