Skip to main content

2024 NFL Draft: Pro execs, scouts, coaches rank and evaluate the top 20 prospects in this QB class

Caleb Williams is widely expected to be the No. 1 overall pick.

How everything else plays out with this year's quarterback class remains clouded one week away from the 2024 NFL Draft.

As one longtime NFL personnel man told me recently: "This is a really weird draft, because there's six or seven (QBs) I think can start in the NFL. They're all different. They're all good dudes. They're all smart enough. It's going to be really fun to look back in five years at this class and see how it went."

Here's the full breakdown of the 20 quarterbacks with the best chance to get drafted next week, based on dozens of conversations with NFL executives, scouts and coaches, all speaking on the condition of anonymity for competitive reasons and to provide a blunt assessment.



Caleb Williams
USC · Junior


A five-star recruit and top NFL prospect before he ever stepped on a college football field, Williams kept a grip over three seasons at two schools as the virtually unanimous top player in the 2024 NFL Draft and now is the presumptive No. 1 overall pick of the Chicago Bears. 

"I think it's a no-brainer," a rival NFC GM said of the Bears' decision atop the draft board. "In my mind, the talent is a rare one. So, you just go for it. I don't think it's a debate."

In 37 college games (33 starts), Williams completed 66.9 percent of his passes for 10,082 yards and 93 touchdowns with 14 interceptions. He also ran for 945 yards and another 27 TDs.

"He tries to be a hero all the time, but he does some rare, rare stuff in terms of arm talent and just flicking the ball," an NFC scout said. "He can do it all. He's obviously really athletic, explosive, productive. He's got [9 3/4-inch] hands. The ball comes off his hand easy. He throws from ridiculous arm angles. He just plays around too much. He's a man among boys in college football, so he's definitely going to have to speed up his clock and -- depending on the coaching staff and the scheme -- get in rhythm with the offense. But he's such a natural football player with everything that I don't see that being a hiccup at all. The Bears are in good hands there."

At the NFL Scouting Combine, Williams checked in at 6-foot-1 1/8, 214 pounds -- on the smaller side for an NFL QB, but taller than recent No. 1 overall picks Baker Mayfield (6-foot 5/8), Kyler Murray (5-10 1/8) and Bryce Young (5-10 1/8).

"The only thing you really don't like, just strictly on the player, is the height," an AFC executive said. "He is reckless. He does some crazy s---. But at the same time, he creates a lot of big plays. I think you're just gonna have to live with a little bit of that. A lot of arm talent. He's shorter. He's built different than Bryce was. He's got more thickness to himself. Real confident and instinctive, and you can feel that on tape."

Williams has proceeded through the pre-draft process unlike any other prospect. He doesn't have an agent, leaning instead on his own team. He paused pre-draft training to go to Tokyo with his girlfriend. He met with teams and measured at the combine, but passed on standard medical testing. He took only one visit, to the Bears. The unconventional process wasn't unexpected. Caleb's father, Carl -- a successful businessman, including in the athletic training space -- has done things differently since Caleb was young, with the singular goal of preparing his son to be the No. 1 pick. They've clearly defined the goals, are very intentional about achieving them and aren't concerned about looking selfish or different from everyone else. In many ways, Williams is the first NIL QB: a multimillionaire before he enters the league, savvy in his own business affairs and unafraid to question the norm. But beyond the flash of his L.A. penthouse, painted fingernails and designer wardrobe, scouts who dug into Williams' background found a highly driven 22-year-old who is beloved by teammates and has trained his whole life for this moment. 

"The further you get away from tape, the more people are making it more about the non-playing factors, whether it's the personality, the dad, etc.," an NFC executive said. "Then you get back to the tape -- he's got the most ‘wow' plays of any quarterback in the draft. And he plays a lot of hero ball because people don't realize he had one of the worst supporting casts of any of the quarterbacks in this draft."

Originally recruited to Oklahoma, Williams started the last seven games in 2021 after replacing Heisman Trophy hopeful Spencer Rattler and earned Freshman All-American honors from various outlets. When Lincoln Riley took the USC job, Williams followed his head coach to Los Angeles. In 2022, he threw 42 touchdown passes, winning the Heisman while leading the Trojans to an 11-3 record. 

"Obviously, Lincoln's really good and been highly successful in college, but the style of play is not necessarily the best bridge for [Williams] at the next level," an NFC assistant coach said. "He was able to freelance so much stuff. His superpower is being able to create out of the pocket, extend plays that make for those highlight reels. But that's also not realistic at this level. People are too good, defenses are too good, and you're not playing the Pac-12. But the arm talent is really good. He can put the ball anywhere, has really good touch. I think he's good mechanically. He can make you pay (with his legs), particularly in situations -- third down, in the red area -- because he's not a small dude and he runs pretty powerfully when he wants to. I don't know if I'm going to say he's a superstar -- it's always hard to gauge that. But he has the tools to be a superstar."

At times, Williams could frustrate the Trojans' coaches with how often he played outside the structure of the offense. His completion percentage went up last fall to 68.6, but most of his numbers declined as USC stumbled to 7-5 in the regular season.

"He's an escape artist in terms of his play style," an NFC scouting director said. "The guy can get out of any play, he can throw off-platform, he can run around, make things happen. That is his strength, and that might also be his weakness right now, because he's never throwing from the pocket. He's never throwing on platform. It's a lot of tunnel screens out to the perimeter or he's running for his life. Obviously, the offensive line was a little bit up and down [last] year, the defense was not very good, and he was in a gunfight every single week."

Said an NFC quarterbacks coach: "The big thing with him will be the timing, the rhythm, developing that -- because you don't see him throw a ball on time. But he can make all the throws. He's very Kyler-esque. Just being able to go above the Xs and Os. He's aggressive. I think this kid's as set up for success as any guy walking in the league in the last five years."

The Bears own the No. 1 pick thanks to last year’s trade with Carolina, which drafted Young and finished an NFL-worst 2-15. Meanwhile, Chicago won five of its last eight games and appears to be on the upswing, rather than starting a rebuild. The Bears had the advantage of knowing that Caleb was probably their guy and have spent the past few months executing a plan for putting him in position to succeed. They hired versatile offensive coordinator Shane Waldron, who’d had success with different styles of QBs in Seattle. They retained respected O-line coach Chris Morgan to help the run game. They signed running back D’Andre Swift. They traded for six-time Pro Bowl receiver Keenan Allen. They already have a top-10 caliber defense. They signaled they were all-in on Williams by trading Justin Fields to Pittsburgh over a month ago. When Williams made his pre-draft visit a couple weeks ago, the Bears had him go to dinner with a few key players. Team officials have stayed in touch with Williams since via video chat sessions, just talking football. There still is a matter of agreeing to a contract, which could be more complicated than a normal slotted deal, given the uniqueness of Caleb's draft process thus far. But sources say the quarterback's conversations with the Bears have been very frank and positive. The Williams camp sent the message early about what it wanted -- investment and infrastructure to help Caleb reach his next goal of chasing Tom Brady and winning Super Bowls -- and the Bears so far have delivered.

"He's the most talented," an AFC GM said. "You've got to take him, unless it's just such a s--- show."

Said a veteran AFC assistant coach: "Caleb is clearly No. 1. There's always a bust percentage. But the talent level is as good as I've ever seen."

Jayden Daniels
LSU · Senior


The reigning Heisman Trophy winner and FBS leader in passer rating has improved as much as any QB in this draft class since his rocky early days at Arizona State. And more than one NFL person made a case for taking Daniels ahead of Caleb Williams.

"If I was picking, I would pick Jayden Daniels No. 1," an AFC scout said. "Better athlete. I think he loves football more. I believe that he's just a better f---ing player. And I think he's on the rise and Caleb's kind of going lateral."

Said an NFC scouting director: "I give Jayden a ton of credit -- not just for coming back and winning the Heisman alone, but to put himself in this category up top in this group, because I would never have thought that prior to. I think he's that kind of player. It goes back to [LSU director of performance innovation Jack Marucci's] whole deal with the virtual reality stuff they're doing and training and [Daniels] putting in the work in the offseason all the way through. The kid did that, and he's made himself a legit quarterback. The thing about him that was really impressive is how he started using his legs. That was the element that you always kind of wondered if he had. And then just being fearless with it."

