CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA - DECEMBER 18: Malachi Corley #11 of the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers runs the ball against the Old Dominion Monarchs during the first half of the Famous Toastery Bowl at Jerry Richardson Stadium on December 18, 2023 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Isaiah Vazquez/Getty Images)
CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA - DECEMBER 18: Malachi Corley #11 of the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers runs the ball against the Old Dominion Monarchs during the first half of the Famous Toastery Bowl at Jerry Richardson Stadium on December 18, 2023 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Isaiah Vazquez/Getty Images)

Malachi Corley First Round Special Weapon

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EAST LANSING, MICHIGAN – OCTOBER 02: Malachi Corley #11 of the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers runs the ball against the Michigan State Spartans during the third quarter of the game at Spartan Stadium on October 02, 2021 in East Lansing, Michigan. (Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images)

NFL offenses are looking for every way possible to create game-planning mismatches ⎯enter Western Kentucky jack-of-all-trades wide receiver Malachi Corley into the first-round discussion.

Well, he’s listed as a wide receiver, but he’s built like a running back.

LOOK AT THOSE LEGS.

This is why Corley draws a comparison to 49ers’ wide receiver Deebo Samuel (who I love by the way).

What an amazing pick Corley would be (I’m thinking Chiefs) toward the end of the first-round to give quarterback Patrick Mahomes his very own version of Samuel. If not the Chiefs, my second guess would be the Bills. Same thing teaming him up with Buffalo quarterback Josh Allen.

I’ve watched Corley in 13 games spanning two seasons, and yeah. The thing that pushed me over the edge was seeing his short-area burst, a first-round trait common to elite receivers.

The Panthers can only hope he slides to them at the top of the second. He would be a godsend for their quarterback Bryce Young.

What are the positives on game film?

The biggest positive is his ability to pick up yardage after the catch. It’s not on every catch, but it’s enough to be a thing.

Corley has a reputation for his yard-after-catch ability. 975 of his nearly 1,300 receiving yards came after the catch in 2022. He leads for the most career YAC of any wide receiver in the 2024 NFL draft class. During his career at WKU, he forced 69 missed tackles, according to AtoZ Sports.

He’s a handful to bring down, which is extremely intriguing to me when projecting him to the NFL where cornerbacks (in general) are anything but willing tacklers. They will need to buckle up their chinstraps when matching up. Again, it’s not on every catch, but he’s capable.

Corley is going to present a lot of match-up problems from a game-planning standpoint. He’s a dream come true for an offensive coordinator at the short-route level on quick lateral receiver bubble screens and quick inside screen passes. Corley is good on short slants and crossing patterns too.

Pure and simple ⎯he’s a chain mover, that’s his biggest on-field value to an NFL offense.

This Western Kentucky receiver also makes defenses more honest, which will likely open up more opportunities for the other offensive targets on his new team, because of the noise he can generate on the underneath routes.

Further downfield, he has a nose for exploiting zone coverage. That’s the most favorable matchup for him at the intermediate route level (11-19 yards).

What are the negatives?

1. Matched up versus man coverage

2. Good (not great) hands.

Corley tends to have a hard time shaking tight man coverage on game film. This is why the Hilltoppers often created space for him with all the short passes, and with stacking receivers (one lined up directly behind the other pre-snap), and with motioning Corley so much pre-snap.

What does his college catch rate look like?

2020: 6 receptions on 12 targets (50%)

2021: 73 receptions on 103 targets (71%)

2022: 101 receptions on 142 targets (71%)

2023: 79 receptions on 113 targets (70%)

#11 Malachi Corley 5-foot-11, 210 pounds

Daniel Kelly’s 2024 NFL Draft Grade: First-Round (I would select him)

Projected by 8.4% of the NFL Draft Community to be a first-round pick as of February 7, 2024 (nflmockdraftdatabase.com)

Malachi Corley Moves the Chains (6 games evaluated)

2023 game film reviewed: Ohio State, Middle Tennessee State, Troy, Louisana Tech, Sam Houston, Jacksonville State, and Liberty (click to view games viewed to form this evaluation)

2023 stats: 79 receptions for 984 yards (12.5 avg.), 11 TD, long of 75

Note: Clocked @ 20.04 MPH

2024 NFL Draft Scouting Report

Stout built instinctual receiver who mainly caught short-range passes. Held his own versus Ohio State. Tough. Tended to line up in the slot. Methodical-looking releasing and getting into routes. Physical with corners. Slightly rigid movements. Rounded change of direction. Below average adjust to the ball downfield. Below average on contested passes. Wiggly unpolished route runner intermediate to deep. Good ball tracking, but it needs to be right on target deep. Can line up in the backfield and take handoffs or direct snaps. Cornerback recruit. Willing blocker.

Final words

Game changer.

Daniel Kelly is a former NFL Scout with the New York Jets. He was hired on the regime which featured Bill Parcells, Bill Belichick, Scott Pioli, Mike Tannenbaum, and Dick Haley. He is currently the Editor-in-Chief for First Round Mock, contributes at Yardbarker, and has written for Sports Illustrated Lions, Jets, and 49ers, as well as a featured guest on ESPN Radio and Fox Sports Radio. For more information about him visit his website at whateverittakesbook.com. He can be followed on Twitter @firstroundmock.

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