Takeaways: Quick NFL Draft Reviews for All 32 Teams

The 2024 NFL draft served many reminders that not every franchise approaches team building the same way.
Michael Penix Jr.’s selection by the Falcons was the most shocking pick of the draft.
Michael Penix Jr.’s selection by the Falcons was the most shocking pick of the draft. / Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

In lieu of your regularly scheduled set of 10 takeaways, this week we’re rolling out 32 of them, one for each team with the 2024 NFL draft now done and dusted …

• The first thing I think of when I look at the Arizona Cardinals’ class is what a great job general manager Monti Ossenfort has done building up capital the past two years, which led to the team having seven picks in the first three rounds in this year’s draft. Now, the trick will be hitting on some of these guys. And to that end, I really like the pick of Rutgers cornerback Max Melton in the second round. Interestingly enough, the way he covered new teammate Marvin Harrison Jr. is a part of the equation in teams, including Arizona, thinking he could become another Rutgers alum to develop into a top-end NFL defensive back.

2024 NFL draft grades: Analysis of every team's picks

• So what did the Atlanta Falcons pass on by taking Michael Penix Jr. at No. 8? The opportunity to add a foundational piece to their defensive front such as Alabama edge Dallas Turner or Texas defensive tackle Byron Murphy II. Because of that, it’ll be interesting to follow their next three picks—defensive tackles Ruke Orhorhoro and Brandon Dorlus, and defensive end Bralen Trice. All addressed the need Turner or Murphy would have. Whether they can make an impact to make up for spending the eighth pick elsewhere remains to be seen.

• Mostly, on the Baltimore Ravens, I’d say it’s worth trusting their judgment. But I did find it interesting that they effectively drafted the second piece of a couple bookends—one being the Washington offensive tackles (Roger Rosengarten), the other the Penn State edge rushers (Adisa Issac). My sense would be Baltimore’s betting on the come on both.

• The way the Buffalo Bills moved down twice, amassed capital, and spread that capital around the roster made sense—because after this offseason purge, there were holes everywhere. The first two picks—Florida State wide receiver Keon Coleman (No. 33) and Utah safety Cole Bishop (No. 60)—were great examples of where need met quality. Both could go a long way in replacing cornerstones Stefon Diggs, Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer.

• The Carolina Panthers came in focused on upgrading the skill-position talent around Bryce Young, and that was certainly accomplished in the first 101 picks, with the trade up for wide receiver Xavier Legette, the deal down for running back Jonathon Brooks, and snagging tight end Ja’Tavion Sanders at pick No. 101. Those three, in particular, also show this class as a long-term play for the team. Legette and Sanders are talented, but need development, and Brooks’s impact as a rookie figures to be hampered by the fact that he’s coming off a torn ACL.

Wide receiver Rome Odunze, left, and quarterback Caleb Williams hold up Chicago Bears jerseys after being drafted.
Odunze and Williams are expected to form the core of the Bears’ offense for the next decade. / David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

• The Chicago Bears are following the Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes blueprint in building around Caleb Williams. Which makes sense since GM Ryan Poles came from Kansas City. After Williams, the team used its next two picks on a target (Washington’s Rome Odunze) and bodyguard (Yale’s Kiran Amegadjie) for the No. 1 pick. I also like the upside play with Kansas pass-rusher Austin Booker (who probably should’ve stayed in school). And, well, if you’re drafting a punter from Iowa (Tory Taylor), you’re getting a battle-tested dude.

The Cincinnati Bengals came so close to landing Byron Murphy II, who would have been a perfect fit. But they made up for it grabbing Michigan defensive tackle Kris Jenkins in the second round. And getting Amarius Mims, who may need a redshirt year, to stop the revolving door at tackle was big. As for the third-rounder, Alabama wideout Jermaine Burton had some red flags, but he’s talented.

• For the 100th consecutive year (or at least it seems like that), the Cleveland Browns were a little light on high-end picks. Combine that with the fact that their roster doesn’t have many holes, and taking a big swing on Ohio State defensive tackle Michael Hall, who can be a handful on and off the field, makes sense. Hall may be as talented as any interior pass rusher in the class. We’ll see if defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz and Co. can get it out of him.

