2017 NFL Draft Player Profiles: Tennessee WR Josh Malone

From now until the 2017 NFL Draft takes place, we hope to showcase as many prospects as possible and examine both their strengths and weaknesses. Most of these profiles will feature individuals that the Pittsburgh Steelers are likely to have an interest in, while a few others will be top-ranked players. If there is a player you would like us to analyze, let us know in the comments below.

Josh Malone/WR Tennessee – 6’2/6 208

The Good

– Impressive triangle numbers, classic height/weight/speed type player
– Vertical threat, long strider and build-up speed type but shows an impressive top speed
– Big play threat and numbers reflect it
– Finds the football vertically and capable of adjusting to the arc of the ball during his route
– Size makes it difficult for him to be brought down by smaller defensive backs, fights hard for extra yardage
– Shows adequate ability to drop hips and break down underneath
– High effort guy as a blocker, throws his weight around, and appears to take pride in that aspect of the game
– Upside and game is far from refined, plenty of room to grow, only a junior
– Strong final season, put up impressive stats

The Bad

– Struggles vs press coverage, seems indecisive and doesn’t use hands well enough to beat press, too much wasted time and motion
– Generally a one trick pony, will disappear from games when he can’t get involved vertically
– Didn’t always dominate the way his tools would suggest
– Struggles to sell vertically on underneath routes, turns his head before breaking down and gives away route with his eyes, making it easy for CBs to read and react to the ball
– Route running is unrefined and primarily a vertical threat, doesn’t see a lot of success on routes outside of those
– Only one year of serious production


– Junior, declared for NFL early
– Ran a 4.4 flat at the NFL Combine
– 2016: 50 receptions, 972 yards (19.4 YPC) 11 TDs
– 2014-2015: 54 receptions, 636 yards 3 TDs
– Four star prospect out of high school, ranked the #6 WR in the nation by ESPN, best prospect in Tennessee
– Named Tennessee’s Mr. Football in 2013
– Averaged 19.8 YPC senior year of HS, 19 receiving TDs, 31 total

Tape Breakdown

Coming off the Combine, Josh Malone was one of the guys I wanted circle back to after an impressive workout. Unfortunately, the tape doesn’t get me as excited as those numbers.

There’s no doubt Malone is a vertical threat. He’s a build-up speed receiver who has a high top end. The numbers and tape suggest a guy who can fly. Was quiet for most of the game against Nebraska until he busted out for a 60 yard touchdown on this skinny post.

He has size and some YAC ability at his size, especially once he gets up to speed. Able to run through arm tackles and smaller defensive backs. And he’s young, just a junior, and his game definitely isn’t refined. You have to know what you’re getting; he’s not a Day one guy. He’s a project through and through.

What makes him that? His route tree isn’t well rounded. You don’t have to run every route great, only a few receivers can do that, especially bigger and typically stiffer guys, but Malone is basically strictly a vertical threat.

He can break down underneath a little better than I expected but his technique leaves a lot to be desired. Watch him tip off this curl early, turning his head before he starts to chop his feet.

Malone can win vs off coverage because of his ability to build up speed but he struggles to get off the line versus press. Needs to use his hands better and have a plan to get off the line. Lot of steps and wasted time/motion.

When he didn’t create the big play over the top, he was quiet, and uninvolved in the Vols’ offense. Other receivers were more impactful on a down-to-down basis than Malone. That’s a concern.

Like I wrote, you have to understand who this guy is and how he wins. Can’t expect much of a contribution in Year One. There is some intrigue just because not every big guy can run fast but I left the evaluation feeling a little disappointed from what I’d hope to find.

Projection: Mid Day Three (5th-6th Round)

Games Watched: vs Alabama, vs Tennessee Tech, at South Carolina, vs Nebraska

Previous 2017 NFL Draft Player Profiles
Deshaun WatsonHaason ReddickMarshon LattimoreCorey ClementTim Williams
Jourdan LewisTakkarist McKinleyBrad KaayaNathan PetermanO.J. Howard
Charles HarrisAlvin KamaraTyus BowserDavid NjokuDeMarcus Walker
Chidobe AwuzieDeShone KizerMarlon MackCameron SuttonZach Cunningham
Corey DavisCarl LawsonPatrick MahomesKareem HuntEvan Engram
Derek RiversRyan AndersonJoshua DobbsJordan LeggettSamaje Perine
Corn ElderBucky HodgesJames ConnerCooper KuppStanley Williams
Fred RossJamaal WilliamsGeorge KittleEjuan PriceChris Wormley
Jeremy McNicholsJoe MathisDerek BarnettAmba Etta-TawoGareon Conley
Taco Charlton Elijah McGuireRyan SwitzerTanoh KpassagnonTre’Davious White
Brian HillMatthew DayesDonnel PumphreyJosh ReynoldsNazair Jones
De’Veon SmithDavis WebbObi MelifonwuTJ WattJohn Ross
Jerod EvansVince BiegelJosh Carraway

About the Author

Alex Kozora
Full-time blogger from mom's basement. Marrying tape and statistics. Chidi Iwuoma is my favorite Steeler of all-time.
  • Spencer Krick

    I like him as a late round WR, plenty to like about his game. Would be nice to have another deep threat, in case Bryant and Coates can’t go.

  • falconsaftey43

    I’d like to see a profile of Stacy Coley from Miami please!

  • talldad

    6’3 200 ran 4.40 at the combine…no previous drug or criminal convictions in college, leader on the team…sounds like he’s worth 5 or 6 round pick

  • Applebite

    Would like to see a profile for Juju Smith-Schuster…

    Actually, I’m shocked that barely anyone has mentioned his name at all.

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  • TrappenWeisseGuy ;

    First I’ve heard of him. You don’t mention his hands, with Coates and Bryant on the team I’d consider that paramount.

  • LucasY59

    Seems like the typical later rd pickup the Steelers could make, and since they seem to know what to look for, I would be confident he will be good (or at least good value late in the draft)