Based on my summer scouting film work, the quarterback position looks loaded again, with two high-end prospects at the top of the class. Offensive line, defensive line and wide receiver also appear strong. The 2024 class has serious star power and is filled with players who could quickly become franchise building blocks. There's still a lot of time -- we are over a month away from any games, let alone the pre-draft process -- but I wanted to do an early run through prospects who are already generating first-round buzz.
So here's my summer projection for all 32 picks of next year's first round. The draft order was determined by the ESPN's Football Power Index, which is currently giving pick Nos. 1 and 2 to the Cardinals (one of which comes from Houston). Since the common draft era began (1967), the only team to pick 1-2 was the 1992 Colts. In addition to Houston, Carolina and Cleveland have also already dealt their picks, and we're projecting the Jets' selection to the Packers based on the conditions of the Aaron Rodgers trade earlier this offseason.
Let's dig in. With the first pick of the 2024 draft, my early prediction is ...
Caleb Williams, QB, USC
The Cardinals are in clear rebuild mode with the league's worst roster on paper. Quarterback Kyler Murray remains sidelined following a torn ACL, and with his timetable still uncertain and a new regime in place, Arizona could consider offloading his massive contract and selecting an elite QB prospect in the draft. It's a tricky situation -- Murray has a $51.9 million cap number in 2024, and the team would face a huge dead-money hit if it moved on -- but Williams is special.
The junior is a problem-solver as a passer, seemingly always making the right play, even in adverse situations. And when playing within the confines of the offense, Williams has an explosive and compact release that enables him to make all types of throws. He threw for 4,537 yards and 42 touchdown passes last season.
Potential needs: QB, WR, DL
2. Arizona Cardinals (via HOU)
Marvin Harrison Jr., WR, Ohio State
A strong argument could be made that Harrison is the best overall prospect in the 2024 class, and the Cardinals are starved for talent and lack a true go-to target in the offense. At 6-foot-4 and 205 pounds, he has an outstanding blend of size, reliable hands and body control. He finished last season with 14 touchdown receptions, the fourth-best mark in the FBS, and is now expected to be an even bigger part of the Buckeyes' offensive attack in 2023. Harrison reminds me of A.J. Green coming out of Georgia in the 2011 draft.
Potential needs: QB, WR, DL
Drake Maye, QB, North Carolina
The Buccaneers' top two options under center are Baker Mayfield and Kyle Trask, so there's a clear need. Maye (6-foot-4, 220 pounds) showed promise during his first year as a starter, winning ACC Rookie and Offensive Player of the Year honors.
He is an extraordinarily accurate deep passer, completing 63 passes thrown 20-plus air yards last year. Scouts want to see a stronger finish this year -- Maye closed his sophomore campaign with 6 total touchdowns, 4 interceptions and 14 sacks in four consecutive losses -- but he has clear next-level starter tools. His combination of deep-ball touch and mobility makes him someone the Bucs could build around.
Potential needs: QB, TE, OL
Olumuyiwa Fashanu, OT, Penn State
A major part of the Colts' outlook hinges on the development of left tackle Bernhard Raimann. If he builds on his solid second half of the 2022 season and takes the next step, Indy could approach this pick differently. But for the time being, the Colts must add more protection for quarterback Anthony Richardson.
Many scouts believed Fashanu would've been the first offensive tackle taken in the 2023 draft, but he opted to return to Happy Valley for another season. He is an explosive and well-balanced tackle with the mirror-and-match ability to handle most edge rushers. He's still filling out his frame, but Fashanu has the ideal length and strength to generate movement as a run blocker, too.
Potential needs: OT, EDGE, CB
Jared Verse, EDGE, Florida State
The Rams' roster is undergoing a youth movement in multiple spots, and they are in dire need of playmakers at edge rusher. Verse is a heavy-handed and active rusher, and after transferring from Albany, he quickly became the centerpiece of the Seminoles' 2022 defense. He created pressure on 17.1% of his defensive snaps and recorded nine sacks last season. Verse is a contender to be the first defensive player off the board.
