by Zachary Somma
Photo courtesy of Buckeye Sports Bulletin.
Throughout the college season, Draft 412 will be scouting the NCAA for the best at each position. Our top ten feature this week—Wide Receivers. Wide receivers are the most coveted position each season in the NFL Draft and this year brings a talented group to the forefront. The wide receiver class is deep in 2024 with talent spread out all over the draft.
Here’s a glimpse at Draft 412’s top ten wide receiver prospects that may be available in next year’s 2024 NFL Draft:
1. Marvin Harrison Jr. - Ohio State
Harrison Jr. needs little introduction for any Draft or college football fan. The son of Colts legend Marvin Harrison, Jr. had a fantastic 2022 season for the Buckeyes, finishing with 77 receptions for 1,263 yards and 14 touchdowns. But the statline doesn’t paint the whole picture of how good Marvin Harrison Jr. can be.
Not only is Harrison Jr. 6 ‘4, 205 lbs, but one of the most complete athletes at the position since Calvin Johnson. He has great burst off the line of scrimmage, and has the footwork and agility to run a complete route tree. He is a true threat in all areas of the field. Harrison Jr. shines at the catch point, and has elite body control and soft hands that allows any ball thrown his way to have an opportunity to be caught. He will routinely outmuscle and box out opposing DBs at the catch point, and will make plenty of contested catches. Harrison Jr. can be tough to tackle in the open field, mainly through the use of his speed and agility rather than running through tacklers, though he has the frame to do so when he wants to. It would be a major shock if he does not become one of the league’s best receivers eventually.
2. Malik Nabers- LSU
While no other receiver in this class comes close to the talent level of Marvin Harrison Jr., Malik Nabers is probably the closest player to him this year. Nabers is a dependable playmaker who excels at using his agility and burst to win. He is viable as both an outside receiver and as a dangerous weapon from the slot, making him a versatile chess piece to be deployed depending on the matchup. Nabers has the long speed to be a deep threat while having the route running ability to get open over the middle of the field as well. His footwork is fantastic and he has a diverse release package off the line. Nabers can struggle with physicality, thanks to his lighter frame, which may limit his viability as an outside receiver in the NFL. But outside of that, Nabers has all the traits to be the next great LSU receiver at the next level.
3. Keon Coleman - Florida State
Why is Keon Coleman such a highly regarded prospect this year? Three words: jump ball winner.
At 6 ‘4, 215 lbs., Coleman is a physical specimen who can jump out of the gym. This carries over to the field, where he was one the best “50/50” ball winners in all of college football in 2022. On 16 contested throws last year, Coleman was able to come down with 10 of them, per PFF. 7 of those catches came on passes 20+ yards down the field, meaning he is an explosive play waiting to happen on any given snap. While the contested catch numbers are down in 2023, he has still shown off this ability at a high level despite the lack of consistency.
But what’s most impressive is the development in other areas of Coleman’s game this season. He’s improved his release package and route running, which is extremely impressive for a bigger body receiver like him. He’s become more viable on shorter routes, and over the middle of the field. While he won’t wow anybody with his long speed, his explosiveness is enough to gain separation off the line.
4. Emeka Egbuka - Ohio State
Emeka Egbuka would have fit in perfectly in last year’s crop of wide receivers, which mainly consisted of average-sized slot receivers. With Jaxson Smith-Njigba’s injury last year, Egbuka became the leading slot option for the Buckeyes, and is the perfect complement to Marvin Harrison Jr.
While Harrison is the dominant outside ball winner, Egbuka is the short to intermediate area option, mainly over the middle of the field. Of his 74 receptions last year, 52 of them came between the numbers, per PFF. He is incredibly dependable as well, only having 5 drops on 106 targets last season. While Egbuka is not the most impressive athlete, he utilizes his above average agility and footwork to win quickly on short routes. He will be a perfect fit for NFL teams looking for a good number two receiver.
5. Rome Odunze - Washington
While a lot of Washington's recent success can be credited to their quarterback, Michael Penix Jr., he has a bevy of receiving talent around him that play into his strengths. Rome Odunze might be the best of these weapons. The 6 ‘3 receiver is the top outside threat for the Huskies, and is used in all areas of the field. Odunze is an explosive athlete who can attack and high point the football at a very high level. He has sure hands, having only 2 drops on 67 targets so far this season.
6. Xavier Worthy - Texas
A major reason for the resurgence of the Longhorns has been the play of Xavier Worthy. He became an immediate contributor as a true freshman, with 62 receptions for 981 yards, and he is already on way to smashing those totals in 2023.
Worthy, who plays very light at around 170 pounds, relies on his speed and agility to win. He is a dangerous threat to break free over the top of the defense at all times, but is also a weapon in the intermediate areas as well. The one weakness of his entering the year was drops, as he had 7 of them last season. So far in 2023, he only has one, a good sign of Worthy’s continuing development.
