Monday, April 15, 2024

10 Predictions for the 2024 NFL Draft with Less Than a Month to Wait

10 Predictions for the 2024 NFL Draft with Less Than a Month to Wait

If the NFL draft were hypothetically predictable, it wouldn’t hold the prestige of being the NFL offseason’s linchpin event. You then wouldn’t come by a rush of mock drafts each spring. Nor would there be a blanket discourse on the 257 picks to be dished out over the three-day course.

A meandering path marked by ups and downs, sprinkled with unexpected tumbles, along with a wheel-turning rumor mill sprouting both smokescreens and legitimate buzz, this becomes a turbulent storm seemingly endless in generating storylines.

There’s much to unravel, you know. This year’s quarterback class might hold up to six first-round picks, and so forecasts are, that we could be facing turbulence of even greater intensity than before.

So, without wasting any more time, let’s delve into this year’s disordered dance through 10 forecasts. Within a month, looking ahead to the 2024 event, here are some projections considering the influence of free agency, the trade market, and the whispering draft buzz.

J.J. McCarthy is All Set to Join the Minnesota Viking

J.J. McCarthy has stirred quite a stir in this draft. His alleged rise on the draft boards resonated a few years ago with Mac Jones. During the draft process, Jones was thought to be a good second-rounder. His position then shifted up to media draft boards to be labeled first-rounder. Subsequently, rumors started brewing that the Niners had traded up to No. 3 with Jones in their sights.

By the time the draft rolled out, Jones had become a hugely popular choice for the Niners at No. 3. Different from Jones, McCarthy has surpassed the former’s pole position. Rising rumors have even replaced him higher at No. 2 as he has been linked with Washington Commanders.

Given the intertwined rumors surrounding the Michigan quarterback, pinning down his draft placement is quite the task. So, rather than where, let’s proclaim who he ends up playing for; Minnesota Vikings. Not particularly secretive about their interest in seeking a quarterback, the Vikings have finally loosened the loop with the Kirk Cousins contract carousel, with signing Sam Darnold marking the only corresponding move made.

Their trading with the Texans for the 23rd overall pick stands out as a clever strategy to gear up for the draft, with 2024 and 2025’s second-rounders looking promising. Whether McCarthy lands up to No. 11 or the Vikings make the step-up in his favor, it seems nearly ordained that he’d be out in the purple and gold hues.

Arizona Cardinals are all ready to Trade the No. 4 Pick

Last year’s draft saw Arizona Cardinals general manager, Monti Ossenfort, channeling his inner Sonny Weaver Jr. Traded from No. 3 only to take a step ahead to No. 6, their pick of Paris Johnson Jr., saw them secure an invaluable stockpile of picks while still nabbing their favored choice.

As of this year, the Cards are perched sturdy with the No. 4 pick, and it seems quite likely they’d be engaging in this wheeling and dealing once again. Ossenfort made good use of the media’s attention, pronouncing how the Cardinals were open to discussing trading their first-round’s fourth slot.

There’s been an echoing buzz about the top three picks generating interest in receiving trades; however, the No. 4 pick appears most promising to be traded. You see, while the top three teams on the draft, align their interests with a quarterback’s requirements, the Cardinals, on the other hand, don’t.

Resulting in a unique advantage for the Cardinals with an attractive combination of Drake Maye, Jayden Daniels, J.J. McCarthy, and Marvin Harrison Jr. on the board. Their phones might just light up like Christmas morning. Maye and Daniels, both buyers, prefer top-five picks. McCarthy’s reputation has been steadily soaring, and Harrison is the No. 1 rated prospect overall on what we call our big board.

Presently, the Cardinals could contemplate picking Harrison Jr. for themselves. They could do with a No. 1 receiver, and Harrison sits well with the requirement. But the prospect of picking up multiple first-round picks outweighs one receiver, especially when this class is abundantly talented in that position. The Cards, you could say, are one of the most interesting teams in the draft that’s potentially going to steer how the top 10 picks turn out.

Chicago Bears Plan to Trade Down from No. 9

Just last year, the Bears closed a big deal when they traded down from No. 1 to No. 9. That very trade, brought Bryce Young to Carolina, fetching the Bears the No. 1 pick in next year’s lot with D.J. Moore. And 2025 seems promising too, adding another second-round pick to their kitty. Following this trend, Poles might just pull off another shift down the board to reap assets.

Closing in on the ninth pick, the Bears could land at a desirable spot. With the likes of Rome Odunze, the leading tackles outplaying Joe Alt, and superior defensive prospects, the Bears could make some vital forays. Bear’s trade to get Keenan Allen in their receiving unit relieves them from the pressure of scouting another receiver within the top 10. In addition, the exemplary performance of Braxton Jones in left tackle leaves them flexible to draft.

