NFL | May 16, 2024

2024 NFL Draft: The Real Winners and Losers

By Harry Bazley

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The aftermath of the 2024 NFL Draft has finally settled down - with all the outrage and overreaction swept under the rug - it’s time to take a look at the real winners and losers from the all-important event.

Winner: Chicago Bears

I know, I know… The Bears are the most obvious team to put on this list, but it’s pretty tough to be a loser with two selections in the top 10 of any draft, let alone one stacked with talent.

The Bears famously passed on Patrick Mahomes in 2017 and with another generational quarterback up for grabs, who knew if they’d make the same mistake again. Well thankfully, General Manager Ryan Poles - who selected Mahomes when he was the Chiefs GM - is now calling the shots for Chicago. So, with the 1st Overall Pick this year, the Bears took Caleb Williams - the Heisman-winning, record-breaking USC quarterback.

Williams brings hope to a Chicago team that has been struggling for some time and if you haven’t watched his college tape or seen his statlines, his jersey sales alone prove the hype…

The former Trojan just broke the Fanatics record for draft night merchandise sales for any draft pick in any sport, beating Caitlin Clark’s record set just a week prior. Even without their other selections, taking Williams made the Bears winners on Thursday night, and they only doubled down with their next selection…

At No.9, they picked gifted wide receiver Rome Odunze - who will now line up alongside Keenan Allen and DJ Moore - ensuring their new signal caller has all the outlets he needs to reach his full potential.

Now, this story may feel familiar for you Chicago fans out there… We all know about Mitchell Trubisky and even Justin Fields showing plenty of promise early on, but failing to reach the mark. But I'm confident this story will have a different ending.

If Williams’ undeniable talent can translate to the big league, the Bears have landed a franchise QB with a star-studded roster surrounding him. The future's looking bright for the Windy City.

Winner: Arizona Cardinals

With just 4 wins last season, the Cardinals are undoubtedly in the depths of a rebuild, but last week they began their long road to recovery with 11 total picks in the 2024 NFL draft. Sure, it’s nearly impossible to fail with that many selections, but either way, they came out as a key winner when all was said and done.

GM Monti Ossenfort refused to get gimmicky with trades and kept it simple with their 4th overall pick - filling their biggest need at WR by selecting Marvin Harrison Jr. The former Ohio State superstar already has the skill become an All-Pro receiver and I’m sure this pick put a smile on Kyler Murray’s face - who has been struggling since Deandre Hopkins joined the Titans.

Ossenfort followed up with Darius Robinson for the 27th overall pick - a defensive end who may not have had the most impressive collegiate career in Missouri, but dominated at the Senior Bowl and has more than enough upside to make this a solid selection at the tail-end of Round 1.

It became clear that beyond the first round, the Cardinals’ focus had shifted to the secondary; selecting safety Dadrion Taylor-Demerson alongside three corners - Elijah Jones, Jaden Davis and Max Melton (who could start immediately).

Considering they allowed the second most points per game and 6th most yards per game last season, this was the right direction to go. But in fact, one of their best picks came with offensive tackle Christian Jones at 162, who could well have been a top-100 player.

All-in-all, Arizona picked up the best wide receiver, a top tier edge rusher and so many other players that a rogue bust scenario is of little to no concern. It may be some time before any selection beyond the first round has a serious impact on the turf, but the Cardinals now have a solid foundation for the future across the board.

Winner: Minnesota Vikings

The Vikings lost Kirk Cousins to the Atlanta Falcons this offseason, leaving Sam Darnold as the likely replacement for the 2024 season. That was until rumours of a trade up for a top quarterback came into play. Fortunately for Minnesota, they didn’t have to move as far as expected.

Following a shocking pick from Atlanta, a window of opportunity opened up and the Vikings traded up just one spot to 10th overall to take the fifth best passer in the class - J.J. McCarthy.

