2024 Draft preview: More than A Few Good Men; Caleb Not our No. 1

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell speaks Aug. 14, 2023 at Johnsonville Tailgate Village in Green Bay during a promotional event for the 2025 NFL Draft, which will be held in and around Lambeau Field.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell speaks Aug. 14, 2023 at Johnsonville Tailgate Village in Green Bay during a promotional event for the 2025 NFL Draft, which will be held in and around Lambeau Field.

It is NFL Draft week and we are making some major changes at the top of our list that STILL does not have USC quarterback Caleb Williams at No. 1. More on that later.

With all the horsepower generated by the NFL Draft it is appropriate that the annual college player lottery is hosted in Motor City, Detroit, Michigan, beginning Thursday (April 25) at 8 p.m. (ET) when commissioner Roger Goodell turbocharges thousands of fans on site and millions watching via multiple broadcasts by saying “With the first pick in the 2024 draft, the Chicago Bears select…”

Well, that is assuming the Bears don’t trade the first pick, which seems unlikely after they sent starting quarterback Justin Fields to the Pittsburgh Steelers, leaving a conspicuous vacancy for their next signal-caller, who is almost universally believed to be USC’s magic man Caleb Williams.

We don’t understand why the Chicago-Williams fit is thought to be such a fate accompli. Williams is an entertaining magician with the ball, but we don’t see him as the guy who can guide the Bears to greatness in the cold and the wind and the snow in Chicago. If I’m the owner, GM, coach of the Bears I would take North Carolina quarterback Drake Maye, whom we envision as a stud QB ala Ben Roethlisberger five years down the road.

This just in: The Bears will announce Wednesday, April 24, plans to build a new lakeside domed stadium adjacent to  Soldier Field. Our question: if the Bears do draft Williams will he still be around, health-wise or otherwise, to enjoy the team’s new indoor home field?

Regardless, we never had Williams rated No. 1. Maye was our QB1 for a long time, until we overthought the whole thing and listed LSU’s nifty dual threat Jayden Daniels at QB1 with Maye No. 3. Three days before the draft, despite Maye allegedly trending down on fictional lists everywhere, we are listing our top three QBs in this order — Maye, Williams, Daniels. And it’s a flip of the coin for No. 2. Let’s see how that looks three years down the road.

This week, if Williams is NOT the first name called, expect a multimedia meltdown as broadcasters scramble to replace material meticulously prepared to announce the expected coronation of the Trojans’ former Heisman Trophy winner. Tune in almost anywhere to see or hear what happens: NFL network, NFL+, the NFL Channel, ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN Deportes and probably a few online sites that will bootleg live videos. This is big stuff, with almost 12 million viewers for the first round last year.

Meantime, let’s dare to step back from the usual quarterback idolatry for at least a moment to say that this year’s Red Carpet Extravaganza — actually a TV miniseries that continues Friday and Saturday (check local listings) — is packed with plenty of star power elsewhere. This draft will feature MUCH more than A Few Good Men. Perhaps Goodell should yield the podium to Col. Nathan R. Jessup, aka Jack Nicholson, whose “You can’t handle the truth” line is burned into movie and American cultural history. Great stuff, but the fact is Nicholson ad-libbed that line, which was supposed to be “You already know the truth.”

Sadly, for NFL teams and fans, both lines are deadly accurate. Anybody who paid attention to history already knows the truth and it is damned hard to handle. Despite all the buildup and hoopla, the art and science of drafting players is really a crapshoot, and only a small percentage live up to inflated expectations, especially at the all-important position of quarterback. Only 30 percent of drafted players even make an NFL roster.

Yet, here we are in 2024 optimistically discussing the possibility of six quarterbacks being drafted in the first round, which would tie the record set in 1983, when future Hall of Famers John Elway, Jim Kelly and Dan Marino were among the historic half dozen. That was then and…

This proves that we have horrific memories or can’t handle the truth. Only three years ago, in the 2021 draft, five quarterbacks were taken in Round 1 and only one is still with the team that took him: No. 1 pick Trevor Lawrence (Jacksonville). The other four are with new teams — Zach Wilson (No . 2 by NY Jets, traded to Denver April 22); Trey Lance (No. 3 by San Francisco, now with Dallas), Justin Fields (No. 11 to Chicago, now in Pittsburgh) and Mac Jones (No. 15, Patriots, now at Jacksonville).

