Draft cheat sheet: Everything you need to know on top prospects, team needs, projections

NFL

The Chicago Bears are nearly on the clock at No. 1, kicking off the 2024 NFL draft. It will be the first of 257 total selections over a three-day period from Thursday to Saturday.

The big questions heading into the draft: Which quarterback will the Commanders take at No. 2? Will the Patriots trade the No. 3 pick or take a QB of their own? How many receivers will be taken in the first two rounds? Which teams could shake up the first round?

To get you ready for all the action, here is a one-stop shop for everything you need to know about the draft — times, location, draft order, top prospects, rankings, mock drafts, stats to know and more. Read about the draft’s best players, your team’s pressing needs and how things might play out. Let’s start with some of the basics.

ESPN Draftcast | Best available players

Where, when and how to watch the draft

  • Round 1: Thursday at 8 p.m. ET (ESPN, ABC, ESPN App, ESPN Radio, ESPN Deportes, NFL Network)

  • Rounds 2-3: Friday at 7 p.m. ET (ESPN, ABC, ESPN App, ESPN Radio, ESPN Deportes, NFL Network)

  • Rounds 4-7: Saturday at noon ET (ESPN with ABC simulcast, ESPN App, ESPN Radio, ESPN Deportes, NFL Network)

The 2024 draft will be held in Detroit around Campus Martius Park and Hart Plaza. Some of the players who will be on-site: USC QB Caleb Williams; LSU QB Jayden Daniels, WRs Malik Nabers and Brian Thomas Jr.; North Carolina QB Drake Maye; Ohio State WR Marvin Harrison Jr.; Washington WR Rome Odunze; Alabama’s EDGE Dallas Turner, CB Terrion Arnold and OT JC Latham; UCLA EDGE Laiatu Latu; Toledo CB Quinyon Mitchell; and Missouri DL Darius Robinson.


What is the draft order?

There will be 257 picks in this year’s draft. The Bears — who acquired the pick from Carolina last year for the 2023 No. 1 pick — have the first selection, while the Jets have the final spot to take Mr. Irrelevant. The Cardinals, Packers and Rams have the most picks in the draft with 11 each, while the Bears have the fewest with four picks (including two in the first round). The Panthers, Browns and Texans currently do not have a pick in the first round.

Top 10:

1. Chicago Bears (from CAR)
2. Washington Commanders
3. New England Patriots
4. Arizona Cardinals
5. Los Angeles Chargers
6. New York Giants
7. Tennessee Titans
8. Atlanta Falcons
9. Chicago Bears
10. New York Jets

More: Full draft orderDraft needs for all 32 teams (ESPN+)

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2:34

Should the Patriots trade out of the No. 3 pick?

Mike Tannenbaum, Jeff Darlington and Domonique Foxworth debate whether the Patriots should stay at No. 3 or trade the pick.


How good is the 2024 draft class?

How you classify this draft is a matter of the criteria you prioritize. It’s not often we see a group that is likely to include three quarterback picks to begin the proceedings, so that alone makes this a strong draft. Quarterbacks move the needle more than any other position in the sport, and there could be five or six taken in Round 1. Wide receiver and offensive tackle (two additional premium positions) also have great depth this year.

However, the overall depth of this class does not stack up to recent drafts, which in part traces back to several high-profile prospects opting to return to college given the existence of NIL. Particularly weak positions in this year’s class include running back, tight end (beyond Georgia’s Brock Bowers) and safety. My personal opinion is that the quarterback, receiver and offensive tackle depth alone is enough to make this a rock-solid draft, though. — Field Yates, NFL draft analyst


How do the prospects in this class rank?

Scouts Inc.’s top 10 prospects:

1. Caleb Williams, QB, USC (Highlights)
2. Marvin Harrison Jr., WR, Ohio State (Highlights)
3. Malik Nabers, WR, LSU (Highlights)
4. Joe Alt, OT, Notre Dame (Highlights)
5. Jayden Daniels, QB, LSU (Highlights)
6. Drake Maye, QB, North Carolina (Highlights)
7. Dallas Turner, EDGE, Alabama (Highlights)
8. Rome Odunze, WR, Washington (Highlights)
9. J.J. McCarthy, QB, Michigan (Highlights)
10. Quinyon Mitchell, CB, Toledo (Highlights)

Scouts Inc.’s top six quarterbacks:

1. Caleb Williams, USC (Highlights)
2. Jayden Daniels, LSU (Highlights)
3. Drake Maye, North Carolina (Highlights)
4. J.J. McCarthy, Michigan (Highlights)
5. Bo Nix, Oregon (Highlights)
6. Michael Penix Jr., Washington (Highlights)

Our analysts’ personal boards:

More about the standout players: Position rankings and our consensus boardCollege football coaches pick draft sleepers (ESPN+) … Louis Riddick’s favorite prospects, sleepersBest prospects at 90 different traits (ESPN+) … 13 prospects who could impact new kickoff ruleOur favorite prospect-to-pro compsBiggest risers of the year

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1:53

Is Jayden Daniels a lock to Commanders with the No. 2 pick?

