NFL Draft: Wide receiver class is stacked, even if Marvin Harrison Jr. is No. 1

Marvin Harrison Jr. is the No. 1 wide receiver — and maybe overall player — in this draft.

But that doesn't mean the receiver class isn't loaded. Here's a look at why fans should be excited to add a wideout at the NFL Draft.

Percentile ranking in statistics listed is among the 598 FBS wide receivers that ran 500 or more routes since 2019.

Rome Odunze, Washington

Big Board rank: 5th

Things that make you go ‘mmmm’ (like Homer Simpson)

Odunze doesn’t just check every box you would want in a modern NFL wide receiver, he checks and circles them with a Sharpie. Odunze has great size but is a fluid athlete that can win at all three levels with his combination of strength and body control. There aren’t a ton of throws that Odunze cannot come down with; his catching range is that wide and hand strength that strong.

He can win in multiple ways against press, has a diverse route tree from both inside and outside alignments, and can create with the ball in his hands because of his contact balance and agility. There’s useful players, then there are players like Odunze who will get a first down on a screen, do the dirty work in the run game to open up a lane for his teammate, then finish the drive with a play like this:

“Scheme-proof” is one of the highest compliments I can give a player, and Odunze feels as scheme- and situation-proof as they come at the wide receiver position. I have mentioned this comparison every time I've brought up Odunze, but he reminds me of a super version of Chris Godwin.

Things that make you go ‘mmmm’ (like Marge Simpson)

Odunze is more good in some areas (long speed, yard after catch ability, route running) than excellent, and may be already fairly close to his ceiling (which is still high) as his game already shows plenty of polish.

Career stats (percentile rank)

Routes: 1,280

Yards per route run: 2.6 (89th)

First downs per route run: 11.1% (91st)

Explosive reception per route run: 6.2% (94th)

Malik Nabers, LSU

Big Board rank: 9th

Things that make you go ‘mmmm’ (like Homer)

The need for speed. That’s what you’re getting with Malik Nabers.

Nabers is a human explosive play machine. His film is scorching hot, which his box score statistics (89 catches, 1,569 yards, 14 touchdowns) and more advanced numbers (98th percentile ranking in explosive receptions per route) reflect.

Nabers can take any underneath throw the distance and can win vertically from both the slot and outside. He had some incredible highlight reel catches along the sideline this past season, displaying excellent hand-eye coordination and ball skills. His route running is just adequate at this time, but his age (he turns 21 in late July) plus pure speed and explosive athleticism make you think there is plenty more to tap into as a professional.

Things that make you go ‘mmmm’ (like Marge)

Nabers did align in the slot on more than half of his snaps in college (54.7%), which causes some hesitation with how he will hold up in a more full-time outside role. Was that just to fully unlock him, or hide any deficiencies against more physical cornerbacks? His firepower is more than worth any alignment limitations, but it is worth noting.

Nabers overall has good hands, but is more of a body catcher when working over the middle of the field. This led to drops (15 of them, tied for most among the 17 wide receivers in the top 100 of my big board) and double-catches, which wouldn’t allow him to turn on the afterburners until he secured the ball.

Career stats (percentile rank)

Routes: 992

Yards per route run: 3.0 (98th)

First downs per route run: 13.6% (99th)

Explosive reception per route run: 6.9% (98th)

LSU's Malik Nabers and Brian Thomas Jr. (11) are two of the top wide receiver prospects in this NFL Draft class. (Photo by Michael Chang/Getty Images)

Brian Thomas Jr., LSU

Big Board rank: 17th

Things that make you go ‘mmmm’ (like Homer)

Even though Thomas Jr. was wildly productive in 2023, there is so much more for him to tap into at the next level. He has great size (6-foot-3, 209 pounds) with nearly 33-inch arms as well. His physical profile looks like a ball-winning outside "X" wide receiver, but Thomas Jr. moves and plays differently than those typically tall and vertical-only players.

Thomas Jr. tested like an excellent athlete at the combine and it shows up when watching him, even on plays where he is not targeted with the football. Thomas just moves differently. He has real body control and bend, consistently able to sink on breaking routes and keep his feet while avoiding defenders with the ball in his hands.

