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Jets Trade to Top of Round 3 to Grab Western Kentucky WR Malachi 'YAC King' Corley

Two-Time First-Team All-Conference USA Wideout Set Hilltoppers' Record with 259 Career Catches


The Jets, using some of the "flexibility" that general manager Joe Douglas said they acquired in their three-picks-for-two trade with Minnesota on Thursday night, made another trade to move from high in Round 3 to the top of the round tonight and spent their second selection of the 2024 NFL Draft on WR Malachi Corley of Western Kentucky.

Corley saw increasing action in his four seasons with the Hilltoppers. The 5-11, 215-pound senior moved all around the offense and set the school record with 259 career receptions for 2,943 yards and 29 touchdowns. He was a starter his last three seasons and was named first-team All-Conference USA in his final two seasons.

He wasn't able to participate at the Combine due to injury, but a month later at his pro day, Corley wowed 31 of 32 NFL teams who sent representatives to observe him. He ran his 40s in the 4.45-4.47-second range and also put up a strong 4.26-second 3-cone drill.

Corley's gameday résumé includes a big yards-after-catch dimension — he earned the nickname of "YAC King" as a Hilltopper — and a mentality that he's not shy about taking or delivering hits. NFL analyst Lance Zierlein chose San Francisco's Deebo Samuel as his NFL comparison for Corley.

And Corley was pleased to hear Steve Smith Jr., the Carolina WR legend, describe him as the steal of this draft.

"It's amazing," he told NFL Network's Total Access before the draft. "Coming from small-town Kentucky high school football and then even playing small-town college football at Western Kentucky, it feels amazing to have players who are Hall of Famers that I've modeled my game after who have appreciation for my game. That's something special."

With Jets reporters after his selection, Corley described being drafted by the Jets as "almost surreal."

"Knowing my journey, where I came from, then knowing I get to play with somebody great who I've been watching since I was younger like Aaron Rodgers ... I was overexcited to get the call," he said.

Douglas and head coach Robert Saleh were excited themselves to make the call.

"We're juiced, man," Douglas said. "You watch his tape and it's hard not to get excited. He's just an explosive, dynamic player with the ball in his hands and just a guy that we feel can be a real weapon."

"He's elite with the ball in his hands," head coach Robert Saleh said. "He's an angry runner. He calls himself the YAC King and he's deserving of that. He's got some things to work on for sure, but at the same time, we love his mindset, love his style of play. He's going to bring an added element."

And Saleh confirmed that Rodgers has similar feelings about the addition of Corley.

"I already got a text," the coach said. "He's excited."

Corley's description of his game should get every wearer of the green and white pumped.

"My biggest strength is yards after catch. I think that's my calling card,," he said, confirming his nickname and also the YAC King chain that he said is "on standby." "I think I do it better than anyone else. I think when I get the ball in my hands, I can make special plays happen."

The Jets did not need any encouragement to trade up from their only day two selection, the 72nd overall pick in Round 3. But the double-digit number of trades ahead of them in Round 2 tonight couldn't help but get the Green & White in the mood. They sent their 72nd overall pick, eighth in Round 3, plus the 157th pick in Round 5 they got from the Vikings to move to the Panthers' No. 65 at the very top of the third round.

The Jets made only four previous draft choices from WKU and only two since 1970. DB Davlin Mullen (1983, Round 8, No. 217) and RB Clarence "Jazz" Jackson (1974, Round 16, No. 395) are the only members of the Big Red to start to be drafted by and start at least one game for the Green & White.

See the best images of the 65th overall selection in the 2024 NFL Draft, WR Malachi Corley.

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