The biggest question as Daniels heads to the NFL is, as one NFC executive put it, "Can he withstand playing 16, 17 games with the high volume of punishment that he takes? He takes some blooper-worthy hits, and can his frame hold up? And do you have the protection to allow him to do that?"

Now 23 years old, Daniels stood 6-3 5/8 on his pro day with 9 3/8-inch hands, weighing a bulked-up 210 pounds. But he appeared lighter through most of his college career; another NFC executive said Daniels had a verified weight of 185 pounds in 2021, Daniels' final season at Arizona State before transferring.

"He looks skinny and he's got a borderline Merton Hanks neck," the second NFC executive said. "He's gained 20 pounds in two years. The question is the durability with the amount of contact he takes. He's had a concussion (in last November's loss to Alabama), an ankle (played through ailments in 2021 and '22). He needs to add some body armor and he's going to have to work on some progression stuff and intermediate accuracy and timing."

Said an NFC coordinator: "Jayden takes hits like Anthony Richardson takes hits. Anthony Richardson probably outweighs him by 40 pounds. And Anthony Richardson got hurt, what, three times (in four games) last year as a rookie? You cannot do that at that position. Cam Newton's career ended [at age 32] because of it, and he's the biggest human being to ever play quarterback successfully. He is accurate, it's on time, he moves well, he can throw it down the field, they have weapons in Washington (which picks No. 2). To me, it makes the most sense. I think the kid has matured a lot in the last two years and become a pro."

Throwing to a talented cast that included probable 2024 first-round picks Malik Nabers and Brian Thomas Jr. at receiver, Daniels more than doubled his career high last season with 40 touchdown passes (against just four interceptions) on 72.2 percent passing. In 55 career starts, Daniels completed 66.3 percent of his passes for 12,749 yards and 89 touchdowns with 20 interceptions, and he ran for another 3,307 yards and 34 TDs. Multiple coaches mentioned Daniels doesn't have the strongest arm in this class. But he has shown he can be efficient throwing deep: According to PFF, no FBS player over the past two seasons had a higher completion percentage (52.6%), touchdown-to-interception ratio (27:0) or NFL passer rating (137.6) on passes of 20-plus air yards (minimum 50 attempts).

"He's a really good athlete. He throws the ball really well. I like everything about him physically," an AFC assistant coach said. "My concerns with him are that he never throws the ball in the middle of the field. Whenever he decides to scramble, he runs. He had 16 scramble passes this entire season. He gained [1,134] yards rushing, so I'm not going to be too hard on him for that. He took off and ran away from people. But my point is his eyes don't stay up the field -- he takes off and runs. And then he puts himself in harm's way. It's unbelievable the type of hits this dude takes. And very avoidable hits, too."

There's no question Daniels is dynamic with his arm and his legs.

"This is like a poor man's Lamar (Jackson), to me," an AFC executive said. "The biggest thing I always worried about is [Daniels is] f---ing skinny. He didn't take a picture at the combine, he didn't weigh in at the combine -- that's all by f---ing design. He knows he's f---ing skinny. You worry about him getting hurt. But because of his athleticism, he's got a chance. I know they scaled the offense back (initially) for him at LSU. Now, I think they put more on him. He's quick to run. His eyes are down. He gets fast and antsy on you in the pocket. And once he pulls that mother ----er down, he ain't coming back up."

One AFC QBs coach pushed back on the Lamar Jackson comparison, saying Daniels is more straight-line fast than elusive and takes a lot of sacks (129 in his college career), but added: "He might be the most talented thrower in the draft. He's right there with Caleb. That workout at LSU was unbelievable. He can spin it. He's progressed a lot since Arizona State, as well. That offense was much more RPO. He did more dropbacks at LSU. I think he's made a lot of steps in the right direction as an NFL quarterback. I still think he's probably got a ways to go, but he's impressive, man. If I was Washington, I don't think you can not take him."

Some scouts struggle to get over Daniels’ stint at Arizona State. His mother, Regina Jackson, was reportedly implicated for buying and booking flights for recruits and accompanying adults in the NCAA investigation into Arizona State’s recruiting violations. (Daniels himself was not implicated, while Jackson denied involvement.) Jackson had a blueprint for her son that she wanted him to follow as an 18-year-old QB and was known to be heavily involved with all aspects of the program during Jayden's time there. A four-star recruit out of high school, Daniels' best season with the Sun Devils came as a true freshman in 2019, when he started 12 games and threw for 17 touchdowns against just two interceptions. The 2020 season featured just four games because of the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2021, Daniels had 10 touchdown passes and 10 interceptions in 13 games. Daniels initially announced that he would remain with ASU for the 2022 campaign, but after the NCAA investigation spawned significant coaching changes, the quarterback entered the transfer portal.

"At Arizona State, they couldn't get him out of there fast enough. It didn't matter if you talked to coaches, staff, teammates -- they were like, ‘Good riddance,' " a second AFC scout said. "You're pushing all your chips in on this guy. Obviously, Brian Kelly and those guys saw a different side of him. But when does the other side come out? When some real adversity strikes in the league and he's starting to get peppered and you've got people wanting to kick his ass, it'll be interesting. Because he's talented. He can really play."

After Daniels transferred in 2022, he came into his own and flourished in the new environment. He was named a team captain last season and became a strong leader. At LSU's pro day, Daniels wore a shirt with the name and number of former Tigers teammate Greg Brooks Jr., who missed most of the 2023 campaign after being diagnosed with a rare form of brain cancer. When Daniels' visit with the Commanders ended on Wednesday, he flew to Baton Rouge for an event with kids at the hospital where Brooks had been treated before dinner with Vikings officials on Thursday night. 

Some teams have found it difficult to get in touch with Daniels during the pre-draft process, but not the teams that need QBs: He also has visited the Patriots and Giants.

"If I had to put a guy on the field right now, I would side with the LSU kid (over North Carolina's Drake Maye)," an AFC coordinator said. "He looks like he's more ready to digest an NFL game plan, go through progressions, make decisions on time, distribute the ball, and then he also has elite run skills."

One NFC scout ranked Daniels as the draft's second-best QB behind Caleb Williams, but quickly added: "Jayden has better wiring. And he's also done a better job throughout his college career of getting better. Who's to say he's not gonna keep getting better in the league?"

Drake Maye
North Carolina · Sophomore (RS)


The 2022 ACC Rookie of the Year and Player of the Year, Maye has prototypical NFL size (6-4 3/8, 223 pounds) and enough arm and athletic ability to be a Sunday starter. The main question for scouts and coaches is how quickly he can put it all together.

"I still like Maye No. 2. I think he is probably the second-most-talented guy," an NFC scouting director said. "He's got size, he can throw from the pocket, he ran a little bit more pro-style stuff from being in the pocket, he's athletic enough to get outside the pocket. I thought he played better (in 2022) because he had better perimeter receivers and a little better supporting cast. He's clean, character-wise. Obviously, he has a lineage from North Carolina from an athletic family. There might be some things he ends up not being able to do, but you can rest your head on the person and know exactly what you're getting. He's the one under-talked about right now. I still think he's pretty damn talented, though."

Still only 21 years old, Maye "has all the raw traits. I just think his college offense does him a disservice in terms of pro readiness," an AFC coordinator said. "The best thing that could happen to him is to sit for a year, and then I think if he goes to a good spot and he learns -- and it seems like he's a good kid and he'll do all the right stuff -- he'll ultimately have success. If he had to go play early for a bad team, I think it might set him back and I'd be concerned about that. He's more tools than complete player, to me, right now. He misses stuff that he shouldn't, just in terms of accuracy. There's stuff that he leaves out there that he needs to clean up."

As one NFC scout put it: "Drake's going to a be a big project because he's just not naturally accurate."

Redshirted as a freshman at UNC -- where his father, Mark, played QB in the 1980s and his brother, Luke, won a national championship in basketball -- Maye burst onto the scene as one of the most productive QBs in college football in 2022. He ranked in the top five in FBS with 4,321 passing yards and 38 touchdown passes, adding seven more scores on the ground.

"If I was going off of two years ago, Drake Maye -- he may be No. 1," an NFC quarterbacks coach said. "But last year's tape was not great. That system that they ran did not give him a whole lot."

Maye's passing numbers dipped across the board in 2023 (3,608 yards, 24 TDs) after the departure of some notable weapons, including 2023 third-round WR Josh Downs.

