• Arizona Cardinals will have their eye on a QB: The presumed worst team in the NFL in 2023, Arizona should be in contention to secure USC's Caleb Williams in the 2024 NFL Draft.
• Detroit Lions just missing an elite interior presence: Illinois' Jer’Zhan Newton profiles as an excellent fit for a Lions team that is only getting better.
• Tampa Bay Buccaneers may need to address the QB position: It's unclear whether Baker Mayfield or Kyle Trask will work out in 2023, so a rookie signal-caller — such as North Carolina's Drake Maye — may be in the cards.
Estimated Reading Time: 12 mins
The 2023 NFL Draft is only recently in the rearview mirror, but the scouting cycle never ends, as teams always have an eye toward the future.
We’ll find a potential fit from the class of 2024 that each NFC team should be scouting in order to improve their roster next year.
Click here to view the AFC version.
JUMP TO A TEAM:
- Potential 2024 needs: WR, DL, CB
- Player to watch: QB Caleb Williams, USC
Following a reasonably successful 2021 season that included a playoff appearance, the Cardinals had an incredibly tumultuous 2022. They won just four games while Kyler Murray struggled and eventually tore his ACL. The Cardinals, with the Texans’ 2024 first-rounder also in tow, are the betting favorite to hold the top two picks in next year’s draft. While they may have bigger needs on paper, it would be hard to resist resetting at the game’s most valuable position.
Caleb Williams will enter the 2024 draft as the most hyped quarterback prospect since Trevor Lawrence in 2021. The 2022 Heisman Trophy winner has all the tools, including an uncanny ability to improvise with his arm and legs. Over the past two years, he has produced 47 big-time throws and just 18 turnover-worthy plays while posting a 90.0-plus passing grade in each season. If the Cardinals can find a way out of Murray’s contract, they’ll start a rebuild around Williams.
- Potential 2024 needs: DL, WR, CB
- Player to watch: EDGE Dallas Turner, Alabama
Dallas Turner has been a solid player during his time at Alabama, and the Crimson Tide hope this is the year he breaks out as a star pass rusher. Turner finished last season with 37 pressures and five sacks, both ranking second behind Will Anderson Jr. With Turner taking on a greater role this season, he’ll have plenty of opportunities to vault himself into the top 15 of next year’s draft. His experience as a stand-up rusher would be a perfect fit for the Falcons’ defense.
- Potential 2024 needs: EDGE, CB, TE
- Player to watch: EDGE Bralen Trice, Washington
The Panthers don’t own a first-round pick in 2024 after sending it to Chicago to secure Bryce Young in the 2023 NFL Draft. While they could surprise their NFC South rivals if Young produces a Rookie of the Year-type season, it’s more likely that they will need to develop their roster for one more year before making a push for playoff contention.
Washington outside linebacker Bralen Trice is someone who could intrigue Carolina as a fit opposite Brian Burns. Like Burns, Trice beats tackles off the edge with speed and length. He broke out in 2022 with a 91.3 pass-rush grade and led the nation with 70 total pressures. Trice would be an excellent fit for a team that desperately needs a second dynamic pass rusher.
- Potential 2024 needs: DL, TE, CB
- Player to watch: EDGE Jared Verse, Florida State
The Bears finished dead last in several defensive metrics in 2022, including overall grade and pass-rush grade. They expended a ton of resources this offseason to alleviate their issues defensively, primarily at linebacker, cornerback and defensive tackle. Edge rusher is now the team's obvious weakness.
Armed with two first-round picks next year, Carolina’s and their own, the Bears should be in a perfect position to select Jared Verse from Florida State. Verse is currently the top-rated edge rusher on PFF’s 2024 Big Board. He posted an 87.4 pass-rush grade and nine sacks in his first season as a transfer from Albany. Verse is explosive off the edge and likely would have been a first-round pick in the 2023 draft. He’ll be a prime target for Chicago in the quest to fill the team's biggest roster hole.
- Potential 2024 needs: CB, LB, QB
- Player to watch: CB Kalen King, Penn State
The Cowboys enter 2023 without a ton of obvious roster holes. They expect to contend and added veterans such as Brandin Cooks and Stephon Gilmore this offseason to aid in that goal. Gilmore will be in the spotlight opposite Trevon Diggs in the secondary. He’s still an excellent player, but he will be 33 in September and 2023 is the final year of his current contract.
Dallas could look to fortify the cornerback position in 2024 with a player like Kalen King. King had a terrific season en route to a 90.6 coverage grade, a significantly higher mark than teammate Joey Porter Jr., who was drafted in the second round this offseason. King would also be an excellent fit in Dan Quinn’s defense as one of the best cornerbacks in the nation in single-high defenses. A pairing of King and Trevon Diggs would give Dallas two legitimate ballhawks on the outside.
