2024 NFL Draft Grades - Round 1

Apr 26th 2024

Hayden Winks

The only time to judge the 2024 NFL Draft is directly after it's over. Hindsight is 20/20. I only care about the process of each pick, how much they "reached" over the best available prospects, how much the pick aligned with team needs, and if they are planning on playing the prospect in his best position. I have my Top 100 Big Board here. I'm going to use it to judge these picks. The GPA of this year's Round 1 was a 3.09, which was better than my high school GPA so who am I to judge?!?!

1. Chicago Bears - Caleb Williams (A+)

Williams was not only the top player in the draft, but also the best prospect I've graded since doing this for a living. Yes, even better than Trevor Lawrence. His upside is tremendous out of structure. His play inside the pocket shouldn't go overlooked, however. Williams can read defenses and throw with accuracy to all levels, plus can step up to make throws. If he can not hold the ball one-handed like Mike Vick under pressure, then we're really cooking. He should open as a huge favorite for OROY.

2. Jayden Daniels - QB2 Jayden Daniels (C)

If he can stay healthy with his size and playing style, then Daniels provides a nice floor for the Commanders because he'll scramble for first downs and can throw downfield with nice accuracy. Expect a ton of slot fades and go balls to Terry McLaurin and Jahan Dotson as a rookie. Daniels is unproven as a middle of the field thrower and didn't attempt a pass on 50% of his pressured dropbacks. That makes me nervous behind this in-progress offensive line. He was my QB4 in this loaded draft class, but he has the tools to take over games.

3. Patriots - Drake Maye (A)

Maye falls into the worst environment, which makes me nervous, but he has the tools of the elites at the position. It'll take him time to work on his footwork and accuracy, so it'd make sense if Jacoby Brissett started 5-10 games during Maye's rookie season. Even though Maye would miss throws, he was setting protections pre-snap and then would scramble for first downs all the time. His flash plays were mesmerizing. His missed free completions were tilting. I hope the Patriots can hit on some WRs and OTs by the time his mechanics are improved because he has top-8 QB ability deep down.

4. Cardinals - Marvin Harrison Jr. (A)

He was the easiest receiver evaluation in a long time and will hit the ground running in this offense, in terms of fantasy value. Kyler Murray doesn't have other receivers to throw to, aside from TE Trey McBride. He'll be a weapon in the red zone and will open up the offense between the 20s as a true X receiver. Harrison is great against press coverage and with ball tracking. To reach the elite tier of receiver, he'll have to prove to be the special athlete, too. That's the only question mark right now.

5. Chargers - Joe Alt (A-)

Alt is fantastic. He was the top non-QB in the draft on my general board. For as tall as he is, Alt can anchor and move his feet well. He has all the athletic traits to transition from left to right tackle at the NFL, though that is adding some projection for a top-5 overall selection. It gives Justin Herbert three first round offensive linemen to start the Jim Harbaugh era. We'll just have to monitor how they figure out the receiver room. It'll be difficult to match what Malik Nabers would've brought to this offense. He would've been my pick. Alt would've been my second choice.

6. Giants - Malik Nabers (A)

This was a tough decision with J.J. McCarthy on the board still, but New York is pot committed with their Daniel Jones contract and was equally as desperate for competent receiver play. Nabers is a super star talent out of the slot. He'll be the alpha immediately, though it'll be interesting to see him face more press coverage from the outside in this offense assuming they want slot Wan'Dale Robinson in 3-WR sets, too. I believe Nabers can win from there, but that's a tiny projection after he owned on slot fades in college. This selection will make them a suitor for Dak Prescott in the 2025 offseason if you really want to spin things forward.

7. Titans - JC Latham (A-)

Sniped on Alt, the Titans settle for the Alabama right tackle. Latham will be transitioning from right to left tackle immediately, a position he played in high school. He's a thickly-built mauler in the ground game but also possesses 97th-percentile arm length, which'll help him in pass protection. He was my OT2 and a top-10 overall player on my board. Given their desperation on the offensive line, I fully understand why they went Latham over Rome Odunze and JJ McCarthy, both who I had ranked higher.

8. Falcons - Michael Penix (F)

Kirk Cousins is on a $100M guaranteed contract with $27M of them guaranteed in 2025. If Penix is on the field within two years, then the Cousins contract is a disaster. If Penix is on the field three years from now, then the Falcons have wasted half of his cheap years. Equally as important, Penix has some red flags as a prospect. He'll be 26 years old if he starts three years from now, has had four major injuries, didn't create as a rusher, and was arguably a product of an elite supporting cast at Washington. Penix's accuracy is a bit overrated, but he can throw the ball downfield and to the sideline. We'll see if his elite pro day is a sign of a more diverse skill set at the next level. Based on his college tape, I had a Round 2 grade on him (#36 overall). He was a massive reach in terms of consensus rankings (#34), too, but the NFL seemed to be all over him:

9. Bears - Rome Odunze (A)

Surrounding Caleb with more offensive talent is smart, and Odunze has the makings of a hard-to-find X receiver capable of winning at all levels. He has position versatility, the size to win in the red zone, and after learning under Keenan Allen is likely to be one of the best route runners in due time. Odunze is a high floor prospect and was the top available prospect on my board (#8 overall). Don't be surprised if his numbers are relatively limited as a rookie while playing next to Keenan and D.J. Moore. He'll be just fine long term.

