I recently took a look at the 2024 class of QB’s, so I wanted to follow that up with the next most interesting group on paper, the wide receivers. Receivers are arguably the next most important position in modern NFL offenses. You can never have enough good ones. The 2023 group was ok but uninspiring. How does the 2024 class look in comparison?
Malik Nabers, LSU (Scouting Preview Grade: A)
Stunning. Spectacular. Extraordinary.
I have to reach for adjectives to describe what I'm seeing with Nabers. My goodness I don't recall ever being this impressed watching a college receiver. It's early and this is just a quick preview, but he might be the single best receiver I've ever scouted out of college. Perfect size, silky smooth routes, arrogant hands, toughness and strength to shed tacklers and break long runs, good long speed but utterly uncoverable because of his quickness. He's perfectly built for the modern NFL. He won't be the first receiver drafted because of Marvin Harrison's name, but he definitely should be in the conversation.
NFL Comp = Odell Beckham
Marvin Harrison, Ohio State (Scouting Preview Grade: A-)
There's not much to nitpick about Harrison. He's the whole package, good size, decent speed, very professional/polished routes, excellent hands, and the versatility to play inside or outside receiver. I don't think he's got overwhelming speed but he's very good at separating and if the ball is anywhere close to him he's going to bring it in with steel trap hands. It's possible his name is giving him a slight bump, he may be more A or A- than the A+ the media is fawning over, but he's very good regardless, definitely the best of the recent Ohio St receivers in my opinion. He's going to be drafted in the top 5 and will be a productive receiver barring injury.
NFL Comp = Smaller Larry Fitzgerald
Xavier Worthy, Texas (Scouting Preview Grade: B+)
Whew boy, here's some raw speed for you, but the spicy part is that Worthy isn't just raw speed, he can ball too. Unbelievable feet, can stop start on a dime, and is a smooth route runner to boot. Worthy isn't a track star playing football. He's a football star that happens to be an elite track athlete. His stats are being held back by two things: 1) Ewers sucks and 2) whoever is running the offense doesn't even have him on the field all the time and isn't getting him the ball nearly as much as he should. Worthy should be taking a handful of bubble screens and 3-5 speed sweeps a game just to get the ball in his hands and let him try to break a big play. It reminds me of watching Tyreek his first year in KC. Everyone with eyes can see they are electric playmakers. Get them the damn ball! Worthy has 1st round pick written all over him.
NFL Comp = Jaylen Waddle
Xavier Legette, South Carolina (Scouting Preview Grade: B)
Big bodied, alpha receiver type with excellent speed and body control for his size. He's a tough matchup for smaller college corners that he can push around but too fast for most bigger defensive backs. 15 years ago he would be a 1st round lock but the NFL has evolved and now favors mid-size guys with top notch speed and quick feet, guys that are near impossible to cover. Legette moves well for his size but he's not that fast in the broader picture. Can he continue to separate or will he need to adapt to more tight coverage? It's hard to make a living that way in the modern NFL. I like Legette the talent and football player but I do have some concerns about his style in today's NFL.
NFL Comp = Alshon Jeffrey/Courtland Sutton
Tony Franklin, Oregon (Scouting Preview Grade: B-)
Tall, thin receiver, a smooth mover, fast enough, good not great hands, maybe a little lackadaisical at times because he's so naturally talented. I'd like to see a little more fight and aggression out of him. He's clearly very good and knows it. Franklin could get into an NFL weight room, get a real body, and go on to become a dominant #1 receiver or he could think he's too good for hard work and flame out as the “what-could-have-been” guy. There is some boom or bust with him and that would make me nervous spending a 2nd round pick on the guy (which is where I expect he'll go). The talent is hard to ignore though.
NFL Comp = Less feisty George Pickens
Keon Coleman, Florida State (Scouting Preview Grade: B-/C+)
Coleman has some skills. Let's just get that out of the way now. Good body, nice movement skills for his size, but his superpower is his ability to adjust in the air and bring in any catch in his radius no matter where the defender is even though he has the natural skill to position himself between the defender and the ball most of the time.
My issue with Coleman is twofold. He's not particularly fast or quick and he doesn't separate well. 15 years ago this wouldn't have been a big deal, but modern NFL offenses are calling for more and more raw speed, smaller guys that are just impossible to keep up with in space. Coleman can play no doubt. The issue is he's a dinosaur in today's day and age. His style and skillset don't fit well with what most teams are trying to do these days. Can he be productive in the NFL? Sure, there's no reason why he can't. I just think what he does well is not as in-demand as it used to be. I can find plenty of big guys that can outmuscle defenders at the catch-point. What is much harder to find are speedsters like Tyreek that are literally impossible to cover. Coleman is tracking as a top 15 pick at the moment, but I'll bet he's a late first or 2nd rounder by the time we're done.
NFL Comp = Allen Robinson
Rome Odunze, Washington (Scouting Preview Grade: C+)
You could do worse than Odunze but you could do a lot better too. He's a fine college receiver but I don't see #1 potential in the NFL. He's got good height but a little thin right now, wiry strong, moves fairly well, soft hands at the catch point. My issue with him is he's afforded a ton of space at Washington due to their innovative offense and Michael Penix. If he lands with the Dolphins great, but anywhere else he's likely to face much tighter coverage and more jams at the line of scrimmage. Pac 10 defenses just do not compare to what is coming his way. How will he cope? Can he separate on his own without being schemed open?
