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Discover the Breakout Stars: Top 12 Wide Receivers in the 2024 NFL Draft

Let’s get right to it - this is one of the deepest WR classes we’ve seen in a while - there are so many WRs who can become fantasy-relevant, and we have a few potential superstars at the position as well… and the gap between them might not be as big as you think. I’ll be going over the Top 12 WRs who we’re projecting to go off the board first in the 2024 NFL Draft, and the the very end I talk about which WR I think the Bills can land to lessen the blow of losing Stefon Diggs.

Let’s start with this first tier that consists of three WRs - the one guy that literally checks all the boxes is Marvin Harrison Jr. If I’m going to bet on one WR between Marvin Harrison, Malik Nabers, and Rome Odunze, it’s Marvin Harrison, and here’s why. All three of these guys have the ability to be alpha WRs in the NFL, but Marvin’s production profile and efficiency profile are on a different level.

Before we get into the numbers - the route running is TOP notch - elite. Against any coverage - elite separation skills. He doesn’t have many holes in his game - he’s pro-ready as that X receiver at the next level. He can create separation straight off the line for short routes - he has that short area quickness - he can work intermediate, he can work deep down the field as well.

I think the only negative with Harrison is that he didn’t show much after the catch ability - his missed tackle rate after the catch and yards after the catch were pretty low among this class, but hey, when you’re separating the way he does, I don’t really care, but it is worth noting that he isn’t going to give you anywhere near the after the catch plays like Nabers will or even Odunze to be honest.

Now the numbers I alluded to:

He was a perimeter WR on 84% of his career snaps, he had a 39% career dominator rating which was the highest in this class, he was targeted on 31% of his routes - highest in class, he damn near had a 30% target share over his three seasons - highest in this class - and these two stats combined is a pretty good indicator of him dominating at the next level - 13.7% of his career routes resulted in him getting a first down - that was the highest in this class, and his combined 2.98 yards/route run, highest in the class as well, fell into the 97th percentile among all qualifying Power 5 WRs in over the last 10 years.

When talking about Malik Nabers, the first thing that stands out is the fact that he mostly played out of the slot. But just like Malik Nabers, Justin Jefferson also ran out of the slot at LSU, so let’s not ding Nabers for that. When he did play outside, when he ran against press, he was just fine. His athleticism and explosiveness just pops off the screen when you watch him - he’s so smooth, he’s a straight-up playmaker regardless of where he lines up and what kind of coverage he sees.

A lot of down-the-field stuff for Nabers, but I can totally see him working a lot more underneath and intermediate to kind of take advantage of his entire skillset… now… would it be ideal if he’s a slot or flanker at the next level? Yeah, I think so.

And after the catch? The dude is a beast. He made guys miss on 31% of his receptions - that was the highest in this class and falls into the 98th percentile of qualifying Power 5 WRs over the last 10 seasons.

More on his profile - he broke out at 19 years old, led all the Power 5 WRs in this class in career receiving yards per team pass attempt, and again this combination right here is very important - he was 2nd only behind Marvin Harrison in first downs/route run and career yards/route run - the latter in the 96th percentile among qualifying Power 5 WRs over the last 10 years. And by the way, Nabers had the 15th most career receiving yards among more than 2000 eligible Power 5 WRs over the last 10 seasons - that falls into the 99th percentile during that span.

The last WR in this first tier is Rome Odunze, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s the best WR in this class when it’s all said and done. Any of these three can take that throne at some point. He’s the biggest of the three, and the fact that he’s such a polished route runner at his size and then you combine his ball skills and contested catch ability with that, you got yourself a serious alpha X WR and a fantasy WR1 on your hands. He had a 75% contested catch rate just last year alone on 28 contested targets - and no, he is not the non-separating contested catch guy - if his QB is accurate and on time, he won’t need to use that part of his game a whole lot because he is a separator… but it’s good to know he has that in his back pocket if he needs it.

And when you look at Matt Harmon’s reception profile on Odunze, you go - wow - he has all the tools he needs to succeed, and his route variety and success are ridiculously intriguing.

