It only takes a few weeks of regular-season action for a handful of NFL fan bases to start looking forward to next year’s draft, and such is the case this year for anyone rooting for any of the league’s 0–3 teams (Bears, Vikings, Panthers, Broncos).
The first month of the college football season also gives us fresh film with which to evaluate the next class of top prospects, and the early returns tell us this group is full of blue-chip talent.
As September draws to a close, let’s restack the 2024 NFL draft board based on what we’ve seen so far this season, and rank the top 32 prospects in the class.
1QB Caleb Williams, USC
2023 Stats: 75-of-101 (74.3%), 1,200 yards, 18 TD (3 rushing), 0 INT
Last year’s Heisman Trophy winner has lived up to the hype after his stellar 2022 campaign. His elite physical traits, playmaking instincts, and intelligence make him must-see TV every week and should ensure he’s the No. 1 pick, no matter which team lands in that slot.
2WR Marvin Harrison Jr., Ohio State
2023 Stats: 17 receptions, 336 yards, 3 TD
It’s never fair to compare college players to Hall of Famers, but this apple hit every branch of his dad’s gold-jacket tree on the way down. Marvin 2.0 checks all the boxes of a superstar NFL wide receiver, and he should be the first non-quarterback drafted next April.
3OT Olu Fashanu, Penn State
2023 Stats: 235 snaps, 1 pressure allowed, 0 sacks allowed
Fashanu could have been a first-rounder earlier this year, but his decision to return for another year will only make him a more polished and experienced version of himself for making the leap this time around. He’s an immediate franchise left tackle with perennial All-Pro potential.
4TE Brock Bowers, Georgia
2023 Stats: 22 receptions, 256 yards, 2 TD
Bowers isn’t the big, long, basically-a-giant wide receiver that Kyle Pitts was a few years back, but he’s still a dynamic playmaker, and the rare tight end prospect worthy of top-five consideration. His versatility and after-the-catch prowess make him a nightmare to contain.
5DL Jer’Zhan Newton, Illinois
2023 Stats: 17 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, 2 sacks
You could make the argument that no player in the country has been more dominant so far this season than Newton. An undersized but disruptive force, Newton has raised the property taxes of every opposing backfield with his constant presence.
6Edge Jared Verse, Florida State
2023 Stats: 11 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, 0.5 sacks
Much like Fashanu, Verse could have been an early pick in 2023, but another year in college might put him in position to be the first defender off the board in 2024. His explosive first step and pass-rushing technique is top in the class.
7OT Joe Alt, Notre Dame
2023 Stats: 290 snaps, 3 pressures allowed, 0 sacks allowed
Another legacy prospect, Alt’s dad was a two-time Pro Bowler at the same position. The younger version is a polished, plug-and-play starter at the next level who doesn’t have a glaring flaw in his game.
8QB Drake Maye, North Carolina
2023 Stats: 96-of-132 (73.3%), 1,187, 8 TD (3 rushing), 4 INT
Maye’s numbers haven’t moved the needle much so far this year, but the talent and traits are still there. He’s still the comfortable QB2 after Williams, and anything but a consolation prize to any other QB-needy team that doesn’t land the No. 1 pick.
9WR Rome Odunze, Washington
2023 Stats: 27 receptions, 544 yards, 4 TD
Perhaps the most underrated player on this list, Odunze is a legit top-10 talent with all the makings of a dominant WR1 at the next level. I’m not much for pro player comparisons, but it’s hard not to see a bigger, faster Keenan Allen here.
10CB Kool-Aid McKinstry, Alabama
2023 Stats: 12 tackles, 3 pass breakups, 1 tackle for loss
Obviously one of the best names in this year’s class, McKinstry backs up his iconic moniker with the tools of a true shutdown artist. He’s got the size, length, and athleticism to be the first corner off the board.
11CB Kalen King, Penn State
2023 Stats: 9 tackles, 1 pass breakup
Somehow, Penn State has never had a defensive back drafted in the first round. Joey Porter Jr. barely missed the cut last year, but King should finally end that streak thanks to his combination of instincts, technique and ball skills.
12Edge Laiatu Latu, UCLA
2023 Stats: 13 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, 4 sacks, 1 interception
Medical evaluations during the pre-draft process could be key to his draft stock, but when healthy, Latu has proven to be one of the most well-rounded and productive Edge defenders in a deep class at the position.
13WR Keon Coleman, Florida State
2023 Stats: 17 receptions, 256 yards, 6 TD
One of the fastest-rising prospects on this list, Coleman has been dominant so far this season for a resurgent FSU team. He’s a massive target with the length, athleticism and physicality to be a force in the red zone and in any contested-catch situation.