NFL Comp = Tyler Boyd
Brian Thomas, LSU (Scouting Preview Grade: C+)
Tall, lanky receiver that's much faster than you would think at first glance. He can and will run by defenders that aren't ready for it. Surprisingly good runner after the catch. A lot of bigger guys can't dip and change directions the way Thomas can. Hands seem ok at first glance. Routes could use some polish but again that's normal for big guys. He does player much softer than you'd like to see for a guy his size. It's like he doesn't know he's 6'4”/210 and is trying to play like a smaller, more elusive receiver. Right now he's a shallow cross and bombs guy. Will need to expand his route tree if he wants to be more effective at the next level. Talented but has holes.
NFL Comp = Martavis Bryant
Ladd McConkey, Georgia (Scouting Preview Grade: C)
Don't pigeonhole this guy in as another white slot receiver. That's not his game. He can play all over, but he's more of an outside guy. Great routes, soft hands, speed to pull away from defenders. He's a little thinner than you'd like but weight rooms are a thing and there's just a ton of receivers coming out that are skinny these days. It's not a negative anymore. McConkey might get slept on a little but that's a mistake. He can play in the league and be productive.
NFL Comp = Dante Pettis but not a headcase
Roman Wilson, Michigan (Scouting Preview Grade: C)
Severely underutilized in the Michigan offense. This guy is a jitterbug with very quick feet and the ability to snap off routes in a hurry. Curious about his long speed but he doesn't get many chances to show it off in this stodgy offense. Probably not an NFL star but should be useful.
NFL Comp = Andy Isabella?
Emeka Egbuka, Ohio State (Scouting Preview Grade: C)
Solid receiver but nothing special. He's decent all the way around, no real weaknesses but no strengths either. Ok size, speed, hands, route running...he's a chain moving slot at the next level, definitely the worst of all the recent Ohio St receivers but that's not bad given the broader context of the league. He'll be a nice #2 or #3 in the NFL. His comp will sound like a huge compliment but it's only meant to highlight his physical abilities and style. However, if Egbuka's work ethic is up to par then maybe he can overcome some natural limitations.
NFL Comp = Less agile Jaxon Smith-Njigba
Johnny Wilson, Florida St (Scouting Preview Grade: C-)
Enormous wide receiver coming in at 6'6” and 230+ lbs but moves extremely well for his size. Decent get off and surprising long speed. Hands are good not great. Obviously has some limitations as a route runner due to his frame. He's not as stiff as Kelvin Benjamin, but I don't think he's limber enough to stay at receiver and become a star. He's not Mike Evans. In my opinion his best bet will be transitioning to TE and trying to become the next Darren Waller. The combine will be key for him. If he runs a 4.5 flat with a 36”+ vertical then maybe he could make it happen. Otherwise he's just the next jumbo receiver that's athletic enough to be cute in college but not athletic enough to hurt NFL defenses at his size.
NFL Comp = The combine will tell if he's Dorial Green-Beckham or Darren Waller
Adonai Mitchell, Texas (Scouting Preview Grade: D+)
Mitchell looks and moves like an NFL wide receiver. He's probably 6'2” or 6'3”, maybe 205, well-built and simply a born athlete. If you just watch him running around with his helmet on you could mistake him for Justin Jefferson. But someone is going to fall in love with how he looks and ignore the fact that he's just not very good at football. It's so easy to watch his best moments and think “we just have to coach him up with all that natural abililty,” but in practice that almost never works out. I can't totally write him off (unless he bombs the combine which I don't think will happen), but I don't see much reason to get excited about him either. He's a consensus 2nd round pick right now but I'll be he goes 5th+ at this juncture.
NFL Comp = Chris Conley
Malachi Corley, Western Kentucky (Scouting Preview Grade: D)
Compact, tough, hard-working little receiver. He plays with confidence and aggression of a #1 receiver. His physical limitations are going to hold him back though. Will likely have to work his way up a roster, but could eventually wind up as a nice third option out of the slot.
NFL Comp = Amari Rodgers
Ainias Smith, Texas A&M (Scouting Preview Grade: D)
Grinder type without any real ability to hurt NFL defenses. Doesn't look particularly athletic but still seems to break off some good runs after the catch. Maybe ends up as a nice #3 or 4. Most likely makes a team as a punt returner with some ability.
NFL Comp = Ray-Ray McCloud
Ja'Lynn Polk, Washington (Scouting Preview Grade: D)
Very generic looking receiver. Average size, hands, speed, routes. He's fine, competent, but mostly just a product of a very good offense where he's the second or third option. Looks like a bottom of the roster candidate to me.
NFL Comp = Dede Westbrook
This class looks absolutely loaded compared to the 2023 group. There are multiple legit 1st round picks here and plenty of depth after that. And this is just the consensus top 100 guys. I guarantee there will be plenty more solid guys that are flying under the radar right now because they play for smaller schools or have a terrible QB or got injured. 2024 is a good year to be looking for a receiver.
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