Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Productive Conference USA Wideout Linked To New Orleans Saints Early In NFL Draft

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New Orleans Saints fans and media alike develop personal favorites every season for the NFL Draft. These ”draft crushes” can be from a favorite college, insane collegiate production, a style of play, or often develop from a standout performance during offseason workouts.

Today’s draft profile features a player that fits those last three categories in a big way. It’s also at a position of need for the New Orleans Saints.

Malachi Corley, WR – Western Kentucky; 5’11” & 215-Lbs.


Western Kentucky Hilltoppers wide receiver Malachi Corley (11) pulls in a pass against the South Alabama Jaguars

Malachi Corley was a star cornerback/wideout for the football team and also a standout basketball player for Campbellsville High School in Kentucky. Western Kentucky recruited him as a corner initially, but moved him to offense during his 2020 freshman year. After six catches during a Covid-shortened campaign of nine games, he’d have 73 receptions for 691 yards and seven scores for the wide open Hilltoppers attack in 2021.

Moving into a featured role in 2022, Corley’s statistics erupted. His 101 receptions and 1,295 receiving yards led Conference USA and were fourth across the NCAA as he caught 11 touchdowns. He followed that up in 2023 with 79 catches for 984 yards and 11 scores, earning him back-to-back 1st Team All-Conference USA honors. Corley’s 259 career receptions is the best in Western Kentucky history.

Not tall, Corley is a thick athlete with a powerful frame and physical style of play. He handled a heavy workload and was highly productive on a consistent basis over his final three years.

As a former cornerback, Corley seems to possess a natural route capability. He uses an array of moves to set up defensive backs, including solid fakes, jukes, and play speed adjustments. He’ll attack the throw and shows no hesitation extending to get the pass, giving him a larger catch radius than his frame suggests.

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Western Kentucky Hilltoppers wide receiver Malachi Corley (11) picks up extra yards against the Auburn Tigers

NFL Draft analyst Lance Zierlein has compared Corley to 49ers WR Deebo Samuel, and with good reason. Both have similar, powerful builds and are lethal threats in the open field. As with Samuel, Corley also proved himself effective out of the backfield or on jet sweeps.

Corley is an extremely physical runner able to break tackles consistently for extra yardage. He has terrific elusiveness, but also shows rare vision in open space. As a result, he’s a viable weapon in numerous ways anywhere along the formation.

Some are concerned about the lower level of competition faced by Corley at Western Kentucky, but that shouldn’t be a big issue. The larger concern is the very limited route tree he ran in the Hilltoppers offense. He’ll need to prove effective with expanded route responsibilities, especially from the slot, while being able to show that he can get open against a variety of coverages.

Corley must also sharpen his route breaks to make up for his lack of top-end speed. He’ll need to show better awareness for open spots in zone coverage. He has alarmingly poor body positioning in traffic, putting him at a severe disadvantage on contested throws or goal-line situations over the middle.

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Western Kentucky Hilltoppers wideout Malachi Corley (11) after a reception against the Old Dominion Monarchs

Malachi Corley will likely be a Day 2 draft choice. His open field ability and collegiate production could even cause him to come off the board as early as midway through the second round. He looks like a slot specialist with the versatile rushing skills that’ll help him contribute to an offense in multiple ways.

Corley has been projected by several to go to the Saints with their second-round pick, the 45th overall selection. Remember that new offensive coordinator Klint Kubiak coached Deebo Samuel in San Francisco last season. He should be able to take advantage of Corley’s best attributes for a New Orleans team that is need of a consistent threat from the slot.

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