Now, if we’re really nitpicking, Odunze’s production profile isn’t as impressive as the other two guys in his tier - it’s worth noting that Marvin Harrison and Malik Nabers both had their big years in their sophomore and junior years while Odunze’s big years were his junior and senior years. His 2.5 career yards/route run not in the same tier as the other two, but 91st percentile over the last 10 years - still relatively exceptional. You combine that with his near-the-top-of-the-class 11.4% 1st downs/route run - which while isn’t on the level of the other two guys, we’re still talking 94th percentile over the last 10 years - he can very well be the WR1 in so many other draft classes.

He can even end up being the WR1 in this draft class when it’s all said and done. But there’s no doubt we have three very exciting WRs potentially all gone within the Top 10 picks of the NFL Draft.

Before I move on, I may have touched on some terms you might be new to, and I might as well take this time to talk about draft capital when it comes to fantasy WRs.

Here are a few key terms and a few draft capital hit rates that will help you better project which WRs will succeed at the next level.

Dominator Rating - This is the percentage of a team’s offensive output a player is responsible for. So when we say that Marvin Harrison had a 39% career dominator rating, this means 39% of his team’s offensive output during his career can be credited to him - which is kind of insane. Sometimes we use a player’s best year dominator rating as well as the career dominate rating.

Breakout Age - this is the age at which a receiver accounted for 20% of a team’s offensive output in a particular year, which means he would have at least a 20% dominator rating. So if a WR accounts for 20% of his team’s offensive output for the first time in their career, the age at which they do that is their breakout age. There is a correlation between breaking out at a young age and draft capital translating to fantasy success.

Breaking out as a freshman at 18 years old or breaking out at 19 years old like Malik Nabers did is very impressive, and these prospects should get a bump because of it. There is one WR who broke out at 18 years old and even hit a 30% dominator rating in the Power 5 - and we’ll get to him shortly.

I also mention yards/route run and something new that is being talked about a lot more this year - first downs/route run - mainly introduced and made popular by Fantasy Points’ Ryan Heath (Twitter: @RyanJ_Heath) - two stats that are relatively sticky when it comes to WR production - two stats we want to use together to know which WRs are not just big play merchants, but also are used to move the chains - this is the type of WR that gets it done for fantasy on a consistent basis.

As far as draft capital goes, long story short, the first round and second round is where it’s at. Fantasy Life’s Dwain McFarland broke this down for WRs. 47% of 1st round WRs drafted between 2011 and 2020 have finished as a Top-24 WR at least in their first three seasons, with 24% of them finishing as a Top-12 fantasy WR. Those numbers go down to 41% and 18% for WRs taken in the 2nd round. The numbers go up slightly for WRs taken early in the first.

When you get to the third round, that rate drops dramatically to 21% of those WRs hitting a Top-24 season in their first three years. After that, it gets bleak. The chances it happens after that is pretty low, so keep that in mind. You’re going to have the Amon-Ra’s and the Tank Dell’s, and this deep class can have a hit or two as well, but it’s good to understand these historical hit rates when planning for our rookie drafts.

If you’re interested in learning more on all that and want to get more in-depth with rankings and rookie mock drafts for these WRs, check out my rookie draft kit - we profile more than 60 rookies in this class, we have 9 grades per player with blurbs, with fantasy targets and avoids, and it’s designed to help you dominate rookie drafts and to determine which of these WRs can potentially provide the most fantasy value.

Now, this next tier is tough. Brian Thomas Jr. is the consensus WR4, and he’s definitely in this next tier for me. He’s either my WR4 or WR5 in this class… his 2023 season was awesome - he was the perimeter WR running alongside Malik Nabers, but there was no question who the superstar on offense was - that was clearly Nabers. There was no question on who had the route diversity and true separation skills on various routes - that was Nabers. Now, there was also no question on who had that deep separating ability on the perimeter against press coverage, and that was Brian Thomas Jr.

He’s big, he’s blazing fast (he a ran 4.33 at the NFL Combine), he’s an athletic freak, and there’s no question about his vertical prowess, and he has better than average contested catch ability. His 2023 season leading college football with 17 TDs along with his near 1200 yards - awesome. He even has some after the catch ability, as well. When targeted, he helped produce a 148.8 career QB passer rating throughout his career - that tells you the big plays this guy was involved in.

