Which NFL Rookies, Teams Wish They Could Have a Do-Over in 2024 Draft?

The NFL draft is filled with confusing picks every year.

Some picks are baffling as soon as the card is turned in, while others only begin to unravel once the player is in the building.

Furthermore, it’s the picks that don’t happen that can be just as confounding, even heartbreaking. We spend all this time pre-draft trying to link certain player archetypes to certain teams and finding the perfect marriage between prospect and environment, only for those teams to miss out on those players or intentionally pass on them over and over. Pipe dreams are crushed relentlessly over the course of a weekend in late April.

Now the draft is three weeks in the rear-view mirror. Rookies are in the building. Every team’s offseason plans have been crystalized with the end of the draft and free agency winding down.

With the picture as clear as it’s going to get, it’s time to step back and investigate which teams and players wish they could have a do-over in the 2024 NFL draft.

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The Jayden Daniels selection was easy to understand from a bird’s-eye view. Daniels took one of the most impressive final-season leaps we have ever seen from a quarterback prospect, propelling him to a Heisman Trophy. Daniels is accurate, calculated and as athletically similar as it gets to the NFL’s reigning MVP, Lamar Jackson. There’s a lot to like.

Trying to picture what a Daniels rookie season looks like in Washington’s offense is where things start to fall apart.

For all of Daniels’ promising traits, pocket presence and pocket management are not among them. Daniels does not show the ability to slide around and reset in the pocket the way the league’s best quarterbacks do. Likewise, despite being an A+ athlete, Daniels struggles to access creative throwing platforms and angles from the pocket. He is more of a mechanical thrower; a well-oiled machine who is ruthlessly efficient when undisturbed.

Daniels also just doesn’t want to play from the pocket like that. When watching Caleb Williams or Drake Maye, or even C.J. Stroud and Anthony Richardson from a year ago, you see quarterbacks who are willing to hang in collapsing pockets. They can and will leave the pocket when necessary, but it’s not their immediate inclination.

That’s not the case with Daniels. More often than not, Daniels is quick to bail at the first sign of pressure or disturbance in the pocket. That might be fine if Daniels was good at playing with his eyes up outside the pocket, but he isn’t right now. Daniels is much more inclined to take off by himself. Of course, there’s still some value in that given his athletic profile, but it’s certainly less valuable than the off-script throws you get outside the pocket from the league’s most dangerous passers.

Quarterbacks can still win this way. Jalen Hurts is terribly similar to Daniels in this regard and he has taken a team to the Super Bowl. The key is that the Philadelphia Eagles have long had one of the best offensive lines in football, often masking Hurts’ worst traits from the pocket.

Now go look at Washington’s offensive line depth chart. It is not pretty!

The Commanders had a bottom-five offensive line in football a season ago and hardly did anything meaningful to change that. Signing former Dallas Cowboys center Tyler Biadasz was the only obvious upgrade. Biadasz isn’t a game-changer, but he’s a solid, reliable center.

Even still, it’s possible that the value gained by adding Biadasz at center is canceled out by the release (retirement?) of left tackle Charles Leno Jr., the team’s best offensive lineman a year ago.

Washington’s only other plays up front were to sign former Kansas City Chiefs backup guard Nick Allegretti to start at left guard and draft TCU’s Brandon Coleman in the third round. Allegretti is an acceptable backup, but this is a player the Chiefs actively sought to keep on the bench as they drafted Trey Smith and signed Joe Thuney two years ago. It’s hard to imagine he is any type of needle-mover for the Commanders up front. Coleman, while a worthwhile investment, isn’t likely to make a difference for the Commanders this year either.

The weak approach to fixing the offensive line while having the intention to take Daniels at second overall just feels like Washington did not understand the player it was drafting. Washington’s offensive line is primed to expose and exacerbate all of Daniels’ worst traits. It’s not hard to see the world where Daniels develops bad habits as a result and wrecks his developmental curve, not unlike what we saw from Justin Fields in Chicago.

Daniels could be awesome anyway. There’s a shot the poor offensive line play forces him to learn some hard lessons right away and he takes to them well. Perhaps the receiver talent is so good it negates the shaky offensive line play.

Those are both incredibly optimistic views, however. The reality is that Daniels is being thrown into an unfavorable situation, one acutely designed to stress the most fragile parts of his game. Washington better have a plan to make sure things don’t go south.

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Michael Penix Jr. is one of the most baffling quarterback selections since the turn of the century.

