2024 Skill Position Draft Reviews: the Top 5

The 2024 NFL draft appears to contain an unusual number of top tier skill position players. This first review of the 2024 draft class will therefore examine this top tier, the very highest end QBs and WRs. Beginning with two quarterbacks who both show true star potential

Caleb Williams (lateral oriented posterior dominant) shows elite top 5 NFL-level arm talent. His three areas of full thoracic efficiency put him in the same rarified air as Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, Justin Herbert, and Russell Wilson– the only other current NFL quarterbacks to show this level of throwing efficiency. In fact this last quarterback– Russell Wilson– shows an eerily similar profile in certain ways. Both Williams and Wilson are lateral posterior oriented throwers, and each show the same three areas of full thoracic efficiency (all but medial posterior), predicting excellent vertical accuracy with superlative control and touch (as opposed to another lateral posterior oriented thrower with 3 areas of full thoracic efficiency– John Elway– whose three areas include medial posterior but not lateral anterior, thereby giving him monstrous arm strength and vertical accuracy, but less control and touch). Williams also profiles similarly to Russell Wilson in that his anterior cervical areas appear somewhat developmentally stunted, predicting some future difficulty/ slowness reading the field horizontally. However, Williams’s anterior cervical areas do not appear quite as underdeveloped as Wilson’s, plus he is taller (although still perhaps a bit undersized), so his difficulties in these areas will likely be lesser. Williams also shows good pocket awareness and movement skills. These are important because, while Williams shows good mobility and lower body efficiency, he shows nowhere near the lumbar efficiency/ running ability (and escapability) of a young Russell Wilson. Overall, it seems very likely that Caleb Williams will rise to become a star quarterback, given his truly elite arm talent and relatively mild deficiencies in cervical areas. But he will likely need a vertical oriented scheme to reach his ceiling.

Drake Maye (lateral oriented anterior dominant) also shows high end arm talent, appearing to possess two areas of full thoracic efficiency (lateral anterior and medial posterior), which would put him in the top 10 of NFL quarterbacks. In addition, Maye possesses prototypical size (6’4”) and shows no obvious weaknesses in the most relevant biomechanical areas. His lumbar efficiency appears notably high for a quarterback, with control and deceptive speed to pick up occasional first downs (in the same category as Justin Herbert or Jordan Love). Maye also shows excellent pocket awareness/ movement, and was often able to make plays in a quickly crumbling pocket at North Carolina. Maye’s cervical areas appear highly efficient, particularly in his favored lateral anterior areas– he seems to scan the field quickly and efficiently and will likely become an excellent field reader with time. His medial posterior cervical areas generally sync up well with his medial posterior thoracic areas except when forced to throw quickly or out of rhythm– so when he misses, it is usually along the vertical axis but almost always due to a rushed throw. In other words, Drake Maye appears to be a fairly safe bet to become a franchise QB over time– none of his weaknesses appear unable to be overcome with time and further development, while his strengths (arm talent, size, mobility, pocket awareness) are notable and rare. Therefore, while Caleb Williams likely has a higher ceiling due to his truly elite arm talent, Maye may actually possess the higher floor, with no real red flags (unlike Williams’s mild/ moderate anterior cervical stunting)

These two QBs put this class in the top echelon of draft classes for elite quarterback talent– the last draft class presenting two quarterbacks with multiple areas of full thoracic efficiency was 2017 (Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson).

The top end of this year’s wide receiver class is similarly elite, but perhaps with more reasons for concern

Marvin Harrison Jr (lateral oriented anterior dominant) is easily the most polished college wide receiver ever studied in this space. His route running/ ability to generate separation (and then make catches at full extension) is genuinely eye opening– he was essentially unguardable at the college level (except via aggressive holding and/ or double teams/ brackets). It is no surprise at all that he is being regarded as a generational WR prospect. However a close look at his profile does present some reasons to be a bit more cautious about his NFL prospects.

