April 13, 2024

2024 NFL Rookie Wide Receiver Spotlight

10 min read

2024 NFL Rookie Wide Receiver Spotlight

 

As we get closer to the NFL combine and the draft, scouting departments are hard at work identifying future franchise players and hidden gems of the class. And even though I've yet to be contacted by any NFL team for scouting advice (in due time), I'm diving in to see who might be a future player on my re-draft/ dynasty rosters and included in my 2024 NFL Rookie WR Spotlight. 

I've looked at approximately 20 wide receiver prospects thus far, and I'm here to give you some first impressions of some of my favorite prospects. I will spotlight some players we'll see on Sundays and give you an informational edge over your league mates. Ensure to follow throughout the offseason to get the scoop on the rest of this wide receiver class.

Let's spotlight some of the top 2024 Rookie Wide Reciever in this year's draft class.

 

Marvin Harrison Jr.

Generational. That's a word thrown around when hearing industry experts talk about Marvin Harrison Jr., and while I feel "generational" is an adjective used far too often, they may be correct. Harrison's undeniable talent pops off the screen when watching Ohio State. A route-running tactician, Harrison regularly wins at all levels, can play inside or outside, and excels at adjusting his body to make the difficult catches look routine. He's quicker off the line than you'd expect for a player of his size, who is reportedly 6'4" and weighs over 200lbs.

Harrison has been a devy staple the last few years for good reason. A Biletnikoff finalist in 2022, Harrison expanded upon his sophomore season by winning the coveted award in 2023 as the nation's top receiver. Harrison is next up at a school consistently producing top wide receiver talent. While playing alongside Emeka Egbuka this season (presumed first-second-round pick in 2025),

Harrison posted a dominator rating of 33.84% while logging 67 catches for 1,211 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns. Harrison is a consensus top-5 overall pick in the upcoming NFL draft, and if you're looking to add him to your dynasty squad, I hope you're ready to pay up. His current price is around the same draft positions of Amon-Ra St. Brown and A.J. Brown in start-up drafts. As for what you'd be buying, you'd be getting a 21-year-old immediate difference-maker with an insane PPR upside and a ceiling possessed by few in the league. 

 

Malik Nabers

Malik Nabers

Dangerous after the catch, Malik Nabers has elite vision and is this class's most explosive, "big play" receiver. At 6'1" and 188lbs, Nabers followed up on a solid true sophomore season (72 receptions/ 1,009 yards) with a stellar junior season, registering 1,569 receiving yards, 89 catches, and 14 touchdowns. A true difference maker who can play outside or in the slot, Nabers shows elite vision in space and whose speed pressures defenses to play deep, opening up the middle of the field. He's got elite acceleration in and out of his routes, which would give top NFL receivers a run for their money.

In 2023, Nabers logged 589 YAC (Yards After Catch), according to PFF, showing the damage he can do to a defense with the ball in his hands. His short-area quickness is elite, and he has the potential to take any catch to the house. Like Marvin Harrison Jr., Nabers had internal competition this past season playing alongside Brian Thomas Jr. and, despite that competition, commanded a 26% target share.

He's a projected top-10 pick and, in most years, would find himself as the undisputed WR1 in the class. Those saying there is a tier between him and Harrison Jr. are mistaken. Nabers has all the tools to be a top wide receiver in the NFL immediately, and I cannot wait to get some shares of him in the dynasty.

 

Brian Thomas Jr.

When watching Brian Thomas Jr., you can't help but be impressed by his game's size/speed combo. Standing at 6'4" and 200lbs, Thomas is a long athlete who, despite his frame, is both explosive and agile. Thomas can win all over the field. Quick enough in and out of breaks to operate across the middle, possesses excellent ball tracking and above-average speed on deep balls. Leading the FBS in touchdowns (17),

Thomas is a proven red-zone threat, utilizing his length and body positioning to box out defenders while highpointing the football. Thomas is a willing blocker, and I was impressed that he often played through the whistle on blocks. Playing alongside Malik Nabers, Thomas only received a 16% target share for LSU in 2023. The target share shouldn’t come as a shock, given Nabers's undeniable talent, but is a slight concern for a first-round prospect. At only 21 years old, Thomas has room to grow his game. To be a true WR1 on an offense, he must work on consistent footwork, playing to his size (more physical) and developing sharper routes.

