Monday, June 17, 2024

The best, worst and most surprising of the NFL draft: Favorite picks, classes and rookie-year predictions

Must read

The 2024 NFL draft is officially over. We saw a little bit of everything over the course of three days, with 257 players landing with new teams. Records fell for offensive prospects, quarterbacks flew off the board on Day 1 and it didn’t take long for some pretty massive surprises.

Draft analysts Jordan Reid and Matt Miller spent the past year studying this exciting class, and they each have some immediate reactions to how things played out in Detroit. So, we asked them to break down the class in 27 categories, from best (and worst) picks to some long-term predictions.

Who were the best value selections in each of the seven rounds? Which teams dominated, and what were the best trades? Which picks surprised the most, and what are the most ideal QB fits? Reid and Miller tackle it all. Plus, they pick out Rookie of the Year predictions, standout classes, confusing slides, intriguing developmental prospects, undrafted free agents to know and big takeaways. Let’s get to it, with 27 post-draft superlatives.

Jump to:
Best picks | Perfect fits | Biggest surprises
QB landing spots | Best/worst team classes
Sizing up trades | Rookie of the Year candidates
Fantasy league winners | Predictions

What was your biggest overarching takeaway from the draft?

Miller: The NFL has a crisis when it comes to quarterback valuation, and because of it, we’re seeing more and more passers elevated to Round 1 status each year while the middle class at the position is nonexistent. The 2024 group saw consensus second-rounders Michael Penix Jr. and Bo Nix elevated into the top 12 picks — then we didn’t see a single quarterback drafted after Nix until pick No. 150 when Spencer Rattler came off the board to the Saints. An NFL scout told me in the pre-draft process that “Day 2 quarterbacks are dead,” and it sure seems like it’s becoming a trend to watch.

Reid: NFL teams were excited about this year’s offensive line class, which was seen as historic coming into the draft. Eight offensive tackles were drafted in the first round, which tied the record for the common draft era (since 1967) set in 2008. Twenty-five offensive linemen (including 17 OTs) were selected in the first three rounds of the draft, the most ever during the first two days of the draft. And to cap it off, the 55 offensive linemen and 28 offensive tackles selected across 257 picks each set records for the seven-round draft era (since 1994).

This group of blockers is unprecedented, and there are going to be a lot of future stars and high-level contributors from this class.

What was your favorite pick of the entire draft?

Reid: Kingsley Suamataia, OT, to the Chiefs (No. 63). I’m going with an under-the-radar move here. In the aforementioned deep offensive tackle class, Suamataia got a bit lost in the shuffle. But he ultimately landed in the perfect spot in Kansas City. The Chiefs have a huge need at left tackle, and they don’t shy away from playing offensive linemen early; they saw near-immediate success from Creed Humphrey and Trey Smith on the interior. So, Suamataia has the potential to contribute as a rookie. He has exciting traits, including lower-half suddenness, and certainly could develop into a dependable starter.

Miller: Quinyon Mitchell, CB, to the Eagles (No. 22). He’s a playmaker with speed, length and great poise in coverage. He also fills what was an enormous need for the Eagles after seeing their 2023 starters struggle to stay on the field. Both Darius Slay and James Bradberry are north of 30 years old. Mitchell’s value at No. 22 is fantastic, but it’s really the strategy that I like best. Philadelphia general manager Howie Roseman had never drafted a cornerback in the first round then somehow stole Mitchell with teams expecting the team to go with an offensive line selection.

Who is your guaranteed future NFL star of the class?

Miller: Marvin Harrison Jr., WR, Cardinals. The Ohio State product enters an ideal situation with quarterback Kyler Murray badly needing a true No. 1 wideout. Harrison (No. 4) is exactly that. And when healthy, Murray will feed his favorite targets, resulting in great production. Harrison is a pro-level route runner with fantastic size, speed and work ethic. He’s the total package, and I’ve compared his game to that of A.J. Green.

Reid: Rome Odunze, WR, Bears. The Bears have done a tremendous job establishing an offensive foundation for new quarterback Caleb Williams to have success. Odunze (No. 9) will be a big part of that. Keenan Allen is on a one-year deal, and Odunze could be his eventual successor — and be able to build chemistry over time with Williams. Odunze’s body control and poise at the catch point are traits that immediately translate to the next level.