Potential needs: CB, EDGE, OL
JC Latham, OT, Alabama
Beyond wideout Treylon Burks and tight end Chigoziem Okonkwo, the Titans severely lack targets on the outside. But because there isn't another option worthy of a pick this early, I could see Tennessee looking at the trenches. Titans 2023 first-rounder Peter Skoronski has primarily been working at guard, and Andre Dillard was brought in to start at left tackle. However, Nicholas Petit-Frere was suspended for gambling violations and hasn't proven himself as a surefire starter when available.
Latham is a strong and physical presence, and though he has played only right tackle during his time in Tuscaloosa, he is expected to switch over to the left side this season. He is a bruiser in the run game and surprisingly nimble for a 6-5, 330-pound blocker, but he must reduce the 11 penalties he took in 2022.
Potential needs: WR, EDGE, OL
Joe Alt, OT, Notre Dame
The Packers gave quarterback Jordan Love a one-year extension, meaning he could have more than just 2023 to prove he's their starter. Now they need to get more help around him. At 6-7 and 317 pounds, Alt is a well-built tackle with all of the tools to be a high-level starter, though his game is a little raw at the moment. He is a little more technically advanced at this stage, but he reminds me of Brian O'Neill as a prospect. The Packers haven't drafted an offensive lineman in the first round since 2011 (Derek Sherrod), but Alt is the type of prospect who could push Green Bay to break that trend.
Potential needs: S, OT, WR
Quinn Ewers, QB, Texas
A lot of this hinges on the development of Sam Howell. But if Washington is picking inside the top 10 next year, it means the team fell well below expectations and will likely be searching for a long-term answer under center.
Ewers came to Texas with plenty of hype and looked the part before hurting his shoulder against Alabama in Week 2. He shows a smooth, effortless arm as a passer, but I'd like to see more urgency in the mental and physical parts of the game. Under the tutelage of coach Steve Sarkisian -- who developed Tua Tagovailoa and Mac Jones -- Ewers could be in store for a big season.
Potential needs: OT, EDGE, TE
Quinn Ewers hits Xavier Worthy in stride to put the White team in the red zone during the Texas spring game.
Kool-Aid McKinstry, CB, Alabama
Depending on what happens with Jimmy Garoppolo, the Raiders could be in on one of the quarterbacks in this class. For now, they should focus on adding to the other side of the ball. McKinstry is one of the most talented defensive players in the country and has all of the physical attributes of a CB1. At 6-1 and 188 pounds, he allowed only 4.0 yards per attempt as the primary defender (tied for ninth best in the country), broke up 14 passes (tied for eighth best) and allowed zero touchdowns last season. He stands out in man coverage, but he's also a savvy zone defender with the ability to quickly read and react.
Potential needs: CB, DL, QB
10. Chicago Bears (via CAR)
Dallas Turner, EDGE, Alabama
Even after rookie safety Jaquan Brisker led the team in sacks (four) and the team produced a league-low in sacks (20) in 2022, the Bears have made little improvement to their pass rush. Turner is raw and hasn't quite figured out how to consistently string pass-rush moves together, but at 6-4, 240 pounds, he has impressive physical traits and upside. He enters the 2023 season as the key part of the Alabama defensive front after recording 35 pressures and four sacks last season.
Potential needs: EDGE, C, WR
11. Chicago Bears
Emeka Egbuka, WR, Ohio State
Another first-round receiver from Ohio State? Harrison receives most of the attention, but Egbuka looked great during his first season as a starter in 2022 (74 catches, 1,151 yards, 10 scores). He is a crafty and detailed route runner with a great feel for attacking creases against zone looks and the body control and instincts to create separation against man coverage. Even after adding DJ Moore and Chase Claypool, Egbuka would boost the passing game around Justin Fields -- and give the Bears a security blanket in case Claypool (a free agent in 2024) doesn't pan out for them.