It’s a very interesting package of traits, especially considering that Thomas Jr. shows on film that he’s not a raw prospect. He might take some time, but his upside is a true No. 1 that can damage defenses in more ways than just along the sideline. He looks like an X, but Thomas Jr. might be something different in the NFL.

Things that make you go ‘mmmm’ (like Marge)

Drops are an issue with Thomas, and so is catching the football through contact and more physical defenders (7.4% drop rate in college, 20th percentile ranking since 2019). He can make catches away from his body, but he is not that mega ball-winner you might expect from his size; think of Thomas Jr. as more of an oversized wing in basketball than a post player banging down low.

There are flashes of a developing route tree (and I am optimistic he’ll be able to add more branches and limbs as a pro), but it is still more of an idea than anything he performed consistently in college. I think he is a good route runner, especially given his size, but Thomas Jr. still has a fairly limited route tree.

Also, some of his statistical profile is not what you’d ideally see with a first-round wide receiver.

Career stats (percentile rank)

Routes: 913

Yards per route run: 2.1 (68th)

First downs per route run: 8.3% (56th)

Explosive reception per route run: 4.1% (56th)

Adonai Mitchell, Texas

Big Board rank: 24th

Things that make you go ‘mmmm’ (like Homer)

Mitchell has been one of my risers during this process, soaring on my board even before he soared through the air in Indianapolis and more or less jumped out of Lucas Oil Stadium.

Mitchell moves at a different pace than everyone else on the field. What at first might seem like a jog is actually something way more brisk as you see Mitchell eat up yards with his strides and threaten defenders way quicker than they anticipate. He is an outside wide receiver that will instantly contribute as a red zone threat because of his springiness and ball skills. Mitchell was constantly contorting his body and even double-jumping, Super Mario style, through the air to come down with throws all around him.

His athleticism shows up with how he is able to stay sharp on his route breaks. Even if he lacks detail with his route running, his ability to stay in control despite his explosiveness and size is impressive. Mitchell’s flashes are as bright as any receiver prospect in this draft.

Things that make you go ‘mmmm’ (like Marge)

There's overall inconsistency in his play. Mitchell will at times look like he’s guessing, and guessing incorrectly, on his route or assignment and it can take him out of the play. Mitchell is going to take time, and a good situation, to get the most out of his athletic gifts, but I also think he’s going to be a frustrating player early in his career because of the improvement needed with his details. He is also mediocre with the ball in his hands and profiles as a player that does his best work vertically (only 3.0 yards after catch per reception in his career, 3rd percentile).

I do think those tools are worth investing in and sharpening, but I think he will struggle if he is forced to be “the guy” in an NFL passing game right away. He is more situation-dependent than most of the players ranked around him.

Career stats (percentile rank)

Routes: 792

Yards per route run: 1.8 (46th)

First downs per route run: 8.7% (65th)

Explosive reception per route run: 4.2% (60th)

Keon Coleman, Florida State

Big Board rank: 29th

Things that make you go ‘mmmm’ (like Homer)

Keon Coleman may have been a guard when he played basketball, but his football-playing style is more like a power forward than anything else.

Coleman is a classic ball-winning "X" wide receiver. (If you’ve noticed, I’ve referred to players as "X" receivers several times so far. That’s a testament to the depth of this draft; they’re hard to find and this draft might have several.)

Coleman has great size and likes to use his strength, excellent hand-eye coordination and size to box out cornerbacks and find a way to come down with the throw, whether they were above the rim or elsewhere, and that makes him a threat in isolated situations and in the red zone. If the throw managed to get near Coleman, he became Kirby and would suck the football up (only a 2.7% drop rate in college, 92nd percentile).

His strength and balance also showed up with the ball in his hands as Coleman will consistently bounce off of the first tackler and is sneakily good at creating yards after the catch despite his lack of overwhelming speed.