10. Vikings - J.J. McCarthy (A)

The Vikings called the Giants' bluff, and it paid off. They didn't trade much to secure him despite some speculation that it would've cost multiple firsts to get him. McCarthy is an ideal fit for this offense because he can throw on play action, attack the middle of the field, and can make the occasion play with his legs. Once he gets stronger, McCarthy should be more accurate to the sidelines and downfield. He's lucky to be in this environment. He's also talented enough to give them a dynamic Kirk Cousins didn't have, not to mention being one-fifth the cost. I expect him to start at least half the games after they give Sam Darnold a real crack at things. He was #3 on my board.

11. Jets - Olu Fashanu (A)

Protecting Aaron Rodgers in 2024 and finding a long-term left tackle beyond the Rodgers' era was the smart move, even though others wanted the flashier Brock Bowers. Fashanu is a left tackle that can dance for being a thickly-built player, but he's likely to play guard while the rest of the line is healthy as a rookie. That's totally okay because he has the drive and power in the ground game. In fact, Fashanu dominated in this new stat: average length of engagement as a blocker. He was my highest-graded player available (#10), and they added some draft capital with the pick swap, too.

12. Broncos - Bo Nix (A-)

Consensus rankings didn't like Nix (#38), but the Duck was up at #14 for me. It's just hard to find Power 5 prospects with 97th percentile EPA per play outside the top-10 overall picks. He's a quick-hitting distributor at the very least with the athletic traits just one tier above the Andy Dalton types. His accuracy is just fine, but Nix was a solid decision-maker, who often took the conservative throw. To be a plus starter, Nix has to be more willing to fire a pass downfield. That said, his check downs were effective. Even after removing screens and RPOs, Nix was 1st in PFF grade and 2nd in EPA per play. This was a worthwhile gamble after considering five quarterbacks were gone already and that their current depth chart was Jarrett Stidham and Zach Wilson.

13. Raiders - Brock Bowers (B)

Once adjusted for his youth and the Georgia target competition, Bowers was the most productive tight end in my database since at least 2005. He's a monster in the flats and can work the seams, too. Bowers will be an easy button for a decade and is one of the highest floor prospects outside of the top-10 overall. The landing spot is a bit iffy after they just drafted Michael Mayer (who plays similarly) in the second round last year, so we'll see how well Bowers can hold up as an inline guy. He wasn't my top-ranked available player, but the Raiders didn't need the available edge rushers based on their team needs. Right tackle Amarius Mims was the best player on my board at a major position of need.

14. Saints - Taliese Fuaga (C)

New Orleans had zero flexibility based on their self-inflicted cap constraints and the unfortunate retirements they had with two offensive tackles. Fuaga was a multi-year starting right tackle in the Oregon State zone-heavy offense, but I graded him as a guard in my rankings (#21) because he only has 17th percentile arm length if he stays outside. He's a better run blocker than pass protector, too, which goes against the way most teams win games. I would've taken Amarius Mims (#15), who has the size and athletic traits of a legit tackle.

15. Colts - Laiatu Latu (A)

It's always scary to draft a player who had neck surgery, but Latu was the most dominant edge rusher in his 25 games since. His 23% pressure rate is elite, and he lit up the NFL Combine, too. He joins an underrated pass-rushing duo in Indianapolis and should flirt with 7-10 sacks from the get go given his rolodex of pass-rush moves. He was my top available player (#12).

16. Seahawks - Byron Murphy (B)

Defensive tackle is an important part of the Mike MacDonald defense, and Murphy compares closely to Ravens star DT Justin Madubukie. He'll be able to rush the passer from the interior and fights against the run despite being relatively undersized. The Seahawks had their choice of Murphy (#17) or EDGE Dallas Turner (#12), who I had ranked slightly higher. He'll work in with Leonard Williams and Dre'Mont Jones as a rookie. It's suddenly a deep group.