"His best receiver was a transfer (Devontez Walker) who was [ineligible] for part of the season," an NFC executive said. "And aside from that, his receiving corps was just a ragtag group. And the kid's playing a hurt a lot of the season and didn't make that known."

Sources say Maye battled an ankle injury during last season. He also suffered an AC sprain in his left (non-throwing) shoulder in November.

"Drake Maye was kind of banged up during the year, so I don't know how much the injuries played a part," an AFC QBs coach said. "I saw him get trucked a couple times. I know he had an ankle injury. He didn't use that as an excuse. He just didn't look very accurate to me. He has kind of a slower release -- he really pushes the ball back and pats it and it just takes forever to get to the receivers."

Said an AFC assistant coach: "There's a lot of that on film: bad pocket awareness, there's some bad plays. But he's just a big athlete that can really throw it. To me, he's perfect for New England (which holds the No. 3 pick) because they've got Jacoby (Brissett). I think he'd be perfect there to sit for a year. He is the biggest high-ceiling, low-floor guy. Because he's immature. Not bad immature -- he's just like a kid."

In 30 college games (26 starts), Maye completed 64.9 percent of his passes for 8,018 yards and 63 touchdowns with 16 interceptions. He ran for another 1,209 yards and 16 touchdowns while leading the Heels to a 17-9 record in his starts.

"He's 6-5, he can definitely move around in the pocket. He's not going to be a statue. But he's closer to Brock Osweiler than he is to (Justin) Herbert in terms of athleticism for me," an AFC executive said. "I think he's not as quick in the pocket to get out of trouble as you would like. I don't think he's quite that athletic, nor is he a Big Ben (Roethlisberger) type where he's tough, physical, strong, maybe not going to move but he's big enough to handle all the bodies around him. He's kind of in between." 

Said another AFC executive: "I thought he was fast mentally on tape. There's some bad decisions. He was bad at the end of Clemson. But overall, he was pretty good. I thought [his deep ball] was good. He gets a lot of balls batted on shorter throws, I think because that long release, he's like slowing it down, so they can see it coming, they get their hands up. I thought he was good down the field. I know people ding him on playing for Mack Brown, that simple offense. I think he can be a solid starter. I don't know if he'll be special, but he's a good player."

Maye opted out of the Duke's Mayo Bowl to prepare for the draft. He threw at North Carolina's pro day, but didn't participate in any testing. His enthusiastic combine interviews made an impression.

"Drake has got the arm talent," an NFC assistant coach said. "Accuracy wasn't that great this (past) year, wasn't that great at the pro day. Early on, he missed a couple throws that he shouldn't miss on air. He's different than Will Levis, but their jittery personalities are kind of similar, to me."

The Commanders and Patriots both had Maye in for pre-draft visits, and the Giants and Vikings worked him out privately. In terms of readiness, one head coach compared Maye to Jordan Love, who sat for three years before replacing Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay. 

"Just the raw talent, and (Maye is) big and fast and can throw it a hundred yards," another AFC coordinator said. "But he's the one who should be praying for falling back in the draft a little bit to get somewhere where he can hang out and learn the game and not have that pressure."

Said an AFC scouting director who ranked Maye No. 2: "I do think Drake needs more development probably than Jayden Daniels does. But I really like Drake's makeup. I think he's got a high ceiling."

J.J. McCarthy
Michigan · Junior


A two-year starter who helped Michigan win its first national championship since 1997, McCarthy has shown enough on tape and so thoroughly crushed the pre-draft process that some coaches argue for him to be the second overall pick -- if not No. 1.

"You're never going to be in that spot again, so you better get the right guy," said one head coach with a strong track record on QBs. "When [McCarthy] did throw it and he had to throw it, it was pretty impressive, man. He beat Alabama -- he had to make big-time throws in that game, and he did. If I was Chicago, I'd be bringing in Caleb and J.J. this week and grinding the s--- out of those two. Because there's not enough evidence to say Caleb is clearly No. 1."

Michigan was 27-1 with McCarthy in the lineup. And while he didn't put up the counting numbers of the other top QBs -- completing 67.6 percent of his throws in 40 career games for 6,226 yards and 49 touchdowns with 11 interceptions, plus 10 rushing TDs -- he's the only one who enters the NFL with ample experience playing under center in a pro-style offense.

"The more I watched J.J. and was around J.J., the more he grew on me," an NFC assistant coach said. "I wouldn't be surprised if he's the third quarterback taken. He's by far the most pro-readymade QB because of him being with (Jim) Harbaugh, being in a pro-style system, operating under center, communicating the play call. He crushed the combine interview. It was easy. Super smart. Communicates well. Super calm demeanor. Quiet confidence almost. His pro day was probably the best of all the QBs."

Said an NFC coordinator: "I think he can make enough throws. I don't think he's got a gifted arm, but I think he's got enough accuracy. Throws outside the numbers in the NFL are easier than throws outside the numbers in college. And he showed the arm strength at the pro day. I thought they did a nice job displaying the arm, making him throw some deep shots at the pro day. I think he answered some questions there. I think, on most draft boards, he's probably the fourth guy. But it just takes one to fall in love with the moxie, competitor and all that."

Scouts point out more concerns about McCarthy's traits: He's not the biggest guy (6-2 1/2, 219), he has small hands (9 inches) and Michigan's run-dominant offense contributed to McCarthy's school-record 72.3 percent completion rate last season, keeping pressure off McCarthy to put the game on his shoulders.

"J.J. definitely operates in more of a scheme that you can see translating," an NFC scout said. "I don't think he's a great processor. I saw a bunch of times on his tape where he's just throwing it and he doesn't even see defenders and gets away with it. Can he win on third down when it's not third-and-4 because they run for 180 yards today? I don't see him being a guy that can do a lot of stuff with his legs. I don't see him being a guy that's a pure dropback, pick-a-defense-apart type passer. You've definitely got to build an offense around him and have a strong run game like Michigan."

Said an AFC executive: "He's got arm talent. He's fast. He is a smaller man, so you worry about the pounding. I don't think he's a good processor. [Though he] actually got a good S2 (cognitive test score); I'm surprised he took it because nobody's taking it. Look, I don't penalize him like a lot of people do -- 'Well, they only threw the ball f---ing eight times in this game.' They've done that forever. What I don't like is you can watch a play and you can tell, OK, they're going to this guy. And if the defense calls it, they've got it covered, he will f---ing wait and wait and wait and wait and start moving around and moving around and he is throwing it to that f---ing dude. You're like, Goddamn, look somewhere else! And he's athletic, so a lot of times he can do it. I think there's some miss factor, but there's some upside."

Some coaches also have concerns with McCarthy's ball placement on tape.

"He uses his whole body to throw the ball. My shoulder hurts watching him throw a football," an AFC assistant coach said. "Everything is a fastball. He's not accurate. Even on completed passes, shorter throws, he slows his guys down. It takes away some yards after catch. There's a lot of bad decisions. And they don't throw the ball. They took the ball out of his hands consistently in pretty decent moments. Harbaugh can say whatever the f--- he wants, but if he really, truly felt that way about McCarthy, he would've thrown the ball a lot more. And the proof of it is he did it with Andrew Luck."

Said an NFC quarterbacks coach: "When the games got tight, they didn't put the football in his hand a whole lot. They run the football and play great defense. But he's brilliant as far as the interview is concerned. Brilliant. You see him play under center, too."

McCarthy missed spring practice in 2022 because of what Harbaugh described as "some lingering arm soreness" -- a shoulder issue that required maintenance during and after that season. He also played on an injured ankle for part of the 2023 season, but didn't miss time.

A celebrated prep prospect, McCarthy has publicly discussed previous battles with depression, which came to the forefront while the Illinois native was effectively living in isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic during his senior year of high school at recruiting hotbed IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida. His meditation practice under the goal post prior to games has become a symbol of the coping mechanisms he uses to stay on top of his mental health.

"He was pretty open and honest about his issues through the process. He was pretty candid, and I give him a ton of credit for it," an NFC scouting director said. "And getting peppered with team after team that's talked to him at the combine, people talking to him at pro day and all that -- obviously, we're all going to ask about it, and J.J.'s got to answer to it, right? And he's one of the guys you feel like has got real s--- to him. He can come in the huddle and command the team as a young guy. The guys are going to follow him. So much about that position's the guy. He's got that."

