What do Cris Collinsworth, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, and Marvin Jones have in common?
Aside from being outstanding Bengals receivers of course.
None of them was the first wide receiver selected by Cincinnati in his draft class.
David Verser was selected before Collinsworth in 1981, Chad Johnson was picked before Houshmandzadeh in 2001, and Mohamed Sanu was taken before Jones in 2012.
The Bengals doubled down at wide receiver again in this year's draft and while they're counting on first round pick John Ross III to have a big impact, they also have high hopes for fourth round selection Josh Malone out of Tennessee.
"We went into the draft and felt like this was a guy that maybe was somewhat overlooked but had physical tools to play at a higher level," said head coach Marvin Lewis. "We've had good luck with a lot of guys like that who have similar body types and come in here as young players. They've continued to carve out opportunity and gain more reps and take advantage of it."
Malone is 6'3", 208 pounds and ran at 4.40 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine. His size/speed ratio was evident on the practice field during the Bengals OTAs and minicamps.
"He showed us what we thought he was," said receivers coach James Urban. "He's big and he's fast and he has a good natural feel for the game. He's learning how to run our routes and do things our way like any of them are – especially new guys. But he has some real ability."
"To be his height and run as well as he does and catch the ball as well as he does – I think he's got a bright future," said Ross. "It's going to be awesome to play side-by-side with him."
Malone also displayed great hands in one of his first practices in a Bengals uniform. In a one-on-one receiving drill, Josh cut over the middle and the instant he turned his head to find the ball, an Andy Dalton bullet was zipping toward his facemask. Malone managed to make the catch and quickly learned that the Bengals starting quarterback delivers the ball on time and on target.
"That caught me so off guard when he did that," said Malone. "I wasn't expecting the ball to be right there on me. His timing and ability to place the ball is impressive.
"Andy is a vet and knows what he's got to do. I was in a no-huddle offense at Tennessee, so seeing his command in the huddle is impressive. It's the way he carries himself and the standard he holds himself to."
Dalton is not the only veteran that Malone is paying close attention to. He's says that Brandon LaFell is a great role model in the receivers room.
"It's just his personality really," Josh said. "He's a great guy to be around and just listening to what he says and watching what he does is very impressive. It's great to see how he goes about his business.
"He gives me a lot of advice and A.J. (Green) does too. I'm following both of them around and trying to get the most out of it."
After the Bengals mandatory minicamp wrapped up on June 15th, Malone said he planned to go home and spend some time with his family before gearing up for training camp in late July.
"I feel like I did pretty well and put some good stuff on film," he said. "Now I have to take what I learned in camp and get better, keep studying, and start developing professional habits.
"It's what I expected. There's new terminology and a lot of new wrinkles and words that you've never heard before. I'm just learning it the best that I can and going out there and executing on the field."
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