2024 NFL Draft: Former general manager’s WR tiers, pro comps, draft locations and best fits for loaded class

Written by on April 3, 2024

Many NFL teams don’t just look at draft prospects in order of who is better individually, but rather in tiers or clusters because that allows front offices to figure out where and when to draft a player at a certain position.

It’s time for us to do that here at CBS Sports with the help of our CBS Sports HQ NFL analyst Rick Spielman, who spent 16 seasons (2006-2021) as the general manager of the Minnesota Vikings. First position group up in this series that will go through all the various position groups prior to the 2024 NFL Draft is wide receivers. 

Spielman has been able to find elite receiving talent in the later rounds of the draft; he selected four-time Pro Bowler Stefon Diggs in the fifth round of the 2015 NFL Draft. He’s also hit in the first round, selecting 2022 NFL Offensive Player of the Year Justin Jefferson with the 22nd overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.

Below you will see the top four tiers of receivers in the upcoming draft along with where they could fly off the board and some of their best team fits. Spielman’s remarks are compiled from the “With The First Pick” podcast episode that aired on March 18. Each prospect will also have additional analysis provided by yours truly. 

A couple receivers below have been identified as top fits for the Buffalo Bills, a team that will certainly be looking to take a receiver high after trading away Diggs to the Houston Texans on Wednesday. 

Tier 4  

Ricky Pearsall (Florida)

  • Height: 6-1 | Weight: 189 pounds
  • Accolades/notable statistics: 65 receptions, 965 receiving yards in 2023 (both led team and ranked sixth in SEC)

 Pro comp: Seahawks WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba

“I think he’s a good route runner,” Spielman said. “I just love this kid’s competitiveness. I think he had the highlight catch of the year with the one-hander between everybody. I just think this guy is a good football player. He tested well. I think that really helped his draft stock. The Senior Bowl helped him. This guy has a chance to be a really good player and a starter in this league.”

  • Highest he could get drafted: First 15 picks of second round
  • Lowest he could get drafted: Top of third round
  • Best team fit: Cincinnati Bengals 

Final Thoughts: Ricky Pearsall possesses a slender frame, but he controls it with high-level body control (as evidenced by the catch below) plus decisive footwork and cuts with his route-running. He is adept at utilizing shoulder shimmies and head fakes to throw defenders off of his trail. Pearsall is at his best on in-breaking routes where he can catch the ball and continue to accelerate up the field without breaking his stride. He can line up all over the formation, and is a decent blocker. The knocks on him are he isn’t incredibly strong at burning people deep since he doesn’t have game-breaking speed, and he will be 24 years old as a rookie.  

Xavier Legette (South Carolina)

  • Height: 6-1 | Weight: 221 pounds
  • Accolades/notable statistics: 2023 Second Team All-SEC, 1,255 receiving yards in 2023 (second most in a season in school history), led team in catches (71), receiving yards (1,255) and receiving touchdowns (7) in 2023

 Pro comp: Retired nine-year NFL WR Kenny Britt

“The one thing that he has to prove is you know he can go down the field. You know he can go get the ball. He has to become more polished as a route-runner and more polished as a receiver,” Spielman said. “A little bit of a one-year wonder … This guy can get the ball downfield and can really run, but he needs more polish in the nuances of playing receiver at the next level.”

  • Highest he could get drafted: Middle of second round
  • Lowest he could get drafted: Middle of third round
  • Best team fit: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Final Thoughts: Legette totaled 423 receiving yards through his first four seasons of college football, and then he exploded for 1,255 in 2023, the second most in the entire SEC behind only LSU’s Malik Nabers, who appears a little further down on this list. His acceleration, which is powered by some long strides, is a strength as is his ability to utilize his frame to box out defenders at the first down line to gain. Betting on a player’s route-running to take tremendous strides as a pro isn’t a guarantee, but Legette likely hasn’t put his best ball on tape yet. 

