RotoViz Rankings: The Undervalued, Starring Josh Malone

We’ve had a few days to digest the diverse and varied dish that is the RotoViz Pre-Draft compilation rankings of the 2017 wide receiver class.

In addition to seeing the wide variance with which RotoViz writers and editors rank this year’s class, it’s also interesting to note how our box score scouting compares to that of media scouts, whose composite rankings can be found here.

We wouldn’t be doing our jobs if we didn’t identify a few guys who we think the scouting community is too low on. Here are the results of the 2016 rankings exercise.

This year, the names we’re highest on relative to the pro scouts are Jerome Lane, Keevan Lucas, Ishmael Zamora, Krishawn Hogan, and Josh Malone.

Let’s look at that last name, six-foot-three, 208 pound Tennessee Volunteer Josh Malone.

Knowin’ Malone

Some care for Josh Malone more than others. The Scouting RSI pegs him as a fringe prospect – an absolute afterthought at WR28.

Anthony Amico bestowed the highest ranking of any RotoViz staffer, making Malone his WR7. Amico featured Malone earlier this year, and he also points out that Malone posted air yards numbers similar to Mike Williams. Meanwhile, Matthew Freedman and Heith Kruger  are way down on Malone (though still higher than the RSI, mind you) and had him the lowest at WR21.

The 14th-seeded Malone got bounced in the first round of the RotoViz WR Tournament.

I ranked Malone as my WR9, a 19-place rank differential with how the scouts see it.

Malone is also a big fan of himself as a prospect:

“I feel like I’m right in the mix,” Malone said in a Palm Beach Post interview. “I just felt like they had more opportunities than me to get the ball in their hands and showcase their ability.

Malone is alluding to Tennessee’s low-volume, run-heavy offense, which left something to be desired in his raw-production department. Still, he leaves college as a 20.8 year old with 1,608 career yards.

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His raw production isn’t eye popping, but Malone was able to carve out a bigger role every year, culminating in a 39 percent market share in his 20-year old final season. Playing against tough competition, Malone ranked third in the SEC in 2017 in both receiving yards (972) and touchdowns (11). He was also second in in the conference with 19.4 yards per reception.

That last stat is in line with his athletic profile, which suggests a big, fast, though not particularly agile, downfield threat.

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While not very explosive or agile (that vertical! Woof), Malone has plenty of size and speed on his ledger. And in addition to the impressive final-year market share, he also boasts the second-best Freak Score in the WR class.

Age. Just a Number?

Jon Moore assigned him the fifth-highest score in his 2017 Phenom Index, which measures age-adjusted, market share production. At 2.5, his Phenom Index was higher than Corey Coleman and Will Fuller in 2016. What other rookie WRs have had PI scores in the same range as Malone’s 2.5 score in the past few years?

2016 Phenom Index

WR Draft College msYDS MSyd Z Age Age Z Phenom
Tyler Boyd 2016 Pittsburgh 39.5 1.26 21.2 -1.5 2.75
Rashard Higgins 2016 Colorado State 37.6 1.08 21.2 -1.41 2.49
Leonte Carroo 2016 Rutgers 43.6 1.64 21.9 -0.62 2.26
Laquon Treadwell 2016 Ole Miss 26.5 0.04 20.5 -2.18 2.22
Corey Coleman 2016 Baylor 37.3 1.05 21.5 -1.11 2.17
Demarcus Ayers 2016 Houston 35.1 0.85 21.5 -1.13 1.98
Will Fuller 2016 Notre Dame 37.4 1.07 21.7 -0.88 1.94

2015 Phenom Index

WR Draft Overall College msYDS MSyd Z Age Age Z Phenom
DeVante Parker 2015 13 Louisville 51.1 2.34 21.9 -0.61 2.96
Milton Williams 2015 270 Delaware State 37.4 1.06 20.8 -1.87 2.94
Jaelen Strong 2015 27 Arizona State 35 0.84 20.9 -1.75 2.59
Stefon Diggs 2015 139 Maryland 35.1 0.85 21.1 -1.57 2.42
Jamison Crowder 2015 132 Duke 37.3 1.05 21.5 -1.07 2.12
Breshad Perriman 2015 41 Central Florida 34.1 0.75 21.3 -1.33 2.08
Deontay Greenberry 2015 149 Houston 28.1 0.19 20.8 -1.87 2.07

Malone is younger than Stefon Diggs, Jamison Crowder, and Corey Coleman were, and he boasts a higher PI than all of them.

At a similar age, he posted a better market share and PI score than Laquon Treadwell. 2016’s most disappointing rookie was the consensus WR1 last year.

Prospects like Dede Westbrook and Cooper Krupp are 2.5 years older than Malone already. That doesn’t guarantee NFL failure, but it does make the gap between them and Malone smaller than the RSI would have us believe. While age and experience are not equivalent entities, Malone has time to improve before we can directly compare them as prospects.

Jim Kloet recently unveiled a series of visualizations as an aid for digesting the relationship between market share and age. Malone’s chart will help convince you that he’s going entirely too late.

 Draft Day

Josh Malone’s value is depressed among the scouting crowd. Even in age-obsessed Vizian circles, Malone is free-agent-fodder material for some. He’s currently available in the fourth round and later in rookie drafts.

His is a name I’ll be watching closely on NFL Draft day. If he falls to a favorable situation, he may be a guy who starts to trend upward post-draft. He is unlikely to go before, or in, the third round of the NFL Draft, but he does go somewhere in that range, he immediately starts to look a little more appetizing as a prospect. If he goes in the fifth round or later, my ranking of Malone is likely to drop.

As we stand pre-draft, I’m happily gamble on Josh Malone in the mid-to-late-rounds of rookie drafts over guys like Dede Westbrook, Ryan Switzer and even Carlos Henderson.

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By Cort Smith | @cortnall | Archive

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