What was the best value pick in Round 1?

Reid: Terrion Arnold, CB, to the Lions (No. 24). Getting the top-ranked corner on my board at No. 24 was a huge steal for Detroit. For the second consecutive year, an Alabama defensive back somehow fell to the Lions. Last year, GM Brad Holmes was aggressive in adding safety Brian Branch, who fell further than expected. The secondary of Aaron Glenn’s defense was a clear weak point on the roster, but the Lions have attacked that shortcoming this offseason. Arnold — who had five interceptions last season — will be an immediate starter opposite Carlton Davis III.

Miller: Dallas Turner, EDGE, to the Vikings (No. 17). The Vikings traded up to get Turner, but they still stole the draft’s best edge player. I had him at No. 7 overall on my board. Outside of quarterback, defensive end was the team’s biggest need after losing Danielle Hunter in free agency. Now, Turner (10 sacks in 2023) can team up with free agent acquisition Jonathan Greenard to give the Vikings a legitimate one-two punch off the edge.

What was the best value pick in Round 2?

Miller: Adonai Mitchell, WR, to the Colts (No. 52). My No. 19 player fell to No. 52, making for an exceptional overall value. Get excited, Colts fans. Mitchell has elite speed and great length at 6-foot-3, and he shows awesome concentration to snatch the ball out of the air. He excels on vertical routes and has the body control to track and adjust on the fly. With Anthony Richardson airing it out to him, the Colts’ passing game is about to reach new heights.

Reid: Cooper DeJean, CB/S, to the Eagles (No. 40). I wasn’t expecting a team to be able to get DeJean — the No. 22 player on my board — at No. 40. He was a late-Round 1 selection for me. DeJean is an all-around defensive back who can play multiple spots. He’ll likely be a safety for the Eagles, but that versatility will allow Philly to play him in the slot as a nickel or as a third-level safety. The secondary was a major weak spot in Philadelphia last season, but adding Quinyon Mitchell and DeJean completely reshapes its outlook.



Eagles DB Cooper DeJean prospect profile

Check out some of the top college highlights for new Eagles defensive back Cooper DeJean.

What was the best value pick in Round 3?

Reid: Junior Colson, LB, to the Chargers (No. 69). Colson will be a spark plug for the Chargers’ defense, which lacked a true middle linebacker. He reunites with his college coach, Jim Harbaugh, and Colson’s instincts and consistent tackling ability should provide him a chance to be an early starter. I liked the way the Chargers focused on adding young upside players on both sides of the ball, and they got a real downhill thumper here. Plus, Colson — who was No. 48 on my board — has flashed in pass coverage, which further helps L.A.

Miller: Calen Bullock, S, to the Texans (No. 78). He was No. 55 in my final rankings and my top safety. So, yeah, the Texans stole him. We know Bullock isn’t the most physical player, but he’s an elite ball hawk who can own the center of the field in the passing game. Teams that throw it up deep will regret it with Bullock patrolling the backend, as he has four career interceptions. The Texans have the pass rush to force quarterbacks into quick decisions, and that’s where Bullock’s range and instincts will stand out.

What was the best value pick in Round 4?

Miller: Ja’Tavion Sanders, TE, to the Panthers (No. 101). He landed in an ideal spot with Carolina, where he’ll be tasked with helping quarterback Bryce Young. A Panthers scout told me over the offseason that the team’s priority was to give Young playmakers in the pass game. The team did that with the best seam-busting tight end in the class and my No. 49 overall player. Sanders didn’t test well in the pre-draft run-up, which is why he slipped, but his tape is that of an NFL starter.

Reid: Javon Baker, WR, to the Patriots (No. 110). New England director of scouting Eliot Wolf is a disciple of the Packers tree, and in his first draft at the helm for the Pats, he took a page out Green Bay’s book regarding how to draft wide receivers. The Pats waited until Days 2 and 3 to draft players at the position, but they still got playmakers. Consider that 81% of Baker’s catches went for either a first down or a touchdown in 2023. My No. 88 prospect, Baker joins second-rounder Ja’Lynn Polk to give New England some high-end pass-catchers.

What was the best value pick in Round 5?