McCarthy was 36-2 as a high school starter at IMG Academy and Nazareth Academy (in his hometown of La Grange Park, Illinois), meaning he's 63-3 as a starting QB in his young adult life. And he won't turn 22 until next January. Harbaugh, now head coach of the Los Angeles Chargers, has said publicly that McCarthy is the best QB in the draft. Still, some scouts can't get their minds around McCarthy being spoken about in the same breath as the likes of Caleb Williams, Jayden Daniels and Drake Maye.

"Not saying [McCarthy's] a bust or bad, but tell me you would put your job on the line to take him at 5 or 4 or 3 or, God forbid, 2." another AFC executive said. "I've never watched that dude and been like, Yeah, this dude's going to be one of the best quarterbacks in the league. And to me, in order to take a guy 1 or 2, that's got to be what you're seeing." 

As one AFC GM put it: "It doesn't surprise me there are people who really like him. I never would've had him going where people are projecting."

Still, all indications are McCarthy's rise through the process is real.

"I feel like a lot of people are putting stock in J.J. moving up from pro day and things that have happened lately. I think it's having a lot more from coaches finally getting around to watching his tape," another NFC coordinator said. "Because I don't think scouts are going to be as enamored with him. I think they're going to really like him, but scouts like the tools, right? They like the size, the mobility, the arm talent, the 'wow.' A lot of your coordinators and coaches like the decision-making, the process, the understanding of the game, the management of the game, being able to do what I need him to do when I need him to do it. You feel like you're watching an NFL-ready quarterback. It's the reads, the drops, the whole system -- everything he's been asked to do for his whole career is play NFL football. He has good players around him, but it's not like he has a top-10 receiver and another first-round pick in the group. He's the cleanest, safest pick."

PROJECTED: Rounds 1-2

Michael Penix Jr.
Washington · Senior

PROJECTED: Rounds 1-2

The Heisman Trophy runner-up and one of the most productive passers in college football last season, Penix (6-2 1/4, 216) is one of the most polarizing prospects in this draft -- and some coaches are believers, a lengthy injury history notwithstanding.

"The second-best quarterback in the draft, just as a pure film evaluation, is Michael Penix," an AFC assistant coach said. "When someone is often injured, the concern is durability over time. Is his body going to wear down? I'm a f---ing coach, dude. I don't give a s--- about that. I think he's got the biggest ‘it' factor. He stands in the pocket and makes throws consistently. He took Indiana, they were (ranked) in the top 10. He took Washington to the national championship game. To me, he's the guy. He plays with a ton of confidence. His guys love him."

Penix was a three-year starter at Indiana, but suffered four consecutive season-ending injuries: a torn ACL in 2018, a right (non-throwing) shoulder injury in 2019, a torn ACL in 2020 and an AC joint separation in his left (throwing) shoulder in 2021. Sources say pre-draft medical exams confirmed Penix's twice-reconstructed right knee is structurally sound; he also received a positive report in January from renowned surgeon Dr. Neal ElAttrache, who found no meniscus issue or other associated damage. Some teams still will give him a lower medical grade based on the repeat injury, but it's nothing that would cause him to fail a physical. Penix's lack of mobility -- or perhaps reluctance to use it -- is a bigger consideration for some teams.

"He's going to need a lot of structure, because he had the best combination of protection and pass-catching threats," an NFC executive said, referring to a loaded Washington offense featuring two probable first-round picks in this year's draft, receiver Rome Odunze and lineman Troy Fautanu. "He got hit the least out of any of the top quarterbacks. And I think he rushed for [8] yards on the season. Then you've got to factor in the medical. He's a two-time ACL guy. But arm strength? He's got the strongest arm out of all of these quarterbacks we're talking about. It's just a matter of, your s---'s gotta be set up pretty good to drop a guy like that off in it. Your protection's gotta be strong. You've got to feel good about your offense, where he's going to throw in rhythm. He's not going to be an off-platform guy."

Said an NFC quarterbacks coach: "He's a little frail when you look at him, so you can see where some of the injuries have happened, where those other guys -- they have escapability, they have mobility. He's not as accurate as those top couple guys. He misses some throws, some of the plant throws, and his release is a little bit longer than some of those other guys, although he probably had the best combine workout of the guys who threw."

At Washington, Penix reunited with Kalen DeBoer, who'd been his OC at Indiana in 2019, and threw for over 9,500 yards and 67 touchdowns in two seasons with the Huskies. Penix's final college campaign was his best, leading FBS with 4,903 passing yards while earning second-team AP All-America honors.

"He's played a lot of football. He's a good thrower. The ball comes out quick. He processes fast. He's accurate. He's a natural thrower," an AFC quarterbacks coach said, noting that Penix has never called a play in the huddle. "A lot of stuff is wristbanded (in the NFL), so he can read it. But there's definitely going to be a little bit of time for him to adjust to an NFL type of offense and the verbiage and all that stuff. He'll do it because he's the right kind of kid and he's smart enough."

In 48 games (45 starts) over six seasons at Indiana and Washington, Penix completed 63.3 percent of his passes for 13,741 yards and 96 touchdowns with 34 interceptions. He also had 13 rushing touchdowns, but just 265 rushing yards total.

"Man, you wish he was just a little bit more, because you love the guy, you love the way he plays," an AFC executive said. "He's really smart. He's one of those dudes where, if a guy's open, he finds him with his eyes. He can get hot and just carve people up from the pocket. Not because he's throwing lasers or because he's so quick and agile -- he just finds it. If you break the coverage, he's going to put it on his guy. He's not as accurate as you would think when you deep-dive into the film. That's probably the one piece where his receivers make him look a lot better. His ball placement's a little funky. This year he was better."

Penix's low, left-handed delivery comes up often in conversations with scouts and coaches.

"Unless he's throwing the ball outside the f---ing numbers, it's getting batted down," another AFC executive said. "He throws it on a f---ing rope every f---ing time. He's thrown a deep ball -- I've seen that, all right, great. He's got that f---ed up motion. He's got zero touch."

Said an NFC head coach: "I know there's video of him in games where he's got his hand underneath the ball. But when you watch him at the combine, he's got the widest wingspan (81 inches), widest shoulders, 10 [1/2-inch] hands -- that guy can spin it."

Penix was 27-of-51 passing for 255 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions while under siege in the national title game, a 34-13 blowout loss to Michigan.

"The injuries, the age, the talent around him make him hard," an NFC coordinator said of Penix, who turns 24 next month. "For whatever reason, I think it's always hard to evaluate a lefty, because you see so few of them. I think he has a lot of ‘wow' plays and I think he has a lot of talent. There's no mobility. There's a high injury risk. The national championship game -- I go back and forth on it, because I do think his offensive line just got destroyed. But your offensive line does get destroyed in this league. That's real. He looked lost. He looks jittery. He looks skittish. He looks almost scared, and I get it. That's a concern. But I don't see a world in which he gets past Seattle (at No. 16)."

Said another NFC quarterbacks coach: "I don't think [the throwing motion is] a big deal. The most important thing is, is it getting there on time and is it getting there accurately? He sees it well. He's instinctive. I can see why people like him. I think the kid has a natural feel as a passer, and that's something you can't coach."

Penix participated in Senior Bowl practices, but opted out of the game. Despite rarely using his legs as a runner in college, Penix reportedly posted a 40-yard dash time in the 4.51-4.57 range at his pro day, while also posting impressive figures in the vertical leap (36 1/2 inches) and broad jump (10-5).

"He should look great throwing on air. The question is, can he deal with people at his feet?" another NFC executive said. "You saw it in the national championship game. You saw it a little bit at the Senior Bowl. How is he going to be off-spot?"

Said an AFC coordinator: "We thought, if everything's on schedule, he's a very, very good quarterback and he can make the throws. The minute he has to get off the spot, you don't know what's going to happen. How can you draft that guy to be the backup when you know, in the preseason, he's going to be playing with a backup O-line? He's going to be running for his life, he's going to look like s---. The owner's going to be looking at you: What the hell? Why did we draft this guy that can't play?"

Just how polarizing is Penix? One scout ranked him seventh among QBs in this year's class, behind South Carolina's Spencer Rattler. Multiple coaches also put Rattler ahead of Penix. One veteran coach's comp for Penix was journeyman Brett Hundley.

