2024 NFL Draft: 1st-Round Picks Who Could Slide Up or Down

J.J. McCarthy Michigan Wolverines Texas
J.J. McCarthy #9 of the Michigan Wolverines looks to throw the ball in the second quarter against the Washington Huskies during the 2024 CFP National Championship game at NRG Stadium on January 08, 2024 in Houston, Texas. Gregory Shamus/Getty Images/AFP

For as long as the NFL draft remains the imperfect science it is, we will always see players rise and fall throughout the process. Still, even some of the best analysts and oddsmakers get it laughably wrong each year.

Just take last draft season when Kentucky quarterback Will Levis was believed to be drafted as high as No. 4 by the Colts. But on draft night, the Colts took Anthony Richardson, and Levis slid to the Titans in the 2nd round with the 33rd pick.

That was the steepest slide in the 1st round last year, but we also see corner Joey Porter Jr. have to wait for Round 2 to begin when Pittsburgh took him after many had him as a 1st-round pick. Even corner Christian Gonzalez (Patriots) went a solid 10 picks after many mock drafts had him going No. 7.

Remember, no one truly knows anything this time of year, except maybe for the fact that the Bears will take USC quarterback Caleb Williams with the No. 1 pick.

However, what could happen in the 2024 NFL draft with these other 1st-round prospects? Experts believe 4 quarterbacks and 3 wide receivers will go very high in the draft, including quite possibly in the first 10 picks for those positions alone.

Before you head into the top-rated online sportsbooks, we highlighted some 2024 prospects below who could go higher or lower than currently projected in this draft.

Stock Up: Michigan QB J.J. McCarthy

Current Projection: No. 10-11 Prospect

Possible Draft Range: Top 8 Pick

Teams are always starved for franchise quarterbacks, and this draft figures to have 3 potential players fit that mold at the very top in Caleb Williams, Drake Maye and Jayden Daniels.

The problem is the Bears, Commanders and Patriots hold the top 3 picks, and they all desperately need a quarterback as they have all traded their previous attempt at a franchise player to another team. Justin Fields, Sam Howell and Mac Jones are all gone in those cities. That’s about the clearest indication they are going to use these picks to draft a quarterback.

However, what about the quarterback-needy teams who are sitting at No. 11 (Vikings), No. 12 (Broncos) and No. 13 (Raiders)? Their solution could be Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy, a polarizing figure since he didn’t have to throw the ball much in college. Still, there are convincing studies that show he was very effective when he did throw, including great success on 3rd down. He had a strong combine and has been rising up the draft charts all offseason.

Trading Up

What if Sean Payton really likes McCarthy for Denver after the Russell Wilson fiasco? They can’t just sit there and wait for Minnesota to grab McCarthy ahead of them at No. 11. They need to get ahead of Minnesota, which could mean a trade with the Titans (No. 7), Falcons (No. 8), or Bears (No. 9). Maybe the Jets (No. 10) would give up their pick too as they are not likely going to take a quarterback as they have Aaron Rodgers coming back.

That is why we could see a team trade up into the top 8 or top 10 and make McCarthy the 4th quarterback in this class to go that high, a rare feat in NFL draft history.

No one really saw this coming weeks ago, but this is where things are with the quarterback position in the NFL.

Stock Up: Oregon QB Bo Nix

Current Project: No. 33 Prospect

Possible Draft Range: 27th or Higher

Can we get a 5th quarterback to go in the 1st round this year? It happened in 2021 when 5 quarterbacks went in the top 15 picks, although that class has largely disappointed so far with Trey Lance, Zach Wilson, Mac Jones and Justin Fields not even starting for their drafted team anymore.

Yet, the next tier of quarterbacks in this draft are interesting prospects with Bo Nix (Oregon) and Michael Penix Jr. (Washington). Nix seems to be getting the better of the NFL odds right now, and it is possible a team either trades up into the 1st round to get him late to secure that 5th-year option, or one of the teams with multiple picks could take a chance on him.

Quarterback Carousel

For example, if someone like Denver did swoop in ahead of Minnesota at No. 11 and took J.J. McCarthy with a top 8 pick, then the Vikings still hold the No. 23 pick. That could be a landing spot for Nix if coach Kevin O’Connell feels like he’d be a good fit for his offense to replace Kirk Cousins.

Another option could be Arizona with its No. 27 pick, the team’s 2nd pick in the 1st round this year. The Cardinals recently tweeted that Kyler Murray was still QB1, but the last time their social media team did that, Josh Rosen was replaced by Murray in the draft a month later. You never know what could happen there as the Cardinals, who have a new regime that didn’t draft Murray, may be looking at other options.

Nix is going to be on that short list of quarterbacks past the big 4 that could be worth the risk.

Stock Down: Georgia TE Brock Bowers

Current Projection: No. 9 Prospect

Possible Draft Range: 15th-18th Pick

Tight end Brock Bowers is by far the cream of the crop at his position in this draft, and he probably is one of the 10 best prospects in the entire draft period. However, tight ends and the draft have a shaky history, as it is one of the only positions where most of the greatest players of all time were not 1st-round picks.

