Malcolm Rodriguez has looked a like a draft steal for the Lions virtually from the start, and the idea is only being further reinforced.
As early as rookie minicamp and into the first day of voluntary OTAs, Malcolm Rodriguez looked ready to make a push up the Lions’ linebacker depth chart and take someone’s starting job. That idea never went away, as he earned first-team practice reps and started preseason games.
Speaking to the media this past Thursday, via MLive, Lions assistant general manager Ray Agnew reflected early expectations for someone coming in as a sixth-round pick like Rodriguez did.
The first thought is that, ‘OK, we got us a four-core special teams player when we get this guy,’” assistant general manager Ray Agnew said. “But he’s proven to be a little more than that.
That is an understatement from Agnew about Rodriguez. During an episode of “Hard Knocks”, linebackers coach Kelvin Sheppard is seen challenging his group to give him a reason not to put Rodriguez on the field as a starter. By most if not all indications, the rest of the linebacker group still has not given the coaching staff that reason.
Bleacher Report obviously names Malcolm Rodriguez a draft steal
Brent Sobleski of Bleacher Report made a list of 10 rookies who are already looking like draft steals. Rodriguez made the list, as if there’s any scenario where he wouldn’t have.
The linebacker fell to the 188th overall pick of April’s draft for a simple reason: he’s undersized. Even in today’s smaller-yet-faster world where defenders are regularly asked to play in space, Rodriguez didn’t quite fit as a 5’11”, 230-pound defender. But his nose for the football is special.
Yes, Rodriguez is a sawed-off linebacker who lacks length and can be engulfed at the point of attack. But he consistently works to be in the right position and make plays.
Rodriguez makes up for his lack of size with instincts and work ethic. His production in college at Oklahoma State would have made him a Day 2 pick, but for that pesky sub-6-foot height measurement.
Rodriguez should take Alex Anzalone’s starting job, as I’ve written repeatedly, and my old friend Matt Schauf over at Draft Sharks agrees.
If Rodriguez is not one of the two linebackers who starts Week 1 against the Philadelphia Eagles, then the Lions’ coaching staff has leaned too far into Anzalone’s overblown intangibles to give him the nod. But it would only be a matter of time before senses were fully come to, and Anzalone is treated like a sixth-round pick and a core special teamer.