14DB Cooper DeJean, Iowa
2023 Stats: 4 tackles, 1 pass breakup, 0.5 tackles for loss
Modern NFL defensive coordinators love versatile weapons they can line up anywhere on the field, and DeJean fits that bill. He’s an athletic playmaker who can play corner (outside or in the slot), safety, or even linebacker in certain situations.
15Edge Dallas Turner, Alabama
2023 Stats: 17 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles
Now that Will Anderson Jr. has moved on to the NFL, Turner has gotten his chance to shine for the Crimson Tide. He may not have Anderson’s complete skill set or level of polish, but the explosiveness and limitless upside are clearly there.
16S Tyler Nubin, Minnesota
2023 Stats: 15 tackles, 2 interceptions, 1 pass breakup
An athletic ballhawk with impressive range and instincts, Nubin can play either safety spot at a high level, operating down in the box or patrolling the deep middle of the field. Go watch his game-winning, two-pick performance against Nebraska.
17Edge Chop Robinson, Penn State
2023 Stats: 7 tackles, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble, 1 pass breakup
The childhood nickname of “Pork Chop” got shortened, but Robinson’s chop is one of many quality pass-rushing moves in his deep tool box. He’s got a quick first step, and a knack for getting after the quarterback on a regular basis.
18WR Malik Nabers, LSU
2023 Stats: 32 receptions, 523 yards, 5 TD
We’re used to seeing blue-chip pass-catchers coming out of Baton Rouge, and Nabers is the latest with first-round talent. His toughness and acceleration make him particularly dangerous after the catch.
19OT JC Latham, Alabama
Career Stats: 259 snaps, 4 pressures allowed, 1 sack allowed
Before the 2023 draft, an Alabama offensive tackle had been picked in the first round four years in a row. Latham has a chance to restart a new streak, and his combination of mammoth size (6'6", 360 pounds) and power gives him the versatility to slide inside to guard, if necessary.
20WR Emeka Egbuka, Ohio State
2023 Stats: 19 receptions, 263 yards, 3 TD
Egbuka might have to line up across from Harrison, and he might wear the digit on his jersey, yet he’s anything but a No. 2 receiver. His skill set compares favorably to the Buckeyes receiver who wore that number before him (Chris Olave), and a similar draft slot/pro projection wouldn’t be a surprise.
21LB Barrett Carter, Clemson
2023 Stats: 18 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss
These Tigers have the nation’s best linebacker duo, and Carter is the first of the pair to make an appearance on this list. Modern NFL linebackers have to be equal parts athletic and physical, with smarts and instincts in every phase of the game, and Carter checks all the boxes.
22DL Leonard Taylor III, Miami (FL)
2023 Stats: 4 tackles, 1 sack
A former five-star recruit, Taylor has top-shelf explosiveness for an interior defender, and he puts it to good use. He’s more of a disruptive run-stuffer than refined pass rusher at the moment, but the tools are there to wreak havoc on the quarterback.
23Edge JT Tuimoloau, Ohio State
2023 Stats: 13 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, 1 pass breakup
Any NFL defense that loves to run multiple fronts and move trench guys around will love Tuimoloau. He can line up on the edge, slide inside and even drop into coverage. Wherever he lines up, Tuimoloau knows how to find the ball in a hurry.
24S Kamren Kinchens, Miami (FL)
2023 Stats: 10 tackles, 1 interception, 1 fumble recovery
A true center fielder with elite range and ball skills, Kinchens is the kind of back-end playmaker every quarterback hates. Whatever he might lack in run support, Kinchens more than makes up for as a big-play magnet in coverage whenever the ball gets anywhere near him.
25OL Graham Barton, Duke
Stats: 215 snaps, 4 pressures allowed, 1 sack allowed
If you liked 2023 first-rounder Peter Skoronski out of Northwestern (now with the Titans), you’re probably gonna love Barton. Questions about his length might force him inside to guard at the next level, but wherever he plays, he’ll be a stud.
26CB Nate Wiggins, Clemson
2023 Stats: 4 tackles, 1 interception (TD), 3 pass breakups, 1 sack
A long and lean cover man, Wiggins has been one of the most pleasant surprises of this year’s cornerback class so far. His thin frame (6'2", 185 pounds) could be an issue against bigger, more physical receivers, but he’s got the athleticism and technique to make up for it.
27OT Amarius Mims, Georgia
Stats: 139 snaps, 1 pressure allowed, no sacks allowed
Following in the footsteps of recent first-rounders Andrew Thomas and Broderick Jones, Mims has the talent to be the next UGA offensive tackle to crack that top 32. He’ll miss the next few weeks after ankle surgery, but at full strength, he’s a massive mauler who can anchor any offensive line.
