Evan Rodriguez on tape

The Bears selected former Temple tight end Evan Rodriguez with their fourth-round pick in this year's draft. We go to the film room to get a better grasp on his all-around game.

There has been some recent discussion that by selecting former Temple tight end Evan Rodriguez in the fourth round of this year's draft, Chicago Bears GM Phil Emery wasted the pick.

That's borderline laughable.

Bear Report was high on Rodriguez months before the draft. We even included him in one of our four pre-draft mock drafts.

During our three-day draft chat from Halas Hall, I spotlighted Rodriguez on the first day as a potential mid-round selection. The fourth round might have been a bit too early to select him, but the Bears knew, having traded their fifth rounder to move up for Alshon Jeffery, that Rodriguez would not last until their pick in the sixth. So they wisely made the reach.


TE Evan Rodriguez
Rob Carr/Getty

Last season, Chicago's two tight ends, Kellen Davis and Matt Spaeth, combined for just 25 receptions. That lack of production was due mainly to former offensive coordinator Mike Martz's aversion to throwing to tight ends.

Davis in particular was grossly underused. He was targeted just 31 times, yet still led the team in touchdowns. Throughout his career, his per-catch production has been stellar. He's caught 28 total passes in four seasons, yet nine of those have gone for TDs. Nearly one-third of all his catches have resulted in a score.

He has ideal size (6-7, 270) and could be matchup nightmare, specifically in the red zone, if used properly. He's also a load to bring down, making him even more dangerous after the catch.

Yet he's not without his deficiencies. He has only average speed and hands, and struggles at times reading coverages. Overall, he's yet to prove he can be an elite tight end. The potential is there but no one can say for sure whether he'll live up to it.

As such, it made sense for the Bears to target a tight end in this year's draft. Yet with Rodriguez, they got much more than just a pure tight end.

At Temple, Rodriguez lined up all over the field: at tight end, fullback, H-back, in the slot and out wide. He didn't put up eye-popping numbers, which has led to a lot of the criticism, but that can easily be attributed to the Owls' offense. In 2011, Temple had a run/pass ratio of 636/198. The team ran the ball on 76.3 percent of their plays. As a result, Rodriguez caught just 35 balls for 479 yards, yet those numbers led the team.

To get a clearer picture of his potential with the Bears, we broke down film from two of his games this past season.

Temple vs. Miami (Ohio), 11/9/11

In this game Rodriguez caught six passes for passes for 74 yards, easily his best game of the season. You'll see that he lines up mostly at H-back but is shifted all over the formation.

Notable plays:

-0:20: Rodriguez takes a false step right before sprinting down the line to his left. He chips on a defender, then spins off the block and clears to the flat. He makes the catch, then turns up field and jumps over a diving tackle attempt. He picks up 15 yards after the catch.

This play shows his high level of athleticism. He changes directions, gets a block, keeps his balance, makes the catch and then breaks a tackle. In one play, he showed all the different levels of versatility he possesses.

-0:48: The play is a 20-yard run. Rodriguez makes a decent block at the point of attack but what's notable is the very end of the play. As the ball carrier is pushed out of bounds, 20 yards from the line of scrimmage, you see Rodriguez come flying into the picture. He pursued the play the entire way, showing his desire, hustle and play-through-the-whistle attitude.

-1:06: Makes a poor lead block. Doesn't find the linebacker right away and takes a bad angle. The defender takes down the running back for a minimal gain.

-1:40: One of many solid lead blocks by Rodriguez. He drives the defensive back 10 yards away from the play. He should be able to do the same to NFL corners and safeties.

-2:13: Rodriguez starts his route inside then quickly spins back outside, demonstrating his outstanding change-of-direction ability.

Temple vs. Wyoming, Gildan New Mexico Bowl, 12/17/11

Rodriguez catches just two passes for 52 yards in this game, spending most of the contest as a blocker.

Notable plays:

-First highlight: Rodriguez releases down the seam and is uncovered. He makes the catch and picks up 40 yards. It's hard to glean much from this play as it was an obvious blown coverage by the defense but it does show Rodriguez's straight-line speed and hands up the field.

-0:49: Temple lines him up wide right. It's a sweep right. Rodriguez drives the defensive back backward 10 yards. If the Bears do the same thing, using him as a blocker out wide, the potential for sweeps and tosses to turn into big plays increases substantially.

-2:33: Rodriguez pass blocks on a rollout left. The defender cuts inside him, yet Rodriguez stays with the block, eventually laying out to take the defensive lineman out of the play. Outstanding effort.

Analysis

Rodriguez is an active, willing blocker who packs a punch. He doesn't possess the power of a pure fullback but he can more than hold his own leading into the hole. He sometimes plays too fast and fails to break down completely, but that can be remedied. One thing you notice time and again is Rodriguez blocking through the whistle. This will quickly endear him to Chicago's coaches, particularly head coach Lovie Smith.

As a receiver, Rodriguez has solid hands and runs sharp routes. At 6-1, 239, he has the ability to sneak into the secondary without garnering too much attention. His 4.58 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine shows his great speed.

Yet his quickness is his most-impressive trait. At the combine, he was a Top 10 performer amongst tight ends in the three-cone drill, the 20-yard shuttle and the 60-yard shuttle – the three drills that measure foot speed and quickness. On film, his change-of-direction skill is at an elite level and should help him create separation against NFL linebackers and safeties.

Offensive coordinator Mike Tice now has a versatile, experienced and athletic weapon that he can line up anywhere on the field to be used in a number of different ways. When you consider his overall athleticism and flexibility, one could argue he was a steal in the fourth round.

Follow me on Twitter: @BearReport


Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of Bear Report magazine and BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.

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