There’s a lot of quarterback picks that look awful in hindsight. Zach Wilson, Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, Mitchell Trubisky—the list goes on and on and on. But at least those selections were semi-defensible at the time because those teams needed a new starting quarterback right away. All those quarterbacks were expected to go in the top 10 as well. They were widely seen as first-round prospects—it was just a matter of how high.

None of that applies to Penix.

The Atlanta Falcons do not need a starting quarterback right now. They busted their wallets wide open for Kirk Cousins in free agency just six weeks before the draft. Cousins inked a four-year, $180 million deal with $100 million guaranteed.

There’s no out in the contract until after the third season, when Cousins can be cut for a manageable $12.5 million dead-cap hit. That tells me that either Cousins starts for at least three years or something has gone horribly, horribly wrong.

Those two or three years on the bench behind Cousins might be of use to a younger prospect. JJ McCarthy, for example, is barely 21 years old and could use a little time to hone his craft. Penix, by contrast, just turned 24 years old. Two years on the bench would put Penix at 26 years old if he were to start games in 2026.

The list of quarterbacks since 2000 who did not see their first start until at least 26 years old is bleak. Tony Romo, Chad Pennington and Tyrod Taylor are about the only success cases to be found in a list with 40 players. Pennington was the only first-round pick of the three. Romo was an undrafted free agent and Taylor was a sixth-round selection.

The pushback on the idea that Penix will have to sit despite already being an old prospect is that Cousins’ health is still up in the air and backup quarterbacks are as important now as they have ever been considering the high rate of injuries around the league. Cousins may never be the same player he was in Minnesota. He may be prone to more injuries now than he was before, in which case someone would need to play in his place.

It totally makes sense from Atlanta’s perspective to invest in a QB2 with that in mind. Penix may very well need to start games sooner than later.

But making that investment in backup insurance with the eighth overall pick is lunacy.

The other pro-Falcons argument is that the team now gets two bites at the apple at the most important position in the sport. That’s technically true, but also intentionally simplistic so as to avoid the reality of these two quarterbacks.

Cousins is a known quantity. In any given year, Cousins is somewhere between QB10 and QB14. That’s enough to create a high-powered offense with the right pieces around him. Atlanta seems to have those pieces, to be fair, but Cousins is still Cousins at the end of the day.

Penix is not a known quantity, but he is also not the quality of dice roll we typically see drafted in the top 10. Penix, in my mind, was more of a third- or fourth-round prospect. Something along the lines of Jacoby Brissett is a more likely outcome for him than becoming a top-10 quarterback.

Purely in terms of quality of prospect, this selection felt more like the EJ Manuel and Kenny Pickett selections than anything else.

I’m well aware I was lower on Penix than most analysts, but the consensus did not have Penix as a top-10 pick either. Penix landed at 34th overall on Arif Hasan’s consensus big board. Quarterbacks already get ranked with the “quarterback bump” in mind, so pushing Penix up any further than that based purely on the position he plays would just be double counting.

Penix was, at best, a fringe first-round prospect. The Falcons overdrafted him and it’s fine to admit that, even if you believe the move can work out.

In fairness to both Penix and the Falcons, the second-round quarterback prospect is kind of dead. Solid quarterback prospects in the mold of Derek Carr, Andy Dalton, Jimmy Garoppolo and Colin Kaepernick just don’t really fall down the board anymore. Teams are more willing to take the swing in the first round, even if it’s the same caliber of prospect that was previously going on Day 2. Bo Nix is as much evidence of that shift as Penix is.

There’s always the possibility Penix becomes the exception. Maybe he just rocks and the Falcons are proven right for taking the chance on him. That possibility does not change the fact that the Falcons burned an asset that could have been used to compete right now and are trying to thread an incredibly fine needle with the kind of prospect Penix is.

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Let’s get this out of the way: The New Orleans Saints made a good selection in Spencer Rattler.

Rattler finished with a low third-round grade on our final Bleacher Report big board, and the Saints got him in the fifth. A volatile prospect in the eyes of both his biggest fans and loudest detractors, it’s undeniable that Rattler’s high-end outcomes are tantalizing. He has all the arm talent and pocket management skills to cut it in the NFL.

Then there’s the Derek Carr of it all. Carr is a fine starting quarterback, but he leaves you wanting more. Or at least something different, like the Las Vegas Raiders tried to do with Jimmy Garoppolo. Trotting Carr out in the starting lineup isn’t inhibiting anyone from throwing darts at the quarterback position year over year.

Rattler, for all his warts, is about as high-reward a dart throw as there is.

