2024 NFL Draft: 5 Players That Could Be Surprise Early Round Picks

Oregon quarterback Bo Nix looks to pass as the Oregon Ducks host their annual spring game at Autzen Stadium Saturday, April 29, 2023, in Eugene, Ore.Football Oregon Football Spring Game
Oregon quarterback Bo Nix looks to pass as the Oregon Ducks host their annual spring game at Autzen Stadium Saturday, April 29, 2023, in Eugene, Ore.Football Oregon Football Spring Game /

The 2023-24 college football season is officially upon us. Week 0 is in the books, and while it was certainly exciting to see some early standouts, it was still just the beginning of what promises to be another exciting year. Of course, with another season comes another wave of talented prospects hoping to reach the NFL. Some are more likely to make it than others, but at this stage in the game, nobody truly knows what the 2024 NFL Draft is going to look like. It seems every year there are a handful of prospects that go from long-shot prospects to hot commodities and 2024 is unlikely to be any different. With that said, these are the five prospects that may make that leap from draft afterthoughts to highly valued prospects.

Julian Fleming, WR, Ohio State

A former five-star recruit, Julian Fleming’s time with Ohio State hasn’t quite gone according to plan as injuries have derailed the talented receiver’s career. However, coming off a year in which he was able to stay relatively healthy, Fleming showed that he shouldn’t be forgotten amongst the Buckeye’s talented receiver group. A fluid athlete with the size and speed to be a nightmare threat down the field, Fleming is already viewed as a first-round talent by offensive coordinator Brian Hartline.

As long as his health cooperates, Fleming could shoot up draft boards with a big senior season.

Bo Nix, QB, Oregon

Once thought to be the next savior of Auburn football, Bo Nix never properly developed after a promising freshman season, causing him to transfer to Oregon before last season. After a huge year leading the Duck’s offense, Nix has placed himself firmly on the NFL radar. As a prospect, Nix has plenty of traits that scouts love. Listed at 6’2″, 213 pounds, Nix has the size you want, and as a runner, he fits right in with the NFL’s new-found emphasis on mobile quarterbacks. His decision-making can be shaky and he needs to improve when facing the blitz, but if he can put together another productive season and limit turnovers, Nix could find himself as a hot prospect during next April’s NFL Draft.

Malachi Corley, WR, Western Kentucky

An absolute monster with the ball in his hands, Malachi Corley has drawn comparisons to San Francisco 49ers star Deebo Samuel for his tough running and elusiveness. Per On3, an assistant coach for a Power Five school had this to say about Corley –

"“That dude is like Deebo Samuel, I could see him at the end of the year being a [expletive] first-rounder. I don’t know if (NFL scouts) have a player comparison on him or not yet, but I guarantee you that’s what they will all put, Deebo Samuel.”"

Those are big expectations, but with 18 touchdowns over the last two seasons and coming off nearly 1300 receiving yards, Corley might just be talented enough to live up to them.

Chico Bennett Jr., EDGE, Virginia

Coming off an eight-sack season for Virginia, Chico Bennett Jr. firmly put himself on the NFL radar with his production last season. A well-rounded player, Bennett’s ability to continue developing as a pass-rusher will ultimately determine how far up draft boards he could go. Last season was a huge step in the right direction, and Bennett’s athleticism hints at untapped potential. If he can add another go-to pass-rushing move and put up another productive season, Bennett could be exactly the kind of every-down defender that NFL teams can plug in from day one.

Storm Duck, CB, Louisville

If players were drafted based on how cool their names are, Storm Duck would be a slam-dunk first-rounder. While that unfortunately isn’t how the league works, Duck may have a chance to be a high-round selection based on his play on the field. Duck is an instinctive corner that has the measurables teams covet. He can sometimes get lost in coverage, especially when things get crowded, and he needs to prove he can remain healthy in the long term, but NFL teams are always after the type of ball-hawking playmaker Duck has proven himself to be.