Don't Overthink Marvin Harrison Jr.—Rookie WRs Tiers 1-4

Don't Overthink Marvin Harrison Jr.—Rookie WRs Tiers 1-4

An Ode to High Floor WRs

In evaluating prospects over the years, I've become more focused on identifying player traits. At the QB and RB positions, an understanding of player traits can help us prioritize fantasy-friendly skill sets. If we can get that part of the eval right we can often hit on fantasy production even when we miss low on talent.

For example, Anthony Richardson's real life outlook remains murky. Can anyone really say how good he is? But because of his made-for-fantasy skillset, he's set up for a very strong redraft campaign. And he's already been a dynasty hit, even if it's worth testing the trade market.

And while Rachaad White is an uninspiring real life starting RB, his high-end college receiving efficiency has translated into a locked-in passing game role. And that passing game trust has facilitated at least one year with a surprisingly firm grip on early down work.

At wide receiver, I'm not any less focused on understanding the specifics of each player's skill set. But I view the task at WR a little differently than at QB or RB. At WR, the most important thing to get right is simply—is this WR good?

At WR, getting on the field is only the first step. You can't count on baseline per-snap production the same way you can at RB. In other words, the floor is lower for NFL starters at WR than at RB.

But the ceiling is usually much higher. Great WRs fundamentally transform their offensive environment. And good WRs dictate a role in their offenses, regardless of the team's preseason plans. It doesn't really matter if a WR achieves greatness through route running savvy, raw athleticism, or playmaking yards after catch ability. When a rookie WR proves capable of succeeding in the NFL, we succeed, regardless of the archetype.

Justin Jefferson is the poster boy for this idea. Jefferson was seen by both film and metrics-based analysts as a safe but unexciting prospect. I'm not attempting to pick on anyone here (other than myself). After writing this eval, I ranked Jefferson just WR4 in 2020:

"Jefferson went in the 1st Round of the NFL draft for the same reason you should be comfortable selecting him in the early-mid 1st of your rookie drafts: Justin Jefferson is a professional WR. Jefferson became the engine of LSU’s offense while still just 19 years old and while playing outside WR. He then developed into a highly productive slot receiver while providing a major contribution to a truly great college offense. And physically, he’s a more than capable NFL athlete.
The fact that Jefferson finished out his career as a clear second fiddle to a 19 year old Ja’Marr Chase indicates that Jefferson may lack an elite NFL ceiling. But with his selection by the Vikings he now gets to reprise his successful 2019 role as an NFL rookie. In 2020 he’ll operate as a slot WR and second fiddle to Adam Thielen. This gives him an immediate path to production and makes him a strong bet for increased trade value in 2021. He then has the ceiling to develop into Minnesota’s versatile WR1 as Theilen drops off with age. Jefferson should be drafted no later than WR4 in rookie drafts."

Hey 2020 Pat... if you think a WR is definitely gonna be good, maybe take him over Jalen Reagor? Just an idea.

Last year, more evolved thinking helped get me on Jordan Addison over Quentin Johnston. It also helped me keep an open mind on Zay Flowers, who I liked more than 2020 Pat would have.

This year, this framework helps explain why I ultimately decided to put Marvin Harrison in his own tier. Harrison has a variety of priority WR traits. These traits aren't a prioirty because they provide a fantasy scoring hack... they're a priority because they indicate he will succeed in real life. At WR, real life success if the best hack.

Marvin Harrison Jr. is going to be good. That alone is immensely valuable. Taking on additional risk for Malik Nabers' slightly higher theoretical ceiling just doesn't seem worth it. To be clear, that's a comment on Harrison's rare level of safety. Nabers is an elite prospect who I would have as the top WR in almost any other class. It's just that we rarely get a prospect as sure to hit the ground running as Harrison.

I'm also more into Rome Odunze than I thought I might be. He's not a perfect analytical prospect, but his profile thoroughly suggests a player who will immediately fit into a traditional NFL passing game.

As this class gets deeper, the evaluations get very tricky. We have a lot of incomplete profiles in this class, and several prospects who are very boom/bust. Some of these prospects are almost certain to hit the landing spot jackpot, causing their ADPs to skyrocket.

I'm all for getting excited about the high-end elements of imperfect profiles. But it's hard to beat safety—remember in 2022 when Garrett Wilson was low ceiling?

Great WRs are capable of changing their environment, making landing spots a tie breaker more than a fundamental piece of WR propsect analysis. I've learned this the hard way—roll the clip, no not that that one, there we go.

Tier 1 - A Generational Layup

Marvin Harrison Jr.

