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2023 NFL Draft Profile: Malik Heath

Some NFL team will get a late-round steal in the Rebels’ leading receiver.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 28 TaxAct Texas Bowl Photo by Ken Murray/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Malik Heath was an afterthought to many Ole Miss fans headed into the 2022 season; with Lane Kiffin having already added UCF’s Jaylon Robinson and Louisville’s Jordan Watkins from the transfer portal, not many would have expected Heath to lead the team in receptions, reception yardage, and reception touchdowns. But Heath, after two years in junior college and two middling years in Mike Leach’s offense at Mississippi State, was on a mission to realize his potential. His performance last Fall was likely good enough for the big-bodied wideout to hear his name called in the NFL Draft this week.

Heath started most of the season lined up opposite of Jonathan Mingo; and while their statistical production was relatively close – Heath had 60 receptions for 971 yards and 5 TDs, while Mingo had 51 catches for 861 yards and 5 scores – Heath seemed to be the more consistent of the two. The former Bulldog had 8 games in 2022 with 70 receiving yards or more, while Mingo had just 4 such games. Mingo also generated over 40% of his receiving yards for the season in just two games: Vanderbilt and Central Arkansas. Meanwhile, Heath eclipsed 100 yards receiving in games against Texas Tech, Alabama, Arkansas, LSU, and Kentucky. I say all this not to knock Mingo – whose eye-popping performance in combine settings might boost his draft stock to as high as the second round – but to advocate for Heath, who is expected to be drafted several rounds later, if at all.

Heath’s NFL Combine numbers certainly hurt his draft stock considerably. While he measured in at a well-built 6’2 and 213 pounds, Heath ran a disappointing 4.64 40-yard dash, and also ranked low among receivers in vertical jump, bench press reps, and shuttle time. Those performances definitely hurt, but NFL scouts won’t be able to ignore his production against elite defenses, or how he pops on film. Scouting reports have generally said that while Heath doesn’t possess elite speed, he has a knack for getting open and does a good job of establishing good body position on his defenders. He also has excellent hands, and often comes down with contested catches.

The most common draft round projection I’m seeing for Heath is the sixth; fortunately, I haven’t seen many projections that he’ll go undrafted, so hopefully Heath gets drafted into a good situation, and won’t have to go the undrafted free agent route.