The 2013 Mr. Football in the state of Tennessee, Josh Malone made a lot of people very happy in Knoxville when he decided to stay home and play for the Volunteers despite numerous offers from more prestigious schools such as Ohio State, Florida State and Clemson, among many others. Although a highly coveted 4-star recruit, it took Malone a while to get going.
As a junior, Malone saw a breakout year in which he caught 50 passes for 972 receiving yards and 11 TDs while averaging a staggering 19.2 yards per catch. Malone’s 11 TD catches were the most at Tennessee since former 1st round pick Robert Meachem. His 972 receiving yards were more than double of any previous amount, and his 11 TDs more than tripled his career total as he entered the year with only 3.
Malone helped his case at the Combine after posting a 4.4 flat in the 40-yard dash, although the rest of his workout was subpar. With that being said, you know how teams will drool over players with speed. Malone brings some upside as he’s one of the youngest prospects in the entire draft class. He’s bound to fly off the board early on Day 3.
Name: Josh Malone
Size: 6’3”/208/31 3/8” Arm Length
Comparison: Brandon LaFell (Cincinnati Bengals)
Draft Grade: Late Day 3
Combine Results: 40-Yard Dash: 4.40 – Bench Press: 10 Reps – Vertical Jump: 30.5” – Broad Jump: 121” – 3-Cone Drill: 7.05 – 20-Yard Shuttle: 4.19
Positives: Prototypical size for a starting receiver. Soft hands. Won’t see him drop many passes. Adequate hand size. Comes back to the ball well with a smooth turnaround. Strong legs and will keep them pumping to carry the pile. Continues to steadily increase speed as route develops. Best at gaining separation on his routes at the intermediate range. Sets up defender well in that range and cuts quickly to the inside on slants. Displays good recognition as a blocker. Will help on a block then bounce out to engage another different with a path to the ball. Approaches blocks with a lot of steam and engages physically. Durable. Played in every game while at Tennessee. Among the youngest prospects in the draft – just turned 21 in late March.
Negatives: Struggles to create after the catch – won’t rack up any YAC. Lacks explosion/burst in open field. Typically wrestled down immediately after gaining possession. Lacks separation on vertical routes – appears to not give 100%. His 4.4 speed doesn’t translate on the field. Choppy footwork. Slow out of his release and looks hesitant to make a move. Pumps feet too much at the point of attack. No spark to his routes. Won’t see him stop-n-go on a dime like other receivers in this class as he lacks that sudden athleticism. Won’t go vertical to high point any balls as his vertical jump at the Combine indicates. Lacks impact in the redzone due to frame and leaping ability. Made no impact against top competition (Alabama) this past season.
Outlook: Malone is a young, raw prospect with upside who’s game still demands a lot of grooming. He has incredibly soft hands and quite possibly the best you’ll find on Day 3 of the draft. I love his fight and competitiveness as a blocker and when he meets contact after the catch. However, he lacks nuance to his route running and fails to create anything after the catch. While his 4.4 speed was a great time for him, it doesn’t translate on the field. Still, he remains an intriguing piece with his upside and flexible progression timeline.