Analysis of 2024 NFL Draft Prospects: Predicting Quarterbacks in the Top 10

Quarterback could be a possibility for most teams in the top 10 of the 2024 NFL Draft.

With the Senior Bowl and East-West Shrine Bowl in the rear view, anticipation continues to build ahead of the 2024 NFL Draft. This year’s crop of future NFL stars features standout prospects at key positions on offense including offensive tackle, wide receiver, and – most importantly – quarterback.

It’s not too surprising to see five quarterbacks in Nate Davis’ latest first-round mock draft for USA TODAY. In the last decade, five quarterbacks have been drafted in the first round twice: 2018 and 2021. But neither of those drafts had five quarterbacks selected in the first 12 picks, as Davis predicts. If he’s correct, the 2024 NFL Draft would be the first time that happened since 1999.

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Why more quarterbacks are rising in 2024 NFL mock drafts

For the last year, two quarterbacks were locks to be chosen in the first round of the NFL draft: USC‘s Caleb Williams and North Carolina‘s Drake Maye. Williams won the Heisman Trophy in 2022 and though Maye couldn’t match his production, his flashes of talent and physical tools make him a top prospect. He’s taller and bigger than Williams with plenty of mobility.

LSU‘s Jayden Daniels is rising up draft boards and looks set to be a top selection, too. The 2023 Heisman Trophy winner put up gaudy passing and rushing numbers in his final season with the Tigers. At 23, he’s older than both Maye (21) and Williams (22) but steadily improved every season in college, especially after transferring to LSU and playing with impressive talent.

Michigan‘s J.J. McCarthy is seeing a similar rise recently, though not as high. He’s more of an unknown than Daniels, Maye, or Williams because he didn’t throw nearly as much as them. Here’s how the four quarterback prospects compare in career passing totals:

QuarterbackCompletionsAttemptsYardsTDINTRatingCaleb Williams7351,09910,0829314169.3Drake Maye6189528,0186316154.1Jayden Daniels9531,43812,7508920158.4J.J. McCarthy4827136,2264911160.5

McCarthy’s shown flashes of high-level play, including in the national championship.

Michigan’s offense didn’t need him to throw the ball as much as the other three players. He’s younger than all of them, too, giving plenty of reason to believe he can develop into a better passer over time behind an established starter. Davis’ mock draft has the Minnesota Vikings drafting him 11th overall and sitting him behind Kirk Cousins.

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Why is Bo Nix ranked over Michael Penix Jr. in NFL mock drafts?

The Pac-12 quarterbacks (Nix at Oregon, Penix Jr. at Washington) led two of the best offenses in college football this past fall. They shared similar paths in transferring to reunite with former coaches in new places. In 2023, they led the country in multiple statistics. Penix Jr. finished the season with the most passing yards (4,903) and attempts (555). Nix led the country in passing touchdowns (45), completions (364), and completion percentage (77.4, which also tied an NCAA record).

They were both prolific but Davis’ mock draft has Nix going 12th to the Denver Broncos and completing the quintet of first-round quarterbacks while Penix Jr. doesn’t make it into the first round.

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One of the biggest question marks is injury history. Penix Jr. tore an ACL in 2018, suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in 2019, re-tore his ACL in 2020, and dislocated a joint in his throwing shoulder in 2021. Nix’s only major injury was a broken ankle late in the 2021 season at Auburn.

Nix was also a more productive runner in college. He likely won’t be as productive in the NFL thanks to faster defenses at that level but his 1,613 yards and 38 touchdowns rushing in college is far more than Penix Jr.’s 265 and 13, respectively. A dual-threat quarterback – or at least one who can threaten to run – is a big plus for a prospect.

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Another factor could be surrounding talent. Penix Jr.’s best season came when throwing to wide receivers Rome Odunze, Ja’lynn Polkand Jalen McMillan. All three are expected to be drafted in the first half of the 2024 NFL Draft with Odunze going fifth overall in Davis’ latest mock draft. Washington also won the Joe Moore Award given to the top offensive line unit in college football. Tackle Troy Fautanu is expected to be a first-round pick, going 25th in this mock draft.

By contrast, Nix’s top target Troy Franklin is rising up mock drafts but isn’t rated as high as Odunze. Center Jackson Powers-Johnson is arguably the best center in this draft class but a fringe first-round pick. The talent around Penix Jr. was better than what Nix was working with.

Davis’ choice for the fifth team to draft a quarterback also makes sense for Nix. Broncos coach Sean Payton’s best years came with quarterback Drew Brees who was known for his accuracy and timing. Nix just finished the most accurate passing season in college football history.

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Which teams could take a quarterback in the 2024 NFL Draft?

Arguably the biggest wild card in considering first-round quarterbacks is how many teams will be looking to draft one in the first round. A third of the league has some uncertainty at quarterback and may select one in the first round.

Nine teams own the top 10 picks and the Arizona Cardinals and Los Angeles Chargers are probably the only teams ruling out drafting a quarterback. The New York Jets at No. 10 have 40-year-old starter Aaron Rodgers returning next season but could consider drafting a quarterback of the future.

That leaves the Chicago Bears, Washington Commanders, New England Patriots, New York Giants, Tennessee Titansand Atlanta Falcons in the top 10. Beyond that, the Vikings (11th overall), Broncos (12th), Las Vegas Raiders (13th), and Pittsburgh Steelers (20th) could be looking for a new starting quarterback. The New Orleans Saints (14th), Los Angeles Rams (19th), and Tampa Bay Buccaneers (26th) may be looking for a quarterback in the 2024 NFL Draft to develop and take over for their starter in the next couple of seasons, similar to what the Green Bay Packers have done with Jordan Love.

When is the 2024 NFL Draft?

The 2024 NFL Draft kicks off with round 1 on Thursday, April 25 at 8 p.m. ET on ABC, ESPN, and NFL Network. Rounds 2-3 start April 26 at 7 p.m. ET and rounds 4-7 close out the weekend on April 27 starting at noon ET.

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2024-02-08 00:48:35
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