• The Dallas Cowboys continued to invest in their offensive line. Oklahoma’s Tyler Guyton has the talent to be a long-term left tackle in the league, and Will McClay and the Joneses then doubled back and picked road-grading Kansas State guard Cooper Beebe in the third round. That’s smart, sensible drafting with some of the moving parts the team has up front.

• The Denver Broncos draft will be judged on Bo Nix. That said, for a team with just two picks in the top 100, landing a couple of skill guys in Oregon wide receiver Troy Franklin and Notre Dame running back Audric Estime—both of whom could play right away and outperform their draft position—merits some mention.

• The Detroit Lions came into the offseason with a very clear corner need. They explored trading for L’Jarius Sneed. They did a lower-end trade for Bucs veteran Carlton Davis. And over the weekend, they traded up for Alabama’s Terrion Arnold, and landed Missouri’s Ennis Rakestraw Jr. at pick No. 61. Those moves attacked the issue head-on, and are a reflection of how complete a roster GM Brad Holmes and coach Dan Campbell have built. Another nugget here? Two years in a row, the Lions have gotten the guy NFL teams regarded as Nick Saban’s favorite prospect: Brian Branch last year and Arnold this year.

• What I liked with the Green Bay Packers draft is you could see a plan. They addressed their biggest need with Arizona offensive tackle Jordan Morgan at No. 25. They’d been connected to Iowa DB Cooper DeJean, who went to Philadelphia at No. 40. The Packers traded out of No. 41 and took another guy they’d been connected to at a position of need in Texas A&M linebacker Edgerrin Cooper at No. 45. Green Bay then filled that need for a safety at No. 58 with a really good player in Georgia’s Javon Bullard. I like draft classes you could explain to an 8-year-old. This is one of those.

• I know the Houston Texans were trying to sneak back into the first round from No. 42. And the fact that they took Kamari Lassiter at 42 would indicate that maybe it would’ve been to catch a falling Quinyon Mitchell or Arnold. Or … maybe it was to get another piece for the defensive line. They didn’t wind up getting one until the seventh round (they took two there), and that might indicate they had a few up high they liked, and then a dropoff.

UCLA defensie end Laiatu Latu rushes the passer
Latu was picked by the Colts despite being forced to temporarily retire while at the University of Washington due to a neck injury. / Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

• What I’m interested in with the Indianapolis Colts is their willingness to take risks with this year’s group. Both first-round edge Laiatu Latu and second-round WR Adonai Mitchell came with red flags. Both could be huge hits for GM Chris Ballard, or go the other way. Regardless, these are swings for the fences such as the selection of Anthony Richardson a year ago.

• Sometimes you hear stuff leading up to the draft that winds up coming true on Thursday night—and such was the case with the Jacksonville Jaguars, who did a ton of work on the receivers over the past two months. It matches, too, with how far they were willing to go to keep Calvin Ridley, even with contracts for Christian Kirk and Gabe Davis on the ledger. So they’re committed to improving the skill-position talent around Trevor Lawrence. Now they just have to hope Brian Thomas Jr.’s shoulder holds up (most teams thought he’d need surgery after his rookie year).

• Assessments of the Kansas City Chiefs’ draft class will likely ride on whether Xavier Worthy can open the offense back up the way Tyreek Hill once did. But, to me, the pivotal pick for the franchise is second-round OT Kingsley Suamataia. Ultra talented, and in need of some maturing, Andy Reid’s selection of the big man (who was linked to the Chiefs the past few weeks) is a bet that he and his staff can bring the best out in a guy with the ability to fill a pretty big need on the roster.

• Brock Bowers went to the perfect place. To get the most out of him, you were going to need to have a good traditional in-line tight end, and the Las Vegas Raiders have one of those in second-year man Michael Mayer. Those two could really be a problem playing together. Now, we’ll see if Penix grows into becoming the one that got away for a Vegas staff that really liked the Washington quarterback through the process.

