Name: Josh Malone
Position fit: Outside receiver
Stats to know: Malone’s 2.44 yards per route run ranked sixth in the SEC, and his QB had a rating of 144.4 when targeting him, the highest rating in the conference.
What he does best:
- Strong but soft hands. Catches the ball very well and has a solid catch radius. Ball does not need to be on target for him to catch it. Has made circus catches in the past.
- Has the size, strength and ability to win contested catch situations. Knows how to box defenders out and shield the ball.
- Can outrun defenders on go routes, has long strides and great tracking ability over his shoulder for deep routes. Ran a 4.40 40-yard dash at the NFL combine.
- Showed potential as a route-runner at all three levels of the field. Mostly ran go’s, hooks and crossing routes but showed some sharp breaks on slant routes.
- No fear crossing over the middle into linebacker territory.
- Always keeps feet churning, defensive backs had a hard time bring him down by themselves.
- Physical and aggressive player. Very willing (although raw) run-blocker. Extremely tough and durable, never missed a game in three seasons at Tennessee.
- Takes a long time to get up to speed. Really can’t separate unless he has a lot of space to run in a straight line.
- Not a “sudden” athlete so quick stop-and-go routes or breaking ones are not in his wheelhouse.
- Possible question of effort as there were only a few times all season where he actually looked like a 4.4-speed receiver. Most of the time he looked much slower.
- Lets ball get into his body on catches more often than he should.
- Struggled in minimal snaps against press coverage, was slow off the line and rerouted too often.
- Did not win a lot of 50/50 jump balls, not very good at high-pointing balls. Only jumped 30.5 inches at combine, so may just not be a good jumper. Is better at using his body and adjusting to the ball in the air, however.
- Doesn’t offer much in terms of an after-the-catch runner. Will throw a stiff arm to gain a few extra yards but won’t actually break many tackles.
Player comparison: Tyrell Williams, Los Angeles Chargers
Williams has good size and speed, bringing a big-play dynamic to the Chargers’ offense. While Malone isn’t as good of an all-around athlete, his size, speed, and big-play ability are comparable.
Bottom line: Malone finally lived up to his recruiting hype with a strong 2016 campaign, adding a big-play dynamic to the Tennessee offense. He may not make an immediate impact, but he has the size, speed, and ball skills to add a vertical threat at the next level. There’s still work to be done to polish up other parts of his game, but at only 21 years old and armed with quality tools, Malone is an intriguing mid-round prospect who may develop into a full-time, productive receiver.