Speaking of trades, a consensus of draftnik guesswork (pro, amateur and barstool experts) lists thos three quarterbacks on the top tier, not necessarily in this order: Williams, Daniels and Maye. There are at least five teams who should have a quarterback as a top priority. They are Chicago (No. 1 pick, acquired in trade from Carolina), Washington (No. 2), New England (No. 3), Minnesota (No. 11) and Denver (No. 12). Others are the Las Vegas Raiders (No. 13), Atlanta Falcons (No. 8) and even the New York Giants (No. 6).

Not hard to see potential for negotiations to improve the situation of several teams who yearn to upgrade their roster, one way or the other. Will they trade up to target some special somebody, or move down to create more draft equity and still pluck some gems from this bountiful class? 

In those ubiquitous but popular mock drafts, lots of guesses included trades to get teams in position to grab a quarterback. Among the other quarterbacks believed to have first-round value are Washington’s Michael Penix Jr. (rated No. 9 overall by NFLDraftScout.com), Michigan’s J.J. McCarthy (No. 18) and Oregon’s Bo Nix (No. 30).

We like a lot of things about Penix, who is a deadly passer with a 10.5-inch hand (lefty) that spins the ball at high rpms so it drives to the target. Receivers at the Senior Bowl practices had trouble catching Penix’s power delivery. Some observers thought it was because of the left-hand spin. We believe it was because his passes were on them faster than expected. After new teammates adjust to his passes, that rapid rpm delivery will be an advantage squezzing the ball through those small NFL windows.

McCarthy has become a social media and apparently pro scout darling and climbed up from being listed as a second-day draft prospect to as high as No. 2 overall on one NFL Network chart.. We originally saw him as a second day pick but moved him into the first round so as not to incure the ire of his college coach (Now with Chargers) Jim Harbaugh, who claims J. J. is the best quarterback he’s every been around.K, coach, this one is on you.

Mock trades continue to leverage faux-reality click-bait headlines until the whole thing becomes a multipronged, multimedia assault on the senses. The term mockery takes on an enhanced meaning, yet it still battles reality for attention. So heads up.

Looking at the reality of this draft, when we say it has much more than A Few Good Men, that goes far beyond quarterbacks and includes a bounty of talent at several other important positions, especially wide receiver, offensive tackle and cornerback. Based on ratings by NFLDraftScout.com, now in its 37th year and part of the HallofFootball.com. Here is a look at top players in those featured positions (OK, we will bow to convention and list the QBs first):


Starting with Maye back at No. 1 on our list and Williams No. 2 (No. 1 on most others), and Daniels at No. 3, there are six potential first-round QB picks in a supply-and-demand scenario where the demand inflates the value of the supply. There are 18 or 19 draftable quarterbacks, not counting those who become picks of desperation in late rounds as teams seek the second coming of Tom Brady or Brock Purdy.


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Here is how we rate the 2024 QB class.


Pos (Overall) Player, College, Position, Ht, Wt, Class, Proj. Rd.

