The Cincinnati Bengals went to great lengths to upgrade their offense in the 2017 NFL Draft.
After taking John Ross and Joe Mixon in the first two rounds, they added another playmaking pass-catcher in Round 4, which came in Tennessee Volunteers wide receiver Josh Malone. 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.
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 where the Bengals did with the No. 128 pick was a good value.
- Mel Kiper had Malone ranked as his seventh-best prospect coming into Day 3 and 78th overall.
- Fellow ESPN draft expert Todd McShay had Malone ranked 103rd.
- Malone was Pro Football Focus’ 150th-best prospect coming into the draft.
- CBS Sports had him ranked 97th.
- The Cold Omaha Consensus Big Board, which factors in every major draft ranking, had Malone ranked as the 139th-best prospect in this draft.
It’s clear the Bengals got somewhere between good to great value based on when they selected Malone, depending on which experts you trust most. The Bengals are certainly hoping they got another late-round receiver who contributes to the team in a meaningful way.
Since 2001, we’ve seen guys like T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Tab Perry, Dezmon Briscoe, Marvin Jones, James Wright, Cobi Hamilton and Cody Core go from being late-round receivers to making impacts of varying degrees in their pro careers, whether it was with the Bengals or elsewhere.
Malone has as much, if not more potential than all of those guys did coming out of college, but having talent and properly harnessing it are what separate fringe roster guys like Hamilton from stars like Houshmandzadeh.
Let’s hope the latter is the kind of player Malone becomes.