Expert Analysis


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2024 NFL Draft: Ranking 9 Biggest Reaches From This Year's Class

The Atlanta Falcons took QB Michael Penix Jr. eighth overall in the 2024 NFL Draft
Atlanta Falcons first-round draft pick quarterback Michael Penix Jr talks to the media at a press conference introducing him at the Falcons training complex on April 26, 2024. (Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports)

Teams got much better about not reaching during the 2024 NFL Draft, which was evident in Round 1. There weren’t very many egregious reaches — and the ones that were came at important positions such as quarterback and wide receiver.

However, there were some picks that left us scratching our heads. 

9 Biggest Reaches From 2024 NFL Draft

Ricky Pearsall leaps for a catch while at Florida
Florida Gators wide receiver Ricky Pearsall (1) makes a one-handed catch for a first down during the first half against the Charlotte 49ers at Steve Spurrier Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Fla., on Saturday, Sept. 23, 2023. (Matt Pendleton/Gainesville Sun/USA TODAY-Sports)

9. Ricky Pearsall, WR, San Francisco 49ers (31st)

This was one of the best wide receiver classes in recent memory, and it wasn’t a surprise that teams decided to gobble players at the position up early. However, nothing about Ricky Pearsall’s profile suggests he should have been a first-round pick. Despite playing five seasons in college, Pearsall never had a season of 1,000 receiving yards. He never caught more than five touchdowns in a season, and he will turn 24 before Week 1.

But make no mistake about it, Pearsall is a good player. He profiles as a high-end No. 3 receiver who can play in the slot and potentially on the outside. With the right team, he could end up being a solid No. 2 receiver.

But picking this player in Round 1 — considering his overall lack of production and age — was a bit of a reach.

Penn State OT Caedan Wallace
Penn State offensive lineman Caedan Wallace works out during the 2024 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. (Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)

8. Caedan Wallace, OT, New England Patriots (68th)

Caedan Wallace was a big-time recruit coming out of New Jersey and had a productive college career at Penn State. He started 40 games at right tackle during the past four seasons, but his consistency from snap to snap was all over the place. 

Wallace was No. 186 on the NFL Draft Consensus Board and was widely viewed as a mid-Day-3 selection. Picking him at the top of the third round was a significant reach, albeit that was later in the draft than some of the other names mentioned in this article. Usually, players who are drafted 100 spots over the consensus don’t work out, and it’s not a viable strategy when it comes to building a roster.

7. Bo Nix, QB, Denver Broncos (12th)

It’s not hard to understand the reasoning behind the selection of Bo Nix at No. 12 for the Denver Broncos. They desperately needed a quarterback, and he was the last player available with a top-100 grade at the position for most draft experts. Nix has a lot of traits that coach Sean Payton values, but still, it felt like a major reach. 

On the consensus board, Nix ranked No. 38 and was viewed as QB6. It usually isn’t a great idea to stray that far from the consensus, especially in the top 12 picks. But the Broncos needed a quarterback — they couldn’t justify going into the season with just Zach Wilson and Jarrett Stidham.

It’s also not a bad idea to just draft quarterbacks early until you figure things out, but this was a major reach for all intents and purposes.

6. Jonathon Brooks, RB, Carolina Panthers (46th)

Jonathon Brooks was widely viewed as the No. 1 running back in this class and ranked No. 56 on the NFL Draft Consensus Board. So by that standard, this wasn’t a big reach.

But the Carolina Panthers lacked draft capital and are in a rebuild, so drafting a running back with a torn ACL doesn’t seem like the best use of resources. 

Making matters worse, the Panthers moved up to acquire Brooks, sending pick No. 52 and two fifth-rounders to the Colts. For a team that is this far away from being where it wants to be, giving up more draft capital to select an injured running back is a big mistake.

Clemson Tigers defensive tackle Ruke Orhorhoro (33) sacks North Carolina Tar Heels quarterback Drake Maye (10) during the fourth quarter on Nov. 18, 2023, at Memorial Stadium. (Ken Ruinard-USA TODAY Sports)

5. Ruke Orhorhoro, DT, Atlanta Falcons (35th)

This will not be the only time the Atlanta Falcons appear on this list. But coming in at No. 5 is Ruke Orhorhoro, a defensive tackle from Clemson. Orhorhoro was widely viewed as a Day 2 pick (No. 68 on the consensus board), but he was a big reach at No. 35.

