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Ranking the top 10 rookie matchups on 2024 NFL schedule: Caleb Williams vs. Drake Maye and others

The 2024 NFL Draft was significant in regards to the positions that draw fans to the stands. Led by six rookie quarterbacks, the draft class is almost certain to deliver exciting matchups this season. 

Here are ten rookie vs. rookie battles to watch for the upcoming regular season: 

1. Bears QB Caleb Williams vs. Commanders QB Jayden Daniels

October 27 at 1 p.m. ET on CBS (Week 8)

The reality is that quarterbacks do not actually play against each other. Williams and Daniels will never be on the field at the same time, but quarterbacks are always competing against each other in the court of public opinion. Fans want to see them go back and forth. These two players have an easy path to the starting lineup. Williams has already been named Chicago’s Week 1 starter and Daniels should not be far behind. Each brings a dual-threat skillset to the gridiron.

2. Williams vs. Vikings QB J.J. McCarthy

Nov. 24 at 1 p.m. ET on Fox (Week 12) and Dec. 16 at 8 p.m. ET on ABC ( Week 15)

A concerted effort to not include a rookie more than once on this list was made but let’s face it: everyone wants to see the rookie quarterbacks play against one another. They will always be measured against each other through their careers so may as well start doing it when they are on the same field. 

By Week 15, McCarthy should be the starting quarterback, but unlike Williams and Daniels, there is at least a semblance of a conversation to be had with veteran Sam Darnold. McCarthy will be throwing to former first round selections Justin Jefferson, Jordan Addison and T.J. Hockenson. 

3. Williams vs. Patriots QB Drake Maye

Nov. 10 at 1 p.m. ET on Fox (Week 10)

Williams is walking into a great situation with Chicago. They have a formidable offensive line and the trio of pass catchers D.J. Moore, Keenan Allen and Rome Odunze is as good or better than any in the league. Williams is one of the league’s most exciting young stars with his impromptu play-making capabilities. Tight end Cole Kmet only complements his already good luck of circumstance.

Maye has the most difficult path to playing time. Jacoby Brissett showed that he can be a functional quarterback on a weekly basis in Cleveland. While New England does not have the same level of talent, Brissett will bring an air of professionalism to the position. He will be a good teammate and influence while he keeps the seat warm for Maye. The Patriots should not be in any rush to throw the rookie on the field considering the offensive infrastructure ranks in the bottom half of the league with an over-reliance on young, unproven players. 

4. Lions CB Terrion Arnold at Cardinals WR Marvin Harrison Jr. 

Sep. 22 at 4:25 p.m. ET on Fox (Week 3)

Detroit received some of the best value in the first round with Arnold falling to their pick. He was the No. 1 cornerback in the draft for some teams and happens to fill a position of need for the defending NFC North champions as well. Harrison will not only start in Arizona, but he should be a focal point of the offense. 

Arnold will find himself in several interesting matchups against rookie receivers this season: San Francisco (Ricky Pearsall), Buffalo (Keon Coleman), Jacksonville (Brian Thomas Jr.), Chicago (Rome Odunze) and Indianapolis (AD Mitchell). Detroit also used a Top-50 overall selection on Missouri cornerback Ennis Rakestraw. 

5. Colts EDGE Laiatu Latu at Titans OT J.C. Latham 

Oct. 13 at 1 p.m. ET on CBS (Week 6) and Dec. 22 at 1 p.m. ET on CBS (Week 16)

Latu was the draft’s most ready to contribute pass rusher. He is a refined technician when it comes to setting up and executing pass rush moves. Latham is expected to make the move from right tackle to left tackle. Fans can expect growing pains in that transition. Offensive line coach Bill Callahan helped facilitate a similar move with Jedrick Wills in Cleveland. 

Latu will also get a chance to prove himself against other rookie offensive tackles Olu Fashanu (Jets), Troy Fautanu (Steelers) and Jordan Morgan (Packers). Latham will also face Dolphins rookie first-round pass rusher Chop Robinson and Vikings first-round pass rusher Dallas Turner. 

6. Jaguars WR Brian Thomas Jr. at Eagles CB Quinyon Mitchell

Nov. 3 at 8:20 p.m. ET on NBC (Week 9)

Thomas often got shut out of the Big 3 wide receivers in the draft conversation but he remains one of the most exciting young prospects to watch. He has immense potential and could prove to be better than Calvin Ridley in the long run. Trevor Lawrence and the Jaguars will need that growth and maturity to happen early in his career as they hope to avoid another early offseason. 

Philadelphia got a steal landing the Toledo cornerback in the second half of the first round. It is unclear how much playing time he will see early in the season considering the presence of veterans Darius Slay and James Bradberry but, as the season progresses, fans should expect to see more and more of the rookie. 

Mitchell will also draw the assignment of shadowing Giants wide receiver Malik Nabers twice a year. 

7. Packers OT Jordan Morgan vs. Vikings EDGE Dallas Turner

Sep. 29 at 1 p.m. ET on CBS (Week 4) and Dec. 29 at 1 p.m. ET on Fox (Week 17)

There is a lack of clarity on where Morgan will line up in his rookie season and beyond. He will presumably play left tackle, replacing veteran David Bahktiari, as he did at Arizona but the organization has not outright said as much. It sounds as though they will go into training camp with the idea that Rasheed Walker is still competing for the role. Morgan will also square off against Robinson and Rams first-round pass rusher Jared Verse. 

Turner has no such road block to playing time. Yes, the franchise signed pass rushers Jon Greenard and Andrew Van Winkel, but Minnesota traded up for the right to draft Turner. He will get a significant share of the repetitions. 

8. Rams EDGE Jared Verse at Saints OT Taliese Fuaga 

Dec. 1 at 4:05 p.m. ET on Fox (Week 13)

Los Angeles used their first two picks on front seven players: Verse and his Florida State teammate, defensive tackle Braden Fiske. Verse is expected to start opposite last year’s rookie sensation, Byron Young. Fiske is tasked with absorbing some of the loss felt by Aaron Donald’s retirement. 

New Orleans addressed a massive need in the first round of the draft as many expected. Former first-round selection Jared Penning has not yet lived up to expectations and right tackle Ryan Ramczyk’s injured knee is reportedly not responding well to treatment. Fuaga should not have a hard time finding his way into the starting lineup.

9. Buccaneers OG Graham Barton vs. Commanders DT Johnny Newton

Sep. 8 at 4: 25 p.m. ET on Fox (Week 1)

The selection on Newton could allow Washington to explore deals for veterans DaRon Payne and Jonathan Allen at the trade deadline but that would not occur until late in the season. When the Commanders come to town for the season opener, Newton will likely still be rotating with those entrenched starters.

Barton, on the other hand, should have a wide open path to starting. Fans should get an opportunity to see the two rookies square off in a battle of might. 

10. Dolphins EDGE Chop Robinson at Jets OT Olu Fashanu

Dec. 8 at 1 p.m. ET on CBS (Week 14) and Jan. 5 (Week 18)

Neither Fashanu nor Robinson are the projected starter. Despite injuries to pass rushers Bradley Chubb and Jaelan Phillips, Miami signed Shaq Barrett in free agency before drafting Robinson. New York signed veteran offensive tackle Tyron Smith and traded for Morgan Moses, which means that Fashanu may not be in a position to start early or ever as a rookie. If an injury were to disrupt the current plan, Fashanu can step into the starting lineup and matchups against Robinson are on the docket two of the final five weeks in the season. 

The Jets will also see rookie rushers Verse and Turner this season.

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