Gold: The 2024 NFL Draft could look very different for the Pac-12
Just 2 days from an NFL Draft that is shaping up to be less-than-memorable for the Pac-12, forgive us if we can’t help but look ahead a year.
Because the 2024 NFL Draft could go down as one of the best in Pac-12 history.
For the 3rd time in 13 years, a conference quarterback is slated to go No. 1 overall, potentially joining Cal’s Jared Goff (2016) and Stanford’s Andrew Luck (2012). But next year’s draft is about more than just USC quarterback Caleb Williams.
No fewer than 11 Pac-12 prospects already are projected to go in the 1st and 2nd rounds, as Williams could be joined by a host of Huskies and Ducks and maybe even a teammate or two.
Will it rival 2015, when Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota (2) and USC defensive end Leonard Williams went (6) went in the top 10, joined in the 1st round by Washington’s Danny Shelton (12), Stanford’s Andrus Peat (13), Oregon’s Arik Armstead (17), Washington’s Marcus Peters (18), USC’s Nelson Agholor (20), Washington’s Shaq Thompson (25) and Arizona State’s Damarious Randall (30)? Another 7 Pac-12 players went in the 2nd round that year, to top it off.
Will it rival 2016, when Goff went No. 1 but Oregon’s DeForest Buckner (7), UCLA’s Kenny Clark (27) and Stanford’s Joshua Garnett (28) also were drafted in the 1st round?
Here are 5 reasons next year will be the best NFL Draft in nearly a decade:
Caleb Williams has company at the top
The Pac-12 has had 2 quarterbacks drafted in the 1st round just once in the past dozen years: In 2018, USC’s Sam Darnold (3rd) and UCLA’s Josh Rosen (10th) both went in the top 10.
Could the league boast 3 in 2024?
While it does not end with Williams, it certainly starts with him. He will enter the 2023 campaign locking horns with North Carolina quarterback Drake Maye for pole position for the No. 1 pick. Coming off a Heisman Trophy, anything short of a repeat could be seen as a letdown, a la Bryce Young, but Young had a fantastic encore, and even without more hardware, Williams should have one, too.
Just Williams alone would be enough cause for celebration, but Washington’s Michael Penix Jr. and Oregon’s Bo Nix could crash the party, too.
As it stands, several way-too-early 2024 mock drafts have both of the PNW passers going in the top 20, with Penix going around pick 15 in most drafts and Nix going around pick 20.
"Caleb Williams would be the No. 1 overall draft pick and Michael Penix Jr. would be the No. 2 overall pick if they were in this year's draft."
Full interview: https://t.co/F64L5k0Wou pic.twitter.com/Q8cCJymYaq
— Dan Patrick Show (@dpshow) April 25, 2023
Huskies could have their heyday
With a trio of the top wide receivers in the Pac-12, several impact defenders returning for extra seasoning and a realistic shot at a College Football Playoff berth and Penix back in the saddle once again, NFL scouts will be raining down in Seattle.
Coming off a season in which he led the nation in passing yardage per game and with another season under Kalen DeBoer and offensive coordinator Ryan Grubb, Penix could easily vault himself into the top 10 with a big showing this year. Putting together back-to-back monster seasons would prove last year was no fluke.
It helps that he has targets like Rome Odunze and Jalen McMillan to choose from. Both are projected in the top 2 rounds, with Odunze vying to slot in behind the draft’s top wide receiver, Ohio State’s Marvin Harrison Jr.
And then there’s the budding Washington defense, helmed by defensive lineman Bralen Trice and linebacker Zion Tupuola-Fetui, who could also go anywhere from the mid-to-late 1st round.
One of my early favorites in the 2024 NFL Draft at WR is Washington’s Rome Odunze.
Can’t have enough complete three-level WRs. This guy is that. Size, catching instincts, RAC ability, and he can use his smooth athleticism on double-moves like this.
— Ian Cummings (@IC_Draft) April 23, 2023
Ducks fly together, as well
Like Washington, Oregon also is loaded throughout its roster.
All eyes are on Nix, who like Penix, needs to prove that 2022 was not an aberration. And he needs to prove he can succeed under an offensive coordinator not named Kenny Dillingham. If he does — and if he again proves he’s a dual-threat with the chance to pass for 3,500 yards and score 40 total touchdowns — a top-15 pick is a possibility.
He could be joined early by a cast that includes wide receiver Troy Franklin, defensive lineman Brandon Dorlus, as well as potential 2nd round picks in edge Jordan Burch and linebacker Jestin Jacobs.
If Dan Lanning can recapture magic of a phenomenal first season, the Ducks could be headed for something special come next April.
Here’s an NFL Draft day video clip for Brandon Dorlus. Played perfectly by him and terribly by BYU OL against him. pic.twitter.com/GpF0touUjG
— James Crepea (@JamesCrepea) September 19, 2022
Trojan army needs some work
Assuming all is well with Williams and USC gets another big year out of budding defensive back Calen Bullock, the Trojans seem to be a lock for 2 1st-rounders.
But if Lincoln Riley and the squad run it back in Year 2 with similar success, a handful of other Trojans could play their way into the conversation.
As it stands, wide receivers Dorian Singer and Mario Williams, defensive end Korey Foreman and linebacker Eric Gentry are all generating some 2nd-round buzz, but that assumes huge things out of all four.
Arizona sophomore WR Dorian Singer is one to watch for the 2024 NFL Draft.
6-1, 185 lbs, he's a lethal deep threat with great speed, ball skills and YAC ability. He's a big-time field stretcher.pic.twitter.com/2dMnZeFtK6
— Luca Sartirana (@SartiranaLuca) November 25, 2022
Good things come in 2s (and 3s)
Washington State’s Cam Ward and Jaden Hicks, UCLA’s Carson Steele and Laiatu Latu and Utah’s Cole Bishop, Cam Rising and Brant Kuithe enter the year with the potential for great things — and big paydays.
Arizona boasts Jacob Cowing and Jordan Morgan and even Colorado’s Shedeur Sanders and Seydou Traore could get in on the mix.
This THROW by Shedeur Sanders 😳
The Colorado QB will be eligible for the 2024 NFL Draft. pic.twitter.com/hgW1evZpRv
— NFL Rookie Watch (@NFLRookieWatxh) January 16, 2023