Much of the Hornets season has been spent in a battle to beat the drop, but the progress made by Rodgers has been such that only Sheffield Wednesday's victory over Cardiff prevented the Hornets finishing in the top half of the table.
The Watford manager said: "It was good to see the motivation of the players.
"I said a few months ago that our season will not finish until the last whistle goes against Derby and the players have made me proud."
The Northern Irishman continued: "We have made progress this year, my job next year is to make real progress.
"I didn't come to be comfortable, I want to enjoy the pressure and some of me didn't enjoy today because there was no real pressure."
Rodgers' counterpart Nigel Clough is also seeking to "improve" next season, but didn't feel the result was a reasonable reflection on the game.
Asked if it was a fair result, the Rams boss responded: "Probably not. I thought we created enough chances and if we had got the first goal we might have run out 3-1 winners.
"But if we are going to be giving goals away like that we will not get anything out of the game."
The destiny of the final three points of the season was effectively decided by half-time, thanks in no small part to the contribution from former Ram Grzegorz Rasiak.
But it was Jobi McAnuff who set the Hornets on their way after 14 minutes.
Rasiak nodded the ball down to Tamas Priskin, who rather scuffed his shot, but it broke ideally for McAnuff to slide the ball low to Stephen Bywater's left from six yards.
The Hornets doubled their advantage 13 minutes later when, after Priskin had headed Danny Rose's free-kick against the bar and Adrian Mariappa had seen his acrobatic follow up blocked on the line, Rasiak was left the simplest of tap-ins.
Rodgers' men effectively put the game to bed four minutes before the interval, with the Polish international again showing his worth.
The on-loan Southampton striker started the move which led to his second goal, finding Tommy Smith in acres of space to his right and then ensuring he was in the right-place to capitalise on a low cross from the Hornets top scorer via the inside of Bywater's left-hand post.
Derby improved after the break, with Kris Commons offering their man goal threat and when they did pull one back there was a degree of irony about the scorer in that it was on-loan Hornets midfielder John Eustace who was on the end of Barry Bannan's corner.