There were a lot of standouts — and a ton of key moments — in No. 7 Washington’s thrilling 36-33 win over No. 8 Oregon. When the Huskies needed a big play, though, quarterback Michael Penix Jr. often turned to wide receiver Rome Odunze.
A top-50 prospect on Dane Brugler’s preseason 2024 NFL Draft board who’s climbed ever higher since, Odunze caught eight passes for 128 yards and two touchdowns Saturday. The first of those TDs staked Washington to a 29-18 edge in the third quarter; the second, which held up as the game winner, came with 1:38 to play after Oregon had stormed back to take a lead.
The ’24 draft class has a clear WR1 in Ohio State’s Marvin Harrison Jr., and Florida State’s Keon Coleman (nine catches for 140 yards and a TD on Saturday versus Syracuse) has made a very strong case to be WR2.
Odunze could be in that mix, though. If nothing else, the junior clearly has propelled himself into the Round 1 conversation.
Here’s more on his big day against Oregon and what it means for his NFL outlook.
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Odunze moves and explodes like a much smaller guy, but he’s not small — as solid as they come at 6 feet 3, 217 pounds. He has the ability to get low and wiggle himself free in the middle of a route, the way we typically see from slot guys much smaller than he is. He also can just run by softer corners who aren’t ready for his blend of burst and physicality.
Yep, Rome Odunze is the best player on this field.
Really versatile and well-rounded weapon.
— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) October 14, 2023
Penix is having an outstanding season, and he deserves a ton of credit for that. And the Huskies have more weapons than Odunze, to be sure.
But he’s the best of the bunch and is a true difference-maker who would draw major attention from any secondary in America. His ball tracking over the top is terrific. He’s an X receiver who could more than hold his own as a Z. He looks like a first-round receiver to me. — Nick Baumgardner
— Washington Football (@UW_Football) October 14, 2023
A terrific size/speed athlete, Odunze can line up inside or outside and create as a route runner. I think he’s at his best at the catch point, where he can show off his body control and focus to expand his catch radius and finish grabs. He snatches the ball really cleanly if the ball is anywhere near him — he showed that on each of his touchdowns Saturday.
It’s a really crowded wide receiver class after Harrison, but Odunze does a lot of NFL-level things on tape and has made a strong case for being a top-25 prospect in the 2024 NFL Draft. — Dane Brugler
What a grab by Rome Odunze 😤 pic.twitter.com/GcQIMm8DAx
— ESPN College Football (@ESPNCFB) October 14, 2023
Who was the top WR prospect in this game?
The top wide receiver in college football? Easy. It’s Harrison. Which school has the best receiver duo in college football? Tougher question, but I’ll still say Ohio State (Harrison and Emeka Egbuka).
OK, but how about the best trio of wide receivers? LSU has a strong case (Malik Nabers, Brian Thomas Jr. and Kyren Lacy). Texas is up there, too (Xavier Worthy, Adonai Mitchell and Jordan Whittington). And Ohio State is part of the conversation again, if you add Julian Fleming.
But my answer would have to be Washington, which features Odunze, Jalen McMillan (who did not play Saturday because of injury) and Ja’Lynn Polk.
Loving what I’ve seen from #Washington WR Rome Odunze on film this year. Good size/speed athlete. Consistently makes full-extension grabs look routine.
90.9% (20 of 22) of his catches in 2023 have gone for a TD/1st down
Odunze is in the WR2 conversation. pic.twitter.com/8HqQeBmx8n
— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) September 20, 2023
Odunze was already in the top-50 mix before the season, and he has only helped himself through six games, as he leads the Pac-12 in receiving yards (736). With his mix of size and speed, the Las Vegas native gets open and shows outstanding coordination at the catch point. My favorite stat of his: Heading into Saturday’s game, 87.5 percent of his receptions this season had resulted in a first down or touchdown (anything over 70 percent is above average). He accounted first downs on four more receptions — plus scored those two touchdowns — against Oregon.
Putting the top four receivers from Oregon and Washington in order — counting the Ducks’ Troy Franklin (eight catches, 154 yards, one TD) — is an interesting exercise, but I keep coming back to Odunze at the top. With his size/speed traits and pass-catching savvy, he was my highest-ranked overall prospect in this game. — Brugler
(Photo: Steph Chambers / Getty Images)