J.J. McCarthy is the biggest winner from the 2024 NFL Draft by a mile

In the days after the NFL Draft everyone is looking for which teams were the winners. Those who turned their fortunes around, or did enough to get over the hump. Often we don’t discuss the players — more specifically how they faired in draft transaction. Looking through that lens there’s one colossal winner from the 2024 class: J.J. McCarthy.

Rewind four months and the idea of McCarthy being a first round pick is laughable — let alone a Top 10 pick. Here’s a quarterback who unquestionably has talent, he’s definitely led Michigan to wins, but never before had we seen a quarterback who failed to throw for 3,000 yards, who only attempted 332 passes, whose own coach rather leaned on the run game than have a game hinge on McCarthy end up being one of the first quarterbacks off the board.

We’ve seen exactly this scenario before. Precisely a National Championship-winning quarterback who led an offense primarily based off the run.

Greg McElroy vs. J.J. McCarthy

Name Year School Cmp Att Pct Yds Y/A TD INT Rating
Name Year School Cmp Att Pct Yds Y/A TD INT Rating
Greg McElroy 2010 Alabama 222 313 70.9 2987 9.5 20 5 169
J.J. McCarthy 2023 Michigan 240 332 72.3 2991 9 22 4 167.4

McElroy was a 7th round pick, lasted one year in the NFL, and was garbage. There are very clear differences here, make no mistake. McCarthy is actually an athlete, whereas McElroy had the same level of natural athleticism as a car salesman. However, the stunning difference in draft position between the two shows us how much Josh Allen has warped the process when it comes to quarterbacks.

Every QB now that doesn’t pass the conventional tests is met with “well, maybe he’s Josh Allen?” because the Bills’ QB defied all draft logic by becoming one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks without the college statistics of film to back it up. When it comes to McCarthy there’s a lot of stock being put into “he’s a winner” and the belief that his impressive numbers can be extrapolated out when asked to throw 450+ times as an NFL starter is asked to.

So, we circle back to why McCarthy is a huge winner. This is the right place, at the right time, with the right agent. Everything inflating his stock to push him into a position where he was able to become a Top 10 pick in a very unusual draft class. Desperation forced teams to take QBs earlier than they normally would have, McCarthy’s agent inflated his positive traits to the moon and turned him into a can’t miss prospect — but there’s also a huge team factor here in Minnesota.

One could argue that no rookie in the history of the modern NFL has landed in a better spot than McCarthy. Minnesota signing Sam Darnold will mean there’s no pressure to start right now. The rookie can sit for a year, learn the Kevin O’Connell system, and more importantly be tutored up by quarterbacks coach Josh McCown. Then, in a year’s time, he gets to come out in a top-tier offense with Justin Jefferson, Jordan Addison and T.J. Hockenson — with protection to boot.

Furthermore, the quarterback he’s replacing in Kirk Cousins is certainly great, but it’s not like Jordan Love trying to replace Aaron Rodgers or Mac Jones following Tom Brady. Clearing the Cousins bar isn’t insurmountable, because he never actually won anything in Minnesota.

So, now the table is set. McCarthy could end up being brilliant, or this will be a massive whiff. Either way it doesn’t change that how his camp handled this process from the National Championship until the draft was masterful, and the timing allowed a talented, but questionable quarterback to become a Top 10 pick, and land on the best team who took a passer over the weekend.

Winner: Pittsburgh Steelers

Just a monster weekend from Omar Khan, Mike Tomlin and Co.

Up and down the board this team knew where it couldn’t afford to take risk, and where it could — playingthe draft like a fiddle. Offensive line was a major need to course correct from the disastrous Kenny Pickett era, and Pittsburgh ended up with two starters in Troy Fautanu and Zach Frazier.

Then you’ve got the Wilson brigade, with Roman Wilson coming in to be a new target for Russell Wilson — coupled with the bold move to take a sliding Payton Wilson at linebacker and this class goes to another level.

Payton Wilson’s fall was due to concerns over his medicals — including the stunning revelation he didn’t have an ACL in one knee, but you know who didn’t as well? Steelers great Hines Ward.

The NC State linebacker was one of the best in class, a borderline 1st round pick if he was medically clear, and now he goes to a team that will be able to transform the instinctual tackling machine into a monster.

Even deeper down the board the team just kept finding value, making this a landmark draft.

Winner: Philadelphia Eagles

Water is wet. The Eagles win again. It was a big weekend for teams in Pennsylvania, as the Eagles join their cousins in the west to dominate the board once more.

Their back-to-back DB picks of Quinyon Mitchell and Cooper DeJean fix the biggest issue the Eagles have been having in their defense. This is a team without a ton of holes, and yet somehow they managed to plug all of them once more, picking value in the process, and trading around the board to amass more future draft capital.

Cap it all off with the feel-good pick of Jeremiah Trotter Jr. in the 5th and this was just a monster haul.

Loser: Atlanta Falcons

There’s nothing left to say. Like the Eagles this team entered the draft with only a few holes, and left with none of them really filled. This draft will be studied for years.

Winner: Nick Saban

If you told me a week ago that Saban would be one of the highlights of draft weekend I would have thought you had lost it. For the entire draft the former Alabama coach was interesting, engaging, and made the broadcast on ABC better.

Plot twist of the century, but I actually want to see more from Saban the analyst.

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