By taking Malone with the 128th pick of the 2017 NFL Draft, the Bengals made it pretty clear they weren’t happy with their offense in 2017. After taking Washington receiver John Ross and Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon in the first two rounds, they added another playmaker in Round 4 in Malone.
The former Tennessee Volunteers receiver was one of the best receivers in the SEC this past season. The 6’3”, 208-pound Malone caught 50 passes for 972 yards (19.4 avg.) and 11 scores this past season.
Despite the great production, Malone was projected to be drafted in the Round 4-5 range, so getting him here was good value. Part of the reason why Malone didn’t get more love was he was hit or miss in his first two seasons of college football, catching 54 balls for 636 yards and three scores across 19 games from 2014-15.
The Bengals were expected to add multiple receivers in this draft, and Malone was an ideal candidate on Day 3 after Ross went in the first round. Malone is more of a bigger possession receiver with good speed that will play on the boundary, whereas Ross is a small burner that will play in the slot and boundary, so their games will complement each other.
Adding three playmakers like Ross, Mixon and Malone within their first five picks in this draft showed just how committed to upgrading the offense the Bengals were, and they did a great job of making it happen.
That said, Malone probably won’t see the field much as a rookie. With veterans Brandon LaFell and A.J. Green being joined by promising slot man Tyler Boyd, Malone will be battling Ross, Cody Core and Alex Erickson just to be active on game days, let alone get meaningful snaps. That doesn’t take away from the immense potential Malone has, but don’t expect to see much of it during his rookie season.
Three Bengals draftees remain unsigned: running back Joe Mixon (second round; Oklahoma), defensive end Jordan Willis (third round; Kansas State) and offensive lineman J.J. Dielman (fifth round; Utah).