Potential needs: EDGE, C, WR
Brock Bowers, TE, Georgia
Hunter Henry is entering the final season of his contract and Mike Gesicki signed for just one year this offseason, so the Patriots' long-term outlook at tight end past this year remains unclear. Quarterback Mac Jones is in desperate need of pass-catching options, and Bowers would be a dynamic target. He is a 6-4, 230-pound game-changer who is physical at the catch point. Bowers is also a run-and-catch threat, privy to turning short catches into explosive scoring plays. He led all tight ends in receiving yards (942) and yards after the catch (523) last season, and he has the ability to unlock another dimension of the playbook for any NFL offense.
Potential needs: OT, WR, TE
13. Atlanta Falcons
Bralen Trice, EDGE, Washington
The Falcons checked off a bunch of roster needs this offseason, but they had the least productive pass-rush unit in the league over the past two seasons. Atlanta has 39 sacks since 2021; every other team has recorded at least 62.
Trice would be a bit of a change-up for a team that has selected three consecutive offensive players in the first round. He is heavy-handed and explosive, traits that fit what coordinator Ryan Nielsen typically likes on defense. Trice finished last season with 16.7% pressure percentage (sixth best in the FBS) and nine sacks.
Potential needs: EDGE, WR, CB
Maason Smith, DT, LSU
The Steelers don't have many glaring weaknesses in their starting lineup, but they might be looking for succession plans in multiple areas at draft time next year. They value defensive line depth, and Smith brings high-end traits. There are big expectations for the 6-5, 310-pound interior defender to rebound after he tore his left ACL in the season-opener last season. When healthy, Smith is agile and disruptive, and he can be moved around on the first level.
Potential needs: DL, LB, CB
15. New York Giants
Rome Odunze, WR, Washington
The Giants made significant additions at wide receiver through both the draft and free agency this offseason, yet they still lack a true go-to option. And after making a significant investment in Daniel Jones -- he signed a four-year, $160 million deal this offseason -- it would be wise for New York to continue improving the supporting cast.
Scouts are excited about Odunze. At 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds, he's sure-handed and has experience with every branch of the route tree. He is the top option in what's expected to be among the most explosive offenses in the country this upcoming season, so he will have plenty of opportunities to prove that he's a first-round-worthy prospect. Odunze had 75 catches for 1,145 yards and seven scores last season.
Potential needs: EDGE, S, WR
16. Denver Broncos
J.T. Tuimoloau, EDGE, Ohio State
The Broncos added Zach Allen this offseason, but the defensive line still lacks youth at multiple spots. Tuimoloau opened some eyes against Penn State last season (2 sacks, 2 interceptions, 1 forced fumble and 1 touchdown), but scouts want to see him flash more often throughout the course of the 2023 season. If he finds some more consistency, his strength as a run defender and his mature hands as a pass-rusher have many NFL teams excited about his future.
Potential needs: EDGE, IDL, WR
17. Houston Texans (via CLE)
Michael Hall Jr., DT, Ohio State
The Texans need to keep adding talent all over the roster, and the defensive line remains a glaring weakness -- even after Houston traded up for Will Anderson Jr. in April. Hall is a quick-footed interior defender who displays burst out of the starting blocks at the snap. He checks a lot of key boxes as a pass-rusher, but his early-down reps as a run defender must improve in 2023. He had 4.5 sacks and 6.5 tackles for loss on only 290 defensive snaps last season.
Potential needs: WR, DL, CB
18. Miami Dolphins
Donovan Jackson, G, Ohio State
Expectations are high for quarterback Tua Tagovailoa entering his fourth season, but the Dolphins' offensive front remains in flux. Left guard and right tackle could have new starters in 2024, depending on the development of Liam Eichenberg and Austin Jackson. Donovan Jackson could help on the interior after he allowed just one sack on 796 snaps at left guard last season. He shows strong hands and solid foot quickness, helping him win in tight proximities. Jackson has the potential to be a plug-and-play starter at the next level.
