NFL Analysis


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NFL Rookies Who Landed In Perfect Situations In 2024 Draft

Western Kentucky Hilltoppers wide receiver Malachi Corley
Western Kentucky Hilltoppers wide receiver Malachi Corley (11) runs the ball against Old Dominion Monarchs linebacker Koa Naotala (47) during the first quarter at Charlotte 49ers' Jerry Richardson Stadium. (Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports)

The 2024 NFL Draft is firmly in the rearview mirror, and we have much clearer pictures of what each team will look like this season. Barring any major trades before September, what we see on each depth chart won't change too much. It's up to each team and player to foster growth for improvement.

Certain NFL rookies landed in perfect situations for them to find success in 2024. We're looking beyond the obvious names and first-round pedigrees. These six individuals can hit the ground running right away because of the opportunity in front of them.

We looked at every pick after Round 1 to find our favorite player-team situations. Each of these playmakers embodies their new home and offers a skill set that should translate early on.

>>READ: 9 Biggest Steals of 2024 Draft

6 Rookies Who Landed in Perfect Situations 

UCF's Javon Baker
UCF's Javon Baker (1) runs for a touchdown after a reception as Oklahoma's Woodi Washington (5) chases him in the first half of the college football game between the University of Oklahoma Sooners and the University of Central Florida Knights.

Javon Baker, WR, New England Patriots

Drafted: Round 4 (No. 110)

The New England Patriots entered the draft with an abysmal receiving corps, and director of scouting Eliot Wolf knew the offense needed revamping. He was fortunate to have quarterback Drake Maye fall to him at No. 3, and the Patriots added six more draft picks to the offense in subsequent rounds. Wide receivers Ja'Lynn Polk and Javon Baker have the best opportunity to make an impact of those additions.

Baker, the team's fourth-round pick, needs quarterbacks like Maye and veteran Jacoby Brissett to succeed. Even if Brissett starts, the Patriots' two quarterback options are trusting and daring passers who can rip downfield throws to Baker.

The former UCF playmaker is extremely strong, physical and competitive but struggles to generate separation on routes, so gun-shy passers would be a bad match for his skill set.

However, Maye, in particular, isn't afraid of throwing into contested catch situations. Baker's journey to early playing time will likely go through veterans JuJu Smith-Schuster and Tyquan Thornton, but there's no reason to think he won't win that battle in camp. Smith-Schuster has lacked his signature burst for several years, and Thornton is a good athlete who desperately lacks technique.

Adonai Mitchell, WR, Indianapolis Colts

Drafted: Round 2 (No. 52)

Last year's Indianapolis Colts offense showed signs of serious potential without a healthy Anthony Richardson and Jonathan Taylor. Now, with Richardson back and Taylor coming off a full offseason, this unit will benefit from being a year older and more well-rounded. A big part of that will be second-round pick Adonai Mitchell.

Putting Mitchell next to Michael Pittman Jr. and Josh Downs is a significant talent upgrade. 2022 second-round pick Alec Pierce was a reach when taken, and he struggled mightily to prove he belongs on the field. Despite his 6-foot-3, 211-pound frame and timed 4.41-second speed, he doesn't play fast and lacks fluidity. His catch rate and per-game production reflect his inefficient nature.

Mitchell will quickly solve that WR2 issue. The Colts ran many vertical routes from the slot and needed a reliable intermediate option. Mitchell has the route-running savvy, size and quickness that translates to the field and is especially good for slot-go routes.

If Pittman is healthy, a 1,000-yard season will be tough to achieve, but it wouldn't be surprising to see Mitchell show signs of being the future alpha target in 2024.

Ohio State Buckeyes defensive tackle Michael Hall Jr.
Ohio State Buckeyes defensive tackle Michael Hall Jr. (51) celebrates a sack of Michigan Wolverines quarterback J.J. McCarthy (9) during the first half of the NCAA football game at Michigan Stadium.

