Top 2024 NFL draft prospects to know not named Caleb Williams or Drake Maye
Remember, the Bears have the No. 9 pick in addition to the No. 1 pick
Just starting to do your NFL Draft research? Looking for the biggest names beyond Caleb Williams and Drake Maye? You’ve come to the right place.
For the past several months, Bears talk has been dominated by what the team should do with the No. 1 overall pick. Should they pick a new rookie QB or stick with Justin Fields? That’s undoubtedly the biggest decision the team will face this year– really, the next number of years. The Bears have another big decision with the No. 9 overall pick, too.
Here’s a list of some of the biggest names in the 2024 NFL draft class, beyond the top-two quarterbacks. This is not meant to be an exhaustive list, just a jumping off point for some of the top prospects who could come off the board early in the draft, at the most premium positions. This is also not a power ranking or anything like that. The players are listed in alphabetical order
JOE ALT – OFFENSIVE TACKLE – NOTRE DAME
Some consider Alt the most NFL-ready offensive tackle in the draft, and it’s easy to see why. He took over as the Fighting Irish starting left tackle partway through the 2021 season, and kept that job through the 2023 campaign. This past season he only surrendered five pressures per PFF, which was the second-best number among all tackles with at least 200 pass rush snaps.
KEON COLEMAN – WIDE RECEIVER – FSU
Coleman’s numbers don’t jump off the page with just 108 catches for 1,456 yards since 2022. But he found the endzone a bunch with 18 touchdowns over the past two years, and looks every bit the part of a legit NFL wide receiver. He’s got great size at 6’4”, 215 lbs., can evade defenders either with elusiveness or physicality, and is extremely versatile. According to PFF, Coleman lined up in the slot 30% of the time last season. If the Bears dare use Coleman on special teams, he was also effective as a punt returner, with 300 yards on 25 returns (12 yds/return average).
JAYDEN DANIELS – QUARTERBACK – LSU
The 2023 Heisman winner burst onto the scene this year due to his incredible season both throwing the football (72.2% completion rate, 3,812 yards, 40 touchdowns and four interceptions) and running (1,134 yards, 8.4 YPC, 10 TDs). But he was also incredibly reliable with the football. According to PFF, his 1.6% turnover-worthy play rate was tied for fourth-best among QBs with at least 200 dropbacks. Couple that with his 8.4% big time throw rate– which was third-best– and you’ve got a really solid prospect. Daniels is the only man who can say he was top-five in the nation in each category.
COOPER DEJEAN – CORNERBACK – IOWA
If you want to draft a Hawkeye this year, defense or special teams is the move. DeJean was great in both phases of the game. In coverage, he was particularly sticky, allowing just a 43.5% completion rate, 44 total YAC and a 37.8 passer rating when targeted, per PFF. He’s got good ballhawk skills with seven interceptions, including three pick-sixes, over the past two years. What the Bears will like best, though, is his willingness to tackle in the run game. DeJean is another punt return option with 31 returns for 406 yards and one touchdown dating back to 2022.
OLU FASHANU – OFFENSIVE TACKLE – PENN STATE
Fashanu entered the year as a top tackle to watch for good reason. Some draft experts say he’s the best pass-protecting lineman in the class, and the numbers back it up. According to PFF, Fashanu never gave up a sack in 1,347 snaps for the Nittany Lions at left tackle.
MARVIN HARRISON JR. – WIDE RECEIVER – OHIO STATE
The consensus No. 1 wide receiver in the draft is as blue chip of a prospect as blue chip gets. Harrison Jr. can do it all and beats defenses in a variety of ways. He’s great off the line, he’s a wonderful route runner and boasts phenomenal hands when catching the ball. Beyond the raw talent and technique, Harrison Jr. has also been lauded for his top-notch work ethic and supreme competitive drive. Over the past two seasons, Harrison Jr. caught 144 passes for 2,474 yards and 28 touchdowns. He won the Biletnikoff Award in 2023, which recognizes the best wide receiver in the nation and finished fourth in Heisman voting.
