Movement On Position Battles

2024 NFL rookie updates: Notes on 32 first-round draft picks

Mandatory minicamps for all 32 NFL teams were held over the past few weeks, with movement on position battles, some notable absences and veterans wearing new uniforms among the scrutinized items from June’s camps. The early practice field work of the league’s next generation of stars is always worth watching at this time of year, with the record six quarterbacks selected among the top 12 picks in the 2024 NFL draft among those feeling the hottest spotlight as the summer approaches. ESPN’s team of NFL reporters submitted early observations on all 32 first-rounders, with entries listed in order of how Round 1 played out:


1. Chicago Bears (from Carolina) — Caleb Williams, QB, USC

How he has fared so far: The Bears held very little back from their rookie quarterback as he began learning the offense, and his ability to “chunk information, put it into buckets and operate” impressed coach Matt Eberflus throughout the spring. Coaches encouraged Williams to experiment with different throws in OTAs and minicamp to see what windows he could hit while making sure his footwork timed up with when he released the ball. The 22-year-old quarterback naturally experienced ups and downs in practices while going against an experienced defense that used movement and disguises to challenge the rookie, but every now and again Williams got the better of his teammates. “He moved us a couple times with his eyes,” linebacker T.J. Edwards said. “The first day it had me and Tremaine [Edmunds] hot about it, but he’s impressive for sure.


2. Washington Commanders — Jayden Daniels, QB, LSU

How he has fared so far: Daniels never looked overmatched or confused during spring practices, which is a key reason the Commanders had him working exclusively with the first group in the mandatory minicamp. Daniels impressed teammates and coaches with how prepared he was, a byproduct in part of showing up every day at 5:45 a.m. for film work and his own walk-through session. But he looked sharp throwing the ball with anticipation and in how he has gone through his progressions. So far, he is exactly the player they thought they had drafted. “He’s got a swagger to him,” coach Dan Quinn said. “He really has a very firm handle on the things that we’re doing, but he also has the humility of a young player … knowing that he has a lot to prove.”


3. New England Patriots — Drake Maye, QB, North Carolina

How he has fared so far: After starting spring practices as the No. 3 option behind Jacoby Brissett and Bailey Zappe, Maye was the No. 2 option by the end of mandatory minicamp. His comfort level grew with each practice, and he capped his spring with a TD pass to fellow rookie Ja’Lynn Polk in a got-to-have-it situation — one second on the clock, ball on the 5-yard line, bragging rights on the line until the start of training camp. “Every day he’s gotten better,” Brissett said of Maye. “He’s constantly trying to find ways to get better, making some nice throws out there, and you’re seeing his progression come alive.

4. Arizona Cardinals — Marvin Harrison Jr., WR, Ohio State

How he has fared so far: It didn’t take long for Harrison to take over as the Cardinals’ No. 1 receiver, which was evident by him being the first receiver in drills during the open portion of minicamp. While he has made the routine plays look simple, he also has made the difficult look easy. Coach Jonathan Gannon said Harrison’s transition to the NFL has been “pretty seamless,” and teammates on both sides of the ball have been heaping praise on the fourth overall pick. Cornerback Garrett Williams called Harrison “special,” and fellow receiver Michael Wilson said Harrison is everything he expected.


5. Los Angeles Chargers — Joe Alt, T, Notre Dame

How he has fared so far: It’s difficult to evaluate line play in minicamp and OTAs, as players are going half speed and there are no pads, but coach Jim Harbaugh already named Alt a starter on the offensive line, a sign that he has made enough of an impression on the team before the real football even starts. Harbaugh didn’t give positions, but Alt has lined up mostly at right tackle and will likely play that this season. OLB Joey Bosa said he’s looking forward to “laying a helmet” on Alt at training camp next month to ensure he’s ready


6. New York Giants — Malik Nabers, WR, LSU

How he has fared so far: It didn’t take long for the Giants’ top pick to make a strong impression. “I mean, he can do everything,” quarterback Daniel Jones said. Nabers spent the spring flashing his special talent and making plays all over the field with the first-team offense, which the Giants hope is a sign of things to come.


7. Tennessee Titans — JC Latham, T, Alabama

How he has fared so far: Latham quickly assumed the starting left tackle role and took all first-team reps during OTAs and minicamp. When he isn’t out there, Latham can be seen cheering on his teammates and even giving pointers to some of the other rookies. The coaching staff has been most impressed with his work ethic as shown by his willingness to spend extra time after practice. “JC has maybe the best energy of any person on this team,” offensive coordinator Nick Holz said. “His energy is infectious. He’s done a really nice job with his footwork. He’s improved and is playing under control. He’s so big and so strong.”


8. Atlanta Falcons — Michael Penix Jr., QB, Washington

How he has fared so far: Penix was the story of the draft when he was taken at No. 8 after the Falcons had already signed Kirk Cousins. Penix has shown flashes of brilliance this spring, especially on the deep ball. But he also has been plagued with inconsistency, missing some touch passes. Not a huge surprise for a rookie QB. Penix has mostly worked with the team’s backups, with veteran Taylor Heinicke seemingly second string behind Cousins, at least at this point. That’s fine with the Falcons, who surely hope Penix is absorbing knowledge. “His humility shows every time he speaks with you guys, every time he walks in the building, in the meeting room,” coach Raheem Morris said of Penix


9. Chicago Bears — Rome Odunze, WR, Washington

How he has fared so far: A minor hamstring injury sidelined Odunze for several weeks in May but did not slow down his development while learning from veteran wide receivers DJ Moore and Keenan Allen. The Bears have lined up the No. 9 pick at all three receiver spots (X, Z, slot) and tapped into his ability to run a varied route tree, which coaches believe will create mismatches that favor the offense. They’ve even experimented with Odunze on punt return, which he did sparingly at Washington (three returns for 87 yards and one TD). The way Odunze has begun to learn the Chicago offense has impressed coaches, including his ability to take a specific play onto the field, recite the playcall and run it on his own. “I think that’s a really good way for him, and I think that was really mature on his part to be able to actually discern and understand how he learns best,” coach Matt Eberflus said


10. Minnesota Vikings (from New York Jets) — J.J. McCarthy, QB, Michigan

How he has fared so far: In sum, McCarthy looked like a quarterback with the talent to be a top-10 pick but with the inexperience of a 21-year-old. In other words: Exactly what should have been expected. At times, he fit darts into small windows against aggressive coverage. On other occasions, he bounced passes to receivers with no defenders in the drill. McCarthy kept the appropriate perspective throughout. “Failure is inevitable in sports,” he said. “You’ve just got to learn from them and learn from those little dips and not be attached to them emotionally.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *