From now until the 2024 NFL Draft takes place, we will scout and create profiles for as many prospects as possible, examining their strengths, weaknesses, and what they can bring to an NFL franchise. These players could be potential top-10 picks, all the way down to Day 3 selections, and priority undrafted free agents. Today, a scouting report on Virginia wide receiver Malik Washington.
#4 MALIK WASHINGTON, WR, VIRGINIA — 5081, 192 pounds (GR. SENIOR)
-2024 East-West Shrine Bowl
-Compact frame with great contact balance
-Dynamic after the catch, refuses to go down on first contact; broke a high number of tackles in college
-Despite smaller frame, very good player in contested-catch situations with great body control
-Explosive in and out of his cuts; creates easy separation
-Has a full route tree at his disposal
-Dynamic release package off the line with great footwork
-Tracks the ball very well downfield
-Exploded onto the scene in 2023 with a record-breaking season
-Flashes late hands in contested-catch situations
-Only one year of true No. 1 production and responsibilities
-Got a lot of clean releases out of the slot; rarely challenged to play outside
-Tends to body catch quite a bit despite having good hands
-Length and strength will be a concern at next level
-Rarely asked to block at Virginia
-Doesn’t possess that true breakaway speed for the NFL
-On the older side as a prospect; turned 23 on Jan. 4
-Transferred to Virginia from Northwestern for the 2023 season
-Set ACC and Virginia program records in one season with Cavaliers, finishing 2023 season with 110 receptions for 1,426 yards and nine touchdowns
-110 receptions broke ACC record previously set by Jamison Crowder in 2007
-Named a Biletnikoff Award semifinalist and a finalist for the Pop Warner College Football Award
-Named ACC Wide Receiver of the Year
-Voted Cavaliers’ team captain at end of 2023 season
-Prior to one year at Virginia, spent four seasons at Northwestern and was a three-time Academic All-Big Ten honoree
-Finished career at Northwestern with 120 receptions for 1,348 yards and three touchdowns
Oftentimes, in college football, a change of scenery can catapult a player into the draft discussion with a big season. That’s exactly what happened with Virginia wide receiver Malik Washington.
After a four-year career at Northwestern as a dependable depth receiver for the Wildcats, Washington transferred to Virginia for the 2023 season and burst onto the scene, setting numerous Atlantic Coast Conference and program records in the process, finishing his one season in the ACC with 110 receptions for 1,426 yards and nine touchdowns.
He was a Biletnikoff Award semifinalist as one of the 10 best receivers in the country, and then he went to the East-West Shrine Bowl in Dallas and dominated throughout the week, opening even more eyes.
On tape, Washington is flat-out dominant. He’s a good route runner who creates easy separation due to his quick burst in and out of his breaks. He has good hands and serious YAC abilities due to his contact balance, vision strength, and the contact point with the football in his hands.
Throughout his one season with Virginia, Washington was a human highlight reel.
Washington played primarily in the slot for the Cavaliers, which makes a ton of sense due to his size at just 5-8, 192 pounds. He’s built very well, though. Thick, compact frame with good muscle density. He’s small in height but not in frame. He’s built similarly to Tyreek Hill.
He doesn’t have Hill’s game, but he was an explosive player for the Cavaliers. A real mismatch in the slot.
Nice out and up here against North Carolina State for the explosive play last season. Just a smooth operator overall.
While he has a smaller frame and a limited catch radius, Washington was outstanding as a contested-catch receiver.
Though he tends to create plenty of separation as a route runner, there are times when he finds himself in contested catch situations. Based on his build and lack of length, that shouldn’t be an area he plays well in.
Yet, he consistently makes plays in contested catch situations on tape, like the one above. He just has a knack for finding the football in the air and making a play through contact. He plays much, much bigger than his size.
There’s also just no fear in Washington’s game.
He’s on the smaller side, but there is no fear of going over the middle and playing in traffic. He has a good feel for what’s around him and knows how to protect himself quite a bit. I loved the way he was able to bend this over route right off the safety’s outside hip.
Washington is able to get in the safety’s blind spot and run into wide open space. He knows contact is coming at the catch point, but it’s just him and the ball in the air. Great stuff.
It’s not just contested-catch situations, either.
He makes some remarkable plays away from his frame.
His long speed isn’t going to have him running away from defenders vertically, but he does have good speed to at least get deep and threaten defenses. And then, with the body control and hands that he has, he can make plays like this.
Washington is on the smaller side, but again, he plays so much bigger than his size. It’s impressive to watch.
Where Washington is going to make his mark in the NFL is after the catch. He’s like a rocked-up running back with the football in his hands. Good vision, consistently working north with the football with great contact balance to run through tackles.
There is no way this play should pop the way that it does, but Washington’s ability after the catch is jaw-dropping.
That’s North Carolina State linebacker Payton Wilson attempting to tackle him in the open field. Washington runs right through the attempt.
You can see the limitations in long speed, but he’s so dynamic with the football in his hands. He’s going to be a real weapon at the next level.
Overall, there is a ton to like about Washington. He was very clearly the best player on the field at the East-West Shrine Bowl throughout the week, and the tape shows just what he can do out of the slot. He has a full route tree and is incredibly dynamic after the catch.
He is on the smaller side, but he has a thick frame and is a strong player with the football in his hands. He rarely goes down on first contact and has a knack for creating explosive plays. He’s likely going to test very well at the 2024 NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, too.
He has some Tyreek Hill-like plays to his tape, but he reminds me a lot of New England’s Pop Douglas, another guy who dominated at the East-West Shrine Bowl and then went on to have a strong rookie season in New England. Washington will go much earlier than Douglas (sixth round) did. He’s going to be a serious matchup nightmare in the right system at the NFL level.
Projection: Mid-Day 2
Depot Draft Grade: 8.0 (Potential Starter/Good Backup)
Games Watched: James Madison (2023), North Carolina State (2023), North Carolina (2023), Miami (FL) (2023), Duke (2023), Maryland (2023)