"I actually like Rattler more than I do Penix," another NFC coordinator said. "I keep seeing everything where [Penix is] climbing, he's climbing. He could go to the Raiders at 13? I just didn't buy it. It was so clean for him."

Other scouts argue that, medicals notwithstanding, Penix is a classic overevaluation.

"I think he's been beat down a lot (about the health issues) and it's unnecessary," an NFC scouting director said. "And the tape's pretty damn good this year. We can beat him up all we want on that, too -- you sit down and watch it back-to-back with these other guys, and you're like, 'All right, he's earned the praise he's getting.'

The Commanders, Patriots, Broncos and Raiders have all brought in Penix for visits; the Falcons worked him out privately. 

"His arm talent is really good. He was really productive," an AFC scouting director said. "I think all 10 guys he was on the field with are current or future draft prospects. But he also performed at a high level. I envision him in that Patriots-type offense. I'm not saying by any means he's Tom Brady, but one of those offenses that kind of spreads it out horizontally and he's getting the ball out quickly. Because the best thing he does is push the ball outside the numbers, vertically down the field. I don't think he's great at layering the ball inside. The way he throws the ball, I can see him having success."

Bo Nix
Oregon · Senior

PROJECTED: Rounds 1-2

The onetime Auburn starter who transferred to Oregon, rehabilitated his game and ultimately became the NCAA record holder with 61 career QB starts, Nix (6-2 1/8, 214) is as far along in his development as any signal-caller in the class. One of the big questions about him is, how much better can he get?

"I think his ceiling's probably like a middle-of-the-pack starter, but he's got to have the right offense, right coach. At worst, he's going to be a great 2," an AFC executive said. "He didn't have any finesse to his game at all in the past, and he's got a little bit of it more now. And he's really improved his accuracy. He was just a big f---ing strong athlete, fast. If the guy walked by and I said he's a second-round strong safety, you'd be like, ‘Oh, OK.' He's built really good. He'll have some moments where he gets playing too fast. He'll get sped-up mannerisms. I don't think he's shown he's an elite processor, but he has some moments where you see good processing. He'll hold the f---ing ball too long sometimes. But everything about him's improved."

Said an AFC assistant coach: "He's the opposite of Drake: He's very high floor and a little bit of a lower ceiling. He's talented. I think he throws the ball really well. He's a good athlete. He's older (turned 24 in February). It's almost like he's been constructed in a lab. He's really good in the interview process -- I think that's what's raised him up. I see him perfect for a situation like Denver with Sean Payton and running that system and doing exactly what you want him to do and not much extra outside of that."

A highly coveted recruit out of Pinson Valley (Ala.) High School, where he was coached by his father, former Auburn star quarterback Patrick Nix, Bo became the Tigers' first true freshman to start a season opener since 1946 and started 34 games over three years before a season-ending ankle injury in 2021. He transferred and led the Ducks to 22 wins over two seasons in Eugene -- including a 12-2 record in 2023, when Nix set another NCAA record with a 77.45 completion percentage and broke Marcus Mariota's school records with 4,508 passing yards and 45 touchdowns. He finished third in Heisman Trophy voting, was named third-team AP All-American and won the William V. Campbell Trophy (aka "Academic Heisman"). 

"Bo operates like a coach's kid," an NFC assistant coach said. "Carries himself that way, talks that way. He played solid ball. A lot of what he threw was quick game, RPOs and a couple shots down the field. You don't see as much variety on his tape as some of the other guys, just because of the style of system they played in. I just don't know how much room he has to get better. In my opinion, it's like almost as good as he's going to be. He could be a quality, high-end backup to start and perform well in the right system with guys around him."

Oregon's offense certainly suited Nix well.

"He's a West Coast, quick-rhythm-offense guy where the ball's out of his hand fast," an NFC coordinator said. "He's not holding onto it. You're not asking him to throw deep shots, because he doesn't have the greatest arm."

For some, the Ducks' scheme protected deficiencies that may show up more in the NFL.

"The degree of difficulty of the throws he was asked to make are very low," an NFC executive said. "I think the SEC kind of showed who he was, which was not impressive. But I think when you go to the Oregon stuff -- they made it easy for him."

Said an NFC quarterbacks coach: "Some ridiculous percentage (65.9% last season, per PFF) of his completions are within 5 yards of the line of scrimmage or less. Seeing him push the ball down the field is different. He's not as accurate as some of those other guys. But he's a mature guy, he's older, he'll learn everything. There's going to be things he struggles at when he gets away from that offense. They set that up for success for him, and he did a good job with it."

In those 61 college starts, Nix completed 66.4 percent of his passes for 15,352 yards and 113 touchdowns with 26 interceptions. He ran for another 1,613 yards and 38 TDs. He has big hands (10 1/8 inches). Nix took part in the Senior Bowl and threw at both the combine and Oregon's pro day, but he didn't perform athletic testing in Indianapolis or Eugene.

"Bo Nix might as well be 30 years old," another NFC executive said. "It seems like he lived two college lives. I think the game has slowed down for him finally this past year. Before, it was like he was playing on speed like (Will) Levis, holding onto everything so hard. Unbelievable command. He's really smart. It's just going to be arm talent and he's got some nose-down with the ball, on the move, when he's off his spot -- it's almost like he's choking the ball when he's throwing it."

Most QB-needy teams have spent extra time with him before the draft; among others, Nix visited the Falcons, Broncos, Raiders and Seahawks and had a private workout with the Vikings. It would be a surprise if Nix is on the board long in Round 2, if not gone before the end of Round 1. One veteran scouting director put Nix ahead of J.J. McCarthy.

"He's 6-2, he's 220, he's a mobile enough athlete -- all that stuff. But is he gonna be good enough?" an NFC scout said. "I think he's going to be a little bit like Sam Howell. I don't know that he's going to be a bona fide starter in the NFL. Arm talent's not the best; he was accurate on the short stuff, but it was the factor of the offense, to me, this (past) year. He doesn't feel like a guy that has the physical ability to really carry a team. Will somebody believe he can (start)? Probably. Somebody might fall in love with him."

PROJECTED: Rounds 3-4

Spencer Rattler
South Carolina · Senior

PROJECTED: Rounds 3-4

A onetime five-star recruit who left Oklahoma after being benched for Caleb Williams, Rattler reinvented himself over the past two years with the Gamecocks. And scouts say he has helped himself as much as any QB in the pre-draft process, both on and off the field.

"I have Spencer higher than Penix," an NFC scouting director said. "Spencer's got a better arm, better release, probably has better fundamentals, has played in a couple of pro-style offenses now. I know he's kind of the forgotten name. He has matured tremendously. I thought he nailed his interview at the Senior Bowl. Every time I've ever heard this kid give an interview, he's had every chance to throw Caleb Williams under the bus and he does not do it. It wouldn't surprise me if this kid's the one still standing."

In 45 college games (42 starts), Rattler completed 68.5 percent of his passes for 10,807 yards and 77 touchdowns with 32 interceptions, running for 16 more scores. That includes consecutive 3,000-yard passing seasons at South Carolina, where he didn't get a lot of help.

"You feel bad for that kid, because I've never seen so many dropped balls on him and he got absolutely beat to crap," an NFC quarterbacks coach said. "They couldn't protect him and they couldn't catch. That was about as brutal a tape as I've watched." 

As a player, the primary concerns are Rattler's size (6-0 1/4, 211), speed (4.95 40-yard dash) and tendency to get loose with the football.

"Rattler's a good little player. I hate how little he is," an AFC executive said. "And he's gotta f---ing learn -- he's a little reckless. 'Hey, Spencer, chill the f--- out.' But he's got arm talent now." 

Said an AFC scouting director: "I think Spencer Rattler is a good player, and in the right situation, he can be a starter in the NFL. He's definitely edgy and super confident, which I kind of like. But what I like about Spencer's film the last couple years is he went to more of a mid-tier SEC team, so every week they were playing against people better and faster than them. There's probably more throws that he made from tight pockets, under duress than any other prospect. And that's the NFL. He's made those throws. And he made more throws where I rewound the tape and I was like, 'Wow, that was a f---ing great throw.' I just wish he was bigger. He feels really small out there."

