2024 NFL Draft: Marvin Harrison Jr. Delivers Latest Opus Against Kalen King, Penn State

Ohio State WR Marvin Harrison Jr. made his strongest case for 2024 NFL Draft WR1 yet in Week 8 against the Penn State Nittany Lions. What did he show?

The Ohio State Buckeyes beat Big Ten rival Penn State 20-12 in Week 8, and they couldn’t have done it without the help of top 2024 NFL Draft prospect and star WR Marvin Harrison Jr. The son of the NFL pass catcher single-handedly led his offense to victory and gave NFL evaluators one of his greatest opuses yet.

Marvin Harrison Jr. Instrumental in Ohio State’s Win Over Penn State

A highly anticipated conference clash between Ohio State and Penn State ended up being a non-starter in Week 7 when the Buckeyes largely dominated and kept control through all four quarters. The final score was 20-12, but the game was never as close as it appeared.

Ohio State won decisively — literally, figuratively, and statistically — any way you can think of. Harrison was one of the key forces in deciding the outcome.

Buckeyes QB Kyle McCord completed 22 of 35 passes for 286 yards and a score. Harrison caught 11 of those 22 passes — including the touchdown — and accounted for almost 60% of the team’s passing yardage output.

Not to mention, the receiver went up against an NFL-caliber secondary with Kalen King, Johnny Dixon, and Daequan Hardy — without his teammate Emeka Egbuka to take the pressure off — and he still dominated.

How did Harrison win so often and so effusively against the most talented secondary he’s played yet? The answer, as it turns out, is just another endorsement of Harrison’s generational qualities and his status as the best overall prospect in the 2024 NFL Draft.

Scouting Spotlight: Harrison Just Wins (in Every Way Possible)

Harrison was the best player on the field in the Ohio State-Penn State showdown, and it was clear from the very beginning.

He is a true three-level threat with appeal in all phases, but his ability to simply convert in high-pressure situations, move the chains, and keep his offense’s momentum alive is one of his most valuable qualities.

Take the play below, for example. It’s early in the game, third down, and Ohio State needs to start strong. Dixon is in side-saddle, and Harrison gains quick separation with a short dig route.

The pass comes his way, but it’s a bit too high and too far ahead from the wideout, leading him back into contact with Dixon, who’s now breaking on the ball.

Even so, Harrison is able to snare the pass away from his frame and nullify the contact before Dixon can even think about playing through the catch process. First down.

An even greater example came later, as the game was tied 3-3. It’s 3rd-and-10, and Harrison is lined up against King in off-man with less than ten yards of cushion.

The ball is going to Harrison right off the snap. It’s a one-on-one situation, and McCord is trusting his top target.

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King does a great job not giving up any space at the stem, but it doesn’t even matter. Harrison absorbs his physicality like it’s nothing, hones in on the football, and swallows it up like a Venus fly trap, preventing King from making a play. He then falls forward ahead of the line to gain.

Harrison is a game-winning player in a game where offensive control is paramount. What’s especially comforting about his composure and focus in contested situations, however, is that he doesn’t need to rely on it like other bigger receivers.

Often, once you enter the six-foot-four range, many receivers you find are catch-point specialists or explosive vertical threats, who lack the flexibility, throttle control, and attention to detail to become high-level separators. Harrison breaks the mold in this case.

Interestingly, he was largely able to beat Penn State’s defenders in other ways on Saturday, but his nuance as a route-runner still showed.

Here, on second down, off a diamond release, Harrison does an excellent job pressing upfield and leaning into King out of the slot before he suddenly diverts course at a sharp angle inside.

Harrison’s frame and focus make him a venerable catcher, to begin with, but when he’s able to create minute amounts of space to free himself up even more, it makes him that much tougher to guard.

Those two elements are a big part of what made Harrison so productive last season. He can route up defensive backs at 6’4″, 205 pounds, and he has the body control, length, focus, and composure to consistently convert at the catch point.

One of the only knocks on Harrison coming into the 2023 season is that he wasn’t a high-level, run-after-catch threat. That may be changing now, too.

Ohio State is being more proactive at scheming opportunities in the RAC phase for Harrison, and he’s taking advantage of it with his long-strider explosiveness and smooth hip flexibility. The play below is a great example.

Then there’s this play below, where Harrison is able to use his long-strider athleticism and a subtle hip leverage adjustment to get a first down from a small sliver of space on the outside.

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Here, Harrison also shows he has the versatility to be schemed touches out of motion across the formation. That versatility beyond being a pure X-receiver only adds appeal to his profile.

Harrison’s touchdown, which iced the game and made Ohio State’s lead insurmountable, was another stellar application of his RAC potential by the Buckeyes. But also, it was a showcase of stellar execution by Harrison himself.

The play itself isn’t anything flashy. It’s a mesh concept with Harrison running a drag off a quick-split release. It’s designed to create confusion for second-level defenders, which it does.

Nevertheless, Harrison ultimately maximizes the RAC opportunity by effortlessly corralling a pass that’s thrown well behind him. Even while contorting, he keeps his stride, doesn’t lose any speed, and starts to get upfield.

When the WR block on the outside starts to collapse, he makes a cut out to the sideline, allowing his WR to regain leverage and hold up the block. Then, without breaking a sweat, he gears up and sears down the sideline to the end zone.

Even after all this, Harrison still left meat on the bone. There were a couple of drops early in the game, especially on inaccurate targets where he had to contort and extend past his frame.

But overall, Harrison’s 11-catch outing against the Nittany Lions was a clinic in all three phases of WR play. The exciting part is that he did most of his damage as a chain-mover and a lateral RAC threat. That chain-mover ability is very translatable at the NFL level, and his RAC upside also meshes with the modern game.

There’s never been any reservation this year that Harrison might not be WR1 of the 2024 NFL Draft. Rather, the conversation has always been about who’s next up behind him. Harrison’s Week 8 showing only reaffirmed his standing. It’s Harrison and then everyone else.

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