Reid: Christian Jones, OT, to the Cardinals (No. 162). One of the most experienced prospects in this class, Jones started in 48 games in college. The Cardinals signed Jonah Williams during the offseason, and Jones is likely to serve as backup at right tackle, with Paris Johnson Jr. on the left side. GM Monti Ossenfort is building up the offensive line, adding my 87th-ranked prospect deep in the draft.

Miller: Austin Booker, EDGE, to the Bears (No. 144). Turn on Booker’s tape from games against Illinois or Texas and you’d think the Bears drafted him in the second or third round. The issue is he wasn’t consistent and logged just 505 snaps in his college career. The Bears are betting on his developmental upside at a position of need. Booker (No. 87 overall for me) can learn from Montez Sweat in a great situation for his NFL acclimation after finishing last season with eight sacks for Kansas.

What was the best value pick in Round 6?

Miller: Mekhi Wingo, DT, to the Lions (No. 189). He went nearly 100 spots later than my ranking for him (No. 94), but he has a chance to make an immediate impact in Detroit. Playing in the Lions’ four-man front, Wingo has a style similar to that of current Detroit defensive tackle Alim McNeill. Wingo is short and stout at 6 feet tall and 284 pounds, but his effort level is fantastic. He is one of the biggest steals of the third day.

Reid: Malik Washington, WR, to the Dolphins (No. 184). I’m shocked that Washington fell this far. Yes, he’s only 5-foot-9, but he plays much bigger than his frame, which is part of the reason I had him at No. 104. And as a sure-handed receiver who is explosive after the catch, he fits perfectly in a fast-paced Miami offense that wants to take advantage of the middle of the field.

What was the best value pick in Round 7?

Reid: Jaheim Bell, HB/TE, to the Patriots (No. 231). My second-highest ranked H-back and No. 101-ranked player overall, Bell was a potential early-Day 3 pick in my book. Yet the Patriots were able to add another explosive playmaker in the final round. Bell is versatile, able to line up in multiple spots. And him being there in the last round of the draft was one of the most surprising slides I saw this week.

Miller: Brenden Rice, WR, to the Chargers (No. 225). I had a big grade on Rice — No. 76 overall — thanks to his sure hands and expert route-running ability. He doesn’t have record-breaking speed, but he consistently finds a way to get open in his route tree. Following a 21-touchdown career at USC, he won’t even have to pack a bag to work into Justin Herbert‘s wide receiver room with the Chargers, a team that had needs for at least two wideouts coming into the draft.



Vikings QB J.J. McCarthy’s prospect profile

Check out some of the top college highlights from new Vikings quarterback J.J. McCarthy.

What is your favorite prospect-to-team fit?

Miller: Zach Frazier, C, to the Steelers (No. 51). Sometimes you watch a prospect’s film and envision the NFL team for which he’d be a perfect fit. That was the case with Frazier and the Steelers. The four-time high school state wrestling champion from West Virginia is tough as nails with sweet footwork and agility to move to the second level of the defense. He’s a plug-and-play starter at the pivot point on the offensive line.

Reid: Mike Sainristil, CB, to the Commanders (No. 50). I’m not worried about the measurables (5-foot-9, 182 pounds), as he ended up No. 40 on my board. Sainristil still can have an instant impact, bringing versatility and ball skills (six picks last season) to the Commanders’ secondary. He could immediately become a leader on a Washington defense that allowed the most passing yards per game in the NFL last season (262.2).

Which pick surprised you the most?

Reid: Brock Bowers, TE, to the Raiders (No. 13). I understand the “best player available” approach, and I’m high on Bowers’ skill set, as he was a top-10 player in my rankings. But with every defensive player still on the board when Las Vegas was on the clock and in need at premium spots on that side of the ball, I struggled with this pick. Drafting a defender would have made way more sense to me.

Miller: Michael Penix Jr., QB, to the Falcons (No. 8). We’ve had multiple days to think about this pick now, and it still makes no sense to me. Penix will turn 24 years old in May. He has played six years of college football, making him arguably the most pro-ready quarterback in the entire draft. But the Falcons spent a top-10 pick on him to hopefully have him back up Kirk Cousins — who just signed a massive deal — for at least two seasons. It’s a bad strategy and a poor use of resources.

What is the best QB landing spot?

