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2024 NFL Draft: Quarterback Rankings Updated - Caleb Williams remains QB1, while J.J. McCarthy is ascending

We are a few weeks away from the 2024 NFL Draft, and the analysis and over-analysis are far from over. Over the last several weeks, heavy debate has centered around Michigan QB J.J. McCarthy and whether or not he is worthy of being a top 5 pick in the 2024 NFL Draft.

Caleb Williams remains the QB1, but I wouldn't rule out J.J. McCarthy.

I have spent the last three years evaluating Caleb Williams. I remember his time at Oklahoma when he burst onto the scene against Texas in an epic game, replacing Spencer Rattler and leading Oklahoma to a thrilling 55-48 win in the Red River rivalry after stepping in for Rattler at halftime. While Rattler was raw and talented, Caleb Williams was too good to be sidelined. Fast forward to now: he is a Heisman Trophy winner and considered a generational type of player. He has every throw in his arsenal, possesses strong arm strength, remarkable off-platform ability, and is likely a much more mobile version of Patrick Mahomes. Williams has lofty expectations, and although some believe his father could be a complicating factor in professional decision-making on the business side, this should not detract from Caleb Williams's exceptional talent. Initially, he graded on par with Andrew Luck and better than Trevor Lawrence in my evaluations. However, I do have some reservations about him, including his refusal to undergo medicals at the NFL Combine. He did submit to a few medical checks, and these results can be distributed to interested teams, so this issue may not be as significant as the media suggests. I wasn't concerned about him skipping NFL Combine workouts since he threw at his pro day and had a media session with the NFL Network. Overall, despite the thorough analysis, the most crucial aspect is what I see on tape, and I see an elite-level player.

J.J. McCarthy is absolutely worthy of a top 5 pick for several reasons

As I have said since 2022, J.J. McCarthy would be considered a top 10 pick in the 2024 NFL Draft if he improved his decision-making and mechanics in 2023. He improved in both areas under the guidance of a dedicated QB coach at Michigan, Kirk Campbell. McCarthy has the athletic ability and arm talent to be a very good or even great NFL quarterback. I wrote about each of the top quarterbacks in the 2024 NFL Draft a few weeks ago and provided the floor vs. ceiling comparisons to paint a better picture. McCarthy's ceiling is Joe Burrow; his floor is Chad Pennington. He is worth the risk either way, and depending on his landing spot, he could ascend much faster. I also wrote about each of the top QBs in clutch 3rd-down situations in 2023, and McCarthy ranked ahead of everyone in 3rd down and obvious passing situations, which completely shuts down the narrative that Michigan did not lean on him. NFL evaluators see the talent. Jim Harbaugh said he is the best quarterback in Michigan football history and is worthy of the top pick in the 2024 NFL Draft. I agree with Jim Harbaugh.

"I think he plays quarterback the best of any quarterback in the draft," said Harbaugh, "He's incredible. So, big market, small market. Cold weather, hot weather, it won't matter." - Jim Harbaugh

Updated Pre-NFL Draft QB Rankings

(QB1) Caleb Williams, USC (QB, 6'1", 215 lbs)

Projection: Elite

Consensus Draft Projections: 1st Overall Pick

NFL Teams Mocked: Chicago Bears

Analysis: Caleb Williams is hailed as a generational talent, showcasing a Mahomes-like ability to extend plays combined with elite arm talent. His tape is undeniable, and the ceiling is beyond measure. The only on-field knock on Caleb is that he played on a poorly coached team without a defensive identity. In 2023, Caleb Williams opted to play hero ball more often to overcome USC's bad defense, a trend he will need to break once he is in the NFL. Bad habits die hard in the NFL, so he will need to learn to take what is given more often. I cannot get a read on his work ethic off the field. Additionally, his father's influence on the business side is a small concern.

