Updated: Jun 3
By Adam Aniba
Last year Washington drafted Brian Robinson in the 3rd round, valuing his ability as a downhill bruising runner. With new Assistant Coach/OC Eric Bieniemy, they invested in a late day 3 powerback selecting Chris Rodriguez Jr., who is viewed as the steal of the draft for the Commanders.
Former Washington GM Scot McCloughan recently appeared on The Al Galdi Podcast and had the following to say about Rodriguez.
"I gave him a second round grade. He's made for the NFL and is an every down back.
Chris Rodriguez Jr.
5'11" 224 lbs | RB | Kentucky
Drafted 6th Rd #193 Overall
Career (46 Games)- 592 rush att for 3,644 yds & 32 TDs (6.8 yds per rush)
*Receiving- 20 rec for 116 yds 3 TDs (5.8 per rec)
'22 Stats (8 Games)- 175 rush att for 904 yds & 6 TDs (5.2 yds per rush)
*Receiving- 5 rec for 41 yds 2 TDs (8.2 per rec)
Rodriguez grew up in McDonough, GA lettering in football, basketball and track for Ola High School. On the football field Rodriguez lined up at running back and strong safety.
As a senior, the Ola running back ran for 1,669 yards for 25 touchdowns (7.2 yards per carry avg). In three seasons Rodriguez totaled 4,730 rushing yards and 66 touchdowns. He received All-County, All-Region and All-State honors.
As a 3-star prospect, Rodriguez was heavily recruited by Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Kentucky. Rodriguez ultimately chose to play for the Wildcats.
In 2018 Rodriguez redshirted and saw action in 3 games. Although he only had 43 yards on the season, he accumulated those yards on only 2 attempts vs Murray State (9/15/18) in his first career game.
In '19 Rodriguez was active in 13 games. He accounted for 533 yards rushing on 71 attempts and 6 touchdowns. The Wildcats RB averaged 7.5 yards per carry (second on the team behind Lynn Bowden’s program record). He finished the season ranked 9th among SEC freshman with 41 yards rushing per game.
Rodriguez had a career-high 129 yards rushing on 15 carriers and 2 touchdowns in the win over Vanderbilt (11/16/19). During the Belk Bowl win over Virginia Tech (12/31/19) Rodriguez recorded a 2-yard TD run.
In 2020 Rodriguez was active in 11 games and was the the Wildcats leading rusher with 785 yards on 119 carries and 11 touchdowns (team-high). His 6.6 yards per carry average Led the SEC (ranked fifth in the SEC in rushing 87.2 ypg) and ranked 17th in the nation.
The Kentucky back was named 1st-Team All-SEC by Pro Football Focus for his production in '20. Rodriguez had 4 games where he rushed for 100 or more yards with a career best 149 yards against Vanderbilt (11/14/20). He also had a career long 79-yard run against S.Carolina (12/5/20).
In 2021 Rodriguez was named a Team Captain. He played in 13 games and rushed for 1,379 yards and 10 TDs, which ranked 2nd in the SEC (18th in the nation). He ranked 2nd in the SEC in rushing yards per game as well with a 106.1 yards (ranked 12th nationally).
He finished the season ranked 2nd in the SEC in rushing yards per carry (6.13 yards). The Wildcats running back also had 13 receptions for 61 yards and 3 touchdowns.
His efforts led to another 1st-Team All-SEC selection by the The Associated Press. Rodriguez was also on the Doak Walker Award Watch List (honors the top running back in college football).
Rodriguez recorded nine 100-yard rushing games in '21 (school record) and set another program record with 5 consecutive games with a rushing touchdown.
In the Vrbo Citrus Bowl win vs Iowa (1/1/22), Rodriguez rushed for 107 yards, which included the game winning 6-yard TD run with only 1:48 remaining in the regulation.
The 2022 season would be filled with ups and downs for the Wildcats running back. The Wildcats RB was suspended the first 2 games of the season due to a a DUI.
Despite the off the field setback, Rodriguez played in 8 games and ran for 904 yards with 6 TDs and a 5.2 yards per rush average. The Kentucky back totaled 100-plus rushing yards in 5 of the last 6 games, continuing to be a hard assignment for SEC defenses.
Despite being drafted in the 6th round, multiple reputable scouts and draft evaluators had a 2nd-3rd round grade on Rodriguez.
His lack of opportunities in the passing game didn't help his draft stock. In saying that, early impressions during OTA's have been extremely positive. New OC Eric Bieniemy mentioned how they were pleasantly surprised with his ability as a pass catcher and his maturity.
Battering Ram style, often requiring multiple defenders to bring him down (6.8 YPC career avg.)
Experience in zone and gap schemes
Displays patience when navigating running lanes
Powerful stiff arm
Effective blocker who showed strides every season
North/South runner with limited wiggle
Limited burst when in the open field
Runs a bit too upright and needs to lower his pad level when attacking the hole
Lack of reps in receiving game could limit him to a situational runner
Less than 2 years removed from a DUI arrest
The release of J.D. McKissic came as a mild surprise, but to see Washington replace him with a power back was initially a head scratcher.
The early returns from OTA's have been positive for Rodriguez and it sounds as if he'll have a role in Bieniemy offense early on.
The former Kentucky running back isn't a finished product and still needs to prove that he's matured since his '22 arrest. Bottom line is Rodriguez runs with power and coaches believe an effective run game, will help their young second year quarterback.
McCloughan and other NFL prospect evaluators feel that Rodriguez is a dependable back, that displays the ability to churn out tough yards. In addition, the former Wildcats RB displays impressive ball security, while being a pile pusher.
Bieniemy mentioned the importance of depth players contributing on special teams and that might be the fastest way for Rodriquez to get on the field.
His role in the run game will likely be limited this season, but if Robinson or Gibson miss anytime, Rodriguez could see the field early on.
*Games Watched- 10/8/22 vs S.Carolina, 10/15 vs MIss St., 11/5 vs Mizzou, 11/12 vs Vanderbilt, 11/19 UGA & 11/26 vs Louisville