Michael Penix Jr. and Bo Nix Ian Maule/Getty Images

2024 NFL Draft: Landing Spots for Top QBs After Caleb Williams and Drake Maye

Brent Sobleski

North Carolina's Drake Maye and USC's Caleb Williams are the overwhelming favorites to be the first two quarterbacks selected in the 2024 NFL draft. They aren't the only intriguing quarterback prospects in this draft class, though.

Five more could hear their names called anywhere in the first or second rounds, including reigning Heisman Trophy winner Jayden Daniels and two of the quarterbacks who joined him in New York City, Oregon's Bo Nix and Washington's Michael Penix Jr..

From there, things become a little more interesting. Two more potential top prospects—Michigan's J.J. McCarthy and Texas' Quinn Ewers—are participating in the College Football Playoff, so they have yet to reveal their future intentions.

For the purposes of this article, McCarthy and Ewers will remain included. However, Georgia's Carson Beck and Colorado's Shedeur Sanders are prepared to return to school for another season.

Talent and performance at the collegiate level are merely the starting points for a player who's about to enter the professional ranks. Situation is a vital component of whether a prospect develops into a legitimate long-term starter or bust.

Which NFL teams should be looking to invest in new signal-callers, and which prospect fits best with each one? Let's take a look.

Jayden Daniels: Las Vegas Raiders

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The continued year-to-year growth from LSU's Jayden Daniels has been extraordinary.

He originally committed to Arizona State as a 4-star recruit. Daniels never threw for more than 2,943 yards or 17 touchdowns, and his team went 18-12 during that stretch. After he announced that he'd be entering the transfer portal, video and reports surfaced of his then-teammates rummaging through his locker.

Daniels found new life at LSU, although his numbers in 2022 weren't much better than what he did at Arizona State. This fall, though, he went from being a talented dual-threat playmaker to an elite talent who wound up winning this year's Heisman Trophy.

Daniels set career-highs with a 72.2 completion percentage, 3,812 passing yards, an average of 11.7 yards per attempt, 40 touchdown passes and 1,134 rushing yards. According to Pro Football Focus' Max Chadwick, Daniels' 2023 performance received the second-highest grade ever among Heisman Trophy winners during the PFF era. As analyst Fran Duffy noted, the senior's 83.0 percent adjusted completion rate on true drop-backs on third down is the best ever during the same stretch.

Bleacher Report Scout Derrik Klassen recently wrote, "While there's still some concerns with his slight frame and up-and-down accuracy to the intermediate area, Daniels just plays like a pro. He commands the pocket well and keeps his eyes up."

So, where would he fit best? That might depend on what the Las Vegas Raiders decide to do at head coach.

Raiders interim head coach Antonio Pierce served as Arizona State's recruiting coordinator when they brought in Daniels. He understands what Daniels is made of and knows the potential he brings to the table.

The Raiders are 3-3 since Pierce took the reins. He may be a good bet to keep the job. If he does, Daniels would be the perfect franchise quarterback to draft.

Bo Nix: Washington Commanders

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With a new ownership group leading the way, the Washington Commanders' situation is difficult to project. Head coach Ron Rivera and general manager Martin Mayhew could both be on the outs, so no one can be certain which direction they'll go at quarterback.

As of now, the only relative certainty is that Sam Howell shouldn't be viewed as the long-term solution. Oregon's Bo Nix could be a hedge when it comes to addressing the game's most important position in the nation's capital.

The Commanders are currently in line to land the fourth overall draft pick. They aren't quite bad enough to be within range of Drake Maye or Caleb Williams, which leaves them with two options. They could either trade up for one of the top quarterback prospects, or they could stay patient and wait to take one later in the draft. Every quarterback option from this point forward currently holds a second-round grade from the B/R NFL Scouting Department.

Nix's best attribute is how he matured and handled the transition as the leader of two different programs. The soon-to-be 24-year-old will leave Oregon with more starts than any other quarterback (thanks to an extra year of eligibility due to the COVID-19 pandemic).

Nix also boasts multiple qualities that can fit different schemes. He's an efficient operator in the short and quick passing game featured in the Ducks offense. He makes decisions rapidly and accurately. But he also has the natural arm talent to sprinkle in a few NFL throws.

The 6'2", 217-pound prospect is an excellent athlete, too. That could help alleviate some of the issues found along the Commanders offensive line.

Michael Penix Jr.: Minnesota Vikings

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There are four potential concerns about Michael Penix Jr., but the Minnesota Vikings should be able to overcome at least three of them.

Penix has already suffered two torn ACLs, so his medical evaluation at the NFL Scouting Combine will be critical. He also missed half of his second season with the Indiana Hoosiers because of a shoulder injury.

Whether he's cleared or not may vary on a team-by-team basis based on what the doctors see regarding his long-term prognosis. But the Heisman Trophy finalist did play in 26 games over the last two seasons, with more to come during the College Football Playoff.