But… it was one year of production, which leads to me having to talk about his overall production profile not being there. His 1.95 career yards/route run is near the bottom of this class, his first downs/route run - near the bottom of this class, his targets/route run - near the bottom of this class, but you watch this dude, and you see the potential and it’s not like he’s not separating on the routes that he’s being asked to run the most.

He’s still young, he’s a freak. He can be an elite field stretcher who can come up with contested catches right now. He just needs to get the right development to stack on to his skillset - he would need to add to his route tree in order to become a more balanced WR along with some added route running technique to reach his high ceiling.

Like Brian Thomas Jr, Adonai Mitchell also falls into the bad overall production profile but damn I can’t get over what I’m seeing when I watch him on film, and I think he’s closer to a finished product than Brian Thomas Jr is at this point. I think there’s a higher chance AD Mitchell comes in and earns more targets on Day 1 because of the fact he can simply do more right now. He can separate at a high level, and despite his teammate Xavier Worthy being more productive, I think Mitchell is the prospect that will attract more NFL teams despite the fact that Worthy broke the 40 record at the Combine… the thing is, the athleticism AD Mitchell displayed at the combine, including running a 4.34 40 at 6’2” 205 might be more impressive than Worthy running a 4.21 at 5’11” 165. Just saying.

Mitchell has smoothness in his routes, and he has variety in his route tree and in his release package - I think the consistency of his route running and effort that might not have been there at times in college will come at the next level where he’ll be (hopefully) forced to give 100% on all of his routes - he has a large catch radius, he’s an end zone threat, and he has the chops to be productive at all levels of the field despite the fact that he was mainly used as Texas’ downfield X receiver while Xavier Worthy did a lot of the short to intermediate stuff.

There was some body catching when watching Mitchell… he didn’t do much after the catch - he had one of the lowest yards after the catch and missed tackles forced guys on paper in this class, and that’s probably a good segue into his lacking production profile - breaking out at 21 years old, not ideal. He did his a 32% career dominator rating, which is nice to see - but career yards/route run - one of the worst in this class, 1st downs/route run - not great. Career targets/route run and target share - not ideal. I will say - his QB play was bad, and it tends to matter more for the guys running downfield like AD than it was for the guys getting targeted closer to the line of scrimmage.

Overall, I like AD Mitchell coming in - and despite the bad production profile, I think he will be a productive NFL and fantasy receiver, and I think he can be a value in dynasty rookie drafts despite potentially getting first-round draft capital.

Ladd McConkey is someone I saw firsthand at the Senior Bowl - he was separating with ease, and was very smooth in and out of his breaks, and demonstrated his ability to create leverage against DBs in man coverage… then I watched more afterwards, and my bias seems to have been confirmed for the most part - he did his thing at the combine as well and demonstrated that he’s a plus athlete on top of that route running ability against man, understanding where to be in soft spots against zone - he’s pretty versatile.

You look at the production profile - it’s not good, he never broke out. His 13% career dominator rating was one of the lowest in this class, in terms of counting stats because he’s had some injury issues, so there are some things on paper working against him… but when he was on the field, he acted as a productive alpha receiver.

McConkey was only behind Marvin Harrison Jr and Malik Nabers in career first downs/route run in this class, and was only behind those two guys and Troy Franklin in career yards/route run - he falls into the 92nd percentile among qualifying Power 5 WRs over the last 10 seasons.

Now, he might not be an X receiver, but I think he would be extremely productive as a flanker, someone who doesn’t necessarily have to see a whole lot of press coverage.

He’s very good after the catch, he knows how to make guys miss tackles with the ball in his hands, and I think McConkey can make an instant impact as a chain mover near the end of the first round of the NFL Draft. And just like I mention in my rookie draft kit, I’m definitely going to be targeting in rookie drafts and for this upcoming season depending on his landing spot (show the target indicator and Ladd McConkey in the rookie draft kit).

One of the most difficult WRs for me to grade and rank was Xavier Worthy. Here’s why.

