2024 NFL Draft: Early prospect superlatives, including Drake Maye and Laiatu Latu

2RX9RJG Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA. 23rd Sep, 2023. North Carolina Tarheels quarterback Drake Maye (10) warms up before the NCAA football game between the Pitt Panthers and the North Carolina Tarheels at Acrisure Stadium in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Brent Gudenschwager/CSM (Credit Image: © Brent Gudenschwager/Cal Sport Media). Credit: csm/Alamy Live News Credit: Cal Sport Media/Alamy Live News

• North Carolina QB Drake Maye → Most Accurate Passer: Maye has excelled on downfield passes, both in terms of adjusted completion rate and ball location.

• UCLA EDGE Laiatu Latu → Best Pass-Rush Profile: The fifth-year senior's 26.1% pressure percentage is the highest in the Power Five and the second highest in the FBS. 

• It's never too early to gear up for the 2024 NFL Draft: PFF has you covered throughout the college football season. Click here for our 2024 big board.

Estimated Reading Time: 5 minutes


More than a quarter of the way through the college football season, we’re already starting to see some 2024 draft-eligible players rise to the top in certain categories.

Having a bit of fun with our lists and recognitions, here are eight draft superlatives for the 2024 NFL Draft. 


MOST ACCURATE PASSER: QB DRAKE MAYE, NORTH CAROLINA

This is shaping up to be a loaded quarterback class. One of the names at the forefront of early 2024 conversations is North Carolina's Drake Maye, especially when it comes to accuracy.

If we set a target depth range to five yards or more (taking away manufactured high-percentage throws), Maye has the second-best adjusted completion percentage in the FBS (77.8%). He also has a 93.0 passing grade on such passes. Though ball placement is a different conversation than adjusted completion rate, Maye has been very good in that area, too. 


MOST FUN RUNNING BACK TO WATCH: RB BUCKY IRVING, OREGON

Five weeks into the college football season, Oregon ranks second in the country in points per game (51.6). Quarterback Bo Nix gets a lot of praise for that, as does his go-to receiver, Troy Franklin. However, running back Bucky Irving is becoming a must-watch player every week.

Irving owns an 85.5 rushing grade so far this year with 23 missed tackles forced and 0.43 missed tackles forced per attempt. His 4.3 yards after contact per carry ranks 13th in the FBS among running backs with at least 50 carries, which is very impressive for a 5-foot-10, 195-pounder. 


BEST LONG SPEED: WR XAVIER WORTHY, TEXAS

I don’t have an answer for who the fastest player in college football is. In a world where it feels like every team has at least one guy who reportedly runs a 4.3, it’s anyone’s guess until we have a College Football Olympics. However, when Texas' Xavier Worthy wide receiver did this, he became my betting favorite:

Worthy has been one of the best deep-threat receivers in college football since his true freshman season. Now a junior, he’s recorded more than 20 explosive plays of 15-plus yards in each of the past two seasons and finished 2022 with an average depth of target of 18.3 yards. He’s being used more as an all-around receiver in 2023, so that number is down. But, clearly, from the clip above, the man still has the juice. 


BEST CONTESTED CATCH RECEIVER: WR WILL SHEPPARD, VANDERBILT

A handful of receivers are showing out this year at the catch point — Keon Coleman, Xavier Legette, Rome Odunze, etc. — but Vanderbilt’s Will Sheppard deserves a big shoutout for this superlative.

Sheppard leads the country in contested catches (nine) through Week 5. He also leads the country in contested targets (18), which tells the tale of his game: He is a physical receiver who isn’t the best at creating consistent separation, so throwing him the ball often means believing that he’ll come down with it through some contact. Thankfully, he does — a lot. 


MOST PUNISHING BLOCKER: IOL CHRISTIAN MAHOGANY, BOSTON COLLEGE

Boston College interior offensive lineman Christian Mahogany was set to be one of the top guards in last year’s draft. But, unfortunately, he tore his ACL before the 2022 college football season even began and missed all of last year. Now he’s back and reminding people why he’s one of the top maulers in the country.

PFF grades each player’s performance per play from -2 to 2 by half-point increments. The better, more well-executed and more impactful the player is on a given play, the higher they grade — and vice versa. A “0” grade would be the player performing as expected. For offensive linemen, an example of earning a play grade above “1” would be dominating your block, perhaps even finishing the defender to the ground, or blocking two defenders out of the play at the same time. So far in 2023, Mahogany leads all FBS offensive linemen in plays earning a “1” grade or higher (10).


BEST PASS-RUSH PROFILE: EDGE LAIATU LATU, UCLA

For the second season in a row, UCLA’s Laiatu Latu has been on a pass-rush tear. This year, the fifth-year senior has 18 total pressures, a 21.7% pass-rush win rate and a 26.1% pressure percentage, which is the highest in the Power Five and the second highest in the FBS. 

If you don’t know Latu’s story, he started his college football career at Washington but suffered a neck injury that forced him to medically retire from football for a few seasons. He transferred to UCLA and was cleared to play in 2022, and if his NFL Combine medicals check out, he’ll be on a top-15 trajectory for stats and clips like the one above. 


MOST LIKE ANT-MAN: DI HOWARD CROSS III, NOTRE DAME

Full transparency: I wanted to give Notre Dame defensive tackle Howard Cross III a shoutout, and the easiest way to do that was by giving him this made-up Ant-Man superlative. Ants can carry 10-50 times their body weight, and it appears the 6-foot, 288-pound Cross can do the same.

The fifth-year senior is having a breakout year, grading out very well in PFF's system. He has a 90.7 overall grade with an 86.5 run-defense grade and a 90.3 pass-rush grade. If his height and weight are correct, he’ll be in just the second percentile in height and the 11th percentile in weight for NFL interior defensive linemen. And yet, becoming Ant-Man this year allows him to still be dominant like a superhero. 


BEST COVERAGE RANGE: S CALEN BULLOCK, USC

It’s not often we get multiple safeties in the same class who have the range to play single-high free safety roles at the NFL level. Not only is USC’s Calen Bullock one of those, but I would argue he is the best.

Plays like the one above are tough for a lot of talented safeties to make. Bullock makes it look like another day at the office — and it kind of is. Over the past two seasons, he has the highest coverage grade among Power Five safeties and the third-highest mark among FBS safeties (91.3). His seven interceptions ranks second in the FBS and his nine forced incompletions places him in the top five. His run defense and tackling need more consistency, but when it comes to coverage, he’s at the top.

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