Tuesday, May 21, 2024

2024 NFL Draft: 5 Potential First-Rounders Who May Fall Further Than Expected

Looking ahead to the 2024 NFL draft, who might remain on the board longer than anticipated? We spotlight five candidates who, despite generating significant buzz in the offseason and appearing high in numerous mock drafts, may find their draft positions not reflecting this early excitement.

Comparing the initial mock drafts to the actual picks in any given year often reveals a disconnect between the general media’s perception of prospects and the league’s valuation of those same players. During the pre-draft period, teams conduct thorough research on potential picks, which might affect where these players rank on their boards.

The transition to the NFL may necessitate positional changes for some rookies, complicating predictions about their future roles. Moreover, teams might be hesitant to take risks on prospects who are on the fringe of the first round due to limited experience as starters or recent injuries.

Will Levis, a quarterback for Kentucky, endured a notable wait last year, spending the entire first round in the green room before the Tennessee Titans selected him second overall in round two at pick number 33. In a similar vein, the New England Patriots selected cornerback Christian Gonzalez 17th overall.

JC Latham, OT, Alabama

JC Latham, OT, Alabama

Standing at a towering 6’6″ and tipping the scales at 342 pounds, Alabama’s offensive tackle, JC Latham, is undeniably a standout prospect. However, the recent track record of tackles from Alabama entering the professional ranks might leave some teams hesitant.

It’s unfair to judge a prospect’s potential professional success based on the performance of players from the same school who preceded them. That said, ESPN’s Matt Miller offers a captivating perspective on the less-than-expected performance of Alabama’s offensive tackles in recent times under Nick Saban’s tenure.

Miller, advocating a player-first scouting approach, notes, “While I always promote evaluating the player over the school, it’s hard to ignore that Alabama’s offensive tackles haven’t lived up to expectations recently,” on X. He suggests, “The coaching at Bama might have already squeezed the best out of these players, making it tough for them to adjust to a different system.”

Furthermore, Miller expresses reservations about Latham’s ability to fully transition his skills to the professional level. “The modern NFL demands that offensive linemen have flexibility and agility, especially with the influence of the West Coast offense across numerous team playbooks. This emphasis on reaching the second level isn’t a strength of Latham’s,” Miller points out.

Despite these concerns, Latham will likely be selected in the first round of the draft. However, not all teams in need of an offensive tackle might see him as the right fit, and his impressive size might limit his options if teams view him more suitably as a guard—a position generally valued less.

While Latham could be seen as a top-10 tackle pick on some boards, the ambiguity regarding his position might place him as a mid-to-late first-round pick as an offensive lineman on others.

Cooper DeJean, CB, Iowa

Cooper DeJean, CB, Iowa

In November of last year, Cooper DeJean, a cornerback for Iowa, sustained a fibula fracture during a practice session. Despite this setback, most draft experts believe he will go somewhere in the middle to late first round.

NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport mentioned that DeJean’s impressive performance during Iowa’s pro day is likely to cement his position as a first-round draft choice. Yet, ESPN’s Field Yates shared that different teams project DeJean in an alternative role within the NFL.

Field Yates, speaking on First Draft, elaborated, “From my discussions, it appears a significant number of teams—several teams I’ve talked to—regard him as a prospect for the safety position” (pointed out around the 7:10 mark).

Should DeJean transition to a safety role—one generally considered less critical than that of a cornerback across the league—his draft position might be negatively affected. While DeJean might be viewed as a top contender in what is perceived as a less competitive safety class, the lengthy recovery he’s facing, combined with a potential devaluation due to the shift in position, could jeopardize his prospects of being a first-round pick.

Amarius Mims, OT, Georgia

Amarius Mims, OT, Georgia

Among the talents highlighted in this discussion, Amarius Mims stands out as one who must capitalize on his potential, overshadowing his actual achievements in college football. During his time at Georgia, Mims served in a backup role for two years before stepping into the limelight as the primary right tackle in 2023. His tenure as a starter was cut short, however, due to an ankle ailment that necessitated surgical intervention.

