Heath looking to prove he shouldn't have been snubbed in '23 Draft

How did the Packers' OTAs & Minicamp Standout escape the clutches of the NFL Draft?

If you've been keeping your ear to the streets for the latest on the Packers' Organized Team Activities(OTAs) and Minicamp, there's a name you should be familiar with: former Ole Miss WR Malik Heath. The rookie WR has been on a tear every single practice since he signed with the Packers as an Undrafted Free Agent(UDFA).

Every year the NFL Draft produces a handful of surprises from players you never saw coming. Players who while having an NFL pedigree weren't seen as possible immediate superstars or even All-Pros. The Draft even has a hallowed tradition of sanctifying the 199th pick, the selection that placed Tom Brady on the Patriots over two decades ago and started a Hall of Fame-worthy career.

But for UDFAs, typically success is defined by sticking a roster spot for multiple years. But there have been some amazing careers that have played out from such humble beginnings: Kurt Warner, Warren Moon, John Randle, Antonio Gates, James Harrison, Priest Holmes, Jason Peters, and Wes Welker are some of the more recent success stories in NFL History. The Packers even struck gold back in 1960 with Willie Wood out of USC. But even with so many names that have captured greatness in the NFL, the likelihood of finding an all-time great are more than exceptionally low.

But for Malik Heath, he's looking to prove the doubters and the statistics wrong with strong performances every practice.

So the real question is, how did 32 NFL teams make 259 selections and leave him on the outside looking in?

Malik Heath was a 4-star athlete out of HS, the 176th overall prospect at 25th best wide receiver in 2018. He received 19 offers that included Alabama, Florida, LSU, Miami, and Tennessee among others before committing to Mississippi State. Right out of the gate, Heath was in the pipeline from a high school standout to an NFL player.

Now given Malik's pedigree he should have stood out at Mississippi State given the late Mike Leach's Air Raid scheme where 70% of the calls are a pass play. However, I haven't gotten any hype from a single MSU QB since Dak Prescott so that could have been a factor. In two seasons at Starkville, Heath compiled 71 receptions for 749 yards and 8 TDs.

He fared much better after a transfer to Oxford and the Rebels, with the best season of his career with 971 yards and 5 TDs on 60 receptions. While Ole Miss is a long way from the days of Eli Manning, they tend to be in the mix for generating quality quarterbacks over the last couple of years; and it was just a few years ago that we were wondering which Rebel WR would get picked first, A.J. Brown or D.K. Metcalf. The controversial Lane Kiffin, given his penchant for turning programs around and rich coaching history that includes a stint in the NFL could definitely have contributed to Heath's development. In his final year of college football, Heath caught 60 balls for 971 yards and 5 touchdowns with an excellent 16.2 YPC. But sometimes, one season just isn't enough to impress NFL scouts.

I'm not afraid to admit that I was one of them, I scouted Heath at the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, and while I did note he seemed to have somewhat of a physical element to his game, he seemed "quicker-than-fast" to me. He was able to stack defenders a couple of times but ultimately it seemed like the speed of the secondary was too much to overcome, resulting in a 1 catch, 10-yard performance. His Combine didn't persuade me either, running 4.64, and with just so-so performances in the 20-yard and 10-yard at 2.64 and 1.56 respectively. At this point Heath was down in the lower confines of my Draft Board, and it's safe to say that for the rest of the league he was too. 

Now the tape....tape isn't bad, he can get on top of a defender quickly, but I'd like a little more separation. He commits maximum effort toward seeing every ball as his own. The route tree was a little limited for him and I think it's due to his athleticism. He's not a one-trick pony, but he leans too heavily are certain release packages and "wiggles" in his route progression. While Heath certainly balled out in the SEC, his testing just wouldn't let him get out of my doghouse, and I'm sure some scouts had concerns in their own right.

Despite all this, despite the naysayers such as myself, Malik Heath is looking to make the Packers think twice about how many WRs are going to be on this year's 53-man roster. Despite the profile, he's finding ways to make a play against a defense that's never been faster, against a defense that should have no issues containing him with better athletes. Regardless, he brings it at every practice and has a mentality that I think has been lacking on these recent Green Bay teams for far too long. It wouldn't surprise me if Malik Heath forces a surprising cut as we venture closer to the preseason.