Dan Graziano and Robert Griffin III give their predictions for what the Commanders will do at No. 2.


Mel Kiper Jr.’s favorite prospects

Kiper, who has analyzed the draft for ESPN since 1984, recently released a list of his favorite prospects in the class — at every position. Here’s what Kiper wrote about Tennessee running back Jaylen Wright:

Wright made my list of risers after the combine, where he put up a 4.38-second 40-yard dash, an 11-foot-2 broad jump and a 38-inch vertical leap, all of which ranked close to the top at his position. He is a supreme athlete, and his tape matches that too. In 2023, he averaged 7.4 yards per carry, which ranked third in the FBS, and 4.1 yards after contact per carry, which ranked ninth. How did he have only four touchdowns?

Wright hits the hole decisively, but I also love that he is a stellar pass-blocker. He can handle blitzers and play on third downs in the NFL. He caught only 30 passes in three seasons for the Vols, but he has the tools to develop as a pass-catcher.

Wright is my second-ranked running back, but I projected only one back (Texas’ Jonathon Brooks) in the first two rounds of my latest mock draft, just based on the value of the position. I see Wright being picked early in Round 3 and making an impact as a rookie.

Read Kiper’s full list of prospects here (ESPN+).


Latest mock drafts

Are you looking for the most up-to-date mock drafts from all of our draft analysts? Well, you found them. See whom each analyst has going to every team in the first round (and in some cases, beyond). Here’s the latest from ESPN+:

You can find every mock draft here.

More: Debating need, value for Round 1 picks (ESPN+) … Barnwell’s All-trades mock draftBowen’s perfect fits for 20 prospects (ESPN+) … Roster hole solutions for nine teams10 realistic team fits for top prospects


What to expect if your team needs a quarterback

This QB class could end up as the best of the past decade — and I expect there to be around 11 signal-callers drafted this year. Williams is the presumed No. 1 pick, but the pecking order gets interesting after that point.

It’s widely expected that Washington will stay at No. 2 and pick between Daniels and Maye. The Patriots at No. 3 have multiple options (including trading back), but they still have major question marks under center themselves. Whoever doesn’t hear their name called at No. 2 between Maye or Daniels will likely be selected with the next pick. Other QB-needy teams such as the Vikings, Raiders and Broncos are also likely to be in the running for a QB in Round 1, perhaps McCarthy, Penix or Nix. The top six quarterbacks figure to be gone by midway into the second round.

For teams that aren’t able to get a top quarterback early, Spencer Rattler (South Carolina) and Michael Pratt (Tulane) could be late-Day 2 or early-Day 3 picks. — Jordan Reid, NFL draft analyst

More: Scouts, execs stack 11 draft QBs (ESPN+) … Try to match Round 1 QBs to new teamsSeven clichés about trading up in the draftWhy don’t top QBs force their landing spots?Pick ranges for the top passers (ESPN+) … Statistical comps for six QBs (ESPN+)

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2:28

Schefter tells McAfee why Michael Penix Jr. could go in the 1st round

Adam Schefter explains to Pat McAfee why Michael Penix Jr. could be selected as early as the first round in the NFL draft.


Pre-draft buzz

What are our experts hearing in the rumor mill ahead of Thursday’s draft?

Second tier of WRs: Texas wide receiver Xavier Worthy is a sneaky favorite to be the fourth wide receiver off the board, according to conversations with NFL teams over the past week. He set a combine record (since at least 2003) with his 4.21-second run in the 40-yard dash, coming on the heels of three great seasons of production as a receiver and punt returner for the Longhorns.

With Harrison, Nabers and Odunze all expected to be drafted inside the top 10, Worthy’s range starts at No. 15 with the Colts. They met with Worthy at the combine and then brought him back to the facility — using one of the 30 slots each team is given to bring prospects to its facility for private meetings — during the pre-draft process, according to team sources. The love for Worthy is real around the league, and I don’t expect he’ll have a long wait on draft night. — Matt Miller, NFL draft analyst

Vikings’ level of activity: Execs around the league are closely watching Minnesota, which has actively worked the phones leading into Thursday. I’ve spoken to multiple teams in the top 10 that say Minnesota — which owns the 11th and 23rd picks — has called about a potential trade up.

