Josh Malone had a breakout junior campaign as the Vols’ No. 1 wide receiver in 2016. Malone set career marks in catches (50), receiving yards (972), touchdowns (11), and yards per catch (19.4). His impressive junior season was enough for him to feel comfortable forgoing his senior season and declaring early for the NFL draft.
But not everyone agreed with his decision to leave early, and some scouts and analysts claimed they wished they could’ve seen more production from Malone before he declared early. But a couple scouts like what they saw from Malone and think he will make a strong No. 2 receiver in the NFL.
Bucky Brooks, an NFL scout and co-host of the Move the Sticks Podcast for NFL.com, has a high opinion of Malone. Brooks states that Malone’s “slick route-running skills are uncommon for a big receiver, which is why some receiver coaches are certain to fall in love with his talent and potential in the coming weeks.”
Brooks notes Malone’s speed and athleticism, but he was more impressed with his awareness and ability to run crisp, clean routes. Brooks stated Malone “shows outstanding patience in setting up defenders with crafty moves at the top of his routes.” He also added that Malone’s “enticing mix of size, speed and playmaking skills” will make him desirable to NFL teams as a potential No. 2 receiver. “It’s only a matter of time before we hear (Malone’s name) thrown into the mix as late risers up the board,” Brooks stated.
But Brooks wasn’t the only scout impressed with Malone’s ability.
Brooks also spoke with an AFC college scouting director who has a similar analysis on Malone’s future as an NFL receiver. “I really like both of those guys as potential No. 2s in the passing game,” the scouting director said of Malone and LSU’s Malachi Dupree. “Dupree and Malone have the size to play big in the red zone and they bring some big-play ability as vertical threats.
“I know people are talking up other guys as mid-round sleepers, but I would bet on each of these guys to make their mark as pros.”
In the same piece, Brooks praised another former Vol, Derek Barnett, as potentially the best pass rusher available in the upcoming draft. Brooks appears to be high on at least two of Tennessee’s prospects for the 2017 NFL Draft, and he believes Malone should be higher on draft boards than he appears to be.