Best WR in NFL Draft 2024: Is Marvin Harrison Jr., Rome Odunze, or Malik Nabers the better pick?

For ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr., choosing between Marvin Harrison Jr., Malik Nabers, and Rome Odunze heading into the 2024 NFL Draft is easy. 

The answer is all of the above. 

“I would be shocked if we’re sitting here in three or four years and you guys are looking at me saying, ‘What happened with one of those [WRs]? Why are they a bust?'” Kiper told Sporting News. “I see all three of them being great in the NFL.” 

Harrison, Nabers, and Odunze all are expected to be top-10 picks in the 2024 NFL Draft as part of a loaded receiver class that is drawing comparisons to the legendary 1996 NFL Draft that produced Marvin Harrison, Terrell Owens, and Keyshawn Johnson – the last receiver to be selected No. 1 overall. 

Is there a way to separate these three stars? Which receiver will be selected first? Which one is the better long-term NFL bet? Sporting News takes a closer look. 

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Marvin Harrison Jr., Malik Nabers, Rome Odunze college stats 

Harrison, Nabers, and Odunze were part of a tight Biletnikoff Award race – the award given to the best receiver in college football — and they all had prolific final seasons. A look at their numbers from 2023: 

Odunze 15 140 92 65.7 1,639 17.8 13
Nabers 12 128 89 69.5 1,568 17.6 14
Harrison 12 114 67 58.8 1,211 18.1 14

Harrison – despite having the fewest receptions and yards among the three receivers – won the Biletnikoff Award. Nabers and Odunze were catching passes from the top two quarterbacks in the Heisman Trophy voting in Jayden Daniels and Michael Penix Jr., respectively. 

How do those same statistics look over the past two seasons? 

Odunze 27 250 167 68.8 2,784 16.7 20
Nabers 27 228 161 70.6 2,585 16.1 17
Harrison 25 232 144 62.1 2,474 17.2 28

That is with a year of Harrison catching passes from C.J. Stroud in 2022. Odunze has the most receptions and yards, Nabers has the best catch percentage, and Harrison averages the most yards per catch with the most TDs. That might foreshadow the roles they’ll play at the next level. 

Marvin Harrison Jr. NFL Draft profile

Harrison’s arms measured 31 7/8 and hands measured 9 1/2 inches. The 6-3, 209-pound receiver did not work out at the NFL Scouting Combine or at Ohio State’s Pro Day, which allowed this debate to intensify. 

Harrison has been considered the top receiver in the 2024 NFL Draft for most of the past two years. He made highlight-reel catches every week at Ohio State, catching 17 TDs in the red zone. Perhaps that is the best comparison to his father Marvin, a Hall-of-Fame receiver who caught 128 TDs for the Colts from 1996-2008. 

Harrison is a big-body target with elite route-running skills who played his best in big games. In five games against Penn State, Michigan, and Georgia the past two seasons, Harrison totaled 38 catches for 691 yards and six TDs. 

Malik Nabers NFL Draft profile  

Nabers (6-0, 200 pounds) did not participate at the NFL Scouting Combine, but he did run a 4.35 in the 40-yard dash at the LSU Pro Day – an impressive time that has created a debate with Harrison and Odunze. 

According to PFF, Nabers played 349 snaps out wide and 347 snaps in the slot. He is effective in either position. That versatility will be a major asset in the NFL. 

Nabers had what amounted to a “perfect game” of sorts against Mississippi State in Week 3 when he had 13 catches on 13 targets for 239 yards and two TDs. He also had 10 catches for 170 yards and a TD against Alabama. 

Nabers comes from the LSU pipeline, and he is drawing comparisons to Minnesota Vikings star Justin Jefferson. 

“I have them at 3, 4, 5 on the board,” Kiper said. “I went with Nabers because if they are equal, the faster guy gets the slight edge.” 

Rome Odunze NFL Draft profile  

Odunze (6-3, 212 pounds) has 32 1/4-inch arms and 9 1/4-inch hands. He worked out at the NFL Scouting Combine and performed well. He ran a 4.45 in the 40-yard dash and had a 39-inch vertical jump. He also had a 6.88 in the three-cone drill. 

Odunze was a consistent producer in a Washington offense that featured Penix at QB and receivers Jalen McMillan and Ja’Lynn Polk, both of whom will likely be Day-2 picks this year. Odunze had 10 games with at least 100 yards receiving, and he had six catches on six targets for 125 yards in the CFP semifinal against Texas. He led the FBS with 21 contested catches in 2023, and that ability to snag the 50/50 balls will be valuable as a rookie. He is generating comparisons that range from Larry Fitzgerald to Ja’Marr Chase. 

“Rome will burn you, ” Kiper said. “Rome will be deceptive, and Rome will make you think that you can take a certain angle, and he’ll be taking it 60 yards for a touchdown and beating you deep.”

Marvin Harrison Jr. draft projection

Most mock drafts have Harrison being selected with the No. 4 pick to the Arizona Cardinals, which is the case for Kiper and Sporting News’ Vinnie Iyer, who writes: “The Cardinals need a dominant new No. 1 target for Kyler Murray, so should Harrison last here thanks to the QB run, he’s a no-brainer.”

Tight end Trey McBride led the Cardinals with 825 receiving yards last season, and top receiver Marquise Brown – who had 574 receiving yards – is now with the Chiefs. Harrison would step into a WR1 role as a rookie. 

Malik Nabers draft projection  

Kiper and Iyer both have Nabers landing with the New York Giants with the No. 6 pick. Iyer writes: “The Giants also should be prepared to jump on a bona fide No. 1 wideout to further boost Daniel Jones. Nabers is a little more complete and polished than Rome Odunze, making him the pick here.”

Darius Slayton led the Giants with 770 yards and four TDs last season, so Nabers would be in a WR1 situation in New York. New York has drafted a receiver in the first round four times since 1997 with mixed results. That list includes Ike Hilliard (1997), Hakeem Nicks (2009), Odell Beckham Jr. (2014), and Kadarius Toney (2021). Nabers will be propped up against Beckam Jr. the most given the LSU connection. 

Rome Odunze draft projection  

Kiper has the Bears selecting Odunze with the No. 9 pick. Iyer has the Jets taking Odunze at No. 10. Iyer writes: “The Jets acted late in free agency to add Mike Williams to better support Garrett Wilson and Breece Hall for Aaron Rodgers, but Williams is an aging flier coming off a major injury and they could use more home-run juice at the position. Odunze would add another dangerous field-stretching element.”

Either landing spot would make sense. If Chicago takes USC’s Caleb Williams with the No. 1 pick, then Odunze is a long-term go-to receiver. This worked for the Bengals with Joe Burrow and Chase. He would give Rodgers another target in New York for a team that will be picked to make the AFC playoffs. 

Who is the best first-round pick? 

All three receivers seem destined for success at the next level, but there are a couple of separators to watch. Contested catch rate and how they fare on targets of 20 yards or more will show which of the three becomes the best playmaker at the next level. Here’s a look at how those three compared, according to PFF. 

Odunze 44 25 56.8 72 32 44.4
Nabers 43 23 53.4 48 26 54.1
Harrison 60 31 51.7 53 30 56.6

Harrison will be the best deep-ball target of the bunch, and that added threat in the red zone gives him the edge. Odunze could get more yards and targets. Nabers is a blend of both and could develop into the best all-around receiver at the next level. Of course, their respective situations will help define that. This was the debate in college, and it will spill into the pros.  

“There isn’t much of a gap between Harrison and the other two right now,” Kiper said. “There isn’t much of a gap between any of them. I would say put them in a hat, and you are getting a great one.”

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