2024 NFL draft questions: What were the best and worst picks?

ByNFL experts ESPN logo
Monday, May 6, 2024

The 2024 NFL draftbrought record-breaking trends, including six quarterbacks picked in Round 1 for the first time since 1983 and eightoffensive tackles taken in Round 1, which ties 2008 for the most ever. Now that more than a week has passed since the draft concluded, our NFL experts have had time to assess the class.

We asked our analysts and insiders to answer some of the draft's biggest questions. We'll begin with their favorite picks and the biggest head-scratching selections -- some of which don't involve quarterback Michael Penix Jr. going to the Atlanta Falcons in the top 10. We'll continue to update this story with a new topic every day this week, including rookie classes our analysts believe will make the biggest impacts, Rookie of the Year picks, fantasy sleepers and bold predictions.

Who were the best picks in this class? Which were the most puzzling?Our experts dive in on the top takeaways:

Jump to a question:

Favorite picks | Biggest head-scratchers

Who was your favorite pick in the entire draft?

Stephania Bell, fantasy football analyst:CornerbackQuinyon Mitchell to the Philadelphia Eagles at No. 22. When a team fills a need with a standout prospect without breaking the bank to do it, it's a winner. Mitchell is fast and agile and allowed no touchdowns in over 400 coverage snaps last season. He rose on many draft boards in recent months ... and yet, the Eagles were able to surprise the competition by snagging him here.

Matt Bowen, NFL analyst: Cornerback Mike Sainristil to the Washington Commanders at No. 50. A nickel corner with a playmaking mentality, Sainristil was one of my favorite defensive backs to study. He led Michigan's defense last season with six interceptions and seven pass breakups. Look for him to play a disruptive role as a rookie in Dan Quinn's defensive system.

Mike Clay, fantasy football analyst: Wide receiver Ladd McConkey to the Los Angeles Chargers at No. 34. The Chargers moved on from Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Austin Ekeler and Gerald Everett during the offseason, a foursome responsible for 55% of the team's targets over the past two seasons. Enter McConkey, who is an excellent fit as a potential Allen replacement in the short-to-intermediate area for quarterback Justin Herbert. Even in a run-heavy offense, McConkey, who came out of Georgia, has a path to massive volume right out of the gate.

Jeremy Fowler, national NFL writer: Wide receiver Malik Nabers to the New York Giants at No. 6. For all the hand-wringing about the Giants' quarterback outlook, the truth is New York quarterbacks haven't had a true top-10 receiver since Odell Beckham Jr. Nabers might have the highest ceiling of any offensive player in the draft. Several teams in the top 15 coveted him. Give quarterback Daniel Jones a chance with a guy of this caliber, and see what happens.

Matt Miller, NFL draft analyst: Wide receiver Rome Odunze to the Chicago Bears at No. 9. Let's give the Bears credit for not overthinking and simply drafting great players. With a rookie quarterback added in Caleb Williams, selecting a go-to receiver for him to learn and grow with was brilliant. It also helps that the two trained together, building chemistry in the pre-draft process. Odunze was my No. 3 overall prospect, which means Chicago drafted two of my top three players in this class.

Eric Moody, fantasy and sports betting analyst: Offensive lineman Graham Barton to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at No. 26. As an ex-offensive lineman, it was a pleasure breaking down Barton's film. He's consistent and showcases maximum effort on every play without mental errors. Barton can play center, guard or tackle as a rookie, and I believe he'll have a superior career to some of the names drafted ahead of him.

Jason Reid, senior Andscape writer: Quarterback Michael Penix Jr. to the Atlanta Falcons at No. 8. I understand everything about the Falcons' commitment to quarterback Kirk Cousins, the salary cap implications and the potential for strife within the locker room. But if the Falcons are right about Penix, none of that will matter in the long run. If a team believes it has identified a potential transformational player at the most important position in sports, well, it has to go get him. It's that simple.

Jordan Reid, NFL draft analyst:Edge rusherDallas Turner to the Minnesota Vikings at No. 17. Minnesota hasn't drafted an edge rusher in the first two rounds since 2005 (Erasmus James). The team needed to replenish its talent off of the edge after losing Danielle Hunter in free agency. While the team signed Jonathan Greenard and Andrew Van Ginkel during free agency, Turner provides a high upside as a pass-rusher in Brian Flores' defense. Turner led Alabama with 10 sacks and 45 pressures last season.

Aaron Schatz, NFL writer: Wide receiver Adonai Mitchell to the Indianapolis Colts at No. 52. Analytics suggest there is no such thing as a "draft steal" because prospects drop from consensus for good reasons. That being said, Mitchell might have dropped due to off-field concerns, and Colts GM Chris Ballard spoke out againstthat.This was the No. 5 wide receiver in Playmaker Score but the No. 11 receiver off the board.

Mike Tannenbaum, NFL front office insider:Odunze. He has a legitimate chance to be the best receiver from this draft. Under the motto of "win for today and develop for tomorrow," the Bears have Allen on a one-year deal, and Odunze has Terrell Owens' type of ability. Odunze had 1,640 receiving yards and 13 scores in 2023. This is ideal for Chicago.

