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Triple Take: Wide receivers

The "Triple Take" continues its look at the 2024 NFL Draft with a breakdown of the wide receivers. The Steelers Radio Network trio of Matt Williamson, Dale Lolley and Mike Prisuta give their takes on the top prospects at the position.

The opinions of these Steelers Radio Network personalities do not reflect the views of the Steelers organization.

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Dale's Take ,,,

If the offensive tackles are the best group in this draft, the wide receivers aren't far behind – if they're behind at all. This class is talented and deep, with good receivers being available well into the third day of the draft. And there are potentially three top-10 wide receivers available, as well. With the trade of Diontae Johnson, this position could become even more of a focus for the Steelers in this draft.

Sleeper - Luke McCaffery, Rice (6-2, 198 lbs.) - Can you be considered a sleeper when your dad was an NFL wide receiver and your brother is the best running back in the NFL? Perhaps. McCaffery began his career as a quarterback, playing his first two seasons at Nebraska before transferring to Rice. he had 129 receptions for 1,715 yards and 19 touchdowns the past two seasons working primarily out of the slot. A 4.46-second 40-yard dash, 36-inch vertical jump and 4.02-second short shuttle at the Combine showed off his athleticism. He's only going to continue to get better as he learns the nuances of the position, but he already views things through a quarterback's eyes, which helps.

#5 - Ladd McConkey, Georgia (6-0, 186 lbs.) - McConkey isn't the biggest receiver. He's not the fastest – though his 4.39-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine was plenty fast enough. But he just gets open and catches the football. McConkey is a smooth route runner and consistently snatches the ball away from his body with his hands. He missed some time in 2023 with back and ankle injuries, but looked great at the Senior Bowl. He also has experience returning punts.

#4 - Brian Thomas, LSU (6-3, 209 lbs.) - Thomas was part of a great 1-2 punch at LSU in 2023, catching 68 passes for nearly 1,200 yards while scoring an NCAA-best 17 touchdowns. He's got the size, length and speed to be a true No. 1 in his own right in the NFL after being 1-A to Malik Nabers' option 1 in LSU last season. Blazed a 4.33-second 40 at the Combine while also going 38.5-inches on his vertical. Thomas is a playmaker.

#3 - Rome Odunze, Washington (6-3, 212 lbs.) – In most years, Odunze would clearly be the No. 1 receiver prospect or no worse than No. 2. Ran 4.45-second in the 40 at the Combine while showing off a 39-inch vertical. His catch radius is enormous. Odunze had 167 catches for over 2,800 yards and 20 touchdowns over the past two seasons, averaging more than 100 yards per game in 2023. He has elite skills on 50-50 balls.

#2 - Malik Nabers, LSU (6-0, 200 lbs.) - Went over 1,000 yards in each of the past two seasons at LSU, including catching 89 passes for 1,569 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2023. Nabers makes it look easy, running past defensive backs or going up over them when needed. At times, he looks like a cross between Justin Jefferson and Ja'Marr Chase, another pair of former LSU stars who played together. Didn't work out at the Combine, but there's no questioning his speed and agility.

#1 - Marvin Harrison Jr., Ohio State (6-3, 209 lbs.) - The son of a Pro Football Hall of Fame receiver, Harrison has all the skills of his famous father in a bigger package. The latest in an impressive run of wide receivers at Ohio State, much the same way Thomas and Nabers are at LSU. Didn't work out or do any medicals at the Combine, but back-to-back 1,200-yard seasons with 28 touchdowns the past two seasons speaks for itself.

Matt's Take …

As what always seems to be the case nowadays, there are a ton of enticing wide receivers entering the league this year. There are three that should go in the top 10 overall to go along with many others that should be selected in the top 50. Unlike last year's group, the wide receivers in this draft class have plenty of size. There is someone for whatever style of offense being played. And many of these wide receivers should make an instant impact.

Sleeper - Malik Washington, Virginia (5-8 1/2, 191 lbs.) - Washington had a big year, mostly from the slot, at Virginia this past season after transferring from Northwestern. He had 100 or more yards in 10 of his final 11 games. Washington is short, but he is well built and has a physicality to his game. But he does have a small catch radius. Most of his catches are near the line of scrimmage. Washington has very soft natural hands and is excellent with the ball in his hands with the ability break and elude tackles. Washington is a tough cover that could be hitting his stride at the right time.

#5 - Adonai Mitchell, Texas (6-2, 205 lbs.) - Mitchell won two National Championships at Georgia before transferring to Texas for one season to be closer to his daughter. He had a huge season for the Longhorns. Mostly an outside receiver, Mitchell consistently finds the end zone. He has excellent size but could stand to play more physical at times. He has great acceleration and long speed with the ability to threaten the defense at all levels. Mitchell isn't just a linear athlete though and is smooth in and out of his breaks. He needs to further his feel for defeating zone coverage.

#4 - Brian Thomas, LSU (6-3, 209 lbs.) - Thomas is a touchdown-producing machine. A deep threat who can also do damage early in the down, Thomas saw a high average depth of target with a high percentage of his targets coming 20 or more yards downfield. He has a rare combination of size and speed with great body control, flexibility and leaping ability to go with it. Thomas can just run away from his opponent or win in contested-catch situations. After breaking out in a big way this past season, Thomas has all the upside in the world, but does have some work to do with his route running and some of the more nuanced aspects of playing the position including dealing with NFL press coverage. Thomas' extensive basketball background is obvious. As is his upside.

