2024 NFL Draft Grades: First-Round Picks

Welcome to the 2024 NFL Draft! The first round is complete, and it was as insane as we all expected. We set numerous records in terms of QBs and offensive players selected. Nobody in the top 9 traded their picks, and defenders plummeted down the board. Most notably of all, Atlanta made the most shocking selection in years. You can check on my final mock draft if you want, but it didn’t turn out to be incredibly accurate. In this post, I’ll stick to what I do best: analyzing and grading the selected players. Here are my grades for each of the 32 picks made in the first round of the draft!

1. Chicago Bears – QB Caleb Williams, USC: A

I am so surprised. You cannot imagine my shock at this pick…not. Kidding aside, the Bears did what they had to do. The #1 pick isn’t something a team expects to have regularly, especially through a lucky trade outcome. Chicago HAD to replace Justin Fields, and they’re building the team correctly, setting up a quality line and weapons before inserting a rookie. That rookie is also the only QB with a first-round grade from me in this class. Williams can succeed right away with this supporting cast, and he finally gives Bears fans something to be excited about.

2. Washington Commanders – QB Jayden Daniels, LSU: B-

Never wavering in their refusal to trade this pick, Washington stuck around and drafted their guy. For a while, we didn’t know which QB would be the pick, but once Kliff Kingsbury became the OC, we started to figure it out. I agree with this particular team taking Daniels over Drake Maye; the latter is basically Sam Howell, who Washington just dumped. I’m just not sure Daniels is the answer either. His slight frame is an injury risk, and he’s more developed as a runner than as a passer. I personally would’ve traded this pick for a massive haul; the Commanders’ roster is not a QB away from competing.

3. New England Patriots – QB Drake Maye, North Carolina: C-

Despite numerous trade overtures, New England didn’t receive any decent offers and probably wasn’t trading down regardless. I wish they would have. This might be the least-talented roster in the NFL. Maye has NOTHING to work with. He’ll be behind a poor line, and he’ll be throwing to mediocre pass catchers. On top of that, I didn’t have a first-round grade on Maye, though I know many people who did. His decision-making scares me and ironically reminds me of Mac Jones. A trade down would’ve fetched a haul, which could’ve then been used to reconstruct the roster.

4. Arizona Cardinals – WR Marvin Harrison Jr, Ohio State: A+

After all the speculation, the Cardinals stayed put. I’m not at all mad at that; they had 11 picks already. I’d have been furious if they took any other player though. To me, Harrison is a generational talent and the clear WR1 in a stacked class. He’s big, fast, and polished, and Arizona just lost Marquise “Hollywood” Brown. The Cardinals are stuck with Kyler Murray for at least one more year, so they may as well support him and/or the QB of the future. No better option than Harrison was available for that, and he was my #1 overall prospect. GM Monti Ossenfort absolutely made the correct decision.

5. Los Angeles Chargers – OT Joe Alt, Notre Dame: D

Ugh. I guess Joe Hortiz is a weak GM, because HC Jim Harbaugh got his misguided way. I gave this pick a poor grade not because of Alt; he’s my top tackle and I really like him as a player. This fit is just terrible. First, Alt is a left tackle, and Rashawn Slater is already locked in there. Second, after trading Keenan Allen and cutting Mike Williams, WR was a huge need, and Malik Nabers and Rome Odunze were both available. Finally, they could’ve traded down and still gotten a right tackle like JC Latham. Alt himself is actually the only thing saving the Chargers from a failing grade.

