2024 Draft: Best Picks of Each Round

Reflecting on this year‘s NFL Draft, Keith Delany ’26 dives into his favorite picks of each round, its winners and losers, and his favorite receiver fits.

The 2024 NFL Draft cycle has finally come to a close. After months of discourse, anticipation, and allure, this year’s draft did not disappoint. We saw QBs fly off the board and a new record of 23 offensive players selected in the first round. Some teams got better and some got… marginally better. Now, with all 257 picks in, let’s get into my favorite picks of each round, my winners and losers of the draft, and favorite receiver fits.

Favorite Picks:

Round 1: Pick No. 9 - Rome Odunze - Chicago Bears

This round was probably the most difficult to choose from because there were some picks I absolutely loved and some I didn’t understand at all… looking at you Atlanta. But ultimately, I went with the ninth pick of the draft, Rome Odunze, who will head to the Windy City alongside the number one overall pick, Caleb Williams, and will make a valuable addition to an already solid receiving core of D.J. Moore and Keenan Allen. While it’s difficult to look at any pick within the top 10 as “value,” I think Odunze at No. 9 is as close as you can get. I had him ranked as WR2 in his class. Odunze is an extremely fluid athlete and route runner who is the best contested catch receiver in this draft class. In my breakdown, I compared watching Odunze run routes to watching Paul George play basketball — with his uncanny body control, explosive cuts, and his innate ability to attack and manipulate defender’s leverage, Odunze is the encapsulation of smooth. While he can continue to improve his YAC ability, he pairs nicely with D.J. Moore who is one the NFL’s best receivers after the catch. In other draft classes, Rome Odunze would likely be the first receiver off the board and the Chicago Bears were able to take him at No. 9 providing Caleb Williams with a safe, dependent target who has the upside to be a surefire No. 1 receiver in the NFL.

Round 2: Pick No. 40 - Cooper Dejean - Philadelphia Eagles

To grab the standout Iowa cornerback, the Philadelphia Eagles sent away the No. 50, 53, and 161 picks in exchange for the No. 40, 78, and 152 picks. Per the Over the Cap player value chart, the Eagles gave up the equivalent of a seventh-round pick to move up. That is pretty remarkable value to grab a player who I graded as a mid-to-late first round pick and the number three corner in the class. With a wide-ranged skill set, Cooper Dejean showcased that he can be effective in a variety of roles such as corner, nickel, or safety. Dejean, along with their first round selection of Quinyon Mitchell, provided immediate help to a secondary that ranked 31st in average passing yard allowed. Ultimately, the Eagles simultaneously selected Dejean at a great value while addressing a glaring need, making him my favorite selection in the second round.

Round 3: No. 80 - Jermaine Burton - Cincinnati Bengals

With the state of the Cincinnati WR in flux after the news of Tee Higgins trade request and Tyler Boyd’s imminent departure as a free agent, the Bengals desperately needed to address their pass catching depth. While most projections in the pre-draft process had Burton going in the third round, I had Burton graded as a mid-to-late second round pick and my overall WR10. While his relatively disappointing production at Alabama and reports of immaturity off the field hurt his draft stock, I strongly believe that Burton possesses legit first round receiving traits. He is an explosive athlete who can win and separate at all three levels of the field. In his class alone, he boasted the highest average depth of target rate (ADoT - 20.6), deep target rate (35.6%), and explosive rate (28.0%). With elite body control and sure hands (0.0% drop rate in 2023), I think the Bengals got a much needed, immediate impact, and high upside receiver in the third round.

Round 4: Pick 130 - T.J. Tampa - Baltimore Ravens

Although the Ravens addressed their need for corners in the first round with the selection of Clemson defensive back, Nate Wiggins, the Ravens made my favorite selection of the fourth round with Iowa State corner, T.J. Tampa. I graded Tampa as a late 2nd round to early third-round pick. To grab him late in the fourth round is another tremendous value. While he is not the most athletic corner in the class, Tampa plays with instinctive ball skills and innate awareness. He was most effective as an off-coverage corner, but with his physicality and effectiveness at the catch point, I can see Tampa developing into a talented man-corner. Overall, I think he adds immediate depth to a corner room that desperately needs it with an aging Marlon Humphrey, and with his tools, I believe Tampa has the potential to be a starting corner for the Ravens.