#3 - Rome Odunze, Washington (6-3, 212 lbs.) - There are many years in which Odunze would be the first wide receiver selected. He does most of his work outside, but Odunze is very slot capable at the next level. Odunze is a force at all levels of the field with excellent play speed. He creates space for himself very well, but truly thrives in tight quarters and contested catch situations. Odunze has great hands and ball skills. He is physical and tough with a strong willingness to block. Odunze's teammates love him, and he will do whatever it takes to win.

#2 - Malik Nabers, LSU (6-0, 200 lbs.) - In almost any draft year, Nabers would be the first wide receiver off the board. His 2022 season was good, but his 2023 season was unreal. Few human beings move like Nabers. His explosiveness, acceleration and body control are off the charts. And by no means is Nabers a finesse receiver. He is elite with the ball in his hands and operates equally well out of the slot or on the perimeter. Nabers does get a little help from LSU's offense, that does a great job scheming him up, but he is a tremendous prospect, nonetheless. He doesn't need much help to gain separation and that should translate to the NFL. Oh, Nabers also won't be 21 years old yet when he is drafted.

#1 - Marvin Harrison Jr., Ohio State (6-3, 209 lbs.) - This is an elite player. Harrison has is all. As you would expect as the son of a Hall of Fame receiver, Harrison does all the little things well such as selling his route stem, getting off press coverage, the overall manipulation of cover men. He also happens to be close to a flawless player in terms of his size, speed, and natural gifts for the position. Harrison has both long speed as well as great quickness. His feet are tremendous, especially for a big wide out. To nitpick, Harrison could stand to work on his after the catch skills. But overall, this is a truly phenomenal prospect that could one day be the very best wide receiver in the NFL.

Mike's Take …

So many to choose from. Enough that if you need a wide receiver and you can't find at least one in the NFL Draft, either your standards are a little too high or you're just not doing it right. Wide receiver is the deepest position in the draft, according to NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah. And the players available bring polish as well as impressive physical skill sets. "They carry themselves like they're pros before they ever are pros," NFL Network analyst Charles Davis observed of how the work was being done at the NFL Scouting Combine. They're out there and they might go in the first round in a record number. And there will be more where those came from.

Sleeper - Luke McCaffrey, Rice (6-2, 198 lbs.) - He was initially a quarterback at Nebraska. McCaffrey has said one of the reasons he wound up playing wide receiver at Rice was quarterback didn't afford him an opportunity to hit and truly compete with his brothers. Speaking of which, his actual brother, Christian, is doing rather well in the NFL, as did their father, Ed. Luke McCaffrey isn't there yet, but he's drawn comparisons with Puka Nacua along the way. "That's such a generous comparison," McCaffrey has insisted. Maybe, for now; stay tuned on Luke.

#5 -Keon Coleman, Florida State (6-3, 213 lbs.) - He's athletic enough to have played football and basketball at Michigan State prior to transferring to FSU. Coleman hauled in 11 touchdown receptions in his lone season with the Seminoles. At the Combine he ran a 4.61 40-yard dash, which was the slowest of his wide receivers group. But his Gauntlet Drill was the fastest (20 mph according to Next Gen Stats). "He was flying down the line," Jeremiah marveled. Coleman is a play-speed guy much more than he is a track guy. He has a massive catch radius and if the QB still can't get it there Coleman can go up and get it.

#4 - Brian Thomas, LSU (6-3, 209 lbs.) - He hasn't had the consistent production some of the other top receivers available have enjoyed, but Thomas' breakout season in 2023 was something to see (68-1,117-17.3-17) and dwarfed what he'd amassed statistically during his first two seasons. The 17 touchdown receptions also led FBS. Thomas ran the 40 at the Combine and clocked a 4.33. He passed on his second attempt. A home run hitter either from outside or in the slot, and one with upside. He's a potential Top 20 pick.

#3 - Malik Nabers, LSU (6-0, 200 lbs.) - Nabers played against Wisconsin in the ReliaQuest Bowl on Jan. 1 in Tampa because he wanted to become LSU's all-time receiving yards leader. That mission was accomplished via three receptions for 21 yards that elevated his career total to 3,003, just ahead of Josh Reed's 3,001. "First and foremost he is an incredible competitor," LSU head coach Brian Kelly told The NFL Network. That seems apparent, as does Nabers' ability to track the ball on fades, adjust when it's thrown ahead of or behind him, pull it in when a combat catch is necessary and run with it after the catch.

#2 - Rome Odunze, Washington (6-3, 212 lbs.) - He has the stats and the measureables. He amassed his eye-popping numbers, in part, because he's dedicated enough to have bounced back quickly from a punctured lung and a fractured rib in 2023. Such is the level of Odunze's competitiveness and toughness. Another great example of how driven Odunze is was his determination to take five extra shots at the three-cone drill at the NFL Scouting Combine in an effort to better his time of 6.6. Odunze was the last player on the field that day at Lucas Oil Stadium. He'll be one of the first if not the first wide receiver taken off the draft board.

#1 - Marvin Harrison Jr., Ohio State (6-3, 209 lbs.) - One of the recurring themes of this draft is NFL bloodlines. As the son of an inductee into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Harrison's NFL bloodlines are as thick as any. He's smooth and fluid, just like dad. But Junior is bigger and he's had two seasons that were more prolific than any one dad ever had (1,263 receiving yards and 14 TDs in 2021, and 1,211 receiving yards and 14 TDs in 2023; dad's best was 1,131 receiving yards and eight TD catches in 1995). Harrison's last two seasons were better than anyone in FBS in terms of combined receiving yards except for Odunze (2,785) and Nabers (2,586). Those two are, likewise, prototypical No. 1 receivers. But in this class, Harrison's the one.

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