Xavier Worthy (Texas)

  • Height: 5-11 | Weight: 165 pounds
  • Accolades/notable statistics: Two-time First Team All-Big 12 (2021, 2023), 2023 AP Third Team All-American (all-purpose), led Big 12 in receiving yards (2,755) and receiving touchdowns (26) during career (2021-23), led FBS in punt return yards (371) last season, 4.21 40-yard dash (NFL Scouting Combine record)

 Pro comp: Detroit Lions WR Jameson Williams

“Some of the drops come in contested catches situations, but if he is by you, there is no question,” Spielman said. “I think he goes down too easy on contact after the catch.”

  • Highest he could get drafted: 28th overall (Bills)
  • Lowest he could get drafted: Top five picks of second round
  • Best team fit: Jacksonville Jaguars

Final Thoughts: SPEED. That’s what comes to mind when watching Worthy’s tape. Texas certainly went out of its way to get him the ball in space on screens and underneath routes. Anything horizontal to get Worthy the ball while his legs are already firing resulted in success. His 571 yards after catch were the 14th most in college football in 2023. Worthy can also burn secondaries to the ground going deep as evidenced by his 44-yard touchdown catch at Alabama last season. However, up-and-down play at quarterback from Quinn Ewers played a role in limiting Worthy’s success downfield. He may not end up adding much more to his frame in the NFL, but he can fly. 

Ladd McConkey (Georgia)

  • Height: 6-0 | Weight: 186 pounds
  • Accolades/notable statistics: 2022 Second Team All-SEC, Two-time College Football Playoff National Champion (2021-2022)

 Pro comp: Carolina Panthers WR Diontae Johnson/faster version of Detroit Lions WR Amon-Ra St. Brown

“Great route-running ability,” Spielman said.

  • Highest he could get drafted: 32nd overall (Chiefs)
  • Lowest he could get drafted: Top 10 picks of second round
  • Best team fit: Kansas City Chiefs

Final Thoughts: McConkey is incredibly agile off the line of scrimmage. His footwork is that of a basketball player, jabbing and shaking past defenders at the beginning of his routes. The out route might be McConkey’s best because of his ability to come to a stop and then accelerate out of the breaks in his routes. His usage of various speeds and hesitation before accelerating to an opening is reminiscent of how Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic lulls defenders to sleep before scoring at the rim. McConkey also has strong hands, evidenced by hauling 30 of his 37 targets with only two dropped passes. 

Despite being an outside receiver at Georgia, McConkey’s role in the NFL will likely become that of a slot receiver because of his frame. 

For more draft coverage, you can hear in-depth analysis twice a week on “With the First Pick” — our year-round NFL Draft podcast with NFL Draft analyst Ryan Wilson and former Vikings general manager Rick Spielman. You can find “With the First Pick” wherever you get your podcasts: Apple PodcastsSpotifyYouTube, etc.

Tier 3  

Adonai Mitchell (Texas)

  • Height: 6-2 | Weight: 205 pounds
  • Accolades/notable statistics: 2023 Big 12 Offensive Newcomer of the Year, led Big 12 in receiving touchdowns (11) in 2023, career highs in receptions (55), receiving yards (845) and receiving touchdowns (11) last season, two-time College Football Playoff National Champion (2021-2022) with Georgia

 Pro comp: Denver Broncos WR Josh Reynolds

“Really good route-runner,” Spielman said. “Big size, not blazing speed but fast enough. I think he got better. I didn’t think Mitchell was going to run as fast as he did at the combine [4.34 40-yard dash]. I think he is more build-up speed. I think he still needs some route refinement. Still would like him a little more explosive after the catch, but I think that this guy has tremendous upside.”

  • Highest he could get drafted: 28th overall (Bills)
  • Lowest he could get drafted: Top 10 picks of second round
  • Best team fit: Kansas City Chiefs

Final Thoughts: Mitchell has the prototypical build for an NFL wide receiver. He is an elite athlete who brings a smoothness to his route running. Mitchell’s footwork off the line and lateral quickness allows him to get open quickly. Mitchell’s ability to get open downfield off of double moves resulted in numerous big plays for Texas last season, particularly in its nail-biter of a win at TCU. He is also clutch, icing that game against the Horned Frogs with a 35-yard catch on third down. He also caught the go-ahead score in the 2021 CFP title game against Alabama, the game winner against Ohio State in the 2022 CFP and a clutch touchdown late in the loss against Washington in the 2023 CFP semis. Mitchell’s hands are strong as he had just one drop on 86 targets in 2023. 