• The Los Angeles Chargers’ first three picks very distinctly had a captain-of-the-team feel to them. You weren’t going to miss on character with Joe Alt, Ladd McConkey and Junior Colson. Now, whether Alt adjusts smoothly to right tackle (I’m told they’ll start him out competing for the job there), McConkey holds up medically or Colson becomes a three-down linebacker will determine how we view these picks. But you don’t have to worry about those three putting in the work to make those things happen.

• The Los Angeles Rams came into the draft wanting to add to a defensive front that’s losing one of the greatest players of all time, and that was accomplished. And what stands out about the ties binding the Florida State duo coming aboard, in Jared Verse and Braden Fiske, is how hard each guy plays. In time, those two, combined with 2023 rookie Byron Young and Kobie Turner, could wreak havoc along the line of scrimmage.

• Two things on the Miami Dolphins. First, it’s amazing how quickly things change. Back in the fall, edge rusher might’ve been the team’s most well-stocked position. Now, Andrew Van Ginkel is gone, and Bradley Chubb and Jaelan Phillips are coming off major injuries. As such, the Dolphins’ first- (Chop Robinson) and fifth- (Mohamed Kamara) round picks were spent on edge players. Second, the Dolphins’ fourth-rounder was a running back. Wanna guess what his overriding trait is? Yup, Jaylen Wright’s 40-yard dash time (4.38) was second among all backs in Indianapolis at the scouting combine.

Dallas Turner, left, poses with Roger Goodell after being selected in the 2024 NFL draft.
The Vikings traded up to the No. 17 pick to draft Turner, left, after selecting McCarthy at No. 10. / Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

• With two trades up in the first round for J.J. McCarthy and Dallas Turner, the Minnesota Vikings’ swings are reminiscent of the 2018 Bills class that was led by Josh Allen and Tremaine Edmunds. And adding Turner out of Alabama also helps illustrate the economics of the NFL. Danielle Hunter left for $29.5 million per year. The combined APY for free-agent add Jonathan Greenard and Turner will come to about $22 million. And whereas Hunter is 29, Greenard is 26 and Turner is 21.

• I like the New England Patriots doubling down at quarterback, taking a flier on “Bazooka” Joe Milton after drafting Drake Maye third, and it’s another sign of GM Eliot Wolf putting his stamp on the organization. His dad, Ron, drafted seven quarterbacks in eight years from 1992–99 despite having Brett Favre on the roster in Green Bay, with Ty Detmer, Mark Brunell, Matt Hasselbeck and Aaron Brooks in the group. Eliot was there, too, when the Packers took Brian Brohm and Matt Flynn the year Aaron Rodgers became the Packers’ starter. The premise: There’s no such thing as overinvesting at quarterback. And that was proven again with Wolf spending four consecutive picks after taking Maye on the offensive side.

• The New Orleans Saints typically are light on volume early in the draft, and that was the case again this year—but part of it is because they’ve been so good at targeting specific guys and going and getting them. That was the case with Oregon State OT Taliese Fuaga, who’d been tied to New Orleans for weeks, and Alabama CB Kool-Aid McKinstry, the projected first-rounder whom the Saints traded up to take 41st. The team’s next pick didn’t come until the fifth round. If those two are who the Saints think they are, and, again, they’ve been right on these things a bunch, that won’t matter.

• Even without a new quarterback, you can’t accuse New York Giants GM Joe Schoen of not swinging for the fences. Given some of the noise at the end of the year, and the franchise’s history with mercurial receivers, it’d be understandable if Schoen opted for Rome Odunze, as clean a prospect as you’ll find, at No. 6. Instead, they went for LSU’s Malik Nabers, who’s got a little injury baggage, and a rep for being a little hard to handle. If the Giants hit? Well, I’ve heard comps to Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle.

