The Underrated WR Prospect From a Major School
I was scrolling through my Twitter timeline recently, when I saw this post about Josh Malone from Scouting Academy’s Matt Caraccio.
— Matt Caraccio (@Matty_OS) February 25, 2017
With both Caraccio and Bucky Brooks interested in the outlook of Tennessee’s Josh Malone, I decided to do some research on him. What I found was very impressive.
Who Is Josh Malone?
Malone is a wide receiver prospect from Tennessee who, outside of the two guys in the intro, has received no buzz from the draft community. To that point, the latest RotoViz Scouting Index currently lists 31 draft-eligible WRs.
Malone is not one of them.
Malone probably does not gain much recognition due to the low pass volume of the offense (just 42 percent in 2016), and the relative lack of notoriety for the program (no more than nine wins during Malone’s time there). However, it seems as though he deserves much more of our attention.
Let’s take a look at what Malone has accomplished during his time with the Vols.
After being a minor contributor as a freshman, Malone saw steady improvement in his market share of the Tennessee passing game as a sophomore and junior. Furthermore, he was a big-play threat in his final season, racking up a YPR of 19.4 on 50 receptions.
Despite Malone’s lack of career production, he still makes his way into one of the top leaves in Kevin Cole’s regression tree on WR prospects. Much like Shelton Gibson, this comes with the caveat of a small sample size (n=14 for that leaf) and a margin of error of less than 50 yards (just 39 yards away from being in the worst leaf on the tree). Still, Malone certainly looks like he should at least be ranked right now in the RSI.
The Advanced Stats
Malone looks even better when we check out some of the advanced statistics that Josh Hermsmeyer has put together on this WR class. Here are some of Malone’s highlights.
- 36 percent of Tennessee’s air yards despite just a 20 percent target share.
- A catch rate of 61 percent with a 15.6 aYPT.
- A WOPR of 0.55, which was top six for the 13 teams with data.
We only have a small sample of teams that we can analyze with this lens, but Malone looks to be one of the best of the group. Take a look at how he stacks up against Clemson’s Mike Williams, who is the top ranked WR in the RSI.
|Player||Catch %||Contested Catch %||Juke Rate||Air Yards||Tgt Share||MS Air||aYPT||RACR||WOPR|
Williams was more involved in a much more prolific pass offense, which is important to keep in mind when thinking about the context of this data. However, it is remarkable how similar he and Malone are in the rate stats. While Williams is clearly the better overall prospect, I think this gives credence to the idea that Malone can be effective, and warrants consideration from prospective NFL teams and fantasy players alike.
Perhaps the best part about Malone is his age. He isn’t in our draft age database just yet, but a quick Google search tells me that his birthday is March 21st, 1996. That gives him a final age of 20.75. The only WR in the database younger than Malone is USC’s JuJu Smith-Schuster. He’s about a year and a half younger than Williams, which makes Malone’s statistical profile look even better.
Josh Malone absolutely deserves more recognition from the scouting community and could end up being a steal for your fantasy teams. He is incredibly young and has posted some numbers that make him noteworthy. He was also invited to the NFL scouting combine, which is critical for the success of any WR. Keep track of Malone throughout the draft process. It would not surprise me at all to see him go relatively early in the draft, and end up being a valuable commodity.