32 first-round picks, 32 first impressions: Early observations of the 2024 class

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:

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.” — Courtney Cronin


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.” — John Keim


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.” — Mike Reiss


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. — Josh Weinfuss


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. — Kris Rhim


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. — Jordan Raanan


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.” — Turron Davenport


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. — Marc Raimondi


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. — Courtney Cronin


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.” — Kevin Seifert


How he has fared so far: Fashanu, drafted to be the Jets’ long-term answer at left tackle, is backing up former Cowboys star Tyron Smith. That’s the plan “for now,” coach Robert Saleh said. In other words, a temporary switch isn’t out of the question if they feel he’d upgrade another position. In a team meeting during minicamp, Fashanu was highlighted by the coaches for showing improvement in a specific technique. He’s “a great mover,” Saleh said. Fashanu has the movement skills to thrive in a zone-based scheme. They will get a better feel for his physicality when the pads go on. — Rich Cimini


How he has fared so far: Nix is in a three-way battle for the starting job with Jarrett Stidham and Zach Wilson. Coach Sean Payton split the work evenly among the trio throughout the offseason program, which ended Wednesday with the second minicamp practice. Nix has shown he has developed at least some comfort level with the playbook and has displayed accuracy, particularly in the short and intermediate routes. Payton has consistently lauded Nix’s maturity thus far. “We gave [the quarterbacks] a lot, we gave all three of these guys … there was a lot of install in a short period of time. … Overall, though, it’s what we saw [in him before the draft], what we evaluated, and that’s encouraging.” The three quarterbacks, including Nix, are expected to work with most of the team’s pass-catchers on their own in early July to get a head start on training camp. — Jeff Legwold


How he has fared so far: Bowers glides when he runs, his stride resembling that of a free-flowing wideout more than a stereotypical lumbering tight end. And when not hauling in passes in practice, he has caught the attention of three-time All-Pro receiver Davante Adams, who is so impressed with Bowers’ no-nonsense attitude off the field he gave him a nickname. “That’s ‘BM,’ man,” Adams said. “That’s the ‘Business Man.’ He doesn’t care about nothing else other than just locking in on football. I tried to tell a joke to get him to laugh, talking to the rookies. Sitting there stone-faced, he didn’t laugh. That’s BM right there. I see what he’s about.” — Paul Gutierrez


How he has fared so far: Fuaga was quickly moved into the starting lineup as the left tackle with the first team. Saints offensive coordinator Klint Kubiak said that Fuaga has done everything to give himself an opportunity to get playing time and that his aptitude has stood out in the early days of the offseason. “It all changes when the pads go on, but he’s made of the right stuff so I’m not worried about him,” Kubiak said. Fuaga and 2022 first-round pick Trevor Penning have leaned on each other, as Fuaga played right tackle in college and Penning was a left tackle before switching to the right side this year. — Katherine Terrell


How he has fared so far: The Colts are optimistic about Latu’s chances for success as they’ve already seen some of the qualities observed in Latu at UCLA translate to the NFL. “One thing we noticed in the draft process was he’s pretty polished,” defensive coordinator Gus Bradley said. Latu’s array of pass-rush moves has been on display, but the next step is to perfect the countermoves that will also be necessary against the skilled pass-protectors he’ll see in the regular season. Look for Latu to play in obvious pass-rush situations, which sets him up for potential high sack numbers. — Stephen Holder


How he has fared so far: Coach Mike Macdonald raised eyebrows when he said at the end of rookie minicamp that Murphy needed to get in better shape. While the true measure of linemen won’t come until the pads are on in training camp, Murphy has since drawn strong reviews, like this one from Leonard Williams: “He understands the game already, which is really nice to see. A lot of times you see first-rounders, rookies … they have all the physical attributes but they still have to kind of learn football a little bit. Whereas he seems like he kind of has that under wraps already. So they did a good job over there at Texas teaching him football. Also, he’s just a hard worker. That’s the No. 1 compliment I can give somebody is that they work hard.” — Brady Henderson


17. Minnesota Vikings (from Jacksonville) — Dallas Turner, Edge, Alabama

How he has fared so far: Turner has looked the part of an edge rusher, and all-field playmaker, that pre-draft evaluations suggested — at least as much as anyone can before pads come on. The most notable moment came in a practice that was closed to reporters but was recounted by left tackle Christian Darrisaw. As Darrisaw described it, Turner put a spin move on another offensive lineman that was quicker than any of them had seen from four-time Pro Bowl pass-rusher Danielle Hunter, who recorded 87.5 sacks in eight seasons with the Vikings before signing a free agent contract with the Texans this spring. — Kevin Seifert


