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Jets Give QB Aaron Rodgers a Royal Option in 'YAC King' Malachi Corley

GM Joe Douglas Moved Up in Third Round to Take Western Kentucky Slot Receiver

Wide receiver Malachi Corley (11) of the WKU Hilltoppers at Houchens Industries-L.T. Smith Stadium on September 28, 2023 in Bowling Green, KY. (Photo by Steve Roberts/WKU Athletics)

Four-time NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers is an intense student of the game and the guys who play it -- in college and in the NFL.

And after Jets GM Joe Douglas engineered his second of a handful of trades in last week's NFL Draft to move up seven spots to the top of the third round, the selection of Western Kentucky receiver Malachi Corley (No. 65 overall) drew an instant, approving blast from Rodgers to the cellphone HC Robert Saleh.

"[He's] elite with the ball in his hands," Saleh said of Corley. "He's an angry runner. We love his style of play. He's going to bring an added element that we don't have.

"I joked with Joe this morning, 'If [Corley] had a relative sitting at the goal line, he's just going to run him over.' "

What tweaked the attention of Rodgers and the Jets was Corley's dynamism with the ball in his hands after a catch -- hence the moniker "YAC King."

"It was just an unbelievable feeling knowing that I have the opportunity to play with somebody like Aaron Rodgers and knowing that Robert Saleh and Joe Douglas and [OC] Nathaniel Hackett, people that really believe in me, see a light in me and know I can be a difference maker," Corley told Eric Allen and Ethan Greenberg of

After being recruited by the Hilltoppers to play cornerback, Corley (5-11, 210) switched to offense as a freshman. Then from 2021 through this past season, he had 29 receiving TDs (which was tied for second-most in the FBS), and amassed 2,068 yards after the catch -- by far the most in the FBS. He may not be the fastest receiver (4.56 in the 40) in the Jets' quiver, which includes elite WRs Garrett Wilson and recently signed Mike Williams, but he's strong and hard to take down.

"I got labeled the YAC King throughout the 2022 season because I had 975 yards YAC and 40 broken tackles," Corley said. "People started calling me that because I was running over dudes, running around dudes and it seemed every single week I was getting 100 yards of YAC every game. Imposing my will on people and just catching all the flat screens, the bubble screens, the smoke screens, short tosses and being used that way. I got the nickname because of what I do after the catch."

Corley has drawn flattering comparisons to San Francisco's Deebo Samuel, but he said that he prefers to watch and study players who have the skills he would like to add to his game.

"Someone I've watched recently just because they're not necessarily like me in my type of body or my type of play has been [Tennessee WR] Calvin Ridley," Corley said. "Watching someone who isn't like me, who is a long strider, a slender guy who is able to get into his breaks, 12, 15 yards. Someone who is separate from my game and has pieces of it that I need to have. That's someone I idolize and I like to watch."

As Rodgers works his way back from the Achilles tendon tear that ended his debut Jets season before it started, Douglas and his staff used their first five draft picks to add players to the offense. It began in the first round when the three top receivers -- Marvin Harrison Jr, Malik Nabers and Rome Odunze -- were snapped up before the Jets could make a move. That prompted Douglas to swap the No. 10 pick for Minnesota's No. 11 and select tackle Olu Fashanu. Then came a trade to move up seven spots to take Corley in Round 3, followed by RBs Braelon Allen in the fourth round and Isaiah Davis in Round 5. Finally, in a pick for the future, the Green & White nabbed QB Jordan Travis later in the fifth round.

Asked for a quick personal résumé, Corley described himself this way: "I impose my will on people. Physical, gritty tough is how I would describe myself. And on top of that, being weight-room strong as well. Putting up 27 reps of bench on the 225 test. Being able to do physical feats that others necessarily can't do and backing that up with speed and power, not just power."

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