One of the most prominent breakthrough players in college football last season was Oregon quarterback Bo Nix. In this week’s NFL Draft Notebook, we look at why Nix should be the third quarterback taken in the 2024 NFL and is worth a first-round draft pick.
In addition to giving our scouting report on Nix this week’s article discusses some of the top rookie performances in week two of preseason action. We also highlight the 2024 NFL Draft cornerback class which is led by Alabama’s Kool-Aid McKinstry, and much more.
Bo Nix Scouting Report
Going into the 2023 season NFL Draft Notebook predicted it would be a breakout season for Bo Nix, and to say the least he lived up to those expectations. He finished the year by setting an Oregon school record with a 71.9 completion percentage and also threw for 3,593 yards and 29 touchdowns. If that were not enough he was also one of the most dangerous quarterbacks in the run game rushing for 510 yards and 14 touchdowns.
This combination was enough for Nix to be the only FBS player with at least this many passing touchdowns and rushing touchdowns on the season.
This was quite the improvement for Nix who started his career off at Auburn. During his time with the Tigers, he had some positive moments including being named the SEC’s 2019 Freshman of the Year. However, he also had plenty of disappointing times like when as a sophomore he saw his touchdown total drop by four while also throwing more interceptions than he did as a freshman. He was also benched for T.J. Finley during the 2021 season.
After having back-to-back disappointing years with the Tigers he decided to transfer to Oregon, where he quickly became one of the best quarterbacks in the Pac-12. Some of his best games of the season included accounting for six touchdowns and throwing for 412 yards against California. He followed that game up by defeating previously unbeaten UCLA while throwing for five touchdowns.
Another impressive performance he had was in a shootout win against Washington State when he threw for 428 yards and also picked up 30 yards on the ground.
When evaluating how Nix’s game translates to the NFL the biggest positive with him is how he can make plays when things break down. In this area, he does a terrific job of moving in the pocket and keeping his eyes downfield. He also displays the ability to throw while off platform and with a variety of different arm angles.
This trait was one of the biggest reasons why he was such a playmaker at Oregon last year and a skill that NFL evaluators will love.
Another positive that comes through when watching Bo Nix is his quick release. This ability to get rid of the ball quickly is one of the reasons he was sacked only five times last year, and is a highly proficient passer in the short passing game.
One more plus with his game is his ability to take off and pick up yards with his feet. He will likely be one of the fastest quarterbacks at this year’s NFL Combine and this speed should make him a threat in the quarterback run game.
An area Bo Nix will need to work on this year is his footwork. At times last season, he got too wide of a base in the pocket which hurt his accuracy. He also had happy feet occasionally which made him throw off balance, and miss open receivers.
Going into the 2023 season, I give Nix a first-round grade due to his playmaking ability and impressive accuracy when he shows good footwork. If he can have another strong season this year and performs well at an All-Star game like the Senior Bowl he could possibly be a top 15 pick next April.
Top Ten Rookie Performances of Preseason Week Two
1. Nick Herbig, OLB, Pittsburgh Steelers: The selection of Nick Herbig to last year’s All-Underrated defense is looking better by the week. Last week, he was named the third most impressive rookie and this week he comes in at number one. The reason he ranks so high again this week is the explosion and bend he showed as a pass rusher getting to the quarterback twice with one resulting in a strip sack and another resulting in a pass deflection.
2. Aidan O’Connell, QB, Las Vegas Raiders: Last week’s top performing rookie was Las Vegas quarterback Aidan O’Connell and he had another strong performance against the Rams this week. In this game, he completed 11 of 18 passes for 163 yards and two touchdowns.
3. Will Anderson, DE, Houston Texans: This past weekend I made my first football road trip of the year to see the Houston Texans take on the Miami Dolphins, and one 2023 NFL Draft pick who didn’t disappoint is Will Anderson.
Anderson showed an outstanding burst off the ball and the playmaking ability that made him the number three overall pick. For his strong effort, he received a 93.9 grade from Pro Football which was the highest grade any rookie received.
4. Tank Bigsby, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars: Another prospect who made the All-Underrated team last year and had a big week this week was Jacksonville running back Tank Bigsby. Bigsby rushed for 70 yards against the Lions which is the most rushing yards a Jaguars has rushed for since the 2019 preseason.
5. Tyson Bagent, QB, Chicago Bears: The Bears may have found a gem in undrafted free agent Tyson Bagent. Baget showed all the traits needed to make it in the NFL against the Colts, including the athletic ability to create plays when things break down, accuracy, and overall poise. If Bagent can have another impressive outing next week he could go into the season as Chicago’s backup quarterback.
6. Tanner McKee, QB, Philadelphia Eagles: Through two weeks of preseason action, Tanner McKee has looked like the Eagles’ second-best quarterback behind Jalen Hurts. In his latest game against the Cleveland Browns, he went 10 for 18 for 147 yards and one touchdown. While his 100.9 QB rating in week two was impressive he would have had even better stats if not for the five passes including one touchdown pass his receivers dropped.
