Devy Battle: Bitter Buckeyes, Marvin Harrison, Jr. vs. Emeka Egbuka
Welcome to the first Devy Battle. This is a recurring series in which we pit two college players against each other and advise you on the strategy necessary to acquire each. At the end, we'll help you choose which player to prioritize, but by all means, if you can get both, do that.
Throughout the decades, certain schools can show themselves to be adept at production of high-level players from different position groups. For example, in the 80's and 90's, the University of Miami was referred to as "WR U" after producing a high concentration of NFL wide receivers including Michael Irvin, Reggie Wayne, Santana Moss, and Andre Johnson, among many others. Cal spent some time as "RB U" thanks to Marshawn Lynch, Russell White, JJ Arrington, CJ Anderson, Shane Vereen, Jahvid Best, and Justin Forsett, all of whom showed off their various talents in the NFL over a 20 year span. Currently, Iowa is considered "TE U," and Penn State and Notre Dame have traditionally been known as schools that produce top linebackers. With apologies to Alabama, LSU, and the historicity down in Miami, the newest incarnation of "WR U" is Ohio State.
The Buckeyes have spent the last 6 years producing some of the best receiving talent in the game. Terry McLaurin and Parris Campbell got the ball rolling, only to be followed by Chris Olave, Garrett Wilson, and Jameson Williams of the 2022 rookie class, and Jaxon Smith-Njigba in 2023. I count Williams because he was originally a Buckeye before seeing the writing on the wall in 2021 and transferring to Alabama. The 2021 Freshman class included the subjects of our Devy Battle today, Marvin Harrison, Jr. and Emeka Egbuka, both of whom should enter the 2024 NFL Draft. What Williams could, presumably, foresee was a packed WR room and that he wasn't going to be the alpha in said room.
Ohio State has a combination of an incredible recruiting pedigree that makes it an attractive school to attend and an elite WR coach in former NFL wide receiver Brian Hartline, who is cementing his name as the best in the business at coaching up future NFLers. The two elements add up to create an environment where receivers thrive, and NFL teams have noticed. None of the players taken in the 2022 or 2023 drafts that started their careers as Buckeye WRs were drafted later than the first round. That trend should hold true for Harrison, Jr. and Egbuka, as those two are considered among the top 5 receivers available and are ranked #1 and #2 in our DynastyPros Devy WR Rankings.
Now, consensus has Harrison, Jr., son of NFL Hall-of-Famer Marvin Harrison, as the #1 WR in the class. He is the presumptive leader in the Buckeyes WR room and should be the first WR taken overall next year. That doesn't mean that Egbuka is a slouch, nor that you should focus on MHJ in your Devy draft. We're here to break down this matchup of the two receivers at the same school, so...LET'S GET IT ON!
Tale of the Tape
Marvin Harrison, Jr.
REPORTED 40 TIME
There's not much that can be gleaned here. At 6'4", MHJ is kind of a freak. Egbuka is a little thicker. Their stats are eerily similar, although MHJ has turned a higher percentage of his catches into TDs. While MHJ was primarily used as a Z in 2022, he certainly has the size, agility, and ability to break press-coverage to play the X in the NFL. Similarly, Egbuka ran most out of the slot, but his speed, thickness, and rushing touches in 2022 make him a Z in the NFL.
The Case for Marvin Harrison, Jr.
When it comes to projecting MHJ, the primary arguments boil down to height and pedigree. Digging deep into the profile hints at an even more promising future. Harrison, Jr. has produced a 135.5 QB Rating when targeted. His hands at the catch point are absolutely elite. He is adept at short routes and has top of the class skills on intermediate and deep routes run. He has been called the best player in college football and is projected to be taken in the top 10 of the 2024 draft. Fantrax has MHJ projected to score 22.3 ppg in 2023. His NFL comp is faster, more agile Michael Thomas.
Plan on drafting Harrison in the first 5 picks in your Devy startup. Those first picks seem to come down to a preference of position. In a QB heavy draft, Harrison likely won't last past the 5th pick. If QBs aren't the focus, he'll likely be the 1st or second pick off the board, as he was in our DynastyPros Campus2Canton startup.
If you're looking to trade for him in Devy leagues it's going to take a major offer. According to the DynastyPros Trade Calculator, Harrison's value is prohibitive. If you have a 24 1st and a spare Patrick Mahomes to throw around, you might get MHJ.
The Case for Emeka Egbuka
While shorter than Harrison, Egbuka has a higher BMI and is faster and more explosive. He also has a really impressive ability to break tackles. He runs violently and with aggression and has elite YAC ability. OSU gave him 11 run plays throughout 2022 which he turned into 87 yards and 2 TDs. He is also an asset in the run game as an effective blocker which will endear him to NFL coaches. His hands are above average and his route running is elite at every level in the route tree. He plays a very complimentary role to Harrison. Fantrax has Egbuka projected to score 20.6 ppg in 2023. His NFL comp is faster, Deebo Samuel.
It's unlikely you would have a chance of rostering both OSU receivers without trading. If you have a pick later than the 1.05 you will need to trade up, or offer a trade after the draft to get Egbuka. While it won't cost you as much as Harrison, it will still require a Mahomes OR a 2024 first, not both.
Marvin Harrison, Jr., but you knew that.
Brendon is from Northern California and has been playing fantasy sports for over 25 years. He started sports writing 10 years ago. He is an alumnus of Arkansas Tech University, and follows the UC Davis Aggies, Cal Bears, and Arkansas Razorbacks in the NCAA. He is a die-hard fan of the Raiders, wherever they are, the San Francisco Giants, and Sacramento Kings. To fill his time outside of sports, he acts, writes and directs, and does sketch, improv, and stand-up comedy.