Potential needs: OT, IOL, TE
19. Seattle Seahawks
Jer'Zahn Newton, DT, Illinois
At 6-foot-2 and 295 pounds, Newton is a stout tackle who can lock out and shed blockers to make plays against the run. He is a pocket collapser and finisher, consistently making quarterbacks worry. Newton is at the center of one the best defensive units in the country and led Illinois in tackles for loss (14.0) and sacks (5.5) last season. He'd help Seattle continue to build up that defensive line.
Potential needs: IOL, IDL, LB
Christian Mahogany, G, Boston College
Interior offensive line is a major question mark for the Saints, with their top three options -- Andrus Peat, Cesar Ruiz and Calvin Throckmorton -- all scheduled to become free agents following the season. Mahogany was getting early-round buzz before tearing his right ACL heading into the 2022 season, and now that he is healthy, scouts are watching to see if he can follow Chris Lindstrom (2019) and Zion Johnson (2022) as the next Boston College first-round lineman. Mahogany has spent time at both guard spots, and at 6-foot-3, 335 pounds, he is tough to beat.
Potential needs: IOL, WR, DL
Chop Robinson, EDGE, Penn State
Danielle Hunter's future with the Vikings is still in question, but even if the two sides are able to come to terms on a restructured contract, Minnesota lacks dependable options off the edge. Marcus Davenport signed for just one year, and other players at the position have yet to develop into true starters.
At 6-foot-3 and 242 pounds, Robinson is urgent and displays a variety of pass-rush plans. He didn't start any games last season, but he did get first pressure within 2.5 seconds on an FBS-best 12.1% of his pass-rush snaps, which shows his ability to create chaos. Robinson still needs to fill out his frame and show he can be relied on as an early-down run defender, but the potential is there.
Potential needs: EDGE, LB, CB
Kris Jenkins, DT, Michigan
The Chargers' run defense surrendered a league-high 5.4 yards per carry last season, and the front seven lacks depth behind Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack. Jenkins is expected to make a significant leap in his development, and while he is still filling out his 6-foot-3, 285-pound frame, his movement skills and first-step quickness are really solid. His performance against Ohio State (seven tackles, three pressures) provided a glimpse of his upside.
Potential needs: IDL, TE, RB
23. Green Bay Packers (via NYJ)
Kamren Kinchens, S, Miami
Technically, this pick is still the Jets' property, but we're assuming here that Aaron Rodgers plays at least 65% of the snaps for New York this season -- which would hand the selection to Green Bay. The Packers' secondary has lacked a versatile safety who can patrol the third level of the defense for a while, and Kinchens is a rangy mistake-eraser on the back end. He has outstanding ball skills (six interceptions last year) and is a consistent wrap-up tackler.
Potential needs: S, OT, WR
24. Baltimore Ravens
Cooper Beebe, G, Kansas State
All eyes are on Ben Cleveland at left guard entering a crucial final year on his contract. Is he the Ravens' long-term answer? If not, Beebe is a physical interior blocker who embodies every trait the Ravens have gravitated toward in the past. With guard and tackle experience during his career, he best projects as a guard on the next level. Beebe generates movement with ease as a run-blocker and would be an ideal fit in offensive coordinator Todd Monken's scheme. He allowed just one pressure last season, and he last allowed a sack in 2020.
Potential needs: CB, IOL, DL
25. Detroit Lions
Kalen King, CB, Penn State
Emmanuel Moseley, C.J.Gardner-Johnson and Jerry Jacobs (restricted free agent) are all only under contract for 2023, which means cornerback could quickly climb the Lions' list needs. King is one of my favorite players to watch on tape -- he is an easy mover. At 5-foot-11 and 188 pounds, he will be labeled as undersized for some teams, but he reminds me of Denzel Ward as a prospect because of his ability to blanket receivers and slam throwing windows shut. He finished last season with 15 pass breakups, tied for fifth best in the FBS. It should not be surprising if King catapults up into the top half of the first round by next spring -- or even ends up the first player selected at the position.