 

Rome Odunze

In 2023, Rome Odunze was a force in the Pac-12. Impressive season totals in yards (1640), receptions (92), and touchdowns (13) undoubtedly position him as one of the most productive receivers in his class. His size, 6'3", 215 (unofficial), makes him a commodity in today's NFL. What stood out when watching Odunze was his strong hands, catch radius, and willingness to block. And anything that was thrown in his direction was usually caught.

Initially, I saw him as more of a contested catch guy, which gave me cause for concern in his ability to separate. But after watching both Oregon games in 2023 and his game against Michigan State, separation isn't an issue. There were plenty of examples on film in which he ate up zone coverage and would power through press coverage using his strength. Odunze shows incredible body positioning in plays where he is seemingly covered, and when Michael Penix Jr. gives him an opportunity, he always seems to make the catch.

Odunze is a strong runner with the ball in his hand and, despite his size, can make quick cuts to make defenders miss. Some room for improvement would be to see him come back to the ball more on curl routes, and at times, he stops at the end of his route rather than freestyling a bit to get open. Otherwise, a great prospect that should be a top-20 NFL draft pick.

 

Troy Franklin

Troy Franklin's best weapon is, without a doubt, his speed. His speed translates to big plays downfield, good run-after-catch ability, and natural separation at the top of his routes. At only 20 years old, the Oregon standout finished his junior campaign with 81 receptions for 1,383 yards and 14 touchdowns. Franklin fits that mold for teams that covet speed and want to spread out the defense. Despite his incredible speed, Franklin has parts of his game that still need work. Franklin plays with below-average strength, which shows in his blocking, ability to beat press coverage, and contested catch opportunities.

Franklin tends to look upfield and can suffer from concentration drops at times. While explosive, he lacks consistent footwork off the line of scrimmage, seemingly trying to blow by defenders. For a guy as fast as Franklin, despite having quick feet, I expected to see more jitter off the line and in/out of his breaks.

The negatives in Franklin's game can be worked on, and at only 20 years old, Franklin still possesses traits you cannot teach (speed and length). Franklin can be an early contributor to the NFL in the right system. For teams looking at Franklin to walk in as their WR1, that could hurt his development as he still has parts of his game that need work.

 

Devontez Walker

We didn't see Devontez Walker much in 2023 due to eligibility issues, and he only appeared in eight games. In his first and only season playing at North Carolina, the Kent State transfer had 41 receptions, 699 receiving yards, and seven touchdowns. Listed at 6'2" 200lbs, Walker is best at stretching the field, with an aDOT (avg. depth of target) of 18.2 (ranked eighth among FBS receivers with a minimum of 50 targets) and 2.28 YPRR (yards per route ran) in 2023.

Looking at the tape, Walker shows elite playmaking ability with the ball. A genuine lateral threat, Walker does well at adjusting his body positioning with the ball in the air and utilizes his strong hands to come down with the contested catch (58.8% contested catch rate in 2023).

Despite the positives, Walker has areas to improve to reach his full potential at the NFL level. He needs help to gain separation from his break, showing inconsistent footwork and underwhelming route running. Lining up outside over 92% of the time at North Carolina raises questions on whether Walker can add slot versatility to his game. Additional reports out of the senior bowl were not glowing for Walker, stating that he struggled with drops throughout the week. He'll need to clean that up and show his speed at the combine to be a late first-round prospect in the upcoming NFL draft, as some analysts have him projected.

 

Ladd McConkey

What showed up on tape was fully displayed at the Senior Bowl for Ladd McConkey. Videos are circling of McConkey dicing up DBs in one-on-ones, with sharp route running and jitter off the line. McConkey gains easy separation from his breaks and can sit down on his routes better than most in this class. A willing and effective blocker, McConkey can run screens as an extension of the run game. His 'plus traits' in blocking will allow him to find himself on the field early and often for whichever team drafts him.

