National Football League
J.J. McCarthy finds his ideal home and Joel Klatt's top takeaways from NFL Draft
National Football League

J.J. McCarthy finds his ideal home and Joel Klatt's top takeaways from NFL Draft

Updated May. 1, 2024 8:10 p.m. ET

Another NFL Draft is in the books.

We saw a record six quarterbacks selected in the first 12 picks of the 2024 NFL Draft, something I sensed could happen in the days leading up to the event. Of course, one of the quarterback picks left many of us in shock.

Some of you might have heard my analysis on NFL Network over the first two days of the draft. If you want more on what that experience was like in Detroit, check out the opening of the most recent episode of my podcast, "The Joel Klatt Show."

Now that the dust has settled, let's take a look at some of the quarterbacks picked in the first round, along with some insight. 


J.J. McCarthy heads to the Minnesota Vikings

When I covered Michigan's spring game for FOX a couple of weeks ago, I ran into McCarthy, as members of the 2023 team were there for their ring ceremony. I got a chance to talk with him for a little bit about the draft process before asking him where he wanted to end up. He told me that he wanted to end up in Minnesota, saying he would "love" to play for the Vikings. 

Lo and behold, McCarthy's wish came true. The Vikings didn't need to trade up into the top five to get him, only moving up one spot from No. 11 to select the Michigan quarterback with the 10th pick. 

That came after the Vikings, along with the New York Giants, made a push to land the No. 3 pick to likely select Drake Maye, as we learned during the night on the NFL Network desk. After that happened, a good, ol' fashioned staredown between the Vikings and Giants took place, with Minnesota successfully calling New York's bluff that it wouldn't draft McCarthy with the sixth pick.

The Vikings' successful bluff-calling was great news for McCarthy. He'll be in the best situation out of all the rookie quarterbacks to go and succeed right away. 

Of course, the debate becomes whether McCarthy should and could start right away. I believe that he can and will start for Kevin O'Connell. McCarthy is hyper-competitive and really skilled. The Vikings are going to see a guy who can win them football games right away, partly because of what he does on the field, but also because he's such a strong leader. He went 27-1 as Michigan's starting quarterback, making plays in key moments where prior Michigan teams failed. 

Sure, McCarthy had a deep team around him. But he took them above the X's and O's, doing so on crucial plays. His third-down tape was as good as any of the other quarterbacks. In fact, when you pieced it together and looked at how all the quarterbacks threw the ball 10-20 yards down the field, McCarthy was the best intermediate passer. A lot of these guys made their bones throwing the ball at the line of scrimmage, with Michael Penix Jr.'s downfield passing (20-plus yards) really being the only one that surpassed McCarthy.

Minnesota trades up one spot and selects J.J. McCarthy

So, McCarthy's skill set is better than many realize. He's got the best weapons around him - and by a long shot. Justin Jefferson, Jordan Addison and T.J. Hockenson are all superb. They added Aaron Jones in free agency. I know Hockenson is coming off an ACL and MCL tear that could sideline him for the start of the season, but that's still a strong situation where a quarterback can have a lot of success.

Defensively, the Vikings made a step forward under defensive coordinator Brian Flores. They were toward the middle-of-the-pack, but they might get better after drafting Dallas Turner. I love that they were able to trade back up and land the Alabama edge rusher. 

McCarthy is in a situation to really succeed early on, kind of similar to C.J. Stroud. In fact, players on the same team won the Offensive and Defensive Rookie of the Year in the last two years. The Texans were one of them with Stroud and Will Anderson, who they traded up to No. 3 to draft. 

There's a chance we see that in Minnesota, too. If McCarthy plays early enough to put up the requisite numbers, we could see the Vikings sweep the Rookie of the Year awards. That's how good of a situation McCarthy is in.

The Atlanta Falcons surprise all of us and draft Michael Penix Jr.