- Potential 2024 needs: IDL, CB, G
- Player to watch: DT Jer’Zhan Newton, Illinois
The Lions spent most of their offseason improving their coverage unit, bolstering their secondary in free agency and drafting linebacker Jack Campbell in the first round. And Aidan Hutchinson is on his way to being an elite pass rusher off the edge. The Lions still lack a dynamic interior presence, though.
Jer’Zhan Newton fits the bill as the most dynamic defensive tackle returning to college football this season. His 91.5 overall grade was just behind 2023 first-rounder Calijah Kancey. His 91.9 run-defense grade ranked third in the nation, and his 59 total pressures were the second most among interior defensive linemen. Newton returns to Illinois hoping that another dominant season vaults him into top-20 consideration.
- Potential 2024 needs: WR, CB, IOL
- Player to watch: CB Kool-Aid McKinstry, Alabama
Green Bay’s success will depend on the roster construction around Jordan Love. Their pass catchers are talented but incredibly young. Their best chance to win will be through their running game and defense.
Kool-Aid McKinstry is someone who could make an immediate impact in 2024. He is currently PFF’s top-rated cornerback in the 2024 class and led the nation last season with 16 pass breakups. His 57.9 passer rating allowed is excellent considering he had 80 balls thrown his way, the eighth most in the country. The Packers have had issues finding someone to produce opposite Jaire Alexander. McKinstry could be the answer.
- Potential 2024 needs: OL, LB, S
- Player to watch: OT Joe Alt, Notre Dame
Injuries ravaged the Rams’ offensive line in 2022, with only two players reaching 500 snaps played. As a result, quarterback Matthew Stafford was also injured, and if you remove their 51-point shellacking of Denver on Christmas Day, Los Angeles was the lowest-scoring team in the NFL. They drafted guard Steve Avila, who should be an immediate starter, but they need franchise-changing players up front.
Notre Dame left tackle Joe Alt appears to be the most likely in the class of 2024 to be that player. His 91.4 overall grade and 91.0 run-blocking grade paced all FBS tackles last season. He also allowed just eight total pressure and zero sacks in pass protection. Additionally, Sean McVay would love him, as he was the best zone-blocking offensive lineman in the country in 2022. Like Peter Skoronski entering last season, Alt seems almost guaranteed to be a top-12 draft selection.
- Potential 2024 needs: CB, LB, QB
- Player to watch: QB Bo Nix, Oregon
Minnesota’s 2022 season was defined by playing poor defense and then overcoming it in close games with great offense. While the defense certainly needs more resources allocated in its direction, the Vikings can’t ignore the fact that Kirk Cousins will be 35 this season and is entering a contract year.
The Vikings most likely won’t be bad enough to enter the Caleb Williams sweepstakes, so someone like Oregon’s Bo Nix could be an option later in the first round. Nix is a solid rhythm passer who gets rid of the ball quickly and does some of his best work on the move. He offers more mobility than Cousins to run Kevin O’Connell’s outside zone/boot system. Nix is considered a Heisman dark horse and could vault himself into the first round with another big year at Oregon.
- Potential 2024 needs: DT, CB, TE
- Player to watch: CB Cooper DeJean, Iowa
The Saints will be out of the quarterback market for a bit with Derek Carr in the fold, so they will look to improve the rest of their roster in the meantime. Marshon Lattimore played only seven games last season and led Saints cornerbacks with a mediocre 64.7 overall grade. No other cornerback on the team who played significant snaps graded out better than a 55.0. It has become a sore spot for an otherwise excellent defense in recent years.
Iowa’s Cooper DeJean finished his sophomore season as the fourth-highest-graded cornerback in the Power Five. He was spectacular in both the run and pass games, grading above 88.0 overall in run defense and coverage. He picked off five passes and broke up five others while allowing a measly 49.7 passer rating into his coverage. He also posted a terrific 89.7 grade in man coverage last year, making him a perfect fit for Dennis Allen’s man-heavy scheme.
- Potential 2024 needs: WR, S, LB
- Player to watch: S Kamren Kinchens, Miami (FL)
The Giants need to improve their passing attack and coverage unit if they want to achieve sustained success. They need a true WR1, but they could win too many games to be in range for someone like Marvin Harrison Jr. or Emeka Egbuka. If that is the case, they could choose to bolster their secondary for a second straight season.
