Williams, Jayden Daniels, Drake Maye fuel QB takeover of Round 1

The first round of the draft Thursday night was dominated by quarterbacks with six going in the first round. That’s the most in any round of the common draft era (since 1967).

While Caleb Williams going No. 1 to the Chicago Bears was no surprise, there was some suspense about who would go second to the Washington Commanders.

Washington chose LSU’s Jayden Daniels while North Carolina’s Drake Maye went third to the New England Patriots.

Once the Atlanta Falcons took Michael Penix, Jr. at No. 8, it became the first time in the common draft era that four quarterbacks were selected in the first eight overall picks.

Recent history suggests those QBs will not be brought along gradually. Of the 23 quarterbacks drafted in the top five in the previous 15 years, 17 of them started in Week 1, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Nineteen of them started at least 10 games in their rookie seasons.

Here is a look at the quarterbacks who were picked in the first round, what their rookie projections are and which pro QB is the best comparison. This file will be updated throughout the night.

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Clay’s 2024 projections: 3,388 passing yards, 20 passing TDs, 13 interceptions, 269 rushing yards, 3 rushing TDs.

Intel: Williams’ elite improvisational talent, arm strength and ability to pick defenses apart from within the pocket set him apart from the rest of the 2024 class. He has the foot speed to evade pass-rushers in tight spaces and the strength to break tackles. His ability to extend plays, adjust his arm angle and make accurate off-platform throws puts great stress on defenses on each snap. Williams is also a patient pocket passer who gets through his progressions given time and space. He presses and tries to make too much happen on some plays but has rare playmaking instincts; he can get away with some questionable decisions. — Steve Muench

Fit: Williams’ skill set would allow him to be a great fit in any offense, but the Bears’ setup in particular stands out with offensive coordinator Shane Waldron’s love for the deep ball. Waldron will scheme up deep shots to DJ Moore, and Keenan Allen, Cole Kmet and Gerald Everett are all physical enough to beat man coverage on underneath routes for Williams. And if all else fails, Williams will be free to use his legs in the Chicago system; he scored 27 rushing touchdowns over the past three seasons. In short, the fit is superb. — Matt Miller

Rookie starter? Yes. Williams has effectively been QB1 in Chicago since the day Justin Fields was traded to Pittsburgh on March 18. The Bears need a quarterback whose play will elevate the players around him. The bar is low, but the Bears have never had a quarterback throw for 4,000 yards and/or 30 touchdowns in a season. Williams should be expected to reach those thresholds early in his NFL career while being tasked with putting the Bears on a playoff trajectory. — Courtney Cronin

Matt Miller’s pro comp: Aaron Rodgers

Key stat: He had 16 completions of at least 20 yards when on the move in 2023, the most in FBS, and his completion percentage on passes thrown 20+ yards was 53%, the third-best in FBS.


Clay’s 2024 projections: 3,447 passing yards, 15 passing touchdowns, 14 interceptions, 578 rushing yards, 5 rushing TDs

Intel: He gets the ball out quickly when he likes the pre-snap look. He gets through his progressions given time and flashes great anticipation throwing over the middle. His completion percentage has steadily improved over the past four seasons, and he’s accurate on tape. Daniels also extends plays, and he’s one of the most dangerous runners in the class regardless of position. He’s quick, has good contact balance and shows pull-away speed. — Steve Muench

Fit: The Commanders had 21 interceptions last season and traded Sam Howell to Seattle in March, leaving a big hole at QB. Daniels has the mobility, accuracy and decision-making to thrive in offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury’s scheme. His ability outside of structure will place less stress on a Washington offensive line that allowed 65 sacks last season, tied for the second-most in the NFL. And he’ll fit well with wide receivers Terry McLaurin and Jahan Dotson. — Jordan Reid

Rookie starter? Heck yes. The real question will be whether he starts from Day 1 or not, but considering Washington is not in a must-win year it can afford to start a rookie quarterback right away. The Commanders have a new owner, general manager and coach and have a long-term plan to turn around the organization. Washington signed Marcus Mariota as a backup in free agency, and general manager Adam Peters said they were fine with letting him start if a rookie wasn’t ready. But part of the appeal for Daniels is that his ability to escape pressure because of his speed and quickness allows him to make an impact earlier than most rookie quarterbacks. — John Keim

Matt Miller’s pro comp: Lamar Jackson

Key stat: He is the only player in FBS history with 12,000 career passing yards and 3,000 career rushing yards.


Clay’s 2024 projections: 3,361 yards, 16 passing touchdowns, 13 interceptions, 330 rushing yards, 2 rushing TDs

Intel: Maye extends plays, locates receivers late, adjusts his arm angle when necessary and makes impressive off-platform throws. He’s tough and willing to take a hit to make a play, and he routinely makes plays under duress. Maye can thread the needle and lead receivers to yards after the catch when his footwork is sound, and he throws with a strong base from within the pocket. He’s a threat to scramble for first downs, too, and pick up yards on designed quarterback runs. — Steve Muench

Fit: With Mac Jones traded, the Patriots had to find a quarterback to build around. We don’t know exactly what Alex Van Pelt’s offense will look like in New England, but the best-case scenario is that Maye sits behind veteran Jacoby Brissett for at least part of the 2024 season and keeps developing. Maye’s arm strength, pocket toughness, mobility and poise are all excellent traits that can fit into any NFL offense, and with deep threats like Kendrick Bourne and K.J. Osborn on the roster, his arm talent will shine in Foxboro Stadium. — Miller

Rookie starter? Not necessarily right away. The Patriots signed veteran Jacoby Brissett to a one-year deal in the offseason to provide leadership, mentorship, and a “bridge” option so any rookie wouldn’t be rushed onto the field. — Mike Reiss

Matt Miller’s pro comp: Justin Herbert

Key stat: His 9,076 total yards in the last two seasons were the second-most in the FBS.



