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2024 NFL Draft: Five biggest surprises of the first round, including QB records broken and defenders ignored

The first round of the 2024 NFL Draft has come and gone, and boy, was it sure entertaining. As predicted, all of our mock drafts were torn to shreds, as players went much higher than anticipated, while others fell further than we thought they would. NFL teams also forgot there were defensive players available, as the first defender was selected at No. 15 overall!

We saw a record-tying amount of quarterbacks taken in the first round, with all six coming in the first 12, and just nine offensive linemen go despite the NFL world anticipating double-digit trench titans being selected. There’s plenty to jump into, so without further ado, here are the five biggest surprises of the first round.

5. The cornerback fall

If you care about mock drafts, most had the first cornerback going somewhere around No. 13 overall. The first corner went No. 22 overall on Thursday. It wasn’t a big night for defensive players at large, we will get into that in a second, but a couple of teams got some absolute STEALS with these cornerbacks.

I’m not sure how the Philadelphia Eagles are always gifted these studs, but Quinyon Mitchell should be an immediate starter. He shook off “MAC conference questions” at the Senior Bowl by dominating, and recorded the most passes defensed in the FBS over the past two seasons with 37. The Eagles needed to boost the secondary, and they did just that by taking arguably the best cornerback in the draft.

If Mitchell isn’t the best cornerback in the draft, it’s probably Alabama’s Terrion Arnold — who went two picks later at No. 24 overall to the Detroit Lions after a trade up. Detroit was another NFC contender that needed to add in the secondary, especially after the Cam Sutton incident, and Arnold was responsible for the most incomplete targets among SEC players last season with 43. He figures to start right away, too.

These two players could have gone higher in the first round, and two great teams benefitted from their falls.

4. Ricky Pearsall

The Florida Gator was a draft crush of many, but who saw him going in the first round? He was selected by the San Francisco 49ers at No. 31 overall, after catching 65 passes for 965 yards and four touchdowns in 2023. Maybe he didn’t go off for 1,500+ yards in 2023 like Malik Nabers, but there’s no doubt he’s talented. What did “trade-block resident” Brandon Aiyuk think of the pick? Apparently his words were, “Fire pick, no lie.”  

Every weapon will have fun in San Francisco, but not many saw Pearsall sneaking into the top 32.

3. ChiefsBills trade for Xavier Worthy

The Chiefs and Bills have an epic rivalry in the AFC, which is why it was puzzling when Buffalo allowed Kansas City to move up to No. 28 overall to select a player it was clearly high on. Who was that player? Just the kid that broke the 40-yard dash record at the NFL Combine this year.

There are some concerns with Worthy being so thin, but he’s a burner Andy Reid can utilize probably better than anyone else. This is a two-time First Team All-Big 12 player who also led the conference in receiving yards and receiving touchdowns during his collegiate career. Congratulations, Patrick Mahomes. And Buffalo better hope he doesn’t score the game-winning touchdown when these two teams meet next.

2. Defensive players ignored

We knew there was a chance this draft could match or even break the record when it came to the latest a defensive player was selected (formerly No. 8 overall), but did you imagine FOURTEEN offensive players coming off the board to start the draft? Just nine defensive players were selected on Thursday night.

1. Michael Penix Jr. and the rest of the QBs

There’s no doubt about it, the most shocking moment of the first round was when the Atlanta Falcons selected Michael Penix Jr. No. 8 overall. Yes, the Falcons gave Kirk Cousins a four-year deal worth $180 million in free agency, but everyone lauds the “Packers method” until it’s actually utilized, right? It’s fair to question how many seasons a soon-to-be 36-year-old quarterback coming off a torn Achilles has left, but the most shocking part about this pick was that it came at No. 8 overall. The Falcons could have traded down a bit, right? Well, according to James Palmer, the Seattle Seahawks, New Orleans Saints and Las Vegas Raiders all attempted to get into the top 10 for Penix. The Falcons had plenty of other needs to address inside the top 10, but they went quarterback. We’ll see how it plays out. 

Penix wasn’t the only quarterback surprise. Michigan’s J.J. McCarthy fell to the Minnesota Vikings at No. 10, even though he was consistently mocked inside the top five, and then Bo Nix went No. 12 to the Denver Broncos despite being regarded as a borderline Day 1 pick. 

Quarterbacks were flying off the board, and actually broke draft records. Four quarterbacks went inside the top eight picks for the first time ever, and five quarterbacks inside the top 10 for the first time. That seems like good news for Spencer Rattler and Michael Pratt.

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