Giants safeties ranked 29th in the NFL in overall grade last season. They have one starter in Xavier McKinney, who suffered through injury last year. Otherwise, it seems they are throwing darts at the wall. Miami’s Kamren Kinchens was the highest-graded safety in the FBS last season. His 90.7 coverage mark also topped the FBS and he has terrific range on the back end. Brian Daboll knows the value of elite safeties from his time in Buffalo. Kinchens would give him an excellent player to rove behind his man coverage-heavy defense.
- Potential 2024 needs: LB, WR, C
- Player to watch: Johnny Wilson, Florida State
Right now, Philadelphia would appear to have some issues with inexperience in the middle of its defense. The team's success, however, will be primarily driven by Jalen Hurts and a dynamic offense. A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith are among the league’s elite pair of receivers, but there is a bit left to be desired behind them.
Hurts was at his best last season when he was willing to unleash the deep ball. Nobody would give him a bigger target downfield than 6-foot-7 monster Johnny Wilson out of Florida State. Wilson’s massive frame allowed him to post a 92.3 receiving grade on throws 10-plus yards downfield last season. His presence would allow Smith to move into the slot and give Philadelphia a potentially unstoppable three-receiver look.
- Potential 2024 needs: OL, CB, WR
- Player to watch: OT Blake Fisher, Notre Dame
The 49ers are as loaded as ever on both sides of the ball but carry some uncharacteristic question marks on their offensive line. Trent Williams is still spectacular, yet he is the 49ers’ only returning offensive lineman who graded out at 70.0 or higher last season. Starting right tackle Mike McGlinchey left for Denver and the Niners will look to fill his role internally this year.
San Francisco figures to make a deep playoff run again, but if their offensive line is their undoing, someone like Blake Fisher could be a solution in 2024. Fisher plays on the right side opposite superstar left tackle Joe Alt. Fisher got off to a slow start in his first year in a starting role, but from Week 4 onward he was the fifth-highest-graded right tackle in the Power Five. Alt will get the headlines in South Bend, but further improvement from Fisher could see him picked late in the first round or early on Day 2 in 2024.
- Potential 2024 needs: DL, OL, TE
- Player to watch: EDGE J.T. Tuimoloau, Ohio State
Seattle’s shocking 2022 success can be attributed to the team's massive improvements in the vertical passing game and surprising contributions from the secondary. Their eventual undoing was weakness in the trenches, especially on the defensive line.
One potential answer could be Ohio State’s J.T. Tuimoloau, who led the Buckeyes with seven sacks last season. His 83.0 pass-rush grade was second on the team, behind 2023 draftee Zach Harrison, and stands as a significant improvement from his 2021 performance. Continued development as the primary pass rusher for the Buckeyes would put the 6-foot-4, 270-pound Tuimoloau in the first-round conversation.
- Potential 2024 needs: QB, OL, HB
- Player to watch: QB Drake Maye, North Carolina
Tampa Bay was the eight-lowest-scoring team in the NFL last season with Tom Brady as their quarterback. With Baker Mayfield and Kyle Trask vying for the starting job this year, it’s conceivable to think the Bucs could finish last in scoring offense this year. Such an occurrence would lead to few wins, barring a miraculous effort from their defense.
Tampa Bay needs to find a long-term solution at quarterback. Drake Maye would be a perfect target. Maye was the ACC Player of the Year and the highest-graded Power Five passer in the regular season. His 45 big-time throws were 10 more than anyone else in the FBS. It’s thought that Caleb Williams’ supreme mobility is the difference between him and Maye, but it’s actually Maye who finished with the third-most rushing yards among FBS quarterbacks (899) in 2022. If the Bucs get a chance to land Maye, there’s almost no way they could pass on him.
- Potential 2024 needs: OL, QB, LB
- Player to watch: OT Olu Fashanu, Penn State
Washington’s situation is so hard to predict. They have a pretty good roster yet are completely unsettled at quarterback. Teams with quarterback questions don’t generally perform well, but the Commanders went 8-8-1 with Carson Wentz, Taylor Heinicke and Sam Howell throwing passes last season. Howell remains and joins Jacoby Brissett in a battle for the starting spot. Even if they flounder, though, the Commanders are unlikely to be bad enough for a top-three draft slot.
That being said, Washington could target a proven pass protector like Olu Fashanu to protect whoever will eventually be the long-term quarterback. The Commanders' current pair of starting tackles, Charles Leno Jr. and Andrew Wylie, is decent but not spectacular. Fashanu’s 84.7 pass-blocking grade in 2022 ranked seventh among qualified Power Five tackles. He allowed just seven total pressures and zero sacks last season. He should be a foundational piece for whichever team selects him in 2024.