Ever since the 2017 NFL Draft has ended, Vol fans have been eagerly keeping up with how the most recent crop of former Vols have been doing in practices and in the NFL preseason. But of the six most recent Vols to be drafted, there’s been one who hasn’t had as much attention paid to him as the others so far, and that’s been wide receiver Josh Malone.
Josh Malone hasn’t caught as many headlines since he was drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals in the fourth round because he’s likely going to be buried on the depth chart by several veteran receivers and a fellow rookie receiver out of the first round in John Ross. But the work he’s already put in during the offseason and what he’s shown during the preseason has stood out to his teammates.
And he’s the reason why Cincinnati is having to rethink its roster situation heading into the 2017 season.
According to Geoff Hobson, a writer for the Bengals’ official website, Cincinnati typically only carries six receivers on their roster. And right now, Josh Malone is receiver No. 7 for them. But the Bengals like what they have from all seven receivers, including their two rookies. So that means extra cuts will have to be made elsewhere.
And according to Hobson, part of the reason Malone is being kept is because he’s highly thought of by one of the Bengals’ more veteran players.
Brandon LaFell is entering his eighth season in the NFL and his second with the Bengals. LaFell had one of the best seasons of his career last year in his first season with Cincinnati, catching 64 passes for 862 yards and six scores as the Bengals’ main No. 2 option. He’s been around long enough to know what it takes to be a successful receiver in the league. And he likes what he’s seeing from Malone early in his career.
“He’s got a lot of talent, a lot of raw talent,” LaFell said after practice last week. “He can run. He’s got size. He just needs to polish up a few things, his route running. Just polish up that and get a little stronger in the weight room he can get out there and block some of these guys.
“But he’s got what you can’t teach. You can’t teach that size and that speed and the way he’s able to track the ball. He’s going to be good.”
LaFell would go on to state that Malone already “carries himself like a pro” despite Malone barely being 21.
“We sit next to each other in meetings and he picks my brain,” LaFell added. “And he listens to what you have to say.”
Malone didn’t play in the Bengals’ third preseason game this past weekend, and there’s a good chance he’ll make minimal impact as a rookie this year. But he’s shown enough in his short time with Cincinnati so far to give optimism for his future, and his teammates already have faith in him and his abilities.