Michael Hall Jr., DT, Cleveland Browns

Drafted: Round 2 (No. 54)

One of the youngest players in the 2024 class, Michael Hall Jr., stayed local as the Cleveland Browns snatched up the talented pass-rusher from Ohio State. The quick-footed, heavy-handed presence joins a loaded defense led by Jim Schwartz. Schwartz produced an elite unit in 2023 despite lacking a real pass-rushing option at defensive tackle, but now he'll have his next star pupil.

The veteran defensive coordinator has gotten the most out of tackles: Albert Haynesworth, Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley, Marcell Dareus, Kyle Williams and Fletcher Cox. Hall might not be on the level of those players, but the 20-year-old had dominant stretches at Ohio State that will translate to the next level.

Hall will be relied upon as a part-time player next to excellent veterans. Myles Garrett, Za'Darius Smith and Shelby Harris will ensure Hall only sees 1-on-1 matchups, leading to a huge opportunity for rare efficiency and rookie production.

WKU's Malachi Corley
Western Kentucky's Malachi Corley runs in for a touchdown against UTEP at the Sun Bowl.

Malachi Corley, WR, New York Jets

Drafted: Round 3 (No. 65)

As a technically raw receiver from Western Kentucky, the expectations for Malachi Corley's rookie year might be low for some. However, the 5-foot-11, 215-pounder should be viewed as a lock to be a big part of the offensive unit. His game is unique but isn't too different than one of Aaron Rodgers' favorite teammates, Randall Cobb.

Corley dominates on screens and quick-hitting routes that allow him to find space after the catch. Because of his thick lower body, strength and ball-carrying ability, he's often been compared to Deebo Samuel. Like Cobb, Corley will catch short passes efficiently and maximize the opportunity. 

Now, Corley enters an offense run by Nathaniel Hackett, who intimately knows how to use someone like Cobb because he coached him. The other factor here is the opportunity. The New York Jets lack any depth beyond Garrett Wilson and Mike Williams.

Corley will compete with Allen Lazard, Xavier Gipson and Jason Brownlee for playing time. He should not have many issues overcoming those obstacles.

Trey Benson, RB, Arizona Cardinals

Drafted: Round 3 (No. 66)

The Arizona Cardinals desperately needed more explosiveness and a running back of the future, and they did well to nab Trey Benson. The third-round pick is a top-tier athlete, measuring 6-foot and 216 pounds. He boasts 4.39-second speed and terrific leaping explosiveness. 

However, he's never been much of a workhorse, totaling more than 16 carries only five times in 28 games. Being a highly efficient producer in tandem is perfect for Benson. Joining James Conner in Arizona allows him to avoid some of the less advantageous situations to break off big runs while still getting 10-15 touches a game.

Conner also needs help. Soon to be 29, the veteran hasn't played more than 13 games once in his career. This should be a terrific thunder-and-lightning situation for Kyler Murray to rely upon.

linebacker Tyrice Knight of UTEP
American linebacker Tyrice Knight of UTEP (40) runs through a passing drill during practice for the American team at Hancock Whitney Stadium. (Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports)

Tyrice Knight, LB, Seattle Seahawks

Drafted: Round 4 (No. 118)

It didn't take long for the new Seattle Seahawks coach, Mike Macdonald, to replicate a situation similar to the one he had in Baltimore. The Seahawks added Byron Murphy II in the first round and multiple tough-nosed defenders across the defense in free agency. Along with Leonard Williams, Dre'Mont Jones and Jarran Reed, this is a menacing defensive line. 

This is great news for linebackers Jerome Baker and Tyrice Knight. Knight, a fourth-round rookie from UTEP, has the edge to win the weak-side inside linebacker job next to Baker. He totaled 390 tackles, 32 tackles for loss, 8.5 sacks and 16 pass breakups over four seasons in college.

His production was impressive, but his impact became especially noticeable in 2023. His instincts and technique in defending the run improved considerably. Now, working behind a unit that will keep blockers off his body, Knight can fill the void left by Jordyn Brooks.