NFL Draft News & Analysis

The most targeted receivers in the 2024 NFL Draft class: Malachi Corley, Marvin Harrison Jr. lead the way

2RW3REG Western Kentucky receiver Malachi Corley, right, celebrates his touchdown against Ohio State with teammate offensive lineman Marshall Jackson during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 16, 2023, in Columbus, Ohio. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)

Malachi Corley leads the way: Corley was targeted on a career-best 32.5% of his routes last season and was the third-most targeted receiver in the nation from 2022 to 2023 (252). He gained separation on 84.3% of his routes, an 89th-percentile mark, and he generated a 112.4 passer rating when targeted.

• Of course Marvin Harrison Jr. ranks top-three: Harrison was arguably the best receiver in college football over the last two years, ranking top-five in combined first downs and touchdowns (112), explosive gains (68) and yards per route run (3.30).

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Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

We often examine efficiency numbers to determine a wide receiver's effectiveness after the ball comes his way. Drawing targets is a skill in itself, though. To be targeted at a high rate, a receiver must consistently separate from his defender and earn the trust of his quarterback by showing him that he can come down with the pass even if the separation isn’t there.

These wide receivers from the 2024 draft class excelled in those areas and generated the highest target rates in 2023.

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1. Malachi Corley, Western Kentucky: 32.5%

Corley was targeted on a career-best 32.5% of his routes last season and was the third-most targeted receiver in the nation from 2022 to 2023 (252). He gained separation on 84.3% of his routes, an 89th-percentile mark, and he generated a 112.4 passer rating when targeted.

Breece Hall (26.8%) and Garrett Wilson (24.2%) led the Jets in target rate in 2023, combining for 171 catches and 1,633 yards. Mike Williams and Allen Lazard are currently ahead of Corley on the depth chart, but his playmaking ability could earn him significant targets in 2024.

Over the last three seasons, Corley's 67 explosive gains of 15-plus yards led all Group of Five receivers, while he ranked first in the nation in total yards after the catch (2,056) and yards after contact (838).

2. Marvin Harrison Jr., Ohio State: 32.3%

Harrison was arguably the best receiver in college football, ranking top-five in combined first downs and touchdowns (112), explosive gains (68) and yards per route run (3.30) over the last two years. He immediately projects to upgrade a Cardinals offense that struggled in several metrics last season.

Trey McBride led the team with 825 receiving yards and was the only Cardinal who managed to break the 600-yard mark. McBride (25.9%) and Zach Ertz (22.6%) led the Cardinals in threat rate, while Marquise Brown was the most targeted receiver.

With Brown and Ertz now with new teams, Harrison should immediately take over as Target No. 1 in Arizona.

Click here to see Marvin Harrison Jr.'s 2024 NFL Draft profile!

3. Malik Washington, Virginia: 31.4%

Malik Washington led the Cavaliers in targets (138) and yards (1,384) in his lone season at Virginia, but he also led the ACC in target rate. Though undersized at 5-foot-8 and 194 pounds, Washington had little trouble getting open, as he generated separation on 84.8% of his routes. Since 2022, he ranks third at his position in yards after contact (604) and first in total missed tackles forced (59).

Washington heads to Miami, where the starters are set between Tyreek Hill, Jaylen Waddle and Odell Beckham Jr. No other Dolphin recorded over 400 yards receiving in 2023, leaving the door open for the sixth-round pick to stake his claim on the depth chart.

4. Isaiah Williams, Illinois: 30.2%

Williams recorded his first 1,000-yard season in 2023, gaining separation on 83.5% of his routes. He saw 305 targets and put up 2,323 receiving yards over the past three seasons, and no other Illinois receiver saw over 200 targets in that span.

Williams went undrafted, so despite his playmaking potential, targets might be hard to come by in Detroit. The Lions have an elite receiving threat at every level of the offense, though they still need options behind Amon-Ra St. Brown, Sam LaPorta and Jahmyr Gibbs.

Jameson Williams has had a rocky start to his career but still has promise, while Josh Reynolds left in free agency. Kalif Raymond (489 yards) is currently slotted as Reynolds' replacement, leaving a potential opening for Williams.

There are concerns over the Illinois product's size (5-foot-9, 180 pounds), speed (he ran a 4.63-second 40-yard dash) and hands. He dropped 16 passes over the past three seasons (6.9% drop rate) and muffed three punts across 27 return attempts. If he can ease those concerns over the summer, he has a good shot of securing a spot on the roster.

