The 2024 NFL draft is less than one month away and the frenzy is beginning to build. But, how good is this year’s draft class?

That’s a question NFL general managers are wrestling with at the moment and will continue to do so for the next few weeks.

NFL Network draft analyst Lance Zierlein ranks most of the key prospects with a simple scale that is naturally subjective since it’s based on his analysis.

Any player scoring a grade of 6.50 or better is considered a lead pipe first-year starter. Zierlein only grades 12 players over 6.50 in this class.

LSU wide receiver Malik Nabers is Zierlein’s highest-rated player with a 6.86 grade. He is followed by Ohio State wideout Marvin Harrison Jr. at 6.83 and two players at 6.74: USC quarterback Caleb Williams and Washington wide receiver Rome Odunze.

Florida State edge rusher Jared Verse and LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels come in next at 6.73, followed by Georgia tight end Brock Bowers and tackle JC Latham of Alabama (6.71). Two more edges rushers — Penn State’s Chop Robinson and Alabama’s Dallas Turner — come in next with grades of 6.70.

The final two players with a grade of 6.50 or above are North Carolina quarterback Drake Maye and UCLA edge rusher Laiatu Latu. Notre Dame tackle Joe Alt and Alabama cornerback Terrion Arnold just missed with 6.49 grades.

What does this all mean? To not believe the hype. Many general managers make the mistake that they can upgrade immediately in the draft, especially at quarterback. That leads to overpaying and overdrafting players. Stick to drafting players that are a) make your roster and b) make your roster better.

Notice who is not on Zierlein’s list of potential impact starters. Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy — the darling of this offseason. The New York Giants are said to be interested.

Plus, Zierlein has no defensive backs listed in his top tier. The Giants are starving for secondary help. This can lead one to believe that Giants general manager Joe Schoen should trade back to gain more draft capital and not overdraft players.

Look at all of the quarterbacks taken in the first round the past three years in the draft. How many have actually become stars?  Not many.

In 2021, Trevor Lawrence was selected first with Zach Wilson and Trey Lance selected right behind him. Other first-rounders taken were Justin Fields and Mac Jones. Lawrence has panned out thus far but the other four have either busted out and/or been traded.

That led to some gun-shyness in 2022 with the first quarterback not selected until No. 20 (Kenny Pickett) but, to be fair, the class was one of the weakest in recent years. Pickett was traded this past month to the Eagles.

Last season, three quarterbacks were selected in the first round: Bryce Young, C.J. Stroud, and Anthony Richardson. Stroud has already made his mark while injuries have hampered the other two thus far.


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