Even in recent times with more information than ever on college prospects, Travis Kelce, Rob Gronkowski and George Kittle were not 1st-round picks.

Clearly, the position can be extremely valuable when you hit on a stud. Kelce and Gronk were part of the NFL’s last 2 dynasties with the Chiefs and Patriots. Even the 3rd-most recent team to repeat as champs, the 1997-98 Denver Broncos, had a Hall of Fame tight end in Shannon Sharpe, who could pose as the team’s leading receiver if necessary.

However, we often see the tight ends slip in the draft, and it happened last year too, when many had Dalton Kincaid going in the top 15 to a team like the Jets or Packers before he ultimately went 25th to Buffalo.

Draft Dominoes

With Bowers, it could just be a case of teams drafting for different needs and viewing tight end as a luxury. Keep in mind we have some new coaching staffs in these picks, and they may want to build up the trenches before going for a tight end. Look at this realistic hypothetical situation on draft night:

  • The top 3 picks are quarterbacks.
  • Picks 4-6 are wide receivers.
  • No. 7 Titans go with a top offensive tackle like Joe Alt.
  • No. 8 Falcons aren’t going with another tight end after using that high pick on Kyle Pitts and not getting enough out of him under Arthur Smith.
  • No. 9 Bears just had a breakout year from Cole Kmet, who is still young too.
  • No. 10 Jets need offensive line help and Aaron Rodgers prefers throwing to wide receivers over tight ends his whole career.
  • No. 11 Vikings have T.J. Hockenson
  • No. 12 Broncos need to think quarterback.
  • No. 13 Raiders have a defensive mindset and just drafted Michael Mayer in the 2nd round last year.
  • No. 14 Saints could go in the trenches.

That could drop Bowers to No. 15 and a team like the Colts, who absolutely should pull the trigger and give Anthony Richardson another reliable target besides Michael Pittman Jr. The Colts haven’t had a reliable tight end in years, so this would be a great steal for them.

If not the Colts, then the Seahawks at No. 16 have made a lot of tight end moves and could certainly do better than Noah Fant. Even the Bengals (No. 18) might be ready to get in on the tight end sweepstakes and get Joe Burrow another elite target.

This is not a knock on Bowers. It’s just the way this draft class is set up with team needs and drafting order. Also, it is the nature of the way this position is treated in the draft. Sam LaPorta fell to the 2nd round for Detroit last year. In a redraft after one year, he’d go much higher after setting rookie records. Great tight ends are hard to find.

Stock Down: LSU WR Brian Thomas Jr.

Current Projection: No. 19 Prospect

Possible Draft Range: 28th-32nd Pick

The wide receivers may be the best position group in this entire draft. There could be 13 or 14 taken in the first 2 rounds alone this year. It will be fascinating to see how this plays out because we know for every Justin Jefferson, there’s usually a Jalen Reagor right there with him.

With this year’s group, there are some clear tiers forming right now. Top receivers Marvin Harrison Jr. (Ohio State), Malik Nabers (LSU), and Rome Odunze (Washington) are heavily favored to go in the 4-to-6 range to receiver-needy teams like the Cardinals, Chargers and Giants. The fact those teams let their top receivers walk (Marquise Brown, Keenan Allen, Sterling Shepard) and are in major need of a new No. 1 supports this idea.

However, then there’s a gap in this class until you get later in the 1st round where receivers like Georgia’s Ladd McConkey and the Texas duo (Adonai Mitchell and Xavier Worthy) are expected to go.

Then you see on his own island is Brian Thomas Jr., who is roughly the 19th prospect according to an aggregated score of mock drafts and expert rankings. But he might end up falling too late in the 1st round when teams like the Bills (No. 28), Lions (No. 29), Ravens (No. 30) and Chiefs (No. 32) are picking.

Finding Fits

In fact, you could see the fit for Thomas and these other receivers since the Bills need a better player to back up Stefon Diggs (or eventually replace him), the Lions had a horrible game with drops from Josh Reynolds and could use a legit No. 2, the Ravens still need more playmakers and the Chiefs need that long-term weapon for Patrick Mahomes with Travis Kelce going on 35 years old. They only signed Marquise Brown to a 1-year deal in Kansas City.

Thomas could be a fit there, but getting him in the top 20 or even the top 25 might be a stretch. In fact, he could even slip out of the 1st round if those receiver-looking teams prefer these other options. The Chiefs might view McConkey as someone who would be constantly open in their scheme, and the Ravens might love that record-setting speed of Worthy to give Lamar Jackson another burner.

Why might Thomas slip? You have a few red flags in that his quarterback (Heisman winner Jayden Daniels) and other receivers (Malik Nabors) are projected to go much higher in the draft, so exactly how good was the WR2 himself at LSU? Thomas was also a 1-year wonder at LSU, gaining more receptions, yards and touchdowns in 2023 than in 2021-22 combined.

There will be a lot of wide receiver decisions to make in this draft. Given how deep the position is, some teams, including the Steelers, may be more than willing to wait until the 2nd round.

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