The 2024 NFL Draft is still far in the distance, but as we mull through these dog days of the football calendar, what better time than now to look ahead at next year’s NFL Draft landscape?
Coming off a historically weak draft class from top to bottom, the 2024 class is sure to provide much better depth, while also boasting multiple elite prospects at the top. The quarterback class this past year was strong overall, but the 2024 class could potentially beat it. Caleb Williams and Drake Maye are the consensus QB1 and QB2, with Michael Penix, Jr., J.J. McCarthy, Quinn Ewers, and several others in the first-round conversation as well.
Receiver is another position expected to be stronger next year, with a potentially generational talent, Marvin Harrison, Jr., leading the pack. Interior defensive line looks surprisingly juicy on paper, while the safety class should also be set for a bounce-back year. No safeties were selected in Round 1 of the 2023 draft.
Today, we are going to break down a position the Pittsburgh Steelers consistently replenish talent at: wide receiver. The Steelers have a budding star in George Pickens, but Diontae Johnson is not under contract in 2024, and Allen Robinson is not in the long-term plans either. Could the Steelers be in play for one of the top receivers in the class? We will take a look at the top prospects in the class and determine which ones, if any, make sense for the Steelers.
Potential first-round prospects
Marvin Harrison, Jr. | Ohio State
If Harrison had been in the 2023 NFL Draft, he likely would have gone number one overall, as it is rare to see an elite talent this polished and ready to play at the NFL level. Unlike his father, Marvin, Jr. possesses a lanky 6’4” frame with a large catch radius. However, he still displays elite quickness, footwork, and hands. There is nothing to seriously complain about with Harrison at this point in time, but unfortunately, he will be gone long before the Steelers are on the clock.
Emeka Egbuka | Ohio State
Want a faster version of Jaxon Smith-Njigba? Egbuka is your guy. Egbuka is built similarly to JSN, who was taken 20th overall by the Seattle Seahawks in this most recent draft. Emeka provides the same versatility as JSN as well, comfortably displaying an ability to line up both inside and outside. One of the best things to note about Egbuka is his knack for finding the soft spots in zone coverage, and he is also quick to get upfield after securing the catch.
Xavier Worthy | Texas
Worthy may only be around 160 pounds, but his explosiveness at that size is incredible. I still expect him to add weight before entering the NFL, but there have not been any major durability issues up to this point. Worthy’s combination of quickness and body control allow him to make defenders look foolish with fantastic double moves and cuts downfield. If Quinn Ewers can provide Worthy with stability at quarterback, a big season could be in store.
Rome Odunze | Washington
Bringing an intriguing combination of size and speed, Odunze looks to enjoy a fruitful season with quarterback Michael Penix, Jr. Despite not being the greatest route runner, Odunze finds ways to separate, primarily through his long strides at the tail end of routes. He also has added weight this offseason, reportedly weighing in around 215 pounds. If he can learn to dominate on contested catches, he will be a hot commodity come April.
Malik Nabers | LSU
LSU’s passing attack is not necessarily the strongest in the nation, but there should be enough success on the offense for Nabers to get recognition. Perhaps the most talented receiver at LSU since the days of Ja’Marr Chase and Justin Jefferson, Nabers possesses great hands, and his physicality after the catch makes it hard on defensive backs to bring him down in the open field.
Johnny Wilson | Florida State
Almost never will you find a 6’7” receiver enter the draft, but we may just have that next year in Johnny Wilson. At 6’7”, 235 pounds, Wilson displays receiver abilities with the size of a lean tight end. While he has never been a large-volume receiver, he takes care of his own down the field, bringing in numerous contested catches with his massive catch radius. It will be difficult to top his nearly 21 yards per catch he totaled in 2022, but with a clean bill of health, I expect Wilson to be in the thick of the first-round conversation come April.
Options for the Steelers
While I find this class intriguing at the top, I simply do not see the Steelers addressing it in Round 1, especially with concerns at linebacker, safety, and defensive line. Fortunately, the depth of the class will allow the Steelers to bolster the depth in the middle rounds. If the Steelers do not re-sign Diontae Johnson, I could see the team looking into a guy like USC’s Mario Williams, who is built in a similar mold to Johnson and displays great quickness in and out of cuts. In the event Calvin Austin III does not pan out, perhaps another speed demon could be in play as well. Keep your eye on Miami’s Tyler Harrell, who has already recorded a hand-timed 4.19 and laser-timed 4.24 in the 40. Formerly of Alabama, Harrell will look to boost an offense which had its share of troubles at quarterback in 2022.
Which receivers are you eyeing in the 2024 NFL Draft? Be sure to light up the comment section below with your thoughts on this and all things Pittsburgh Steelers!