It appears the Vikings have a quarterback target in mind, and most teams think it’s either Maye or McCarthy. But with no picks on Day 2, the Vikings will stay nimble. And maybe they decide to stay put, taking the best player available with one of their picks and the best quarterback available with the other. But they are prepared to do something. — Jeremy Fowler, NFL national writer

Here are the latest rumblings via ESPN+:

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1:44

Schefter to McAfee: Vikings, Giants are trying to move up in draft

Adam Schefter details the efforts of the Vikings and Giants to try to get the Patriots’ pick at No. 3 in the NFL draft.


10 things to know from ESPN Stats & Information

  • The Bears are expected to draft a quarterback with the first pick, which would tie the Colts (seven) for the most QBs drafted in the first round in the common draft era (since 1967). The Bears are the only current franchise that has never had a 4,000-yard passer in a season and the only franchise that hasn’t had a quarterback throw 30 passing touchdowns in a season.

  • Top prospect Caleb Williams was responsible for 11,042 yards and an FBS-high 120 touchdowns during his three-year college career (2021-23). He is one of 87 players in FBS history with 10,000 yards of offense and 100 TDs — but the only one to commit fewer than 20 turnovers (19). Williams has a career 6.6 TD-INT ratio, which is the second-best mark in the FBS in 25 years (min. 1,000 attempts).

  • If Williams is selected first overall, USC coach Lincoln Riley would become the first college coach in the common draft era with three No. 1 picks (all positions) — the others were Kyler Murray (2019) and Baker Mayfield (2018).

  • There has only been one year in the common draft era when four QBs were selected in the top 10 (2018), and there have never been four quarterbacks taken in the first five picks. The first-round record for quarterbacks is six in the 1983 draft — and three of those QBs became Pro Football Hall of Famers (John Elway, Jim Kelly and Dan Marino).

  • The first round is expected to be heavy on offense, with both the WR and OT classes considered to be deep. The common draft era record for offensive picks in the first round is 19 (2009, 2004 and 1968). The most consecutive offensive picks to start a draft in that time frame is seven in 2021.

  • Alabama’s streak of consecutive seasons with at least one first-rounder is up to 15 entering 2024, the longest streak by any program in the common draft era. The next-longest active streak belongs to Ohio State at eight straight entering 2024.

  • Former Alabama coach Nick Saban will become the first coach in the common draft era to have 50 first-round picks if a Crimson Tide player is drafted in the opening round in 2024.

  • If there are 16 selections from Michigan, that would be the most from a reigning national champion since 1967. That distinction currently belongs to Georgia, which had 15 players taken in 2022.

  • While players drafted in the first round get most of the attention, a significant portion of a team’s roster is built on Days 2 and 3. Among active players in the 2023 season, 63% were drafted in Rounds 4 to 7 or went undrafted.

  • There were 43 draft-day trades completed in 2023, the most ever for a single draft. Nearly half of those trades (20) came on Day 3.


Projecting the draft’s top players

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve used metrics to predict how good players will be in their first five years in the NFL. Does the 2024 class of quarterbacks have multiple elite QBs in the mix? Why are teams facing a down year for running backs? Which receivers do the metrics project to be even better than Marvin Harrison Jr.? And what pass-rushers should teams not want to face? All of those questions are answered in the position reports below, via ESPN+. — Aaron Schatz, NFL analyst

Quarterbacks | Running backs | Wide receivers | Edge rushers

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1:33

Booger, Kiper make their picks for best WR in the 2024 draft

Booger McFarland and Mel Kiper Jr. debate whether Malik Nabers or Marvin Harrison Jr. is the best WR in the NFL draft.


Read about the prospects

Which prospects have particularly interesting backgrounds?


NFL Draft Day Predictor

Our Draft Day Predictor is a publicly available tool that uses expert mock drafts, Scouts Inc. grades and team needs to forecast pick probabilities for prospects in the upcoming draft. That means we can predict when the best players will get picked and the chance they will be available at certain slots. Additionally, our 2024 NFL Draft Day Predictor simulator puts users in the GM chair, giving them the opportunity to make picks and conduct trades. — Seth Walder, analytics writer


Frequently asked draft questions

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