How he has fared so far: Mims took advantage of the first-team reps vacated by RT Trent Brown, who missed all but the mandatory minicamp. Mims will get time to work his way into the league as a projected backup. But so far, he has checked all the boxes for coach Zac Taylor. “Consistently doing it over training camp and blocking people and being able to react very quickly,” Taylor said. “That’s the part that I’m excited [about] — to see how he handles all that.” — Ben Baby


How he has fared so far: Verse’s passion for football and willingness to work were two things the Rams saw on tape during the pre-draft process, and defensive coordinator Chris Shula said so far this spring Verse has “been as advertised.” It can be difficult to evaluate without pads, but head coach Sean McVay said he’s “really been impressed” with the first-round pick. “He’s done a great job of really imposing his will [and] continuing to learn,” McVay said. — Sarah Barshop


How he has fared so far: Although he primarily played left tackle at Washington, Fautanu spent most of his time working at right during the offseason program, and he said he expects to compete at right tackle when the team reports to Latrobe, Pennsylvania, for training camp next month. “Troy’s learned a lot of the different techniques very quickly,” offensive line coach Pat Meyer said. “The first couple days his timing was off because the speed of the game is different — now we don’t have any pads on yet, so nothing’s going to be determined until we get into camp — but his timing’s much better in terms of his get-off and run game and his sets and throwing his hands and being aggressive with his hands and whatnot. He’s improved tremendously from rookie minicamp to now.” — Brooke Pryor


How he has fared so far: Robinson is not expected to start if the Dolphins are fully healthy — not with Jaelan Phillips and Bradley Chubb ahead of him. But with Phillips and Chubb still recovering from season-ending injuries, Miami will need its first-round pick to be ready to contribute to its pass-rush rotation sooner rather than later. He’s getting valuable experience during spring practice as Chubb and Phillips work their way back, but he’s still evolving. On draft night, Robinson said he needed to improve his hand placement during his pass rushes; after an offseason of work, he said he has “100 percent” improved and has developed the necessary muscle memory at this point. — Marcel Louis-Jacques


How he has fared so far: Mitchell has been working primarily with the second team at outside cornerback and occasionally ran with the first team in dime packages. He was sticky in coverage throughout the spring and very much looked like he belonged despite making the leap from the Mid-American Conference. During a rare rep against A.J. Brown, the normally quiet Mitchell surprised Brown by telling him the route he ran was “trash.” “It was funny to hear from him,” Brown said. “And I told him, ‘All right, I like to see that. I want to see you step up’ because he’s not going to be playing against me, he’s going to be playing against other guys, and I want to see him hold his own. So I said ‘All right, you took the first step, now you’re going to have to back that up. You’re going to have to walk that walk.'” — Tim McManus


How he has fared so far: QB Trevor Lawrence said he was impressed with how quickly Thomas has picked up the offense, and offensive coordinator Press Taylor echoed that, but added that he’d like the former LSU standout to speak a little more. “He’s not a big talker. So you’re not always sure, you’re searching for feedback,” Taylor said. “Are you picking up what we’re saying? So far it’s always translated over the field pretty good. So he’s getting it in some way, shape or form. We want more out of him communication-wise just so we know what he’s thinking. Does this make sense to you? How do you relate this? For the most part, he kind of nods and looks at you and goes out on the field and does it right. So that’s encouraging.” — Michael DiRocco


How he has fared so far: Arnold has entered his first NFL offseason cycle with the confidence of a seasoned vet and has backed it up with his early play as he fights for a starting role. Arnold displayed his nose for the ball during team drills at mandatory minicamp where he matched up with Lions All-Pro receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown, even getting a pass breakup on Day 2. Arnold also picked off Jared Goff in a late-game situation during OTAs. Lions’ teammate Derrick Barnes has already given him a nickname alluding to both his jersey number and ability to freeze out receivers. “You see it now, call him ‘Sub Zero,’ out there doing what he do,” Barnes said of Arnold. — Eric Woodyard


How he has fared so far: Morgan hasn’t hidden his desire to play left tackle. But at this point, the Packers haven’t settled on a spot for him. This offseason, he took turns at every spot on the offensive line except center. The Packers prefer to cross-train all their offensive linemen. “We’ve done that with most of our players, and once we get closer to settling in on who those five guys will be, I think you’ll see him at that position more and more often,” Packers coach Matt LaFleur said. — Rob Demovsky