Furthermore, a mere four total picks account for the whole draft. It seems strategic for the Bears to consider trading down from No. 9. The possibility remains that they will likely have Caleb Williams as their No. 1 pick. Another receiver sounds good, but more picks at the pot to keep the roster contribution running is also vital, In a scenario where four quarterbacks make it to the top 10, it would naturally drive some of the top talents to the back end of the top 10, leading to appealing trade offers. The Bears could cash in on this opportunity yet again.

The Falcons Will Pick the First Defensive Player at No. 8

If the Falcons weren’t in the picture, a defensive player might not have crossed the top-10 line. The top level of the class favors offense. The first eight players on our big board are all into offense including two quarterbacks, three wide receivers, two offensive tackles, and a tight end.

But prospects 9–12 are defensive aces skilled in premium positions. Jared Verse and Dallas Turner are high-potential edge rushers. Quinyon Mitchell and Terrion Arnold are contenders for notable CB1 accolades. Squads line up properly to steady the offense-heavy chart. Each team standing in the top 10, except for the Titans, dipped low in the bottom third of offensive EPA per play. The Titans just seem to have a need at tackle and might have either Joe Alt or Olu Fashanu at No. 7.

As for the Falcons, they’ve invested their last seven first-round picks into offense and the defense could use a blue-chip recruit. A fresh regime is in command in the offense, with coordinator Zac Robinson and present quarterback Kirk Cousins. The dynamic duo has been chosen to optimize an offense harnessing the talents of Bijan Robinson, Kyle Pitts, and Drake London. To match the offensive prowess of A.J. Terrell, the Falcons seriously need a youthful stronghold in the defense. Expect Verse or Turner to be considering Atlanta as an option for the top defensive entry.

Brock Bowers to Fall to Back Half of First Round

Brock Bowers is, without a doubt, a talent you can’t neglect. He’s rightfully placed as No. 2 on our big board. But with positional value and draft order on the spot, he might tumble to a lower rank on draft day. Recent years have witnessed rare occurrences of top 10 picks being spent on a tight end. Kyle Pitts was the fourth pick in 2021, and the Lions selected T.J. Hockenson at number eight in 2019.

Despite their unquestionable talent, for a tight end to match the returns of a top-10 pick is a tall order to achieve. Also, last year’s tight end class, featuring Dalton Kincaid, Michael Mayer, and Sam LaPorta, presented just one first-round pick. The second round saw them, alongside Luke Musgrave, spark a run on them.

The Indianapolis Colts at 15 can match the first good fit outside of the top 10. Unfortunately, their grass seems greener in another direction, indicating their need for a cornerback. Terrion Arnold and Quinyon Mitchell both hold potential. This turn of events might lead Bowers to become a prime choice for a team picking in the back half of the field.

Bo Nix Might Skip First-Round Pick

This draft is seeing Bo Nix ascend as a first-round prospect. He’s been favored as the most popular pick for Broncos at No. 12 according to NFL Mock Draft Database. This seems a good time to reminisce about Will Levis’s No. 1 pick odds hitting peak right before the draft and he ultimately landed in the second round.

Quarterback draft stock is somewhat of a challenge to assess. It’s clear how Nix-to-Broncos came about. Broncos are in dire need of a quarterback following Russell Wilson’s release, but they’d be hard-pressed to justify a trade package hefty enough to climb up the board for the highly-ranked prospects at quarterback. It’s hard to comprehend Nix in the first round, let alone among the top half of the first round.

Nix stepping up to 24 already. To make a comparison, J.J. McCarthy is only 21. Age is not a big concern in the big picture, but it can shift expectations. Five years into Auburn and Oregon, one would expect Nix to be a rounded prospect with little holes in his game. That’s not the case, though. An incomplete player despite having played so much, his skills just can’t be ignored, says Derrik Klassen in his scouting report highlighting Nix.

Nix’s decisions at Auburn were questioned. Despite the overhaul at Oregon, where he gave away only three picks in his final season, a lot of it was attributed to a dominating offense built around screens and RPOs. Nix sounds like a reasonable target for the early second round, and that’s where he will likely land.

Wide Receiver Class Aiming to Tie First-Round Record

The 2024 NFL draft is about to witness a milestone in the wide receiver revolution. The payout for a premium receiver has only spiked over the years. 2022’s off-season set the market for top-tier receivers from a contract perspective. Another reset is expected as Justin Jefferson nears his second contract.