Miller: Caleb Williams to the Bears (No. 1). Maybe it’s cheating to go with the first pick in the draft, but the Bears built a fantastic infrastructure for the rookie passer. Trading for Keenan Allen and drafting Rome Odunze to go with DJ Moore, Cole Kmet and Gerald Everett gives Williams a great group of pass-catchers. The backfield is solid too, with D’Andre Swift joining the crew. And let’s not sleep on the Bears’ defense. Williams is set up to succeed from Day 1.

Reid: J.J. McCarthy to the Vikings (No. 10). He had to land with a team that wouldn’t rush him onto the field, so the Vikings trading up for McCarthy was the best-case scenario for his development and future. And once Minnesota does turn from Sam Darnold to McCarthy (assuming the team doesn’t play the rookie right out of the gate), it has plenty of playmakers in Justin Jefferson, Jordan Addison and T.J. Hockenson. Plus, McCarthy will be protected by one of the better offensive tackle duos in the NFL (Christian Darrisaw and Brian O’Neill).



Belichick skeptical of Falcons selecting Michael Penix Jr.

Bill Belichick likes Michael Penix Jr.’s NFL prospects but is surprised the Falcons decided to draft him.

What is the most questionable QB landing spot?

Reid: Michael Penix Jr. to the Falcons (No. 8). Matt touched on this earlier, but drafting a QB at No. 8 was the first huge shocker of the draft. Giving Cousins $100 million guaranteed didn’t stop the Falcons from this move, a very confusing pick. It makes for an interesting dynamic.

Miller: Drake Maye to the Patriots (No. 3). I would echo Jordan’s pick of Penix to the Falcons, but I’ll just add that Maye with the Patriots is at least questionable for the immediate future. The Patriots have a porous offensive line outside of right tackle Mike Onwenu, and they didn’t address it until the third round (Caedan Wallace at No. 68). The wide receiver corps, even with Ja’Lynn Polk added, lacks a true No. 1 option and is made up of really good second- and third-type targets. Maye is a solid player, there’s no debating that. But the landing spot for a 21-year-old quarterback who needs time to develop is iffy.

Predict the number of rookie QBs who will be starting by midseason.

Miller: Four — hopefully. The Falcons won’t be starting Penix as long as Cousins is healthy, and I’m holding out hope that the Patriots let Maye sit and develop behind Jacoby Brissett for his first season. That would give Maye time to learn. But it also would give the Patriots time to fix the offensive line before going to Maye in a tough AFC East in 2025.

Reid: Five. I think Penix will be the only first-rounder who isn’t starting by midseason, and that includes Maye. Cousins will show he is fully recovered from his Achilles injury from last season, keeping Penix on the sideline. But Williams, Jayden Daniels, Maye, McCarthy and Nix will all be in action by the middle of the season, at the latest.

Which team should have addressed the QB position?

Reid: New York Giants. Not only did they elect to pass on QB in Round 1 — when McCarthy, Penix and Nix were all still available at No. 6 — the Giants didn’t draft a passer at all. New York opted to load up on offensive playmakers and show faith in Daniel Jones and Drew Lock. That’s fine, but I still thought the Giants should have at least drafted a late-round signal-caller. They had the chance, since no QB was drafted in Rounds 2 through 4. Their passing offense ranked 31st in yards (169.8 per game) and 28th in TD throws (15) last season, and Jones is coming off a torn ACL.

Miller: Las Vegas Raiders. I think the Raiders wanted to address the quarterback position but just missed out on the top six passers at No. 13 because they weren’t able or willing to be aggressive enough to climb the board. Now, they’ll roll into 2024 with Gardner Minshew and second-year player Aidan O’Connell under center. With star wide receiver Davante Adams now 31 years old, it feels like the team isn’t taking advantage of the final prime years of its best player.

Which team produced your favorite class?

Miller: Philadelphia Eagles. In the 2002 NFL draft, the Eagles used three early picks to remake a bad secondary. It changed the defense immediately. That’s what GM Howie Roseman must be thinking in 2024. The additions of Quinyon Mitchell in Round 1 and Cooper DeJean in a Round 2 trade up will immediately boost a secondary that looked old, slow and banged up during the team’s collapse late in 2023. The late part of Round 3 was a solid place to draft developmental pass-rusher Jalyx Hunt from Houston Christian too. He’s the type of player who could be a massive steal if the Eagles can tap into his raw potential.