How he has fared so far: The last time Barton played center was as a college freshman at Duke in 2020. He spent the last three seasons as a left tackle. So there is a learning curve to not only joining the NFL ranks but moving inside, where everything happens more quickly given his proximity to defensive tackles and the fact that he touches the ball on every snap. Coach Todd Bowles said Barton’s gotten a “heavy load,” and said that “this will be a good baptism for him, as far as getting ready for the season. I think he’s learned a lot, I think he’s eager to get in pads and really show what he can do physically. He’s a smart guy.” Barton’s been getting reps with the first-team offense, along with last year’s starter Robert Hainsey. Barton said he’s been working hard to earn the trust of Mayfield, who joked, “I guess Duke’s academic program is pretty good.” — Jenna Laine


27. Arizona Cardinals (from Houston) — Darius Robinson, Edge, Missouri

How he has fared so far: Robinson has made some early impressions on coaches and teammates with his football instincts. Coach Jonathan Gannon said Robinson is “doing a really good job of where he needs to get aligned, what’s he doing with each call and then moving around a couple different positions. He’s doing a good job handling that.” Veteran defensive lineman Justin Jones echoed Gannon’s feelings and said he thinks Robinson will play as long as he wants in the NFL because of his smarts and strength. — Josh Weinfuss


How he has fared so far: Worthy did not practice for much of the offseason because of a sore hamstring so the Chiefs didn’t get an extensive look at him. The Chiefs said they were being cautious and that barring a setback he should be good to go at training camp. Worthy had an up-and-down performance at the team’s rookie camp shortly after he was drafted. He dropped some passes the first day but responded with some big plays at the next practice. “People were dogging him for the first day,” backup quarterback Chris Oladokun said. “That’s just a welcome to the league. But Xavier is going to do really well in this offense. We’re all really excited about him. You saw what he can do in terms of spinning [defenders] at the top of routes and how explosive he is, stretching the field and his [yards-after-the catch] ability.” — Adam Teicher


How he has fared so far: Evaluating any offensive lineman in an offseason program is next to impossible. The Cowboys did not do any 11-on-11 work above a walkthrough speed, nor did they do any 1-on-1 drills, but the reports on Guyton’s willingness to work and learn have been positive. “He can really move,” right guard Zack Martin said, adding Guyton asks good questions to the veterans. Guyton did not take any snaps with the first team in the spring, but that might be due to the coaches wanting him to get more work with the backups. The true evaluation on Guyton starts in training camp after the pads come on and how long it takes the coaches to put him with the starting unit. — Todd Archer


How he has fared so far: Wiggins can really, really run. He was the fastest defensive player at the NFL combine and he was the fastest Ravens defensive player in spring workouts, showing a burst in changing directions. “Nobody’s going to run past Nate Wiggins,” Ravens linebacker Trenton Simpson said. “I know that for a fact.” Teammates have joked about how young Wiggins is. He won’t turn 21 until August. “He can’t even drink yet,” safety Kyle Hamilton said. “If he gives up a bad play, you got to have that in the back of your mind — he can’t have a Mike’s Hard Lemonade.” — Jamison Hensley


How he has fared so far: So far, Pearsall has been exactly as advertised. The Niners have used him at multiple receiver positions in the offense and as a punt returner, which is probably his best ticket to touching the ball early in his rookie year. The team wants Pearsall to be able to step in anywhere in case of injury, and he so far has proved plenty versatile, according to coach Kyle Shanahan. “We’re getting him a lot of reps get a lot of different routes, trying all the positions and we’ve been really impressed with how he’s started off,” Shanahan said. — Nick Wagoner


How he has fared so far: Carolina traded into the first round to get Legette because he reminded the team of the big receivers (Mike Evans, DK Metcalf) that played big roles in head coach Dave Canales’ offenses in the past. They also wanted a receiver who can create separation and get open deep. Despite being slowed by a hamstring injury, Legette has been all that and will be a starter right away. “That combination of size, speed, how explosive he is, the way he comes out of routes, it’s definitely something that I gotta get used to,” Young said. “We’re working on getting that timing down, but I’m super excited.” — David Newton

ESPN

Source link

You May Also Like

Will the Eagles draft Texas RB Bijan Robinson? Why it does — and doesn’t — make sense

PHILADELPHIA — One working theory leading into the 2023 NFL draft is…

Cowboys’ McCarthy sidelined by back procedure

Todd Archer, ESPN Staff WriterMay 13, 2023, 03:11 PM ET Close Covered…

Briton Sunny Edwards defends IBF flyweight world title with unanimous win over Andres Campos at Wembley

British boxer Sunny Edwards successfully defended his IBF world flyweight title for…

Sky Cricket pundits: Ashes draw ‘tip of the iceberg’ as England’s entertainers ‘grow up’ to add winning edge

After England slipped 2-0 down in The Ashes, questions were asked of…