Seth Walder, sports analytics writer: Defensive endLaiatu Latu to the Colts at No. 15. Because of medical concerns and the run on offense, the Colts managed to take the edge rusher who led FBS football in pressure rate in each of the past two seasons -- yes, ahead of Will Anderson Jr. and Tyree Wilson in 2022 -- at No. 15. The Colts might have landed a great one at a premium position in the middle of the first round.

Field Yates, NFL analyst:Odunze. The wideout falling to No. 9 was not a complete surprise, given the anticipated run on quarterbacks early, but it was also not a sure thing. The sixth-highest-rated player on my board could have been the first receiver taken in so many prior drafts, but the presence of Marvin Harrison Jr. and Nabers (the third- and fourth-rated players on my board) made him the third off the board in this class. But don't be mistaken -- Odunze will be an instant impact contributor as one the most polished prospects in the class.

Who was the biggest head-scratching pick of the draft?

Bell: QuarterbackMichael Penix Jr. to the Atlanta Falcons at No. 8. It is hard to justify spending this first-round draft capital when the Falcons had declared their nine-figure love forKirk Cousinsweeks earlier. The team did fulfill defensive needs -- its most glaring hole entering the draft -- in later rounds, but will the strategy of having two QBs capable of starting create less tension in the locker room ... or more?

Bowen:Penix. The Falcons built depth behind Cousins with this selection and set up their QB room for the future. However, I saw this as an opportunity for the Falcons to add an impactful defensive player to new coach Raheem Morris' system, with outside linebacker Dallas Turner and defensive tackle Byron Murphy II still on the board at the time of Atlanta's pick.

Fowler: Wide receiver Ricky Pearsall to the San Francisco 49ers at No. 31. I'm not about to doubt coach Kyle Shanahan's eye for offensive skill players, and I love Pearsall as a player. But his place as WR6 in this draft was unexpected. Most teams I spoke to pegged him as a Day 2 pick. Considering the 49ers still have Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk on the roster, bolstering the offensive or defensive line seemed like a sensible play.

Liz Loza, fantasy and sports betting analyst: Tight end Brock Bowers to the Las Vegas Raiders at No. 13. I was stupefied by the Raiders' selection of Bowers, and it's not because of his talent level. He's a potential generational talent with a do-it-all skill set who was expected to come off the board before the first half of the first round. However, Las Vegas spent an early second-round pick on Michael Mayer just a year ago and entered the draft with holes all along the offensive line. In the end, I suppose, the value Bowers presented was too great to pass on.

Moody: Quarterback Bo Nix to the Denver Broncos at No. 12. While he posted prolific numbers at Oregon during his final collegiate season, it's worth noting that nearly 67% of his passes came within 9 yards of the line of scrimmage. Nix's selection appears to reflect desperation on the part of a Sean Payton-led Broncos team in need of a quarterback upgrade. I felt like Denver could have traded down and still landed Nix.

Jason Reid: Offensive tackle Tyler Guyton to the Dallas Cowboys at No. 29. Look, I get that the Cowboys had a major need along their offensive line. And the fact that they moved to rebuild it in this draft makes sense. That established, Guyton, while possessing impressive physical tools, is a developmental player. There's no sugarcoating that.

Jordan Reid: Defensive tackle Ruke Orhorhoro to the Falcons at No. 35. With Jer'Zhan Newton still on the board, it made more sense to take him there. Newton possesses more upside as a rusher and is an ideal interior defender who pairs perfectly with Grady Jarrett. Orhorhoro is unquestionably the better run-defender, but Newton's combination of explosiveness and disruption would've made him the better pick.

Schatz: Penix. Look, I understand the importance of the quarterback position, leading to six quarterbacks chosen in this year's top 12. You can talk me into the idea that Penix is a better prospect than J.J. McCarthy despite McCarthy doing better in my QBASE projections. But if all goes well, Penix is not going to take a snap in the NFL regular season until he's 26 years old. The Penix pick isn't that head-scratching; it's the Penix pick in conjunction with the Cousins contract.

Walder: Defensive tackle Braden Fiske to the Los Angeles Rams at No. 39. This has little to do with the player and more to do with the circumstances of the pick. The Rams paid an obscene price to move up from No. 52, sacrificing a fifth-round pick and future second-rounder in the process -- the most expensive Day 2 overpay in at least the past six drafts and a larger investment than their first-round pick (Jared Verse at No. 19), according to our draft pick valuations. And all this for a player who was at the beginning of his selection range, according to the Draft Day Predictor (in other words, this was a borderline reach).

Yates:Penix. I had a top-of-the-second-round grade on Penix, but quarterbacks always fly off the board earlier than the overall ranks indicate. This is about Atlanta investing in a player who will turn 24 on Wednesday at a position in which only one player will play after paying Cousins $100 million guaranteed in March. One of the great advantages of a quarterback on a rookie contract isthe modest cost of his contract, which affords you the ability to spend elsewhere across the roster. The Falcons are not realizing that advantage with Cousins under contract and making $90 million over the first two seasons of Penix's deal.

Related Video