2024 NFL Draft Winners and Losers Include Kirk Cousins, Bo Nix and the Jets

The NFL’s Warren Buffet will strike it rich again, Sean Payton gets his future QB, the Jets find a tackle for Aaron Rodgers and defensive players take a back seat to offense.
The Falcons signed Cousins to a four-year, $180 million contract in free agency. And now Atlanta selected Penix in the first round on Thursday night.
The Falcons signed Cousins to a four-year, $180 million contract in free agency. And now Atlanta selected Penix in the first round on Thursday night. / Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

Outside of the Michael Penix Jr. selection by the Atlanta Falcons, Round 1 of the 2024 NFL draft on Thursday night in Detroit was relatively low on juice. But the quarterback position was the strength of the first round with six signal-callers among the first 12 selections. 

Here’s a closer look at our winners and losers, which included coaches, general managers, quarterbacks, an offensive lineman and a few teams who likely came away disappointed.


Jim Harbaugh

After leaving the NFL amid a tumultuous relationship with the executive structure around him, Jim Harbaugh returns with more prestige and power than ever. This was obvious with the selection of Joe Alt. Harbaugh was pining for an offensive tackle all offseason and wanted the Los Angeles Chargers to be tougher and more physical, and reminiscent of the Wolverine team he left behind. Despite a duo of talented wide receivers on the board, Harbaugh remained steadfast to the plan. Should Alt develop on schedule—I know there were some valid concerns about his height and some of the quirks he has developed as part of his pass set—we will be looking at a very comfortable Justin Herbert two or three years from now. 

ORR: Loaded QB draft class is about more than Caleb Williams | VERDERAME: First-round pick grades | Complete draft coverage

Green Bay Packers

There is no greater complement to Matt LaFleur and Brian Gutekunst than Raheem Morris taking Michael Penix Jr. at pick No. 8. Let’s think about what Morris is putting on the line here. This is the first draft pick of his second head coaching tenure. In short, a zero margin for error selection. Nevermind your thoughts on Penix; Morris saw what the Packers were able to do with Jordan Love and staked his first-round selection on a quarterback who, if all goes well, will not play for the next two years. 

Kirk Cousins

I did enjoy the “Kirk Cousins was not pleased” tidbit among all the insiders after the selection of Penix when Cousins seems to be missing the bigger picture. This absolutely gives him one more chance at free agency at the absurdly perfect time with multiple teams bidding for his services. This man is going to cash in again deep into his forties and have a chance to buy an NFL franchise faster than Tom Brady or Peyton Manning. The NFL’s Warren Buffet will strike again. In all seriousness, how are we not already projecting his age-37 season to take place in San Francisco after the 49ers’ refusal to sign Brock Purdy to a long-term contract? 

Bo Nix

Former Oregon quarterback Bo Nix
Nix was selected in the first round by the Broncos. / Rob Schumacher/The Republic / USA TODAY

I spent some time with Nix during the pre-draft process for our digital draft preview cover, and I was struck by how humbled he was by his journey. Nix was benched and shoved out the door at Auburn where his father played quarterback. He had to transfer to Oregon, where he was labeled a product of Kenny Dillingham, and the following year set the NCAA record for completion percentage without the offensive wunderkind coach. He’s 24, having played his first college game against Justin Herbert and now gets to play under Sean Payton with the Denver Broncos. 


Speaking of Nix’s journey, Andy Reid’s quote to us a few weeks back in the cover story seems prescient. “We’re all happy these guys are throwing more at the college level,” he told me. Reid and I were talking about the fact that there are more older quarterbacks with knowledge of multiple systems entering the draft pool. Penix, Jayden Daniels and Nix both played at two schools and had more than 40 starts. I’m confident this is the new normal, and that we’ll see a less turbulent passage from the college game to the pros. 

JC Latham

I know that some teams liked Latham better than Joe Alt. And I’m sure that Latham would have liked to have been the first offensive lineman drafted in 2024. But, through a series of events that brought Brian Callahan to the Tennessee Titans, and, subsequently Bill Callahan to Tennessee, Latham absolutely lucked out. In my mind, the former Alabama tackle sidling up with the best offensive line coach in the NFL guarantees him a long and prosperous career.  

New York Jets

I had the Jets trading up for a wide receiver in my surprisingly half-decent mock draft, not because I thought that’s what they should do, but because I felt that’s what they would do. The one issue with being perpetually all in is that the eagerness from ownership can begin to lean on the decision-making processes of the general manager. The pragmatic move was to backstop two excellent veteran tackles in Tyron Smith and Morgan Moses with a raw prospect such as Olu Fashanu and that’s exactly what they did. 

Chicago Bears

Former Washington receiver Rome Odunze
The Bears selected Odunze and Caleb Williams in the first round Thursday night. / Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Bears staying at No. 9 with their second first-round pick and getting Rome Odunze feels like incredibly good luck. But with Ryan Poles, Ian Cunningham and the rest of that front office, it may just be an intimate understanding of the board. Odunze was my favorite receiver outside of Marvin Harrison Jr., and, more importantly, appears to be an elite human being which can be just as important when it comes to building a roster. 


Kirk Cousins

Obviously, Cousins now understands that his time with the Atlanta Falcons will likely be defined by the guaranteed money on his contract. While I don’t know what he envisioned being 35 and coming off a torn Achilles, and I don’t think he’ll cause a fuss in the locker room, there is something difficult about having your replacement selected before starting a job on Day 1. Cousins is competitive and there will now be some additional pressure on him to accept a role of mentorship, which was thrust on him after the Falcons selected Penix. I understand why the Falcons waited to tell him, especially because Atlanta was able to fly under the radar and not become the target of a trade up from either Denver or Minnesota.  