McConkey had a 136.8 passer rating when targeted in 2023, and that is where he'll find his fantasy success at the next level: a dependable slot receiver who can stretch the field and find space to eat between the hashes. He needs to improve his play strength to win against bigger DBs and press coverage consistently. You can't help but see some Cooper Kupp in his game, and I think NFL scouts will fall in love with McConkey as a safe prospect who can be a quarterback's best friend.

 

Keon Coleman

One of the more polarizing prospects in this year's draft, Keon Coleman, has the NFL scouting community torn. I've seen rankings having Coleman as high as WR4 and others having him outside their top ten. Coleman is known for his highlight reel catches and size, but as we dive into the numbers, Coleman only caught 33.3% of his contested catch opportunities.

His struggles in that area are a major red flag for the 6'4", 215lb prospect, given this is the trait he's best known for. Coleman lacks explosiveness in and out of his breaks, which can cause trouble separating from sticky defenders. With an average depth of target of only 1.74, those negatives are hard to overlook. While Coleman has some question marks on his profile, it is essential to note that he is only 20 years old, making him one of the youngest prospects in the draft.

Aside from his size and age, he's got positive traits to his game that stand out on tape. He's pretty fluid for a guy of his size, showing the ability to make plays downfield and across the middle. Coleman, a multisport athlete, has impressive hands and body control, allowing him to play "above the rim" and attack the football at the catch point. When getting underneath defenders, Coleman is terrific at using his size to box out smaller defensive backs and has improved his route running since his time at Michigan State.

Coleman uses his frame to win his blocking matchups, showing that he is a willing blocker and one of the better blockers in this class. His blocking popped for me while watching his game against Virginia Tech, easily moving defenders and springing the running backs for multiple big runs, including an 85-yard Trey Benson touchdown.

While the blocking can sometimes be inconsistent, he's shown he can do it. Coleman will be a riser throughout this draft process as he possesses freakish traits that NFL teams prioritize. If he crushes the combine as I expect he will, Coleman will cement his name as a first-round pick.

 

Xavier Worthy

If you play Devy, you know the name Xavier Worthy. The 20-year-old prospect saw success immediately upon arriving on campus at Texas. A freshman breakout season put the young receiver on the map as he logged 62 receptions, 981 yards, and 12 touchdowns. Worthy was consistent throughout his time at Texas, registering at least 60 catches and over 700 yards receiving. He did see improvements his junior year as a returner, averaging 16.9 yards per punt return (up from 9.7 the year prior) while scoring a touchdown.

While his slight frame and below-average play strength limit his upside at the NFL level, Worthy can still fill a role (similar to Josh Downs) in a modern NFL offense that can utilize his strengths. He has shown the ability to win both in the slot and out wide, using his long speed, sharp route running, and elite short-area quickness to gain separation on defenders. Worthy also shows he can be dangerous after the catch, boasting 571 YAC in 2023.

Worthy is a young (still developing) playmaker with game-changing speed. NFL teams will wait to see what he runs at the combine, as Worthy is considered a candidate for a sub 4.30 40-yard dash. If he finds himself in a favorable landing spot, he has the potential to be a second-round steal in upcoming rookie drafts.

 

Jermaine Burton

This dude's fast. I'm surprised there isn't more Jermaine Burton hype right now because there is a lot to love about his game. A genuine deep threat, Burton's best skills are his speed, ball tracking, and ability to adjust his body to make the catch downfield. PFF has him with zero drops on the year in 2023. That's right, 0 drops. His contested catch percentage was 56%, and he had an aDOT of 20.2 (3rd in FBS for receivers with a minimum of 50 targets).

Character concerns are the real blemish when it comes to evaluating Burton. His taunting and on-field antics leave questions about his maturity, which NFL teams will have a chance to address throughout the pre-draft process. Burton has the tools to be a day-one contributor, given the opportunity. If he shows maturity and can continue developing his route running, this guy can outperform his draft capital.

 

Sources: PFF, Sports Reference

Nick Goodwin

X: ngoodwin_tv

 

What more NFL Draft Content?

Check out @CodyFolden and his thoughts on the receiver class

Cody Folden's NFL Draft Top Wide Receivers

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