6. New York Giants – WR Malik Nabers, LSU: A

I’m so proud of the Giants. They (foolishly) tried to trade up to #3 for Drake Maye, but they didn’t. The team also was linked to JJ McCarthy but wisely passed. This poor roster had plenty of needs, but WR was at the top of that list. Seeing Nabers available, the G-Men pounced, and that was the smart choice. I’d also have given an A to a Rome Odunze selection, but speaking specifically about Nabers, he’s an excellent player. Some like him more than even Marvin Harrison Jr. I don’t, but I still view him as a clear top-10 talent. Daniel Jones finally has a real weapon, so it’s up to him to produce

7. Tennessee Titans – OT JC Latham, Alabama: B

Poor Titans. They really wanted Joe Alt, but the Chargers oddly took him two picks earlier. Tennessee had to quickly pivot to their 2nd-ranked tackle. For many teams, that was indeed Latham. I had him more in the 10-15 range, so a trade down with a team desperate for a QB would’ve been nice. This isn’t a major reach though, as Latham projects as a quality RT and will fill the biggest need on the Titans’ roster. Will Levis can sleep better tonight. I’m sorry that this is such a boring pick with a boring grade. It was simply a safe selection based on how the chips fell.

8. Atlanta Falcons – QB Michael Penix Jr, Washington: JAMARCUS RUSSELL

Welcome to the debut of my F- grade! Nobody made a dumb enough pick the last two years for me to unveil it, but now the Falcons have sunk that low. Let’s get one thing out of the way: I like Penix…as a round-2 QB. He’s not the main reason for this grade, as he was indeed the best QB available. The problem is that the team JUST paid Kirk Cousins $180M. Reports say the team didn’t even tell Cousins about this until they were on the clock! Ownership probably meddled here, which is never good. This pick is 0 help for 2024 or 2025, and so many good options were available. Glad you left the Vikings Kirk?

9. Chicago Bears – WR Rome Odunze, Washington: C+

Does Caleb Williams already have some sway with his new team? He clamored for Odunze, and he got him. The question is: why? The Bears already had DJ Moore and Keenan Allen, so they just spent the #9 pick on a WR3. I LOVE Odunze. He’s my #2 WR and #4 prospect in the entire class, but he just didn’t belong with this team. Chicago should’ve traded down given that they have just 2 picks remaining for the remainder of the draft. Making Williams happy counts for something I guess, and I do think the player they chose is fantastic. This was just a suboptimal use of draft resources.

10. Minnesota Vikings – QB JJ McCarthy, Michigan: F

I actually planned to debut my JaMarcus Russell grade for the Vikings if they traded up to #4 for McCarthy. They wisely didn’t do that, but they unwisely got fleeced by the Jets into trading up 1 spot for a poor QB prospect. Not only is McCarthy a downgrade from Kirk Cousins, but I’m not even sure he’s better than Sam Darnold. He has never proven that he can carry an offense, and he’s also not a volume thrower. I feel terribly for Justin Jefferson, who could make the Vikings pay even more for this decision by refusing to sign an extension. Overall, it’s a pretty disastrous move.

11. New York Jets – OT Olumuyiwa Fashanu, Penn State: C-

On the positive side, the Jets scammed Minnesota into making a 1-spot jump. However, they didn’t use the 11th pick very well. Instead of taking Brock Bowers, who fell into their lap, they took the 3rd-best tackle remaining on the board. Amarius Mims or Taliese Fuaga would’ve been better options, but even those picks wouldn’t have been optimal. New York just signed Tyron Smith and traded for Morgan Moses. This isn’t a terrible selection, as I do like Fashanu at tackle rather than guard. There was just one painfully obvious pick available to the Jets, and they missed it.

12. Denver Broncos – QB Bo Nix, Oregon: D

Ok, maybe I was wrong. We really did get 6 QBs in the first 15 picks. Denver was also as dumb as I feared. How does George Paton still have a job after the Russell Wilson trade anyway? Nix has a very high floor, but he’s also a mostly finished product at age 24 and with so many college starts. I preferred him to some of the QBs who went earlier, but I still had a second-round grade on him. Denver also didn’t trade down before taking him, and they need capital after the aforementioned Wilson trade. It feels like the Broncos panicked a bit here for no apparent reason.

