Detroit Lions sleeper rookie becoming a star on Hard Knocks

Detroit Lions, Malcolm Rodriguez, Hard Knocks - Mandatory Credit: Kirthmon F. Dozier-USA TODAY Sports
Detroit Lions, Malcolm Rodriguez, Hard Knocks - Mandatory Credit: Kirthmon F. Dozier-USA TODAY Sports /

The Detroit Lions have quickly proven to be a very worthy subject for HBO’s Hard Knocks. Dan Campbell and the rest of his coaching staff are absolutely fascinating. The roster is intriguing from top to bottom, which is a nice change of pace for the Detroit Lions. General manager Brad Holmes has done a good job of assembling a competitive group in short order while simultaneously rebuilding and reloading.

One of the players the Lions brought in this offseason through the NFL Draft is former Oklahoma State linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez, who has quickly become a star on Hard Knocks. A rather unassuming sixth-round pick out of Oklahoma State, “Rodrigo” had himself a great workout in the pre-draft process, putting himself in pretty rare air athletically with a whopping 9.28 Relative Athletic Score.

That score is particularly impressive when you consider it’s being brought down significantly by the fact that Rodriguez is in the lowest percentile in height and one of the lowest in weight. His size brings his score down, but his athleticism is off the charts. And he’s showing a great combination of athleticism and just overall football smarts early on for the Detroit Lions, who seem to absolutely love him.

Malcolm Rodriguez, aka “Rodrigo”, rising up the Lions depth chart during Hard Knocks

There is an extended clip from the show where Detroit Lions linebackers coach Kelvin Sheppard, a former NFL linebacker himself, is leading a position group meeting. In front of all of the other linebackers for the Lions, he singles out Rodriguez and how textbook his technique is during training camp. He references the fact that “Rodrigo” is out there stealing jobs and stealing spots on the depth chart, and even goes so far as to say that he spoke to a coach who has been with the organization for five years who hasn’t seen a “stack linebacker” show the kinds of things Rodriguez has been showing.

Rodriguez had a whopping 11 forced fumbles over the last two seasons at Oklahoma State and 13 total in his four years as a full-time player for them. He racked up over 400 tackles and 32 tackles for a loss, as well as 7.5 sacks.

It looks like the Detroit Lions have not only unearthed a gem here, but they might have stolen one of the secret stars of the 2022 NFL Draft class. Rodriguez doesn’t have the toughest competition when you look at the current Detroit Lions projected starting lineup. Alex Anzalone? Chris Board? Derrick Barnes?

Why wouldn’t you let Rodriguez keep doing what he’s doing and climb the depth chart day after day? This is one of the great stories of the 2022 offseason so far and it’s even more fun to watch it unfold with the behind-the-scenes looks Hard Knocks provides.