2024 NFL Draft: Which story will key teams tell, for both fantasy and reality?


Fantasy football players and NFL fans alike always leave the NFL draft with lingering thoughts about what a certain team did (or did not do). Matt Harmon breaks down that common thread for certain teams picking in 2024.

THE TOP THREE SPOTS

Chicago Bears

Chicago’s first selection is the obvious starting point. The Bears are a unique team at the first overall pick because they didn’t “earn” this appointment with a nightmare season, nor did they have to surrender a back-breaking amount of picks to get up to it. Chicago ranked 11th in Weighted DVOA, which prioritizes more recent games. They ended the season strong, especially on defense.

The Bears will be taking Caleb Williams — the draft really starts at No. 2, as this is an established fact. Williams gets to drop into a situation with the Bears flanked by that ascending defense and an established head coach. They’ve also added to an offense that enjoyed a stellar season from its top receiver, DJ Moore, by flipping a fourth-round pick for Keenan Allen. They’ve invested in the offensive line and elsewhere at the skill positions.

This team is interesting because they’re slated to make a second pick in the top 10 at their native spot of ninth overall. Williams joining the team could ultimately inform what they do at this spot. We could see them make a further investment in the offense if one of the top three receivers falls or Brock Bowers entices them, or they could explore a trade down.

Right now, the Bears only have four picks in this draft, which is light for a team still trying to bolster around a young quarterback.

Washington Commanders

We know what’s happening at the first pick. The speculation begins with Washington at second overall. Before this week, the consensus was they would choose between Drake Maye or Jayden Daniels. Then, on March 25, NFL Network threw this red meat into the water:

I’m ready to believe anything about the player it’ll target, but ultimately, it will be a quarterback for Washington. Barring an unforeseen Godfather offer, they will not trade out of the pick.

If I had to guess, I’m still betting it’s Drake Maye at No. 2 overall.

I feel mixed on Washington as an incubator for a young quarterback. The wide receiver depth chart has building blocks with Terry McLaurin and Jahan Dotson but the hiring of Kliff Kingsbury doesn’t get me out of bed in the morning and the offensive line needs work. Luckily, the Commanders have a whopping five picks on Day 2 to supplement this roster. You wonder if they will just trust Dan Quinn to coach up the defense and go heavy on offense to support the quarterback.

New England Patriots

The Patriots are the most mysterious pick in the top three, as they’re the lone team I could realistically see moving out of their pick. This roster is in such dire straits. It’s not a good situation to drop a rookie quarterback, much less the third-best option in this year’s class. New England could benefit from stockpiling picks to build the team up while Jacoby Brissett holds down the fort for a season. At the same time, no one can blame them for just starting the rookie quarterback clock and moving forward with their guy.

TEAMS IN THE TOP 10 THAT DON’T NEED A QB

Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals are flush with draft capital and needs across their roster. We saw GM Monti Ossenfort maneuver down and then back up again inside the top 10 picks last season so be ready for anything when it comes to this team. With quarterbacks likely to go in the top three picks, Arizona should have its pick of offensive playmakers at the fourth overall selection. You can argue they’re one of the top landing spots for a wide receiver prospect given that Kyler Murray has facilitated strong seasons with DeAndre Hopkins and the other available targets on this roster. A rookie wideout could come in here and clear 120 targets with ease.

Los Angeles Chargers

The Chargers are another team that is a strong trade-down candidate if someone wants to leap up for the fourth quarterback on the board — which we know teams do — or is in aggressive pursuit of a particular top wideout. They also have needs along the offensive line that could be satisfied at the fifth overall pick, should they stick around. Every fantasy manager is dying for one of the top-three receiver prospects to be paired with Justin Herbert at this pick. It’s certainly not out of the question given the barren nature of that position for Los Angeles.

Atlanta Falcons

Atlanta could provide our first defensive player pick at eighth overall. Signing Kirk Cousins was a move intended to maximize the talent that already exists on the roster offensively. However, there is still a need for another true outside wide receiver alongside Drake London. Darnell Mooney and Rondale Moore profile as more No. 3 and 4 types. It would be an aggressive, all-in move on that side of the ball but it can’t be ruled out. My guess is that they try and nab one cornerstone piece on defense to balance out the overall talent distribution.

The “lurking for a QB” teams

Minnesota Vikings

When Kirk Cousins left in free agency, it all but cemented that Minnesota would do what was necessary to make sure it landed a rookie quarterback. The Vikings assured that they would be in the top position to move up the board by acquiring an extra first-rounder this year to sweeten any trade package. They have the ideal ecosystem to drop in a young quarterback. Kevin O’Connell orchestrates and calls a quality offense that got usable moments from bad players in 2023. Justin Jefferson is one of the best wideouts in the game and the supporting players, both at pass-catcher, running back and the offensive line, are good. You can even sit the rookie QB behind Sam Darnold for a stretch if he needs development.

When quarterbacks go bust, it’s usually because their surroundings fail them. That won’t be the case in Minnesota.