Many fans and NFL people were introduced to Rattler via the Netflix series QB1: Beyond the Lights, which left a lasting (and largely unfavorable) impression of him as a teenage star. Coupled with an unexplained suspension during his senior year of high school in Arizona and his unceremonious exit from Oklahoma, Rattler has carried a stigma he's been trying to shake ever since. But scouts who have spent time around him since the OU days say Rattler, now 23 years old, really has grown up.

"He's a different dude now," said another NFC scouting director. "He's another guy that scouts are going to second-guess and overthink and be hard on the kid for what he used to be. But I think it's genuine change. Maturity. He's got CEO in him now, and three years ago, he didn't. I think some people grow up. Some people get second chances to do s--- right."

Multiple coaches credited former NFL coordinator Dowell Loggains, who took over as South Carolina's OC and QBs coach last year, for helping Rattler elevate his game and prepare for the NFL. Rattler went to the Senior Bowl and won game MVP. Rattler has big hands (9 7/8 inches) for his size. He has been one of the busiest QB prospects in recent weeks, with in-person visits and/or private workouts with 14 teams. 

"No one had a worse offensive line than him," an NFC coordinator said. "There's enough on tape that show timing, anticipation. I don't see him getting a lack of vision or covered up by linemen. I think he's got a knack. He's got a little Jeff Garcia to him."

Said an AFC scout: "Look, the whole thing when he was in high school -- that part of it has stuck with him. But I think he's matured. He got the s--- kicked out of him at South Carolina this year. But he's got a live arm, man. He started and played well at Oklahoma. He's a guy I really feel like is underrated. And he didn't test well. You know what happens. Look at Russell Wilson or somebody who goes a little bit later. He could be that guy."

PROJECTED: Rounds 4-5

Michael Pratt
Tulane · Senior

PROJECTED: Rounds 4-5

A four-year starter for the Green Wave, Pratt capped his college career by winning 2023 AAC Offensive Player of the Year honors despite missing two games early in the season due to a knee injury and playing through a stress fracture in his leg late in the year.

"Ton of experience. Could've gone to another place in this NIL era. He was one of those kids that [didn't leave] -- I think there's something to be said for that," an NFC quarterbacks coach said. "Does a really good job on tape, in terms of progressing. He's accurate. I think you're looking at a guy that has a chance to get drafted and develop into a backup, which, in this day and age, is valuable. The kid's wired for that."

In 46 college games (44 starts), Pratt completed 60.6 percent of his passes for 9,603 yards and 90 touchdowns with 26 interceptions, running for another 1,147 yards and 28 TDs. After going 2-10 in 2021, Tulane was 23-5 over the past two seasons, earning trips to the Cotton Bowl and Military Bowl. (Pratt sat out the latter to prepare for the draft.)

"He didn't have a great combine [throwing session], but you spend time with him, he's a smart kid and real likeable," another NFC QBs coach said. "He's going to flash in the preseason, as well, because he'll move around and make some plays. You see him take a lot of sacks (108 in his college career) because he doesn't let plays go, but he's going to flash in the preseason, and he'll end up making a roster." 

The primary concern raised by coaches and scouts: Pratt's throwing mechanics.

"The Pratt guy, I think, is further off," an AFC coordinator said. "He's a break-him-down, build-him-back-up kind of guy mechanically."

Said an AFC scouting director: "I really liked Pratt as a player. I think he's tough as s---. I just wish he threw the ball better. But he'll go. There will be some guys that can probably help him, and he can clean up some of his deficiencies, too. The way the people at Tulane talk about that kid, it's pretty impressive."

Home-schooled until the start of high school, Pratt has overcome tremendous adversity in his young adult life, including the suicide of friend and high school teammate Bryce Gowdy, whose No. 7 Pratt began wearing at Tulane in his honor, and the death of his brother, David, last summer. 

Coaches and executives rave about Pratt's performance in interviews.

"He could be a quality backup for a long time," an AFC QBs coach said. "He's got the right attributes and traits, as far as he's intelligent, he's a winner, he'll bring a lot of good stuff to the locker room."

Pratt checked in at 6-2 1/2, 217 pounds at the combine, showing off his athletic ability with a 36-inch vertical leap (best among QBs) and 9-6 broad jump. The Jets and Browns were among the teams to bring him in for pre-draft visits, and a handful of other teams worked out the 22-year-old privately.

"Pratt's a great story, but I love the person way more than the player," an NFC executive said. "He didn't have a good Senior Bowl. (Last season) was rough. The arm strength is just ordinary. His hands are really small (9 1/4 inches). You love the makeup where, can he be a No. 2? I think so. But anything more than that, you're just hoping and wishing."

Said an NFC scouting director: "Pratt was hurt most of the year. I think he's somewhere in the middle -- Day 3 dude -- and he's a really good dude. He has leadership. He has high care factor. It's going to be a question of how he handles pressure and adjusting from that spread scheme. That's the biggest thing: Does he have an answer? Because he's not a guy who's really mobile, and he's got an average stroke. He's a stud of a person. I think he'll be a backup in the league for friggin' 12 years. And maybe he ascends."

PROJECTED: Rounds 6-7

Joe Milton III
Tennessee · Senior

PROJECTED: Rounds 6-7

A physical specimen at 6-5 1/8 and 235 pounds with 10 1/4-inch hands and an 80-inch wingspan, Milton probably gets drafted off traits alone.

"He is a freak, capital 'F,' " an AFC assistant coach said. "Honestly, one of the best pro days I've ever seen in my life as purely a workout, throwing the f---ing ball all over the place. Unbelievable athlete. If I'm Buffalo and he's there in the fifth round or something, I'm taking him and I'm just stashing him in the third spot behind Mitch (Trubisky) and Josh (Allen) and seeing what happens. Because if he is successful, it's because he's going to play the game like Josh Allen: He's going to run around and be bigger and stronger than everybody. Yeah, he'll miss some throws, but he's going to throw rockets. To me, that's the type of quarterback you take late."

Milton spent three years at Michigan and made five starts in the COVID-shortened 2020 season before transferring to Tennessee, where he initially won the starting job in 2021 before losing it to Hendon Hooker. After Hooker got hurt late in the 2022 season, Milton returned to the lineup and won Orange Bowl MVP.

"Somebody will be intrigued by him, and he'll end up going early Day 3," an AFC scout said. "What's he going to turn out to be? I think he's the same guy he was at Michigan, the same guy he was at Tennessee. The tools are there, but it just never has come around."

In 43 college games (21 starts), Milton completed 61.5 percent of his passes for 5,353 yards with 37 touchdowns and 11 interceptions -- including 2,813 passing yards and 20 TDs in 2023, his lone full season as the starter -- and ran for another 661 yards and 12 TDs.

"Milton, to me, is like a developmental sideshow," an NFC executive said. "He has a huge arm -- he just hasn't made the progression in terms of decision-making, processing on the field. There's a ton of stuff on tape where he still looks really slow."

The cousin of former Pro Bowl receiver Anquan Boldin, Milton earned a Senior Bowl invite and showed off his huge arm at the combine, launching one ball that traveled 70 yards in the air. He had a 10-1 broad jump (best among QBs) and a 35-inch vertical (second) at the combine and reportedly ran a 40-yard dash in the high 4.5s/low 4.6s at his pro day. He turned 24 last month.

"Somebody's gonna think that they can turn him into a passer, and maybe keep him on your roster to throw Hail Marys at the end of games?" an NFC quarterbacks coach said. "It's the same speed, whether he's going to throw it 70 yards or negative-7 yards."

Said an NFC scouting director: "He is big, he's physical, he's got a big arm. For whatever reason, it just didn't come together for him. It's a little bit of the instincts. It's the decision-making. But he's loaded with talent, and I could see somebody taking a flier on him in the fourth, fifth round. He didn't have a good Senior Bowl, though. He had some nice stuff at the combine. You can see the arm strength and all that kind of s---. But at the end of the day, man, you've got to just play football. It's not about the physical tools -- you've got to actually play the position. I don't know that he's there yet." 

PROJECTED: Round 7/Priority Free Agent

Kedon Slovis
BYU · Senior

PROJECTED: Round 7/Priority Free Agent

A freshman sensation who threw for 30 touchdowns at USC way back in 2019, Slovis (6-2 1/2, 223) seemingly got lost in the transfer portal over the past couple seasons.

"He's had just such a roller-coaster ride throughout his career," an AFC scout said. "He's worthy of being drafted. You go back to the stuff at SC, it's good tape."