13. Las Vegas Raiders – TE Brock Bowers, Georgia: B+

I’m really torn on this pick. The Raiders just spent a 2nd-round pick on Michael Mayer last year. That said, I did not like the pick, and the regime that made it is gone. If you adhere to a “best player available” philosophy, then this pick is fantastic. Bowers is a top-5 prospect, so the value is incredible. Do they have a plan for the secondary or offensive line though? I’m going to grade this favorably because Bowers is so great, and he’ll at least be useful immediately. Perhaps trading down would’ve been a better strategy though given how many CBs and linemen slid in this first round.

14. New Orleans Saints – OT Taliese Fuaga, Oregon State: A

Some tackle was always going to get picked here. JC Latham rocketed up the board, so the Saints couldn’t have him. They got quite the consolation prize though. Trevor Penning hasn’t panned out for New Orleans, and Ryan Ramczyk may never play again. Whoever the best tackle on the team’s board was needed to be the pick. As it happens, their board agreed with mine. Fuaga is a mauler at RT who should make Alvin Kamara smile. He actually reminds me a lot of Ramczyk. Stout at the point of attack, Fuaga will provide much-needed protection at a very nice value.

15. Indianapolis Colts – DE Laiatu Latu, UCLA: A+

It took us until pick #15, but we got our first defensive player. If you were wondering, that 14-offensive-player stretch shattered records. I think the Colts really did want a CB, but they couldn’t resist Latu after he and Dallas Turner fell further than expected. This was likely an unplanned move given that neither player should have been available. Latu does fill a need as well, as the Colts are strong at DT but not so much at DE. Latu’s medicals checked out, and he was the most productive pass rusher in college football last year. You take easy wins when you can get them, and the Colts smartly did so.

16. Seattle Seahawks – DT Byron Murphy, Texas: C

This I did not see coming. Seattle’s biggest need was an offensive lineman, and most rumors surrounding the team had them surprising us with a CB pick. As high as I am on Murphy, I don’t get what a team that just re-signed Leonard Williams for a lot of money wanted with him. Both are strong interior rushers who are good in run support, so this seems like a really redundant selection. The best part about it is that it keeps Murphy from the division-rival Rams, who badly wanted him. That helps the grade, but Seattle went against the grain once again. This time, it probably wasn’t the best idea.

17. Minnesota Vikings – EDGE Dallas Turner, Alabama: B-

We’ve had two trade-ups in round 1, and both were made by Minnesota. The other one was dumb on principle, but this one cost a lot more. The Vikings sent Jacksonville a 5th-rounder this year plus 3rd- and 4th-round picks next year. They now have 3 picks…in the entire 2025 draft! I like the player they took a ton, but the fit isn’t great. Turner apparently has a few medical red flag, although that isn’t my issue. Minnesota already replaced Danielle Hunter with Jonathan Greenard and Andrew Van Ginkel, so why was an edge rusher necessary over a corner or DT? Had another team made a less costly move for Turner, I’d have liked it a lot more.

18. Cincinnati Bengals – OT Amarius Mims, Georgia: A+

I knew the Bengals wanted a right tackle to replace Jonah Williams. What I did not expect was for so many linemen to be off the board. In the end, Cincy found a great talent at a stellar value. I think the rival Steelers wanted Mims, so that’s already a nice feature, but he was wanted for a reason. Despite only 8 college starts, Mims oozes potential. He’s massive yet quick, and he allowed 0 sacks in his college career. Protecting Joe Burrow needed to be a priority, and he has to love his new guardian. If Mims needs some time to develop, Trent Brown can hold down the RT spot. This is an excellent fit.

19. Los Angeles Rams – DE Jared Verse, Florida State: A

Congratulations to the Rams for making their first 1st-round pick since 2016 (Jared Goff)! Yes: Sean McVay has never made a selection in the first frame as a head coach. I suspect the Rams wish Byron Murphy had been on the board, but edge rusher is actually a more premium position. I doubted that Verse would be available, yet here he was. Laiatu Latu and Dallas Turner are a tier above him, but I think Verse is a high-floor player who can instantly help a playoff team. This is very good value even if it didn’t fill the biggest need. The DT void can be addressed later though; edge rusher cannot.

