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2024 NFL Draft storylines: England's Travis Clayton, Marvin Harrison Jr, Brock Bowers and quarterbacks in demand

From England's Travis Clayton to tight end star Brock Bowers, Sky Sports NFL presenter Neil Reynolds looks at five storylines heading into the 2024 NFL Draft; watch all three days of the Draft live on Sky Sports Action from April 25-27, with round one under way from 1am on Friday morning

Ohio State wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr.
Image: Ohio State's Marvin Harrison Jr leads a star-studded wide receiver class

It's almost time for the biggest event of the American football offseason as the NFL Draft will take place in Detroit this coming Thursday, Friday and Saturday April 25-27, live on Sky Sports.

The leading college football players from across America - along with what we hope will be a couple from around the world - will hear their names called as the 32 NFL teams look to add some serious talent to their rosters.

And while our focus will be on round one on Thursday night, the whole three days of action should provide plenty of intrigue. Here are some storylines to look out for…

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Quarterbacks at the top

There are three quarterbacks at the top of this draft who will make all the headlines. In previous years, USC's Caleb Williams, LSU's Jayden Daniels and North Carolina's Drake Maye could all have been first overall selections.

That honour will go to Williams, as it is the worst-kept secret in the NFL that he is heading to the Chicago Bears. There is much excitement when you consider that, at various times in recent weeks, this generational talent has been compared to Drew Brees for his accuracy and Patrick Mahomes for his playmaking skills. That's some good company to be keeping!

LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels during a NCAA college football game against Texas A&M in Baton Rouge
Image: LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels during a NCAA college football game against Texas A&M in Baton Rouge

Daniels is an exciting prospect who seems to be gathering momentum as the second pick, which would likely mean he joins the Washington Commanders. The 2023 winner of the Heisman Trophy, given to college football's best player, is especially dangerous as a runner in the Lamar Jackson and Kyler Murray mould.

Maye is your old-school prototypical NFL quarterback at 6-foot-4 and 230lbs, but he can also move. He can throw with power or finesse and has been compared to Trevor Lawrence.

The value of the position means that more than those three will be taken in round one. J.J. McCarthy - a national championship winner at Michigan in 2023 - will have a hot market, as will Michael Penix Jr., although durability has been an issue for the Washington star. Penix and Bo Nix, who started 61 games at Auburn and then Oregon, will be selected early in round two if they don't sneak into the first 32 picks. But I expect a desperate team to over-draft at least one of them.

Look out for trades

By my reckoning, there are six teams who have a serious and pressing need at quarterback… Chicago, Denver, Las Vegas, Minnesota, New England and Washington. There are not going to be enough top-end quarterbacks to go around. So, that means there are going to be franchises willing to give up a great deal to get into the top three. Or to at least deal with the Arizona Cardinals at four to grab McCarthy once the leading trio are off the board.

Where this gets intriguing is when you listen to the whispers coming out of the Patriots' building over the weekend. New England desperately need a quarterback of their own, but they also need talent in a lot of areas as they kick off a new era under rookie head coach Jerod Mayo. They are reportedly open to moving down if "an unprecedented deal" comes their way. Who will give up the farm to get the third-best quarterback in this draft?

Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy celebrates their win against Washington in the national championship
Image: Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy celebrates their win against Washington in the national championship

Could it be the Minnesota Vikings? They have been wheeling and dealing in the past month and have collected two first-round picks which could allow them to move up. And would they dangle elite wide receiver Justin Jefferson as part of such a deal? That seems too outlandish and it's likely New England stay put, take their own quarterback and Jefferson remains a Viking. But the Vikings cannot seriously be contemplating a whole season of Sam Darnold after Kirk Cousins bolted to the Atlanta Falcons?

Let's also keep an eye on the Raiders in terms of moving up. And we should also recognise that this time of the year can be when veteran players get traded. Pro Bowl wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk is one name that keeps coming up as he is in a contract dispute with the San Francisco 49ers.

Given the amount of wide receiver talent flooding into the league in this and every other season, younger and cheaper is going to be tempting for some teams like the Niners. Will that see Aiyuk - who is coming off a career year - in a new uniform next season?