(QB2) J.J. McCarthy, Michigan (QB, 6'3", 219 lbs)

Projection: High-End Starter Potential

Consensus Draft Projections: Top 15 Overall

NFL Teams Mocked: Minnesota Vikings, New England Patriots, Denver Broncos, Las Vegas Raiders

Analysis: McCarthy's growth since arriving at the University of Michigan is one of the primary reasons NFL scouts and GMs are enamored. McCarthy has a powerful arm; he can make any throw at any level of the field. His mobility allows him to create as a runner and a passer, similar to Drake Maye and Caleb Williams. His ceiling, combined with his competitive nature and willingness to grind nonstop, has earned him the number two spot in my QB rankings.

(QB3) Drake Maye, North Carolina (QB, 6'4", 225 lbs)

Projection: High-End Starter Potential

Consensus Draft Projections: Top 5

NFL Teams Mocked: New England Patriots, Washington Commanders

Analysis: In 2022, Drake Maye displayed undeniable clutch ability and high-ceiling potential. Maye's 2023 season reflected a quarterback with elite potential marred by inconsistencies and unfulfilled potential. His playing style and physical attributes draw comparisons to Justin Herbert, indicating significant upside with proper development. Despite fluctuations in performance, Maye possesses a powerful arm and high-level escapability in the pocket, drawing comparisons to Ben Roethlisberger. If he reaches his ceiling, he could become the top QB in this draft class.

(QB4) Jayden Daniels, LSU (QB, 6'3", 200 lbs)

Projection: High-End Starter Potential

Consensus Draft Projections: Top 10 Overall

NFL Teams Mocked: Washington Commanders, New England Patriots

Analysis: Daniels's dynamic play style and pocket presence, combined with his remarkable athleticism, present a unique dual-threat capability. His Heisman-winning season at LSU underlines his evolution and potential as a top-tier NFL quarterback. Concerns remain regarding his physicality and decision-making as a runner, but his arm strength and accuracy position him as a highly desirable prospect. He has been compared to Joe Burrow and Lamar Jackson, both of whom are excellent passers from within the pocket, with Lamar Jackson providing the dual-threat comparison that you hope Daniels can ascend to.

(QB5) Michael Penix Jr., Washington (QB, 6'3", 214 lbs)

Projection: Mid-Level Starter Potential

Consensus Draft Projections: Mid to late 1st round

NFL Teams Mocked: Las Vegas Raiders, Denver Broncos

Analysis: Penix stands out with his precision and pocket poise, drawing parallels to established NFL passers like Joe Burrow and C.J. Stroud. There are, of course, injury concerns, but those have quieted a bit with reports of clean NFL Combine medicals. Under the right coaching, Penix's transition to the NFL could see him exceed expectations and secure a starting role immediately. I consider him an NFL-ready player who is at or near his ceiling.

(QB6) Bo Nix, Oregon (QB, 6'2", 213 lbs)

Projection: Low-Level Starter Potential

Consensus Draft Projections: Late 1st round, early 2nd round

NFL Teams Mocked: Denver Broncos, Las Vegas Raiders

Analysis: Bo Nix possesses a good blend of pocket presence and improvisational ability. Like J.J. McCarthy, Nix has a knack for making the clutch play in key moments. His improvement in mechanics and decision-making is why NFL teams are considering him a first-round talent. While I do not consider Nix to be a transcendent type of talent, he can be an adequate NFL-level starter in the right system.

(QB7) Spencer Rattler, South Carolina (QB, 6'1", 218 lbs)

Projection: Mid-Level Starter Potential

Consensus Draft Projections: 2nd or 3rd round

NFL Teams Mocked: New York Giants, Las Vegas Raiders, Denver Broncos

Analysis: Rattler's journey from Oklahoma to South Carolina is one of significant growth and maturity. At Oklahoma, Rattler burst onto the college football scene as a freshman, drawing comparisons to Patrick Mahomes due to his mobility and arm talent. However, in his second year, he faced adversity after failing to develop as expected and was supplanted by incoming freshman QB Caleb Williams. After transferring to South Carolina, Rattler began to show growth. Playing behind a weak offensive line in 2023, he showed promise both in the pocket and on the run as a passer. He remains inconsistent and will need the right situation at the NFL level to succeed. I believe he has the potential to ascend into a top player in this class, but he must continue to work on his decision-making, footwork, and consistency as a passer.


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