His timing with his route running could improve, but some of that could be because of playing with an inconsistent quarterback. Mitchell can develop into a strong wideout in the right situation in the NFL.

Keon Coleman (Florida State)

  • Height: 6-3 | Weight: 213 pounds
  • Accolades/notable statistics: 2023 First Team All-ACC (WR, all-purpose and specialist), led ACC in receiving touchdowns (11) and punt return yards (300) in 2023

 Pro comp: Cleveland Browns WR Cedric Tillman (a healthy version)

“He plays faster than his timed speed [4.61 40-yard dash],” Spielman said. “Remember what you see on tape and go off of that … Guys sometimes play faster from a football standpoint than they do running a straight 40. The 40 is important, but how they play and how fast they are when they are playing is like [Los Angeles Rams wide receiver] Puka [Nacua]. He didn’t run fast at the combine, but he plays faster than he runs. He is a big, physical receiver. He is a little tight. He can win a contested ball. He can make all those jump balls and contested catches downfield, but I think he has some tightness getting in and out of his cuts.”

  • Highest he could get drafted: 17th overall (Jaguars)
  • Lowest he could get drafted: Second round
  • Best team fit: Buffalo Bills

Final Thoughts: Keon Coleman played both football and basketball at Michigan State before transferring to Florida State, and that background is crystal clear on the football field. Coleman is adept with his body control, which allows him to box out defenders before jumping to haul in a contested catch like a rebound. His hands are steady; he only dropped two of his 87 targets in 2023. While his 40-yard dash time isn’t elite, Coleman has shown that when the lights come on and football games are being played he can blow by defenders to get open vertically down the field. His development could be comparable to that of another massive wideout: DK Metcalf. Both have great size and hands and have had room to grow on shorter and intermediate routes. 

Brian Thomas Jr. (LSU)

  • Height: 6-3 | Weight: 209 pounds
  • Accolades/notable statistics: 2023 AP Third Team All-American, 2023 Second Team All-SEC, led FBS with 17 receiving touchdowns last season (Tied for fifth most in SEC history)

 Pro comp: Pittsburgh Steelers WR George Pickens 

“Big, long physical, can run,” Spielman said. “Ran fast at the combine [4.33 40-yard dash]. Has some route refinement that he needs, but if you watch him in the Florida game, watch him in the Ole Miss game, those are the games where he really popped. Compared to where he started the season to where he ended up, he’s another one that really improved through the process. This guy was my fourth receiver on the board.” 

  • Highest he could get drafted: 12th overall (Broncos)
  • Lowest he could get drafted: 28th overall (Bills)
  • Best team fits: Jacksonville Jaguars and Buffalo Bills 

Final Thoughts: Brian Thomas Jr. is one of the best in this entire class at making plays going deep (17.3 yards per catch in 2023). He utilizes an electric explosion off the line of scrimmage as well as his long frame to accelerate upfield in a hurry. Crossing routes were where Thomas shined brightly as he cuts sharp angles after the catch before making the turn to break away for huge gains down the field. Running alongside Malik Nabers, Thomas wasn’t required to be much more than the big play, vertical guy. He’ll have the opportunity to expand his game in the NFL.

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Tier 2

Rome Odunze (Washington)

  • Height: 6-3 | Weight: 212 pounds
  • Accolades/notable statistics: 2023 Consensus All-American, two-time First Team All Pac-12, led FBS in receiving yards (1,640) in 2023 (Washington single-season record), led FBS in catches of 20+ air yards (23)

 Pro comp: Denver Broncos WR Courtland Sutton

“I think he made a significant jump this year,” Spielman said. “Give Michael Penix Jr. credit for throwing the ball, but this dude took over games when the games were on the line.”

