Arizona Cardinals need Marvin Harrison Jr. to be more Calvin Johnson than Sammy Watkins

If the Cardinals are able to draft Marvin Harrison Jr. in the top five, they will need him to make an immediate and long-term impact.
Ohio State v Michigan
Ohio State v Michigan / Aaron J. Thornton/GettyImages

Should the Chicago Bears take USC quarterback Caleb Williams with the first overall pick, not only does it mean that current Bears' quarterback Justin Fields is playing somewhere else in 2024, but it means that the Arizona Cardinals will have a shot at getting Marvin Harrison Jr at number four overall.

Harrison Jr. has been one of the best college football players in recent memory and has dominated at Ohio State the last two seasons. This past season and last year, Harrison has brought in 2,474 receiving yards and 28 touchdowns. In the regular season in 2023, Harrison had 8 games of 100+ receiving yards (3 of them with over 160 receiving yards). There is more upside for Harrison Jr. in the NFL than there is a floor. However, what matters the most is what actually happens once he is in the pros.

It is not often that wide receivers are drafted in the top five of a draft, but it has happened. Since 2000, there have been 15 wide receivers taken in the first five picks (including Cardinals' legend receiver Larry Fitzgerald). Two receivers that come to mind about the same hype and same level of talent, but opposites in career turnouts are Calvin Johnson and Sammy Watkins.

Drafted with the second overall pick in 2007, had a short- lived career with the Detroit Lions but had he continued to play, he would have put himself in the conversation as one of, if not the best wide receiver in NFL history. In 9 seasons, Johnson had 7 seasons of 1,000+ receiving yards which included a 1,964 receiving yard season in 2012. In his second season with the Lions, Johnson had a breakout season of 1,331 yards and 12 touchdowns. He finished his career as a six-time Pro Bowler and was selected as a First-Team AP All-Pro player from 2011-2013. Taken at number two overall, Johnson was a force for opposing defenses and was a true game changer.

On the opposite end, Sammy Watkins was a highly viewed player coming into the 2014 NFL draft where he was part of a class that had Odell Beckham Jr., Mike Evans, Brandin Cooks and Davante Adams. After trading up from number nine to number four, the Buffalo Bills drafted the Clemson wide receiver in hopes to build up the receiving core in Buffalo. One of the biggest factors that hurt Watkins become a premier franchise wide receiver with the Bills was ability to stay healthy. In 3 seasons with the Bills, Watkins only went over 1,000 yards once and only played healthy in all 16 games his rookie season.

Going into his fourth year in Buffalo, Watkins would eventually be traded to the Los Angeles Rams for a season before playing with the Kansas City Chiefs, Baltimore Ravens, and Green Bay Packers for the remainder of his career. Watkins only managed to reach over 600 receiving yards in a season once since his second season and never became the player that the Bills had hoped he would have been.

Going into the NFL draft in April, if the situation is indeed that the Cardinals have the chance to draft Harrison Jr. with the fourth overall pick, Monti Ossenfort has to make sure that Harrison Jr. has the ability to stay healthy and can produce at an elite level right out of the gates.