The Washington Commanders selected Kentucky running back Chris Rodriguez Jr. with the 193rd overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. Here are five things to know about the newest member of the backfield.
1. He was a touchdown machine in high school.
Let's make one thing clear about Rodriguez: the kid knows how to get into the end zone.
Rodriguez began his playing career at Ola High School, which is not far from Antonio Gibson’s high school in McDonough, Georgia, and one of the reasons why the Mustangs finished the 2017 and 2018 seasons at the top of their district was because he scored with such ease. As a sophomore, he rushed for 1,401 yards and 15 touchdowns.
That's a solid season, but Rodriguez took his production to another level during his junior and senior campaigns. During that time, he scored a combined 51 touchdowns while rushing for 3,329 yards, earning him all-state honors and helping the Mustangs finish with back-to-back winning records.
It's unclear at this point what Rodriguez's role will be with the Commanders, but if the offense needs someone to put six points on the board, he should be up to the task.
2. Pro Football Focus believes he was the best running back in the SEC.
Like all websites that specialize in analytics, Pro Football Football's metrics are not perfect. However, PFF's numbers do point to Rodriguez being one of the best running backs in college football last year.
By the time the 2022 season was over, Rodriguez was tied for the seventh best offensive grade among running backs (90.8) and the second grade among backs in the SEC.
Technically, Rodriguez took a step back in production last year with 904 yards and six touchdowns, although that was due to him playing in five fewer games compared to his 2021 season. He still managed to put up strong PFF numbers when he was on the field with his running grade (90.7) and fumble grade (90.6) being the second best of his college career in those categories.
Rodriguez might be a sixth-round pick, but it looks like the Commanders are going to get plenty of value out of him.
3. He left a decorated career at Kentucky.
Rodriguez spent five seasons with the Wildcats, and by the time his career had wrapped up, there were few Kentucky running backs who were as impressive as him.
Rodriguez wasn't a full-time starter until his junior year, but he still managed to be a model of consistency with 3,644 yards, averaging 6.2 yards per carry. That career rushing total was good enough for fifth among active rushers in the FBS, but it was also the third-most in program history.
Remember when we talked about how good Rodriguez was at scoring touchdowns? Well, that skill set carried over to the college level. He had 32 rushing touchdowns and 35 total scores, which ranks second and fourth on team's all-time list, respectively.
And when it came to recording 100-yard games, there is no Kentucky player better than Rodriguez. He had 20 in his career with the Wildcats, which broke a school record.
4. Eric Bieniemy likes him a lot.
Rodriguez already has an advocate at the Commanders' facility, and that person happens to be the team's new offensive coordinator.
"This is a guy that Eric was very high on," Rivera said. "He's a guy that Eric thinks will most certainly have a role for us on the offensive side."
Rodriguez is bringing a new offense to Washington with him, so he naturally wants players who will fit that scheme. They feel good about what they have in Gibson and Brian Robinson Jr., but they did need a third player in the rotation.
Clearly, Washington believes Rodriguez can offer a change of pace behind their top two backs.
"Adding a physical player in Christopher is a guy that, talking to Eric and what Eric wants to do and how he wants to use him, in Eric's mind, this is a guy that will fit what he wants," Rivera said. "And so we're pretty excited about being able to pick him. We had a higher grade on him too as well. So we thought we got a lot of value here."
Rivera also said that Bieniemy was "emphatic" about taking Rodriguez with their sixth-round pick because of his potential to be a third-down back. So, if Rodriguez ends up being a hit, you can thank Bieniemy for making it clear that he needs to be part of the backfield.
Check out the top photos from Kentucky running back Chris Rodriguez's college career. (Photos via The Associated Press)
5. He's ready to make an impact.
Maybe Rodriguez will end up being a third-down back for the Commanders during his rookie season. Perhaps he'll end up being mostly on special teams or some combination of the two.
Either way, Rodriguez wants to do his part.
"I just wanna show them that I'm willing to do anything," Rodriguez said. "Not only am I willing to be a running back, I'm willing to be a great teammate, willing to be on special teams, any special teams at that, and I'm gonna give him my best 24/7."
Rodriguez also promised that "there's not gonna be a day that I take a day off." That's good; as a sixth-round pick, Rodriguez will need to work every day to earn a role, regardless of what that ends up being in 2023.
And considering how seriously Rodriguez takes this opportunity, it's likely that he will keep his word.
"This is something I've been dreaming for my whole life and it's coming true, so it's time to get to it."