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Forecasting QB competitions after 2024 NFL Draft: Broncos, Patriots poised to open with rookie signal-callers

With the 2024 NFL Draft in the rear view, pretty much every quarterback situation is set. At least until summer. More than a half-dozen NFL teams are poised to hold open competitions at the position in the coming months, and all but a few of them register as legitimate battles. That means close to 20% of this year’s Week 1 starters could be up for grabs, raising the stakes of training camps around the league.

Here’s an early overview of all the competitions, plus our early forecast of eventual starters:

Denver Broncos

Bo Nix vs. Jarrett Stidham vs. Zach Wilson

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The Broncos have done nothing but tout Nix’s experience since spending the No. 12 overall pick on the Oregon product; if you listen to coach Sean Payton and general manager George Paton, you’d believe the 24-year-old rookie is, in fact, the most NFL-ready signal-caller of his class. Which is to say, this feels like Nix’s job to lose. Wilson also has the first-round pedigree with zippy athleticism, but he registers as more of a boom-or-bust Plan B project. Payton surely wants control and consistency within the system, and that’s what Nix is built to offer.

Projected Week 1 starter: Bo Nix

Las Vegas Raiders

Aidan O’Connell vs. Gardner Minshew

NFL: Preseason-San Francisco 49ers at Las Vegas Raiders

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The one quarterback-needy team that didn’t address the position in the draft, the Raiders have vowed to give O’Connell a chance to hold the job after the 2023 fourth-rounder fared reasonably well amid in-season regime change as a rookie. But other factors point to Minshew eventually securing an edge: He’s got more experience and mobility, noted journeyman moxie and he secured spot-starter money to leave the Indianapolis Colts in free agency. With veterans like Davante Adams in tow, winning sooner rather than later may be the priority.

Projected Week 1 starter: Gardner Minshew

Minnesota Vikings

J.J. McCarthy vs. Sam Darnold

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The Vikings moved quickly to sign Darnold, the former New York Jets prospect, after seven-year starter Kirk Cousins left in free agency. But McCarthy is the future, bringing heralded poise and play-action prowess as the No. 10 overall pick. Could he be a seamless fit in Kevin O’Connell’s loaded offense? Sure. At 21, though, he’s got a long runway, whereas Darnold — who’s still got a splashy arm — has starting experience. Odds are McCarthy will take over at some point in 2024, but Minnesota could opt to give Justin Jefferson and Co. a “safer” start.

Projected Week 1 starter: Sam Darnold

New England Patriots

Drake Maye vs. Jacoby Brissett

NFL: New England Patriots-Drake Maye Press Conference

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Many analysts have suggested Maye, the No. 3 overall pick, could use time to watch and learn and refine pocket fundamentals before shouldering the Patriots offense. But new coach Jerod Mayo has already hinted at a shift in philosophy from the Bill Belichick era by touting the Patriots’ conviction for taking Maye so high, admitting “our legacy will be defined by” the young gunslinger. Brissett is seasoned and serviceable with experience under new coordinator Alex Van Pelt, but Maye’s natural tools could prove too tantalizing to pass up, elevating their upside.

Projected Week 1 starter: Drake Maye

New York Giants

Daniel Jones vs. Drew Lock

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All indications are the Giants won’t advertise this as an actual competition, perhaps in large part because Jones still has three years left on a $160 million extension. But they reportedly sought a trade up in the draft for Drake Maye, meaning their commitment to Jones isn’t nearly as firm as the money suggests. Word on the street is Lock was always going to get some chance at shaking up QB1 duties anyway. The latter has more of a gutsy gunslinging approach, but if Jones is healthy, his system experience should earn him a final shot at the job.

Projected Week 1 starter: Daniel Jones

Pittsburgh Steelers

Justin Fields vs. Russell Wilson

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This is certainly the most appealing competition from an entertainment perspective. Fields was mercurial but explosive in three seasons as the Chicago Bears‘ under-supported starter, so his low-cost acquisition at age 25 felt like a steal. You wonder if he’ll be incorporated even if he doesn’t overtake Wilson, the similarly maligned but far more seasoned acquisition. Steelers brass has been unusually proactive this year, suggesting a lean toward Fields’ upside, but coach Mike Tomlin tends to be patient, and Wilson is a sturdy arm for their old-school attack.

Projected Week 1 starter: Russell Wilson

Washington Commanders

Jayden Daniels vs. Marcus Mariota

2024 NFL Draft - Round 1

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This is the one sham competition of the bunch. But unlike in Chicago, where there is zero question about Caleb Williams‘ place atop the Bears’ depth chart, both Daniels and the new Commanders regime are publicly allowing for the notion that backup Marcus Mariota is in contention for the Week 1 gig. We’ll just say this: If Mariota starts, there is something deeply wrong here. Daniels is 23, played five years of college ball and just went No. 2 overall to a roster littered with veteran additions. His electric mobility should give him an instant hold on the job.

Projected Week 1 starter: Jayden Daniels

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