7. Troy Franklin - Oregon
Franklin is a major reason as to why QB Bo Nix has regained his confidence as a Duck. He is a true deep threat receiver, having enough speed to win over the top of the defense and creating big play opportunities. He also is dangerous with the play in his hands, as he is used often in the screen game as well as on short drag or crossing routes. He possesses the height at 6’3” to be a true boundary option, although may need to put on some weight to get above 190 pounds. Drops are a slight concern, as he has 5 already this season, however, he also has shown the ability to win on some contested catches as well.
8. Jalen McMillan - Washington
Despite playing opposite Rome Odunze, McMillan plays a similar style of football. He sees more usage over the intermediate areas of the field, thanks to his route running ability and agility, but also gets his fair share of opportunities deep down the field as well. McMillan is a big YAC threat, posting 430 of his nearly 1,100 yards on his own last season. The 4th year receiver has dealt with some injuries this season, and there are some drop concerns, however, he still has plenty of talent to play at the next level.
9. Roman Wilson - Michigan
Despite not being a premier athlete like many of the receivers on this list, Roman Wilson has played his way into being on the top receivers in this class. While he hadn’t exceeded 500 yards in any season entering this one, he still has emerged as the leading option for the talented Wolverines. He plays in all areas of the field, and is one the most dependable players on the field. Wilson only has 6 total drops in his 4 collegiate seasons. This season, he has exploded for 10 touchdowns already, despite only being targeted 37 times so far (thanks to Michigan blowing out every team they’ve faced so far).
10. Johnny Wilson - Florida State
Johnny Wilson might be the most intriguing evaluation of the wide receiver prospects listed here. Wilson stands at a towering 6‘ 7" and 237 pounds, and uses that frame to his advantage. The transfer from Arizona State usually lines up as an outside receiver opposite of Keon Coleman, despite some believing that he could make the switch to tight end given his size. However, his blocking ability is fairly average for a wide receiver, which would likely not lend itself well to becoming a full-time tight end. Wilson is mainly targeted over the middle of the field for the Seminoles, and his height allows him to maintain a large catch radius. He can drop some passes however, and he is very inconsistent when it comes to contested catches.
J. Michael Sturdivant - UCLA
An explosive receiver with fantastic body control, with plenty of room to grow his talents. He’s dealt with questionable QB play at Cal and now at UCLA, but has still shown his abilities off quite well.
Jamari Thrash - Louisville
A deep threat who transferred in from Georgia State, and his play has not seen any drop-off from the increase in competition. Extremely quick off the line and has good ball skills in the air.
Adonai Mitchell - Texas
A size/speed combination freak athlete who probably deserves more attention. He’s extremely explosive for a 6’4 receiver, and is used in a variety of routes for the Longhorns. He could easily rise into the top group of receivers, if he continues to have a great season.
Xavier Legette - South Carolina
A relative unknown coming into the season, Legette has burst onto the scene as the top option for the Gamecocks. His 6’3” build, combined with exceptional speed and strength has already drawn favorable comparisons to players like D.K. Metcalf. If he can keep up his torrid pace through the rest of the year, he could be a surprise pick in the early rounds.
Tory Horton - Colorado State
Though his fantastic performance against Colorado this year has put his name much more on the map, Horton was already on track to becoming a future NFL receiver coming into the year. He’s a dominant possession receiver who excels as a route runner. In addition, he has major upside as a special teams player, making him a lock as a late day 2 or early day 3 pick in the 2024 Draft.
Malachi Corley - Western Kentucky
Western Kentucky’s offense has one goal on most of their plays; get Malachi Corley the ball. He’s a supremely explosive player who excels in open space and utilizes his physical gifts to fight through contact. The Hilltoppers love to use him on screens and quick passes, so his numbers are slightly inflated, but his talent is still quite evident.
Ja’Lynn Polk - Washington
Despite the attention that Odunze and McMillan receive, Ja’Lynn Polk has emerged as a quite good receiver in his own right for the Huskies. Polk is a talented, versatile receiver that can be used in a variety of roles, from a big slot receiver to a downfield option over the top of the defense. It helps that Michael Penix Jr., his QB, has the arm talent to put the ball wherever he likes, but don’t count out Polk being a surprisingly early pick come April.
Xavier Restrepo - Miami (FL)
While this receiver class is far bigger size-wise than last year’s class, Restrepo is emerging as one of the top slot options for 2024. He’s a good athlete who wins with quick footwork and agile route running, but also has the explosive speed to outpace defenders in open space. Thanks to both going to Miami for college, the prevailing player comparison for him is Braxton Berrios, which fits the athletic profile and slot preference for Restrepo.