For the most part, the wide receivers who get the most attention are the big, athletic guys — the ones who will probably be lining up out wide as a classic “X” receiver.
However, we’ve seen another breed of receiver make waves in recent years. Players who don’t physically dominate defenders but their quickness and agility makes them very difficult to cover. The New York Giants have had great success with players like Victor Cruz, Sterling Shepard, and now Wan’Dale Robinson — all of whom are from that mold.
Virginia receiver Malik Washington is another receiver in that mold, and he could find himself rising up boards over the course of the 2024 draft process.
Washington started his career at Northwestern, but never got many opportunities thanks to their run-first offense and generally poor quarterback play. He transferred to Virginia prior to the 2023 season and while the situation still wasn’t great, he had a breakout year notching 110 catches for 1,426 yards and 9 touchdowns.
What does he bring to the table?
Prospect: Malik Washington (4)
Games Watched: vs. Penn State (2022 - with Northwestern), vs. Wisconsin (2022 - with Northwestern), vs. Tennessee (2023 - with Virginia), vs. North Carolina (2023)
Weight: 194 pounds
- Run after catch
- Ball skills
- Competitive toughness
Malik Washington is a compact, quick, and agile slot receiving prospect.
Washington has great short-area quickness and his naturally low center of gravity allows him to make very sharp cuts while carrying his speed. He also has surprisingly good ball skills for a pass catcher who didn’t get many opportunities until transferring. Washington does a good job of locating the ball in the air, making adjustments, and extending to maximize his catch radius. He has good body control to contort and make difficult catches, as well as soft, natural hands.
Washington primarily played out of the slot at both Northwestern and Virginia, and he is at his best when put in position to pick up yardage after the catch. Not only was he used in concepts designed to create separation with sharply breaking routes, he was also schemed touches as a ball carrier on sweeps. Washington has good vision as a ball carrier, allowing him to use his quickness and toughness to pick up yards after the catch.
He is also a very experienced blocker thanks to his time at Northwestern. Northwestern’s run-heavy scheme frequently asked Washington to block on the perimeter and he established himself as both willing and able. He does a good job of getting into position quickly, as well as fighting to maintain his blocks.
Washington has experience as a returner, and his vision and quickness should give him upside in that area.
- Play strength
- Long speed
- Route diversity
Teams will likely have concerns regarding Washington’s size. While he has adequate density at 194 pounds, he’s definitely short for a receiver (even a slot receiver) at 5-foot-9, and that shows up in his tape.
Washington’s lack of length limits his catch radius and bigger corners can play around him without much trouble. Likewise, even when he maximizes his catch radius, it’s still limited compared to longer wideouts. Washington can also struggle against tight coverage and can have issues creating separation in close quarters against bigger, stronger cornerbacks. His size can also work against him when blocking. Washington has natural leverage, but he doesn’t have much mass and his length can be difficult for him to get to defenders’ chest plates.
Washington is also best described as “quicker than fast” as an athlete and doesn’t have the long speed to threaten down the field or run away from defenders in the open field. His route running is also a bit under-developed at this point in his career. Washington largely played away from the ball at Northwestern, either used on clear-out routes or as a blocker, and his route tree is limited.
(Actual tape starts at 0:33)
Malik Washington projects as a slot receiver in a modern West Coast offense at the NFL level. He will likely be a depth player who needs to prove himself on special teams early in his career, but his ability to create chunk plays with the ball in his hands should give him the chance to earn a bigger role for himself.
Teams that like bigger receivers, or frequently ask receivers to win one-on-one match-ups will likely want to look elsewhere. However, teams that use two or three-man route combinations to create separation and run-after-catch opportunities. Teams that like to use wide receivers as perimeter blockers for their running game will also be interested in Washington. Likewise, his ability to create yardage with the ball in his hands could make him a good option for teams that use pre-snap and snap motion.
Washington won’t be for every team, and he very well could slip through the cracks on draft day. However, he could be a dangerous weapon for the right team.
Does he fit the Giants?
Yes and no. Yes, because of his similarities to Wan’Dale Robinson. No, because the Giants already have Wan’Dale Robinson.
Final Word: A Day 3 value