7. Ronnie Bell, WR, San Fransico 49ers: One of the better-receiving performances in preseason action was put on by 49ers wide receiver Ronnie Bell. On the day he caught seven passes for 114 yards and showed he is a threat to pickup yards after the catch. His biggest catch of the day came in the 4th quarter when he picked up 43 yards and set up Jake Moddy for a game-winning field goal.
8. Malik Heath, WR, Green Bay Packers: A player who has come out of nowhere to someone who will likely make the Packers is former Ole Miss wide receiver, Malik Heath. In his latest game against the Patriots, he caught five passes for 75 yards, with his longest reception going for 25 yards. In addition to catching every pass thrown his way, he also showed outstanding effort as a blocker and on special teams.
9. Davis Allen, TE, Los Angeles Rams: Los Angeles Rams tight end Davis Allen had a great debut with the Rams after missing all of training camp with a hamstring injury. Against the Raiders, he caught eight passes for 53 yards, and also impressed as a blocker.
10. Bijan Robinson, RB, Atlanta Falcons: Atlanta running back Bijan Robinso showed why he was NFL Draft Notebook’s top prospect in just the one series he saw on Friday night. During that drive, he touched the ball a total of five times and averaged 5 yards per carry on four rushes. His most impressive run of the night was his first carry where he showed both the ability to make defenders to miss in the open field and the strength to run through tackles.
2024 NFL Draft Cornerback Class Preview
Top Player: Kool-Aid McKinstry, Alabama
Kool-Aid McKinstry might be the most fundamentally sound player in the 2024 NFL Draft. He plays with outstanding footwork and has the ability to mirror any receiver he faces. He also excels at press coverage and shows good timing with his punch.
One more area he is sound at is getting out of his breaks since he has not wasted steps which helped him breakup 15 passes last year.
Guy I Would Stand on the Table for: Cooper DeJean, Iowa
One of the most physical corners in this year’s NFL Draft class is Cooper DeJean of Iowa. DeJean is not afraid to challenge wide receivers at the line of scrimmage and also shows the strength to power through wide receivers at this catch point. He also is a force against the run due to his overall strength and he has even played some outside linebacker at Iowa.
However, the most impressive thing about him is his ball skills. Last season, he picked off five passes and returned three of them for touchdowns.
Overrated: Tony Grimes, Texas A&M
Tony Grimes has not lived up to expectations since enrolling at North Carolina as a five-star recruit. During his time in Chapel Hill, he only picked off one pass, and his lack of aggression as a tackler is alarming. He will hope to perform better at his new home in College Station, but so far he has yet to shine for the Aggies and has even been getting some third-team reps.
Sleeper: M.J. Devonshire, Pittsburgh
My top sleeper in the 2024 NFL Draft on the defensive side of the ball going into the season is Pittsburgh cornerback M.J. Devonshire, who carries a third-round draft grade on my board despite most draftniks giving him an undrafted free agent grade.
The number one reason I am so high on him is his impressive speed. He shows elite quickness when breaking on the ball and has the speed to stick with any receiver in the deep passing game. Another reason why I like his game so much is his impressive agility. He shows the fluid hips to easily open up in his drop and also displays good change of direction. One more positive with him is his ability to return punts.
Last year, he led the ACC with a 9.7 punt return average, and in high school, he took back eight kick returns for touchdowns which is one short of the national record.
Biggest Risk: Caelen Carson, Wake Forest
Caelen Carson is being viewed as a first-round pick by some people, but in order to achieve that high of a draft selection he is going to need to stay healthy.
Last season, he was only able to play in eight games due to a leg injury. He also missed significant time in 2021 due to injury. In addition to his injury concerns, he will also need to improve as a tackler, since he whiffs on too many tackles.
Breakout Player: Marcellas Dial, South Carolina
After being South Carolina’s third-best cornerback last year behind 2023 second-round pick Cam Smith and fifth-round selection Darius Rush, Marcellas Dial will be the Gamecocks’ top corner this year. What sticks out with Dials is his aggressive style of play which helped him break up a team-high 12 passes last year.
Please note in parentheses is the NFL Draft grade I give them
1. Kool-Aid McKinstry, Alabama (first round)
2. Kalen King, Penn State (first round)
3. Cooper DeJean, Iowa (first round)
4. Jason Marshall Jr., Florida (second round)
5. Kamari Lassiter, Georgia (second round)
6. Denzel Burke, Ohio State (second round)
7. Nate Wiggins, Clemson (third round)
8. M.J. Devonshire, Pittsburgh (third round)
9. Max Melton, Rutgers (third round)
10. T.J. Tampa, Iowa State (fourth round)
11. Caelen Carson, Wake Forest (fourth round)
12. Cam Hart, Notre Dame (fourth round)
13. Mike Sainristil, Michigan (fourth round)
14. D.J. James, Auburn (fourth round)
15. Nehemiah Pritchett, Auburn (fourth round)
16. Dwight McGlothern, Arkansas (fifth round)
17. Kris Abrams-Draine, Missouri (fifth round)
18. Quinyon Mitchell, Toledo (fifth round)
19. Marcellas Dial, South Carolina (fifth round)
20. Tony Grimes, Texas A&M (fifth round)
21. Jahdae Barron, Texas (sixth round)
22. Aydan White, North Carolina State (sixth round)
23. Storm Duck, Louisville (sixth round)
24. Decorian Patterson, UCF (sixth round)
25. Ja’Quan Sheppard, Maryland (sixth round)
26. Jordan Hancock, Ohio State (seventh round)
27. Tyreek Chappell, Texas A&M (seventh round)
28. Josh Newton, TCU (seventh round)
29. Cobee Bryant, Kansas (seventh round)
30. Micah Abraham, Marshall (seventh round)
NFL Draft Scouting Notes
— Look for Missouri’s Kris Abrams-Draine to get plenty of looks as a slot corner by NFL teams. The main reason for this is he is a quick explosive athlete who does a great job of changing directions. He is also a physical corner who does a good job of playing through the ball, which helped him break up 14 passes last season. He also smaller corner coming in at only 5-foot-11 and 179 pounds which could cause him problems against bigger outside receivers in the NFL.
