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

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

After a subpar draft class of receivers last season, the trend of strong receiver classes is back with a vengeance. This year’s group is as talented and deep as I can remember. This class deep in talent, but it’s also deep in whatever type of receiver teams seek. Whether you need an outside ball winner, a jitterbug slot or someone to take the top off a defense, this class has the receiver for you.

Ohio State’s Marvin Harrison Jr., Washington’s Rome Odunze and LSU’s Malik Nabers are in a tier of their own and are very different types of receivers. Harrison is the classic X receiver, Odunze does everything well, and Nabers is a big-play slot receiver. I graded each in the following categories to see how the big three compare.

Route running: A good route runner can sell vertical routes, attack leverage, make clean breaks and use body deception to create space.

Run-after-the-catch ability: This grade isn’t simply dependent on how many yards receivers accumulate after the catch. After all, a receiver could be wide open with no one near them and run for a good distance untouched. A receiver has to break some tackles or display vision to get a good RAC grade.

Contested catches: Space is tighter in the NFL and if a receiver can’t make catches through contactteams won’t be able to rely on him.

Releases: NFL receivers face much more press coverage than in college, so their ability to get clean releases and run through contact against press coverage is critical.

Separation: How separation is graded is a little different for bigger receivers than for smaller ones and that is taken into account. Bigger receivers don’t need to create as much separation and sometimes they just need to win dominant position to be considered open. Smaller receivers need to be able to distance themselves from coverage to be friendly targets.

Grading system:

A – Elite
B – Better than average
C – Average
D – Below average
F – Major concern



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Marvin Harrison Jr.

Route running: A-minus

Some of Harrison’s best highlights this season were plays where he didn’t get the ball but just destroyed corners with excellent route running. His blend of quickness and size makes him a leverage destroyer. It doesn’t matter if the defensive back is playing inside or outside leverage, Harrison will win. He knows how to square up defensive backs and set them up for his next move. He also uses his hands effectively to swat away a defensive back’s hands or swim over them on verticals.



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The problem for most bigger receivers is the ability to break. That’s not a problem for Harrison, who can stop suddenly and make sharp cuts. He won’t stop on a dime like smaller receivers but his change of direction is freaky for a 6-4, 200-pound receiver.

He can get jammed or slowed down when the defensive back gets their hands on him. Also, he can loaf on routes when he knows the ball isn’t going to him.

Run-after-the-catch ability: B-minus

Harrison isn’t shifty so he’s not going to make many defenders in the NFL miss in tight spaces, but he’s strong enough to run through arm tackles. If he gets into the open field, he’ll be able to open up that stride and run away from defensive backs.

This is probably the weakest part of the game.

Contested catches: A

If he were primarily a jump ball, contested catch specialist, Harrison would still be a very good prospect, but combining it with everything else he does makes him special. Harrison uses his big body to shield off defenders and catches through traffic routinely. According to The Athletic’s Bruce Feldman, Harrison had a vertical jump of 39 inches, which is elite and you can see it on film when he goes over the top of corners for highlight catches. Defenders will crowd him in zone coverages, but he has no hesitation catching in tight spaces and holding on to the ball when hit.


Releases: A

Harrison already has a wide array of releases. He effectively uses his head and shoulders in fakes and surprises defensive backs with his burst out of his release. He’s excellent with his hands and can run through defensive backs when he has an opening. He left some defensive backs grasping at air, which you don’t normally see from a big receiver.

Separation: A-minus

Harrison isn’t a burner off of the line, but his top gear is excellent when he can build speed. He didn’t run a 40-yard dash, but I’d suspect he’s at least in the 4.4 range. Feldman improved his max velocity to 23.5 mph, which is elite. Even if you believe that’s inflated, his ability to separate downfield is evident on film. In short areas, he needs a bit of a runway to get to full speed but he creates separation with his releases and route running.

Overview: If you play man against him, he will win. If you play zone against him and give him a runway, good luck. Rarely do you see a college receiver command as much attention from defenses as Harrison did. He got the Calvin Johnson treatment in some games with two defenders dedicated especially to him in the red zone.

He’ll command extra attention from defenses the moment he steps on an NFL field. He’s a freak combination of size and speed and he does everything well. His use in the slot in 2023 is intriguing. He can run a wide array of routes and he knows how to find holes in zones, so playing slot is yet another skill he’ll bring to the table. The best comparison that I’ve seen for him is Larry Fitzgerald and he moved to the slot later in his career. Obviously, he’ll be a force on the outside as well. Harrison will dominate whatever he’s asked to do.

Don’t overthink it: Harrison is far and away the top receiver in this strong class.