The first and most important red flag (in an otherwise elite profile) is that Harrison Jr showed a fairly large increase in lumbar borrowing between his sophomore and junior seasons. His lateral anterior lumbar areas are extremely efficient and are the driving force behind his extremely sudden cuts and smooth easy changes of direction. However these areas appear increasingly tied to (and borrowed from) his posterior lumbar areas. Meaning that developmentally, he is not progressing evenly across areas– his most efficient areas are increasingly borrowing from his least efficient areas. If this trajectory continues in the NFL, Harrison Jr will likely be at increased risk for non contact lower body injuries as his least efficient areas become increasingly taut and deprived of blood flow/ resources. Injury risk aside, this lack of posterior lumbar development (particularly lateral) also makes Harrison Jr much easier to tackle and deprives him of play strength (blocking, playing through contact etc).

The second, much milder consideration is that Harrison Jr’s posterior thoracic areas are not always able to extend fully when he catches away from his body. Meaning that corners may sometimes be able to dislodge the ball in contested catch situations where Harrison Jr extends his arms.

Overall, Marvin Harrison Jr presents an extremely high end profile with elite levels of efficiency (both lumbar and thoracic) in his favored lateral anterior areas. However, if his areas of high efficiency continue to develop at the cost of his least efficient areas, Harrison Jr may go from being something of a finesse player at current (albeit one who plays with preternatural precision and control) to becoming an injury risk who can be negated (at least partially) by physical defensive play. Nevertheless he will likely be extremely productive for as long as he is able to stay healthy.

While Malik Nabers presents the same orientation as Harrison Jr (lateral oriented anterior dominant) in some ways he shows an opposite profile. While MHJ increasingly shows tight underdeveloped posterior lumbar areas, Nabers shows superlative posterior lumbar efficiency for an anterior dominant player, and his running ability is truly elite. In terms of immediate acceleration, top speed, and change of direction from a stop, Nabers is seemingly top of the class, reflecting this high overall level of lumbar efficiency/ development (although MHJ shows smoother hips and cleaner/ more fluid cuts). However, unlike Harrison Jr who shows excellent overall thoracic efficiency, Nabers shows some clear developmental stunting in his posterior thoracic areas, significantly affecting his ability to make contested catches. Although Nabers shows excellent anterior thoracic efficiency, his apparent developmental borrowing from posterior thoracic to lumbar areas predicts difficulty maintaining a strong grip with arms fully extended– strong enough certainly for uncontested catches, but not for NFL level defensive contact. Nabers therefore seems likely to become at least something of a slot specialist in the NFL, whereby his inability to make difficult boundary catches at extension/ through contact will be minimized, while his superlative stop/ start, fast acceleration, and elusive running can be schematically maximized. Overall likely to become very productive and rack up many catches and YAC, but perhaps not to become a true elite WR1 due to lacking contested catch strength and smooth upper body control.

If the above two WRs present enticing profiles with some caveats due to borrowing related tightness (MHJ) and developmental stunting (Nabers), Rome Odunze’s profile (medial centric posterior dominant) instead offers untapped potential. While at current, Odunze does not show Harrison Jr’s superlative route running and separation, nor Malik Nabers’s quick twitch running ability, Odunze instead presents a profile that is extremely well developed and efficient in both lumbar and thoracic areas (medial posterior), without much apparent borrowing to supplement this development/ efficiency. In fact, Odunze already appears extremely efficient/ developed in all thoracic areas, and his contested catch ability is arguably unmatched in the class. And while Odunze’s lumbar areas do not yet appear as developed or efficient as MHJ’s or Nabers’s, and his route running is not yet quite as crisp, nor his acceleration as instantaneous, Odunze’s lumbar areas as yet still appear reasonably slack for future development. This potential for growth can be seen in just how much Odunze’s route running improved from his red shirt sophomore to junior seasons– massive year to year improvement, and still with very little apparent borrowing. Meaning there is still likely quite a bit of room for mechanical tightening within his lumbar areas, for greater integration with his highly efficient medial posterior areas. With further development and technical tuning, Odunze may still significantly increase his route running suddenness, and generate greater separation. Which, paired with Odunze’s superlative thoracic efficiency/ contested catch ability, would likely allow Odunze to grow into a true alpha elite WR1. Of these three elite WR prospects, Odunze therefore appears to be the least molded lump of clay (even though he is the oldest of the three), and may eventually offer the highest long term ceiling. But Odunze may also start off the least productive, until his lumbar areas are able to support generating greater separation.