17. Vikings - Dallas Turner (B)

DC Brian Flores cooked without much defensive talent last year, and now he has a potential dominant pure edge rusher. Turner has 98th percentile speed for the position and incredible length to keep tackles off his chest. His 20% pressure rate only trailed Latu in this class, and he'll get great one-on-one looks in this defense because they show pressure at the line of scrimmage, forcing the OL to set up one-on-one. He was a good value in terms of best player available (#12), but the Vikings did lose meaningful draft capital by moving up. Some analysis suggest the move from 23rd to 17th cost a future 2nd rounder when all set-and-done. That knocks down the grade a full letter.

18. Bengals - Amarius Mims (A-)

Protecting Joe Burrow is obviously a major priority, but getting Mims up to speed immediately will determine how well this draft pick goes because the Bengals are in their final season with Burrow, Ja'Marr Chase, and Tee Higgins under reasonable contracts. Mims is unique in that he has just 800 snaps, yet led the class with an absurd 0.7% blown block rate. Even though he's raw, Mims is simply too big (6'7"/340 with 98th percentile arms) and athletic (86th percentile speed) to get around. Ultimately that's the name of the game. The only debate I would've had was drafting WR Brian Thomas Jr. (#13 overall) instead. Mims was 15th overall on my board. I'm nitpicking.

19. Rams - Jared Verse (C+)

The 23.6-year-old is a little older than I'd like for a top-20 overall pick and his production was just mediocre at Florida State. Verse had a 16% pressure rate with 40th percentile tackles for loss, which is why he was only 23rd overall on my big board. That said, he plays very tough with NFL size (6'4/254) and 86th percentile athleticism. It just would've been more fun if Sean McVay spent his first Round 1 draft pick since Jared Goff on Brian Thomas Jr. while they wind down the Matthew Stafford era.

20. Steelers - Troy Fautanu (C)

Fautanu was a left tackle at Washington, and Mike Tomlin said they view him as a tackle despite his potential flexibility across the offensive line. Some teams viewed him as a guard or center only because his tackle tape is chaos. He has the length to be a left tackle. He just has to stay under more control instead of relying on his elite athleticism to bail him out. Fautanu makes me nervous at left tackle with sack artists Russell Wilson and Justin Fields as quarterbacks. He was 22nd on my board assuming he was going to play interior linemen. I didn't love him at tackle.

21. Dolphins - Chop Robinson (D)

This is a good landing spot for Robinson to develop. They have Bradley Chubb and Jaelan Phillips as their primary rushers, while Robinson can rotate in on passing downs when those two need a break. He's all explosiveness right now (97th percentile), but his athleticism didn't lead to any production in college. In fact, Robinson's 13% pressure rate and 4.0 sacks worry me in the top-25 overall. Perhaps even more worrisome are his 32.5-inch arms and 15 total tackles. 15 total tackles is insane!!! It's a massive projection to think he'll contribute against the run whatsoever.

22. Eagles - Quinyon Mitchell (A)

GM Howie Roseman strikes again. In my mock draft, I had the Eagles trading up for Mitchell at 16th overall, but he stayed patient and still lands a potential CB1. The Toledo product dominated MAC competition, then balled out at the Senior Bowl, then showed freaky traits at the NFL Combine (20 bench press reps at 195 was just showing off). Mitchell's zone coverage experience pairs up well with DC Vic Fangio. He can play inside or outside as a rookie while Philly waits for their veterans' contracts to expire. Long term, Mitchell will be their outside CB1, assuming the transition up against better competition isn't too much. I don't think it'll be an issue. He was the top available player on my board (#18) among the positions the Eagles needed. Go Birds.

23. Jaguars - Brian Thomas Jr. (A+)

Before making this selection, the Jaguars added the equivalent to a second round pick by trading down from 16th overall. That's already a major win for a team that has holes. On top of that, Thomas was major value compared to my board (#13) and fits perfectly into this offense. He'll be given the Calvin Ridley role as a sideline vertical option during his rookie season while he develops a full route tree. He has the athleticism to be on the DK Metcalf arc and should open things up for Lawrence on downfield passing concepts.

24. Lions - Terrion Arnold (B)

This is an excellent scheme and team need fit for GM Brad Holmes, who has said how picky he is with his corners. Going into Tuscaloosa to find another starter in the Lions secondary is smart. Arnold has experience inside and outside, in man and in zone, and is a willing tackler in run defense. While he's not an athletic shadow CB1, Arnold partially makes up for it with his instincts and fluidity. Those traits led to a 19th overall ranking by me. The only downfall with this draft pick was the Lions' excess trade value lost in moving up. They lost the equivalence of a 3rd or 4th rounder with the move up.

25. Packers - Jordan Morgan (B)

This is a textbook Packers selection. He's a two-time captain, an elite athlete, experience at tackle, and the versatility to kick inside. The Packers will see who their best five are in training camp, but Morgan has the skills to be an awesome guard given his athletic traits, particularly in a zone offense like LaFleur's. He was the #29 overall prospect on my board, right next to Graham Barton (#28) who was eerily similar as a prospect.