You've seen me say it time and time again, football is about Xs and Os....but it's also about the Jimmys and the Joes. If Heath can make just one or two dazzling plays every game, just like he's making them in practice. The Packers may have one more trump card to play as they look to return to the postseason.

 

#GPG

Joseph has been an avid fan of the Green Bay Packers since 1997, citing an affinity for dairy products during his childhood and his favorite color, green. Born in Jacksonville, FL, Joseph currently is an Active Duty servicemember in the U.S. Armed Forces. Joseph considers himself a lifelong fan of the game of football, competing since his youth well into adulthood. When it comes to the Pack, Joseph is particularly impassioned about the NFL Draft and collegiate scouting process, and will contribute regularly on CHTV.com leading to that year's upcoming Draft. You can follow him on Twitter at @joeyreyallday.

14 points
 

Comments (28)

Fan-Friendly This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.
stockholder's picture

June 22, 2023 at 02:54 pm

Geronimo ?- The guy isn't a Rocket.
Know this- Were still waiting on
Grant DuBoise.
And you just know he won’t replace Reed
No matter how good he becomes.

-5 points
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Leatherhead's picture

June 22, 2023 at 03:37 pm

Guys change quite a bit at that age. I watched my own kids go from 18 year old high schoolers to 25 year old men and they just kept getting stronger, more experienced, more confident and sure of themselves. I have no doubt at all that it's the case with a lot of these UDFA/7th round guys. They've got the tools but they don't really know how to build a house with them .

If he makes the team, it'll be on the practice squad, unless we have a huge rash of injuries in training camp.

11 points
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GregC's picture

June 22, 2023 at 06:54 pm

If they keep 6 WRs (last year they kept 7), all he has to do is beat out a couple of 7th round picks (Bo Melton and Grant DuBose). No rash of injuries needed.

It's so true about how much people change during those early adult years. You see it all the time in regular life. In football, it's often just about deciding how committed they are to the game. Playing pro football is not fun for everyone.

6 points
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T7Steve's picture

June 23, 2023 at 07:55 am

"Playing pro football is not fun for everyone." Evidently the guys that don't think it's fun didn't have to build ships for a living, and like it, or not work.

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GregC's picture

June 23, 2023 at 11:38 am

It's a weird lifestyle. Lots of traveling, bizarre work schedule, physically demanding. Lots of money, but very little job security. Personally, I think I would hate it, and I'm sure I'm not alone.

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Leatherhead's picture

June 23, 2023 at 11:25 am

Greg, I think our first four are pretty much set in stone: Watson, Doubs, Toure, Reed. After that, a lot of things could happen. I like Wicks for #5. These other guys can be put on the PS, and that's where I think they'll start the season.

We kept 7 last year because we were rebuilding the WR unit. I don't think that'll happen again this year.

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SicSemperTyrannis's picture

June 24, 2023 at 02:36 am

Greg, Bo Melton is the fastest WR on the roster. He hasn't done anything to stand out yet, while Heath has. Hopefully this turns into an interesting competition, with everybody pushing for excellence. There are so many variables at this stage, including that some people who develop faster don't wind up better.

Lots of talent in the draft and development pipeline! Maybe someday it'll become clear how well our coaching staff is doing their part vs how much is player talent vs effort, but all that's kinda jumbled together so far. This year's preseason games may give us some insight into this? They should be more interesting than we've had in a long time ...

1 points
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MadMan's picture

June 22, 2023 at 03:44 pm

Hey Joseph great story! Thanks for posting more articles this season. Look forward to to reading all of your posts. I look forward every year to the draft stream and hearing all your prospect insights.

11 points
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Swisch's picture

June 22, 2023 at 04:50 pm

Let's see. . . Watson, Doubs, Toure. . . then Reed, Wicks, and Dubose in the draft, . . the intriguing Bo Melton. . . and now Heath.
All quite young, all promising to various degrees, all unproven for the most part.
In this exciting competition, which ones will gain separation, so to speak?
Also, which ones are ready to shine, or at least sparkle, as early as this upcoming season of 2023? We could use at least three, and it'd be good to have a couple more ready to fill in.

