2. LB Malcolm Rodriguez
Rodriguez was a nice find for the Lions in the 2022 draft, as he didn’t pass the ideal size test to be the kind of higher pick his college production showed he should’ve been. He showed how much of a steal he was with a nice rookie season (87 total tackles, eight tackles for loss over 16 games–15 starts). His future is bright, but in the short-term things are cloudy.
Alex Anzalone was and is ripe to be replaced, but the Lions value his intangibles and they brought him back on a three-year deal this offseason. So he’s not likely to be unseated from a starting role, barring injury. And Jack Campbell, a top-20 overall pick, is theoretically lined up to start right away. In their base nickel defense (five defensive backs), the Lions of course only have two off-ball linebackers on the field. So someone’s got to give if everyone is healthy, and it looks like it’ll be Rodriguez falling into a backup role.
Rodriguez should not be written off, and from a pure talent or upside standpoint he’s got an edge over Anzalone. But contract investment (Anzalone) and draft capital investment (Campbell) is working against “Rodrigo”, and he had a case to be No. 1 on this list.