NFL News & Analysis

Ranking 2024 NFL rookie quarterbacks by situation: Michael Penix Jr. paces the class

2X6DK9F Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Penix Jr., runs drills during an NFL football mini training camp practice on Tuesday, May 14, 2024, in Flowery Branch, Ga. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

• Michael Penix Jr. landed in the ideal situation: For all the shock about the Falcons using the eighth overall pick to draft Penix, there’s a lot to be said about how he has landed in the perfect spot for him to sit and learn before he ever needs to take a meaningful NFL snap.

• J.J. McCarthy has a great supporting cast, but he might be starting sooner rather than later: McCarthy might not need to start right away, but given that Minnesota's bridge option is Sam Darnold, the Michigan product's time will come sooner rather than later.

• Get a head start on fantasy football: Use PFF's fantasy football mock draft simulator to create real live mock draft simulations to get ready for your live draft!

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

When we talk about rookie quarterbacks, we often get stuck on talking about them as individuals — about how good they were in college and how their skill sets translate to the NFL.

While that is massively important, their landing spot also matters. NFL history is filled with top prospects who landed in the wrong spot and never recovered, and even some whose careers looked to be over before a change of scenery turned things around.

Here, we will rank the six first-round quarterbacks based on the situation they were drafted into.

1. Michael Penix Jr., Atlanta Falcons

For all the shock about the Falcons using the eighth overall pick to draft Penix, there’s a lot to be said about how he has landed in the perfect spot for him to sit and learn before he ever needs to take a meaningful NFL snap.

Penix produced 43 big-time throws last season, eight more than any other quarterback in college football, and he lands in a spot where he will — barring something unforeseen — be given time to get used to the NFL game and learn from Kirk Cousins.

While it’s fair to wonder whether Atlanta’s short-term Super Bowl aspirations would have been better aided by adding a wide receiver such as Rome Odunze, it’s hard to deny that Penix has landed at a spot where there is little to no pressure on him to perform right away.

Click here to see Michael Penix Jr.'s 2024 NFL Draft profile.

2. J.J. McCarthy, Minnesota Vikings

McCarthy might not need to start right away, but given that Minnesota's bridge option is Sam Darnold, the Michigan product's time will come sooner rather than later.

What makes this such a good situation is that McCarthy has inherited arguably the best wide receiver in football in Justin Jefferson, a player who has averaged 2.55 yards per route run or better in each of his four seasons in the NFL.

That, coupled with an offensive system that helped Kirk Cousins earn the second-highest PFF grade of his career before injury last season, puts McCarthy in a great spot.

3. Caleb Williams, Chicago Bears

The No. 1 overall pick in any draft — especially if it's a quarterback — often inherits a difficult situation. Teams selecting first overall typically do so because they had the worst record in football the previous season or because they traded up and sacrificed future draft picks and sometimes blue-chip players.

Neither of those things is true for Caleb Williams, as the Bears only picked first overall thanks to the trade-down with the Carolina Panthers the previous year.

The Bears also surrounded Williams with talent at receiver, trading for Keenan Allen and then drafting Washington’s Rome Odunze.

So improved is the situation in Chicago that when you add in a quarterback who earned a PFF grade of 90.0 or better in each of the past three seasons, it wouldn’t be a shock to see some Bears single-season passing records fall in 2024.

Click here to see Caleb Williams' 2024 NFL Draft profile.

4. Jayden Daniels, Washington Commanders

I think you can cluster the top four into varying degrees of “good” situations, and Daniels' ability is a big part of why he’s in the right situation.

Terry McLaurin has a safe pair of hands to throw to, with the Commaders' No. 1 receiver recording drop rates of 5% or better in each of the past four seasons. However, the high floor provided by Daniels' rushing ability would have allowed most landing spots to be a good fit. His 92.4 rushing grade ranked first at the position last year.

5. Bo Nix, Denver Broncos

A real positive for the Broncos is that they got their new franchise signal-caller without having to spend any additional draft capital to trade up, and you can also make the case that they landed one of the most NFL-ready players in the class, as Nix's 1.0% turnover-worthy play rate in 2023 was the lowest among college quarterbacks with at least 100 passing attempts.

The issue for the former Oregon star is that the Broncos have already traded one wide receiver, Jerry Jeudy, and there are rumors that Courtland Sutton could be on the move, too.

While Marvin Mims and Troy Franklin were good draft prospects, trading away Sutton would leave Josh Reynolds as the veteran of the unit and make this a relatively inexperienced group.

Click here to see Bo Nix's 2024 NFL Draft profile.

6. Drake Maye, New England Patriots

The problem for any quarterback landing in New England was always going to be the lack of supporting cast around them.

Maye is a tremendously talented player who earned a 90.0-plus PFF grade in each of the past two seasons, but the Patriots lack a difference-maker in the receiving game unless either Ja’Lynn Polk or Javon Baker can hit the ground running in Year 1.

The Pats also have issues on the offensive line. At left tackle, it will be either Chukwuma Okorafor (whose career-high PFF pass-blocking grade is just 62.8) or rookie third-round draft pick Caedan Wallace.

In an ideal world, Maye will sit behind Jacoby Brissett early to allow the Patriots to learn more about those issues. But if he’s called to start early, it would be a challenging situation for any rookie.

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