7 points
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SicSemperTyrannis's picture

June 24, 2023 at 02:47 am

Swisch, that's 8 that are worth keeping IMHO. I wonder how many WRs make it to the PS? Between injuries and everything else that can go wrong by the end of the 2025 season, we want to see just how good this crew can be by the end of their third year. If Gutey can focus on other position groups in the draft, and QB, TE, RB, P&K also prove good, that looks like developing a complete team by 2025 is within reach even with our cap constraints.

6 wins this year and a Lombardi JL10's third year as starter to match AR12's career start looks awfully good to me :)

1 points
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croatpackfan's picture

June 22, 2023 at 05:06 pm

I already stated several times that I like underdogs, because every "win" of underdogs produce, for me more joy when they achieve success, than when favorites do what everybody expected of them.

So, if M. Heath catch the heat at right time and become part of 53 or PS "first to pick up man", I will cheer for him and his success.

Thank you Joseph to give us a little bit of his story. It will be easier to understand if he will survive the cuts.

13 points
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SicSemperTyrannis's picture

June 24, 2023 at 02:55 am

Croat, do you remember Winfree last year? I was rooting for him as an underdog and thought he looked pretty good in a few spots. I can't compare him to our top 8 WRs now, but my gut reaction is none of these are worse.

God forbid we get an injury bug but certainly MLF needs to be prepared to have Christian Watson and Romeo both not be available for 17 games. Depth becomes very important, so I'm hoping coaches ace this development part of "draft and develop." Underdog superstars have proven key in many championship seasons

2 points
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oceanstrength's picture

June 22, 2023 at 05:39 pm

So your saying he looked great in shorts.

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TKWorldWide's picture

June 22, 2023 at 07:14 pm

Better than not looking good in shorts.

14 points
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BAMABADGER's picture

June 22, 2023 at 09:22 pm

Mr. Heath: I watched YouTube film where play after play you beat the top SEC defenses. How could you accomplish that when everyone knows you are to slow??? Keep working on improving your craft, young man. In all professions, the cream rises to the top! Keep up the effort. GPG!

10 points
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SicSemperTyrannis's picture

June 24, 2023 at 03:01 am

Now I have to check speed of Reed, Heath and Musgrave. Gadget targets who make TE type plays keep drives alive, and MLF should be able to scheme these guys open. I love hearing coaches talk about not overloading rookies with a thick playbook all at once but let them excel at one thing at a time before giving them more. There are real reasons to use 5, 6, or even 7 WRs.

Heath is slower than Musgrave. Fastest 40 times are Melton Watson and Reed in that order, all within .03 and basically in a dead heat with MVS. Although the difference between Watson's official combine time of 4.36 and unofficial but Packers timed 4.28 is beyond huge. Cotton came in at 4.38 so by that one day he's our fourth fastest WR. He's also a year 4 player, whereas the team website puts him in year 1. He's gotten called up off of a PS for one game in which he caught one pass, and played 14 downs on ST. Usually gets cut or on a PS, I don't find anything else but maybe this is his year?

There's a lot more that goes into a great WR than this one measurable, and alone it shouldn't determine the roster, but it should show up in who can get open in tough coverage.

Romeo and Simori both come in over 4.4. I can see a strong case for using these 5 guys in two distinct roles, speed vs craftiness to get open, with deep threat vs move the chains strategy.

We'll see what MLF does with all this ...

1 points
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NickPerry's picture

June 23, 2023 at 05:33 am

Hi Joseph... Thanks for your work. I even read it 3 times to be sure... You forgot one of the greatest UDFA Packers of them all...

Tramon Williams! I understand the Packers poached him off a PS but still. Just wanted to make sure we always remember Tramon because we don't even sniff SB 45 without him that year!

12 points
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HarryHodag's picture

June 23, 2023 at 06:58 am

While I know Joseph was referring to UDFA's, one remote draft pick became one of the greatest Packers: Bart Starr. He was a 17th round pick in 1956.

That's one reason I get antsy when I read/hear all the 'experts' basically say if you're not a first round pick you're nothing.

7 points
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croatpackfan's picture

June 23, 2023 at 07:22 am

Add to this list Tom Brady, as 6th round pick.

