Projecting the QB Stars and Busts of the 2024 NFL Draft

Six quarterbacks are in the mix to be first-round selections, but not all of them are destined for greatness.
Daniels possesses an elite arm and eye-popping athleticism, but the Heisman winner isn’t considered a sure thing because of his slim frame and age (23).
Daniels possesses an elite arm and eye-popping athleticism, but the Heisman winner isn’t considered a sure thing because of his slim frame and age (23). / Matthew Dobbins-USA TODAY Sports

This is an article that assuredly won’t result in screenshots and people screaming at me a decade from now that I was wrong when I’m inevitably off the mark with a few of these.

But that’s the job. And if I’m going to be screamed at, I might as well really lean into a topic that creates division more than anything in this country … save for a certain event in November.

On April 25, six quarterbacks have a realistic shot to be taken in the first round of the 2024 NFL draft. History says two will be stars, two will be average and two will be busts. I’m going to try my hand at predicting who becomes what, which is like trying to hit a tee shot through a tornado.

Alright, enough preamble. Let's go.

Former USC quarterback Caleb Williams
Williams will go to the Bears with the first pick in the draft. / Jessica Alcheh-USA TODAY Sports

Star: Caleb Williams, USC

Sometimes, we don’t need to overcomplicate things. Williams has been seen as a generational prospect for the past two seasons, and nothing has changed that outlook. He’s healthy, and he has all the tools required to play at the highest level.

With the Trojans, Williams threw for 8,170 yards and 72 touchdowns against 10 interceptions across two seasons, largely doing so with a middling roster. The Chicago Bears will take him with the first- pick, and should benefit with 15 years-or-so of elite quarterback play.

Average: Jayden Daniels, LSU

Daniels is a tough call. His athleticism is obscene, as evidenced by 1,134 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns with LSU during his Heisman season. He also has a terrific arm capable of making all of the throws.

However, he takes huge hits and at only 210 pounds, that’s concerning. His total package is too enticing to say he’s going to be a bust. If he is, it’s probably because of the physical toll.

Former Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy
McCarthy seems destined to be a top-five pick. / Melanie Maxwell / USA TODAY NETWORK

Bust: J.J. McCarthy, Michigan 

McCarthy is fascinating. He’s gained significant momentum in the media over the past few months, now seemingly about to be a top-five pick in the draft.

Still, McCarthy wasn’t asked to do a ton for the national champions. During the 2023 season, he threw 332 passes. Compare that to Williams, for example, who had 388 attempts in three fewer games. 

Bottom line: Is McCarthy capable of a much larger role, or only capable of a small part in the play?

Washington QB Michael Penix Jr.
Penix turns 24 next month but his prolific numbers at Washington suggest the southpaw could adjust quickly to the NFL. / Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Star: Michael Penix Jr., Washington

Penix’s future is all about health. The former Huskies star tore his ACL twice in college, which played a large part in limiting him to 21 games over four years with the Indiana Hoosiers before transferring to Washington.

With the Huskies, Penix exploded. In two seasons, he threw for 9,544 yards and 69 touchdowns with 17 interceptions, consistently showing off an elite deep ball. Penix turns 24 in May, and the injuries are concerning, but he’s been healthy since going to Washington, and looks to be getting better every year.

Former North Carolina quarterback Drake Maye
Maye has a boom of bust potential, so where he ends up will likely determine his fate. / Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

Average: Drake Maye, North Carolina

Of the six quarterbacks, Maye is the youngest, turning 22 in August. He’s also coming from the school with the least talent around him. Both of those facts beg the question of how much Maye can still improve.

Conversely, Maye has a longer throwing motion and struggled to deal with pressure while with the Tar Heels. Those issues are coachable, but also significant. Whether Maye succeeds or fails may depend on who is running his quarterbacks room at the NFL level.

Former Oregon quarterback Bo Nix
Nix threw for 4,508 yards and 45 touchdowns in 2023. / Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Bust: Bo Nix, Oregon

Nix is already 24 years old and struggled mightily at his first stop with Auburn before having success in the Pac-12 with Oregon. Sound like Penix? Absolutely, but there are key differences. 

Penix struggled to succeed at Indiana largely because of injuries, which is the big concern around his draft stock. Nix was healthy, but completed less than 60 percent of his attempts as a Tiger, with 39 touchdown passes over three seasons. Hopefully Nix finds the right situation because he needs one more than the other five. Playing for the Ducks worked out well for Nix, who threw for 74 touchdowns and only 10 interceptions in two seasons.

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Will Laws


Will Laws is programming editor who writes about baseball and edits content across Sports Illustrated’s digital site. He has covered MLB since 2014 and previously worked for Yahoo, Graphiq, and the Raleigh News & Observer. Will’s work also has appeared on Yahoo Sports, and AOL.