Production profile - very good. Broke out at 18 years old at Texas as a true freshman, and to break out, you only need to hit 20% of you team’s offensive production - this dude went above the 30% threshold, which is extremely impressive at that age. His 2.3 career receiving yards per team pass attempt was only behind Malik Nabers among this class’ Power 5 WRs and his 28% career target share was only behind Marvin Harrison Jr.

Now, his career yards/route run and first downs/route run were closer to the middle of this class, which gets us to the way he was used at Texas. A lot of motion, and a lot of screens, and then he was successful at the deep ball mostly because of his speed on free releases as opposed to really separating against tight man coverage. I’m not saying he isn’t a great route runner - I think he has route-running chops, and I think overall, he’s a good route runner.

But when there was tight man coverage, it wasn’t great - Worthy was not too successful in contested situations - which leads me to his size at 5’11 165 - there are many times where he gets thrown off his route and bodied enough where he can’t come down with those contested catches - so that can be an issue at the next level limiting his exposure of making plays in the middle of the field. When you talk about other smaller WRs like Devonta Smith and Tank Dell, they didn’t have these issues as glaring as it was to me for Xavier Worthy.

I think he’s going to have to land on a team that is creative enough to be able to use him properly and take advantage of his speed and athleticism - he did lead this class in career yards after the catch/reception - so I do think his landing spot is a lot more important than it is for other WRs in this class. But the fact that he has shown the chops to be able to get it done close to the line of scrimmage and deep down the field gives him enough versatility to target him in rookie drafts.

Troy Franklin is bigger than Xavier Worthy but isn’t the athlete Worthy is, and Franklin not running a faster 40 time at 176 pounds might have a few NFL teams question whether it’s worth bringing him in with his frame without a complete skillset. He’s a true field stretcher, but if he lets defenders continue to take advantage of him in tight coverage especially in the middle of the field, it can cause problems. Free releases with space, no problem. He tracks the ball better than most, and there’s no question that he was an extremely productive college WR. I think there is some route diversity that he’ll need to add to his tool belt if he’s going to be a more consistent WR and not just a boom/bust WR for fantasy.

On paper, and you can see this in our rookie draft kit grading, that things look pretty good. His 2.63 yards/route run was 3rd highest behind Marvin Harrison Jr and Malik Nabers, first down/route run, 3rd highest behind those two guys and Ladd McConkey, and he broke out early at 19 years old. The production profile is pretty solid for Troy Franklin - but does he translate to a target earner at the next level? Maybe if he adds some more versatility to his game. Landing spot is likely going to matter for Troy Franklin.

We have two slot WRs who will likely be drafted on Day 2, and that’s Ricky Pearsall and Roman Wilson. I really liked what I saw out of both Ricky Pearsall and Roman Wilson at the Senior Bowl, and you look at the production profiles and you’re like ok, despite both of them being relatively late producers, Roman Wilson looks like he has the edge among these two. 2.33 career yards/route run, 37% career dominator rating, pretty good… Ricky Pearsall, only 1.99 yards/route run and 26% career dominator rating… but then you look a little deeper and start to watch more of these guys, you realize Pearsall is a way better athlete, he’s bigger than Wilson, and he has a little more versatility to his game in terms of him winning at all levels of the field - he’s really crafty underneath, but you also seem him winning on intermediate and deep routes compared to Wilson who mostly depended on targets deeper down the field. You saw the deep stuff with Anthony Richardson at Florida and then you saw him win underneath more once Richardson left - and I think he’s more versatile and is able to play a flanker role - I don’t think he necessarily needs to be locked into the slot like Roman Wilson might have to be.

Both guys are good route runners and can produce after the catch, but I have to give the edge to Pearsall there despite the fact that he’s not necessarily a tackle-breaker. If you look further into their production profiles, you realize that Pearsall also broke out two years earlier than Wilson and produced 1.6 receiving yards per team pass attempt over his career compared to Wilson’s 1.3. If you’re looking for that slot WR who could get peppered with targets, I think Pearsall can potentially be that PPR gem in the 2nd round of rookie drafts.

