The New York Giants are committed to adding talent to their roster. And while that means finding top of the depth chart starters, it also means adding to the depth throughout the roster.
Kentucky running back Chris Rodriguez likely won’t be drafted early. However, he has a useful skill set that could make him a solid piece in a running back rotation. Thanks to the 2023 drafts’ depth at the position, the NFL’s evolving attitude towards individual running back value, and Rodriguez’ potential off-field concerns, he could prove to be a late-round value.
Could the Kentucky product be a low-cost improvement for the Giants’ running back depth chart?
Prospect: Chris Rodriguez (24)
Games Watched: vs. Georgia (2021), vs. Ole Miss (2022), vs. South Carolina (2022), vs. Mississippi State (2022)
Red Flags: Arrested for DUI in the summer of 2022
Weight: 224 pounds
Games Played: 40
Yards (YPC): 3,643 (6.2 per carry)
Yards (YPC): 116 (5.8 per catch)
Total Touchdowns (rushing/receiving): 36 (33 rushing, 3 receiving)
Games Played: 8
Yards (YPC): 904 (5.2 per carry)
Yards (YPC): 41 (8.2 per catch)
Total Touchdowns (rushing/receiving): 6 (6 rushing, 0 receiving)
Best: Size, strength, athleticism, vision, competitive toughness
Worst: Long speed, pass game utility, off-field concerns
Projection: An important role players with versatility and 3-down upside
(Rodriguez is Kentucky RB number 24)
Kentucky red-shirt senior Chris Rodriguez Jr. is a compact, powerful, and versatile running back prospect.
Rodriguez has a good frame and size for the position at the NFL level, measuring 5-foot-11, 224 pounds. He is a versatile back who is able to run out of a variety of alignments and schemes. Rodriguez has experience lining up beside the quarterback in the shotgun, or behind center in the I, power-I, offset-I, or pistol formations. He was asked to carry the ball in man-gap, inside zone, and outside zone runs, and was able to execute in all cases.
Rodriguez runs with very good tempo behind the line of scrimmage. He’s a patient runner who does a good job of allowing his linemen to establish their blocks before pressing the line of scrimmage. He also shows good vision behind the line of scrimmage, anticipating holes as well as defenders at the second level. Rodriguez pairs a surprising burst and acceleration with his patience as a runner. He is able to explode through holes, quickly changing defenders’ angles and forcing poor tackle attempts.
He is a powerful runner with a strong lower body and great contact balance. Rodriguez is very difficult for individual defenders to bring down quickly, with safeties and linebackers often needing to gang-tackle him or give up yards after contact. His play strength, balance, and low center of gravity allow him to run through incidental contact and ignore attempts at arm-tackles. He does a good job of securing the ball with two hands as he prepares for contact.
Rodriguez has surprising agility to go with his initial burst. He’s able to vary his stride track and has a fluid lower-body, allowing him to drop his hips and cut suddenly. Good ankle flexibility allows him to carry speed through his cuts.
While Rodriguez has impressive acceleration and stride frequency, he doesn’t have a particularly high top speed. He lacks the long speed to be a true break-away threat and is able to be run down from behind. Likewise, while Rodriguez flashes potential as a pass catcher, he is relatively inexperienced. He wasn’t a regular part of Kentucky’s passing offense, and he appears somewhat clunky and mechanical as a receiver down the field.
Rodriguez has impressive competitive toughness and doesn’t hesitate to take on contact from larger defenders or lay blocks for his teammates. However, he still needs development in that area. His blocking technique is inconsistent at best at this point, and he can be slow to pick up pressure or get into position. He has the potential to be a good pass protector, but isn’t one yet.
Overall Grade: 7.0
Rodriguez projects as an important role player in a backfield rotation to start his career. He has the traits to play out of a wide variety of alignments and schemes, which should make him a fit for almost any offense. Likewise, he should be able to handle a high volume of carries early on. His power, leg drive, vision, quickness, and acceleration will likely make him an early-down or short-yardage back early in his career.
Teams should understand that while Rodriguez is a versatile runner who should be able to consistently gain yardage between the 20s, he likely isn’t a big-play threat. His vision, contact balance, and acceleration make him difficult for defenses to stop quickly. However, he lacks the top-end speed to be a consistent breakaway threat with the ball in his hands.
Teams will likely want to avoid using Rodriguez in obvious passing situations early in his career.
He has competitive toughness, play strength, and leverage to be a capable pass protector at the NFL level. But right now he is too inconsistent in his technique. There are occasions where he quickly identifies pressure, attacks the defender, and buys his quarterback time in the pocket. But there are other instances where he can be a beat late in identifying pressure, not attack the defender, or meet the defender with poor technique or leverage. Likewise, Rodriguez wasn’t often used as a receiver in Kentucky’s offense, with just 20 receptions in his 5-year career. He flashes some upside in that area, but will need development.
Teams will want to do their due diligence and investigate his Summer 2022 arrest for DUI.
Assuming his off-field character checks out, Rodriguez does have the potential to be a true workhorse, three-down back at the NFL level. However, he might need a season’s worth of development and coaching before he realizes his full potential.