NFL Analysis


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Predicting When Each 2024 Rookie QB Will Start This NFL Season

May 31, 2024; Lake Forest, IL, USA; Chicago Bears quarterback Caleb Williams (18) throws the ball during organized team activities at Halas Hall. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

With OTAs and minicamps behind them, the six 2024 first-round quarterbacks' next stop is training camp, which begins in late July. Full-padded practices, in-camp practices with other teams, and preseason games become increasingly important for these quarterbacks as they learn their offensive schemes.

They will either earn the starting role, as was the case last year with first-rounders Bryce Young, C.J. Stroud, and Anthony Richardson or begin as backups and take over later during the season.

They could wind up like Patrick Mahomes, who was the No. 10 overall pick by the Kansas City Chiefs in 2017 but sat behind Alex Smith (except for one late start) until becoming the league MVP in Year 2. Or Jordan Love, who was the Packers’ first-round pick in 2020 but backed up Aaron Rodgers for three years before taking over last season.

All of these 2024 first-round quarterbacks hope to be the next Stroud, the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, who led the Texans to the playoffs. That’s a rare occurrence, so a more realistic goal is to become a starter and show promise for future success.  

Here are my predictions on when each of the 2024 first-round passers will crack the starting lineup.

When 2024 Rookie QBs Will Start


Barring a preseason injury, Caleb Williams will be the opening day starter on Sept. 8 at Soldier Field against the Tennessee Titans. “No conversation, he’s the starter,” Chicago Bears coach Matt Eberflus said in early May.

Williams had mixed success against the Chicago defense in offseason practices. He seems to be gaining a bit of humility compared to his brash persona during the pre-draft process when he gave NFL teams limited access.

He recently said, “To be a great leader, you’ve got to learn how to follow first. Right now, I’m following the vets and coaches. I’m listening more than speaking and taking it one step at a time, being in the moment.”

The 2022 Heisman Trophy winner enters the NFL after a three-year college career at Oklahoma and USC. He produced 9,782 passing yards, 966 rushing yards, and 120 combined touchdowns. 

He has an excellent supporting cast of skill players with WRs DJ Moore, Keenan Allen, Rome Odunze, TE Cole Kmet, and RB D’Andre Swift. But his offensive line needs to improve on their 2023 performance in pass protection after allowing 50 sacks last season (seventh-most).

Prediction: Williams is the Week 1 starter


After veteran free agent signee Marcus Mariota took most of the first-team reps in OTAs, Jayden Daniels stepped up to that role in minicamp. 

This led Washington Commanders coach Dan Quinn to say he has “no great declaration” on who enters training camp as the starter, much less the regular season opener at Tampa Bay.

Daniels comes off a Heisman Trophy-winning season at LSU, in which he threw for 3,812 yards with 40 touchdown passes and only four interceptions. He also ran for 1,134 yards and 10 touchdowns. Daniels was a four-year starter in college at Arizona State and LSU (37-18 record).

He has impressed his Washington coaches and teammates with his work ethic. “There’s no doubt Jayden’s making unbelievable progress,” Quinn said. “He’s earned that opportunity to compete.”

Daniels is also staying humble so far. He said, “I ain’t a starting quarterback yet. I’ve got a long way to go.”

He has an experienced offensive coordinator to tutor him in Kliff Kingsbury and talented playmakers in WRs Terry McLaurin and Jahan Dotson, RB Austin Ekeler, and TEs Zach Ertz and Ben Sinnott. Like Williams’ situation in Chicago, the Commanders must improve their pass protection, which allowed 65 sacks last season, second-most in the league.   

>> READ: What Daniels' Offense Should Look Like

The last quarterback drafted first or second overall not to start in Week 1 was Mitchell Trubisky with the Bears in 2018. I don’t see Daniels on the bench for opening day. Mariota’s upside is limited as he enters his 10th NFL season, and he’s mostly been a backup in recent years. 

That should continue in 2024.

Prediction: Daniels is the Week 1 starter

New England Patriots quarterback Drake Maye (10) and Jacoby Brissett (14) throw passes at minicamp at Gillette Stadium. Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports.