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Generational wide receiver talent

That's a nice segue into this wide receiver class and it is elite, headed up by Marvin Harrison Jr. - the son of the former Indianapolis Colts Hall of Fame wideout of the same name.

Many experts have Harrison as the number one prospect on their boards. He is only topped by the value of the quarterback position. The Ohio State star makes playing receiver look like an art form. The hype around this 21-year-old is so high that anything less than total NFL superstardom will feel like a failure.

Will the Cardinals sit at four and take this sure thing or will they collect additional picks and trade down? That will be a big moment in the draft's first hour.

LSU's Malik Nabers (8) dives for the ball during a game against Texas A&M
Image: LSU's Malik Nabers dives for the ball during a game against Texas A&M

Harrison is not alone. As many as five wide receivers could go in round one. LSU's Malik Nabers is a game-breaking, explosive talent who has been described as an "offensive defibrillator." Rome Odunze, of Washington, is a complete player who has been compared to the great Larry Fitzgerald. He is refined, polished and uses his size (6-foot-3 and 212lbs) to dominate on jump balls.

Brian Thomas, also of LSU, is big and explosive at six-foot-three and 209lbs. He led college football with 17 touchdown catches last season. Texas star Adonai Mitchell would be ideal for a team like the Kansas City Chiefs late in round one. And keep an eye out for Mitchell's Texas team-mate, Xavier Worthy, who set a new 40-yard dash record at the NFL Combine at 4.21 seconds.

A defensive dearth

Add in Georgia tight end Brock Bowers - who has been compared to San Francisco's George Kittle - and you've got at least six first-round receiving targets. Maybe five or six quarterbacks and some good offensive linemen mean we could see 20 of the opening 32 picks on the offensive side of the ball. The talent on the defensive side is just not as spectacular or as deep this time around.

There are still some gems to be found, particularly at edge rusher and cornerback; which reflects the pass-happy nature of today's NFL.

Toledo's Quinyon Mitchell and Alabama's Terrion Arnold will be first-round cornerbacks, as will Iowa's Cooper DeJean; although his smarts and toughness could eventually lead to a move to safety. And keep an eye out for the wonderfully-named Kool-Aid McKinstry from Alabama.

Georgia Bulldogs' Brock Bowers runs the ball after a catch during a NCAA game against University of Tennessee Volunteers
Image: Georgia Bulldogs' Brock Bowers runs the ball after a catch during a NCAA game against University of Tennessee Volunteers

The edge rushers should have some first-round joy. Alabama's Dallas Turner or Florida State's Jared Verse are athletic weapons who could be the first defenders off the board. But one with less athleticism worth monitoring is UCLA's Laiatu Latu, who has been dubbed the most skilled pass-rusher in this class by NFL Network Draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah.

His speed and power is not elite and doesn't even match up to others in this class, but Latu consistently wins with a mix of technique, football smarts and passion. He has been compared to T.J. Watt! And one last name… Byron Murphy II is a pass-rushing beast of a defensive tackle out of Texas and we know how successful stars at that position can be in the NFL.

International interest

Day three of the draft - rounds four through seven - is always worth your attention. Last year saw the Los Angeles Rams select wide receiver Puka Nacua in the fifth round and he went on to have the greatest rookie season in NFL history. Kittle was a day three pick, as were a couple of quarterbacks you might have heard of in Tom Brady and Brock Purdy.

Day three this year should be about more than those late-round gems. Saturday is most likely when we could see two athletes from the NFL's International Player Pathway programme chosen, which would be a monumental achievement for all involved. England's Travis Clayton and Bayron Matos, of the Dominican Republic, are offensive linemen who have garnered a great deal of interest in the weeks since completing the IPP camp in Florida. Both have been on team visits across the United States and boast the physical skills to be stars at the NFL level.

Of course, their inspiration will be Australian offensive tackle Jordan Mailata, who was chosen by the Philadelphia Eagles in the seventh round of the 2018 NFL Draft after working his way through the IPP programme. Mailata recently signed a contract extension with the Eagles worth a cool $66m.

So, remember those two names on day three… Travis Clayton and Bayron Matos. Good luck, boys!

Watch all three days of the 2024 NFL Draft from April 25-27 live on Sky Sports Action, beginning with round one from 1am in the early hours of Friday morning.

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