NFL Draft News & Analysis

2024 NFL Draft: Replacing the biggest reaches with better prospects

2RWHJ5D Michigan defensive back Mike Sainristil (0) plays against UNLV in the second half of an NCAA college football game in Ann Arbor, Mich., Saturday, Sept. 9, 2023. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

The Cardinals could have drafted Cooper DeJean in the first round: Instead of picking Darius Robinson, Arizona could have gone with DeJean to add more talent to its secondary.

• The Falcons could have gone with Jer’Zhan Newton in Round 2: Atlanta bypassed Newton in favor of Ruke Orhorhoro on Day 2.

• Get ready for 2025: The PFF mock draft simulator is now on to 2025! Trade picks and players and mock for your favorite NFL team.

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Generally speaking, there are three ways to describe a draft pick.

A “good pick” occurs when a team selects a player at a position that aligns with their perceived value based on assessments from experts and consensus rankings. A “steal” is when a team selects a player much later than they were expected to be drafted. A “reach” happens when a team chooses a player significantly earlier than they were expected to be drafted.

Every fanbase dreads the latter, but unfortunately, plenty of selections every year leave everyone scratching their heads.

Here are five of the biggest reaches in the 2024 NFL Draft. And because nobody likes the guy who shows up only with problems and not solutions, I've also given the team a replacement player for that selection.

27. Arizona Cardinals (via Houston Texans)

Original Pick: EDGE Darius Robinson, Missouri

The only first-rounder on this list, Robinson was pegged as a late-second-round prospect on PFF’s big board at No. 61 overall. He’s a bit of a tweener right now, as the 285-pounder is not big enough to play on the interior but not quite athletic enough to play edge defender. Robinson is a strong run defender but is still developing a pass-rush plan.

replacement Pick: CB Cooper DeJean, Iowa

The better selection would have been DeJean, who somehow lasted to the second round despite entering the draft as PFF's top cornerback prospect. He’s an incredibly versatile talent who would fit perfectly into Jonathan Gannon’s zone-heavy scheme.

Click here to see Cooper DeJean's 2024 NFL Draft profile!

35. Atlanta Falcons (via Arizona Cardinals)

Original Pick: DI Ruke Orhorhoro, Clemson

Not only was Orhorhoro drafted a full round later than where he was ranked on our board (No. 67), but the Falcons also traded their third-round pick to move up and get him. Last year, Orhorhoro posted a 70.1 pass-rushing grade on true pass rushes, which ranked in the 47th percentile for FBS interior defensive linemen.

replacement Pick: DI Jer’Zhan Newton, Illinois

If Atlanta wanted to trade up for a defensive tackle, it should’ve done so for the top-ranked DI prospect on PFF’s big board. Newton was ultimately selected just one pick later, and he was the most productive interior defensive lineman in college football over the past two seasons. Over that span, Newton led all FBS defensive tackles in pressures (102) and run-defense stops (55). He’s a top-15 talent who could’ve filled in perfectly alongside his idol, Grady Jarrett.

48. Jacksonville Jaguars

Original Pick: DI Maason Smith, LSU

The Jaguars took a massive swing by selecting Smith in the top 50. While Smith has intriguing physical tools, he’s very raw technically and earned just a 65.3 grade last season. He’s yet another Jaguars defensive lineman who needs significant development.

replacement Pick: CB Mike Sainristil, Michigan

The Jaguars should have chased Sainristil, a player with a higher floor and the top slot cornerback in the draft. The Michigan product earned 80.0-plus grades in each of the past two seasons, his first two at cornerback after spending his first three years at wide receiver. Cornerback was arguably Jacksonville’s biggest need entering the draft, and Sainristil was a top-35 overall talent.

Read more — From national champion to top-40 draft prospect: Why Mike Sainristil checks all the boxes for teams in need of a ‘football player'

PFF’s 2024 NFL Draft Guide is loaded with three-page draft profiles on hundreds of NFL draft prospects in the 2024 class. Click here to get your copy today!

68. New England Patriots

Original Pick: OT Caedan Wallace, Penn State

While the Patriots have a major need at left tackle, they reached by taking Wallace early in the third round. Wallace was No. 142 on PFF’s big board, making him a fifth-round prospect. The best grade of his career was 68.8 this past season, and he still struggles with his technique despite being a four-year starter. He has also only played right tackle in his career, making his potential move to the left side all the more concerning.

replacement Pick: OT Kiran Amegadjie, Yale

New England had the right idea by taking an offensive tackle, but the team should have gone with Amegadjie. The Yale product posted an 89.2 grade across four games this past season before suffering a season-ending quad injury. The year before, his 88.3 pass-blocking grade ranked second among FCS tackles. Amegadjie also played each of the last two seasons at left tackle, so there wouldn’t be a position change included in his jump to the NFL.

77. Las Vegas Raiders

Original Pick: OT Delmar Glaze, Maryland

Glaze came in at No. 257 on PFF’s big board, which made him the projected Mr. Irrelevant. While he’s impressed as a pass-protector throughout his career, he never posted a 65.0 run-blocking grade in his career.

replacement Pick: CB T.J. Tampa, Iowa State

The Raiders should have looked to fill another need and taken Tampa, whose 20.7% forced incompletion rate since 2022 is in the 97th percentile for cornerbacks. Tampa would have fit well in Las Vegas’ zone-heavy scheme.

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