  • Highest he could get drafted: 6th overall (Giants)
  • Lowest he could get drafted: 9th overall (Bears)
  • Best team fits: Chicago Bears

Final Thoughts: Rome Odunze has a body built for the NFL, and he put that frame to use effectively, leading the nation in receiving yards (1,640) and catches of 20+ air yards (23). He can also stop and start with the best of them. Odunze is elite at tracking the football and catching the ball at its highest point. He is as reliable as it gets with only three drops on 140 targets. It would be surprising if he fell out of the first 10 picks of this draft. 

Malik Nabers (LSU)

  • Height: 6-0 | Weight: 200 pounds
  • Accolades/notable statistics: 2023 Unanimous All-American, second-most receiving yards (1,569), tied for third-most receiving touchdowns (14) in FBS lin 2023, 1,569 receiving yards last season (sixth most in SEC history), most career catches (189) and receiving yards (3,003) in LSU history

 Pro comp: New Orleans Saints WR Chris Olave

  • Highest he could get drafted: 5th overall (Chargers)
  • Lowest he could get drafted: 9th overall (Bears)
  • Best team fits: New York Giants

Final Thoughts: While Brian Thomas Jr. led the country in receiving touchdowns, teammate Malik Nabers was slightly more explosive (17.6 yards per catch). He was the clear-cut most dangerous wide receiver at LSU and as some would argue, the top receiving prospect in this draft. Nabers’ 4.35 unofficial 40 time from LSU’s Pro Day shows up on tape as his video game-like agility combined with that raw speed allows him to accelerate and decelerate like a best Bugatti. 

When he hits the brakes on intermediate routes, Nabers not only gets wide open, but he leaves defensive backs’ ankles on the turf. He also has a great feel for the game, as evidenced by the scramble-drill music he made with Jayden Daniels last season. Nabers will be just 21 years old as rookie, so there’s a lot of room for him to develop much further at the next level. 

Tier 1

Marvin Harrison Jr. (Ohio State)

  • Height: 6-3 | Weight: 209 pounds
  • Accolades/notable statistics: Two-time Unanimous All-American (2022, 2023), fifth WR in CFB history to be named two-time Unanimous All-American (first since Justin Blackmon), fifth player in OSU history to be named two-time Unanimous All-American (first since Orlando Pace), most receiving yards (2,474) and receiving touchdowns (28) in two-year span in Ohio State history, only player in Big Ten history with 14+ receiving touchdowns in multiple seasons, most receiving touchdowns (28) in FBS in past two seasons, third-most receiving yards (2,474) in FBS in past two seasons

 Pro comp: A.J. Green, Larry Fitzgerald

“He is in a tier by himself,” Spielman said. “Marvin Harrison Jr. is a future Hall of Famer. He needs to get his arms moving a little bit, had a couple drops and needs to have a sense of urgency, and he did that. He finished out the season as one of the best receiver prospects coming out [of college football].”

  • Highest he could get drafted: Fourth overall (Cardinals)
  • Lowest he could get drafted: 6th overall (Giants)
  • Best team fits: All 32 NFL teams

Final Thoughts: The discussion with Marvin Harrison Jr. is not whether or not he is the best receiving prospect in this draft, but where he stands as one of the best wide receiver talents coming out of college in the last couple decades. The footwork, the lateral agility and the way he corrals the football with ease. Everything he does just looks so natural. For someone of his size, the way he can drop his hips and explode off his cuts when route running to create throwing windows is phenomenal. Harrison isn’t a tackle-breaking machine, and he dropped six passes in 2023, but that can be more attributed to the erratic quarterback play of Kyle McCord than a dip in Harrison’s focus or abilities. 

It will be shocking if he is selected outside of the first five picks since a case can be made that Harrison is the best overall prospect in the entire 2024 NFL Draft. 

The post 2024 NFL Draft: Former general manager’s WR tiers, pro comps, draft locations and best fits for loaded class first appeared on CBS Sports.


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