New 2024 Draft Ratings: 1. Harrison Jr., 2. Maye, 3. Williams
When an NFL draft prospect begins the season at the top of the ratings, there is only one direction he can move.
And so it is with defending Heisman Trophy-winning USC quarterback Caleb Williams, who spent the 2023 season with a slim edge over North Carolina Quarterback Drake Maye and Ohio State wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr.
Not necessarily due to negatives in his own play, Williams has moved, which means down of course, on the 2024 NFL Draft Scout ratings. This shows Harrison, Maye and Williams 1-2-3.
They remain close, but Harrison could be the best wide receiver prospect in years and is reminiscent of Julio Jones when he came out of Alabama in 2011 and was drafted No. 6 by Atlanta.
See full NFLDraftScout.com ratings.
Of the top three prospects, Harrison easily is the most consistently spectacular this season. In nine games games, through November 4, the 6-3 1/4, 205-pound junior caught 48 passes for 889 yards and eight touchdowns, despite being the focus of each defense he faces. And, not coincidentally, the Buckeyes are 9-0 and rated No. 1 by the College Football Playoff selection committee.
Meantime, both Williams and Maye compiled stats aplenty, but struggled.
Williams’ defenseless Trojans lost two in a row, then outlasted unranked Cal by 50-49, and followed that with a score-a-thon, losing to Washington, 52-42. Ironically, he is working harder – sometimes too much so – than he did while winning the Heisman last season.
The loss to Washington is an example. Williams was dazzling as he overcame a constant pass rush to complete 27 of 35 passes for 312 yards with three touchdown passes and one scoring run. But in his desparate zeal to squeez the maximum from every play he cost the Trojans at least 10 points in a ten-point loss. Just before the half he was stripped of the ball while scrambling, setting up a Husky TD. In the fourth quarter, with USC in position for a tying field goal, he tried to escape the pass rush rather than throw the ball away, was sacked and the Trojans never scored again.
Despite Herculean efforts by Maye, North Carolina lost to Virginia, 31-27 (Maye was 24-of-48 passing for 347 yards, two TDs) and at Georgia Tech, 46-42 (17-of-25, 310 yards, two TDs). On Saturday (Nov. 4), Maye bounced back against Campbell. He completed 16 of 23 passes for 244 yards and was one of several starters taken out in the third quarterof the Tar Heels' 59-7 win.
Even in his losses, we appreciated Maye’s play better than that of USC's Williams, who could temper his hero ball with a little more descretion. It is admirable and extremely entertaining, but this shows how he might play if saddled by a bad NFL team with a high draft pick. It is very Patrick Mahome-ish, except the K. C. Chiefs star knows when to give up on a play.
But, really, we are picking nits here. Those are three great players.
Looking at this group as a long-time selector for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, I think Harrison does jump out as somebody who may someday be a Gold Jacket candidate. His father was inducted in 2016 after setting a single-season record of 143 catches.
And just because we put Harrison Jr. at No. 1, the chances of him being drafted there are slim. Since 1936, only three wide receivers were drafted with the No. 1 overall pick.
Can you name them? We’ll get back to that later.
This midseason overhaul also included some players we were unsure would declare for the 2024 lottery, including two of the top five-rated quarterbacks, Michigan’s J.J. McCarthy at No. 15 and Colorado’s Shedeur Sanders at No. 26.
Sanders’ father, Colorado head coach and Pro Football Hall of Famer Deion Sanders, and, Caleb Williams’ father, Carl, voiced concerns about their quarterback sons taking part in the next NFL draft.
The 2024 draft class is heavily impacted by what some call extra COVID years, which resulted in more seasons of eligibility and, coupled with liberalized transfer rules, was especially advantageous for quarterbacks. They not only were able to move to teams that improved their exposure, but for additional seasons.
There are as many as 22 quarterbacks who have draft-worthy ratings. Fourteen are redshirt seniors, topped by Oregon’s Bo Nix, the Auburn transfer, rated No. 36 by NFL Draft Scout, and higher by others. Thirteen of the 22 transferred at least once.
There could be as many as six first-round quarterbacks. After Maye and Williams there is No. 14 Quinn Ewers (Texas), No. 15 J.J. McCarthy (Michigan), No. 26 Shedeur Sanders (Colorado) and, as mentioned, Nix is rated higher by some than our No. 36.
Washington quarterback Michael Penix is rated as high as the top 10 by some, but we are taking a wait-and-see position. After two ACL surgeries interrupted his career already, it would be reassuring to see him get through a season healthy. Penix is extremely productive, although he benefits from a talent-laden roster and a simplified offense.
This is remeniscent of Tennessee's Herndon Hooker last year, who led the Vols to a 6-0 start and as high as No. 2 in the polls before he blew out his knee in a non-contact injury. He went from Heisman consideration to Detroit's third-round pick and is a QB-in-waiting behind former No. 1 draftee Jared Goff.
Herndon was helped by Jalin Hyatt, who won the Biletnikoff Award as top receiver in the country. And Penix happens to have an outstanding receiver named Ja'Lynn Polk who continues to ascend in the ratings (No. 38 and rising on our list).
The top 10, after Harrison, Maye and Williams are...
—Tight end Brock Bowers (No. 4, Georgia) whose greatness overcomes ankle surgery that probably sidelines him for the season
—Offensive tackle Joe Alt (No. 5, Notre Dame), although he has troubles with defenders almost his size (6-8, 322, so that shouldn’t be a common problem)
—Offensive tackle Olumuyiwa Fashanu (No. 6, Penn State)
—Defensive end Jared Verse (No. 7, Florida State), a potential first-rounder in 2023 who had only 4.5 sacks in eight games, yet pro potential is conspicuous
—Wide receiver Keon Coleman (No. 8, Florida State) who has a rare combination of size (6-3 1/2, 215) and gymnastic athleticism
—Outside linebacker Dallas Turner (No. 9, Alabama), a productive pass rusher (7.0 sacks in 8 games).
—Kool-Aid McKinstry (No. 10 Alabama) who teams with Turner (see No. 9) to make life miserable for opposing passing games
Now let’s go back to the top and visit Harrison Jr. Were you able to name the only three wide receivers drafted No. 1 overall by the NFL since 1936?
The most recent was in 1996, when the Jets took WR Keyshawn “Throw me the damn ball” Johnson out of USC. Before him, in 1984, the New England Patriots began the draft taking Irving Fryar out of Nebraska.
The only other receiver drafted No. 1 overall was Dave Parks out of Texas Tech, by the San Francisco 49ers, in 1964.
So, despite our lofty rating for Harrison Jr., don’t be shocked if a quarterback is taken No. 1, as was the case in 17 of the last 23 drafts.