With their second sixth-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, the Detroit Lions got themselves a tackling machine. Oklahoma State’s Malcolm Rodriguez was all over the field for the Cowboys in 2021, amassing 130 tackles, 16.0 tackles for loss, and four forced fumbles.
At 23 years old, Rodriguez comes with some tread worn on the tires. A four-year starter—one at safety, three at linebacker—he quickly became a team captain and emotional leader of the defense.
Rodriguez worked his way up at Oklahoma State from special teamer to star linebacker in college, and he’ll likely have to do the same in Detroit. The biggest thing working against Rodriguez is his size, where he measured in at just 5-foot-11 and 232 pounds at the NFL Combine with below-average 30.5-inch arms. That said, the rest of his athletic traits are eye-popping—including a record-breaking bench press:
Minor update, just that he also put up the best bench of a LB ever.— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) April 30, 2022
Malcolm Rodriguez was drafted with pick 188 of round 6 in the 2022 draft class. He scored a 9.47 RAS out of a possible 10.00. This ranked 128 out of 2419 LB from 1987 to 2022. https://t.co/u2V4pIhCdf #RAS #Lions pic.twitter.com/o1rDCtpuTN
The size issues could impact his ability to shed blocks at the next level, but his above-average instincts help compensate for that.
While he’s a better run defender than a coverage linebacker, PFF actually graded him out well in both last season. Rodriguez earned an overall 85.7 grade (eighth-best in the nation) with an 83.5 run defense grade (10th) and an 84.5 coverage grade (eighth).
Detroit’s linebacker room is still scarce of starter-level talent, but Rodriguez will still likely enter training camp firmly behind the likes of Alex Anzalone, Derrick Barnes, Shaun Dion Hamilton, and Chris Board. That said, he could win a roster spot over other potential special teamers like Tavante Beckett and Anthony Pittman.
With only Barnes signed beyond 2022, Rodriguez will have the opportunity to grow into a starting role a few years down the line.