26. Buccaneers - Graham Barton (B-)

Tampa Bay hasn't been able to run the ball in years after losing multiple interior starters to injuries and retirement. Barton played center as a freshman before starting at left tackle for his final three seasons. I thought he was too tall (6'5") in his snaps at center, but the Bucs plan on moving him back there as a rookie. He's a rare athlete with a mean streak. That's not a bad combo. Barton was my #28 prospect, though that was assuming he'd play guard instead of center. I would've drafted a corner or Oregon C Jackson Powers-Johnson (#27).

27. Cardinals - Darius Robinson (C)

The risk is making sure he doesn't get caught between edge rusher and defensive tackle. He played inside as a redshirt junior (9% pressure rate), then moved to edge as a redshirt senior (13% pressure rate). Neither are remarkable pressure numbers, though he is an above-average run defender at each spot. Robinson doesn't have the athletic traits to be a primary edge rusher in my opinion. According to his NFL Combine results, Robinson had 92nd percentile weight, 9th percentile speed, and 1st percentile agility as an edge. Those are 5th percentile, 78th percentile, and 26th percentile scores at defensive tackle. That's why he ended up as my #39 overall player. Everyone apparently loves this dude, so he is a candidate to prove me wrong.

28. Chiefs - Xavier Worthy (A-)

The Bills have some balls to hand a receiver right over to the AFC Playoff rival, and the Chiefs only surrendered the equivalent of a sixth rounder. According to ESPN's Seth Walder, this is one of the cheapest move ups first-round trades of the decade. Worthy would be more boom-bust in other offenses because of his frame, but Andy Reid will have a direct plan in place. Worthy can be a screen player and then shred corners on those "cheat motions" the Dolphins run with Tyreek Hill. As an isolated receiver, Worthy needs some development as a legit route runner but has flashed the start-stop ability and tempo at times. He's a far better talent than Rashee Rice, who is more of a dirty work player, and will do well to learn under the similar-sized Marquise Brown in 2024. The only question is what the Chiefs' plan is at left tackle. Keeping Patrick Mahomes upright needs to be a Day 2 priority.

29. Cowboys - Tyler Guyton (B-)

The trade down from 24th overall netted out the equivalent of an extra third or fourth rounder, so this was a winning selection before they turned the card in. Guyton doesn't fit Jerry Jones' "all in" ethos for 2024, however. He's a work-in-progress tackle with just 14 career starts. He actually started his collegiate career as a Horned Toad tight end before switching things up at Oklahoma. Dallas will also be moving Guyton from right to left tackle as a rookie, a bold decision when the front office appears willing to let Dak Prescott play out the final year of his deal without an extension (insane). I'm questioning the overall plan here, but the saving grade was the excess capital in the trade down. Guyton was #35 on my board.

30. Ravens - Nate Wiggins (A)

Baltimore scoops up value yet again. Wiggins (#20 overall) isn't a fit for everyone because he's 178 pounds, but he has a few distinguishable traits. Unlike most prospects, Wiggins played man coverage on 59% of his snaps and has the elite speed (4.28 forty) to shut down vertical pass attempts. On tape, Wiggins showed some bark and competitiveness despite not being a consistent tackler. That's okay in this defense, as the rest of the back seven are filled with monster tacklers already. Wiggins can match up with speedsters like Ja'Marr Chase, George Pickens, and Amari Cooper in this division. That's ideal with Marlon Humphry rooming the slot.

31. 49ers - Ricky Pearsall (B-)

Pearsall doesn't have the stats or age of most Round 1 receivers, but he did look the part on tape. He's a stud athlete with the ability to win as a vertical slot, then has the shiftiness to run option routes underneath. Pearsall made some of the most acrobatic catches imaginable and can play outside his frame on occasion. He's unlikely to be a full-time flanker due to his size, and it's too early to tell what his exact role will be in this offense. There are Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel trade rumors. This selection would suggest Deebo is the one to be moved, as he shares more skillset overlap with Pearsall. Rizzy was 42nd on my board.

32. Panthers - Xavier Legette (C-)

Carolina moved up one pick, surrendering the equivalent of a sixth rounder in trade value. This pick exchange does become $2.5M more expensive against the cap over the next four years compared to if they would've stayed at 33rd overall. All that is marginal. The worry with this pick was the reach. Legette was 67th overall on my board, which was close to consensus rankings. There were multiple big-bodied or speedy receivers still available with better grades, like AD Mitchell, Keon Coleman, Troy Franklin, and Ja'Lynn Polk. His fit next to Diontae Johnson and Adam Thielen makes sense, however. Legette is a willing blocker, can be a red zone threat, and bring back kicks as a returner. He just needs to develop his hands and general timing as a receiver to be a relied-upon option.