NFL Analysis


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2024 NFL Draft: Bold Predictions Ahead of the 1st Round

Texas defensive tackle Byron Murphy II celebrates a sack
Nov 18, 2023; Ames, Iowa, USA; Texas Longhorns defensive lineman Byron Murphy II (90) celebrates sacking the Iowa State Cyclones quarterback during the game at Jack Trice Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Aaron E. Martinez-USA TODAY Sports

We've spent the time from the end of the Super Bowl to now, just one day away from the 2024 NFL Draft, trying to predict what will happen in the first round. Despite that, the only thing we know for sure is we're bound to get a few surprises.

With that in mind, let’s dive into a few bold predictions for the first round.

>> READ: Latest 7-Round Mock Draft

NFL Draft Bold Predictions

A team will trade up for a wide receiver in the top 10

NFL teams aren’t historically great at drafting specific players over each other, but they’re better at recognizing tier breaks in positional groups. We might not know the best player among Marvin Harrison Jr., Malik Nabers and Rome Odunze, but they are a pretty clear top three in this draft.

It’s been a popular mock selection to put Odunze to the Chicago Bears with the ninth overall pick. However, with how highly these receivers are perceived, it wouldn’t be surprising to see a receiver-needy team jump in front of Chicago to draft one and get out of the uncertainty of the second and third-tier receivers.

The New York Jets (pick No. 10), New Orleans Saints (No. 14), Indianapolis Colts (No. 15) and Jacksonville Jaguars (No. 17) could be teams to watch with some incentive to jump up for a receiver.

Indianapolis and Jacksonville could add a true No. 1 receiver — despite already spending a significant amount on receivers already on their rosters — to support their young quarterbacks and keep up with the Houston Texans in the AFC South. The Jets could want another receiver to complement Garrett Wilson and get the most out of a win-now season with Aaron Rodgers. New Orleans is never going to change.

Also, teams like the Buffalo Bills and Kansas City Chiefs in the back of the first round could make a massive swing to get up and take a surefire WR1.

Too many teams need a wide receiver, which could incentivize someone to trade up. 

An interior lineman will be the first defender drafted

This will be an offense-heavy first round, with no defensive players expected to go in the first seven picks. The Atlanta Falcons, whose most significant needs are on defense, could be the first team to draft that side of the ball.

The most popular pick for the Falcons at eighth overall is Alabama Edge Dallas Turner, but Atlanta could use help at edge, defensive tackle or corner.

Byron Murphy II has been floated as a potential top-10 pick recently, while Jer'Zhan Newton has also been a favorite among some as the top interior lineman. Our big board has Newton 15th overall and first at the position.

Between the contracts handed out lately to interior defenders and the deals this offseason given to guards, the NFL is considering those positions as premium ones on the level of edge rushers and tackles.

Murphy and Newton excel at creating pressure from the inside. Newton led this class with a 15 percent true pressure rate (excluding screens, play-action and RPOs) and was third with a five percent quick-pressure rate. He was also the overwhelming pressure leader at Illinois, with a 31 percent pressure share.

Murphy was in Newton’s range for true pressure and quick pressure rates, while he worked about 30 percent of his snaps as a nose tackle.

Murphy or Newton could be force multipliers in the middle of a defensive line, taking attention and opening things up on the edge for other players. With the NFL's premium on interior defenders, the love for the position could easily carry over to this draft class.

A surprise team Trades up for J.J. McCarthy

The Minnesota Vikings need to trade up for a quarterback, but other suitors just behind could be more desperate to get ahead of them for the fourth quarterback off the board.

After the Vikings traded for a second first-round pick in this year’s draft, it was clear the intention was to move up the board. We covered the potential fallout if Minnesota can’t trade up for a quarterback, which puts pressure on general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah to put the best offer on the table. However, just because the Vikings have two first-round picks in this draft doesn't mean they’ll automatically make the best offer.

The Denver Broncos pick 12th overall and still need a quarterback despite trading for Zach Wilson. The Las Vegas Raiders — behind Denver at 13th overall — also need a passer with Gardner Minshew and Aidan O’Connell on the roster.

Neither has the 2024 capital of the Vikings, but these could be teams willing to dig deep into their capital and give up future first-round picks to jump ahead of Minnesota.

Say J.J. McCarthy is still on the board at No. 6, and the Giants don’t view him as a better immediate option than Daniel Jones. Would a team like New York prefer Minnesota’s 2024-heavy offer, or would the Giants rather get future picks from the Broncos or Raiders if New York needs that extra draft capital next season to move up for a quarterback?

Only four quarterbacks go in the first round

Per the latest data from Grinding The Mocks, six quarterbacks have an expected draft position in the first round. We typically inflate a quarterback into the first round during the draft process only for the league to not feel as strongly after the top players at the position have been selected.

Think about Will Levis last year or any non-Kenny Pickett quarterback in 2022. There were multiple quarterbacks in those classes projected as high first-round picks.

This year, we have the top four in Caleb Williams, Drake Maye, Jayden Daniels and McCarthy, who are all surefire early first-round picks.

Then, we reach the next tier in Michael Penix Jr. and Bo Nix. Both are getting talked about as possible first-round picks, but they could see a Levis-like fall into the early second round.

Penix has fans among some general managers, but his age, injury history and accuracy profile make him a risky selection as a first-round quarterback. Nix is the type of quarterback who does many things well but does not have a standout physical trait. His accuracy can work, but it will be heavily scheme-reliant.

Per the ESPN Analytics Draft Day Predictor, Penix has about a 30 percent chance of being available at the start of the second round, while Nix has about a 50 percent chance.

Plenty of teams will be desperate for a quarterback, but those teams also need help elsewhere and could be better off attacking a different position and circling back on a quarterback on Day 2.

DraftKings has the over/under for quarterbacks in the first round set at 4.5 with +230 odds for the under, which is about a 30 percent implied probability.