Slovis broke several Trojans freshman records in that first season, completing 71.9 percent of his passes for 3,502 yards. He earned first-team All-Pac-12 honors in the COVID-shortened season of 2020 and started nine games in 2021 before suffering a leg injury. After Lincoln Riley arrived (with Caleb Williams ultimately following), Slovis transferred, spending one season each at Pittsburgh and BYU with unremarkable production (22 touchdowns, 15 interceptions total) and a sub-60 percent completion rate. In 46 college games (45 starts), Slovis completed 64.5 percent of his passes for 11,689 yards and 80 touchdowns with 39 interceptions.

"I say no (he won't get drafted), but he's the kind of guy somebody could take a swing on in the seventh," an NFC scouting director said. "He actually ran pretty good (4.55 40 at the combine, tops among quarterbacks). But you worry about (the fact that) he's regressed almost every year since he was at SC."

Said an NFC quarterbacks coach: "His production was crazy at USC early in his career. The kid's got some tools you can really work with. It wasn't pro-style at BYU, but it was much more dropback and actually go through progressions. I think some teams are going to really like that kid, just based on the fact that he showed he can sit in the pocket and deliver the ball accurately and in rhythm. It would not surprise me if he got drafted. Now, he's not overly big and overly athletic, which, whenever you get to this seventh round, guys obviously don't have these traits. He does do a good job of going through progressions and sitting in the pocket and playing. I think there's some intrigue there to take a flier on a guy late like him, because early in his career, he wasn't asked to do a lot of that. So maybe that ceiling hasn't been reached yet."

Slovis' three college rushing touchdowns came last season at BYU, where he started the first eight games before a season-ending shoulder injury. He also had a lingering elbow issue dating back to a hit in USC's Holiday Bowl loss in his freshman year, but recently received a positive report from Dr. Keith Meister, the renowned surgeon who operated on Brock Purdy's elbow. Fully healthy now, Slovis showed what he can do in pre-draft workouts. He has pretty big hands (9 7/8). He was invited to the East-West Shrine Bowl. He turned 23 last week.

"Kedon Slovis has had a really good postseason process," an AFC scouting director said. "I think he can go late."

Jordan Travis
Florida State · Senior

PROJECTED: Round 7/Priority Free Agent

A four-year starter who set the Florida State record with 10,554 yards of total offense, Travis (6-1 1/8, 200) earned ACC Player of the Year honors and led the Seminoles to an 11-0 start in 2023 before a serious left leg injury in November ended his sixth and final college season. While there are questions about Travis' upside as an NFL quarterback, scouts believe he has a future somewhere in the league.

"I think this guy is more of just a cool football player," an AFC coordinator said. "Winner-type dude and a guy you love having. Great college quarterback. That's what you're looking for in college. But he's just not a natural thrower. He's a better version of (Trace) McSorley from Penn State. So, he'll make it OK." 

Sources familiar with Travis' injury say he suffered a fractured and dislocated ankle that also stretched some ligaments. He underwent surgery 10 days later to stabilize his fibula and tibia and repair his deltoid ligament. The procedure was performed by noted orthopedist Dr. Robert Anderson, who expects him to be cleared for training camp. He already has resumed running and throwing. (Ravens tight end Mark Andrews suffered a similar injury last November and returned to play in the AFC Championship Game.)

After redshirting as a freshman at Louisville, Travis transferred to Florida State. In 49 career games (38 starts), Travis completed 62 percent of his passes for 8,715 yards with 66 touchdowns and 20 interceptions and ran for another 1,950 yards and 31 TDs. This past season, he accounted for 27 total TDs and finished fifth in Heisman Trophy balloting, before being invited to attend the East-West Shrine Bowl. The Jets brought in Travis for a top-30 visit and a half-dozen other teams have visited him during his rehab in Florida. His hands (9 inches) are on the smaller side for an NFL QB. He turns 24 next month. One AFC executive said Travis projects to receiver.

"I think he's purely a backup, but I think he's the kind of guy that could be a package backup," an NFC scouting director said. "If you wanted to run a package that had an athletic quarterback and maybe if you had a creative OC that wanted to run some quarterback draws, some RPO stuff, get outside the pocket -- I think [Travis] could do all that. He's gotten better every year as a passer. He does have a good arm, but he gets a little bit happy feet in the pocket, because it's just not natural for him. Being in the pocket and having to scan the field is just not natural. He's an athlete first and a quarterback second. But he's a phenomenal kid. He's plenty smart enough. He's more than athletic. He's got some traits."

Devin Leary
Kentucky · Senior

PROJECTED: Round 7/Priority Free Agent

Leary (6-1 1/4, 215) spent his first five college seasons at North Carolina State, where he broke Philip Rivers' single-season school record with 35 touchdown passes in 2021. He tore his right pectoral muscle in October 2022 and entered the transfer portal at the end of the season.

"He's got some instinct to him, but he can kind of force things sometimes," an NFC scouting director said. "He went from the wide-open spread stuff and actually went to Kentucky so he could play in a pro-style system. He played under Liam (Coen), who's coached (Matthew) Stafford out at the Rams and learned under the same (Sean) McVay tree. He was only one year in the system, so there was some up and down with his play. But he actually has ability. It's just going to be a matter of just getting more time on task and playing in a pro-style system. Leary was coming to an SEC school trying to learn a pro-style system in a tougher conference. He played better at North Carolina State."

In his lone season with the Wildcats, Leary started all 13 games, completing just 56.3 percent of his passes for 2,746 yards and 25 touchdowns with 12 interceptions; he had 25 passes dropped, per PFF ( tied for 5th-most among Power Five QBs). Leary threw 28 interceptions total in his college career, and PFF credited him with 15 fumbles last season alone.

"The Kentucky kid did well at the combine. And you see him play real football," an NFC quarterbacks coach said. "But he's kind of been a walking turnover machine."

Leary missed the end of the 2020 season with a fractured left fibula. In 43 college games (39 starts), he completed 59.1 percent of his passes for 9,553 yards and 87 touchdowns with 28 interceptions. He scored six more touchdowns rushing. He was invited to the East-West Shrine Bowl. He'll turn 25 in September. The struggles at Kentucky raised questions about how well Leary processes, but scouts say there are tools to work with, including his arm.

"He's very talented," an AFC scouting director said. "Got a freaking hose."

Austin Reed
Western Kentucky · Senior

PROJECTED: Round 7/Priority Free Agent

A second-team AP Division II All-American at West Florida in 2021 before transferring, Reed (6-1 1/2, 220) threw for 71 touchdowns and ran for 12 more over two seasons in the same Hilltoppers offense that produced 2022 fourth-round pick Bailey Zappe.

"Somebody might consider him late," an NFC scouting director said. "Zappe had a little more savvy, a little more polish. I would have [Reed] in that same bucket with (Sam) Hartman and (Michael) Pratt."

In 52 college games (51 starts), Reed threw for 15,588 yards and 149 touchdowns with 41 interceptions. He was invited to the East-West Shrine Bowl. He ran a 4.82 40-yard dash at the combine. He has pretty sizable hands (9 7/8 inches). He's already 24 years old.

"Not my cup of tea," an AFC coordinator said. "I watched his pro day and thought he was an OK thrower." 

The Titans and Jaguars worked out Reed privately.

"What is he, (60.0) completion percentage in college football?" an NFC QBs coach said. "But somebody's going to take Day 3 quarterbacks. You bring them in and everyone's looking for Brock Purdy."

Sam Hartman
Notre Dame · Senior

PROJECTED: Round 7/Priority Free Agent

One of the nation's most productive passers over five years at Wake Forest, Hartman (6-1 1/8, 211) started 12 games in his lone season with the Fighting Irish and led the second highest-scoring offense in school history (39.2 points per game).

"Love the kid. Would love to have him coaching for you. But just doesn't have the juice," an AFC coordinator said. "He's a guy that could probably be your practice-squad quarterback. He knows his limitations and he's a great guy to be around. But there's no way. He just doesn't have the arm."

Said an AFC executive who saw Hartman play live: "I didn't think he was that good. But I think he's one of those guys that someone will take late, because he's played a lot of ball and he's a good dude."