20. Pittsburgh Steelers – OT/G Troy Fautanu, Washington: A-

The last of the first tier of offensive linemen, Fautanu fell this far because of prior injuries. I knew about his torn ACL, but he actually had a Lisfranc sprain in college as well. Pittsburgh is reportedly fine with his medicals, in which case this is a very good pick. Broderick Jones may shift to LT, so Fautanu can be tried on the right side. If his slightly smaller stature makes him a poor fit, then the Steelers will have an excellent guard instead. Pass protection and especially run blocking were both problems for Pittsburgh in 2023, so grabbing the main member of the Joe Moore Award-winning offensive line is a great idea.

21. Miami Dolphins – EDGE Chop Robinson, Penn State: B-

So much for an offensive lineman or a Christian Wilkins replacement. I can understand why Miami would want a pass rusher with both Jaelen Phillips and Bradley Chubb coming back from severe injuries. This is just quite a bit of financial and draft capital tied up at that spot. I’m also concerned about Robinson being a tweener; he’ll definitely have to move to OLB. However, he’s definitely a solid pass rusher and the last such player in his tier. Thus, analysts expected him to go in the 20s. The value is fine, though I’d have preferred a guard (Graham Barton?), a DT (Jer’Zhan Newton?), or a trade down

22. Philadelphia Eagles – CB Quinyon Mitchell, Toledo: A

Trader Howie Roseman actually kept his original pick…and it worked! Every CB fell so far that he had the pick of the litter come right to him. Rumors had indicated that Philly wanted to move up to #12 to grab Mitchell, but they got him anyway without moving at all. That’s how good front offices work: they let the draft come to them and make targeted moves around the board as necessary. The only thing I might quibble about is that I had Terrion Arnold ranked slightly ahead of Mitchell. However, it’s very close, and Mitchell has higher upside, which I know appealed to the Eagles.

23. Jacksonville Jaguars – WR Brian Thomas Jr, LSU: A

The Jaguars broke the hearts of Bills fans everywhere. Buffalo wanted Thomas, but Jacksonville also had a need at WR. They reportedly tried to trade for Brandon Aiyuk, but the 49ers wouldn’t budge. Now they have their Calvin Ridley replacement. Thomas is big and fast with tons of upside, but what I like most about this is the trade down. Jacksonville took a player they could’ve easily selected at #17 but first stole multiple picks from Minnesota. There’s a little bit of a risk with Thomas in terms of his route running and hands, but he’s well worth it at this juncture.

24. Detroit Lions – CB Terrion Arnold, Alabama: A+

I said that Detroit loved Alabama DBs after their Brian Branch pick last year, and I even gave them Kool-Aid McKinstry in one mock draft version. THIS Alabama CB wasn’t supposed to be available! Seeing the CBs plummet, Detroit knew they couldn’t get Arnold, my #1 CB, at 29. They could, however, acquire him at a much lower cost than expected. For the price of a 3rd-round pick, the Lions obtained a top-12 player at pick #24. Beyond that, Arnold fills the biggest weakness on a Super Bowl contender. The home fans who attended the draft were ecstatic, and I don’t blame them one bit.

25. Green Bay Packers – OT Jordan Morgan, Arizona: B+

I knew the Packers would take a tackle, but I was unaware of their preference for Morgan over Tyler Guyton. That choice really depends on whether you would rather have a more polished player or someone with higher upside. Either strategy would’ve been fine by me for this particular team. Green Bay needed protection for Jordan Love, and they spent their top draft choice on that exact goal. Morgan is a solid tackle and is exactly the type of player the Packers seem to get the most out of. There were just too many great defensive backs available for me to consider this the optimal pick.

26. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – G/C Graham Barton, Duke: A

It’s no secret that the Buccaneers needed interior linemen. Ryan Jensen retired, and the team didn’t find a replacement in free agency. I single out Jensen because Barton was announced by Roger Goodell as a center. He played at tackle, center, and guard in college, excelling at all of them. It seems as though Tampa plans to play Barton at the pivot, and that’s just fine. Selecting the top pure interior lineman at #26 is shrewd, and you always love to have linemen who are versatile. Nobody can play more positions than Barton, and aside from RT, the Bucs can use his help just about anywhere.

