2024 NFL draft: Louis Riddick's favorite prospects, sleepers

ByLouis Riddick ESPN logo
Tuesday, April 16, 2024

I've been watching a ton of tape on the 2024 NFL draft's top prospects to prepare for the three days of action, which begins just over one week from now. A few players really jumped out in film study, so I wanted to break down five potential first-rounders and five sleepers I really like this year. These are guys I'd be targeting if I were running an NFL team and players I think have a really good chance to be stars in the pros.

So here are my Day 1 favorites and some players to watch on Days 2-3. My 2023 list had C.J. Stroud on it, and I have another quarterback leading the way in 2024.

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Players I love | Sleepers to watch


Jayden Daniels, QB, LSU

Daniels is the best quarterback in the draft -- and that list includes USC's Caleb Williams. Don't believe me? Let's start with the numbers. Last season, Daniels was first in the nation in Total QBR (95.6), first in QBR outside the pocket (98.8), first in QBR against zone coverage (98.3), first in QBR on play-action (93.8), first in QBR on deep balls (99.7) and second in QBR while under pressure (78.6). He threw 40 touchdown passes, ran for 10 more scores and had only four interceptions. And that's just for starters.

At 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds, he has just begun to grow into his frame. I see great decision-making, arm strength, touch and accuracy as a passer that will translate to the NFL. And on top of all that, Daniels is the kind of dual-threat runner who can change a game with his top-end speed and elusiveness once he breaks contain and gets into the open field. He is a student of the game, and I expect him to become a dynamic player in today's NFL.

Malik Nabers, WR, LSU

Before the 2023 season began, the draft class's receiver rankings were essentially Ohio State'sMarvin Harrison Jr. and then everyone else. Now? There are suddenly many evaluators who feel Nabers has passed Harrison as the best WR in the 2024 draft. I won't go that far, but I do love his game. Nabers caught 89 passes for 1,569 yards and 14 touchdowns last season.

He is a do-it-all WR in a running back's body, having lower-body explosiveness (42-inch vertical at his pro day), speed (4.40-second 40-yard dash) and power that remind one of former LSU WRJa'Marr Chase. And Nabers is just as capable of winning on short routes out of the slot with his smooth release, contested-catch strength and ability to break tackles as he is when aligned outside and running the deep posts, sails and go routes. At 6-foot and 199 pounds, he can simply outrun corners in the deep part of the field and make the big plays that change games in the blink of an eye.

Taliese Fuaga, OT, Oregon State

This guy is absolutely dominant in every way you want an offensive tackle to be dominant. Fuaga has great 6-foot-6, 324-pound size, and I see the functional strength and agility/body control to get movement at the point of attack in the run game on the line of scrimmage. And after running a 5.13 in the 40-yard dash, he can also get out in space and put linebackers or safeties on their backs with his explosive blocking ability.

Fuaga can dance with the very best finesse pass-rushers and match them step for step as they try to work his edges with their hands and counter moves. And we also see him set an anchor against power rushers and shut them down in their tracks with his lower-body strength on tape. He allowed just one sack over his 25-start college career. Fuaga will be an All-Pro in a very short period of time in the NFL -- count on it.

Nate Wiggins, CB, Clemson

Long, tall, rangy and competitive with blazing speed and the ability to match any type of receiver. That sums up Wiggins. I'm not worried in the least about his weight -- he measured 6-foot-1 and 173 pounds at the combine -- as he will get bigger and stronger, and he is already a pure alpha competitor who will not back down against any WR nor shy away from contact as a run defender.

Wiggins can press, he can play off-coverage, he can play zone or he can lock you down in man coverage. He has excellent instincts, and he is really tough to deal with at the catch point thanks to his physicality. I think he is going to be productive the moment he steps on an NFL field for the first time this fall. Over the past two seasons, he has 17 pass breakups and three interceptions.

Quinyon Mitchell, CB, Toledo

As much as I like Wiggins, Mitchell is the standard when it comes to cornerbacks in this draft. He has every single trait you want, including size (6-foot, 195 pounds), speed (4.33 in the 40-yard dash) and explosive lower-body power (38-inch vertical jump). And according to his coaches, he is a great teammate. In short, you name it, he can do it.

Mitchell has a silky smooth pedal in off-coverage and great mirror ability in press. His acceleration allows him to close fast in the short/intermediate pass game, but I also see the long speed and ball skills to defend the deep part of the field and create turnovers. Mitchell has six career interceptions and 39 pass breakups. Oh, and did I mention he will set the edge in the run game and not back down against pulling offensive linemen or running backs in the open field? This young man will be Pro Bowler and/or All-Pro within his first two NFL seasons.