One of the reasons why he was selected this high by the Falcons was due to his athleticism (a 4.89-second 40-yard dash at 294 pounds), but his overall tape was less than impressive.

The highest honor Orhorhoro ever received in college was third-team All-ACC, and despite appearing in 53 games, he recorded just 12 total sacks. He has all the traits to be a solid rotational defensive tackle in the NFL, but there were much better (and more productive) defensive tackles on the board, including Johnny Newton from Illinois. 

Louisiana State Tigers defensive tackle Maason Smith (0) celebrates a play during the first half against the Florida State Seminoles at Caesars Superdome. (Melina Myers-USA TODAY Sports)

4. Maason Smith, DT, Jacksonville Jaguars (48th)

Jacksonville Jaguars GM Trent Baalke certainly drafts a type on the defensive line. He wants long, strong and powerful defensive linemen who can hold up at the point of attack. It’s not a bad strategy, but he tends to overvalue those players. 

Maason Smith had just 9.5 tackles for a loss in 22 games at LSU with no forced fumbles and only two pass deflections. There were times during the 2023 season when he was the third-best interior player for LSU, and he would go weeks without making a splash play. His size is fantastic (6-foot-5, 306 pounds), but his lackluster production and average athleticism are more in line with a borderline top-100 pick vs. the No. 48 selection.

Kamari Lassiter breaks up a pass
Georgia Bulldogs defensive back Kamari Lassiter (3) breaks up a pass intended for Missouri Tigers wide receiver Luther Burden III (3) during the second half at Sanford Stadium. (Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports)

3. Kamari Lassiter, CB, Houston Texans (42nd)

There is no denying that Kamari Lassiter has Day 2 tape. He was a fantastic player in the SEC, but his reported 4.64-second 40-yard dash at Georgia's Pro Day is very concerning. There aren’t many starting cornerbacks in the NFL that run in the 4.6 seconds, and most of those don’t get picked in the top 50. Lassiter is a massive outlier — the Houston Texans took him at No. 42.  

Another concern about Lassiter is his less-than-stellar ball production. Despite appearing in 44 total games and starting 29 over the last two years, Lassiter had one career interception. He only accounted for 15 pass deflections in his collegiate career, which is concerning considering that Quinyon Mitchell and Terrion Arnold both had more than that in the 2023 season.

Lassiter’s athleticism and production profiles scream Day 3, but Houston took him at the top of Round 2. 

T'Vondre Sweat catches a touchdown
Texas Longhorns defensive lineman T'Vondre Sweat (93) celebrates after he catches a pass for a touchdown against the Oklahoma State Cowboys during the first quarter at AT&T Stadium. (Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports)

2. T'Vondre SWeat, DT, Tennessee Titans (38th)

There were red flags galore with T’Vondre Sweat before the 2024 NFL Draft. Just a few weeks before the draft, he was arrested for a DWI. That came after several reports that he weighed more than 400 pounds after the 2023 college football season. 

Can he remain disciplined enough to keep his weight under control? And just how valuable is a 365-plus-pound nose tackle in today’s NFL? He was No. 71 on the expert consensus board, so the Tennessee Titans took a huge risk on Sweat at the top of Round 2. 

1. Michael Penix Jr., QB, Atlanta Falcons (8th)

Michael Penix Jr. is a good quarterback prospect, make no mistake about that. But a top 10 pick after multiple knee and shoulder injuries and six years in college? That's a bit rich. It was also a surprise to see Penix be the fourth quarterback off the board, ahead of J.J. McCarthy and Bo Nix. 

Atlanta’s offense fits Penix well, but how quickly will he be able to get on the field? That remains to be seen, especially after the Falcons signed Kirk Cousins to a free agent deal with $100 million guaranteed.

Penix was the No. 8 overall pick, which is a massive reach according to his consensus spot (No. 34). It’s understandable to overdraft a quarterback because of the position’s value, but this is a huge risk, especially for someone who has such a long medical history.