National Football League
5 Bold Predictions for 2024 NFL Draft: Texas DT Byron Murphy a top-10 pick
National Football League

5 Bold Predictions for 2024 NFL Draft: Texas DT Byron Murphy a top-10 pick

Updated Apr. 23, 2024 8:08 p.m. ET

The 2024 NFL Draft is a few days away, and scouts are buzzing over the 2024 class. Evaluators have finished their scouting reports as teams finalized their draft boards earlier in the week. After exchanging a few texts with scouts and coaches around the league, here are some bold draft predictions to keep an eye on:

The top three quarterbacks come off the board within the first three picks

Since the beginning of the pre-draft process, nearly every mock draft has featured USC's Caleb Williams, LSU's Jayden Daniels, and North Carolina's Drake Maye coming off the board 1-2-3 in some order. While the jury is still out on whether the Commanders pick Daniels at No. 2, the "Big Three" are in a different class than their peers (Michigan's J.J. McCarthy, Washington's Michael Penix Jr., and Oregon's Bo Nix), and the draft will reflect the league's view on their talent disparity.

As evaluators select prospects based on performance projections at the next level, it is essential for blue-chip quarterbacks to possess a "superpower" that sets them apart from the pack. Williams (improvisational playmaking ability), Daniels (elite passing and running skills), and Maye (prototypical size, athleticism and arm talent) are traditional first-round talents who would earn top-10 grades in any draft class. Though I believe Penix Jr. (arm talent) should be included in the discussion, the Washington standout's injury history overshadows his potential as a QB1 in meeting rooms.


UCLA's Laiatu Latu will be the most dominant defender from the 2024 class

The UCLA standout might not come off the board as the first pass rusher selected in this year's draft, but Latu will be the unanimous selection for the best defender in the draft when we review the 2024 class in a few years.

As an explosive pass rusher with an expansive toolbox that features an array of maneuvers, Latu is a potential double-digit sack artist from the time he steps onto the field as a rookie. From his explosive first-step quickness to his dynamic closing burst and violent hand-to-hand combat skills, he is one of the rare pass rushers capable of winning with force or finesse off the edge.

With teams desperately looking for playmakers with "splash play" potential, the UCLA standout displays the traits that routinely lead to Pro Bowl honors and impressive individual accolades.

Best fits for NFL draft prospects featuring Joe Alt & Dallas Turner

Byron Murphy II will be a surprise top-10 selection

After flying under the radar for most of the pre-draft process, the Texas product will be confirmed as an elite prospect as a top-10 pick. Murphy displays impressive tools and playmaking skills as a disruptive interior defender.

The 6-foot, 297-pounder flashes heavy hands and quick feet, running over and around blockers at the point of attack. Murphy routinely blows past blockers with an explosive first step while displaying outstanding snap count anticipation and burst. Though his speed and quickness force blockers to pause, Murphy's overwhelming power produces the negative plays coaches covet from blue-chip defensive tackles.

Given his potential impact as a destructive force between the tackles, Murphy should come off the board.

Offensive tackles will dominate the first round

The 2024 draft is loaded with talent, but the offensive tackle class ranks above the rest. This year's collection of dancing bears on the edge will allow teams to fortify their offensive line for the next decade. While the class features a mix of candidates with the capacity to play on the left or right side, the league's shift towards a pass-centric focus has made it imperative to have a dominant run blocker/pass protector on each edge.

As teams debate the pecking order with Notre Dame's Joe Alt, Oregon State's Taliese Fuaga, Washington's Troy Fautanu, Penn State's Olumuyiwa Fashanu, Georgia's Amarius Mims, Alabama's JC Latham, Oklahoma's Tyler Guyton and Arizona's Jordan Morgan vying for first-round consideration, the 2024 class could set a record for the number of blue-chip prospects selected in the first round.

The league's newfound respect for "Nickel" corners could change the draft landscape

The offensive shift towards "11" personnel (one back, one tight end, and three receivers) has made it imperative for evaluators to search for defensive backs with skills specifically suited for the slot. The hybrid position requires defensive backs to possess the quickness and movement skills to shadow cat-quick receivers while also displaying the toughness and aggressiveness to mix it up as run defenders.

With more teams also integrating defensive backs into the pass rush plan, the "Nickel" corner has become a place for the decathletes on the field. In the 2024 class, the collection of cornerbacks and safeties with slot defender skills will enable more teams to employ various five-DB packages with "bigs" (safeties) and "littles" (cornerbacks) on the field.

The need for variety could result in Iowa's Cooper DeJean, Alabama's Terrion Arnold, Michigan's Mike Sainristril, Georgia Tykee Smith, and Kamari Lassiter earning high marks as designated slot defenders for prospective teams. As more teams utilize "Nickel" packages as their base defense, the value of slot defenders could soar over draft weekend.

Bucky Brooks is an NFL analyst for FOX Sports. He also breaks down the game for NFL Network and as a cohost of the "Moving the Sticks" podcast. Follow him on Twitter @BuckyBrooks.

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