27. Arizona Cardinals – DL Darius Robinson, Missouri: C

As great of a choice as Arizona made at #4, I have some questions about their second pick of the night. Robinson seems to be popular among scouts, but he seems like more of a second- or third-round talent to me. A bit of a tweener (DT vs. DE), he’s not explosive enough to be an elite pass rusher, but he excels at stopping the run. That type of edge player is useful to be sure, and Robinson is versatile. I just wouldn’t spend a 1st-round pick on him. Arizona also had a major need for secondary help, and Nate Wiggins, Kool-Aid McKinstry, and Cooper DeJean were all available, yet the team passed on all three.

28. Kansas City Chiefs – WR Xavier Worthy, Texas: B

KC got Tyreek Hill back. Well, not really, but if anyone compares to Hill in terms of speed, it’s the fastest man in the history of the Combine. The Chiefs needed a tackle or receiver, and they chose the latter. My main question is why they thought they had to trade up. Buffalo, another receiver-needy squad, clearly didn’t plan to take Worthy if they traded the pick, and the next 3 teams weren’t looking for offensive speedsters either. I feel like Kansas City could’ve obtained Worthy with their original pick, but he will be incredibly dangerous with Patrick Mahomes throwing to him. I did have a couple of receivers rated higher though.

29. Dallas Cowboys – OT Tyler Guyton, Oklahoma: A+

Apparently the Cowboys weren’t in love with some of the lineman prospects at #24, so they scooped up a 3rd-rounder by trading back. Unless Graham Barton was their preference, they still got the lineman they wanted. That’s draft mastery right there. As with their Tyler Smith pick, Dallas went for a high-upside lineman who is a bit of a project. Guyton has a very high ceiling, but he’s also incredibly raw. This is the sort of player you aim for at the end of round one. The Cowboys also finally have their replacement for Tyron Smith. I for one think Guyton can be a very good left tackle, making this pick a great one.

30. Baltimore Ravens – CB Nate Wiggins, Clemson: A

As usual, Baltimore has a talented prospect fall to them. In this case, every CB fell quite a bit, but the assessment still holds. Wiggins was a love/hate prospect throughout the leadup to the draft. Some critiqued his slight frame and run defense, whereas others (including me) loved his length, athleticism, and coverage capabilities. The Ravens are very good at developing CBs, so I don’t think Wiggins could’ve landed in a much better spot. You can argue about whether Baltimore really needed a CB (I would’ve chosen a lineman), but drafting the best player available has served them well for decades.

31. San Francisco 49ers – WR Ricky Pearsall, Florida: D-

Is a Brandon Aiyuk trade incoming? Whether or not he’s on his way out, this pick is baffling. Pearsall is a fine receiver, but I had at least 5-6 others ranked ahead of him, including the one you see right below this pick. Not one mock draft in existence had Pearsall in round 1 given the greatness of this WR class. I know what Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch liked: Pearsall is an excellent route runner with great hands who ran faster than expected. Personally, I see him as more of a WR2 in the NFL, which is something you don’t spend the 31st pick on. The poor value is the main reason for this low grade, not Pearsall’s abilities.

32. Carolina Panthers – WR Xavier Legette, South Carolina: A

When Carolina traded up 1 spot to draft Legette, our record 23rd offensive player in round 1 (the previous record was 19), I was confused. If Buffalo was trading their pick despite needing a WR, they obviously weren’t taking Legette. Then I remembered: the 5th-year option. The Panthers paid a paltry sum to move up and secure that valuable extra year on Legette’s contract while ensuring that nobody else traded ahead of them. We all knew that Carolina wanted Legette, so teams could easily have targeted them as a team to leapfrog. I love Legette, so you already know how I feel about the player himself.

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