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Malcolm Rodriguez of the Oklahoma State Cowboys celebrates after beating the Notre Dame Fighting Irish 37-35 in the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl at State Farm Stadium.
Malcolm Rodriguez of the Oklahoma State Cowboys celebrates after beating the Notre Dame Fighting Irish 37-35 in the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl at State Farm Stadium. Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images via AFP.

An unlikely candidate has emerged as a contender for the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year award, and he is Detroit Lions linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez. This article discusses the Defensive Rookie of the Year futures market and why you should pay attention to Rodriguez. 

The Detroit Lions selected Rodriguez, a rookie linebacker from Oklahoma State, in the sixth round of the 2022 NFL Draft. It is typically difficult for a sixth-round pick to even make the team, let alone win a starting position. I will explain why you shouldn't ignore Rodriguez's chances of winning the Defensive Rookie of the Year award just because of his draft position.

The purpose of this article is to highlight why you should take notice of Rodriguez and what he is accomplishing early on with the Lions.

2022 Defensive Rookie of the Year Odds

PlayerPointsBetFanDuelDraftKingsCaesars
Aidan Hutchinson+650+600+600+600
Travon Walker+500+600+700+750
George Karlaftis +1000+800+750+900
Kayvon Thibodeaux+1000+800+900+1200
Ahmad Gardner+1100+1600+1000+1300
Kyle Hamilton+1400+1600+1200+1200
Nakobe Dean+1600+2000+1200+1300
Devin Lloyd+1500+2000+1500+1400
Derek Stingley+1600+1600+1200+1200
Quay Walker+1600+2000+1500+1600
Malcolm Rodriguez+6600+6000+5000N/A

2022 Defensive Rookie of the Year Pick

Rodriguez, LB, Lions (+6600 via PointsBet)

A sixth-round pick to win Defensive Rookie of the Year?

After the first week of the NFL season, Rodriguez was the top-graded defender among all rookies on Pro Football Focus. When comparing his player grade to not just rookie linebackers, he had a higher grade than veteran linebackers such as Bobby Wagner. 

You may not be a PFF fan, that's fine, neither is Patrick Mahomes. Rodriguez has an advantage as a rookie defensive player, since many people already know his name thanks to the television series Hard Knocks. As a result, Rodriguez has gained a lot of attention right out of the gate, and his flipping of Jason Kelce in Week 1 also contributed to his popularity.

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When it comes to statistics, Rodriguez has a massive opportunity as a linebacker for the Lions. Typically, linebackers on mediocre teams rack up tackles, and with Rodriguez starting Week 1, we could be looking at a player who finishes the season among the top 10 in the category. Last season, Foye Oluokun, then a linebacker for the Atlanta Falcons, led the league in tackles and assists with 192. 

I also like Rodriguez because this is a wide-open race. On the odds board, there does not appear to be a clear frontrunner at all. The favorite is Rodriguez's teammate Aidan Hutchinson, whom Rodriguez significantly outperformed in Week 1.

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Finally, the price of Rodriguez at +6600 makes him a worthwhile investment. When evaluating his price point, keep this in mind: Rodriguez played 46 snaps and recorded the highest player grade of any defensive rookie last week, yet he is trading at +6600 at PointsBet. Nakobe Dean, on the other hand, played three snaps for the Philadelphia Eagles and is listed as short as +1200 on DraftKings Sportsbook.

The markets have not caught up to Rodriguez's level of play, which is why I am betting this immediately.

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