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2024 NFL Draft: Ten rookies in the best situations to succeed in Year 1 and beyond

Last year in this space, I selected 10 rookies who I thought were in the best positions to succeed. Admittedly, I spectacularly whiffed on my first pick (Bryce Young) and definitely could have made a few better choices (SEE: C.J. Stroud and Sam LaPorta, to name a couple of glaring omissions).

Now I'm ready for my Raven Johnson redemption season.

In case you are among the increasingly smaller percentage of people who don't pay any attention to women's college basketball, let me fill you in. In Johnson's redshirt freshman campaign for South Carolina, the Gamecocks' season ended in a national semifinal loss to Iowa. During that game, Hawkeyes star Caitlin Clark left Johnson wide open behind the 3-point line, waiving off her opponent to signify she wasn't at all worried about Johnson as a shooting threat. Johnson turned down the shot, and the moment went viral. Fast-forward to this year's national championship game. Johnson redeemed herself late in the first half, stealing the ball away Clark and making a layup, sending South Carolina into the break with a three-point lead. Johnson and the Gamecocks would go on to win 87-75, completing the revenge tour in style.

So, I'm channeling my inner Raven Johnson and am ready to hit this exercise out of the park. Here are 10 rookies in the most favorable positions to succeed in Year 1 and beyond.

Caleb Williams
Chicago Bears
2023 record: 7-10

DRAFTED: Round 1, No. 1 overall

It’s hard to think of a previous No. 1 overall pick who was put in a better situation than Caleb Williams in Chicago. He joins an offense that has a solid line, a talented new running back in free-agent signee D’Andre Swift and perhaps the best WR room in the league, with DJ Moore, Keenan Allen and fellow rookie first-rounder Rome Odunze. That's ideal for any young quarterback, let alone one with Williams' rare skill set. Boasting the ability to beat opponents from the pocket or on the go, Caleb is set to thrive with this roster, which also offers far better defensive support than anything the quarterback experienced at USC.

Xavier Worthy
Texas · WR
Kansas City Chiefs
2023 record: 11-6

DRAFTED: Round 1, No. 28 overall

After the Falcons shockingly selected Michael Penix Jr. at No. 8 overall, the Bills made the second truly head-scratching move of the draft's opening night at No. 28, allowing the rival Chiefs to trade up and get the exact piece that’s been missing from the back-to-back Super Bowl champions' offense. Andy Reid loves featuring a speedy deep threat (SEE: DeSean Jackson and Tyreek Hill), and Worthy fits into that role like a glove as a lightning-fast playmaker who’ll win downfield and open up the middle for guys like Travis Kelce and Marquise Brown

Joe Alt
Notre Dame · OT
Los Angeles Chargers
2023 record: 5-12

DRAFTED: Round 1, No. 5 overall

Jim Harbaugh has been adamant about building a tough, physical team in Los Angeles. That starts in the trenches, so it made perfect sense that the Chargers nabbed the top offensive lineman in the draft with the fifth overall pick. The towering Alt could succeed in any offense, but combining Harbaugh’s philosophy with the fact that the Notre Dame product will bookend the Bolts' front opposite Rashawn Slater (a top-five tackle when healthy) makes this an amazing fit.

Jared Verse
Florida State · DE
Los Angeles Rams
2023 record: 10-7

DRAFTED: Round 1, No. 19 overall

The Rams found some real dudes in last year’s draft in DT Kobie Turner and OLB Byron Young, both third-round selections who’ll now lead the defensive charge in the team's post-Aaron Donald world. Having proved they can get the most out of young players, the Rams now add a first-round talent into the pass-rushing mix. Verse is a tough, physical edge rusher who will be able to focus on getting after the quarterback -- without having to take on too many other responsibilities -- thanks to the guys around him. This pick gives L.A. a chance to improve on its sack total from last season of 41 (tied for 23rd in the league).

