2024 NFL Draft WR prospects tiers: Why Marvin Harrison Jr. is not the undisputed #1, with Malik Nabers, Rome Odunze climbing up draft boards

2024 NFL Draft WR prospects tiers: Why Marvin Harrison Jr. is not the undisputed #1
2024 NFL Draft WR prospects tiers: Why Marvin Harrison Jr. is not the undisputed #1

It wasn’t that long ago when Marvin Harrison Jr., the former Ohio State star most considered to be the top player in the draft, was looked upon as a lock to be the first receiver taken. But as teams are in the midst of final draft meetings to prepare for the event, news is trickling out over opinions on the top receivers in the draft and how many could end up in the first round.

2024 NFL Draft WR tiers: Is Marvin Harrison Jr. still WR1?

Goodyear Cotton Bowl - Missouri v Ohio State
Goodyear Cotton Bowl - Missouri v Ohio State

For the longest time, the belief was that Marvin Harrison Jr. was far and away the top wideout in the draft, followed by Malik Nabers of LSU then Rome Odunze of Washington. And that could end up the way they come off the board in three weeks, but it’s no longer a consensus belief.

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Reports the past few weeks have trumpeted several teams grading Nabers higher than Harrison on their receiver board, reports that are complete true. Yet this hasn’t been reported; several teams have Odunze rated higher than Nabers. So why the different rankings between three very talented pass catchers?

Harrison is a dominant game-controlling receiver with sneaky speed. His ability to be a one-man show is unprecedented, and it’s justifiable to make the claim that Harrison is the best receiver to enter draft since Calvin Johnson. Just go back to the semifinal playoff game when Ohio State lost a late lead to Georgia and was defeated by the Bulldogs. There’s no coincidence that the Bulldogs took over late in the game at the exact moment Harrison was injured and forced to the sidelines.

So it’s an open-and-shut case Harrison will be the WR1, correct? The answer is no.

First, Harrison is coming off a slightly disappointing 2023 season where more was expected from him, though truth be told, poor quarterback play at Ohio State and questionable game planning had a lot to do with the dip in production.

Then there’s the fact that Harrison has voluntarily done little in the run-up to the draft: no testing and no pass catching, rather measurements and a few interviews. And while people justifiably say, “Just watch the film,” the fact is that all the events leading up to draft day are one big job interview. When a prospective employee refuses to participate in the types of testing and workouts others have done for decades, it leaves a bad taste in the mouths of potential future employers who are about to invest millions of guaranteed dollars into that player and, more than anything else, opens the door for others.

And Nabers may walk through that door opening.

2024 NFL Draft: Malik Nabers' stock in the spotlight

LSU v Missouri
LSU v Missouri

Nabers is faster, more explosive and much better after the catch than Harrison. He’s not the game-controlling wideout the Ohio State product is, rather he’s a game-breaker who can score from any point on the field. Like his quarterback Jayden Daniels, Nabers has shown great improvement in his game the past year and a half and projects as a legitimate No. 1 wideout. He also comes from a program that has produced great NFL receivers year after year.

But there are red flags.

The LSU junior is known as a high-maintenance prospect who may struggle in a big city. There are off-the-field questions Nabers has had to answer to during the draft process, and teams must feel comfortable with those answers if they’re going to invest an early draft pick and millions of dollars in his services.

2024 NFL Draft: Rome Odunze strikes a delicate balance

Red flags are not an issue for Rome Odunze, considered the cleanest and possibly safest of the top three receivers. He’s a game-controlling wideout, though not to the extent of Harrison. He’s also a game-breaker, though not to the extent of Nabers. Rather Odunze is a terrific combination of the two and an NFL-ready wide-out who should be starting week 1.

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How many wide receivers could end up in Round 1?

After the top three wideouts, Nabers’ teammate Brian Thomas Jr. will likely be the fourth receiver selected, somewhere in the middle of Round 1. Soon after that, Adonai Mitchell of Texas is expected to come off the board. After these five players, how many additional receivers could end up in Round 1?

There are several teams in the middle of draft meetings that have first-round grades on two more wideouts - Xavier Worthy of Texas and Ladd McConkey of Georgia.

Worthy, you may remember, timed the 40 in 4.21 seconds at the combine, breaking the former record of 4.22 seconds held by John Ross. His pro day, specifically the position drills, put a lot of minds at ease. Worthy caught everything thrown to him, as I reported from Texas pro day, and showed strong hands and the ability to pluck the ball from the air. That quelled concerns teams had that Worthy was a receiver who struggled catching the fastball in college.

Consistency catching the ball was never a problem for McConkey, considered one of the most reliable receivers available in the draft. What elevated the Georgia wideout’s draft stock was his combine workout. His 40 time of 4.39 seconds was more than one-tenth faster than people expected from a receiver who shows great pass-catching skills and football intellect.

The receiver rising faster than any other is Ricky Pearsall of Florida. Several teams have placed an early second-round grade on Pearsall, another surehanded receiver who had a tremendous combine workout with times of 4.41 seconds in the 40 and 6.64 seconds in the three-cone and a vertical jump of 42 inches.

What position will Johnny Wilson play on Sundays?

For the past six months, I’ve moved Florida State pass catcher Johnny Wilson between my receiver and tight-end board. As of the most recent grades updates sent in Wednesday, Wilson resides on my tight-end board.

The Seminoles pass catcher measured 6-foot-6.5 and 231 pounds at the combine with arms that were 35 3/8 inches long. He also timed 4.52 seconds in the 40 and touched 37 inches in the vertical jump.

Chances are that Wilson is going to get larger in the future as he fills out his frame, and that’s why a lot of teams have him on their tight end boards. I’ve been told, and seen, where Wilson is rated as the No. 7 tight end on some boards. Expect Wilson’s transition to traditional tight end to take a while, yet he’ll be used as a move tight end who will create mismatches in the middle of the field.

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