LAIATU LATU – EDGE – UCLA
Latu rushes from a two-point stance a lot, and the Bears like their edge rushers to use a three-point stance, but that little discrepancy shouldn’t matter. Scouts love how Latu uses exceptional technique to shed blocks, and note his quick play speed. Latu never quits on a play, which is a prerequisite for Eberflus’ program. In addition, Latu can kick inside to rush over the tackle or from the b-gap, and the Bears love that kind of versatility. Latu’s 26.2% win rate on pass rushes was No. 2 in the country among players with at least 100 pass rush snaps.
J.J. MCCARTHY – QUARTERBACK – MICHIGAN
Look up “winner” and you’ll find a picture of McCarthy. The Wolverines quarterback gets dinged for not having a big arm, and that’s what keeps him out of the conversation for the truly elite prospects in this class. But he oozes moxie and finds a way to make plays when needed. He led Michigan to a 27-1 record over the past two seasons as a starter, with the one loss coming in the 2022 college football playoff semifinal against TCU.
MALIK NABERS – WIDE RECEIVER – LSU
Nabers has the chance to be a top-five pick in the draft because he’s a big play waiting to happen, who’s also extremely versatile. According to PFF, Nabers split his time nearly evenly between snaps out wide and in the slot. No matter where he lined up, he was one of the most explosive deep threats in the nation. Nabers finished the year with a whopping 1,568 yards and 14 touchdowns. The 1,568 yards were second in the nation, and his 3.64 yards per route run was third.
JER’ZHAN NEWTON – DEFENSIVE TACKLE – ILLINOIS
The Bears loaded up at defensive tackle last year with Gervon Dexter and Zacch Pickens, but the best defensive lines in the NFL come at you in waves. If the team opts not to bring back Justin Jones, they’ll need to reload the position. Newton is a dynamic three-tech who can help plug up holes in the run game and creates pressure in the pass game. His eight sacks were tied for second among interior defensive linemen.
BO NIX – QUARTERBACK – OREGON
Nix is among the most experienced quarterbacks in the class, with five seasons as a starter under his belt. Nix began his career starting as a true freshman for Auburn in 2019, but never cemented himself as a stud QB. He transferred to Oregon in 2022, improved that season, then really took the next step in 2023. Nix’ 77.3% completion rate led the nation among all QBs with at least 200 dropbacks, and his 9.5 yards/attempt was tied for fifth.
ROME ODUNZE – WIDE RECEIVER- WASHINGTON
People don’t stay up late to watch the Pac-12, so Odunze flew under the radar for much of the year, but he’s another wide receiver who has a real shot to come off the board within the top 10 picks. He’s big, fast, reliable and one of the best deep threats in the nation. Few players can match his resume from 2023 among WRs with 100 targets: 1,639 yards (1st), 74 first downs (1st), 21 contested catches (1st), 75% contested catch rate (1st), 15.5 yard average depth of target (2nd), 13 TDs (t-4th), 3.2% drop rate (6th).
MICHAEL PENIX JR. – QUARTERBACK – WASHINGTON
Penix Jr.’s lengthy medical history may scare teams away come draft night: he suffered ACL tears in 2018 and 2020, and had his 2019 and 2021 seasons cut short by shoulder injuries. Much will be made of his dud against Michigan in the national championship game, too. But when he’s healthy Penix has a big arm and seems to push the ball downfield effortlessly. His 4,906 passing yards led the nation in 2023.
DALLAS TURNER – EDGE – ALABAMA
Turner hasn’t generated the same pre-draft hype as Will Anderson did the year before at Alabama, but he’s the consensus pick to be the first edge rusher off the board. Draft experts call him explosive off the ball, and it’s clear he’s not a one-trick pony. Watch five minutes of highlights and you’ll see Turner win both by running past blockers or running right through them. His relentless pursuit of the ball is noticeable too, and the Bears will love that.
JARED VERSE – EDGE – FSU
Verse entered the season as one of the hottest edge rusher prospects, but the buzz around him died down due to a slow start to the season (just two sacks over his first seven games). Verse really picked it up at the end of the year though to finish with 11 sacks, which ranked 11th among all edge rushers. Even though the production wasn’t consistent, Verse was one of the best at beating his man. His 21.8% pass rush win rate ranked seventh among edge rushers with at least 100 pass rush snaps.