Will Malik Nabers be picked before Marvin Harrison Jr.? Execs, coaches rank NFL draft’s top WRs

Three teams are on the verge of injecting an explosive dimension to their offense Thursday night in the first round of the 2024 NFL Draft as a trio of potential superstar wide receivers are expected to fly off the board in a hurry.

Ohio State’s Marvin Harrison Jr., LSU’s Malik Nabers and Washington’s Rome Odunze are viewed as near-locks to become top-10 picks. But because they’re different types of players, there’s league-wide intrigue surrounding where they’ll land and in which order they’ll be selected.

“You have to look at: What does your receiver room look like?” a personnel executive told The Athletic. “Then figure out which element you’re missing. They’re all No. 1s. It’s like picking your favorite flavor of ice cream.”



Marvin Harrison Jr., Malik Nabers or Rome Odunze? Stacking NFL Draft’s top 3 WRs

The Athletic anonymously polled eight NFL executives, coaches and scouts to rank their top three receivers in the draft as a way to figure out how the group is generally viewed around the NFL. Harrison, Nabers and Odunze were listed on all eight ballots.

Here’s how it shook out, along with insight on each player.

Marvin Harrison Jr.

Harrison, the son of the Indianapolis Colts’ Hall of Fame receiver of the same name, has been penciled in as the 2024 class’ top receiver for a couple of years. He’s The Athletic’s Dane Brugler’s second-ranked overall prospect.

At 6-foot-3 and 209 pounds with polished route-running skills for his size, one personnel executive compared Harrison to “the Calvin Johnson mold.” Harrison has taken a professional approach to his game for years and has a high football IQ along with an array of skills that project from very good to great in the NFL.

Harrison totaled 144 catches for 2,474 yards and 28 touchdowns over his last two seasons with the Buckeyes.

“Bigger, stronger, route refinement, polished, great ball skills,” a scout said.



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While Harrison is mostly viewed as the first receiver off the board — even a couple of voters who ranked him second on the scale of personal preference admitted Harrison would probably go first — there are ways to nitpick.

One coach pointed out Harrison’s tape and production were better in 2022, even saying Nabers and Odunze produced better tape than Harrison in 2023. Harrison struggled to break tackles last season and wasn’t a consistently effective blocker. He also had six drops in 2023, compared to four total in the previous two seasons.

Harrison also chose not to work out at the combine or run the 40-yard dash during the pre-draft process. Surely, he showed plenty of ability to play with speed at Ohio State, but the pre-draft decisions raised some eyebrows, particularly in comparison to Nabers, whose speed is his greatest asset.

“Why not run?” a coach said. “Competitors compete.”

An executive added there is, “So much unknown with the way he handled the process.”

Another executive: “It’s an incomplete picture, at least from a comfort standpoint,” an executive said.

It’s more than plausible none of this will matter. Harrison is likely to be drafted somewhere between the fourth and sixth picks, and he’s displayed plenty over the past two years to suggest he’ll have a terrific NFL career.

Malik Nabers, LSU

Nabers, who is Brugler’s third overall prospect, can absolutely fly.

“Pure explosion,” a scout said. “Burst, separates out of his breaks.”

A couple of the executives who ranked Harrison first and Nabers second added that it’d be more accurate to describe them as “1A and 1B.”

At 6 feet and 199 pounds, Nabers may not have the prototypical size for a No. 1 wideout, but he makes up for it with his speed and home run ability. He’s unique in that sense compared to Harrison and Odunze, which adds to the mystery of his standing on the draft board. Nabers ran a 4.38-second 40-yard dash at his pro day.

If a team wants a game-breaking threat who can turn a short pass or end around into a long gain, it’d be understandable why Nabers could be the first receiver selected. A couple of teams thought Nabors could be in play for the Arizona Cardinals at No. 4.

“Flip a coin,” a scout said. “It depends how I’m feeling that day, but I’ve mostly leaned toward Harrison.”

Nabers tallied 161 receptions for 2,586 yards and 17 touchdowns over his last two seasons, and he registered a 20-yard catch in all 12 regular-season games in 2023. He also had 15 drops over the past three seasons.

“He’s a classic West Coast receiver who can take a slant and score from anywhere,” an executive said.



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Rome Odunze

Brugler’s sixth-ranked prospect, the 6-foot-2, 212-pounder kept it close with Nabers in the voting. Odunze was well-coached at Washington, had terrific film, improved each season and does just about everything well.

“He’s a gazelle,” a coach gushed.

An executive added, “He’s a freaking stud of a human.”

Odunze, who ran a 4.45-second 40-yard dash at the combine, tallied 167 receptions for 2,785 yards and 20 touchdowns over the past two seasons. He also had seven drops over that span, compared to seven against 41 catches in 2021.

Odunze is a good route runner for his size, attacks the ball in the air and wins battles for off-target throws. He drew rave reviews for his blocking and effort when the play wasn’t designed for him or the ball went elsewhere.

“He’s the safest pick of the three,” a coach said.

One scout said Odunze has the best ball skills among these receivers. A couple of executives said he’s the safest pick with the highest floor of the trio.

“Very well-rounded, good hands, consistent with everything he does,” an executive said. “He’s productive and effective even when he doesn’t have the ball.”

Odunze is expected to be a top-10 pick with teams viewing him as a candidate for the Chicago Bears at No. 9 or the New York Jets at No. 10.

“He’s maybe the cleanest prospect out of the three,” an executive said.

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(Photos of Marvin Harrison Jr. and Malik Nabers: Jason Mowry and Justin Ford / Getty Images)

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