At a Glance

Marvin Harrison Jr. is one of the highest floor prospects of all time. He also has a superstar ceiling. Don't overthink it.

Positive Indicators

As a true freshman, Marvin Harrison Jr. stepped into a WR room that had Chris Olave (senior), Garrett Wilson (junior), and Jaxon Smith-Njigba (sophomore). Understandably, he saw limited playing time but still managed a 15% dominator rating in four games played.

In 2022, Harrison broke out with a 33% dominator rating, posting a 77/1,263/14 receiving line on 118 targets. He paired that with an elite 3.08 yards per team attempt (YPTA) and an elite 3.18 yards per route run (YPRR).

Elite production and efficiency at 20 years old... we love to see it.

Harrison followed that up with a stunningly impressive true junior campaign. His raw production was slightly worse (in one fewer game played), but he was the engine of the Ohio State offense. Harrison posted a 67/1,2111/14 receving line on 118 targets, in line with his 2021 numbers. But he spiked to an ultra-elite 45% dominator rating and improved to a 3.22 YPTA and 3.44 YPRR. He was the true focal point of the Ohio State passing attack in 2023, and he responded by getting even more efficient.

For his career, Harrison has a 2.98 YPRR, the highest mark among 2023's early declare WRs. Among early declare WRs, Harrison's career YPRR ranks behind only Marquise Brown (3.66), Jaylen Waddle (3.57), Jaxon Smith-Njigba (3.52), Laviska Shenault (3.39), Tee Higgins (3.37), Ja'Marr Chase (3.12), and CeeDee Lamb (3.05).

And as JJ Zachariason notes in his prospect guide, Harrison's multiple seasons with a 3+ YPTA is a rare feat.

Harrison also looks very well suited to the NFL game. Harrison is a true downfield WR who should fit seamlessly into a variety of passing schemes. Harrison produced nearly half of his career yards on 20+ yard targets, with 40% of his YAC on 10+ yard targets.

"Scheming" for Harrison is simply making him the first read on downfield staple routes.

Harrison's contested catch metrics also paint a very appealing story. Only 30% of Harrison's deep targets were contested, which isn't especially high. But when in contested catch situations deep downfield, Harrison posted an elite 69% catch rate. These numbers tell the story of a WR who can separate and consistently win jump balls.

This traditional downfield prowess is also reflected in Matt Harmon's assessment of Harrison: "When you imagine a No. 1 receiver, you picture Marvin Harrison Jr. He fits the classic, alpha X-receiver mold."


Harmon's film evaluation echos unamiously rave reviews from the larger scouting community, including NFL evaluators. With the NFL and scouting community full on board, Harrison has an extremely safe draft capital projection; he's going within the top 6 picks.

Red Flags

Harrison understands the pre-draft game. With elite draft capital already locked in, he didn't test at the Combine or at his Pro Day, leaving his athleticism a question mark.

But at WR, athleticism is primarily a predictor of draft capital. The NFL has seen what it needs to see to take Harrison early on Day 1, so I'm not sweating this "mystery." Harrison can play.

Harrison is also older than your typical early declare. He turns 22 in August. Although this is a very minor red flag for a player with elite production at 20 and 21 years old.

Statistical Comps

  • Ja'Marr Chase
  • A.J. Green
  • Sammy Watkins
  • Justin Jefferson

Best Ball / Dynasty Outlook

Harrison's best ball ADP is wild. A few years ago we were shocked by Ja'Marr Chase going in the 4th round. Harrison is going in the top 18 picks.

But for the Big Board... this is the price. Harrison has been an early 2nd round pick for the entire tournament and I don't see that changing. And Harrison's late season upside is strong enough that I'm not looking to fade him.

However, it might be worth trying to fade Harrison in the early post-draft period. It's hard to imagine that casual August drafters are going to be on board with a rookie WR in the early 2nd round.

I'm on the fence on whether I'll actually attempt this fade, though. The 2nd round feels very flat to me, and I'm not sure how much I really gain by being underweight on Harrison in the early 2nd and overweight on him... in the early 3rd? Not sure I'm gaining a ton there. But it's worth thinking through how Harrison's ADP could shift over the course of the summer.

In dynasty, the big question is where you take Harrison over Caleb Williams. And the answer is... probably not. But I think you try pretty damn hard to trade down. And if you're in a situation or league where you think Harrison makes more sense, you'll get no argument from me.

Best Ball Recommendation

Try your best not to be underweight.

Superflex Rookie Draft Grade

1.01 worthy.

Tier 2 - Elite Upside

Malik Nabers

At a Glance

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