This is where it starts to get more unpredictable. Drake Maye has less college playing experience than Williams or Daniels with 26 starts in two years at North Carolina. He was productive, recording 8,018 passing yards, 63 touchdowns against 16 picks, 1,209 rushing years, and 16 touchdowns on the ground.

Maye began OTAs as the No. 3 quarterback behind Jacoby Brissett and Bailey Zappe. He has quickly moved up to No. 2 after minicamp. Brissett is expected to start training camp as the starter after signing a one-year, $8 million contract. 

Brissett, 31, has been the primary starter for three of his eight NFL seasons with New England, Indianapolis, Miami, Cleveland, and Washington before returning to the Patriots. He has 48 career starts with a lackluster 18-30 record and a below-average career passer rating of 85.3.

After the draft, New England Patriots coach Jerod Mayo said, “Our legacy will be defined by who we draft at No. 3. Coming in as a rookie, hopefully, Drake is a sponge. Jacoby understands; he’s a mentor, very smart, and has great leadership skills, and hopefully, Drake can learn something from him as well. We will compete all spring and during training camp, and the best player will start.”

The Patriots have a rough first six weeks with matchups against three 2023 playoff teams and three other expected playoff contenders, plus three of the first four are on the road (at Cincinnati, home vs. Seattle, at Jets, at San Francisco before home games vs. Miami and Houston).

There’s not much pressure on a new coach in Mayo to play Maye immediately, considering the low expectations for the Patriots, who are coming off a 4-13 season and play in the tough AFC East. 

Brissett gets the nod early, but after a likely 1-4 or 0-5 start, the switch is made to Maye so he can accelerate his development by getting regular-season experience.  

Prediction: Maye takes over in Week 6 vs. Houston


Much to Kirk Cousins’ chagrin and the surprise of other NFL teams, the Atlanta Falcons threw a curveball when they drafted Michael Penix rather than a top pass rusher. 

The question is:  How long will the 24-year-old Penix sit behind Cousins with the four-time Pro Bowler’s $100 million guarantee on his four-year, $180 million contract?

Cousins is returning from missing the last nine games of the 2023 season after he tore his Achilles. If Cousins stays healthy — last season was his first with an injury that cost him playing time — logically, Penix will back him up for the next two years.

Cousins is too expensive to be a No. 2, and his dead money hit is $65 million if he’s traded or released next year. The dead money drops to $25 million in 2026, so that’s likely when Penix takes over.

What if Cousins turns the Falcons into a playoff team and possible Super Bowl contender during the next two years? That would create quite the conundrum for Atlanta’s football brass, as was the case for the Packers when Rodgers was the reigning league MVP in 2022.

Penix was expected to be a late first-round or second-round pick after a stellar senior season at Washington. The Huskies went 14-1 and made it to the national title game against Michigan (a loss in a rough outing for Penix). 

He threw for 4,903 yards and 36 touchdowns with 11 interceptions and added three rushing touchdowns. He was, in effect, a five-year college starter at Indiana and Washington, but injuries (including two torn ACLs) hampered his three years with the Hoosiers.

Penix has been a third-string backup behind Cousins and veteran Taylor Heinicke this offseason. However, he could surpass Heinicke in the pecking order as this season progresses and almost certainly by next season. 

New coach Raheem Morris is happy with Penix’s early progress. 

“I like what he’s grown into,” Morris said. “That’s really special when talking about a rookie growing and developing and knowing what he should do.”

Offensive coordinator Zac Robinson came with Morris from the Rams. He and QB coach T.J. Yates, former NFL quarterbacks, are responsible for bringing Penix along. Cousins is a team player who will also help Penix during his anticipated long wait to succeed Cousins eventually.

Prediction: Penix is a backup for 2024-25 but starts in 2026   


After Cousins’ departure, the Minnesota Vikings were determined to draft a rookie quarterback and benefit from lower salary cap hits for at least the next three years. Coach Kevin O’Connell is happy to have the talented national champion quarterback, J.J. McCarthy, be groomed as the future starter.

The Vikings signed Sam Darnold this offseason, a former third-overall pick on his fourth team. The Vikings are paying Darnold $10 million to be the starter until O’Connell believes McCarthy can step into the role. Darnold also has reunited with his former backup at the Jets — Vikings QB coach Josh McCown.

