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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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2024 NFL Draft: Ranking every first round-graded pass catcher

Katelynn Ivy

Sophomore DB Jacoby Mattews (2) and sophomore DB Sam McCall (16) attempt to stop LSU WR Malik Nabers during Texas A&M’s game against LSU on Saturday, Nov. 25, 2023 at Tiger Stadium (Katelynn Ivy/The Battalion)

As NFL defenses have found ways to stifle scoring opportunities and keep the lid on big plays, a bigger burden falls on the pass catchers for individual moments of brilliance. The 2024 NFL draft has a deep group of playmakers, with these six being worthy of first-round selections:

1. Marvin Harrison Jr., wide receiver, Ohio State
Pro comparison: A.J. Green

The rare son of a Hall of Famer who is even bigger and more physically gifted, Mavin Harrison Jr. was built in a lab to be the alpha of an NFL wide receiver room. He checks all the boxes at 6-foot-3 with top-flight body control, silky smooth route running and hands that can pluck the ball from way outside his frame.

You really have to try to poke holes in the Biletnikoff Award winner’s game. Maybe he doesn’t have elite top speed? Average tackle-breaker due to his height? It doesn’t matter. His tape is too clean and he should be the next former Buckeye wide receiver to take the league by storm.

2. Rome Odunze, wide receiver, Washington
Pro comparison: Larry Fitzgerald

You know that person we all know who is annoyingly good at everything? Sports, hobbies, work and they’re too nice to actually dislike. That is Odunze. Route running: Check. Athleticism and size: Good enough. Yards after catch: Rock solid. But where Odunze butters his bread is contested catches. Boasting an absurd contested catch rate of over 70%, Odunze can win in any way he pleases.

He might not have top shelf speed or hyper-precise cuts yet, but I am really having to nitpick. As the most well-rounded and scheme-proof receiver in the class, an offense will be able to drop him in and expect instant output. Odunze is going to be a physically imposing weapon at the next level.

3. Malik Nabers, wide receiver, LSU
Pro comparison: D.J. Moore on a scooter

If you want a relaxing evening, go light a candle, pour some wine and go watch Nabers glide past cornerbacks on deep balls. A walking one-play touchdown, Nabers has otherworldly acceleration to threaten secondaries underneath as a yards-after-catch threat and as a guy to blow the top off a defense.

He is a hair behind the other receivers due to some technical deficiencies at the top of his route and needed development as a catcher. One of the youngest players in the class (he won’t even be able to legally drink a beer to celebrate draft day), Nabers has time to round into an all-around player, but he will bring an instant element of dynamism to any offense.

4. Brock Bowers, tight end, Georgia
Pro comparison: Purely on-field Aaron Hernandez

Some nerd is going to blab on about positional value with tight ends, and Bowers might get taken in the draft later than his talent would otherwise have him slated, but he has the ability to be the focal point of an offense. As good a college tight end with the ball in his hands that I have ever watched, a creative offensive mind will be able to find ways to get Bowers in space to make plays.

His biggest knock is a lack of size, but his tenacity as a blocker makes up for it. Bowers’ smooth athleticism and versatility make him a perfect fit for the positionless offensive philosophy of the modern NFL.

5. Adonai Mitchell, wide receiver, Texas
Pro comparison: George Pickens

Mitchell has a tall and wiry frame that can line up in isolation as an X receiver. For a player with his size and 4.33 second 40-yard dash speed, Mitchell’s hips don’t lie. His fluidity and route running allow him to destroy press coverage. Even when he’s not open, he can win 50/50 balls by floating above the corner with his jumping ability.

Even though he has moments when he seems to check out mentally or get disconnected from his offense, Mitchell has had a penchant for big moments, scoring multiple touchdowns in the College Football Playoff. I want him to speed up his route process at times, but Mitchell oozes talent that you just can’t coach.

6. Brian Thomas Jr., wide receiver, LSU
Pro comparison: Martavis Bryant

I could end this blurb by just saying that Thomas is nearly 6-foot-3 and ran a 4.33 40-yard dash. He has rare height for a field-stretching deep threat, but unlike most lanky speedsters, his height shows up in contested catch situations.

So much of Thomas’ production came from slot fades, and he will need to refine his technique to expand his route repertoire. Thomas is far from a finished product, but his effort and physical traits indicate that he can become a field-tilting weapon for an offense.

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