Reid: Pittsburgh Steelers. I loved what the Steelers were able to do in this draft. They had huge needs at offensive tackle and center, and they checked boxes there by adding Troy Fautanu and Zach Frazier — two plug-and-play starters. Roman Wilson steps into a WR2 role right away, and getting linebacker Payton Wilson in the third round was a steal for Pittsburgh.

Which team produced your least favorite class?

Miller: Tennessee Titans. It was a draft of reaches for the Titans in Brian Callahan’s first one with general manager Ran Carthon in Tennessee. The team first reached for offensive tackle JC Latham at No. 7, at least based on my No. 34 ranking of him. The same goes for Texas defensive tackle T’Vondre Sweat, a player whom teams had dropped to the third day after a DWI arrest earlier in April. He went No. 38 to the Titans. Linebacker Cedric Gray and cornerback Jarvis Brownlee Jr. are very solid players from Day 3. But the Titans didn’t address left tackle (Latham is really a right tackle), edge rusher or wide receiver early in the draft, and that will hurt the team’s development.

Reid: Atlanta Falcons. We’ve addressed the Penix pick, which obviously wasn’t a great start. But even beyond that, I thought there were better players on the board at multiple spots in the draft when Atlanta was picking. Passing on Jer’Zhan Newton for Ruke Orhorhoro to address defensive tackle at No. 35, for instance, was a head-scratcher. And not drafting an edge rusher until the third round didn’t make sense after the Falcons finished last in pass rush win rate in 2023 (30.9%). Atlanta hasn’t had a defensive lineman reach double-digit sacks in a single season since Vic Beasley in 2016.



Vikings LB Dallas Turner’s prospect profile

Check out some of the top college highlights from new Vikings linebacker Dallas Turner.

Which team checked the most need boxes?

Reid: New England Patriots. They had arguably the worst offensive depth chart in the league entering the draft, needing a franchise QB, offensive line help and some pass-catching playmakers. And they landed Maye, Polk, Wallace, Layden Robinson and Baker. Polk and Baker could step in right away and become contributors. Jaheim Bell also was an underrated late-round pick, and I could see him sticking on the roster.

Miller: Pittsburgh Steelers. General manager Omar Khan attacked the trenches, building a wall in front of whomever his quarterback will be this season (either Russell Wilson or Justin Fields). Pittsburgh checked off needs at tackle, center and guard with selections in the top 120 picks. The team also added a potential starting slot receiver in Roman Wilson. Even sixth-rounder Ryan Watts has upside as a developmental safety prospect.

What was your favorite in-draft trade?

Miller: I’m cheating and picking two: the Vikings’ pair of first-round trades. They made a move from No. 11 to No. 10 to get McCarthy, a steal considering many of us expected the team to move all the way into the top five to select him. It cost a fourth- and fifth-rounder to do it (and they got a sixth-rounder back). Minnesota wasn’t done though. Trading from No. 23 to No. 17 to land the best pass-rusher in the class in Turner was one of the best moves in the entire draft. That one meant giving up a fifth-rounder and two 2025 midrounders.

Reid: The Panthers trading back from No. 39 to No. 52. They acquired a 2025 second-rounder and a fifth-rounder from the Rams in the deal. Recouping one of the picks Carolina lost in the 2023 trade up to take Bryce Young is massive for a team that’s still searching for more talent on the roster. (The Panthers later moved up from No. 52 to get running back Jonathon Brooks.)

What was your least favorite in-draft trade?

Reid: The Dolphins trading up to No. 120 and giving up a 2025 third-round pick to select Jaylen Wright. He’s my No. 4-ranked running back and I like the player, but I don’t think the Dolphins needed to trade up and use draft capital for next year to make the move. Remember, this Miami team already has De’Von Achane.

Miller: The Rams trading up to No. 39. I’m going with the other side of Jordan’s favorite deal. The Rams traded pick Nos. 52 and 155 and a 2025 second-rounder to move up 13 spots to select a defensive tackle who turns 25 years old in January. Braden Fiske is a really good player, but he’s an older prospect and has battled injuries throughout his career. The pick isn’t the problem so much as the very steep price the Rams paid when they saw a run on defensive tackles starting early in Round 2.

In five years, we’re all going to wonder why ___ fell in the draft.

