Marvin Harrison Jr. [608x342]
Marvin Harrison Jr. [608x342] (Credit: Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports)

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It used to be rare for a rookie wide receiver to make a big impact, but that paradigm is changing. A rookie receiver with 1,000 receiving yards could become a perennial occurrence. Every draft since 2019 has had at least one wideout hit 1,000 yards in his rookie season. Wide receivers are no longer just a long-term investment, they can make an immediate impact on a team's passing game.

So what can we expect from the 2024 NFL draft? This is a strong class of wide receivers. It's not as strong as 2014, the year that brought us Mike Evans and Odell Beckham Jr., among others, but this year we have four receivers projected with more than 650 yards per season. Last year, we had none projected that high. Last year's Playmaker Score had Jaxon Smith-Njigba and Jordan Addison on top, but around where our No. 5 receiver is for this draft. Quentin Johnson came in lower than expected and Tank Dell was our big sleeper.

Playmaker Score analyzes the player's peak college season along with other variables to project a player's receiving yards per season in his first five seasons. Below, we take a look at some of Playmaker's top prospects in the 2024 draft, along with Scouts Inc.'s draft rankings and similar prospects from previous drafts. Similar historical prospects are based on players who were comparable in their Playmaker statistics, so you might see me compare two physically dissimilar players because they were statistically similar.

1. Malik Nabers, LSU

Playmaker Score projection: 779 yards/season Scouts Inc. ranking: 4 Similar historical prospects: Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb

Nabers averaged 3.82 receiving yards per team pass attempt last season. No other receiver projected to go in the top three rounds averaged more than 3.1 in their peak season. Nabers also had 14 touchdowns despite having to share the receiving load with another first-round prospect, Brian Thomas Jr. When I went looking for similar historical prospects, there weren't any with numbers similar to Nabers who also had to share the ball with top-rated teammates.

This brings up an interesting issue with this year's Playmaker Score. The 2024 draft is unusual because so much of the receiver talent was concentrated on a few teams. This creates a cycle where both teammates (or all three, in the case of Washington) get a "talented teammate" adjustment, which leads to what looks like a strong draft for wide receivers overall. We might need a few years to see how these wideouts develop -- and based on what we learn, we might tweak the teammate adjustment for future prospects.

2. Brian Thomas Jr., LSU

Playmaker Score projection: 750 yards/season Scouts Inc. ranking: 24 Similar historical prospects: John Ross, Calvin Johnson

Nabers brings the yardage and Thomas supplies the touchdowns. He scored 17 last season, giving him touchdowns on 4.1% of the team's pass attempts. No other receiver in this class was above 3.5%. (Marvin Harrison Jr. was second, with Xavier Worthy and Nabers close behind.) Thomas was also tied for eighth in this class in yards per team attempt and gets the same teammate adjustment that moves up Nabers. As with Nabers, it is hard to find historically comparable receivers with similar stats who also had top-rated teammates. DeVonta Smith is the closest, but he came into the draft as a senior, not a junior, and had much better stats in his final season at Alabama.

And yes, Ross and Johnson really came into the draft with similar Playmaker Score numbers, demonstrating just how much variance there is in a player's career compared to what we know going into draft day.

3. Rome Odunze, Washington

Playmaker Score projection: 694 yards/season Scouts Inc. ranking: 8 Similar historical prospects: Sammy Watkins, Michael Clayton

Odunze had 13 touchdowns last season, but that accounted for only 2.3% of Washington's pass attempts because the Huskies threw the ball a ton. So while Odunze is tied with Thomas in yardage per team pass attempt, he falls behind in touchdowns and thus comes in third among this year's prospects. He does have a nice teammate adjustment because Ja'Lynn Polk and Jalen McMillan are expected to go on Day 2 of this year's draft.

4. Marvin Harrison Jr., Ohio State

Playmaker Score projection: 671 yards/season Scouts Inc. ranking: 2 Similar historical prospects: Santonio Holmes, Mike Williams (USC 2005)

Yes, it is surprising that Harrison ranks only fourth this year in Playmaker Score. However, he would have been the No. 1 wide receiver prospect in last year's draft. He would have been No. 1 in 2018 or 2017 as well. This is a good Playmaker Score, but this just happened to be a year loaded with top projections.

It might not be fair (or accurate) that Harrison suffers in Playmaker Score because he didn't have big-name teammates that the others did. No. 2 receiver Emeka Egbuka, a fellow junior who had only 525 receiving yards compared to Harrison's 1,211, did not declare for the NFL draft. If Harrison had a teammate adjustment similar to the two LSU receivers, he would rank right behind them with a projection of 743 yards per season.

In addition, Harrison's Playmaker Score suffers a bit because he skipped Ohio State's bowl game. As more players begin to skip bowl games before the NFL draft, we might need to make adjustments in how we calculate team passing attempts. Taking out Ohio State's bowl game from their team totals would boost Harrison's Playmaker Score by 14 yards per season.

5. Adonai Mitchell, Texas

Playmaker Score projection: 631 yards/season Scouts Inc. ranking: 23 Similar historical prospects: Terrace Marshall Jr., Michael Crabtree

 6. Xavier Worthy, Texas

Playmaker Score projection: 578 yards/season Scouts Inc. ranking: 34 Similar historical prospects: Jalin Hyatt, Dwayne Jarrett

Let's talk about the two Texas receivers together. Worthy broke the NFL combine record with a 4.21-second 40-yard dash, but the Playmaker Score system doesn't factor that in. Our research has shown that there is no signal in 40 times that isn't already present in the player's collegiate statistics. However, Worthy mostly had better college stats than Mitchell. Last year, Worthy had 75 catches for 1,014 yards, while Mitchell had 55 for 845. Mitchell had more touchdowns, 11 to 5, but Worthy comes out with the higher peak season for touchdowns per team pass attempt because he had 12 touchdowns as a freshman in 2021.

The main thing putting Mitchell ahead of Worthy in Playmaker Score is the Scouts Inc. projection, which has Mitchell as the better prospect. If the two receivers were rated the same by Scouts Inc., we would have Worthy slightly ahead.

7. Keon Coleman, Florida State

Playmaker Score projection: 514 yards/season Scouts Inc. ranking: 36 Similar historical prospects: Christian Kirk, Dorial Green-Beckham

Coleman's Playmaker Score and the associated statistics make him look like a typical second-round wide receiver. What's fascinating about Coleman from a statistical perspective has nothing to do with Playmaker Score. Instead, the interesting numbers come from the combine because they show Coleman with similarities to Puka Nacua. Like Nacua, Coleman ran poorly (4.61) in the 40-yard dash but was the fastest receiver in the gauntlet drill (20.36 mph) where the receiver has to run across the field and catch seven passes in quick succession.

THE SLEEPER Luke McCaffrey, Rice

Playmaker Score projection: 295 yards/season Scouts Inc. ranking: 149 Similar historical prospects: Kyle Philips, Amon-Ra St. Brown

McCaffrey currently ranks 16th in Playmaker Score for this year's wide receivers. However, if we removed the factor of how Scouts Inc. rates a prospect before the draft, McCaffrey would move to eighth. McCaffrey had more touchdowns per team attempt in his peak 2023 season than Odunze, Mitchell or Coleman. His rushing stats -- 27 carries for 265 yards and a touchdown in his two seasons as a wide receiver -- also bode well for NFL success.