28S Calen Bullock, USC
2023 Stats: 19 tackles, 4 pass breakups, 1 interception
Another athletic ballhawk in a promising safety class, Bullock is at his best in space on the back end, reading opposing quarterbacks and closing on the football. He doesn’t make the same impact in the box, but that doesn’t matter when he’s plucking passes out of the air.
29DL Maason Smith, LSU
2023 Stats: 5 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, 1 pass breakup
A highly touted recruit who suffered a season-ending knee injury in the first game of the 2022 season, Smith has bounced back with a vengeance so far this season. He’s got the massive frame of a space-eating nose tackle, but with rare athleticism and explosiveness for that size.
30CB Caelen Carson, Wake Forest
2023 Stats: 15 tackles, 3 pass breakups
Carson is still flying under the radar a bit, but that shouldn’t be the case much longer. He might not have the elite physical traits of some of the other top corners in this class, but he’s a complete player without a glaring flaw in his skill set.
31LB Jeremiah Trotter Jr., Clemson
2023 Stats: 23 tackles, 5 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble
Another name that’ll sound familiar to NFL fans, Trotter lives up to his name as the son of a four-time Pro Bowler at the same position. Like his teammate Carter, Trotter is a three-down defender who can stuff the run, make plays in coverage, and even get after the quarterback on the blitz.
32CB Denzel Burke, Ohio State
2023 Stats: 4 pass breakups, 1 interception, 1 forced fumble, 1 tackle for loss
Consistency will be the key for Burke, but all the pieces are there for him to become a first-round prospect. He’s got the size and length to win with physicality, and the short-area quickness to handle shiftier pass-catchers.
What About the Quarterbacks?
There’s still a clear-cut chasm between the Williams-Maye tier and the rest of this year’s top passers, but that next group is teeming with talent and potential. The value of top quarterback prospects often leads them to be drafted earlier than their in-a-vacuum grade might dictate, so while no other signal-caller cracks our top 32 prospects at the moment, there are a handful who could all warrant first-round consideration.
Here’s how I rank the rest of this year’s top quarterbacks after Williams and Maye after the first few weeks of the season:
Michael Penix Jr., Washington
2023 Stats: 103-of-138 (74.6%), 1,636 yards, 16 TD, 2 INT
It’s an easy southpaw comparison, but it’s hard to watch Penix on Saturday, then Tua Tagovailoa on Sunday, and not think the latter could make a similar impact at the next level. Like Tua, though, his injury history will be a concern.
Cameron Ward, Washington State
2023 Stats: 106-of-142 (74.6%), 1,390 yards, 16 TD (3 rushing), 0 INT
The most underrated player in this group, all Ward does is keep putting up huge numbers and winning big games. His skill set and playmaking ability should translate extremely well to the modern NFL game.
Shedeur Sanders, Colorado
2023 Stats: 130-of-169 (76.9%), 1,410 yards, 12 TD (1 rushing), 1 INT
Jackson State was no fluke. Sanders keeps displaying franchise QB traits regardless of the competition, and the production is still there. Even in a rough loss to Oregon, he wasn’t the problem.
Riley Leonard, Duke
2023 Stats: 67-of-99 (67.7%), 778 yards, 6 TD (4 rushing), 0 INT
Much like former Blue Devil Daniel Jones, Leonard has an intriguing blend of arm talent and athleticism to create big plays when the pocket breaks down. His biggest test yet awaits this weekend against Notre Dame.
Bo Nix, Oregon
2023 Stats: 104-of-131 (79.4%), 1,169 yards, 12 TD (1 rushing), 1 INT
The most experienced quarterback in college football, Nix continues to show all the signs of a quality NFL starter. He’s a sound decision-maker with enough athleticism to frustrate opposing defenses as both a runner and an extend-the-play passer.
J.J. McCarthy, Michigan
2023 Stats: 71-of-89 (79.8%), 915 yards, 8 TD, 3 INT
He might not have Nix’s level of experience, but McCarthy wins in many of the same ways. He’s completing nearly 80% of his passes so far this season, and knows how to distribute the ball and let his playmakers do the rest.
Quinn Ewers, Texas
2023 Stats: 72-of-112 (64.3%), 12 touchdowns (3 rushing), 0 INT
Carving up Nick Saban’s defense will do wonders for your draft stock. There are more tough matchups ahead for Ewers, but he’s yet to throw an interception this season, despite loving to take big shots down the field.