Potential needs: CB, DL, EDGE
Penn State gets the ball back as Kalen King lays out for the interception on the deep ball.
Kamari Lassiter, CB, Georgia
The Jaguars could use more cornerback depth after Tyson Campbell and Darious Williams. Lassiter began to display more comfort in the Bulldogs' scheme throughout his sophomore campaign and is now expected to unlock another level of his development this season. Patience in press coverage and footwork repeatedly come up when discussing areas of improvement for him, but he must show more consistency with those traits. Lassiter had 44 tackles and four pass breakups last season but didn't bring in any interceptions.
Potential needs: CB, DL, OL
27. Dallas Cowboys
Jason Marshall Jr., CB, Florida
Stephon Gilmore -- who is turning 33 and entering the final year of his contract -- doesn't seem to be in the Cowboys' long-term plans, and Trevon Diggs is likely to become expensive in the near future. That is to say the Cowboys may be relying on drafting well in the secondary behind Diggs. At 6-foot-1 and 198 pounds, Marshall's length causes issues for opponents in man coverage. However, he lacks ball production (only two career interceptions), and scouts want to see him make a bigger impact on passes in the air next season.
Potential needs: OL, CB, RB
28. Buffalo Bills
Jeremiah Trotter Jr., LB, Clemson
Trotter's instincts, speed and feel for attacking downhill were consistent on tape during his breakout sophomore year (91 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks and two interceptions). At 6-foot, 230 pounds, he isn't a big presence in the middle, but his foresight and reaction skills help him anticipate offensive concepts. The Bills found success in drafting an undersize but instinctive linebacker in Matt Milano in 2017. Pairing him alongside Trotter would provide the team with a really good duo in the middle of Sean McDermott's defense.
Potential needs: DL, WR, OT
Kingsley Suamataia, OT, BYU
With Mike McGlinchey heading to the Broncos, the 49ers are pivoting to Colton McKivitz at right tackle -- and they showed confidence in him by signing him to a two-year extension this offseason. But Suamataia would be an interesting addition to the mix if McKivitz doesn't live up to the investment. He could be a star in a zone-blocking scheme, like what coach Kyle Shanahan runs in San Francisco. At 6-foot-6 and 325 pounds, he has good movement skills but is still working to gain strength in his upper body.
Potential needs: OT, CB. EDGE
Graham Barton, OT, Duke
With Jonah Williams requesting a trade and La'el Collins' inability to stay healthy, right tackle is a concern for the Bengals. There will be debate over whether Barton is a guard or tackle, but the talent is there. At 6-foot-5 and 305 pounds, he spent his first season at center before transitioning to left tackle over the past two seasons. He now has 30 career starts, including 25 at tackle. Barton is a tenacious blocker in multiple phases and plays with plenty of poise.
Potential needs: OT, TE, DL
Javon Bullard, S, Georgia
It'd be wrong to not put a Georgia player here, right? The Eagles have repeatedly drafted players from the Bulldogs' loaded roster, and maybe Bullard is next. They haven't found a solution to losing C.J. Gardner-Johnson this offseason, but Bullard brings a very similar skill set to the slot. He primarily plays nickel and strong safety in Georgia's defense, and he's a physical tone-setter. Bullard had 50 tackles and two interceptions last season.
Potential needs: S, CB, EDGE
Xavier Worthy, WR, Texas
Electing to take the non-pricey route at wide receiver paid off for the Chiefs last season, and drafting a pass-catcher in Round 1 next April makes sense. Worthy would bring an explosive skill set to Kansas City for Patrick Mahomes. He needs to gain mass at 6-foot and 160 pounds, but he plays the game in a different gear. He recorded 12 catches that gained 20 or more yards last season, and I could see him eventually taking over Marquez Valdes-Scantling's role for the Chiefs.
Potential needs: S, WR, DL