The fastest wide receiver on the Bengals roster is obvious – first round draft pick John Ross who set a new 40-yard dash record at the NFL Scouting Combine this year when he was clocked at 4.22 seconds.
So who is the second-fastest?
It appears to be Josh Malone who was selected in the fourth round with the 128th overall pick, a selection the Bengals obtained from the Vikings when they traded down in the second round on Friday night.
“If you go by 40-yard dash times coming out of college he may be,” said receivers coach James Urban. “He ran a 4.39 and tested well. One of our missions is to get faster across the board and I think we did that with Ross and Malone.”
Ironically, since receivers run the 40-yard dash in alphabetical order at the Combine, Malone had a good view of Ross’ record-setting sprint.
“His 40-yard dash happened right after I ran mine,” said Malone. “I was talking to somebody and I looked over and he was running and then I looked up the big screen. Twitter was going crazy. I was like, ‘Did someone just do something crazy?’ That’s how I found out he ran a 4.22.”
Malone led Tennessee with 50 catches for 972 yards last year and broke the Vols’ single-season record by averaging 19.4 yards per catch.
“Last year he didn’t miss one practice,” said Tennessee head coach Butch Jones. “He didn’t miss one rep in a game. He was a mainstay for us at the wide receiver position.”
“He’s been well-coached,” said Urban. “Some of these college receivers that have really big production – they just put them out there and let them go. You say, ‘Geez, his talent is great but he doesn’t know how to play wide receiver.’ This kid has been well-coached and he’s only three years out of high school. He’s a young buck man. I can’t wait to get him out there.”
Malone, who turned 21 last month, declared for the NFL Draft after his junior season.
“I think he’s a guy that will flash plays on a daily basis because of his physical tool set, and then he’ll just get better, and better, and better,” said Urban.
“I think his best football lies ahead of him,” said Jones. “Just look at his growth and development starting back in high school and then here at Tennessee.
“He’s a great kid. He’s got tremendous character. He’s going to be the first one in the building and the last to leave. He’s going to do his due diligence as a football player to understand his role in the offense and understand multiple positions at the receiver spot. He’s going to study film all of the time and I think he’ll be a true pro.”
With their top three receivers back in A.J. Green, Brandon LaFell, and Tyler Boyd, along with second year pros Cody Core and Alex Erickson, the wide receiver room figures to be highly competitive with the additions of Ross and Malone.
“The guys that are our kind of guys will not shy away from that competition,” said Urban. “The cream will rise to the top and if they’re not competitive guys and they start counting spots in line and don’t handle their business they’ll get exposed. We want guys that are reliable, accountable, and competitive.”
“I feel like I’m a big target for a balanced wide receiver,” said Malone. “I pride myself on being technically sound and getting open. So hopefully I can be a big help for them on third down or if they need a big guy in the red zone to go get it. I can be another one of those guys for them. I’m just grateful for this opportunity.”
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