Kwesi Adofo-Mensah

The Minnesota Vikings GM should take comfort. Last year I questioned Houston Texans GM Nick Caserio for his maneuvering of the board and Caserio ended up with a playoff berth and dual rookies of the year. I wrote about the J.J. McCarthy pick here, but from a broader perspective, I wonder whether Adofo-Mensah was trying to get too cute. Instead of inching up for QB5 and then inching up again for EDGE2, why wouldn’t you go all in for one of those players? Specifically quarterback. Dallas Turner is great, and I had him projected to the New England Patriots in my mock draft because I felt like he’d fit a Belichick-inspired system. He’ll get along great with Vikings defensive coordinator Brian Flores. But this defense feels far away, and the way to ultimately compensate would be to elevate the offense to the point where they can outscore opponents consistently. Additionally, there were enough smart people believing that there was a serious talent dropoff after pick No. 15 to make me wonder if the Vikings were foolishly investing in a kind of Bermuda Triangle portion of the draft. McCarthy isn’t going to immediately be the quarterback who can put up 28 points per game. This felt like the draft for the Vikings to tear their shirts off and kick the door down. We certainly didn’t get that. 

Draft intrigue

Outside of the Penix selection, which surprised many (but shouldn’t, again, because the quarterback position was the strength of this draft, and was far superior to the middling defensive class that it represented a smart long-term value play), Round 1 was relatively low on juice. We knew that Caleb Williams was going No. 1 due to his refusal to play along with the pre-draft charade. He took one pre-draft visit and was throwing with his future teammates weeks ago. We also knew Daniels, for roughly a month, was QB2. And, again, the back end of this first round felt reminiscent to the 2013 draft, where the talent pool was relatively thin and centered on one side of the ball. This was a great draft for those of us who like to tout the fact that we got more than four picks in our mock draft correct, which usually means it’s a bit of a sleeper for those tuning in at home. 

Defensive players…forever?

Former UCLA defensive end Laiatu Latu
Latu was the first defensive player selected in the first round. / Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The first defensive player selected didn’t go until No. 15. Laiatu Latu broke the longest streak of offensive players picked in the modern draft era. While this feels circumstantial—Latu, had he not come into the draft with a medical red flag, would have probably been taken in the top five, and this was generally a down year after a few consecutive seasons with strong edge rushing and defensive back presence—is there a bigger question to be asked here? I’m not saying defense isn’t important, but do we recalibrate our scales after every rule shift favors the offense? At some point, does it make more sense to simply amass more offensive talent than it does to build a stout defense? It feels more like the value defensively is in coordinators who can throw a diverse schematic library at an opponent, a la Steve Spagnuolo, than it is hoping to put together a group of shut-down corners who will inevitably get called for pass interference multiple times in a game for grazing the wide receiver’s nameplate. 

Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys trading down after hiding all offseason felt a bit like a middle finger to their fanbase. There were still some impact players on the board, but instead Dallas handed the pick to a conference rival who seems to be taking their disposition as a contender more seriously. The Cowboys are acting like the Patriots at the back end of the Tom Brady era, starving the roster of vital veteran talent and also just hurling draft capital into the wind. This has been a miserable offseason for Dallas, and it’s only going to get worse as the team attempts to lowball CeeDee Lamb, one of the best receivers in the NFL (who just got more expensive after the A.J. Brown deal) and the best defensive player in the NFL, Micah Parsons (who shouldn’t rest until he soundly tamps down the Nick Bosa contract). Some teams don’t deserve good players.  

Las Vegas Raiders 

Brock Bowers is great, but how effective is a two-tight end combination when it’s Gardner Minshew and Aidan O’Connell under center? Don’t get me wrong, I love a dynamic 12-personnel offense and I think it allows teams to negate a lot of deficiencies (perhaps helping the Raiders elevate their QB play by forcing more defenses into vanilla base-type looks). There was a reason I was so high on the Packers’ draft last year and why I’ve been bullish on the Chiefs to find an adequate TE2 for Travis Kelce toward the back end of his career. I don’t know ultimately how interested the Raiders were in taking a quarterback, but even if Bowers has a Sam LaPorta outlier season for a rookie tight end, it seems like the immediate value won’t be there. This was a wide-ranging QB class with a flavor for almost anyone, and for Las Vegas to miss out on McCarthy when it seemed like the Vikings simply had to toss in a few more nickels, may look bad in hindsight if the class of 2025 doesn’t offer any options.  

Buffalo Bills

Former Texas Longhorns receiver Xavier Worthy
Worthy adds more speed to a Chiefs offense featuring Mahomes, Kelce and Marquise "Hollywood" Brown. / Sara Diggins/American-Statesman / USA

Buffalo handed the Chiefs Patrick Mahomes in 2017, and has spent the last half-dozen years suffering for it. And now it allowed the Chiefs to come up and draft Xavier Worthy, a dynamic, multi-tooled receiver with Tyreek Hill vibes who will contribute heavily to the new kickoff return setup and will be an immediate all-distance threat in an offense featuring speed motion more beautifully than any team in the league. Also, the Bills didn’t really net that much on the trade. According to ESPN analytics, it was one of the cheapest first-round trade ups of the past two decades. So, why on earth did they hand the biggest impediment to them reaching a Super Bowl an excellent player? I get that Sean McDermott has respect for Andy Reid, but how do you even let this call get patched through? Also, it’s not like we didn’t know the Chiefs were going receiver here. The Bills are in desperate need at the position themselves. 

John Pluym


John Pluym is the managing editor for NFL and golf content at Sports Illustrated. A sports history buff, he previously spent 10 years at ESPN overseeing NFL coverage. John has won several awards throughout his career, including from the Society of News Design and Associated Press Sports Editors. As a native Minnesotan, he enjoys spending time on his boat and playing golf.