My favorite sleepers outside Round 1

DeWayne Carter, DL, Duke

Carter simply never stops. He has the ultimate motor. And his skill set allows him to move up and down the line of scrimmage, rushing from the edge or moving inside to defensive tackle.

At 6-foot-2 and 302 pounds (33-inch arms), he has the physical traits, instincts and scheme recognition to be productive at the point of attack on one-on-one or double-team matchups. Carter plays with good gap control and gets off blocks to make plays against the run. And with a 4.99-second run in the 40, he is quick off the ball in the pass rush. He can run you over with power, work the edge of the center or guard with his sudden hands and feet and finish with his high-end closing speed.

Over the past three seasons, Carter had 80 pressures, 11 sacks, 22 run stops and 19 tackles for loss. He is at his best as a 3-technique defensive tackle in a 4-3 scheme, but he will be successful no matter how he is used in the NFL. Carter is just a damn good football player.

Edgerrin Cooper, LB, Texas A&M

In order to play championship-caliber defense, you must have off-ball linebackers who can play all three downs and diagnose, run sideline to sideline, get off blocks and tackle in space. NFL teams need playmakers up the middle who can read patterns and break on the ball in zone, or stick on running backs and/or tight ends effectively in man coverage. And it helps when you have a linebacker who can blitz and rush the QB with speed and power. Well, Cooper can do all of that and then some.

He is the best off-ball linebacker in the class, and it isn't even a debate in my eyes. At 6-foot-2 and 230 pounds, Cooper has long 34-inch arms and 4.51 speed, making him the prototype second-level defender. He filled the stat sheet in 2023 while at Texas A&M, posting 80 tackles, 8 sacks, 14 tackles for loss and 20 pressures. And I expect him to continue his dominance in 2024 in a key role with an NFL team.

Kamren Kinchens, S, Miami

Winning the turnover battle is the No. 1 priority for every defensive coordinator in the NFL, and Kinchens will help you do just that. No safety in this class has better instincts and anticipation as a deep-field player, whether that be as a single safety in the middle of the field or in a split-safety structure. He is consistently a step ahead of the quarterback with his understanding of route concepts and ability to read the passer's eyes and shoulder leans. But Kinchens also shows the efficient transition mechanics and closing burst to get into position to make game-changing plays; he came down with 11 interceptions over 2022-23.

And on top of the ball skills, the 5-foot-11, 203-pound safety can make the difficult open-field tackles in one-on-one situations (54 last season) and has shown disruptive blitz ability (26 pressures). His 4.65-second 40 time at the combine wasn't ideal, but I'm not too concerned based on what I see on tape. Kinchens has the potential to be a star.

Erick All, TE, Iowa

After Georgia's Brock Bowers, I believe All is the second-best tight end in this draft. And had he not been dealing with back and knee injuries over the past two seasons, I think we'd be talking about All as a Day 1 prospect. He can cause problems for NFL defenses with his size (6-foot-4 and 252 pounds), play speed, blocking ability, excellent route running and surefire hands. All is very explosive both as a blocker at the traditional Y alignment or from the U alignment, but he's much more than that. All can stretch the middle of the field as a receiver, regardless of whether he is set up inside or flexed out as a slot.

The stats won't wow you -- he caught 21 passes for 299 yards and three touchdowns last season -- but his tape is fantastic. And All is super tough after the catch. In fact, 135 of his 299 receiving yards came after the ball was in his hands. It shouldn't be too shocking that we have a good tight end coming out of Iowa (though he was a transfer from Michigan), and I fully expect to see All on the field dominating this fall.

Isaac Guerendo, RB, Louisville

Every year, we see a Day 2/Day 3 pick wind up being a really talented NFL running back for a good team, and everyone asks where he came from. Well, Guerendo is going to be that guy in 2024.

At 6-foot, 221 pounds, he has the skills to be a three-down back. And after dominating at the combine with a 4.33-second run in the 40-yard dash and an eye-popping 41.5-inch vertical jump, it's clear that Guerendo has prototype traits for the position. He plays with a low center of gravity, good change of direction skills, exceptional acceleration and game-breaking top-end speed. And you can see his standout field vision and instincts on tape.

Guerendo ran with better authority and physicality late in the 2023 season than he did in the early-going, helping him finish with 810 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground. But he can also catch the ball out of the backfield, hauling in 22 passes last season. He still needs to become more physical and nastier in pass protection, but if he turns up the dial on his contact explosiveness to selectively punish linebackers/defensive backs at the second and third levels of the defense, Guerendo will burst onto the scene for some team in 2024.

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