Why Michael Penix Jr. is ready to prove the doubters wrong

Heisman Trophy runner-up Michael Penix Jr. is ready to give everything he’s got as he enters the 2024 NFL draft.


Clay’s 2024 projections: 451 passing yards, 4 passing touchdowns, 2 interceptions, 21 rushing yards, 0 rushing TDs (2 starts)

Intel: Penix Jr. is a left-handed quarterback with outstanding arm strength who led the nation in passing yards per game each of the past two seasons. He reads safeties and recognizes opportunities to attack downfield. He can manipulate the coverage with his eyes. Penix missed significant time with injuries earlier in his career, raising concerns about his long-term durability, but he played in every game over the past two seasons. — Steve Muench

Fit: Penix’s arm strength and deep-ball accuracy are among the best in this class. With an offense that is now led by Kirk Cousins, Penix is the succession plan in case Cousins doesn’t return to form after suffering a torn Achilles last season. Penix excelled on passes outside of the numbers as he finished with 2,295 yards, but struggled when forced to move off his spots. Penix won’t be forced to play right away and enters into a situation here he can sit and learn. — Jordan Reid

Rookie starter? One would imagine Cousins is locked into the starting quarterback role for the next three years. With that said, Cousins is 35 years old and is coming off a torn Achilles that ended his 2023 season in Minnesota. Perhaps there are concerns about his health, or maybe the Falcons just wanted a young quarterback to learn under the veteran for a few years, a la Jordan Love in Green Bay. However, Love is 25 years old now. Penix turns 24 in two weeks. — Marc Raimondi

Matt Miller’s pro comp: Tua Tagovailoa

Key stat: He led FBS with 4,903 passing yards in 2023, and he was second in FBS in 2022 with 4,641 passing yards. He is the first player with 4,500 passing yards in consecutive seasons since Patrick Mahomes in 2015-16 for Texas Tech.

Clay’s 2024 projections: 3,535 passing yards, 19 passing touchdowns, 13 interceptions, 197 rushing yards, 2 rushing TDs (14 starts)

Intel: McCarthy finished his college career with a 27-1 record as a starter. He can throw into tight windows against zone looks and complete passes against press-man coverage thanks to his anticipation, accuracy and arm strength. He keeps his eyes downfield and makes some impressive throws even when he knows he’s going to take a big hit. McCarthy also extends plays and throws well on the run. He has a good feel for when to scramble, and he’s a threat to run for first downs on designed quarterback rushes. — Steve Muench

Fit: McCarthy enters a near-perfect situation. With a wealth of playmakers in Justin Jefferson, Jordan Addison and T.J. Hockenson, McCarthy can have success early in his career. With his efficiency on third down (67% completion percentage) and off play-action (76%), he’s an ideal fit in coach Kevin O’Connell’s offense. Sam Darnold being on the roster also means McCarthy won’t be forced to play right away if Minnesota opts to let him develop a little more. — Jordan Reid

Rookie starter? The Vikings will put him into the best environment for success among any of the 2024 first-round quarterback class. He’ll sit behind Sam Darnold, at least initially, while coach Kevin O’Connell applies his considerable quarterback development skills. McCarthy will also be in good hands with new quarterbacks coach Josh McCown. And when he does get on the field, McCarthy will have a terrific array of skill players around him, from wide receivers Justin Jefferson and Jordan Addison to running back Aaron Jones and tight end T.J. Hockenson. — Kevin Seifert

Key stat: His 67.6% career completion percentage is the best in Michigan school history — with a minimum of 200 attempts — and his 72.3% completion percentage in 2023 was the sixth-best in the FBS and set a Michigan single-season record.

Clay’s 2024 projections: 3,076 passing yards, 16 passing touchdowns, 15 interceptions, 154 rushing yards, 1 rushing TD (14 starts)

Intel: He developed into a sound decision-maker over the course of his college career, and he threw just three interceptions in 2023. He gets the ball out quickly and is an effective point guard when he gets a clean pre-snap read. Nix can get through progressions and find the open man given time and space. He extends plays, finds receivers late and makes off-platform throws. And Nix is effective running designed rollouts; he’s a threat to scramble for first downs. — Steve Muench

Fit: With Jarrett Stidham and newly acquired Zach Wilson as the top quarterbacks on the Broncos’ roster, Nix enters into a situation where he could find early snaps. With 61 career starts during his college career — the most in FBS history — Nix will mesh well into coach Sean Payton’s offense. Oregon’s offense was predominantly run-pass option and there will be an adjustment period for him as he enters into a tough AFC West. — Jordan Reid

Rookie starter? It will be intriguing to see what kind of timeline Sean Payton has in mind for Nix. In his long run in New Orleans, Payton never had a rookie quarterback on the roster selected higher than the third round and never had a rookie quarterback who was realistically expected to play any time soon given Drew Brees’ long run behind center. –– Jeff Legwold

Matt Miller’s pro comp: Dak Prescott

Key stat: Nix broke the NCAA single-season record for completion percentage (77.4%) and led the FBS in total touchdowns (45 passing TDs, six rushing TDs) in 2023.

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