Michael Penix Jr. is absolutely a top-10 pick. Nothing about his game suggests that you shouldn't draft him. He's an awesome quarterback, and I've been a huge fan of his since he was at Indiana. As I've said a bunch of times, he's the best passer with leverage in this draft.

This isn't a case of a player being overdrafted. Rather, it's a case of a team not having a plan. The Falcons went 7-10 and I don't think they have a roster as stacked as they think they have. They've gone six straight seasons without making the playoffs, which was why they put their chips in the middle of the table for Kirk Cousins, giving him $100 million guaranteed. 

Then, they fall in love with Penix like some bozo who got engaged but fell in love with some woman they saw at the beach in spring break. They didn't give Cousins a heads-up, either. 

What are we doing here, Falcons?

Atlanta pulls off a top-10 surprise and selects Michael Penix Jr. with 8th pick

We were all shocked by this on the broadcast. I understand having a succession plan, but you risk submarining the locker room before the season even begins. The first time Cousins has a bad game in a big spot, which he's prone to do in his career, he's going to be looking over his shoulder, as he won't be on solid footing starting Day 1. You can claim that this is injury insurance for Cousins after he tore his Achilles, but you shouldn't have signed him to that deal if you feel you need that insurance.

Atlanta needed a better plan than this. It's taking a top-10 pick and putting it on the sideline, failing to reap the rewards of having a quarterback on a rookie contract. The explanations never really made sense, either. All of the things you said about loving Penix sound great, but now you're a spec home builder. You're not going to enjoy the fruits of your labor. This doesn't make your team better right now. 

Now, I hope this works out for everyone involved. My heart also hurts for Penix, who is being shoved to the sideline and put into a spot that's tough to succeed. Hopefully, in 10 years, he's the Falcons' starting quarterback with a Super Bowl in hand. But I have my doubts.

Caleb Williams already impresses after being drafted No. 1 by Chicago Bears

I was impressed by Williams' response to being asked on NFL Network why he's confident it'll work out in Chicago. He didn't give the usual answers we hear, telling Kayle Hartung things will work out "because I care."

That's a unique answer, and I really enjoyed it. WIlliams cares about winning, being great, the coaches, and even the janitors in the building. You can think what you want about Williams, but his teammates really like him. He tried to get other teammates paid through name, image and likeness. His team was underachieving, though it wasn't his fault. He tried to put a cape on too much in 2023 because of that, but he was unbelievable in 2022.

So, Williams saying it's going to work out in Chicago because he cares is an unbelievable answer. You can hate Williams all you want, I think he's going to succeed in Chicago. The Bears are in a better spot than anyone else but the Vikings for a rookie quarterback to succeed.

Chicago drafts Caleb Williams, Rome Odunze & Denver drafts Bo Nix

The Bears also added Rome Odunze with the ninth pick, adding him to an offense with DJ Moore, Keenan Allen and D'Andre Swift. Williams and Odunze formed a good relationship before the draft. This team is a far cry from where they were when they drafted Justin Fields in 2021. 

I was a big fan of the Bears' draft and I think they can be this year's Houston Texans.

Bo Nix is a good fit for the Denver Broncos

We were the first to predict Nix to the Broncos. I've said it several times: Nix is the perfect fit for Denver because of his style of play and the offense Sean Payton runs. 

Nix might have been overdrafted at 12, even if I predicted it months in advance. He was probably more of a late first-round pick than a top-half selection in the opening round. But all the quarterbacks came off the board and the Broncos didn't have a second-round pick. A trade down would've been too risky.

It's also too natural of a fit. Nix's accuracy and intelligence fit Payton's scat-protection offense, which wasn't a fit for Russell Wilson. I think Nix can have some success early, especially after adding Oregon receiver Troy Franklin, who I thought was worthy of a first-round pick. 

Joel Klatt is FOX Sports' lead college football game analyst and the host of the podcast "The Joel Klatt Show." Follow him on X/Twitter at @joelklatt and subscribe to the "Joel Klatt Show" on YouTube.


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