NFL News & Analysis

Most and least improved units after the 2024 NFL Draft

2RWD67C CHESTNUT HILL, MA - SEPTEMBER 16: Florida State Seminoles defensive lineman Braden Fiske (55) during a game between the Boston College Eagles and the Florida State Seminoles on September 16, 2023, at Alumni Stadium in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts. (Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire) (Icon Sportswire via AP Images)

Atlanta Falcons make both lists: While Atlanta improved its defensive line, its cornerback room didn't receive any upgrades throughout the draft.

Los Angeles Rams replacing Aaron DonaldReplacing Donald with one player is impossible, but the Rams did well to acquire enough talent to soften the blow a bit. 

• Life not getting easier for New England Patriots quarterbacks: New England failed to improve its offensive line during the 2024 NFL Draft.

Estimated reading time: 11 minutes

With the 2024 NFL Draft in the rearview mirror, we now turn our focus to analyzing what happened and how it will change teams and the league. Here are our most improved and least improved units around the league after the draft.

Most improved

Atlanta Falcons defensive line 

Atlanta made headlines by selecting quarterback Michael Penix Jr. at No. 8 overall, overlooking a handful of more pressing needs to do so. One of those needs was the pass-rush department. Despite not using their most premium picks on that problem, they will throw a lot of new bodies at the defensive line to try to still make up for it. They traded up for Clemson defensive tackle Ruke Orhorhoro at the top of the second round to play on their interior, then edge rusher Bralen Trice in the third round. As if that wasn’t enough, their following pick was a third straight defensive lineman with Brandon Dorlus. All three of those players might not play right away, but they will be heavily involved in the 2024 rotation.

Los Angeles Rams defensive line 

One of the sayings that we heard all offseason for the Rams was that they can’t replace Aaron Donald. The Rams certainly believed that to be true, and their response was to draft a plethora of new defensive linemen. They drafted Jared Verse in the first, traded up for Braden Fiske in the second, then brought in Brennan Jackson and Tyler Davis on Day 3. Combine those four with Kobie Turner and Byron Young from last year’s draft, and you have a completely new defensive line in Los Angeles. 

Philadelphia Eagles secondary

The Eagles made a magical Super Bowl run two years ago, but after starting off the 2024 season hot, they sputtered down the stretch. They seem to be all-in on the current group, and knowing that, the Eagles had one major need going into the 2025 season: cornerback. They did a great job improving the unit, adding Quinyon Mitchell and Cooper DeJean in the first and second rounds. Both can be immediate impact players for a team that is loading up for another run.  

Pittsburgh Steelers offensive line 

If you add Broderick Jones, the Steelers' first rough offensive tackle selection from 2023, Pittsburgh has drafted four potential starters along their offensive line recently. This year, it was Troy Fautanu, who will likely play left tackle, Zach Frazier, who will likely start at center, and Mason McCormick, who is a potential starting guard they were able to get on Day 3. The only offensive lineman on the Steelers who earned an overall grade above 70.0 last season was Isaac Seumalo, who is 31 years old. These past two drafts slingshot a rebuild of their offensive line. 

Dallas Cowboys offensive line

After losing both Tyron Smith and Tyler Biadasz in free agency, we weren’t sure if the Cowboys were going to be able to keep their offensive line as a strength, but after drafting both Tyler Guyton, Cooper Beebe and even Nathan Thomas, they at least have the talented bodies available to try to get a better projected starting five out there. Guyton could swing over to left tackle, but he could also stay at right tackle since Terence Steele did not perform well in 2023. Beebe can start at left guard if they want to move Tyler Smith to left tackle. 

Detroit Lions cornerbacks 

The Lions entered this offseason looking to take their Super Bowl push over the top. They had a fantastic 2023 season, but their secondary – specifically cornerbacks – needed an upgrade for a better run in 2024. They hit that need hard by bringing back Emmanuel Moseley, signing Amik Robertson, trading for Carlton Davis and then drafting Terrion Arnold and Ennis Rakestraw Jr. In the span of a few months, they have turned their cornerback room around from one of the thinnest groups in the league to one of the deepest with a ton of long-term talent.  

Carolina Panthers tight ends 

The Panthers' tight end room was a lagging position group when it came to surrounding Bryce Young with the talent necessary to succeed. They were able to get a steal in Ja’Tavion Sanders on Day 3 of the draft (was ranked No. 43 on PFF’s big board). Sanders, a former five-star recruit, has the receiving potential to be a contributing tight end as a rookie. It may just be one addition, but for what that position group was before the draft, it counts as a most improved unit. 

Baltimore Ravens cornerbacks  

Many thought the Ravens would select offensive line in the first round given their uncertainty moving forward at offensive tackle. Yet, with a lot of offensive tackles off the board, they opted for one of the talented cornerbacks who “fell” in Nate Wiggins. They then double-dipped at the position again with another talented cornerback who “fell” relative to the consensus board by grabbing T.J. Tampa in the fourth round. Both could be contributing players. Wiggins is a potential starter, even as rookie.  

Least improved

Atlanta Falcons cornerbacks

The Falcons drafted a lot of defensive linemen in Rounds 2 through 4, as they had to get much better up front, especially in the pass-rush department. However, they also needed cornerback help and did not address that in the 2024 draft. If they struggle at that position in 2024, the Penix pick could be heavily scrutinized. 

New England Patriots offensive line 

The Patriots clearly had an offensive emphasis in the 2024 NFL Draft, as their first five selections through the first four rounds were all offensive players. One was quarterback Drake Maye, then two were wide receivers and two were offensive linemen. The issue is that the two offensive linemen they selected don’t really move the needle. Caeden Wallace was drafted at pick No. 86 and was ranked 142 on the PFF big board while Layden Robinson was selected at No. 103 and was 263 on the big board. New England drafted offensive linemen, but it felt more like a checked box than true impact picks.

Las Vegas Raiders cornerbacks

It’s hard to criticize the Raiders too much for the first two selections, as they were able to get both Brock Bowers and Jackson Powers-Johnson at plus value versus where they were ranked on the big board. Nonetheless, their best-player-available approach did not allow them to hit a major need of cornerback until Pick 112 with Decamerion Richardson. I don’t want to say they should regret how they went about things, but it doesn’t change the fact that their cornerback room was one of the least-improved units. 

Jacksonville Jaguars cornerbacks 

The predictive mock drafts had the Jaguars selecting either a cornerback or wide receiver in the first round. It ended up being a wide receiver, which was fine. But after selecting Brian Thomas Jr. (over the likes of Terrion Arnold and Nate Wiggins), they took Maason Smith in Round 2 and Jarrian Jones in Round 3. Jones is a good player, but in his college career, he struggled playing on the outside. It wasn’t until he was used as a slot corner this past year that we saw good coverage grades and production. The issue is that the Jaguars really needed an outside cornerback. That second outside corner opposite Tyson Campbell remains a weak spot.

Dallas Cowboys running backs

We thought Jonathon Brooks to the Dallas Cowboys was one of the best second-round locks you’d ever find. However, Brooks went off the board before the Cowboys could come on the clock, so they continued to invest in the trenches with Marshawn Kneeland on defense and Cooper Beebe on offense with their next two picks. As we highlighted above, that can be viewed as a strength, but it doesn’t change the fact that their running back room now entered the season as one of the weaker running back rooms in the league.


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