Day 3 draft pick tabbed as Detroit Lions’ ‘surprise rookie gem’
The Detroit Lions could have more than one “surprise rookie gem” this year, but for Bleacher Report’s list a Day 3 draft pick got the nod.
From top to bottom and far and wide, early reviews and grades of the Detroit Lions 2022 draft class have been good. It’s not a stretch to say all eight picks will make the 53-man roster, and make some sort of impact immediately.
Of course immediate expectations for No. 2 overall pick Aidan Hutchinson are high. But further down the class of Lions’ 2022 draft picks there is opportunity out there, and a defense-focused group (six out of eight picks) assures those on that side of the ball especially have opportunity in front of them.
Ian Wharton of Bleacher Report has unveiled his list predicting a “surprise rookie gem” for each NFL team in 2022. For the Lions, it’s a Day 3 draft pick.
"The Detroit Lions knocked their draft class out of the park. Headlining acquisitions Aidan Hutchinson and Jameson Williams ensured their status as an immediate draft winner. Looking deeper into their class reveals other possible starters, though.Sixth-round linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez is a perfect fit for this coaching staff that values toughness, instincts and effort. He joins a position group that racked up tackles but offered little other impact. The starting trio of Jalen Reeves-Maybin, Alex Anzalone and Derrick Barnes combined for just three sacks, one interception and 13 pass deflections in 46 appearances.Rodriguez is just 5’11” and 232 pounds but flies around the field making plays. He led an excellent Oklahoma State defense over the last four seasons, capping his career with 129 tackles, 16 tackles for loss and three sacks in 2021. Lions defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn should unleash Rodriguez much like how Cleveland used Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah as a Swiss Army knife who could flow to the ball and thrive in space."
Malcolm Rodriguez may not be a big “surprise” as the Lions surprise rookie gem
Even with only rookie minicamp and not even the full first week of OTAs under his belt at that point, Rodriguez drew nice praise from Lions linebackers coach Kelvin Sheppard last week on the new podcast from Tim Twentyman of the team website.
"Malcolm Rodriguez is one of the smarter young players I’ve ever been around,” “That kid, it’s because he’s a naturally smart player, but on top of that, it’s the work he puts in. This kid came in here in two days and he knew both (linebacker) spots.”"
From the moment he was drafted, even 188th overall in the sixth round, it has not been too hard to see a possible path to a starting job for Rodriguez. The Lions’ linebacking corps is wide open for competition, and he comes in with experience, production and intangibles on his resume–even if it’s only college experience and production right now.
Squint a little, and one could see the man who’ll finish as the Lions’ leading tackler for 2022 in Rodriguez. Talk about a hidden gem.