5 biggest X-factors in the 2024 NFL Draft: Brock Bowers, Chop Robinson and more

2RX9FCD ATLANTA, GA ? SEPTEMBER 23: Georgia tight end Brock Bowers (19) runs with the ball after a reception during the college football game between the UAB Blazers and the Georgia Bulldogs on September 23rd, 2023 at Sanford Stadium in Athens, GA. (Photo by Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire) (Icon Sportswire via AP Images)

• Where will TE Brock Bowers end up? Although he didn't test at the NFL scouting combine, he reportedly ran a 4.53-second 40-yard dash time at a private pro day and generated a 99th-percentile PFF Game Athleticism Score among college tight ends in each of the past three seasons.

• Keep an eye on a few international players on Day 3: Offensive tackles Bayron Matos, Travis Clayton and Jotham Russell may be next in line to join the NFL ranks through the International Player Pathway Program.

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The many paths to being drafted in the NFL don’t all include being productive, or even playing much, in college.

Here, we are taking a look at some of the biggest X-factors in the 2024 NFL Draft, ranging from productive every-down players to size outliers to those who didn’t play at all.

TE Brock Bowers, Georgia

Bowers was incredibly productive in college, averaging 2.65 yards per route run in 2023 to lead all college tight ends who saw at least 35 targets. Any draft concerns stem from looking at the historical production teams get out of tight ends early in their NFL careers and the fact that Bowers didn't test at the NFL scouting combine. He reportedly ran a 4.53-second 40-yard dash time at a private pro day and generated a 99th-percentile PFF Game Athleticism Score among college tight ends in each of the past three seasons.

WR Johnny Wilson, Florida State

Wilson is a size outlier, coming in at 6-foot-6 and 231 pounds, but it’s his arm length that really stands out. His 35 3/8-inch arms are even longer than those of Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans, and he uses them to his advantage.

At the Senior Bowl, Wilson attacked the ball and kept defensive backs at bay while showcasing his ability to beat press coverage. He’s a good athlete for someone of his size, and while his drop numbers are a concern, more than half of his drops in 2023 came on plays where the ball was a little bit behind him or where it would have been a difficult catch in some form.

LB Edgerrin Cooper, Texas A&M

After taking a huge step forward in 2023, Cooper figures to be one of the first linebackers off the board in the 2024 NFL Draft, likely on Day 2. He ticks the boxes that teams look for in a traditional linebacker, testing well and earning PFF run-defense and coverage grades above 85.0 in 2023. But it’s his ability to add to a team’s pass rush that will intrigue NFL teams the most. He rushed the passer on 83 snaps last season, racking up 27 total pressures, including a combined 15 sacks and quarterback hits.

EDGE Chop Robinson, Penn State

Robinson might hear his name called in Round 1 of the 2024 NFL Draft next week, and that’s because what he’s good at is very valuable, even if he doesn’t yet look like a future every-down player in the NFL. He’s undersized but fast and explosive, having played just 1,021 snaps throughout his college football career. He earned PFF pass-rush grades of 92.4 and 92.3 in his two seasons at Penn State, racking up 74 total pressures from 415 pass-rushing snaps between 2022 and 2023. That pass-rushing ability is tough to teach, and it’s why an NFL team will be happy to draft Robinson relatively early this year.

Click here to see Chop Robinson's 2024 NFL Draft profile.

OTs Bayron Matos, Travis Clayton and Jotham Russell, International Player Pathway Program

The NFL’s International Player Pathway Program has been in the headlines recently, with Welsh rugby star Louis Rees-Zammit and Gaelic football goalkeeper Charlie Smyth signing with the Kansas City Chiefs and New Orleans Saints, respectively. The Jacksonville Jaguars also recently signed Australian tight end Patrick Murtaugh through the program. Philadelphia Eagles left tackle Jordan Mailata has been the biggest success story from the IPP, having gone from a seventh-round draft pick in 2018 to one of the highest-paid offensive tackles in football.

England’s Travis Clayton and Australia’s Jotham Russell are looking to follow in his footsteps as former rugby players, while Bayron Matos did play a handful of snaps for USF back in 2022. The NFL has made a clear effort to find stars from other sports, so don’t be surprised to hear those three names mentioned late on Day 3 of the 2024 NFL Draft.

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