1 (1) Drake Maye, North Carolina, QB, 6043, 223, rSo, 1

2 (2) Caleb Williams, Southern California, QB, 6011, 214, Jr, 1

3 (3) Jayden Daniels, LSU, QB, 6032, 210, rSr, 1

4 (9) Michael Penix Jr., Washington, QB, 6022, 216, rSr, 1

5 (18) J.J. McCarthy, Michigan, QB, 6024, 219, Jr, 1

6 (30) Bo Nix, Oregon, QB, 6021, 214, rSr, 1

7 (107) Spencer Rattler, South Carolina, QB, 6002, 211, rSr, 3-4

8 (139) Michael Pratt, Tulane, QB, 6024, 217, Sr, 4-5

9 (185) Joe Milton III, Tennessee, QB, 6051, 235, rSr, 5-6

11 (231) Jordan Travis, Florida State, QB, 6011, 203, rSr, 6-7

10 (246) Taulia Tagovailoa, Maryland, QB, 5106, 185, rSr, 7

12 (249) Austin Reed, Western Kentucky, QB, 6014, 220, rSr, 7

13 (265) Sam Hartman, Notre Dame, QB, 6011, 211, rSr, 7-HPFA

14 (278) Carter Bradley, South Alabama, QB, 6031, 213, rSr, 7-HPFA

15 (288) Devin Leary, Kentucky, QB, 6012, 215, rSr, 7-HPFA

16 (305) Kedon Slovis, Brigham Young, QB, 6024, 223, rSr, 7-HPFA

17 (321) John Rhys Plumlee, Central Florida, QB, 5116, 203, rSr, 7-HPFA

18 (325) Jack Plummer, Louisville, QB, 6043, 215, rSr, 7-HPFA

19 (365) Garrett Shrader, Syracuse, QB, 6050, 231, rSr,

Wide receivers 

Led by Ohio State’s Marvin Harrison Jr., perhaps the most consistent college player for two years, there are three WRs in the top six and up to six in the first round, including LSU’s Malik Nabers and Washington’s Rome Odunze. Xavier Worthy of Texas is on the cusp of coming off the board late in Round 1 thanks to a record 40-yard time of 4.21 seconds, just before the NFL reinstated kickoff returns as a viable weapon. We see as many as 18 or 19 receivers among the top 100.

Offensive linemen

With all the concern about quarterbacks, attention should be paid to the men who try to keep them healthy. TEN line prospects could be called in the first round, including six offensive tackles. That’s not considering that six of the 10 can play two or three spots up front — but only one at a time despite their gargantuan size. Leading the Great Wall of 2024 is Notre Dame’s 6-9 (rounding up from 6-8 ½), 321-pound offensive tackle Joe Alt. For those who missed the early April solar event, Alt can cause an eclipse of the sun in any of the NFL’s 20 outdoor stadiums.

Other talented tackles include Oregon State’s 6-6, 324-pound Taliese Fuaga, Penn State’s 6-6, 312-pound Olumuyiwa Fashanu and Georgia’s 6-8, 340-pound Amerius Sims. No low-calorie diets there. 

It is rare to have a first-round center, let alone two. Oregon’s 6-3, 328-pound Jackson Powers-Johnson is wide enough to accommodate that hyphenated name on his jersey, and can play guard. Duke’s 6-5, 313-pound Graham Barton, carried that massive body 40 yards in 4.93 seconds and can play any damned place he wants on the line.


So this is a position of need to counter all those highly-rated quarterbacks, wide receivers, blockers and a growing list of rules that are unfriendly for defenders. There are five cornerbacks worth a first-round pick and 15 among the top 100. Toledo’s Quinyon Mitchell (4.33 in 40 yards) could go in the top ten while Alabama’s deadly duo of Terrion Arnold and Kool-Aid McKinstry may both be first-rounders. Clemson’s Nate Wiggins, who played at 6-1, 185, dropped 12 pounds before running 40 yards in 4.28 seconds at the Combine. 

There will be 257 players drafted in the three-day marathon. If that were the case in 2022, quarterback Brock Purdy might not have been selected. He was No. 262, which earned him the title “Mr. Irrelevant,” a tag given to the last player picked each year. Purdy was anything but irrelevant, taking the San Francisco 49ers to the NFC Championship Game as a rookie and playing in the Super Bowl at the end of the 2023 season.

So enjoy the draft and don’t fret over how many quarterbacks are taken in the first round. If we learned anything, it is that regardless of where they are drafted, and by whom, it will take time to find out the results of this draft.

Want to sort the draft list your own way? By Position, School, Height, Weight, Class, 40 time?

Go here and click on the designations at the top to filter your way




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