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2024 NFL Scouting Combine Cheat Sheet: Wide Receiver 

Marvin Harrison
Marvin Harrison

Another year and another impressive crop of young pass catchers entering the NFL. This draft class is full of players who cover a variety of skill sets, all of which will be put on display in Indianapolis. Here are some names to keep a close eye on. 

Workout Warriors

These are the players who analysts expect to see perform best in the athletic testing portion of the workout.

Marvin Harrison Jr. (Ohio State) – Every summer, The Athletic's Bruce Feldman publishes his yearly Freaks List, highlighting the best athletes in college football. Last August, the No. 2 name on that list was Harrison's. The Philadelphia native not only is one of the best receiving prospects in recent memory, but he's also a top-shelf athlete on top of it. Feldman reported Harrison breaking 4.40 seconds in the 40-yard dash, at over 200 pounds, to go along with a 129-inch broad jump. Both of those are really strong scores. The eye-popping number, however, is the 3.94-second short shuttle. That number is the same as Odell Beckham's coming out of LSU in 2014, and only three drafted receivers have bested that in the last decade (and none of them have weighed as much as Harrison's listed 204 pounds).

Malik Nabers (LSU) – Nabers, who many analysts view as the best wideout not named Harrison in this class, made it to that Freaks List as well last summer. The junior's explosiveness was highlighted by what Feldman described as a "near 40-inch" vertical jump, and that juice is present whenever you turn Nabers' tape on. The All-American led the nation this past season with 43 catches of 15-plus yards.

Brian Thomas Jr. (LSU) – Nabers isn't the only Tiger who is expected to do well out in Indy, because Thomas could shine too. At 6-foot-4, 205 pounds, the FBS touchdown leader in 2023 puts instant pressure on defensive backs at the snap because of his explosiveness off the ball. Even though he didn't make it into Feldman's list in 2023, he could be one of the standouts in Indy based off his film.

Troy Franklin (Oregon) – A smooth operator who finished third in the country in explosive catches last fall, Franklin has legitimate juice in the open field and could post one of the top overall workouts from the receiver position. He's viewed by analysts as a "space" player, and reports from the training circuit are that he should look great in this environment.

Roman Wilson (Michigan) – There are a handful of schools that consistently churn out elite athletes and elite testers at this event. The Wolverines are one of those programs. Wilson made Feldman's Freaks List last summer and the reported numbers with him are wild. A 6.20 in the 3-cone drill would be the best of any receiver drafted in the last decade. A 3.77-second short shuttle? Same thing. A 4.33 40-yard dash would be in the 90th percentile of that receiver pool as well. Wilson was not a high-volume target in the run-oriented Michigan offense, but the traits stand out on tape and he put them on display in Mobile with a strong week at the Senior Bowl.

Jermaine Burton (Alabama) – Like Wilson, Burton's stat profile won't blow you away, but there's real explosiveness with him on tape that shows up down the field and with the ball in his hands. The Georgia transfer averaged more than 20 yards per catch last fall for the Tide and has an average depth of target of 16.8 yards over the course of his career, one of the highest marks of any receiver drafted in the last 10 years.

Ryan Flournoy (SE Missouri State) – Flournoy cracked the Top 50 of Feldman's Freaks List back in the summer, but his play on the field speaks for itself. The small-school star who twice was named first-team All-OHVC catches nearly everything thrown his way and is a tough, tenacious blocker as well. If he tests the way Feldman reported (4.35-second 40-yard dash, 6.66-second 3-cone drill, and 41-inch vertical leap are all outstanding), the Senior Bowl invite is going to build more external buzz as the draft approaches.

Bub Means (Pitt) – A deep threat for the Panthers after beginning his career as a cornerback at the University of Tennessee, Means averaged more than 17 yards a catch over the course of his career. Known for his explosiveness, the 6-foot, 222-pound wideout could post one of the fastest times at the position.