— Last season Decorian Patterson led the nation in interceptions with 7 and totaled 18 passes defended. However, despite this impressive production he only carries a day three draft grade in the 2024 NFL Draft. The main reason for this is he is not an elite athlete and lacks the explosion to have a high NFL upside. On the positive side, he does show great awareness and good ball skills overall.
— Three things stand out with Arkansas cornerback Dwight McGlothern which are his size, his ball skills, and his understanding of the game. At 6-foot-2 and 190 pounds he is a bigger corner who is not afraid to challenge receivers. This physicality and his overall ball skills helped him finish second in the SEC with four picks last year. He also has a great understanding of the game and can pick up on even the smallest offensive tendencies.
— A day three pick who carried a day two grade on my board who has looked impressive is Chicago Bears linebacker Noah Sewell. Sewell has seen plenty of first-team reps with both Tremaine Edmunds and Jack Sanborn missing time. He has held up well in this role and is currently pushing for a full-time starting job with the Bears. The thing that has impressed coaches that should not come as a surprise is his ability to find the ball. This should be expected because he excelled in this area in college as well finishing his Oregon career with 215 tackles.
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— Speaking of players I was higher on than the NFL was, who have impressed, Los Angeles Rams outside linebacker Byron Young fits this bill. Young who was named to the All-Underrated Defense last year, showed impressive speed and overall pass rushing ability. These traits have also shown up with the Rams, especially in practices against the Las Vegas Raiders. He is currently fighting for a job on Los Angeles first-team defense and if he wins this spot he could easily get four or five sacks this year.
— One more 2023 NFL Draft pick who has impressed over the past two weeks is Cincinnati wide receiver Andrei Losivas. Over the team’s first two games, he has been targeted 20 times and has led the team in receiving yards in both contests. One of the most impressive traits he has displayed is the ability to wall off defenders and make the tough catch in traffic. Look for Losivas to see time in four wide receiver packages this year.
— For all the latest NFL Draft news make sure to check out The Notebook.
Quotes of the Week
"“That’s a loaded question. My whole life, I wanted to play football at Auburn. I got to accomplish my dream and do a lot of really fun things around some great people. I met my wife at Auburn and got my diploma from there. One of my ultimate goals was to play football at Auburn and beat Alabama. I did that. That’s what I’ll remember. We had some fun seasons and some not-so-fun ones. That’s what made me into who I am today.”"
Oregon quarterback Bo Nix on what he will remember about his Auburn career via Pro Football Focus
"“He’s the mutant of all mutants. He just keeps going and going. He’s No. 1 in our KPIs (Key Performance Indicators). He’s over 300. He’s the poster child for enthusiasm unknown to mankind. Watch him become a top-10 pick.”"
Michigan Coach Jim Harbaugh on defensive tackle Kris Jenkins via The Athletic
"“He’s doing well. He’s strong, he’s got good ball skills. He’s very instinctive, I just like the way he knows where the ball is. He can read fast, and I think that’s good competition.”"
Chicago Bears Head Coach Matt Eberflus on linebacker Noah Sewell via USA Today
"“I thought he handled it really well. He operated fast. It certainly didn’t look too big for him.”"
Falcons Head Coach Arthur Smith on running back Bijan Robinson
"“His acceleration is incredibly fluid and super powerful. He’s the best athlete I’ve seen in person, pound for pound.”"
NFL combine trainer Jordan Luallen on Iowa cornerback Cooper DeJean via The Athletic
"“He’s elite. There’s a reason he was drafted as high as he was. He’s going to be a great player in this league for a really long time.”"
Seattle quarterback Holton Ahlers on wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba
"“Everybody talks about leadership all the time, but I think it’s also important: how many guys on the team need to be led? If you’ve got a bunch of guys that are mature and going about things the right way, they’re all setting a good example, buying in and doing the things that they need to do, they don’t really necessarily have to have somebody impact them everyday to do the right things. The more guys that we have fit in that category, that’s more important than the guys that are the leaders on the team.”"
Alabama Head Coach Nick Saban