Miller: Adonai Mitchell, WR, Colts (No. 52). Mitchell is talented enough to be ranked inside my top 20, but the real reason we’ll be talking about him falling is because he’s about to be paired up with quarterback Anthony Richardson. Receiver Michael Pittman Jr. also being in the offense will keep safeties honest over the middle, and Mitchell’s deep speed and body control are ideal for Richardson’s amazing arm strength. He’ll take the top off the defense in a hurry.

Reid: Jer’Zhan Newton, DT, Commanders (No. 36). The No. 25-ranked player on my draft board slide into Round 2, where the Commanders selected him. Dan Quinn has historically been a coach who likes to have a deep rotation of defensive linemen, and Newton adds to an already strong interior of Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne.

Make your early call for Offensive Rookie of the Year.

Reid: Marvin Harrison Jr., WR, Cardinals (No. 4). There isn’t a receiver stepping into a better situation than Harrison, who is going to be the top option for Arizona. It’s easy to envision Kyler Murray quickly becoming comfortable with him. My top-ranked player in the entire draft, Harrison has the high-end traits to put up serious numbers right out of the gates.

Miller: Xavier Worthy, WR, Chiefs (No. 28). Give Patrick Mahomes the fastest player in the history of the combine, and good things are going to happen. Tight end Travis Kelce is going to get the lion’s share of the targets, and Rashee Rice and Marquise Brown will be factors, but Worthy is guaranteed to get multiple deep shots per game while also impacting the game on slip and bubble screens. I don’t expect him to lead the Chiefs in targets or catches, but he might lead the team in yards and touchdowns.

Make your early call for Defensive Rookie of the Year.

Miller: Terrion Arnold, CB, Lions (No. 24). The Lions can get after the quarterback and create opportunities for the defensive backs to make plays. Arnold will reap the benefits of that pass rush with his ball-hawking skills that allowed him to grab five interceptions at Alabama last season.

Reid: Dallas Turner, EDGE, Vikings (No. 17). He is a perfect match for Brian Flores’ defense. And even after the Vikings signed Jonathan Greenard and Andrew Van Ginkel this offseason, Turner will likely receive significant snaps on a defense that lacks depth off the edge.

Predict one rookie who will win you fantasy leagues in 2024.

Reid: Marvin Harrison Jr., WR, Cardinals (No. 4). This one is an easy selection for me. As mentioned earlier, Harrison enters a situation where he’ll become the immediate go-to option. I expect him to receive a high volume of targets and post big numbers as a rookie.

Miller: Malik Nabers, WR, Giants (No. 6). Harrison is the answer here, but Nabers is also set up to excel early with the Giants not having a true WR1. Daniel Jones will get the ball out fast, and Nabers’ speed and ability to create after the catch should allow him to rack up yards and touchdowns to win you fantasy leagues.

Who is a developmental pick to watch?

Miller: Travis Clayton, G, Bills (No. 221). The former rugby star from England was part of the NFL’s International Pathway Program, and Clayton has elite agility, power and toughness. He’s raw, having never played football, but the Bills can essentially redshirt him for the 2024 season and try to tap into his fantastic traits and potential. Everyone wants to compare rugby players to Jordan Mailata, and that’s tough to do … but I have to admit Clayton has an eerily similar skill set.

Reid: Travis Glover, OT, Packers (No. 202). Evaluators always want to see how small-school prospects adjust to higher levels of competition, and the Georgia State product had plenty of buzz coming out of the Senior Bowl. The Packers have had success developing offensive linemen, and Glover has the traits necessary to eventually become a contributor.

Make one prediction about this class for five years from now.

Miller: I’m going with half of the six first-round quarterbacks unfortunately not working out in their original cities. The hit rate on NFL quarterbacks is 42% when judging by making it to a second contract with their drafting teams. So, I think at least three of Williams, Daniels, Maye, Penix, McCarthy and Nix will be elsewhere in four years.

Reid: The offensive line class will live up to the hype. The first five offensive tackles drafted — Joe Alt (Chargers), Latham (Titans), Olu Fashanu (Jets), Taliese Fuaga (Saints) and Amarius Mims (Bengals) — will all be Pro Bowlers, and Alt and Fashanu will both be considered among the best in the NFL at the position. So many of the top guys landed in spots where they will become immediate starters, and this class is too good to let down.

Latest article