Will Kill the Drills

One of my favorite drills to watch over the course of the entire week is the Gauntlet Drill with the receivers. The prospect starts on one sideline and runs across the width of the field, catching footballs coming at him from both his left and his right in rapid fire fashion before he reaches the other side, where he pulls in his final reception and sprints to the goal line. Some of the things you can notice when watching this drill:

  • How cleanly the receiver catches the ball – looks the pass in, secures it, and tosses it aside while looking for the next throw
  • Balance and body control while staying at near-top speed
  • Battling through adversity - if they have a drop or a bad rep, do they have a short memory and finish the drill strong?

Here are the players who have a chance to shine in these drills:

Keon Coleman (Florida State) – There are questions about how Coleman will test in the athletic portion of the workout, but the position drills could be a big check mark for the junior Seminole. A transfer from Michigan State who actually played basketball for the Spartans as well, Coleman burst on the scene with FSU this fall as a first-team All-ACC performer. One thing that stands out about Coleman is that he rarely puts the ball on the ground. According to PFF, he had a drop percentage of just 4.2 percent over the course of his career (it was just 3.8 this past season as a junior); those basketball ball skills are a huge strength of his game. I expect that he'll look great in the gauntlet.

Rome Odunze (Washington) – Like Coleman, Odunze is a physically imposing target with really strong hands. Also like Coleman, he finished with a drop percentage of below 6 percent each of the past two seasons. Odunze is viewed as reliable he is across the board, so in addition to what he does in the tests, this drill work could show off his real strength.

Ja'Lynn Polk (Washington) – Odunze's teammate, Polk enjoyed a bit of a breakout season for the Huskies this year with more than 1,100 yards and nine scores. At 6-foot-2, 204 pounds, he's a big-bodied, athletic pass catcher who can make plays at all three levels of the field. He's also got a strong pair of mitts; he rarely put the ball on the ground over his career (backed up with one of the higher catch rates in the class) and is capable of making difficult catches look easy.

Adonai Mitchell (Texas) – One of the highest upside receivers in this class, Mitchell is a twitched up 6-foot-4, 195-pound wideout with a flashy skill set. He snaps off routes very well. He has really strong hands (which always seemed to pop up in the biggest moments in his biggest games). Not only do I expect Mitchell to look good in the gauntlet, but those route running chops could separate himself from the group next week in Indy as well.

Xavier Legette (South Carolina) – A fifth-year super senior who took advantage of his extra year of eligibility this season by nearly doubling his career catch total and surpassing his yardage and touchdown count from his entire time in Columbia, Legette is hoping to continue his upward momentum in Indianapolis. Sure, testing well will go a long way, but it will be a good opportunity for him to shine in these pass catching drills as well.

Ricky Pearsall (Florida) – Pearsall was one of the darlings in Mobile with a pretty strong showing at the Senior Bowl, but he has the tools to really excel in Indy as well. Pearsall is a springy athlete who has a chance to test well across the board, and he's another player with an impressive drop rate over the course of his career (he's been at 3.0 or less each of the past two seasons). Keep an eye on Pearsall next week.

Rome Odunze

Best Stories

All of these players have great stories to tell, but who has taken the most unique journey to get to this point? 

Devontez Walker (North Carolina) – Walker was named first-team All-MAC in 2022 after starring at Kent State, pulling in 58 grabs for nearly 1,000 yards and 11 touchdowns. He parlayed that performance by transferring to UNC for the chance to play with Drake Maye. Unfortunately, Walker had issues getting cleared by the NCAA on the transfer, and wasn't eligible until early October (he started his career at N.C. Central but could not play his true freshman season due to COVID-19). Still, the redshirt junior managed to be named third-team All-ACC this fall on nearly 17 yards a catch and seven touchdowns. A tall, rangy, explosive athlete, Walker is hoping to be one of the top receivers off the board in April.

Brenden Rice (USC) – Marvin Harrison Jr. isn't the only son of a Hall of Famer in this receiving group, as Brenden's father, Jerry, is viewed as arguably the greatest pass catcher of all time. The younger Rice began his career at Colorado, where he caught 27 passes over 12 starts for the struggling Buffaloes before transferring out to Southern Cal. For the Trojans, Rice started the past two seasons, catching passes from Caleb Williams as one of the top receivers in the SC offense. Like his dad, Rice isn't the biggest or fastest (though he does have solid size at 6-foot-2, 212 pounds), but he hangs his hat on his strong hands at the catch point. Rice is hoping to continue positive momentum after a fairly flashy week at the Senior Bowl in January.