There’s always that non-separating contested catch WR in every draft class, and I think this year’s candidate is Keon Coleman. There’s a lot of buzz around him going in the first round, but I’m not sure if he’s going to come through at that price. I would suggest throwing on Keon Coleman highlights because he has made some SICK catches during his time at Michigan State and Florida State, and he can definitely be a red zone weapon, but I think he lacks diversity in his route tree and he lacks true separation on his routes.

I think excuses can be made for him - bad QB play, a lot of options on offense, but you look at the production profile, outside of his 19-year-old breakout age and 30% career dominator rating - both big positives for Coleman by the way, but then 1.87 yards/route run and 8.5% first down rate - both near the bottom of this class,

And then you look at Matt Harmon’s reception perception on Coleman, and it kind of confirms my preconceived notion of Coleman being a contested catch merchant. But if you’re talking hands, he’s one of the most sure-handed with only a 2.7% career drop rate, which is one of the lowest in this class. But is he a first round talent as the X receiver he was in college? I don’t think so, but with a role switch at the next level with a better QB, he could outproduce my projection especially because he’s an underclassmen, he’s still very young, and still has some time to develop. But I don’t think he’s a finished product right now, and he’s also not the best pure athlete among this WR class.

I watched Xavier Legette at the Senior Bowl firsthand, and while he didn’t have the best first day of practice, he bounced back big time on Day 2 and Day 3, and had some dominating routes against these high-end corners at the Senior Bowl. He’s 6’1, 221 pounds and ran a 4.39 Forty!

He dominated in 2023 with 1,255 receiving yards… but he did that in his fifth year after combining for only 423 receiving yards. When you’re that big at 23 years old against 19 year old corners, you can see why that can raise some eyebrows. But his 3.15 yards/route run in 2023 was Top-7 among all Power 5 WRs in this class but then when you look at the totality of his career, his combined career yards/route run and first downs/route run was the worst in this class.

But you look at his ability - he has impressive after the catch ability at his size, he can dominate at the point of the catch - big catch radius, he’s blazing fast, but he still needs some refinement in his route running and release package. He’s older and he’s raw - that isn’t always the best combination. He’s an exciting player who I’d love to see succeed, but on paper, he isn’t necessarily a good bet to come through for fantasy purposes and he’d be an outlier if he does.

Shifting gears to the obvious clear landing spot that would propel any rookie’s fantasy value - and that’s landing with the Bills after they traded away Stefon Diggs, paired with Josh Allen - I do think Khalil Shakir is a solid slot WR - I don’t think he proved that he can earn targets just yet with two years already under his belt, I do think Curtis Samuel is a very good flanker WR - I think he’s been underutilized and the fact that he can reunite with offensive coordinator Joe Brady who he had his best year under is a good thing.

But there is still a clear vacancy for the true WR1 spot on this offense. Now, the Bills have pick 28 at the end of the first round and pick 60 at the end of the 2nd, without any 3rd round pick. At the end of the first, I doubt Brian Thomas Jr will be there, so the potential WRs in that range can be AD Mitchell, Keon Coleman, Troy Franklin, and Xavier Worthy. And then you have Ladd McConkey if they want to trade down a few picks into the second round.

But if they stick to picking a WR at 28 who want to trade up just a bit, I want to eliminate Troy Franklin and Worthy off the bat, because I think their skillsets are similar to what Curtis Samuel brings to the table - can they be a better version of what Curtis Samuel brings to the table as that Z receiver with more speed, sure, maybe, but I think they want to bring in what they’re missing, and that’s that X receiver mold. That brings us to AD Mitchell and Keon Coleman - and I think AD Mitchell is the guy who I think would absolutely go off if he lands in Buffalo. I also like him as a prospect, he’s a good separator and route runner, and might need a little development, but Keon Coleman is someone I think needs even more development, isn’t a separator right now, and someone who really depends on his hands and ridiculous ball skills in contested situations. Unless you want another Gabe Davis.

If the Bills want to reach for McConkey, I have no problems with it - I do think he’s a first-round WR even though he’s being projected to go early 2nd - can he have some issues playing the X receiver role, maybe, but I don’t necessarily think he needs to stick in that role all game long - he has enough route running and separation ability to be very productive in this offense, and I’d be all over him if he ends up with Josh Allen.


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