Round 5: Pick 150 - Spencer Rattler - New Orleans Saints

After the first 12 picks of the 2024 Draft, with six quarterbacks taken off the board, it seemed a certainty that Rattler would go a little ahead of where he should. However, this was not the case — in fact, the opposite happened. He fell… and he fell quite a bit. Rattler, who I graded as a third-round pick and the QB7 in his class, is an impressive arm talent. Frequently pushing the ball down the field, Rattler was also an effective improviser who was able to frequently get the ball out quickly into tight windows. While his athleticism and character reports likely pushed him down NFL teams draft boards, Rattler’s arm talent has the potential for significant upside at a premium position.

Round 6: Pick 189 - Mekhi Wingo - Detroit Lions

Although Wingo projects more as a third round defensive tackle talent, his lack of size pushed him down NFL draft boards resulting in an excellent value addition for the Lions in the sixth round. With short arms and a small body, Wingo can frequently be too easily washed down by blocks. However, Wingo is an explosive athlete who’s speed and violent hands make him uber effective in 1-on-1 situations. Compact and strong, Wingo has excellent speed-to-power skills which will make him effective in passing situations. After adding D.J. This off-season, the Lions bolster their defensive line depth with a great value selection of Mekhi Wingo who, despite his lack of size, boasts NFL starting potential.

Round 7: Pick 231 - Jaheim Bell - New England Patriots

After selecting Drake Maye with the third overall pick, the Patriots focused their remaining draft capital on surrounding Maye with support, evident in their selection of Ja’Lynn Polk and Javon Baker. Jaheim Bell, with his elite athleticism and YAC ability, can potentially be yet another new weapon for the new signal caller in New England. While he may struggle to find the field early due to the crowded TE room, Bell is an excellent athlete and pass-catcher who has the potential to be an effective No. 2 tight end.


Los Angeles Chargers

While many Chargers fans may be upset about missing out on Malik Nabers at No. 5, I absolutely think it was the right move to select the top tackle in the draft in Joe Alt. By doing so, Harbaugh and Co. are making a commitment to building their roster through the trenches on a team that desperately lacked physicality and any semblance of an effective run game. The Chargers absolutely knocked it out of the park with their first three selections adding a quarterback-friendly target who is an excellent route runner and YAC threat in Ladd McConkey as well as a green-dot LB out of the University of Michigan, Junior Colson who was my number 1 ranked LB in the draft. On day three, the Chargers selected Brenden Rice and Cornelius Johnson, two receivers picked at a good value in the seventh round who both add to a receiver room in dire need of help. I also loved their addition of Troy running back Kimani Vidal who I can see carving out a role and earning touches right off the bat. All in all, I think this is a promising start to the Harbaugh era in Los Angeles.  

Chicago Bears

In the words of Bears General Manager Ryan Poles, “This is an impact draft for this organization.” For a franchise that has been stuck in the vicious cycle of mediocre quarterback play since its existence, Chicago added Caleb Williams who’s special playmaking ability and arm talent threatens to break the cycle. The Bears then paired him with my favorite selection of the first round, Rome Odunze, a receiver with elite ball skills who consistently wins at the catchpoint. With true No. 1 receiver potential, I think the pairing of Williams and Odunze can catapult the Bears into being an immediate and consistent contender in the National Football Conference (NFC). Although they had limited capital on days two and three, I particularly liked the fifth round selection of Austin Booker who was drafted at great value and is a rotational edge piece who adds great length and pass-rush savvy to their defensive line group.

Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles draft class ranked an impressive second in RAS athletic scores and third overall in production. Taking advantage of an advantageous board in the first two rounds, the Eagles were able to add Quinyon Mitchell and Cooper Dejean, two outstanding corners at great values who ranked CB1 and CB3 in my rankings. I also liked their day-three addition, particularly the addition of Johnny Wilson out of Florida State. While there are several serious question marks surrounding his hands, he is a massive target at 6’6” who is an impressive athlete with a 9.88 RAS score. Given his athleticism and size, he is absolutely worth a dart throw in the 6th round. The Eagles were able to simultaneously add productive and athletic prospects who address needs in their secondary and at edge as well as improving receiver depth, and adding some interior help while not fraying away from the consensus big board. And, in the process of it all, GM Howie Roseman added a third, fourth, and fifth round selection for next year's draft in the process. Impressive work for the Eagles who desperately needed to regroup and retool following a late season collapse and early playoff exit.


