2024 NFL Draft: Caleb Williams, Jayden Daniels, Drake Maye Likely Going 1, 2, 3

Albert Breer has the latest buzz on top picks and prospects with the Bears, Commanders and Patriots locked in on taking quarterbacks.
Daniels will likely be the No. 2 pick in the 2024 NFL draft.
Daniels will likely be the No. 2 pick in the 2024 NFL draft. / Matthew Dobbins-USA TODAY Sports

We have a little more than 24 hours to go to the NFL draft. And there’s a lot for us to get to …

 

• I’d be pretty surprised at this point if the top three picks don’t go like this—USC’s Caleb Williams to the Chicago Bears, LSU’s Jayden Daniels to the Washington Commanders, and North Carolina’s Drake Maye to the New England Patriots. I’d be stunned if the Commanders moved off 2, and, at this point, almost as surprised if the Patriots moved off 3, even with the New York Giants and Minnesota Vikings presumed to be fans of Maye.

 

The intrigue will then start at 4, where Cardinals GM Monti Ossenfort has told teams that he won’t move the pick until he’s on the clock, if he chooses to at all. At this point, I’m not convinced that a team is coming with an offer that’ll get him to pass on the chance to land Ohio State WR Marvin Harrison Jr.

 

Why? Well, as I see it, the Vikings are operating from a position of strength, and could very well call everyone’s bluff on needing to go up for a quarterback. For one, J.J. McCarthy may well make it to Minnesota at 11. For another, their situation is such where Kevin O’Connell and Kwesi Adofo-Mensah have the right to think, with cornerstones such as Justin Jefferson, Jordan Addison, T.J. Hockenson and Christian Darrisaw around the quarterback, that they can win with McCarthy or, say, Michael Penix Jr.

 

Now, over the last week or so, Minnesota has gotten a little more aggressive on calling around. The Vikings could still move up to 4 or 5 for McCarthy. But I’m not quite as sure that they do that as I was a few weeks ago.

 

• I was talking to someone last week who knows Los Angeles Chargers coach Jim Harbaugh very well, and asked about his over-the-top praise of McCarthy, which has gone well beyond what you’d normally hear from a college coach talking about a quarterback. This person explained it by laying out Harbaugh’s approach with his teams—and how he’s always treated his quarterbacks almost like they’re his sons.

 

So it shouldn’t be surprising that Harbaugh, sitting there at 5, could dictate McCarthy’s landing spot, should the Cardinals stick at 4. And if he were to do McCarthy a solid, the most obvious place to send him, of course, would be Minnesota.

 

As for what might happen if Los Angeles stays at 5, I still think it’s an offensive tackle, but I’m not positive it’s Notre Dame’s Joe Alt. As I mentioned Monday, my belief is that Alabama’s JC Latham is a real possibility there, too, with GM Joe Hortiz high on both he and Alt. Latham, as a road-grading right tackle, would also fit Harbaugh’s philosophy, and cause less disruption on the offensive line, allowing Rashawn Slater to stay at left tackle.

 

At any rate, if the Chargers and Tennessee Titans stay at 5 and 7, my money would be on one of them getting Alt and the other getting Latham.

 

• Georgia tight end Brock Bowers remains, to me, perhaps the most intriguing player in the first round. He’s an exception in so many ways—he’s smaller, doesn’t project great as a blocker, and you’d need to have a plan for how to use him. But his lack of verified numbers during the pre-draft process has  even more complicated for teams.

 

The other thing is that first-round history at his position is not great.

 

A team told me this Wednesday morning, and it does check out: Over the last 16 draft cycles, going back to 2008, just 13 tight ends have been drafted in the first round, and only two have gotten multi-year second contracts from the teams that drafted them. One was ’09 first-rounder Brandon Pettigrew, who tested free agency before returning to Detroit on a modest four-year, $12 million deal in ’14. The other is Cleveland’s David Njoku, who had to wait five years, and get tagged, but eventually did land a monster deal.

 

Meanwhile, this generation’s best at the position have come in the later rounds—Rob Gronkowski was a second-rounder, Travis Kelce and Mark Andrews were third-rounders, and George Kittle was a fifth-rounder. And this trend hasn’t shown that it’s going to flip, either. The last three first-round tight ends to come off rookie deals (Hayden Hurst, T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant) were all traded by the teams that drafted them.

 

I think part of it is that it's become harder to evaluate that position, with college football teams using the best ones as big receivers, rather than true tight ends. I think another piece of it is the complexity of the position, and its involvement in both the run and pass games, makes it harder to project and develop. Regardless of how you see it, though, it’s easy to see why some teams have pressed pause on Bowers, as electric and productive as he was at Georgia.

 

• The Denver Broncos have done their work on the quarterbacks. They worked out Oregon’s Bo Nix out in Eugene on March 18, worked out McCarthy in Ann Arbor after that, and had Penix in for a visit, too. So at the very least, Denver’s doing its due diligence on the position. The Broncos have also called around on trading up and trading down, with Bowers and the tackle class (Denver’s shopped Garret Bolles at different points of the last year or so) as possibilities I see for them in the first round.

 

• The two teams I’ve heard connected to Nix are the Broncos and Los Angeles Rams and both did get my attention just because I trust Sean Payton and Sean McVay implicitly on quarterbacks. If I were another team, I’d probably take note of that, too. For what it’s worth, I had one team tell me that Nix’s on-field analytics graded out highly, too.

 

• If there’s movement at the bottom of the first round, I think the tackle position is what winds up prompting it. My mock, which you’ll get tomorrow, has seven guys at that spot, and eight offensive linemen in the first 22 picks. It’s a good line class, and it’s also a position of need for a lot of teams, and most of those teams, rightly, figure it’ll be easier to find, say, a receiver on the second day of the draft than it will be a starting tackle.

 

• If you want to match players to schemes, I’d say it’s worth keeping an eye on Iowa’s Cooper DeJean with teams that run a Ravens-like defense. He’s the sort of chess piece that those teams like to have on the back end, and teams such as the Seahawks at 16, and the Ravens at 30, have him on their radars.

 

• Among the teams exploring a trade up are the Detroit Lions, who are sitting at 29. After two consecutive years of multiple first-round picks (which brought them Aidan Hutchinson, Jameson Williams, Jahmyr Gibbs and Jack Campbell), the Lions are likely looking for an edge opposite Hutchinson, or perhaps another corner.

 

• Just to reset, teams that have called on trading up within the top half of the first round: Las Vegas Raiders, Broncos, Vikings, Atlanta Falcons and Giants.

 

• A guy I feel a little bad for is North Carolina State LB Payton Wilson, who’s an outstanding player with really good tape. His medicals, for some teams, are disqualifying. In the takeaways on Monday, we had a rundown of guys with medical concerns, including Penix, UCLA’s Laiatu Latu, LSU’s Brian Thomas Jr. and Malik Nabers and Washington OT Troy Fautanu on the list. Toledo’s Quinyon Mitchell has a bit of a knee issue that’s come up, too, but it sounds like that’s more of a maintenance thing with some swelling that won’t impact his stock much.


Published |Modified
Albert Breer

ALBERT BREER