Malik Nabers vs. Marvin Harrison: Who Should You Draft in Fantasy Football?

Apr 25, 2024; Detroit, MI, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. poses after
Apr 25, 2024; Detroit, MI, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. poses after / Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The first round of the 2024 NFL Draft brought all the excitement we expected and then some. With a record-setting number of offensive players taken in the first round (not to mention no defenders selected in the top 14 picks), this is one of the biggest drafts of all time when it comes to fantasy football impact.

But even in a loaded offensive class, two players stand out above the rest: new Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Marivn Harrison Jr. and new New York Giants wide receiver Malik Nabers.

The first two receivers off the board will instantly step in as the top wideouts on their respective teams, and both will be heavily involved in the Offensive Rookie of the Year race. But which one should you draft in fantasy football this season?

The Case for Harrison

Harrison steps into a Cardinals offense that lost its two most targeted wide receivers from last year in Marquise Brown (101 targets) and Rondale Moore (62). There’s absolutely no doubt that he slides in as the immediate WR1 over Greg Dortch and MIcahel Wilson, making him a heavy favorite to soak up most of those looks and lead the team in targets as a rookie.

There is also no doubt that he has the skill to not only earn a ton of looks, but to do a lot with them.

His 3.4 yards per route run in his final season at Ohio State ranked No. 5 in the nation for all wideouts with 50-plus targets, showing growth from a 3.2 mark that was still good for No. 7 in college football in 2022 (per Pro Football Focus). He also graded out top-five in PFF's receiving grade both years.

In short, Harrison is one of the best wide receiver prospects we've seen in a long time.

When you combine elite skill with the potential for a significant workload, it's very clear that the sky is the limit for Harrison in fantasy football. He's a threat to be a top-end fantasy wideout overall, let alone just among rookies.

Can Nabers live up to that kind of lofty ceiling?

The Case for Nabers

You may have noticed that I mention Harrison ranking top-six in PFF grade. That’s a stellar ranking, of course, but it’s not the best possible. Malik Nabers, on the other hand, stood at the top of the pack. 

His 93.1 receiving grade was not only the best at the position in 2023, but it’s the best any WR with 50-plus targets has posted since Devonta Smith in 2020. 

Nabers also had Harrison beat in yards per route run, averaging 3.64.

There's no doubt that Nabers is wildly talented, and there have been many years where he would have been the clear-cut WR1 in a draft class. But does his landing spot give him as much room to shine as Harrison's?

The Verdict

The Giants' only real wide receiver threat outside of Nabers is Darius Slayton, but that's already more competition for looks than Harrison will face.

Slayton has been one of the few bright spots in the Giants’ receiving corps since Odell Beckham left, and he led the team in both targets (79) and receiving yards (770) last season. The Giants also return their No. 2 wideout in Wan’Dale Robinson (78 targets, 525 yards), who was a second-round pick two years ago.

It’s not like Nabers is competing with a loaded WR room here the way that someone like Rome Odunze is, but this also isn't a situation where he's necessarily going to be leading the team in targets straight from Week 1. If Darren Waller elects to return, the Giants will still have every single non-running back who saw 30-plus targets for them last season.

It's nearly a coin-flip trying to figure out who will be the better NFL player longterm, but that's not what fantasy managers are worried about right now. If you're drafting a team this summer, it's Marvin Harrison Jr. you want on your roster.

Jason Schandl