Second, Penix will turn 24 shortly after next year's draft. Much like with Bo Nix, that can be viewed as a positive, particularly in this situation. With Kirk Cousins set to enter free agency and Joshua Dobbs benched, Minnesota doesn't have a ready-made solution behind center. A more experienced signal-caller may be able to step in and claim the job sooner than later.

From an evaluation standpoint, the first major issue is how poorly Penix handles pressure. He's a completely different quarterback when the pocket is muddied. Fortunately, he's played behind a great Huskies offensive line. The Vikings don't have a top-tier front five, but it's a talented group that will remain intact into next season.

Finally, the quarterback's touch can be erratic based on poor mechanics. Too often, Penix can be seen throwing off his back foot, which creates less variability in the throws he makes. Fortunately, Vikings head coach Kevin O'Connell is a former NFL quarterback, personal quarterback coach, NFL quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator. The head coach also calles the plays in Minnesota. He can build a scheme around an incoming rookie and potentially mask any weaknesses.

When Penix is operating at peak efficiency, he can distribute the ball well. In a much better offensive scheme with a good supporting cast as part of the Huskies program, the quarterback posted 8,859 passing yards and a 64-to-17 touchdown-to-interception ratio over the last two seasons.

J.J. McCarthy: Atlanta Falcons

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Michigan's J.J. McCarthy has plenty left on his plate as the quarterback of the nation's No. 1-ranked team. He's not looking ahead to next spring's draft, if he even decides to declare. But evaluators must consider the possibility of him being available and where he fits in the class.

Frankly, what we've seen of McCarthy this season isn't quite enough.

To be clear, the junior quarterback looks like he has the arm talent and movement skills to eventually lead an NFL team. However, Michigan has limited his opportunities as a passer.

McCarthy averaged 22.1 pass attempts per game this season, with only three contests of 30 or more attempts. For comparison, Penix, who led the nation in passing yardage, posted only two games with fewer than 30 attempts. Against two top-10-ranked opponents in Penn State and Ohio State, McCarthy threw the ball a total of 28 times combined.

The Wolverines are a ground-and-pound offense, with McCarthy's skill set serving as a complement. When he is allowed to let it rip, he can make some exceptional throws into tight coverage. He's also faster than defenders think and gets out on the edge to create chunks of rushing yardage.

It's not hard to project the underclassman into another run-control offense, where a quarterback must be comfortable turning his back to his defense and creating some with this legs.

The Atlanta Falcons have seemingly turned the page on Desmond Ridder as their starting quarterback after benching him for journeyman Taylor Heinicke. The 6-8 Falcons are still very much in the playoff hunt because the NFC South stinks and the two teams in the final two playoff spots currently sit at 7-7.

Heinicke is a last gasp to make something out of this season. The backup-turned-starter is under contract for one more year. Whether the Falcons make a legitimate playoff push shouldn't dictate how the front office approaches the game's most important position, though.

With a veteran option still on the roster, McCarthy wouldn't be forced to take over the Falcons offense immediately unless he's ready. And he's already coming from a scheme that is similar to Atlanta's offensive approach.

Quinn Ewers: Denver Broncos

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The Denver Broncos may not be the first team that comes to mind for a high-end quarterback prospect. After all, Russell Wilson is under contract through 2028. But that shouldn't deter them from looking for their quarterback of the future, too.

While the Broncos and Wilson have both improved over last season's disastrous effort, the team still finds itself at 7-7 overall and a game behind in the playoff standings. Denver should already be preparing to move on from Wilson eventually, whether it's after next season or some point in the next two or three seasons.

As of now, the 35-year-old has a guaranteed $35.4 million salary-cap hit next year, per Over the Cap. However, the Broncos can save $37 million against the 2025 cap if they release Wilson with a post-June 1 designation.

Even if the Broncos plan to keep Wilson next year, they could select Texas' Quinn Ewers in hopes of developing the 20-year-old over time. Granted, Ewers could still return to Austin for another season. Backup Maalik Murphy's decision to enter the transfer portal despite the Longhorns playing the in College Football Playoff may indicate that's the case. But there's no official word yet either way.

If Ewers opts to declare for the draft, he can go to a team where he'd be best positioned to maximize his development over the long haul. When working in rhythm and on time regarding underneath and intermediate routes, the underclassman can be deadly, which bodes well in a Payton-led offense.

Ewers' deep passing tends to be erratic, but it's because of a lack of raw arm talent. His touch and timing can be improved. Who better to learn from than Wilson when it comes to dropping the ball in the bucket on vertical routes?

The Broncos could land Ewers a little later in the draft yet still invest in a 5-star talent with mega-upside. If Payton plans to see the entirety of his contract through, he'll need another quarterback sooner or later.


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