NFL Draft News & Analysis

2024 NFL Draft: Most improved units after Round 1

2X3B70M Southern California quarterback Caleb Williams celebrates with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell after being chosen by the Chicago Bears with the first overall pick during the first round of the NFL football draft, Thursday, April 25, 2024, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

• The Bears will show off a new-look passing offense in 2024: Quarterback Caleb Williams and wide receiver Rome Odunze will spearhead the Bears' passing attack, which already includes several talented veterans.

• The Eagles' secondary benefited from falling cornerbacks: The run on offensive players allowed Philadelphia to select Toledo's Quinyon Mitchell.

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One big reason why the NFL Draft is such a spectacle each year? It offers hope. Fanbases for each team that made a selection in Round 1 will leave Thursday night believing they improved.

But which position groups improved the most?

This is an admittedly “too early” look at the teams and position groups that should feel good coming out of Round 1.

Chicago Bears: Passing offense

It’s difficult not to improve with two top-10 picks, but Chicago got two of the better players in the draft.

The Bears have had one Pro Bowl quarterback (Mitchell Trubisky) since the 1990s. Caleb Williams is talented enough to be a Pro Bowl mainstay — coming off three consecutive seasons with a 90.0-plus PFF grade at two different schools — and has the opportunity to quickly become one of the best quarterbacks in franchise history.

And Williams immediately gets a new weapon to work with alongside DJ Moore and Keenan Allen. Rome Odunze is a downfield threat who led all college receivers in receiving yards on passes 20-plus downfield over the past two seasons and brought in 21 of 28 contested targets last season. There’s a lot of reason for optimism in Chicago.

Click here to see Rome Odunze's 2024 NFL Draft profile.

Los Angeles Chargers: Offensive line

Los Angeles had its pick of the top offensive line prospect or a talented wide receiver at No. 5 overall. The Chargers opted to solidify their offensive line, as many expected with Jim Harbaugh stepping in as head coach.

Alt had a strong production profile coming out of Notre Dame, both as a pass protector and a run blocker. He allowed pressure on fewer than 2.0% of his pass-blocking snaps over the past two seasons and earned run-blocking grades above 85.0 on both zone and gap run concepts. The biggest concern with the fit is how Alt will handle the flip to the right side with Rashawn Slater entrenched as the starting left tackle.

We’ve seen first-round prospects like Penei Sewell and Ryan Ramczyk make that transition successfully. Alt was the top offensive line prospect in this class and should help improve the Chargers' run game and keep Justin Herbert upright — both key as the team retools its roster.

Indianapolis Colts: Pass rush

Indianapolis finished the 2023 season ranked 26th out of 32 defenses in pressure rate (32%). That needs to improve for a Gus Bradley defense that relies on its front four to generate pressure and blitzes at one of the lowest rates in the NFL.

Laiatu Latu certainly has the production profile of someone who can bring that number up in 2024. Latu was the most productive pass rusher in college football over the past two seasons at UCLA, leading all qualifiers in PFF pass-rush grade (94.5) and pass-rush win rate (23.1%). If it weren’t for medical red flags, there’s a good chance that Latu would have been viewed as a consensus top-10 prospect in this class. It was a strong value selection.

Click here to see Laiatu Latu's 2024 NFL Draft profile.

Pittsburgh Steelers: Offensive line

Pittsburgh was another beneficiary of the early run on quarterbacks. The Steelers came into the draft with needs at tackle and center, and they came away from Round 1 with a prospect who could theoretically fill in at either spot.

Troy Fautanu was the 15th-ranked player on the PFF big board and possesses an impressive combination of movement skills and physicality, which should fit well into an offense that wants to lean on a rushing attack featuring Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren. He’s coming off a 2023 season with Washington in which he earned a career-best 88.2 PFF pass-blocking grade, too.

Fautanu is the latest offensive line addition in a group that has undergone an overhaul in recent years, with the additions of Broderick Jones in the first round last year and veterans like Isaac Seumalo and James Daniels in free agency.

Philadelphia Eagles: Secondary

The board fell perfectly for Philadelphia, which needed a cornerback. Darius Slay and James Bradberry are both over 30 years old, and the depth behind those two was shaky. The Eagles ranked 27th in expected points added allowed per pass play last season while dealing with injuries in their secondary.

Mitchell was a top-10 player on the PFF big board and the top cornerback on the consensus big board entering the draft. He graded out extremely well in PFF’s advanced coverage metrics, forced more incompletions than any other FBS cornerback over the past two seasons at Toledo and fits well theoretically in a Vic Fangio defense on the outside. Adding him to the secondary was a win for Philadelphia in the back half of the first round.

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