All of that is to say the problem isn’t with the team that drafted Rattler; it’s with the team that didn’t. Rattler should be a Los Angeles Ram, serving under the tutelage of Sean McVay and absorbing every lesson there is to be learned from sitting behind Matthew Stafford.

The pick would have made so much sense from every angle.

For one, Stafford isn’t getting any younger. Stafford is a 36-year-old with a gnarly injury history. He is a top-five quarterback when he’s healthy, but it’s only going to get harder and harder to guarantee his health moving forward.

Rattler also nuzzles right into the mold of what McVay’s offense has become with Stafford at the helm. The Stafford-era Rams passing offense is a smattering of deep dig routes, corner routes, deep over routes and ambitious play-action shot plays. There are more five- and seven-step drops in this offense than in almost any other, and that’s because it trusts the quarterback to hang in the pocket and make tight-window throws from muddy pockets. All of that is right up Rattler’s alley.

I’m well aware this all sounds more like a pipe dream than actual analysis of the Rattler pick, but NFL draft discourse is all just a series of pipe dreams anyway. Let me live a little.

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Cam Hart is another prospect in which the team who drafted him didn’t get it wrong. It’s the team who didn’t draft him that missed an opportunity to get a guy who perfectly fits their mold.

The Kansas City Chiefs let Hart slip right through their fingertips.

At 6’3″ and 202 pounds, Hart is a long, physical cornerback. He can hang in press coverage and knock receivers around a little bit. Hart also has surprisingly smooth movement skills on film for a cornerback his size.

Hart dominated all kinds of receivers out in Mobile during the Senior Bowl as well. First-round pick Quinyon Mitchell obviously stole the show among the cornerback group, but Hart was comfortably the next-best thing. There’s a competitiveness and ease of movement for a player Hart’s size that is hard to look over.

Now, go take a look at all of the Chiefs’ outside cornerbacks. Joshua Williams is 6’3″. Jaylen Watson is 6’1″ and change. Though just a depth player, Keith Taylor is also 6’3″. The 6’0½” L’Jarius Sneed was the Chiefs’ best cornerback over the past few seasons before being traded to the Tennessee Titans this spring.

Even the cornerback the Chiefs did end up drafting in the sixth round, Tennessee’s Kamal Hadden, stands tall at 6’1″ flat.

Both physically and philosophically, the Chiefs continue to build their cornerback room to bully receivers on the outside. They want to be bigger and stronger and meaner than their opponents, and pray that all the chaos defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo creates up front gets home while the receivers are jammed up.

To that end, Hart was the ideal middle-round swing at cornerback for the Chiefs. It’s not as if Hart was a superstar prospect, so they won’t be kicking themselves too much for missing out on a guy who went 140th overall, but it has to sting a little bit that they couldn’t get their hands on him.

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The Taliese Fuaga selection made perfect sense on draft night. Fuaga is a powerful road-grading right tackle. He appeared to be the natural successor for Ryan Ramczyk, one of this generation’s best right tackles who may retire soon due to injury complications.

If worst comes to worst, Fuaga can probably slot in at guard as well. The Saints could use a new left guard right now, nevermind what the future holds. There will be a place for Fuaga on the Saints offensive line no matter what.

Fast-forward to May. All of a sudden the Saints are trying out Fuaga at left tackle.

There are plenty of cases of career left tackles making the switch to the right side, but the inverse is rare. Tristan Wirfs did it for the Buccaneers this season, but he also played some left tackle in college and was a first-team All-Pro right tackle beforehand. That transition didn’t require as much projection as a college right tackle with zero NFL reps or accomplishments.

Again, it’s not like the right-to-left transition is unprecedented, but in this case it begs the question as to why the Saints didn’t just draft a left tackle?

Washington’s Troy Fautanu went off the board a few picks later and Arizona’s Jordan Morgan was drafted later in the first round.

There’s a case Fuaga is just a better prospect than both, particularly Morgan. Fautanu was a few spots higher on our final big board at Bleacher Report, but the two prospects were close enough that it’s not hard to imagine a team preferring Fuaga. To that end, maybe the Saints felt the risk in flipping Fuaga to the left side made more sense than their perceived drop in prospect quality to either Fautanu or Morgan. It’s a defensible line of thinking.

It’s also entirely possible the left tackle experiment fails immediately and Fuaga just becomes an excellent right tackle anyway. None of this “why didn’t they just take a left tackle” concern would matter at that point.

The Fuaga selection isn’t a “bad” pick so much as it’s a curious one. Fuaga is a nice pick through the lens of playing right tackle or guard. Flipping him to the left side when there were other left tackles to be had just feels like a choice worth investigating a little bit.