The expected 2024 “mega-QB” draft class may not as “mega” as originally thought. And for a team like the Bucs that very well could be in the market for drafting a quarterback next April a smaller-than-expected quarterback class means fewer options for Tampa Bay to consider.
Prior to the start of the 2023 college football season Pro Football Focus’ Trevor Sikkema told Pewter Report as many as 20 quarterbacks could be drafted in 2024 with as many as a dozen selected by the end of Day 2. There were 14 signal callers drafted by the end of the seventh round last year by comparison, with three selected in the first round, and a total of five drafted by the end of the third round.
Part of the reason for the enormous size of next year’s QB draft class is that football players that were in college in 2020 during COVID-19 where granted an extra year of eligibility due to the pandemic. Now with several of those quarterbacks either in their fourth, fifth or sixth season, there is a plethora of players at the position.
But with the advent of NIL (name, image and likeness) money available to college football players and the recent success of multiple quarterbacks that have hit the transfer portal and thrived elsewhere, several of the QBs that were slated to be Day 3 picks are opting to be grad transfers or simply hit the portal this winter.
Duke’s Riley Leonard, who battled injuries in his junior year, is expected to transfer to Notre Dame to improve his draft stock in 2024 after Sam Hartman transferred there from Wake Forest a year ago. At the start of the season Leonard was touted as a Day 2 pick, and possibly a dark horse for the first round.
Hartman, a senior, is expected to enter the 2024 draft and is regarded as mid-round pick.
Washington State dual-threat quarterback Cam Ward is also probably hitting the transfer portal instead of the NFL Draft. Ward is regarded as an early Day 3 pick as of right now.
Coastal Carolina’s Grayson McCall, Kansas State’s Will Howard, Oregon State’s D.J. Uiagalelei and Miami’s Tyler Van Dyke are all hitting the transfer portal too, and are viewed as middle or late Day 3 picks.
If all six decide to stay in college and transfer that’s half a dozen QBs that were supposed to be in the 2024 draft class that won’t be.
Shedeur Sanders Expected To Stay At Colorado
Shedeur Sanders, the son of Hall of Famer and Colorado head coach Deion Sanders, may stay for his senior season with the Buffaloes, especially after he broke a bone his back at the end of this year. Sanders’ father needs him to stay at Colorado after a pair of highly-ranked QBs de-committed from the school after the Buffaloes’ 4-8 season ended with a thud after a promising 3-0 start.
Sanders will need better protection for his senior year if he stays, as Colorado’s offensive line was terrible last year. The Buffaloes’ top offensive lineman, center Van Wells, has elected to transfer, which doesn’t help Sanders’ cause.
The shaky offensive line situation at Colorado could prompt Sanders to leave for the NFL where he would be either a first or second-round pick. The fact that Sanders is already a millionaire due to NIL deals he enjoyed in 2022 and 2023, and will continue to benefit from in 2024, could cause him to stay at Colorado, which would please his father.
Top QBs Are Expected To Leave For The NFL Draft
Despite a handful of possible defections from the robust 2024 draft class, most of the top quarterbacks coming into this season are still expected to head to the NFL. USC’s Caleb Williams and North Carolina’s Drake Maye are expected to be the top quarterbacks taken within the Top 5.
LSU’s Jayden Daniels, Oregon’s Bo Nix, Michigan’s J.J. McCarthy and Washington’s Michael Penix Jr. have a chance to be drafted in the first round with great offseason workouts and pro days, as well as engaging interviews and eye-opening performances at the NFL Scouting Combine. The ones that are not will be second-round picks for sure.
Georgia’s Carson Beck is viewed as a solid Day 2 pick, in addition to Texas’ Quinn Ewers – unless they stay at their respective schools for their senior seasons. Beck is leaning towards returning and Ewers may do the same.
Tennessee’s Joe Milton III and Tulane’s Michael Pratt could be late Day 2 picks or early Day 3 picks.
Wake Forest’s Sam Hartman, South Carolina’s Spencer Rattler, Arkansas’ K.J. Jefferson and Florida State’s Jordan Travis are expected to enter the draft and are viewed as Day 3 picks right now. Oklahoma’s Dillon Gabriel, also a Day 3 pick, is weighing his options.
Add it all up and that’s 15 potential quarterbacks that have draft potential, plus a few FCS QBs that could be Day 3 selections. That’s not as many quarterbacks as first thought, but a better class with more upper-end talent than last year. Draft-eligible players have until January 15 to declare for the NFL Draft, and several of the top quarterbacks have yet to make an official decision. Only Rattler has officially declared among the QBs.
Bucs Could Draft A Quarterback In 2024
Depending on how this season ends and if there is a head coaching change, the Bucs could draft a quarterback in 2024 – perhaps in the first or second round.
General manager Jason Licht has drafted two quarterbacks during his 10-year tenure in Tampa Bay – Jameis Winston with the first overall pick in 2015 and Kyle Trask with the last pick in the second round in 2021. Neither one has panned out as hoped, although Winston became the franchise’s all-time passing yardage leader in five seasons with 19,737 yards and 121 touchdowns.
There is a chance the Bucs could turn to free agency next year for a quarterback. Tampa Bay could re-sign Baker Mayfield, depending on what type of offense the team runs in 2024 and who the play-caller is. Or the Bucs could explore other free agent options, including Kirk Cousins.