2024 NFL Draft Tier 3 (WRs) — Xavier Legette, Troy Franklin Deserve First-Round Buzz
WR5 — Xavier Legette, WR, South Carolina
2023 Stats: 71 receptions, 1,255 receiving yards, 7 touchdowns, 50% contested catch rate (10/20)
2024 NFL Draft Grade: Top 30 (No. 27 Overall)
It’s always easy to fall into the “helmet scouting” approach. While there is an obvious connection between Deebo Samuel and Xavier Legette, the two are quite different. To Legette’s credit, he is a considerably bigger wide receiver than Samuel was with the Gamecocks. At 6-foot-3 and 227 pounds, the current SC wideout has four inches on the former, plus 13 more pounds. And the eye test confirms it.
A long-strider, Legette is adept at eating up turf when he gets downhill. Clocking in north of 22 mph multiple times in 2023, the gifted pass catcher is a true threat to score on any given play. He turns into a running back with the ball in his hands, exhibiting top-end vision and the willingness to run over defenders when necessary. That is where the Deebo comps have merit. To hammer home the point, the fourth-year player has experience in the return game on special teams.
Legette has all but eliminated his drop tendencies, sporting an elite grade from PFF in this area. He needs some polish as a route runner, and his best spot early on is likely as a big slot. But considering his steady improvement in the SEC, it’s a worthwhile projection for Legette to follow down more of an A.J. Brown path in the league. The upside earns him a spot at WR5 for the 2024 NFL Draft.
WR6 — Troy Franklin, WR, Oregon
2023 Stats: 81 receptions, 1,383 receiving yards, 14 touchdowns, 36.8% contested catch rate (7/19)
2024 NFL Draft Grade: Top 30 (No. 28 Overall)
When watching Troy Franklin, one area stands out above the rest: His release off the line of scrimmage. His footwork is picturesque, and that first step allows Franklin to get out of the gates hot and take advantage of press coverage. It is reminiscent of perennial All-Pro Davante Adams, which is elite company to be in. Going further, the lanky pass catcher has a Mister-Fantastic-level catch radius; no pass is out of his reach.
With this length comes a key issue in his 2024 NFL Draft profile: Strength. Franklin’s first step frees him up from the more physical defenders at the collegiate level, but the long-armed physical freaks on Sundays won’t be as easy to beat if he’s a one-trick pony. Adding some mass to a frame that needs it would make the Oregon star better in contested catch situations.
Drops pop up from time to time, as well. Franklin dropped a career-high nine passes in 2023, with a majority of them coming in the face of pressure. All in all, his blazing speed, savvy route running, and one-of-one release package make Franklin a worthy target at the end of Day 1 or the beginning of Day 2.
WR7 — Malachi Corley, WR, Western Kentucky
2023 Stats: 75 receptions, 959 receiving yards, 11 touchdowns, 29.4% contested catch rate (5/17)
2024 NFL Draft Grade: Top 40 (No. 33 Overall)
One of “My Guys” from the 2024 NFL Draft, Malachi Corley is a diamond in the rough who has the potential to be a significantly better NFL player than a college player — and he’s already been pretty good! The Western Kentucky alum is affectionately known as the “YAC Gawd” and for good reason — of his 2,241 receiving yards since 2021, 1,623 of them came after the catch.
Corley actually fits the Deebo Samuel mold more than Xavier Legette, as the two share a nearly identical size profile and play style. The Hilltopper star can improve as a route runner, primarily by expanding his tree and opening up other areas of the field to attack. Furthermore, Corley could be better over the middle of the field and in contested catch situations, but the traits are there for quick improvements with NFL coaching.
Checking in as a strong Round 2 grade, Corley should be on the radar for receiver-needy teams toward the end of Day 1. If he lasts to the second day of the 2024 NFL Draft, his eventual franchise will have the chance to make the rest of the league look silly when the 21-year-old weapon reaches his sky-high ceiling.