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2024 NFL Draft

Run on First-Round QBs Could Play Right into Steelers Draft Plans



Pittsburgh Steelers 2024 NFL Draft Prospect Michigan QB J.J. McCarthy

A potential run on quarterbacks could be setting the Pittsburgh Steelers up for success in the 2024 NFL Draft.

This year’s draft class has two obvious picks that will go near the top of the first round in USC’s Caleb Williams and North Carolina’s Drake Maye. They will almost certainly be taken among the top three picks in this April’s selection.

The third quarterback in the class is Heisman Trophy winner Jayden Daniels from LSU, and his stock has been on the rise. When he played his last game with the Tigers on Nov. 25, Daniels was ranked as the 33rd overall player in the class, according to NFL Mock Draft Database. Now, he’s well established in the top five and could go as high as third overall.

The next quarterback in the class has seen his stock rise recently, as well. Michigan’s J.J. McCarthy was ranked No. 28 when the Wolverines won the College Football Playoff National Championship Game. Now, he’s at 24 and rising. The last eight mock drafts captured by the database have McCarthy going inside the top 12 picks.

NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah projected Daniels to the New York Giants at No. 6 in his latest mock draft, with McCarthy going to the Atlanta Falcons two choices later at No. 8.

In his latest two-round mock draft, Matt Miller of ESPN had Daniels going at No. 3 to the New England Patriots and McCarthy at No. 13 to the Las Vegas Raiders. Miller even had another quarterback high in the first round, projecting Bo Nix to go to the Denver Broncos at No. 12.

That’s right, there could be as many as five quarterbacks off the board when the Steelers select at No. 20. That’s good news for the Steelers, who are likely not considering using the 20th overall pick on a quarterback for the second time in three seasons.

The positions that the Steelers are likely considering with that pick — center, cornerback, offensive and defensive tackle — will instead see their players pushed down draft board.

Alabama cornerback Kool-Aid McKinstry, once considered a top-five prospect, now has seen his mock draft average fall just below the Steelers at No. 22. Georgia tackle Marius Mims, previously as high as No. 10, is now available for the Steelers more often than not, with a current ranking of No. 23.

Miller, speaking in a conference call on Tuesday, said that the quarterback fallout could be good for teams at the back half of the first round.

“You want as many quarterbacks as possible going ahead of you,” Miller said. “Vikings, Broncos, Raiders, Saints, 10-14, they could all take a quarterback, right?”

Pittsburgh Steelers 2024 NFL Draft Prospect Bo Nix

Oregon quarterback Bo Nix throws a touchdown pass in the 2024 Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala. on Feb. 3, 2024. — Alan Saunders / Steelers Now

The other part of the equation is that the fifth and six quarterback options in the class have been sliding down boards. Nix, once considered a top-15 type of prospect, has been hovering around the end of the first round since a rough performance in the week of practices in the Senior Bowl and just one drive in the game itself.

Michael Penix, the likely No. 6 quarterback option in the class, was getting mid-first round hype while the Washington Huskies were making their run in the College Football Playoff, but has seen his stock fall all the way out of the first round. His week at the Senior Bowl was even worse than Nix’s, with a even-worse practice week and then a no-show in the game itself.

The stock falling on those two options means that teams outside the top five won’t want to wait to get their hands on one, so the struggles of Nix and Penix at the Senior Bowl have likely contributed to the recent rises for Daniels and McCarthy.

The Steelers and some other teams drafting in the back half of the first round could be the big beneficiaries, with top tackles and cornerbacks falling deeper into the draft than they usually would.