DeAngelo Malone Draft Profile
Edge Rusher- Western Kentucky
6’4”, 240 Lbs
DeAngelo Malone exists in a liminal space that many draft prospects occupy. This space is called “The Small School Conundrum.” These prospects have developed the skills necessary to earn high-end production versus the level of competition that is presented to them, but that level of competition is not the creme de la creme of college football.
Malone holds the career record for sacks at Western Kentucky with 34, four more than the next best. He was named Defensive Player of the Year twice and earned first-team All-Conference. Of course, this was in Conference USA not one of the so-called power five conferences. (This conference tells you either exactly where to look for the school, North Texas, Middle Tennessee, Florida Atlantic, Western Kentucky, Southern Mississippi or it tells you nothing about where it is, Rice, Old Dominion, Marshall. But sometimes it only gives you an indecipherable acronym, UTEP, UAB, UTSA, FIU.)
Malone had a solid college career. He averaged almost 8 sacks and over 14 tackles for loss per season, as well as nine career forced fumbles. But his sophomore season he made his biggest splash. He led the C-USA with 11.5 sacks in 13 games along with 20.5 tackles for loss.
The big difference in that year compared to the subsequent seasons was twofold; How much he played and where he played. In 2019, he played 106 more snaps than he did in 2021. He also played fewer snaps as a true wide technique outside linebacker.
In 2019 he played 66 percent of his snaps on the edge. In 2021, it was down to 58 percent. Malone’s production took an in-kind hit and it should come as no surprise. He is undersized for an edge rusher and is downright outmatched when going head to head with 290+ pound tackles or guards. Had WKU been willing or able to keep him on the edge he would have seen bigger totals akin to the ones he produced in 2019
Despite playing in C-USA, Malone’s freak athleticism and a very good showing at the Senior Bowl (He was named Defensive MVP of the American team) have kept him on the radar of edge-depth needy teams. Teams like the Rams and the Chargers.
Top Three Traits
What Malone lacks in size he makes up for in effort. He just plays bigger and stronger than he actually is and he gives 100 percent from the first snap to the final whistle. This is one of a few very tangible “intangible” skill sets in football. That is to say, high effort isn’t something that can necessarily be taught, but it leads to very real results.
Malone has a unique combination of foot speed, twitch, and bend that makes him very hard to block. This combo is on display in his go-to move, his euro step and rip. Malone has a wild mercury feel to his game. He slips through creases and slides right to quarterbacks with high pursuit speed.
His footwork may be attributed to his experience playing soccer in high school. He lettered in both football and soccer in high school.
When talking combine/ pro day drills, Malone’s numbers are right up there with the first-round edge talent. His 1.61 ten-yard split is just .01 seconds behind Aidan Hutchinson’s time. He also has top-end length as well. He has the same arm length as Kayvon Thibodeaux. Malone was also featured on Bruce Feldman’s “Freak List” at number 66 in 2021.
While all of that is impressive, the combination of all these traits is what makes Malone a special player. Explosive agility, mixed with athleticism and elite competitive toughness will always translate in the NFL.
Three Traits To Improve
Malone weighed in at 243 at the combine, 239 at his pro day, and 234 at the Senior Bowl. At the beginning of the 2021 season, he weighed 228. Leaving high school he was listed at 198. So in this respect, he seems to be headed in the right direction, but packing on more weight will only help him when tangling with the bulls in the trenches and when wrestling them in the running game.
He posted a very respectable 23 reps in the bench press at the Combine, but his tape shows some instances of getting overpowered if he isn’t able to get an initial edge/step on a blocker.
When you are a superior athlete it is easy to lean on the fact that no one around you can keep up. That won’t be the case in the NFL. When it comes to his hands, Malone is a jack of all trades, but a master of none. He also has a tendency to play pattie cake rather than use his hands violently. Luckily these techniques are learnable skills.
This mostly goes back to his size, but when the rubber meets the road, Malone hasn’t proven he can be anything but a wide-nine pass rusher. While he does bring a good nose for run-stopping, he won’t likely be used on those downs. With added size and more experience, he could develop into a more versatile edge rusher. But without the former, it is hard to gain the latter.
Malone will be best suited on a team where he can be folded into the rotation behind veteran starters. The Chargers have a great one-two punch with Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack, but they don’t have much depth behind them. And in terms of development, if you want anyone teaching violent hand technique it would be Mack. Mack and Malone have a lot in common from size and athleticism and both are products of small school football programs. In fact, Buffalo was one of the schools recruiting Malone.
Moving up the PCH, the Rams would be an interesting landing spot for Malone. An even more accurate comp than Mack would be Leonard Floyd. Floyd’s biggest knock heading into his draft was his skinny gangly frame. The Rams have liked this body type and have shown a willingness to draft small school edge rushers. Although, Chris Garrett’s Concordia-St. Paul makes Western Kentucky look like the University of Florida in comparison.
The Rams may add another vet sometime this year, but as of today, Malone would join a very intriguing edge-rusher rotation. Terrell Lewis, Garrett, and Justin Hollins have all had flashes at different levels, but none have garnered much playing time.
Malone has been projected as high as a late second-round pick and as low as a fifth-rounder. Neither the Rams nor the Chargers can afford to use anything higher than a fourth-rounder for edge depth, so they may be out of luck if he goes in the second round.
Thoughts on the Rams or Chargers drafting Malone?