NFL Draft News & Analysis

2024 NFL Draft: Ranking the best deep threats in the draft class

2WBH2YA Houston, United States Of America. 08th Jan, 2024. January 8, 2024: Washington Huskies wide receiver Rome Odunze (1) running after a catch during the College Football Playoff National Championship game between the Michigan Wolverines and the Washington Huskies at NRG Stadium in Houston, TX. Darren Lee/CSM/Sipa USA. (Credit Image: © Darren Lee/Cal Sport Media/Sipa USA) Credit: Sipa US/Alamy Live News

• Rome Odunze brings experience as a deep threat: He leads the 2024 class in deep catches and deep receiving yards from this past season.

• Malik Nabers earned the highest deep receiving grade in 2023: Not only did he receive the highest receiving grade on deep balls, but he ranked in the top three of each category presented here

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Perhaps the most exciting brand of wide receiver is the deep threat. These players make explosive plays that get the fans out of their seats.

The 2024 NFL Draft receiving class has no shortage of deep threats, and we’re going to look at the best of the best. To qualify as a deep pass, the receiver must have been targeted at least 20 yards downfield. We are also looking only at players who appear on the PFF big board, so even though Albany’s Brevin Easton rated highly in both deep catches and yards, he does not factor into these rankings.

Deep Catches

Rank Player School Catches Big Board Rank
1 Rome Odunze Washington 24 6
2 Malik Nabers LSU 19 4
3 Marvin Harrison Jr. Ohio State 16 2
T-4 Brian Thomas Jr. LSU 15 25
T-4 Troy Franklin Oregon 15 29
T-4 Javon Baker UCF 15 78
7 Ja'Lynn Polk Washington 14 48
T-8 Xavier Legette South Carolina 13 53
T-8 Tahj Washington USC 13 129
T-8 Jalen Coker Holy Cross 13 160

Rome Odunze’s ranking at the top of this list should come as no surprise. Not only did he easily lead the way with 24 deep receptions, but he was targeted on deep balls a whopping 60 times. The next closest receiver on the PFF big board was Pittsburgh’s Bub Means at 36 deep targets. Even removing Odunze’s three postseason games, he still would comfortably lead all draft-eligible receivers with 48 deep targets.

Despite Brenden Rice being the more acclaimed USC receiver, thanks in no small part to being Jerry’s son, Tahj Washington was the preferred deep target of projected top pick Caleb Williams. Washington was targeted only 18 times deep downfield, but he caught 13 of those targets for a whopping 72% completion percentage, easily tops among players on this list.

Jalen Coker, the only FCS receiver featured, was a dominant force on deep balls, catching 13 of them on 30 such targets. Coker also possesses physicality at the catch point on deep balls, as 12 of those targets were contested and he caught six of them.

Deep Receiving Yards

Rank Player School Yards Big Board Rank
1 Rome Odunze Washington 815 6
2 Brian Thomas Jr. LSU 670 25
3 Malik Nabers LSU 624 4
4 Marvin Harrison Jr. Ohio State 622 2
5 Tahj Washington USC 596 129
6 Troy Franklin Oregon 592 29
7 Javon Baker UCF 574 78
8 Ja'Lynn Polk Washington 567 48
9 Xavier Legette South Carolina 554 53
10 Jalen Coker Holy Cross 504 160

The same 10 players who landed on the deep receiving yards list are also on the deep receptions list. The order may be slightly different, but we can see that there is a clear hierarchy in this particular data point.

Washington and LSU feature two receivers on the deep yardage and receptions lists. For the Huskies, Odunze and Ja’Lynn Polk were two of the most dominant receivers deep downfield. Had he not dealt with injury for much of the season, Jalen McMillan, the third Huskies receiver who should hear his name called early in this draft, may have also cracked the list. McMillan caught six deep balls on 20 such targets for 206 yards in his limited action. As a team, Washington attempted far and away the most deep balls (124), 48 of which were caught. The next most attempts among FBS programs was Florida State, with 78.

LSU also featured a prolific deep passing game, as Brian Thomas Jr. and Malik Nabers came in second and third, respectively, in deep receiving yardage while also finishing top-10 in catches. While their volume wasn’t nearly as high as Washington’s (LSU attempted 65 deep balls, almost half of Washington’s) their efficiency in that regard was much greater, as they completed 37 passes for a 56.9% completion rate. None of the four FBS programs with a higher percentage attempted more than 10 deep balls.

Click here to see Malik Nabers' 2024 NFL Draft profile.

Deep Receiving Grade

Rank Player School Receiving Grade Big Board Rank
1 Malik Nabers LSU 97.8 4
2 Marvin Harrison Jr. Ohio State 96.1 2
3 Xavier Legette South Carolina 95.8 53
4 Roman Wilson Michigan 95.5 42
5 Ricky Pearsall Florida 94.9 45
6 Javon Baker UCF 94.8 78
7 Tahj Washington USC 94.6 129
8 Rome Odunze Washington 94.4 6
9 Troy Franklin Oregon 94.3 29
T-10 Brian Thomas Jr. LSU 94.1 25
T-10 Jermaine Burton Alabama 94.1 74

Despite coming out on top in both deep receptions and yardage, Odunze drops to eighth in deep receiving grade, although the 94.4 grade he received is still very impressive. Odunze’s volume in this regard may have hurt his grade a bit — despite catching the most deep balls, he still had 36 deep incompletions thrown his way.

Malik Nabers may have been the most successful deep receiver in this class, as not only did he receive the highest receiving grade on deep balls, but he ranked in the top three of each category presented here. There’s a good reason many analysts have him as the top receiver in this year’s class.

Not to be forgotten is the consensus No. 1 receiver in the draft, Marvin Harrison Jr. He just missed out on beating Nabers as a deep threat, finishing in the top four of each category. With as well-rounded a receiver as he is, being a deep threat may arguably be Harrison’s best trait, and that’s saying a lot.

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