2 points
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Coldworld's picture

June 23, 2023 at 07:48 am

Heath seems like a very close approximation to DuBose in terms of athleticism and play style and strengths. They also share the disrupted college experience. It seems that the team has a liking for that type and thought it worth two flyers late on players with under-the-radar college histories yet some good film. DuBose’s unavailability has probably acted to even the playing field by giving Heath early opportunities that he’s taken to get visibility.

Heath and DuBose are X types that also played big slot type roles and thrived in contested situations. If such players can win on the line and in contact and have natural hands, then long speed isn’t necessarily definitive. Neither project as 1000 yard players, but either could be Lazard types.

As to timing, it’s always important to remember that some players don’t test well on the day for a variety of reasons. That’s one reason why film remains critical, particularly for late flyer pick ups. Once these get on the field, evidence that they can do it should speak more loudly than anything. The challenge for late picks/UDFAs is getting that chance. It looks like Heath has, in shorts.

I’m looking forward to seeing if Heath continues to show once pads are on and if he out performs DuBose. If he does then he should be in the mix. That’s my wish this year, that we keep players that play well and not merely on benches. Performance should beget opportunity for these youngsters.

I’m also going to be looking at Cotton, another largish WR with an under the radar college career. He missed early OTAs, but immediately on return made not just catches but big plays (yards/TDs). He’s fast and by all accounts that was obvious to the media watching. Speed and the ability to catch and make splash plays is hard to overlook and, if continued, could shake things up as camp progresses.

Ultimately, scouting is about predicting if a guy can do it against pros. Once here, if they are doing it against our best, that should speak more loudly than anything other than doing it in season, which requires opportunity.

7 points
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PackEyedOptimist's picture

June 23, 2023 at 11:04 am

I agree CW, those guys (plus Wicks I’d add) seem like Lard replacements; they are big, physical, good blockers, and good at contested catches.

0 points
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SicSemperTyrannis's picture

June 24, 2023 at 03:10 am

CW I agree with you. Playing unproven guys is risky but this is the year to take those risks. Add Cotton and now we're up to 9 talented WRs. Are they all worth keeping? The only way to find out is to play them. Obviously MLF can't play all 9, but this shows he should try to create opportunities for as many as possible.

Player evaluation is a huge part of the draft and develop pipeline. I have no idea if this will be one of the more difficult aspects of coaching all these yutes, but so far it seems like it to me. Even if only 1 or 2 WRs get most of the targets, it's still very worthwhile to have that position group stacked with a bunch of talent!

1 points
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Matt Gonzales's picture

June 23, 2023 at 09:27 am

Tony Romo is feeling pretty snubbed by your article intro.

4 points
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WestCoastPackerBacker's picture

June 23, 2023 at 03:17 pm

That's the first guy that came to my mind. In GB, Sam Shields. Made the Pro-Bowl, won a ring, all after going undrafted.

1 points
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WD's picture

June 23, 2023 at 10:59 am

Whenever a young player makes the team there is always the opportunity cost to consider. In this case who do you cut to keep Heath? I think the practice squad was made for players like Heath. Why is Watson our number one receiver? ......Speed. Lets take the time and effort and develop Bo Melton. Every gem needs a little polish to perfection. I see Bo Melton as the unpolished gem. Silver is silver . Gold is gold. Speed guys are the diamonds.

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SicSemperTyrannis's picture

June 24, 2023 at 03:14 am

WD, I'm with you! Bo Melton is our fastest WR. It's very strange to me that he hasn't stood out yet. I'm hoping our coaching staff is up to developing everybody as much as possible, creating honest competition, and merit determines the roster. No small feat ...

1 points
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Minniman's picture

June 23, 2023 at 02:27 pm

Thanks Joseph, I like how your articles tend to look further afield than the obvious Packers news stories, which makes then an interesting read - keep up the great work.

The real question to ask, when evaluating one of these "bolt from the blue" type players, is when and where he's making these plays? Is he doing it in a section of the field (or route tree) that the Packers are weak in, or against the #1's?

Forcing his way onto the initial 53, and not to the PS, will really be determined by what he offers the Packers that they don't already have in another prospect.

..... or his likelihood to be pilfered off of the PS.

1 points
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greengold's picture

June 27, 2023 at 03:32 pm

Jerry Rice's 40 Time was 4.71 seconds.

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