Things that make you go ‘mmmm’ (like Marge)

“Lack of separation” can be thrown around a bit too often these days and without any context of a pass catcher’s route asks or quarterback situation, but it is a fair way to criticize Coleman’s game. He is not the most detailed or fluid route runner and will often ending up loosely breaking on his route, which makes him susceptible to undercuts by more astute cornerbacks. His role will likely be limited at the next level to attacking vertically and at intermediate depth, an outside-only player unless he develops more feel for his route running.

His 40 time (4.61 seconds, 17th percentile for all wide receivers tested in combine history) is also a cause for alarm. Although his GPS numbers paint a more favorable picture of his actual game speed.

Career stats (percentile rank)

Routes: 765

Yards per route run: 2.0 (62nd)

First downs per route run: 8.2% (55th)

Explosive reception per route run: 4.3% (65th)

Ja’Lynn Polk, Washington

Big Board rank: 35th

Things that make you go ‘mmmm’ (like Homer)

Just like his Washington teammate, Polk’s game checks a ton of boxes (although he doesn’t circle them all quite like Rome Odunze). He has good hands, can play inside and outside, is a willing blocker, has very good ball skills, and is a solid route runner with a feel for using leverage and a knack for the details like getting the right depth for his routes.

Polk’s game just feels consistent and professional and I can picture it nicely translating to the next level. I don’t think he can be a No. 1 option in a good NFL passing game, which is probably why others don’t have him as highly as I do, but he has the upside of a strong No. 2 option, and in a league that has shown you need several pass catchers, that’s supremely valuable. Polk will be a quarterback’s best friend against zone coverage because of his feel and size, with enough craftiness as a route runner to be a chain-mover on third down. I’m a fan.

Things that make you go ‘mmmm’ (like Marge)

Polk plays, and tested like, an adequate but not overwhelming athlete, which I think makes his NFL upside lower than the players listed above him. He is not overly twitchy and more talented cornerbacks might give him issues in press situations if they’re able to stay in his hip pocket.

I think Polk will be able to contribute early in his career, but his polish and “fine” athleticism makes me think that he’s already nearly maxed out as a player. (See how many similarities there are between him and Odunze?) Polk’s underlying metrics are also not exactly what I would hope for out of a guy I see as a super role player.

Career stats (percentile rank)

Routes: 1,115

Yards per route run: 2.0 (63rd)

First downs per route run: 7.8% (47th)

Explosive reception per route run: 4% (54th)

Ladd McConkey, Georgia

Big Board rank: 36th

Things that make you go ‘mmmm’ (like Homer)

Blink and you’ll miss Ladd McConkey getting another first down. Pigeonholed as, for pretty obvious reasons, a slot-only player, McConkey is a route-running machine who can win on the outside as well as the slot (where he aligned on only a third of his career snaps).

McConkey is a very good athlete and knows how to wield his speed and quickness. He enters the NFL as an already-advanced route runner that knows how to use head feints and route stems to make the world his yard-filled oyster. And for good measure, McConkey has good hands and was able to come away with plenty of contested catches despite his averageish size.

He is also excellent with the ball in his hands, using his quickness and burst to buckle defenders and consistently erasing angles on defenders and making positive plays out of bad situations. With game speed that matches his 4.39 40 time at the combine, that also makes him a valid returner at the next level:

Things that make you go ‘mmmm’ (like Marge)

McConkey’s size and average play strength will cause some hesitation for how often he can align on the outside at the next level. I do think he will be able to more than hold his own out there and be an outright winning player. Really, his lack of size (186 pounds, 30 1/4-inch arm length) is the big blemish. If his frame were just a bit larger we’d be talking about a refined (and pretty special) prospect.

Career stats (percentile rank)

Routes: 643

Yards per route run: 2.6 (91st)

First downs per route run: 12.4% (96th)

Explosive reception per route run: 5.6% (89th)

Troy Franklin, Oregon

Big Board rank: 38th

Things that make you go ‘mmmm’ (like Homer)

Twitchy and long, Franklin can adjust for throws consistently on the outside and has the springs to snatch throws well over his head. Franklin is able to work low for throws as well, showing off his loose athleticism to make the most out of his opportunities.

