FanPost

Josh Malone may be better than you think

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

When the Cincinnati Bengals drafted former Tennessee wide receiver Josh Malone, the consensus among experts was the Bengals received a real steal. But just how big of a steal?

Malone was one of the top receivers in the SEC in 2016, but how does he compare to another former SEC standout, LSU product Odell Beckham, Jr.?

Both elected to declare for the draft after their junior years in college. In 2013, his final year at LSU, Beckham played in 13 games and caught 59 passes for 1,152 yards, an average of 19.5 yards per catch.

Malone also played in 13 games as a junior at Tennessee. He made 50 receptions for 972 yards, an average of 19.4 yards per catch, and caught 67 percent of all passes thrown his way. A.J. Green's catch rate was 66 percent before his injury last season, and he was on pace for a career year. Beckham's catch rate for the year was below 62 percent. Malone scored 11 touchdowns to only eight for Beckham in his final season at LSU. For his career, Malone tallied 14 touchdowns to 12 for Beckham.

Beckham College Stats:

Year

G

Rec

Yds

Avg

TD

*2011

14

41

475

11.6

2

*2012

13

43

713

16.6

2

*2013

13

59

1152

19.5

8

Career

143

2340

16.4

12

Malone College Stats:

Year

G

Rec

Yds

Avg

TD

*2014

9

23

231

10

1

*2015

10

31

405

13.1

2

2016

13

50

972

19.4

11

Career

104

1608

15.5

14

Coming out of LSU, Beckham was seen as a receiver with great speed (he ran a 4.43 second 40-yard dash at the NFL scouting combine) who was known for making the contested catches. He was also a willing blocker who could win the physical battle with defensive backs.

Malone also possesses great speed. His 40-yard dash time of 4.40 seconds at the combine in Indianapolis in early March was the third fastest among all receivers. He has a reputation for making the tough catches, and, like Beckham, is an able blocker.

Not since Robert Meachem, a first-round pick of the New Orleans Saints in 2006, has a Tennessee receiver caught than many scoring passes in one season. At least one anonymous scout actually had Malone rated as high as the second round. Cincinnati drafted Malone in the fourth round with the 128th overall pick.

"I think he has the potential to be a third receiver in an offense, and soon," said Phil Savage, a former NFL GM who now serves as the executive director of the Senior Bowl. "No doubt, he could have worked his way up higher in the NFL draft if he had come back for another season at Tennessee."

Among SEC wide receivers, Malone ranked third in yards and touchdowns, and his 19.4-yard per-catch average ranked second in the conference and tied for 11th nationally. Beckham, on the other hand, ranked fourth in yards among SEC receivers and fifth in touchdowns, and his 19.5-yard-per-catch ranked third in the SEC and 11th nationally.

Even the perceived weaknesses of each of the receivers had their similarities. Beckham needed work on his route running, and Malone's route running is a work in progress. Both, while able blockers, still needed work in that area.

Although Beckham ended up going to the New York Giants with the 12th pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, not all experts had him pegged that high. NFL.com profiled him as a first or second round selection, and predicted him as no better than a No. 3 receiver.

What kept Malone from being drafted even higher is the fact he only had one great year while at Tennessee. NFL teams usually look at a receiver's complete body of work. Malone started six games as a true freshman and recorded 23 receptions for 231 yards and a touchdown. As a sophomore and full-time starter, he caught 31 passes for 405 and two scores. He only had four 100-yard performances during his career and three of those came in his last five games.

Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.comis a firm believer in Malone's talent. "He has a tall, lean frame and makes a lot of plays down the field against quality competition. He tracks the ball easily and wins a lot of 50-50 battles. He's a very smooth, slithery athlete with the ball in his hands."

Bucky Brooks, Jeremiah's colleague at NFL.com, was equally impressed with Malone's speed and athleticism, but came away even more excited about his awareness and ability to run crisp, clean routes. Brooks stated that Malone "shows outstanding patience in setting up defenders with crafty moves at the top of his routes."

Just imagine the possibilities.

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of Cincy Jungle's writers or editors. It does reflect the views of this particular fan, which is as important as the views of Cincy Jungle's writers or editors.