“I would say Sam would be the guy I would look to based upon the spring he’s had, where he’s at in his quarterback journey, and what he’s been able to do coming in and taking advantage of a competitive situation,” O’Connell said after the June minicamp in which Darnold took most of the first-team reps.

Vikings offensive coordinator Wes Phillips praised both players. 

He said of Darnold, “He’s been phenomenal — as good as we could ask for at this point. You see the arm talent with Sam. He was the third pick in the draft for a reason, and we’ve seen it since Day 1.”

Phillips also talked up McCarthy, saying, “On the field, you see the talent. The intangible parts. You see the arm and the juice when he lets go of the football. He’s right where he needs to be right now.” 

Darnold’s problem has always been turnovers. He has thrown 63 touchdown passes against 56 interceptions, leading to a lackluster 78.3 passer rating. He has a 21-35 career record with the Jets, Carolina, and San Francisco. 

In his best season in 2022 with the Panthers, he went 4-2 as the starter with a 92.6 passer rating, so perhaps he’s gotten better compared to his shaky early years with the Jets.

McCarthy was 27-1 as Michigan’s starter in two seasons. He played in a run-based offense but threw for 6,226 yards and 49 touchdowns with 11 picks. He added 632 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns. 

When he inevitably takes the reins from Darnold, McCarthy will have the best supporting cast of the 2024 first-round quarterbacks. He’ll have former NFL QBs coaching him (O’Connell and McCown), the NFL’s best receiver in Justin Jefferson, Jordan Addison as an excellent No. 2, and Pro Bowlers TE T.J. Hockenson and RB Aaron Jones. Plus, Minnesota’s solid offensive line is led by OTs Christian Darrisaw and Brian O’Neill.    

There are lots of questions and intrigue here. Can McCarthy win the starting job in camp practices and preseason games so he’s at the helm in the season opener at the New York Giants?

Darnold will likely get that start, but can he hold the job when there are five 2023 playoff teams to face in the first seven weeks? 

The bye hits early in Week 6 before the Lions game, so a poor start could catapult McCarthy at that point. However, that would force him to debut against the defending division champs. The Rams are next on a short week with a Thursday night game in Week 8.

Prediction: McCarthy starts in Week 9 vs. Colts

Denver Broncos quarterback Bo Nix (10) during organized team activities at Centura Health Training Center. Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports.


Denver Broncos coach Sean Payton has talked up Bo Nix since he was drafted after he was projected to be a late first or second-round pick. Nix and veterans Jarrett Stidham and Zach Wilson basically took equal first-team snaps during OTAs and minicamps.

The 24-year-old Nix enters the NFL with a record amount of college experience as a five-year starter. He played three seasons at Auburn and two at Oregon, finishing with a 43-18 record. 

He led the Ducks to a 12-2 season in 2023 with the only losses to Washington. His senior year stats were outstanding. He recorded 4,508 passing yards, an amazing 77.4 percent completion rate, 45 touchdowns, only three interceptions, and six rushing touchdowns.  

“We gave the quarterbacks a lot of install in a short period of time, all three guys,” Payton said regarding his quarterback’s work in the offseason program. “Overall, it’s what we saw (in Nix) before the draft and what we evaluated, and that’s encouraging.”

A sign of Payton's leanings is his willingness to compare Nix to Drew Brees. 

“On similarities — mentally, Nix wants to know as much as and as fast as he can. They enjoy the process, and there’s a maturity level. He locates the ball well, and he’s accurate as I think Drew was.”

As for Nix’s competition, Stidham has been a backup in his four seasons with the Patriots, Raiders, and Broncos. He only has four career starts, including two last season in Denver, with a 1-1 record and a mediocre 87.7 passer rating. He’s scheduled to earn $6 million this year, but only $1 million is guaranteed.

Denver invested only a swap of sixth and seventh-round picks on Wilson after he started 33 games (12-21 record) in three seasons as the Jets’ former second-overall pick. He had a dismal passer rating of 73.2 with more interceptions (25) than touchdown passes (23) and showed a lot of immaturity early in his career. He’ll earn $2.73 million this year with $1.67 million guaranteed.

Payton is in the second year of a five-year deal, so he has the latitude and ego to go with the player he thought highly enough of to draft in the mid-first round despite critics saying he reached that high.

Prediction: Nix is the Week 1 starter