Jayden Daniels
Washington Commanders
2023 record: 4-13

DRAFTED: Round 1, No. 2 overall

Washington's new regime -- led by general manager Adam Peters and head coach Dan Quinn -- worked for months in preparation of drafting a quarterback. The Commanders signed veterans along the offensive line (Nick Allegretti and Tyler Biadasz), while also adding tight end Zach Ertz and running back Austin Ekeler to fortify the pass-catching options that already included Terry McLaurin and Jahan Dotson. Then they drafted more offensive talent to flank Daniels. My hat is off to Peters for making such a concerted effort to upgrade the foundation around the team’s new franchise quarterback. The reigning Heisman Trophy winner is in a good position to succeed early in his career. 

Rome Odunze
Washington · WR
Chicago Bears
2023 record: 7-10

DRAFTED: Round 1, No. 9 overall

Unlike the two wideouts taken before him, Odunze joins a receiver room that already features a pair of established stars in DJ Moore and Keenan Allen. The rookie is in an incredible situation, as he’ll face plenty of No. 2 and 3 cornerbacks early on in his career. Odunze possesses exceptional ball skills; he has the ability to create separation and win against defenders due to his body control, positioning and great hands. It’s going to be a lot of fun watching Odunze build a rapport with Caleb Williams this fall and beyond.

Edgerrin Cooper
Texas A&M · LB
Green Bay Packers
2023 record: 9-8

DRAFTED: Round 2, No. 45 overall

The Packers made a great value pick in selecting the best linebacker in this draft class midway through Round 2. Cooper has great speed and pursuit ability -- plus, he fits perfectly into new coordinator Jeff Hafley's blitz-heavy defense. The Texas A&M star, who had eight sacks and 17 tackles for loss in 2023, can just come in and aggressively play his role, capitalizing on lining up alongside LB Quay Walker and behind a productive D-line that includes the likes of Rashan Gary, Kenny Clark, Devonte Wyatt and Preston Smith. This front seven is going to be a nightmare. 

Brian Thomas Jr.
Jacksonville Jaguars
2023 record: 9-8

DRAFTED: Round 1, No. 23 overall

Despite losing Calvin Ridley in free agency, the Jaguars still made a concerted effort this offseason to surround Trevor Lawrence with more talent, signing Gabe Davis to a three-year deal and drafting Thomas in the first round of the draft. Alongside Davis and Christian Kirk, the LSU product should begin as a WR2 or WR3, with plenty of upside to develop and grow within the offense throughout the season. With his playmaking ability, speed and natural talent, Thomas should elevate into a bigger role before too long.

Byron Murphy II
Texas · DT
Seattle Seahawks
2023 record: 9-8

DRAFTED: Round 1, No. 16 overall

This situation feels similar to how Jalen Carter slotted in with the Eagles in 2023. Carter logged just one start as a rookie, but certainly made his impact felt as a rotational player, recording six sacks, nine QB hits and two forced fumbles. Murphy should see more playing time as a starter for the Seahawks, but he’ll be able to make the same type of splash plays Carter did simply because there are so many established disruptors around him. Murphy joins a defensive front that already features Leonard Williams, Dre’Mont Jones, Jarran Reed, Uchenna Nwosu, Boye Mafe and Darrell Taylor. Murphy’s skill set adds an extra dimension for new Seahawks head coach Mike Macdonald, who’ll love creating one-on-one opportunities for the rookie.

Zach Frazier
West Virginia · C
Pittsburgh Steelers
2023 record: 10-7

DRAFTED: Round 2, No. 51 overall

The Steelers clearly entered the draft with one thing top of mind: bolstering the offensive line. After selecting offensive tackle Troy Fautanu in Round 1, Pittsburgh doubled down in Round 2 by taking Frazier, a brawler who embodies everything this franchise is about. His experience and toughness will allow him to step in immediately as the pivot of an overhauled unit with a new offensive coordinator (former Falcons head coach Arthur Smith).

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