5. Jalen Coker, Holy Cross: 30.2%

Jalen Coker enjoyed a career year in 2023, recording his first 1,000-yard season and catching 15 touchdown passes. He ranks fourth in the FCS in receiving yards (2,664) over the past three seasons, with 62 explosive gains in that span. He averaged 3.31 yards per route run across his final two seasons, generating a 138.0 passer rating when targeted.

Carolina revamped its receiving corps this offseason, trading for Diontae Johnson and drafting Xavier Legette and Ja’Tavion Sanders. Meanwhile, Adam Thielen and former second-round picks Jonathan Mingo and Terrace Marshall Jr. remain on the roster.

Thielen (1,014) led the Panthers in receiving in 2023, and no other player surpassed 600 yards. Coker is likely behind this group, but he could see an opening as a fifth or even sixth receiver if he beats out the competition.

6. Malik Nabers, LSU: 29.7%

The Giants earned the second-lowest team receiving grade in the league in 2023 and could not have drafted a better receiver to help spark their turnaround.

Nabers has led the FBS in receiving yards over the past two seasons and ranks top-five in missed tackles forced (51) and explosive gains (66) over that same span. He’s averaged 3.06 yards per route run (7th) and generated separation on 72.8% of his routes.

Nabers will have Darius Slayton and Wan’Dale Robinson at his side in New York, with Jalin Hyatt behind them as a dangerous deep threat.

Click here to see Malik Nabers' 2024 NF Draft profile!

7. Hayden Hatten, Idaho: 28.9%

Hatten put up back-to-back 1,200-yard seasons in his final two years at Idaho, ranking second in the FCS in receiving grade (93.9) in that time. He totaled 176 catches, dropping only one dropped pass, and he led the nation in gains of 15-plus yards (75).

The Seahawks are set at receiver, with D.K. Metcalf, Tyler Lockett and Jaxon Smith-Njigba leading the way. The team needs reliable backups behind them, though, as Jake Bobo (196 yards), D’Wayne Eskridge (0 catches in 2023) and Laviska Shenault Jr. (10 catches in 2023) currently sit behind them.

8. Johnny Wilson, Florida State: 27.5%

Wilson led the Seminoles in threat rate in his two seasons at Florida State (28.0%), recording 1,514 yards with 43 explosive gains. He has a 65.1% separation rate in that span, a 69th-percentile mark at the position.

Wilson’s size (6-foot-7, 237 pounds) and catch radius are enticing, but he'll have to improve on his drop issue. He dropped 11 passes over the last two seasons.

Wilson finds himself in a crowded receiver room that includes recent additions DeVante Parker, Parris Campbell and fellow draftee Ainias Smith. Wilson, however, offers a unique physical advantage over the others and could earn opportunities in 2024 with a solid offseason.

9. Troy Franklin, Oregon: 27.3%

Franklin had a big season for the Ducks in 2023, eclipsing 1,000 yards and 100 targets for the first time in his college career. He tied for third in the FBS in touchdown catches (14) and recorded a 68.8% separation rate against single coverage, an 81st-percentile rate at the position.

Franklin joins teammate Bo Nix in Denver, and the duo could help unlock the vertical threat for the offense. Denver tied for 10th in deep targets in 2023 (72), with Marvin Mims (34.4%), Courtland Sutton (23.0%) and Jerry Jeudy (23.8%) leading the team in deep target rate. Franklin finds himself in competition with Tim Patrick (torn Achilles) and Josh Reynolds, but he offers great deep-play ability with size (6-foot-3) and speed (4.41-second 40-yard dash) to match.

Franklin put up 917 deep yards across the last two seasons (seventh in the nation) with Nix at quarterback.

10. Jacob Cowing, Arizona: 26.8%

Cowing recorded 89 catches for 868 yards in 2023 after producing 1,000-yard seasons in 2021 and 2022. He generated separation on 87.6% of his routes across two seasons at Arizona, a 94th-percentile mark at the position.

San Francisco has elite receiving threats at every level of the offense, and fellow rookie Ricky Pearsall is currently projected to man the slot. Jauan Jennings recorded 376 receiving yards in 2023, while Chris Conley and Ronnie Bell combined for 11 catches.

Cowing will likely have to ease concerns over his size (5-foot-11, 175 pounds) and drops (33 in five seasons) to secure a roster spot.

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