Luke McCaffrey (Rice) – And here we have another legacy player with Luke McCaffrey, son of former Pro Bowl wideout Ed and brother of All-Pro running back Christian. Luke McCaffrey came out of high school as a four-star quarterback recruit, signing with Nebraska and playing two games in as many seasons for the Huskers before transferring to Rice. There, McCaffrey started three games and played in six others in 2021 before fully taking up the family business as a wide receiver in 2022, where he became a full-time starter the last two seasons. He was the Team MVP in that first season at receiver, and was named first-team all-conference the following year, parlaying that performance into a Senior Bowl invite. For a guy who hasn't played the position much, McCaffrey seems to have picked up his father's natural ball skills, showing the ability to work both inside and outside the last two years.

Malik Washington (Virginia) – Washington is another player who really benefited from the extra year of eligibility from COVID-19 as a fifth-year player this season. The Georgia native started 21 games in four seasons with Northwestern to begin his career, catching just north of 100 passes for three touchdowns. Fast forward a year, and a transfer to a more prolific UVA passing attack, and Washington nearly surpassed all of his previous numbers in 2023 alone. He's short (5-foot-8) but he's a well-built player who can get in and out of breaks and has proven to be a dynamo with the ball in his hands, finishing with the third-most yards after catch in the FBS this year (730). Washington, who shined with his performance at the Shrine Bowl last month, is looking to keep that positivity rolling in Indy.

Fly Eagles Fly

How did the current Philadelphia Eagles perform out in Indianapolis? We'll take a look at one number or performance from the current depth chart that stood the test of time.

Quez Watkins (Southern Miss) – At the Scouting Combine in 2020, Eagles receiver Quez Watkins ran a scorching 4.33 hand time and 4.35 laser time in the 40-yard dash, both of which fall in the 90th percentile of all receivers drafted in the last decade. That speed got Watkins drafted in the sixth round that spring and led to him being a deep threat in Philadelphia ever since.

Significant Stats

These are the players of note with a special statistic or measurement that sets them apart from their peers:

Malachi Corley (Western Kentucky) – Malachi Corley is one of the most fun receivers to watch in this draft class, as he was extremely productive (259 career catches, 11 touchdowns in each of the past two seasons) and had a very defined role. They looked to get him the ball fast in every which way possible to let him do what he does best – create. On his career, Corley averaged 8.2 yards after the catch per reception – the highest number of any receiver in this class. This past season alone, that number was 8.7 and in 2022 it was an astounding 9.7 per catch! That has drawn some comparisons to Pro Bowl receiver Deebo Samuel (who has a very similar frame and skill set) and other "offensive weapon" types who excel in the open field and in forcing missed tackles. Corley went to the Senior Bowl and proved he could be a more consistent route runner than what he was asked to do at WKU, and in Indy he'll try to prove he has the speed to be a true three-level threat as well.

Jalen McMillan (Washington) – When I first started watching players and projecting collegians to the NFL, we didn't have a ton of data readily available (which meant a lot of charting by hand on an individual basis). Now, there's SO much data that is at our fingertips that it can be almost information overload at times. One thing that's important to remember, however, with all of these players at every position, is that so many of these metrics should be viewed as "descriptors" and not "predictors." In other words, don't let one statistic dictate your evaluation and define what a player can or can't do. Rather, allow it to inform or describe what he was asked or not asked to do within the structure of his scheme.

With McMillan, I think you get a little bit of both here with one lone statistic. PFF charts how often a player was contested at the catch point on a target. Last season, just 1.5 percent of McMillan's targets were contested. That is an extremely low number, the lowest of any receiver drafted in the last decade in their final season on campus. Part of that has to do with how purposeful he is as a route runner; he's an experienced pass catcher who has a plan of attack on every snap. Another reason for that, however, is that the Washington scheme was full of various bunch formations and stacked receiver sets, which allowed for McMillan (who saw a large majority of his reps in the slot) to have free access to the second level of the defense. When you combine those two factors, it helps to tell the story of that one metric – but this is a fun story to watch unfold.