Now, rookie quarterbacks are always boom or bust and McCarthy is a highly-debated prospect, but he has the upside of a future franchise quarterback. He may have been the signal-caller in a run-heavy offense, but these highlights show you his true potential when throwing the ball. At 10th overall, this is a great pick for a team that definitely needs a breath of fresh air. He may require some time to adjust to Kevin O’Connell’s scheme, but he could well be the future of Minnesota.

Vikings GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah followed up with perhaps the best defensive end on the board in Dallas Turner. They may have had a greater need at cornerback - with the defense ranking 28th vs the pass last season - but elite edge rushers can have a huge effect on that statline and the 17th pick offered very little value at the corner position.

Their corner selection came with their next pick in round 4 at 108th overall. Oregon CB Kyhree Jackson is joining a roster that desperately needs help in the secondary. You may think a pick this late will take some time to have a real effect in the league, but Jackson allowed just one touchdown in coverage all of last season. He certainly has the potential to improve one of the biggest flaws in Minnesota right now.

Their top three selections undoubtedly seem like winners for now, but the big question remains… Will Kevin O’Connell be able to turn McCarthy into an elite passer?

Loser: Atlanta Falcons

The Atlanta Falcons entered draft night with huge defensive needs and an 8th overall pick that provided perfect leverage. So, we all expected them to steal a few picks from a team desperate to move up, or stick at 8 and take a top defensive player early. Instead, the pick was turned in and Commissioner Goodell’s announcement left all of us in shock…

After signing veteran quarterback Kirk Cousins to a four-year $180 million contract with $100 million in guarantees, the Falcons drafted Michael Penix Jr - quarterback out of Washington.

Now, we can debate his talent all day long - and many have - but Penix is far from a raw quarterback that should be riding the bench for a few years. I mean, he just turned 24 and has played a ton of ball. There’s no doubt that learning from Cousins will do great things for his game, but I’m sure he wasn’t expecting to be a top 10 pick, only to play backup indefinitely.

The Falcons now have an 8th overall pick providing nothing more than a safety net for a four-time pro bowl quarterback that’s tied up for four years. It’s one of the most shocking first round picks we’ve seen for some time.

GM Terry Fontenot did address the defensive needs with his next three selections: Ruke Orhorhoro, Brandon Dorlus and Bralen Trice. But this isn’t enough value to overlook the decision they made in the first round.

Loser: Denver Broncos

After the failed Russell Wilson experiment (otherwise known as 'the worst trade in NFL history'), the Broncos are now verging on rebuild territory. They still have elite weapons like Courtland Sutton and Pat Surtain III on the roster, but they are severely lacking the kind of talented depth that carries a team into the postseason - which they have now missed 8 years in a row.

The 12th overall pick gave them a few options, so it was tough to know what direction they would go. Coming into the draft, they had needs at cornerback, defensive line and quarterback - but with Zach Wilson and Jarrett Stidham predicted to battle it out for the starting spot, I never expected them to pick up a rookie signal caller… That’s why this pick was almost as shocking as Atlanta’s.

GM George Paton selected Bo Nix at No.12 - quarterback out of Oregon. Perhaps he saw the run on QBs in the top 10 and panicked, but either way, taking Nix at 12 was an overpay.

The 24 year old may have put up some huge numbers in college, but he played in a Ducks offense that asked very little of him in terms of reading coverages. That’s not to say he didn’t progress to a talented passer over his five-year collegiate career, but perhaps that’s the issue. It took Nix five seasons to become the productive quarterback Oregon needed and to feel prepared enough for the big league, which begs the question: how much room is left for him to develop in the NFL?

They slightly redeemed themselves by picking up Oregon’s top pass-catcher on day 3 - WR Troy Franklin. The two built a great connection in college - combining for 1,383 yards and 14 scores last year - which should help the chances of seeing Nix at the helm in Denver.

Only time will tell whether Nix can lead the Broncos to a successful season, and he’ll still need to beat out Wilson for the opportunity. If he reaches his full potential, nobody will be coitizing this pick down the line, but for now, Sean Payton’s time in Denver is tied to a rookie QB with plenty of question marks surrounding him. Although, there is no denying the guy can make plays…

(Header Image Credit: Kirby Lee - USA Today Network)