Franklin’s route running is also firmly good. His quick-twitch athleticism allows him to move like a shorter-legged player when snapping off his breaks on routes like hitches, stops and in-breakers like digs and glances.

He is also a competitive player, and despite having below-average size and play strength, he'll bring it in the run game to help out his teammates. It’s a small thing, but it’s a quality and pleasant surprise given the archetype of player that you assume with Franklin.

Things that make you go ‘mmmm’ (like Marge)

Franklin was productive and his play speed and timed speed seemed to match, but his size must be noted. “Wiry” is a nice way to describe Franklin. “Alarmingly skinny” would be another. Franklin’s play strength will make or break his NFL career, as he has good ball skills and plenty of athleticism to make a living on the outside, and his toughness and willingness to get dirty as a blocker have been underrated in this process. But how he holds up against bigger NFL defenders will be a question mark until proven otherwise.

Career stats (percentile rank)

Routes: 919

Yards per route run: 2.7 (93rd)

First downs per route run: 11.3% (92nd)

Explosive reception per route run: 6.1% (93rd)

Jalen McMillan, Washington

Big Board rank: 47th

Things that make you go ‘mmmm’ (like Homer)

The third Husky wide receiver to make my top 50, McMillan offers a different type of player profile than the two players he shared a meeting room with in Seattle.

McMillan is a smooth athlete who simply glides across the field, seemingly never losing steam as he moves in and out of route breaks or catches the football. His route running is a plus already as he is able to tempo his routes and keep defenders off-balance, and he can threaten defenses vertically, especially from the slot. He also has good hands to haul in passes and then quickly transition to being a runner.

Despite having a slighter frame, McMillan is also a willing blocker, which opens up more for an offense in the run game if he is indeed going to make a living from the inside. Christian Kirk has been my comparison for McMillan at the next level.

Things that make you go ‘mmmm’ (like Marge)

I do think he has good hands, but McMillan had a decent amount of drops, with 14 during his college career. He might end up as a slot-only player in the NFL (he aligned in the slot on 64.6% of his snaps in college). He's not very strong and can be inconsistent catching in a crowd; sometimes it’ll end up in a highlight but there will be stretches where the ball ends up not coming down. He is also limited with the ball in his hands and is a simple runner of the football, preferring to split defenders rather than running around or through them.

Career stats (percentile rank)

Routes: 1,022

Yards per route run: 2.1 (70th)

First downs per route run: 9.4% (74th)

Explosive reception per route run: 5.4% (86th)

Xavier Worthy, Texas

Big Board rank: 49th

Things that make you go ‘mmmm’ (like Homer)

Mmm, 4.21 40. Ahhhhh.

That’s the selling point with Xavier Worthy. Pure, unfiltered speed. Worthy will be a threat against any defense to attack downfield and will open up the vertical aspect to any offense. Worthy is solid in using his speed to open up other parts for his route running, showing off good body control in being able to throttle between gears and keep defenders off-balance.

Worthy’s speed also shows up with the ball in his hands and as a returner. He recorded 9.3 YAC per reception in his college career (93rd percentile) and had real production as a returner in college. (Did you see the new kickoff rule changes?)

Things that make you go ‘mmmm’ (like Marge)

Worthy’s effectiveness as a player gets troublesome as soon as you ask him to do more than threaten vertically. He becomes a body catcher (and defender peeker) when operating over the middle of the field, which leads to concentration drops (15 in his career) and frustrating moments. His lack of size (165 pounds) and slight frame are also concerning for his ability to beat press, working against zone and working in contested situations period.

Worthy is also a non-factor as a blocker. He always ending up just missing his blocking assignment and that will have coaches putting their faces in their hands.

(Spoilers: Worthy will be down a bit once I expand my big board to 100 players next week. But for now, he gets the mini-breakdown.)

Career stats (percentile rank)

Routes: 1,174

Yards per route run: 2.3 (82nd)

First downs per route run: 9.5% (76th)

Explosive reception per route run: 5.4% (85th)