Javon Baker (UCF) – Baker began his career as a four-star Alabama commit, playing 21 games for the Crimson Tide over his first two seasons before transferring to UCF, where he took off in Head Coach Gus Malzahn's offense. Baker averaged 17.5 yards per catch over the course of his career, and he actually reminds me a bit of another former Knight in Gabe Davis (though they played in two different schemes during their stays in Orlando). Last season, Baker proved to be one of the most efficient receivers in the country, posting 3.21 yards per route run in his final year on campus. That's a good number, historically. But where he REALLY showed up was against press coverage, where that YPRR number jumps up to a whopping 4.56. Only seven of a charted 273 drafted receivers in the last decade have a better number than that against a jam, including several high picks in Jaylen Waddle (4.68), Phillip Dorsett (5.26), Corey Coleman (5.32), and Christian Watson (6.66). Baker's number is, understandably, the best in this receiver group, and his height/weight/speed combination is a big reason for that.

Johnny Wilson (Florida State) – As players go through drills in Indianapolis, it's easy for some of them to get lost in the crowd. No one is wearing team-issued gear. Everyone is basically wearing the same stuff. They're all outstanding athletes; they all look like adonises out there. Every once in a while, however, you get a guy who stands out in a crowd. Wilson is that guy.

Measuring in at a verified 6-foot-6, 237 pounds at the Senior Bowl, Wilson is a giant pass catcher who excelled as a perimeter weapon for both Florida State and Arizona State throughout his career.  As of now, Wilson will be listed with the receivers – and that size will be his calling card. His verified wingspan of 8438 (84 3/8") is the biggest of any receiver drafted in the last 10 years.

Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint (Georgia) – Despite Georgia winning back-to-back titles in 2021 and 2022, and still being a powerhouse throughout 2023, Rosemy-Jacksaint never really became a household name. He only started 23 games over the course of his time in Athens, catching just 74 passes while playing second fiddle to players like Brock Bowers and a dominant rushing attack, so it's understandable. That said, he is no stranger to NFL scouts, which is why he earned a Senior Bowl invite and enjoyed a solid week in Mobile last month. He's 6-foot-1 with the arm length of a guy who is 6-foot-3, he's been a very active special teams player, and – as important as anything else – he's been a really reliable pass catcher whenever his number is called. In fact, the last two seasons, PFF did not credit Rosemy-Jacksaint with a single drop.

The Rest of the Pack

Everyone else who will take part in the events in Indianapolis (in alphabetical order):

Jalen Coker (Holy Cross), Jacob Cowing (Arizona), Anthony Gould (Oregon State), Lideatrick Griffin (Mississippi State), Jha'Quan Jackson (Tulane), Cornelius Johnson (Michigan), Ladd McConkey (Georgia), Jalen McMillan (Washington), Tayvion Robinson (Kentucky), Ainias Smith (Texas A&M), Jamari Thrash (Louisville), Devaughn Vele (Utah), Tahj Washington (USC), Xavier Weaver (Colorado), Jordan Whittington (Texas), Isaiah Williams (Illinois), Xavier Worthy (Texas)

Mr. Average

We get to read all about the measurements for all these players over the next few weeks ... but wouldn't it be nice to have some context? What is considered a "good" 40-yard dash time? What about arm length? The broad jump? Here's what the average player drafted at each position has looked like over the last decade (based on my own personal research).

Height: 6006 (6'3/4")

Weight: 201 pounds

Hand Size: 938 (9 3/8")

Arm Length: 3178 (31 7/8")

Wingspan: 7648 (76 1/2")

Unofficial 40-Time (Stopwatch): 4.46 seconds

Official 40-Time (Laser): 4.48 seconds

10-Yard Split: 1.55 seconds

3-Cone Drill: 6.97 seconds

Short Shuttle: 4.24 seconds

Broad Jump: 123"

Vertical Jump: 36"

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