Hartman's life and football career have been filled with adversity: His adopted brother, Demitri Allison, died two days before Hartman played in the 2015 state title game in high school. (Hartman wears No. 10 and has a tattoo in Allison's honor.) When Hartman was 17, doctors removed an abscess the size of a baseball from under his clavicle that had shut down his left arm, but he found a way to play that fall. He won the starting job at Wake Forest as a true freshman, but suffered a broken leg that ended his season and was a redshirt the following year. He also missed the 2022 opener after doctors found a blood clot and had to remove a small rib near his shoulder to prevent further clotting (Paget-Schroetter syndrome). 

In 60 college games (57 starts), Hartman completed 59.8 percent of his passes for 15,656 yards with 134 touchdowns and 49 interceptions and rushed for another 978 yards and 20 TDs. That included an ACC record 110 TD passes at Wake Forest -- 77 of them over the 2021 and '22 seasons. He completed a career-high 63.5 percent of his passes for 2,689 yards with 24 touchdowns and eight interceptions before opting out of Notre Dame's Sun Bowl appearance to prepare for the draft. An uneven week at the Senior Bowl didn't help Hartman's stock, but his pro day was better.

"He's just all over the place," another AFC coordinator said. "He's a poor man's version of Gardner (Minshew), not just because he looks like him, but he plays like him: happy feet, bouncing around and just inaccurate. I don't see him getting drafted, but maybe he would."

Hartman's 4.8 40 at the combine became a viral sensation, thanks to slow-motion replays of his flowing hair.

"He is gorgeous, too. I've never seen anything like it," an NFC quarterbacks coach said. "He was pretty bad at the combine. He missed a lot of throws at the Senior Bowl, too. [But it] only takes one to like something about you and take a flier."

Jack Plummer
Louisville · Senior

PROJECTED: Round 7/Priority Free Agent

A starter at three schools over five seasons, Plummer (6-4, 216) finished his college career with 9,704 passing yards and 68 touchdowns with 31 interceptions on 64.1 percent passing over 47 games (39 starts).

"He may get drafted just because of size and arm strength," an NFC quarterbacks coach said. "If you're saying, 'Give me somebody with some traits,' I could see that late potentially. He's a Daniel Jones-type player. Daniel Jones was a first-round draft pick, but (Plummer is) big, tall, long (78 3/4-inch wingspan). Doesn't particularly move at all. I could see him before some of those other guys, if somebody loves him and doesn't want to fight in free agency."

Plummer was in and out of the lineup over three seasons at Purdue, where he started six games as a redshirt freshman, replaced an injured Aidan O'Connell for the final three games in 2020 and then lost the job back to O'Connell in 2021. From there, Plummer spent one season each as the starter at Cal and Louisville, where he reunited with former Purdue coach Jeff Brohm and earned third-team all-ACC honors last fall on a team that went 10-4. He was invited to the East-West Shrine Bowl. He surprised some teams with how he tested at his pro day, reportedly running a 4.75 40 with a 33-inch vertical and 9-8 broad jump. He turns 25 in October. 

"When I was doing O'Connell coming out a couple years ago, you saw him as a backup up there and you're like, Damn, why's this kid with good size, a pretty good arm (not playing)?" an NFC scouting director said. "Then, when you see the tape, (he's) just inconsistent with the accuracy. He's got size and an above-average arm. Just hasn't quite put it all together yet, so I think he's more a developmental, free-agent type. I see him going to a camp for sure."

Carter Bradley
South Alabama · Senior

PROJECTED: Round 7/Priority Free Agent

The son of longtime NFL coach and defensive coordinator Gus Bradley, Carter (6-3, 218) was mostly a backup for four seasons at Toledo before transferring and starting two seasons with the Jaguars, throwing for nearly 6,000 yards and 47 touchdowns (against 19 picks). Is it enough to get him drafted?

"I don't think so, but I think he's going to be in demand after the draft," an NFC scouting director said. "Really tough kid, strong arm. Obviously a coach's kid. His dad's well-received around the league. He is his own man, but he's got all the positive things from being [the son of a coach who] had to grind his way in the NFL, too."

In 46 college games, Bradley completed 62.9 percent of his passes for 8,372 yards and 61 touchdowns with 27 interceptions. He turned 24 last month.

"He did a nice job at the Senior Bowl," an AFC scouting director said. "At least you feel good about him being able to operate it for you in practice. Maybe he's developmental."

Ben Bryant
Northwestern · Senior

PROJECTED: Round 7/Priority Free Agent

One of the most well-traveled players in college football, Bryant (6-3 3/4, 213) transferred three times: From Cincinnati to Eastern Michigan, back to Cincinnati and then to Northwestern, where he threw for 13 touchdowns in nine games last season.

"Good, natural thrower. Played well for how Northwestern started winning," an AFC coordinator said. "He's a pretty good player." 

Bryant has big, 10-inch hands. He was invited to the Hula Bowl. He'll be 25 in September.

"He's just an average arm, average accuracy," an NFC scouting director said. "Kind of up-and-down player. He's played at Eastern Michigan, Cincinnati -- I feel like I've done this kid three or four times now, at three or four different schools."

Davius Richard
North Carolina Central · Senior

PROJECTED: Round 7/Priority Free Agent

A two-time Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Offensive Player of the Year, Richard (6-2 3/8, 225) won Offensive MVP of the 2024 HBCU Legacy Bowl in February despite suffering a dislocated ankle on his final play, a touchdown run.

"Big guy, good size, has a pretty good arm," an NFC scouting director said. "He was hurt and didn't even end up having his pro day. If you've got three or four of those 7s and you want to take a flier on a guy, that would be the kind of guy probably. But I definitely see him as a developmental guy that could be sneaky. If there's a sleeper at the position, it might be him." 

A source familiar with Richard's injury said doctors reset the ankle without surgery and he's expected to be cleared before training camp, if someone gives him a shot. In 45 college games (42 starts), Richard completed 58.5 percent of his passes for 8,955 yards with 73 touchdowns and 29 interceptions, plus 2,020 yards rushing and another 44 TDs -- including an FCS-best 18 in 2023. He ran a 4.60 40 at the HBCU combine with a 34-inch vertical and 9-10 broad jump. 

Gavin Hardison
Texas-El Paso · Senior (RS)

PROJECTED: Round 7/Priority Free Agent

A four-year starter, Hardison (6-1 7/8, 206) had his final college season cut short by Tommy John surgery on his throwing elbow in November.

"He's an intriguing arm, but he's hurt, he's not extremely accurate," an AFC coordinator said. "He's tough as s---. I don't even know if he'll be cleared (medically). But at least he showed arm talent that is different from some other guys."

Hardison played in five games in 2018 for New Mexico Military Institute before transferring to UTEP and redshirting. In 37 games for the Miners, Hardison completed just 53.7 percent of his passes for 7,963 yards and 40 touchdowns with 33 interceptions. Noted surgeon Dr. Keith Meister performed Hardison's elbow procedure, and he resumed throwing in time to participate in UTEP's pro day last month. He turns 24 next month. The Packers hosted him on a visit this week.

"Free agent," an NFC scouting director said. "Thought he had a chance to be late draftable, but he didn't have a great year."

Taulia Tagovailoa
Maryland · Senior

PROJECTED: Round 7/Priority Free Agent

The younger brother of Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa, Taulia was a four-year starter for the Terrapins after transferring from Alabama and set the Big Ten record with 11,256 career passing yards.

"Taulia's just tiny," an AFC scouting director said of the younger Tagovailoa, who measured in at the East-West Shrine Bowl at 5-10 1/4, 200 pounds.

In 46 college games (40 starts), Tagovailoa completed 67.1 percent of his passes for 11,356 yards and 77 touchdowns with 37 interceptions. He set Maryland career records for passing touchdowns (76), completions (955), completion percentage (67.1 percent) and total offense (11,473 yards).

"I think what he can do is be decent in the preseason, because he's mobile," an NFC scout said. "He has some gamer to him. But he can't play from the pocket. He's just too small. His mechanics are too erratic."

Already 24, Tagovailoa ran for another 13 TDs during his college career. He sought an NCAA waiver to play a sixth season, since he played two snaps to honor his injured brother in his fifth game in 2019, but was denied. He opted out of the Music City Bowl against Auburn to prepare for the draft.

"There's ability there," an AFC coordinator said. "You have a miniature version of his brother. You could take a flier on him at the end if you don't want to bid on him in free agency. There's potentially something to develop."

Related Content