2024 NFL Draft WR Superlatives


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2024 NFL Draft WR Superlatives

We are just days away from the 2024 NFL Draft, the league's second-most prized event behind the Super Bowl, and a football oasis in the middle of the off-season desert.

If you haven’t yet checked out my 2024 Prospect Guide, please do so by clicking here.

In recent years, college football has consistently sent us class after class of WRs who are ready to play the second they are drafted. This 2024 class is no different, and it's possible this is the best one yet. This is truly a “pick your flavor” scenario for teams that need a WR, as there are “good, better, and best” options through the whole Draft for whatever particular archetype or specific skill set teams like/need most.

So, this is the perfect opportunity to break down the players who best embody those skill sets.

The players are ranked in reverse countdown order — the “best” at the particular skill set is listed at the bottom.


5.) Xavier Legette, South Carolina

4.) Rome Odunze, Washington

3.) Marvin Harrison Jr, OSU

2.) Brian Thomas Jr, LSU

1.) Jermaine Burton, Alabama

Being a vertical threat isn’t just about speed. It's about winning downfield. Typically, being fast isn't enough to get the job done.

For this section, I heavily considered skills like the ability to win off the LOS and stack defensive backs, ball tracking, body control, and ball skills. All of these guys display those traits at a very high level, some in very different ways than others. Harrison, Odunze, and Legette have exceptional body control and ball skills that allow them to do “weird” things with their body in the air.

Thomas and Burton, on the other hand, mostly win with pure explosiveness and ball tracking.


5.) Malik Nabers, LSU

4.) Troy Franklin, Oregon

3.) Ladd McConkey, Georgia

2.) Ricky Pearsall, Florida

1.) Rome Odunze, Washington

Generating separation is the intersection between release package, route running, athleticism, and football intelligence. The top-end guys are usually of specific body types or archetypes which makes Odunze’s presence on this list all the more impressive.


5.) Ladd McConkey, Georgia

4.) Jermaine Burton, Alabama

3.) Ricky Pearsall, Florida

2.) Rome Odunze, Washington

1.) Marvin Harrison Jr., OSU

Conversely, being a great route runner doesn’t necessarily mean you will automatically generate a ton of separation.

Marvin Harrison Jr., for example, saw press-man coverage more than anyone in the class, and it wasn’t close. He also got a ton of extra attention from opposing defenses, so the opportunities for generating huge windows were relatively limited. Conversely, he has one of the most developed release games I have ever seen from a prospect in the Draft. His agility to win a rep early with his release, gaining positive leverage to then snap off crispy route breaks, sets him apart from the pack, and he does so at 6’4”, 215 pounds. I can’t think of a single route type he was “bad” on.


5.) Roman Wilson, Michigan

4.) Jermaine Burton, Alabama

3.) Adonai Mitchell, Texas

2.) Ja’Lynn Polk, Washington

1.) Ricky Pearsall, Florida

This will come as a shock to you, but the main job of a wide receiver is to catch the ball.

It also won’t shock you that four of the five guys noted here had the lowest drop rate over the past two seasons. The lone outlier, Ja’Lynn Polk, is present because of the number of high-level catches he put on tape. He was basically a vacuum for poorly located Michael Penix Jr. throws, and while there are a few concentration drops on tape, he almost never let his team down when it mattered.


5.) Ricky Pearsall, Florida

4.) Malachi Corley, Western Kentucky

3.) Xavier Legette, South Carolina

2.) Malik Washington, Virginia

1.) Malik Nabers, LSU

So many factors contribute to whether a player is a great run-after-catch option. For me, it all starts with their ability to transition from run to catch, and all five from the list above are great at that component.

From there, you have to consider vision in the open field, ability to make guys miss and/or run through tackles, and the ability to erode pursuit angles with pure speed. Malik Nabers is the unquestioned best in class as he does ALL of those things as well and has the type of open-field speed that fills highlight tapes. The list of defenders caught chasing air because of Nabers' angle-eroding speed is very long.


5.) Keon Coleman, FSU

4.) Marvin Harrsion Jr, Ohio State

3.) Malik Nabers, LSU

2.) Xavier Legette, South Carolina

1.) Rome Odunze, Washington

The analytics world has completely flipped the narrative on WRs who thrive in contested situations (rightfully so). The harsh reality is if the first thing you list about a WR is his ability on contested catches, then that player is very likely not a high-level route runner or separator, and projecting success at the next level is difficult.

With that said, even great separators have to make contested catches occasionally. Body control is the central trait we are scouting here — I’ve found this is actually the most common trait among college prospects who turn into great pros in general. So while being a contested-catch-only type of player is most certainly a bad thing, being able to do it at a high level is most definitely a good thing.

I can quickly rattle off the likes of Justin Jefferson, Tyreek Hill, Stefon Diggs, Davante Adams, Ja’Marr Chase, Terry McLaurin, CeeDee Lamb, and Nico Collins as a collection of some of the best WRs in the league, who are also elite in contested situations.


5.) Johnny Wilson, Florida State

4.) Brenden Rice, USC

3.) Keon Coleman, Florida State

2.) Xavier Legette, South Carolina

1.) Marvin Harrison Jr, Ohio State

The days of every offense needing that big framed WR to line up outside on the line of scrimmage on every single play are long gone. With that said, a lot of teams still have utility for that player, and recent drafts just haven’t given them many.

This class, on the other hand, is full of them. I am not necessarily saying these guys can only play the X role at the NFL level; I am just merely pointing out they have that throwback skill set to do so and are likely best suited for that role. Some honorable mentions here would be Rome Odunze, Brian Thomas Jr., and Adonai Mitchell, who all have that height/weight/speed combo.


5.) Luke McCaffrey, Rice

4.) Jacob Cowing, Arizona

3.) Javon Baker, UCF

2.) Jalen McMillan, Washington

1.) Roman Wilson, Michigan

Like the above category, I am not saying these guys are slot-only in today’s NFL. This group, however, is probably best used in the slot, where they can capitalize on their quickness with free access to the second level.

Roman Wilson and Jacob Cowing add an extra vertical element with their excellent deep speed. Javon Baker, on the other hand, should be able to step in and do exactly what Rashee Rice was able to do last year for the Chiefs as a bigger-bodied, RAC-centric, zone destroyer.


5.) Anthony Gould, Oregon State

4.) Tez Walker, UNC

3.) Adonai Mitchell, Texas

2.) Brian Thomas Jr, LSU

1.) Xavier Worthy, Texas

Drafting players purely on long- peed has gotten NFL teams into some major trouble over the years. With that said, there is still an element of functionality to what it brings to the offense.

In Thomas and Mitchell's case, they can take you deep and win on the boundary on any given snap. The other three — Worthy, Walker, and Gould — are math-changers who force the defense to stay honest. Their presence will invoke a lot of two-high coverages and open things up for players underneath and in the intermediate middle of the field.

Brett Whitefield is an experienced professional in football analytics, with more than a decade in the business. He has held several key positions with some of the top companies in the industry, including as a process manager at Pro Football Focus (PFF), where he spent more than seven years. Brett has also worked with and consulted for multiple NFL teams and Power-5 NCAA football programs.