Malik Nabers-Marvin Harrison Jr. Draft Debate is Heating Up
LSU v Mississippi State

Nabers has stolen the hype Harrison held throughout the college football season.

There was no debate over who was the best wide receiver in college football this past season. Ohio State’s Marvin Harrison Jr. was in a league of his own.

That narrative has changed in the lead-up to the NFL Draft. Thanks to some herculean workouts coupled with an outstanding, but overlooked, performance this past season, LSU receiver Malik Nabers has stolen the show.

Insiders, like Adam Schefter and Daniel Jeremiah, report he could be the first receiver taken in this year’s draft. This just a few months after some speculated Harrison Jr. could be the first overall pick.

Much of his recent momentum can be attributed to Nabers’ excellent showing at LSU’s pro day this week, where he proved he’s the perfect physical specimen to dominate at the NFL level. He measured 6-feet and 199 pounds, ran a 4.35 40-yard dash, had a 42-inch vertical, and registered a 10-foot-9 broad jump. For comparison, he was the same size as All-Pro wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase was at his own LSU pro day and outperformed the eventual top-10 pick in all the other drills.

Meanwhile, Harrison Jr. has opted to skip workouts at the NFL Combine and Ohio State’s pro day, giving Nabers the opportunity to steal the spotlight. He’s done that and more, becoming the hottest wide receiver prospect in the draft and raising the question of who will be better in the NFL.

That seemed impossible as recently as January. Harrison Jr. was the only non-quarterback invited to the Heisman Trophy ceremony and finished fourth in the voting. He was coming off another 14-touchdown season that included dominant performances against Penn State and Michigan. He was equally impressive against Georgia in the 2022 College Football Playoff, catching two touchdowns and racking up106 yards to help the Buckeyes nearly pull off the upset.

Harrison is 6-foot-4, 205 pounds, an outstanding route runner with reliable hands, and has the pedigree of a Hall-of-Fame father, Marvin Harrison. His on-field performance earned him the right to opt out of workouts. But that decision could also impact his draft position.

The first three picks in this year’s draft are expected to be quarterbacks. At picks No. 4-6, there are three teams in need of a superstar wideout — the Cardinals, Chargers and Giants. Any one of them could trade back with a team looking to pick another quarterback, but it seems less likely than either Harrison Jr. or Nabers falling much further than No. 6.

Ultimately it will come down to how each player fits a potential team’s scheme and offensive philosophy. Harrison Jr. is larger physically, making him a better threat to score in the redzone, and a more polished route runner. Nabers is faster, more explosive, and can take a three-yard screen and break it for a 50-yard touchdown.

It’s a debate few saw coming a few months ago, but could shape the 2024 NFL Draft as much as the quarterbacks ahead of them.

Brian Giuffra is an editor at The Big Lead.

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