NFL Draft Notebook: Several standout defensive players left on Day 2 of the 2024 NFL Draft

A look at the top 5 players headline Day 2 of the 2024 NFL Draft.
 Jer'Zhan Newton
Jer'Zhan Newton / David Berding/GettyImages

The first round of the 2024 NFL Draft is now in the books, and quarterbacks headlined it. For the first time in NFL history, we saw six quarterbacks taken in the top 12 selections. Another headline of the night was that we didn’t see a defensive player taken until the 15th pick. While the offense side of the ball saw the most amount of players selected, there is plenty of defensive talent on the board going into the second round.

In this week’s NFL Draft Notebook, we look at the top five players still on the board going into the second round. We also review some of the more interesting picks of the first round and much more.

Top five players still on the board

1. Jer'Zhan Newton, DT, Illinois

The top player left on my board is Illinois defensive tackle Jer’Zhan Newton who is rated as my 16th best player. The reason I am so high on Newton is his ability to get to the passer and overall athletic ability. Last season, he accounted for 7.5 sacks and tied for the national lead in QB pressures among interior defenders during the regular season with 43 according to Pro Football Focus.

2. Kool-Aid McKinstry, CB, Alabama

Alabama’s Kool-Aid McKinstry was my highest-rated cornerback in the 2024 NFL Draft, due to his outstanding play on the field. During his time with the Crimson Tide, he rarely saw opposing quarterbacks throw his way and when he did he made them pay only allowing a 32% completion percentage and breaking up seven passes.

3. Cooper DeJean, CB, Iowa

Teams in need of defensive backs have to love how the board looks going into the second day of the draft. Iowa’s Cooper DeJean is a versatile player who could play either safety or cornerback in the NFL. In addition to being a ball hawk in the secondary, he is also an outstanding return man and was named the 2023 Rodgers-Dwight Big Ten Return Specialist of the Year.

4. Jackson Powers-Johnson, Oregon

The only offensive player to make this list is Oregon’s Jackson Powers-Johnson. Powers-Johnson was only a one year starter for the Ducks but in that season he proved he was one of the best centers in college football having won the Rimington Trophy. As a pro prospect, he is a physical blocker who has the versatility to play in either a zone or gap-blocking scheme.

5. Edgerrin Cooper, Texas A&M

Yet another defensive prospect to make the list and the only one I have a second-round grade on is Texas A&M linebacker Edgerrin Cooper. Cooper is coming off a breakout season that saw him lead the SEC in tackles for loss with 17 stops behind the line of scrimmage and also accounted for eight sacks after only having half a sack going into the year.

NFL Draft news and notes

No surprise: The number one pick in the 2024 NFL Draft was the Chicago Bears selection of Caleb Williams which surprised no one. He is also set up to have a great rookie season for the Bears. To start with he has plenty of targets to throw to in D.J. Moore, Keenan Allen, and Rome Odunze. He also plays for a head coach in Matt Eberflus who loves to run the ball, as Chicago finished second in the NFL last season in rushing attempts per game. I would not be the least bit surprised if Williams becomes this year’s Rookie of the Year, and lead the Chicago Bears to the playoffs for the first time since 2020.

Best Pick: The best value pick of the first round is when the Miami Dolphins took Penn State defensive end Chop Robinson with the 21st overall selection. I had Robinson rated as my top defensive end and 12th-best player overall in the 2024 NFL Draft. What stands out about Robinson is his explosiveness off the edge which helped him create 27 pressures and finish with a 92.4 pass rush grade according to Pro Football Focus. He has the raw tools and with more polished pass rushing moves to develop into an eight to ten sacks a year guy.

Worst Pick: Easily the worst pick of the first round is when the Atlanta Falcons reached for Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr. with the eighth overall pick. This was a poor choice for several reasons with the first one being that he was rated as the 51st best player on my board, and was taken over Michigan’s J.J. McCarthy. The second reason is that they just signed Kirk Cousins to a four-year contract, which will likely make Penix a backup for at least the next two seasons. Another reason why I don't like this move is that the Falcons desperately needed help on the defensive side of the ball.

Quarterbacks being overvalued: One thing certain about the 2024 NFL Draft is teams reached big time for quarterbacks. While Michael Penix Jr. was the biggest reach of the first round, J.J. McCarthy and Bo Nix were also drafted way too high for my liking. I had McCarthy rated as my 27th-best player, while Nix came in at 31. I would expect at least two of the six teams that took a quarterback in the top 12 to move on from these selections in the next three years.

Biggest riser: The biggest riser from the start of the season to the draft day is LSU’s Jayden Daniels who went from a fifth round grade to the number two pick overall. One of the biggest reasons for this is he became a much more dangerous down the field passer posting a 99.6 QBR on vertical routes this season, after having just a 8.2-yard average depth of target in 2022 which ranked 118th among FBS quarterbacks. In addition to improving in this area, he also led the nation in total offense (412.2), passing TDs (40), TDs responsible for (50), passer rating (208.0), yards per pass attempt (11.7), rushing yards by a quarterback (1,134), and yards per play (10.71).

NFL Draft stats of the week

6: The number of quarterbacks we saw taken in the top twelve, which is an NFL record.

15: The first defensive player had to wait until pick 15 to go off the board, which is another NFL record.

4: The Detroit Lions have drafted four Pro Bowlers in the first round over the last five drafts, which leads the NFL.

9: The number of first round offensive lineman Nick Saban has produced. In that same period no other team has more than 5.

23: Of the 32 picks in the 2024 NFL Draft, 23 were offensive players.

270,000: Over 270,000 fans attended the first night of the NFL Draft

723: NFL Draft Notebook has 723 players on their 2025 NFL Draft board, which we will be releasing by position over the next month.