Josh Malone was a highly-rated recruit coming out of high school. He was rated as a five-star by some recruiting services, and the wide receiver out of Gallatin, Tennessee came into Tennessee’s football program with high expectations.
It wasn’t until Malone’s junior year that he finally lived up to those expectations, however.
In Malone’s first two seasons with the Vols, he caught 54 passes for 636 yards and three touchdowns. As a junior, Malone would more than double almost all those numbers, hauling in 50 receptions for 972 yards and 11 scores before turning pro a year before his senior season.
And it’s the athleticism and skill set he showed as a junior that made the Cincinnati Bengals eager to draft him in the fourth round of this year’s NFL draft.
“We went into the draft and felt like this was a guy that maybe was somewhat overlooked but had physical tools to play at a higher level,” said Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis in an article written by Dan Hoard of Bengals.com. “We’ve had good luck with a lot of guys like that who have similar body types and come in here as young players. They’ve continued to carve out opportunity and gain more reps and take advantage of it.”
Malone was the second receiver the Bengals drafted in the 2017 NFL Draft. Cincinnati took Washington’s John Ross in the first round of the draft, then three rounds later, they drafted Malone as well. And as Hoard points out in his article, the Bengals have often found success when they select two receivers in the same draft.
Cincinnati took David Verser and Chris Collinsworth in the same draft in 1981, Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh in 2001, and Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones in 2012. Now they’re hoping for similar results from Ross and Malone.
And so far, Malone is impressing his new coaches on the practice field.
“He showed us what we thought he was,” Bengals receivers coach James Urban said. “He’s big and he’s fast and he has a good natural feel for the game. He’s learning how to run our routes and do things our way like any of them are. Especially new guys. But he has some real ability.”
Malone is also impressing his fellow rookie teammate.
“To be his height and run as well as he does and catch the ball as well as he does, I think he’s got a bright future,” said John Ross. “It’s going to be awesome to play side-by-side with him.”
It took Malone a couple seasons to come into his own at Tennessee. But he finally did, and now his new team is hoping he continues to show off his physical tools in the NFL as well.