The 2017 WR Sweet 16: (3) John Ross vs (14) Josh Malone
The RotoViz Wide Receiver Prospect Sweet 16 Tournament matches the top incoming prospects in a head-to-head March Madness style format. Various RotoViz writers break down each match-up with the winner moving on to the next round.
(3) John Ross vs (14) Josh Malone
John Ross enters the WR Sweet 16 as one of the hotter prospects after breaking Chris Johnson’s 40-yard dash record at the combine. The speed Ross possesses has some analysts moving Ross to the top of their WR boards. Posting 1,150 yards and 18 touchdowns shows that Ross has the ability to put up elite-level numbers. Is his speed enough to make him a featured player at the NFL level?
Josh Malone is one of the more underrated WR prospects in this tournament. A size/speed specimen, Malone posted a 19.4 ypr average to go along with his 11 touchdowns during his junior year. Taking a look at the Heatmap below shows just how close these players are from a production standpoint. Will this match up be as cut and dry as some people think?
Shawn Siegele – John Ross: Malone still sits outside the top-20 WRs in the latest RotoViz Scouting Index, an indication that he won’t be selected early enough to have initial fantasy value. It’s unfortunate because his market share numbers within the context of the junior class are almost as strong as those of Ross within the redshirt juniors.
Matthew Freedman – John Ross: John Ross is small, but he’s fast, productive as a receiver, runner, and return man, and a likely first-round pick. Malone isn’t guaranteed to be even the best wide receiver named Josh in this class.
Anthony Amico – Josh Malone: I would rather have Malone than Ross straight up at this point. With the expected difference in draft cost, he’s a no-brainer for me in this contest. Malone averaged 19.4 YPR in his final season and is one of the youngest WRs in this class. He also posted air yards numbers similar to Mike Williams, who is the top seed in this contest. At the Combine, he ran a 4.40 at 6’3″ and 208 pounds, which should boost his draft stock. Ross is the projected first rounder, but I think Malone goes in the second and ultimately outproduces the straight-line fast but late-producer in Ross.
Jordan Hoover – John Ross: This match up is closer than some might expect. Malone has size and speed. He’s an intriguing prospect who could easily exceed expectations in the right situation. That being said, Ross is essentially guaranteed to be drafted several rounds before Malone, which we know is a crucial factor in prospect evaluation. I’m not as high on Ross as others likely are, but nonetheless, he advances through this opening match up.
Matt Wispe – John Ross: Ross has a clear role entering the NFL, and his projected draft stock implies that he’ll get an opportunity to shine early on. Paired with his blazing speed, Ross is the clear pick, even at his first round price.
Justin Winn – John Ross: Malone’s explosive ability is evidenced by his 19.4 yards per reception last year and his 4.4-flat forty time at 208 pounds, but Ross is a first-round reality draft pick who is “win an island” fast.
Heith Krueger – John Ross: While I do agree with the majority of my Rotoviz colleagues on this one, I feel the gap is not necessarily as wide as some may think. Both only produced significantly for one year in their final season at college, and their production was similarly in high-end conferences (Pac-12 and SEC).
Scott Smith – John Ross: Ross is all the rage right now after running his record-setting 40 time. The publicity he has gotten over his fast feet has hyped his price through the roof. Some projections even have Ross going off the board as the first WR drafted in the NFL draft. That’s asking a lot from drafters when comparing production between Ross and Malone. Malone is the bigger prospect, and his 4.4-forty is nothing to sneeze at. Malone offers solid value later in the draft, and I would much rather have Malone and a draft pick over just Ross. Choosing between the two straight up, however, favors Ross, as opportunity is king, and he will likely get more due to a higher selection in the NFL draft.
Both Ross and Malone offer similar career production on the collegiate level, albeit in different size packages. Ross’ special team production and likely higher draft day selection ultimately allow him to advance. When evaluating these players, they are closer than one may expect based upon the media hype leading up to draft day. Ross may find himself under even more scrutiny as this process unfolds. For now though, Ross moves on to face the winner between Cooper Kupp and Carlos Henderson.