Rome Odunze

Route running: A

Odunze runs routes like a veteran. A route runner as refined and nuanced as him at the college level is rare. He does an excellent job of keeping his shoulders squared before making breaks and when he does, he violently breaks and rips away from defenders. He runs with a naturally wide base and breaks with force and physicality. He has a great sense of how to set up defenders with jittery fakes and chasing pace before making his breaks.

Run-after-the-catch ability: B-plus

Odunze isn’t going to make a living with yards after the catch because he’s going to live in the intermediate and deep areas of the field, but he routinely gets extra yardage on plays because he’s so aware of where defenders are. On many plays, he’s adjusting his body as he’s catching the ball to squeeze out extra yardage. Though his value isn’t going to be explosive yards after the catch, his ability to consistently get hidden yardage after the catch makes him much more of a reliable money-down target.

Contested catches: A

A large portion of Washington’s offensive production last season was built on contested catches by Odunze downfield. His ball-tracking ability is elite, he knows how to set himself up to box out, and his hands seem drenched in Gorilla Glue. According to Pro Football Focus, he has a drop rate of 3.2 percent despite getting a heavy dose of downfield passes (average depth of target: 15.5 yards).

Releases: A

Odunze is the best in the class at beating press coverage. He always has a plan for what he wants to set up and executes it with finesse or physicality. He expertly involves his head and shoulders in his fakes and sells all his moves like Jordan Belfort selling penny stocks. When he needs to, he uses his hands well to ward off jams and has the strength to run through defenders.

Separation: B -plus

Odunze isn’t a burner but he has plenty of bursts out of his breaks or fakes to separate. He creates space with craftiness rather than sheer speed. Even without elite speed, he can embarrass defenders and leave them in the dust with deceptive body language, one of my favorite traits for receivers.

Overview: There simply haven’t been many receiver prospects as well-rounded as Odunze that I have seen. He has very good size (6-2, 212 pounds), good speed (4.45 40), and elite route running and contested-catch ability. Though he played primarily outside, he has the feel to play in the slot as well. He’s ready to be the No. 1 receiver for the team that drafts him.

Malik Nabers

Route running: B

LSU had a vertical offense and Nabers was the primary vertical threat. He wasn’t asked to run a big route tree. He ran fades, seams and big posts and because defenses were terrified by his speed, they played off of him and gave a lot of space underneath, so he ran a lot of hitches. He would mix in some hesitations and change of pace at times but there wasn’t a lot of nuance to his route-running because he didn’t need a lot to win in college. He’ll have to expand his route tree and add detailed routes but his ability to make clean and fluid breaks gives reason to believe he can be an effective route runner on the next level.

Run-after-the-catch ability: A-minus

Nabers is naturally going to outrun angles because of his speed and ability to separate, leading to a lot of YAC production. He also has a good sense of where defenders are. When he has his back turned to the defense, knows where to turn and with his explosive first step, he’s a big play threat whenever he has the ball. He can suddenly explode horizontally and win corners. He sometimes tries to stack too many moves and slows down too long while trying to set up moves. He has to be more decisive in the NFL where he won’t have as much free space.

Contested catches: B-plus

Nabers catches the ball well in traffic for a speedy receiver and can hang on while taking a hit. He tracks the ball well and routinely comes back toward it. He won’t win many jump balls but that’s not his game.

Releases: C-plus

Against press coverage, Nabers doesn’t use his head and shoulders well on fakes, so good defenders don’t bite on them. He doesn’t have naturally deceptive movements at the line of scrimmage, which could be problematic when he faces NFL defenders who are technically sound.

Separation: A-minus

Nabers’ ability to run by defenders is why he’ll be one of the top receivers drafted in this class. He can win vertically and create separation, stepping on the brakes on hitch and curl routes or breaking inside.

Overview: Nabers’ average play strength and inconsistency in beating press coverage likely will limit him to playing primarily in the slot or in an offense that utilizes a lot of compressed formations and motion like the Dolphins to get him clean releases. Despite not being a true X (outside) receiver, he can absolutely be a dominant No. 1 receiver in the right offense and right now, many teams run the type of scheme in which Nabers can be successful. If he can improve his technique against press and add nuance to his route running, his ceiling is sky-high. Nabers’ combination of elite speed, adequate size and strong hands will make him a productive player, but to become an elite receiver, he has a steeper learning curve than Harrison and Odunze, who are much more refined.

(Photo of Marvin Harrison Jr., Malik Nabers and Rome Odunze by Rich Graessle, Scott Winters and Alika Jenner / Getty Images)