2022 NFL Draft Player Profiles: Oklahoma State LB Malcolm Rodriguez

From now until the 2022 NFL Draft takes place, we hope to scout and create profiles for as many prospects as possible, examining their strengths, weaknesses, and what they can bring to an NFL franchise. These players could be potential top 10 picks, all the way down to Day 3 selections and priority undrafted free agents. Today, I’ll be profiling Oklahoma State LB Malcolm Rodriguez.

# 20 Malcolm Rodriguez / LB Oklahoma State – 5110, 232 lbs.

Combine Invite / NFLPA Game.

Measurements

Player Ht / Wt Hand Size Arm Length Wingspan
Malcolm Rodriguez 5110/232 9 5/8 30 1/8 72 5/8
40-Yard Dash 10-Yard Dash Short Shuttle 3-Cone
4.52 N / A N / A N / A
Broad Jump Vertical Bench Press
10’0 ″ 39 N / A

The Good

– Good athlete, testing matches his tape
– Aggressive, downhill linebacker who looks to play bigger than his size, short but has broad shoulders and bigger upper half
– Sifts through the trash well in run game, keeps vision on the ball and consistently finds ballcarrier
– Gets good depth in zone coverage on hooks and curls / flats, able to run and match running backs in man coverage, comfortable moving backwards or turning and running
– Flies to ball and chases the play hard from the backside, wants to be involved and put up big tackle numbers because of it
– Works hard to stay clean in run game when linemen climb to him at 2nd level / in space
– Improved his tackling over his career and shows hit power and force, recorded many forced fumbles in college
– Physical player overall even in jams / reroutes in coverage
– Effective blitzer with tenacity and ability to beat running backs
– Traits to be a quality, core special teamer
– Productive player against good competition
– Durable, available player

The Bad

– Lacks size, short arms and played at a light listed weight (225) who may have bulked up into the 230s just for the pre-draft process
– Takes short, choppy steps when running
– Engulfed by linemen when he attacks downhill at the line of scrimmage, has more trouble shedding blocks in a booth when he meets them as opposed to when linemen climb to him on combo blocks
– Too easily washed and pushed around in run game when linemen get their hands on him
– Tackling has improved but more prone to missing in open space
– Tweener who may lack true fit in the NFL
– Slightly older than typical prospect (turns 23 in late March)

Bio

– Four-year starter for Cowboys
– Career: 408 tackles (32 TFL) 7 FFs, 7.5 sacks, 2 INTs
– 2021: 129 tackles (16 TFL) 3 FFs, 3 sacks, 1 INT
– First-team All Big 12 in 2021, Second-Team AP All-American
– Played safety first two years before moving to LB for 2019 season
– Super Senior who returned to school for 2021 season
– Served as team captain
– Star athlete in high school, played QB and threw for 22 touchdowns while rushing for 21 more his senior season, also played DB and picked off seven career passes
– State champion wrestler with a 30-3 record, hit .381 senior season for baseball team while also serving as team’s relief pitcher / closer
– Brother played football at Northeastern University

Tape Breakdown

I’ve been asked to profile Rodriguez for some time now and with an impressive Combine showing, I had to turn on his film. Rodriguez is a great athlete and has been his whole career of him, a three-sport star in high school. It was on display at Oklahoma State. He’s a run-and-hit linebacker who makes up for his lack of frame.

Despite being undersized and lacking length, he works hard to stay clean and beat blocks in the run game. Sometimes that means going around and through but he’s not often out of his gap and takes smart, aggressive chances to knife in. Examples of that and him beating blocks when linemen move to the second level.

Rodriguez runs hard to the ball and is always involved in the play. That’s how you get over 400 tackles in a career. He was highly productive and seemed to make a pretty smooth transition from safety to linebacker, though I should note his Sports Reference page isn’t 100% accurate, listing him with five forced fumbles against Kansas (which is 100% not true, an error on the site’s part).

I like his ability to cover both as a zone dropper in hook / curl zones and being able to run and carry backs in the flat. Examples of the latter.

Of course, the issues in his game are predictable and will be the same in probably every report you read on Rodriguez. Rodriguez is short, light, and lacks length. He can get pushed around and swallowed up at the LOS, at times certainly looking like a former-safety playing off-ball. Heck, here’s a clip of him – granted, this is from 2019 – being pushed around by the Texas QB on this reverse.

He was more of an inconsistent tackler earlier in his career but I think he’s cleaned things up in the 2021 tape that I watched. But the lack of bulk and length is going to hurt him.

Conclusion

Overall, Rodriguez is a fun-to-watch prospect with great athleticism, productivity, and I enjoyed reading about his background and story. He seems like the type of guy you want on your roster to compete and make your team better. But trying to find an NFL role for him is going to be a little difficult given his size limitations di lui, even knowing linebackers have gotten a lot smaller over the years. I wonder if a team would try to move him back to safety. 5’11, 200 pounds who runs in the low 4.5’s is fine for the position.

There’s some shades of Steelers’ LB Ulysees Gilbert III. Rodriguez also reminds me a lot of Houston’s Grant Stuard, last year’s Mr. Irrelevant who proved to be a valuable special teamer in Year One.

Projection: Mid Day Three

Depot Draft Scale: 6.8 – Backup / Special Teamer (5th Round)

Games Watched: at Texas (2019), vs TCU (2021), vs Baylor (2021)

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