Lions draft linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez in sixth round

The Lions added another piece to the defense by selected linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez in the sixth round (188th overall) on Saturday.

Rodriguez, who played at Oklahoma State, earned All-Big 12 honors in three straight seasons and made the first team in his final year. As the team captain was the Fiesta Bowl defensive MVP with 11 tackles, an interception, and two pass breakups in the win over Notre Dame.

Rodriguez, who is 5-foot-11 and 232 pounds, finished his career with the Cowboys by garnering All-Big 12 honors in three straight seasons, making the first team in his final year. He ranked seventh in the FBS with 76 solo tackles (129 total tackles, 15 for loss with three sacks) in 2021 and tied for 10th nationally with four forced fumbles in 14 starts. The team captain was also the Fiesta Bowl Defensive MVP with 11 tackles, an interception, and two pass breakups in the win over Notre Dame. 

In 2020, he led his team with 82 tackles (including 57 solos, tying for seventh-most in the FBS), seven for loss with three sacks, three pass breakups and two forced fumbles in 11 starts.

In high school, Rodriguez led Wagoner to three straight Oklahoma state titles at quarterback, while also being named the state Defensive Player of the Year as a senior and winning a state championship in wrestling. 

His NFL.com draft profile reads: “Rodriguez carries a compact, sawed-off frame that is muscular but stubby. His transition from read to flow is seamless, with some of the cleanest GPS to the football in this draft. He’s straight-line fast but lacks the looseness for sudden lateral bursts, which could limit his range as an NFL tackler. He can play on third downs but is very average in that department. Rodriguez has been a career gap-hog, finding and finishing runners who come his way.’’

Lions draft Illinois safety Kerby Joseph in third round

The Lions wrapped up the second day of the NFL draft by selecting safety Kerby Joseph out of Illinois in the third round (97th overall).

“When I got the phone call it’s like my eyes blew up in my head. It was just like this is finally happening, this is what I’ve been dreaming about, this is what I’ve been seeing on TV since I was kid,’’ Joseph said on a media call on Friday night. 

He said he met the Lions at the Senior Bowl and then again at the NFL Combine where he had a formal interview. He met with them again on a visit.

He had more of a reserve role in his first three years at Illinois when he worked as a receiver and safety. He also played on special teams all four seasons.

“I started off on special teams which is why I fell in love with it,’’ said Joseph who is 6-foot-1 and 203 pounds.

He was speaking in the garage to get some quiet with about 60 people at a draft party in his honor outside of Orlando. 

He had a breakout year in 2021 garnering second-team All-Big Ten honors by tying for fourth in the FBS with five interceptions and posting three fumble recoveries (along with 57 tackles, one sack in 12 games, 10 starts).

Three of Detroit’s first four draft picks have been on the defensive side of the ball.

His NFL.com draft profile calls him a free safety with average size and speed, good athleticism and only one season as a full-time starter for the Illini. He worked for all five of his interceptions last season, using both his length and range over the top. He lacks prototypical instincts as a single-high safety but that might be due to a lack of experience. He’s fluid in space but needs to play with better anticipation.

Earlier on Friday in the second round the Lions drafted defensive end Josh Paschal (Kentucky). In the first round on Thursday they selected defensive end Aidan Hutchinson (2nd overall) and wide receiver Jameson Williams (12th overall) in the first round.

The Lions have three picks on Saturday – one in the fifth round (177 overall) and two in the sixth round (181st and 217th). The draft starts at noon.

Lions draft DE Josh Paschal in second round

Josh Paschal, a defensive end, was the Lions’ second-round pick (46th overall) in the NFL draft on Friday night.

Paschal, who is 6-foot-3 and 268 pounds, played four seasons at Kentucky, playing in all 13 games as a true freshman in 2017. He was a captain for three seasons.

“It just means that I was blessed enough to be around a lot of great leaders and they helped me become the leader I am. I’m a guy who can change locker rooms,’’ Paschal said in a virtual media briefing on Friday night. “That’s my goal is to come in and learn from the veterans and also step into a leadership role as well.’’

He red-shirted his junior year while undergoing treatment for malignant melanoma which included multiple surgeries and a year of immunotherapy on the bottom of his right foot. He said the experience made him cherish his blessings.

Paschal has the ability to play in odd or even fronts.

“Versatility is one of the basics of my game. I move all across the front, I am not sure what coach (Todd) Wash and coach (Aaron) Glenn have planned, whatever it is I’ll give my all and I’m very versatile so whatever it is I’ll be able to pick it up,” Paschal said. 

His formal interview with the Lions took place at the NFL Combine.

“I met Dan Campbell, coach Wash, coach Glenn, I met them all there. We hit it off, we watched some film, we talked about ball and life. Instantly I knew it’d be a great fit,’’ Paschal said.

He’s the second defensive end drafted by the Lions in their top four picks. Detroit drafted Aidan Hutchinson, a Michigan defensive end, with the second overall pick.

Paschal said the two met at the Combine.

An NFL.com draft profile of Paschal said: “He’s like a block of granite at the point of attack with low pads and a heavy anchor. He has the twitch to see-and-shed against single blocks and the range to make a tackle a gap away. His face-up rush style lacks elusiveness and will see limited success off the edge, but his snap quickness fits perfectly as an interior rusher in sub-packages. Paschal might never be a star, but he’s a good future starter with winning character that coaches and fans will grow to love.’’

He started all 13 games in 2019 (34 tackles, 9.5 for loss with 3.5 sacks, two forced fumbles) and 10 of 11 games played in 2020 (32 tackles, 6.5 for loss). He finished his career on a high note, earning second-team All-SEC and Academic All-American honors while leading the Wildcats with 15.5 tackles for loss, including 5.5 sacks among his 53 total tackles, in 12 starts. Paschal opted out of the team’s bowl game to prepare for the NFL draft, per NFL.com.