Denver Broncos

The Broncos aren’t overly flushed with resources thanks to recent trades and sit at the 12th overall pick. They don’t have a clean path to make a huge move up for a quarterback. However, Sean Payton has no desire to live through another season spinning his wheels at that position:

That motivation could provide desperation and push Denver into the top 10 to get the fourth quarterback if he falls. Their best hope is likely that New England trades down with Minnesota, the Cardinals take a wideout at four and then the Chargers still want to trade back at fifth overall. The Broncos would have to sacrifice a good bit of their future draft capital to make this swing but if they don’t, there really isn’t a path forward at that position you can seriously sell outside of the building.

I’m not sure if this roster is anywhere close to ready to drop in and develop a young passer but the need is greater than almost any other team.

Las Vegas Raiders

The Raiders have told anyone willing to listen that they like Aiden O’Connell and see Gardner Minshew as perfect competition for the second-year passer. That’s a quarterback duel without much juice. The Raiders have quality wide receivers and veterans ready to compete. I’m not sure the O’Connell/Minshew duo presents the ceiling needed to push this roster further.

For that reason, the Raiders have to be considered a team lurking on the fringes ready to pounce on a quarterback prospect. They even make sense as an option for a developmental type. While I don’t think Minshew or O’Connell is a true starter, they’re acceptable bridge players to keep the ship afloat while a rookie grows.

TEAMS IN THE TOP 10 … THAT I CAN’T FIGURE OUT

New York Giants

The Giants have a devastating need at wide receiver, and this is a draft with three worthy candidates in the top 10. With quarterback thirst likely to take over the top five picks, New York could be staring at two of those receivers at sixth overall. It feels like a clean match, but the NFL draft rarely goes the way we imagine and I’d argue the Giants present a muddy picture to read. The team already seems to have buyer’s remorse on the Daniel Jones contract.

The team is in limbo. They may not be completely sold on pairing a young receiver with a quarterback on his way out. I feel confident this will be a premium position but that’s as far as I’ll go.

Tennessee Titans

Much like the Giants, I’m probably overthinking this one. Tennessee could walk into this draft with “offensive line no matter what” on its post-it note, and no one could blame it. The Titans made it known in free agency that they’re in the rookie quarterback window with Will Levis and their moves seem to indicate that they have some belief he can be a quality starter. Tennessee only has two picks on the first day and even after a spending spree, has needs at premium positions. It could be a trade-down candidate as a team goes hunting for one of the top three wideouts.

New York Jets

Heading into free agency, New York had three clear spots of need. A new backup quarterback was a must and they added Tyrod Taylor. The offensive line was a sinking stone for the offense from the moment the season began and they added three new starters, most notably Tyron Smith at left tackle. Beyond Garrett Wilson, there was no credible starting receiver so they acquired Mike Williams after his release by the Chargers to fill the X-receiver role. All those were smart and needed moves but they are short-term solutions. New York is viewing things through a narrow window but it could still stand to make sure they’re flush with options at pass-catcher and offensive line, especially since those positions are strengths of this draft. Still, the picture for the Jets is a bit more clouded now than it was on March 1.

TEAMS WITH 10+ PICKS

Buffalo Bills

Buffalo has 11 picks total but only two in the first three rounds, a second and a first. They’re absolutely loaded on Day 3. We could see the Bills package some of those picks in Round 4 and beyond to try and move up the board if a wide receiver they covet begins to fall toward the end of the first round. Yet, this is a team in a small transition, and they could look to acquire more bites at the apple in Rounds 2-3.

Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals have six picks on Day 3 but a pair of third-rounders to work with if they want to move up the board. It would be a shock to see the Bengals come out of this draft without adding multiple pass-catchers. Slot receiver Tyler Boyd didn’t return to the team and Tee Higgins is a near-lock to leave after 2024. The tight end room is a revolving door. Joe Burrow’s offense needs some refurbishing and several candidates could be on the way this April.

Green Bay Packers

It’s wild that the Packers have successfully rebuilt their offense to transition to a new era and yet they’re still stocked with picks. Green Bay has five picks on the first two days of the draft. On offense, you’d imagine the Packers are set with the pass-catching corps and at running back after Josh Jacobs signed in free agency and AJ Dillon returned. However, with so many selections they could shake up what we think about those rotations. Elsewhere, they need to replenish the depth on the offensive line after free-agent departures, and the defense requires significant attention.

Los Angeles Rams

The Rams are set to make a first-round pick for the first time since former quarterback Jared Goff in 2016. They also own 10 more picks, including three on Day 2. The Rams were able to remake the foundation of their team by shrewd picks later in the draft the last two seasons. With all the resources in the cupboard now and very few true needs on offense, they could be a trade-up team to watch.

At the same time, their defense is light on needle-movers after Aaron Donald retired so don’t be shocked to see them hammer that side of the ball.

San Francisco 49ers

The 49ers haven’t always been flush with picks going into April after some veteran acquisitions and draft-day trades. This team needs to balance pushing their chips to win a Super Bowl and keep an eye toward replenishing the talent cupboard. San Francisco has needs at interior defensive line and on the offensive line. Expect multiple picks to be made at those spots but given their possible wide receiver contract squeeze between Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk on a fifth-year option, we could get one fantasy-relevant selection along the way.

Arizona Cardinals

We covered Arizona’s first-round selections earlier and their options at the top of the draft. They also have four more picks on Day 2 and a bushel of selections in Round 4 and beyond. This is a roster with a ton of needs and there’s good reason for them to drop players at all levels of the depth chart.





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