• A lot of people figured the New York Jets would take a weapon for Aaron Rodgers, which is why Bowers was projected there. Well, the truth is, if they’d taken a skill guy there, it’d have been Odunze rather than Bowers, and GM Joe Douglas was focused on getting a long-term tackle solution the whole time anyway. Olu Fashanu, who had an up-and-down final year at Penn State, can be that kind of fix at left tackle for the next decade, and a valuable insurance policy for the 33-year-old tackles the Jets have now. His ceiling, by the way, remains sky high. He’s still just 21, and had he come out last year, as a junior, he may have gone in front of Cardinals left tackle Paris Johnson Jr.

• The Philadelphia Eagles’ corner situation isn’t unlike where the Jets are at tackle—the guys there, Darius Slay and James Bradberry, are old. So doubling down at the position, even with a lot of pre-draft noise that they were leaning tackle, in the first 50 picks makes perfect sense. In Mitchell, Philly’s getting an athletic, long, traditional outside corner. In Cooper DeJean, the Eagles added a guy who could become their next version of Malcolm Jenkins. And with Slay and Bradberry still around, they can gradually move these guys into the lineup.

• I figured the Pittsburgh Steelers would take either their top tackle or center Graham Barton at No. 20. They did the former in tabbing Washington’s Troy Fautanu, then took care of the latter spot with Zach Frazier in the second round. But I’m just as interested in third-rounder Roman Wilson at receiver. The Steelers did a lot of work on all the receivers coming into the draft, leading some to believe that was the position they’d fill in the first round. Instead, they did what they generally do—wait on the position. It’s served them well in the past. We’ll see if it does again with a guy who’s been compared to Tyler Lockett.

Wide receiver Ricky Pearsall makes a catch at a pro day
Pearsall wasn’t widely projected to go in the first round, but the 49ers have become known for unconventional draft picks. / Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

• The San Francisco 49ers showed again that they don’t care about your evaluation of a certain position by tabbing receiver Ricky Pearsall at No. 31. The former Florida star can run every route, is versatile enough to play all three receiver positions in the offense, and works and plays just as hard when he’s not getting the ball. In the words of one staffer there, “His standard is our standard.” And he does give the team some flexibility should a top-end offer come for Brandon Aiyuk or Deebo Samuel, the latter of whom I’d now say would be more “gettable” for another team. I do think, in the end, they wind up hanging on to both for what sure looks like an all-in year.

• In his first draft picking for new coach Mike Macdonald’s defense, I’d say that long-time Seattle Seahawks GM John Schneider did really well to land Murphy, who wasn’t going to last much longer after falling to 16. Smart teams such as the Vikings, Bengals and Rams really liked Murphy, which only bolsters the idea it was the right pick for a coach who just helped develop and effectively deploy one of the NFL’s best 3-techniques in Justin Madubuike.

• For a team without many needs, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were able to grab Barton at No. 26 who some GMs feel is the surest bet in the draft to make Pro Bowls. With the versatility to play guard or even right tackle in the league, smarts, toughness and a track record of durability, there’s very little not to like about the Buccaneers’ first-round pick out of Duke.

• So the Chargers, at least for the time being, are moving Alt to right tackle, and the Tennessee Titans are moving JC Latham from right tackle to left tackle. Latham certainly has the athleticism to pull it off. But it’s at least worth asking why Alabama didn’t do that last year, with true freshman Kadyn Proctor having wound up on the left side. That said, Bill Callahan moved Jedrick Wills Jr., another Bama guy, from right to left tackle after Cleveland took him in the first round in 2020, and it’s usually a good idea to trust the venerable line coach on this stuff.

• Obviously, Jayden Daniels’s success or failure will determine how we view the Washington Commanders’ class. But I’m really impressed that they were able to come out of the second round with Illinois DT Jer’Zhan “Johnny” Newton, Michigan slot CB Mike Sainristil and Kansas State TE Ben Sinnott. On paper, at least, all three should be ready to roll as rookies, and all three have the kind of play style, with hard-running motors, to fit coach Dan Quinn’s program.


Published
Albert Breer

ALBERT BREER