The Senior Bowl has officially wrapped up down in Mobile, which means we are officially entering the greatest season of all. No, not the holiday season, deer season or any of the four actual seasons. We’re talking NFL Draft season, baby. There’s a whole other commentary that needs to be had about the worshipping of a draft that elevates young men, lauds them as saviors and puts the pressure of entire fanbases on them, but that’s for another day when I have more brain power.
Today, we’re going to discuss some of the players in the 2024 NFL Draft class that I think you, my lovely and incredibly intelligent readers, should know. I’m not going to talk about the biggest names like Caleb Williams out of USC or Marvin Harrison from Ohio; if you watched a lick of college football, you know who they are. No, I’m going to talk about a few guys you might not have heard of who have a real shot at changing the NFL. Let’s get to it.
Quinyon Mitchell – CB, Toledo
This kid is a baller, plain and simple. He’s not from the biggest school out there, so he’s not the most well-known name in the world, but he jumps off scouting reports in the best ways possible. Let’s start with the physicals. Mitchell is 6 feet tall and weighs a buck 95, which isn’t the biggest for his position, but it is comfortably above average.
He also made Bruce Feldman’s ‘Freaks List,’ which is one of the best sources (if not the single best) for the most outstanding athletes in college football. Mitchell made the list at No. 46 overall with Feldman saying this about the corner.
“Mitchell bench-pressed 225 pounds 21 times… and had a top speed of 23.58 mph on the GPS this summer. He also ran in the 40 in the 4.3s twice for NFL scouts this spring,” Feldman said.
To say Mitchell had one the best weeks at the Senior Bowl would be a heinous understatement. In his few days in Mobile, he went toe-to-toe with first-round talents like Michigan’s Roman Wilson and Georgia’s Ladd McConkey. He performed so well that he was named the “top CB on the National team in a vote from WR teammates at practice player-of-the-week awards ceremony today at 2024 Reese’s Senior Bowl,” according to Senior Bowl Director Jim Nagy.
He’s also an incredibly crafty son of a gun on top of being a freaky athlete. He has an innate sense of a quarterback’s eyes and knows exactly where to be in any type of zone coverage. In man he has the ability to stick to any wideout like glue and be good enough with his hands to not draw many flags — he had zero in the 2023 season.
We’ll end our Mitchell conversation with some rapid-fire stats per PFF. Mitchell was first among all corners in the NCAA in PFF coverage grade. He was targeted 62 times and allowed just 27 receptions, which went for 290 yards (10.7 yards per reception). Mitchell also forced 17 incompletions, one pick and 14 pass breakups while not allowing a touchdown.
J.J. McCarthy – QB, Michigan
Remember what I said in my intro about these players having a real shot to change the NFL? I didn’t necessarily mean for the better. McCarthy, the 21-year-old reigning national champion out of Michigan, is going to be one of the most polarizing prospects we’ve seen in recent seasons. Let’s start with what the only question should be surrounding McCarthy — is he a quality NFL prospect? Uh … I think so?
In the world of NFL Draft coverage, it’s incredibly rare to see more than two analysts/media members agree about anything. Still, it seems like an almost unilateral decision has been made about McCarthy, and that decision is that he’s not ready for the NFL, and I disagree. Yes, there are things about McCarthy’s film that worry me, but I think he’ll be a quality NFL quarterback if he lands in the right system. Is he a first-round talent like his former head coach (current Chargers Head Coach Jim Harbaugh) says he is? Definitely not, but if it were a QB-needy team with a relatively solid starter on the roster (like the Seahawks, Buccaneers or Rams), I would use a second- or third-rounder on McCarthy and give him some breathing room to mature and develop.
Think about McCarthy like 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy. In a perfect or even above average roster, he looks like a good or above average quarterback. If you remove some key pieces from that roster or move him to a roster that isn’t one of the 10 best in the league, he might really struggle. Calling either Purdy or McCarthy a system quarterback wouldn’t be entirely accurate, as their successes don’t entirely depend on the system that surrounds them, and they do have the ability to elevate that roster to another level for drives at a time, unlike system quarterbacks.
That being said, I wouldn’t be surprised if McCarthy does well in the NFL, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he flames out in magnificent fashion, either.
Keon Coleman – WR, FSU
Coleman is another prospect who’s going to make some people disagree. Most agree that Coleman — who is from the same hometown as our own Brylan Green, believe it or not — is a first-round talent, but there are questions that keep surrounding the former four-star wideout.
So, let’s start with why Coleman is a surefire first-rounder. Coleman runs an unofficial 4.45 40-yard dash while standing at a whopping 6 feet, 4 inches tall and weighing in at 215 pounds of freaky athlete, and he doesn’t let any of that athleticism go to waste. Before transferring to FSU, where he ended his collegiate career, Coleman was at Michigan State in 2021 and 2022, and not just as a football player. He also appeared in six of the Spartans’ basketball games as a forward, and in just 10 minutes, tallied three steals, five points and a rebound. It’s not often you see someone double-dip in D1 football and basketball, but that’s the kind of athlete that Coleman is.
As a receiver, he isn’t the most polished of prospects, but his instincts for the game and for route-running are clearly there when you watch the film. The questions come when you start talking about his ability to do the little things, like run-blocking, and about his overall polish on his routes and his acceleration.
Palsgrove is the asst. sports editor for the Liberty Champion. Follow him on X