This has complicated the process of evaluating his draft prospects. ESPN’s Jordan Reid has pointed out that evaluations of Mims’ performance are decidedly mixed. Reid shared, “There’s a wide spectrum of views on Mims…Throughout the last two years, Mims has faced challenges with staying healthy, managing only eight starts out of 30 games.

Following his third start last season, he had to undergo TightRope surgery on his ankle and even encountered a lower-body injury during the combine. It wouldn’t surprise me if, in five years, Mims is viewed as the top offensive lineman of his class, yet it’s equally plausible he could face substantial time off the field due to injuries.”

Standing at an imposing 6’8″ and weighing 340 pounds, Mims’ limited but notable performances in a starting capacity have positioned him as a potential first-round pick. Nonetheless, it wouldn’t be unexpected if he were to find himself selected in the second round, aligning with the assessment from Bleacher Report scout Brandon Thorn.

J.J. McCarthy, QB, Michigan

J.J. McCarthy, QB, Michigan

Since leading the Michigan Wolverines to victory in the national championship in January, J.J. McCarthy’s appeal to NFL teams has been on an upward trajectory. Despite McCarthy’s modest passing statistics over his two years as Michigan’s starting quarterback, there’s been some discussion around his potential and his capability to anchor an NFL team’s offense.

In recent weeks, SNY’s Connor Hughes and NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero have reported potential interest from both the New York Giants and the Washington Commanders, making McCarthy a hot prospect, possibly within the top 10 picks for teams in need of a quarterback.

Yet, this buzz might just be a tactic by teams to divert attention from their real draft plans, a common strategy in the pre-draft season. Bleacher Report’s latest mock draft predicts the Minnesota Vikings picking McCarthy at the 11th spot, with B/R scout Derrik Klassen suggesting he’s more suited for the second round.

Unlike Will Levis’ drop last year, McCarthy is unlikely to slide out of the first round, although the current pre-draft noise could be exaggerated, reflecting more on strategic misdirection than on genuine interest from the teams.

Brock Bowers, TE, Georgia

Brock Bowers, TE, Georgia

Brock Bowers is emerging as the favored choice for the New York Jets with the 10th overall selection. Both the scouting team at Bleacher Report and ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. have predicted in their mock drafts that the Bowers would land with Gang Green, underscoring a strategic move that aligns with the Jets’ ambitions. This anticipation stems from a logical place, given the Jets’ aspiration to enhance their offensive lineup to fully leverage Aaron Rodgers’ tenure as quarterback.

Before the deal for Rodgers, the Jets secured a contract with Allen Lazard, committing to a $44 million agreement over four years. However, Lazard’s performance in 2023 did not meet expectations, with a meager tally of 23 receptions, 311 yards, and a single touchdown. Further bolstering their lineup, the Jets recently acquired ex-Los Angeles Chargers’ Mike Williams, despite his ongoing recovery from an ACL injury.

Although keen on making a comeback by the season’s start, William’s recent injury history casts a shadow on his reliability. Should the Jets opt for a premier wide receiver such as Rome Odunze or Malik Nabers at the 10th pick, Bowers may experience an unexpected drop. Subsequent teams, positioned just after the top 10 spots, are predicted to prioritize different needs.

For instance, the Minnesota Vikings in the 11th spot already boast a talented tight end, T.J. Hockenson, a two-time Pro Bowl selectee. On the other hand, the Denver Broncos, in 12th place, have more pressing vacancies at the quarterback and cornerback positions.

Close behind, the Las Vegas Raiders, who have shown confidence in Michael Mayer, a tight end picked in the second round of the previous year, and the New Orleans Saints, at 14th, may look towards reinforcing their tackle position given Ryan Ramczyk’s prolonged recovery from a knee issue and the underwhelming performance of Trevor Penning, a first-round pick from 2022.

Should Bowers fall to the 15th pick, it’s likely the Indianapolis Colts would cease his descent, seizing him as a gem of a draft-day bargain. Ranked as the second-best prospect by the B/R Scouting team, Bowers is acclaimed as one of the most talented pass-catching tight ends to enter the professional scene in recent history.

In the scenario where Bowers is still up for grabs when it’s the Colts’ turn, head coach Shane Steichen would have more than enough reason to celebrate enthusiastically in the drafting chamber.

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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