Atlanta Falcons

Recent history has shown us that drafting a quarterback while having a set-in-stone starter (Ex:Patrick Mahomes, Jordan Love, Jalen Hurts, and more) can be an effective team building strategy. For it to be an effective strategy, however, you have to actually hit on the quarterback and I have significant doubts that Michael Penix Jr. will. He was excellent at avoiding sacks  and boasted a Pressure to Sack % of 10.8% which ranked first in his quarterback class. Penix is an impressive and accurate arm talent who plays with tangible confidence, but with two glaring red flags — age (24) and injury history —  in addition to his struggles to throw over the middle of the field and with anticipation, I graded him as a second round pick and my fifth ranked quarterback. While I liked their defensive selection in the later rounds, especially third rounder, Bralen Trice, the short and long term implications of the Michael Penix Jr. selection for a team that is ready to win now makes me put them in the loser group of this year’s draft.  

San Francisco 49ers

Despite three straight winning seasons including two trips to the conference championship game and a Super Bowl appearance, the 49ers have not been drafting particularly well since their 2019 class. Aside from the massive hit that is their 2022 seventh round selection of Brock Purdy, John Lynch has had a lot of big swings and misses as of late. As a result, the 49ers went into the draft with more needs than you would expect from a Super Bowl runner-up. Although I do think the 49ers did a good job at addressing their needs at corner, offensive, and receiver during the draft, I think they reached on their first two selections of Ricky Pearsall and Renardo Green.  Pearsall is a freak athlete with sure hands who is a natural separator and can create after the catch. However, I wasn’t overly impressed with his route tree on tape as his footwork was at times sloppy at the top of the route. With his age, inability to create explosive plays, and lack of size, I viewed Pearsall as primarily a slot receiver and graded him as a second round pick. For their second selection, I think John Lynch reached again for Renardo Green who I viewed as a third or fourth round prospect due to his average size and speed as well as his lack of impressive ball skills. While I like some of the other selections the 49ers made, such as Wake Forest safety Malik Mustapha and Arizona receiver Jacob Cowing, I think Lynch made some big reaches in the early rounds.

Favorite Receiver Landing Spots:

Before delving into my favorite receiver fits, here is a full breakdown of my top 15 receivers in the 2024 draft class.

Ladd McConkey - Los Angeles Chargers (Pick No. 34):

Given the departure of both Keenan Allen and Mike Williams, the Chargers receiving core was in desperate need of help. Ladd McConkey, a fluid athlete and route runner who separates easily and creates after the catch is exactly the type of receiver the Chargers need. With little competition for touches, McConkey, one of the most QB-friendly receivers in the 2024 class, will quickly become a favorite target for Justin Herbert.

Brian Thomas Jr. - Jacksonville Jaguars (Pick No. 23):

Brian Thomas Jr., a speedy X receiver with great ball-tracking abilities and a large catch radius pairs nicely alongside Christian Kirk and new offseason addition, Gabe Davis. Out the gate, Thomas Jr. will not be a number one option which will give him time and flexibility to refine his route tree and footwork. In a spread offense that relies on RPOs and straight dropbacks, Thomas Jr. will fit right in as a field-stretching, big-bodied X receiver that the Jaguars passing attack were greatly missing last season.

Jermaine Burton - Cincinnati Bengals (Pick No. 80):

Jermaine Burton, my favorite pick in the third round, is a nuanced, explosive route runner who can win at all three levels of the field. In an offense that ranks top five in 11-personnel usage (three receivers, one tight end, one running back), the Bengals, especially with the muddied future of Tee Higgins, need at least three high-level receivers on their roster for their offense to function effectively. With a clear need and role carved out for Burton, I think he is poised to have an immediate impact in his rookie season.

In an offense-heavy draft, it will be interesting to see how all the top picks and prospects turn out. If you are looking for more in-depth analysis into the top receivers in the 2024 class, check out this full breakdown.