2024 NFL Draft: Four day three picks who could shine in the NFL

While most NFL stars come early in the draft, it's not impossible to find gems in the later rounds. Here are a handful of day three picks from this year's draft who could over-perform their draft position.
2023 Pac-12 Championship - Oregon v Washington
2023 Pac-12 Championship - Oregon v Washington / Brandon Sloter/GettyImages

In the NFL Draft, star players are usually drafted in the first round. Your best chances of getting a high-impact starter with Pro-Bowl or All-Pro upside are in the first 32 picks, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find a diamond in the rough later in the draft. When you think of star players who were drafted on day three, guys like Zach Thomas, Terrell Davis, and, of course, Tom Brady probably come to mind.

In the 2024 NFL Draft, there were plenty of talented players drafted on day three who possess immense upside despite falling down the board. Let’s take a look at four such players who have a chance to outperform their draft stock and become impact players at the next level.

1. Khyree Jackson, CB, Oregon

Team: Minnesota Vikings

Draft Round: 4th Round

I think I may have shed a tear when the Vikings drafted Khyree Jackson just a few picks before my Atlanta Falcons were on the clock. As the leader of the Khyree Jackson fan club, I was devastated to learn that he would not be on my favorite team.

Jackson is one of the more underrated cornerbacks in this class and he has the physical tools and the skills to be an impactful boundary corner in the NFL.  At 6-foot-4 and 196 pounds, he will walk into the NFL with great size for the position. On top of having good size, he is very explosive, sporting a 36.5-inch vertical and an 11’01 broad jump.

He was also extremely productive in college as he was an elite ballhawk with amazing efficiency metrics in man and zone coverage. Add the fact that he had great numbers as a run defender and you have a pretty strong cornerback prospect.

To be fair, Jackson is an older prospect who doesn’t have elite speed and had just average PFF grades in coverage. Perhaps this means his bust probability is a bit higher than you’d like. Still, I love his combination of size, explosiveness, run defense, and coverage ability. If things work in his favor, he could be a solid boundary corner for the Vikings, who could use some help in their secondary.

2. Tanor Bortolini, C, Wisconsin

Team: Indianapolis Colts

Draft Round: 4th Round

When the Colts picked Tanor Botolini, I chuckled because he is exactly the type of player they love to target, especially in the later rounds. The Colts love athletic prospects with some level of production and Bortolini fits the bill.

Last year, Josh Norris tweeted “Since 2010, just 28 Offensive Linemen recorded a 4.47 short shuttle or better at the NFL Combine and those players went on to start 84% of their NFL games.”

A handful of offensive linemen in this year’s class hit this threshold including Bortolini, who had a 4.28 shuttle, which is a combine record.

Aside from athletic testing, which was elite across the board for Bortolini, he had decent production, sporting a career pressure rate allowed of just 4.8% in true pass sets (73rd percentile) and a PFF gap run blocking grade of 70.1 (77th percentile). His production profile isn’t perfect, but there’s a lot to like about it and when you combine his production with his athletic testing, you’ve got a nice 21-year-old center with decent upside who only cost you a fourth-round pick.

3. Jordan Magee, LB, Temple

Team: Washington Commanders

Draft Round: 5th Round

Jordan Magee was one of my favorite sleepers in this year’s linebacker class, so I was surprised to see the Commanders get him in the fifth round.

Magee is an undersized but athletic do-it-all linebacker with a strong profile that will make your mouth water. Although he is just 6-foot-1 and 228 pounds, he makes up for it with great explosion and elite speed and agility.

In terms of production, there weren’t many holes in his statistical profile. He was great as a pass rusher at Temple, sporting a 40.5% pressure rate (99th percentile) and a 16% pass rush win rate (86th percentile). He also had really good numbers in coverage, allowing just 0.47 yards per coverage snap (95th percentile) and recording a pass breakup on 11.5% of his targets (92nd percentile).

Unfortunately, he isn’t perfect. His career PFF grades across the board were above average at best and he had very poor production as a tackler. Also, he was mostly used as a run defender at Temple, something he was above average at, but this means his elite performance as a pass rusher and in coverage may not continue if he ever gets a bigger role.

Jordan Magee’s profile is still extremely strong for a 5th-round pick and I think he could find a spot in the NFL because he’s athletic, provides alignment versatility, and has shown he can be extremely effective as a pass rusher and in coverage.

4. Devontez Walker, WR, North Carolina

Team: Baltimore Ravens

Draft Round: 4th Round

Devontez Walker seemed to fall down draft boards during the pre-draft process but I am willing to defend his status as one of the top ten receivers in the draft.

In terms of athleticism, Walker pops off the screen as he has a 40.5-inch vertical, an 11’02 broad jump, and a 4.36 forty-yard dash, which all rank in at least the 97th percentile. He has decent size at 6-foot-1 and 193 pounds, but his speed and explosiveness are awesome even when you factor in his height and weight.

He isn’t just a workout warrior, though, as he has good production as well. He was a big part of his college offenses at Kent State and North Carolina, sporting a career average dominator rating (the percentage of his team’s yards and touchdowns he accounted for) of 36.3% (90th percentile).

To make this even sweeter, He produced in a way that should translate to the NFL as he was able to earn targets at a decent rate while being great as a deep threat and good against zone coverage.

Unfortunately, Walker’s best season came at Kent State and he is pretty limited in his skillset as he struggles on short and intermediate routes and isn’t very effective vs. man coverage. Still, his profile is pretty good and it’s easier to see him carving out a role in the NFL than a lot of receivers who were taken ahead of him, even some who were picked in the first round.

If Devontez Walker shines during training camp and has a legitimate role in the Ravens’ offense this season, he could be a great fit playing alongside Zay Flowers, Rashod Bateman, and Nelson Agholor.