So the dominant factor for edge-rushers and tackles taking off the board year after year is why the wide receiver class of this year holds the potential to tie the record of most wide receivers picked in the first round. The record stands at seven. The 2004 draft boasted seven receivers going into the first round, all thanks to Larry Fitzgerald.

Our latest mock draft has seen six pass-catchers heading into the first round, with Adonai Mitchell and Roman Wilson edging at picks No. 33 and 34, Nine receivers sit in the top 50 of our big board, revealing an abundance of talent for a match or even a surpassing of the record.

Adding topping to the cake, we’ll remember this class as one of the greatest receiver classes of all time. The class in 2004 only had Larry Fitzgerald at the top; Roy Williams (one) being the only receiver to have made it to the Pro Bowl. With Marvin Harrison Jr., Malik Nabers, and Rome Odunze as potential top-10 picks, this class will yield even richer returns.

Miami Dolphins Plan to Trade Back From No. 21

If you think the salary cap is a myth, the Miami Dolphins’ off-season serves as the perfect counterpoint. Cap management has forced them to make difficult decisions. Losses on Christian Wilkins and Robert Hunt in free agency were grave. Cuts were made in Xavien Howard, Emmanuel Ogbah, and Jerome Baker to make room for cap space. Bargain shopping was their only recourse in free agency. Draft picks are golden for teams contrary to the cap; they facilitate the stock-fill of talent with cheap rookie contracts.

The dolphins are in a tight spot, though. Multiple trades depleted their stock, limiting them to six picks, with only two in the top 150. They rank 31 on a scale of draft capital as per Tankathon’s metrics. An evident choice for any team looking to shift up to the early 20s.

There might be a sudden turn for cornerbacks here. Eagles and Vikings are clawing for 22nd and 23rd respectively and they need a cornerback. Cooper DeJean and Kool-Aid McKinstry could be eyeing the spot. Any team willing to let go of picks to land their man, the Dolphins are all ears.

Michael Penix Jr. Eying a Seat in Los Angeles Ram

Michael Penix Jr. stands out among the notable players in the 2024 draft. The 23-year-old became a familiar face this year, with a fine show, extracting shots in the field from Rome Odunze and Ja’Lynn Polk en route to a run for the national championship game. Seen, his arm strength and athleticism back in Seattle—some flags still keep him from being the final deal.

His ability to handle pressure in the pocket and injury history are some of the areas raising concerns. Penix sustained injuries, forcing an end to his seasons while at Indiana, two of which were ACL tears. The Rams don’t exactly squeeze into the quarterback-hungry team frame. Matthew Stafford is still in good form, and they’ve got Jimmy Garoppolo signed up. Recently, Field Yates of ESPN highlighted the Rams as a potential “sleeper” team to target a quarterback.

This makes sense for the general manager, Les Snead, who is not too orthodox in his approach to the draft. Stafford is 36 and has his fair share of injuries in his portfolio, with Garoppolo proving to be a better backup. Much like Stafford, Penix is prone to making aggressive shots because of his arm strength to check secondaries all over the field. If Penix lasts beyond the first round, the Rams could surprise and move up the second ladder and get the southpaw.

No Running Backs are Anticipated in the Top 50

A decade ago, we witnessed a draft with no running back listed in the top 50. For the Tennessee Titans, Bishop Sankey was the first call in the 2014 draft at No. 54. Generally, a lapse was good for the league in judging that class of backs, the top runner being Carlos Hyde with 4,979 career rushing yards. A repetition of a weak class is expected in 2024.

Audric Estimé from Notre Dame is the only running back ranking 41 in the top 50 of our big board. Trey Benson from Florida State follows closely at No. 52. Estimé raised brows at the combine with a disrespectful run of 4.71 on a 40-yard dash. While that may not matter much given his track record of big runs with the Irish, it is a leading factor as to who would be willing to shell a top-50 pick on him.

In the Scouting Department’s mock draft at No. 37, Estimé goes to the Chargers. Looking at a logical fit, the Chargers are a known team for keeping costs at a minimum, and with other crucial needs on their table, they are likely to consider a cornerback.

Several teams were on their toes to get running backs during free agency. Notable names being, Tony Pollard, Saquon Barkley, Josh Jacobs, Aaron Jones, Derrick Henry, and Austin Ekeler were moving. Signifying one thing: teams won’t prioritize running back.

Abu Bakar
Abu Bakar
Abubakar is a writer and digital marketing expert. Who has founded multiple blogs and successful businesses in the fields of digital marketing, software development. A full-service digital media agency that partners with clients to boost their business outcomes.
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