5 Most Obvious Potential Draft Busts From the 2024 NFL Draft and 5 Potential Steals

For every NFL draft bust like Ryan Leaf, JaMarcus Russell, Courtney Brown and Tony Mandarich, there are guys like Tom Brady, Joe Montana and Deacon Jones. That is, guys who had minimal expectations entering the draft before carving out legendary careers that well-known draft busts were supposed to have.

With the 2024 NFL Draft right around the corner, let’s dive into five highly-touted prospects who could go down as massive busts, and five under-the-radar guys who could be big-time steals.

Which college stars are going to be steals and who are the ones who will likely end up as big-time busts in the 2024 NFL Draft?

Potential Bust: J.J. McCarthy

HOUSTON, TEXAS – JANUARY 08: J.J. McCarthy #9 of the Michigan Wolverines is interviewed after defeating the Washington Huskies during the 2024 CFP National Championship game at NRG Stadium on January 08, 2024 in Houston, Texas. Michigan defeated Washington 34-13. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
The Michigan Wolverines signal-caller is a sure bet to go in the top 10. Some even think he could go as high as second overall to the Washington Commanders or even at No. 3 to the New England Patriots.

McCarthy went 27-1 as the starter at Michigan. Over the 2022 and 2023 seasons, he threw for 44 touchdowns and only nine interceptions. His excellent 72.3 completion percentage from last season is also tough to overlook.

Many think JJ McCarthy was nothing more than a game manager for the Wolverines, who cruised to a 2023 national championship. But McCarthy also managed the game masterfully and didn’t screw up. He’s a big-game QB, and that counts for something.

But McCarthy’s overall physical skill set here is extremely limited. We don’t really have much to go on, because Jim Harbaugh never put the ball in his QB’s hands. The Wolverines relied on the Blake Corum-led rushing game and their stingy defense to close out games.

Consider this: McCarthy only attempted 30 passes in three games last season. He only had to attempt 18 passes in the national championship win over Washington.

McCarthy doesn’t have Caleb Williams’ all-world athleticism, Drake Maye’s slick arm release or Jayden Daniels’ dual-threat abilities. Whichever NFL team drafts McCarthy is banking on the idea that there’s more to his game that Harbaugh wouldn’t reveal at Michigan.

Because quarterback is the most important position of them all, McCarthy will be an early pick. There’s a high chance he develops into a quality starting QB in this league, but there’s also a good chance he ends up being a career backup as well.

The draft bust potential is awfully high, but hey, you miss a hundred percent of the shots you don’t take, right?

Potential Steal: Spencer Rattler

COLUMBIA, SOUTH CAROLINA – NOVEMBER 25: Spencer Rattler #7 of the South Carolina Gamecocks passes the ball in the first quarter during their game against the Clemson Tigers at Williams-Brice Stadium on November 25, 2023 in Columbia, South Carolina. (Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images)
Spencer Rattler has had a fascinating journey to get to this point.

Many years ago — well actually back in 2021 — Rattler was once considered the early favorite to go first overall in the 2022 NFL Draft. But after a tough start to the 2021 season, Rattler was benched in favor of some random guy named Caleb Williams. Anyone know of him?

Rattler transferred to South Carolina to revive his football career. Over his two years there, he had 37 touchdowns against 20 interceptions and exceeded 3,000 passing yards in both seasons.

Rattler’s stats weren’t super eye-popping, but keep in mind that he didn’t have the best-supporting cast at South Carolina. As a member of the SEC, the Gamecocks also faced an onslaught of elite opponents — namely Georgia,Tennessee, Missouri and Clemson.

Rattler’s aggressive style of play and small frame — 6 feet and 211 pounds — are bound to scare teams away. We’re not saying he’ll definitely be a superstar, but the upside is absolutely there and worth taking a chance on.

Rattler has excellent accuracy and a beautiful touch on his passes. Inconsistency and turnovers are problematic, sure, but the right coaches can work with Rattler and eliminate that. Just look at what Brian Daboll did with Josh Allen, for example.

Rattler probably won’t go until round three at the earliest. His hot-and-cold play will be a dealbreaker for several teams, but the right coach just might be able to fix his weaknesses and make Rattler a star in this league.

Rattler to Sean Payton’s Denver Broncos or Sean McVay’s Los Angeles Rams would be ideal landing spots for Rattler.

Potential Bust: Nate Wiggins

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA – MARCH 01: Nate Wiggins #DB42 of Clemson participates in the 40-yard dash during the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on March 01, 2024 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
Wiggins is one of many promising cornerback prospects in this year’s draft class. He won’t go ahead of Alabama’s Terrion Arnold or Toledo’s Quinyon Mitchell, but Wiggins has a realistic shot of being the third cornerback taken off the board.

Wiggins was an elite cover corner with 17 pass breakups and three interceptions over his last two years of college ball. But as the likes of Jeff Okudah and CJ Henderson will tell you, being a highly-touted cornerback and early pick does not at all guarantee success in the NFL.

Wiggins is listed at 6-foot-1 and 173 pounds. His lanky frame and lack of size could be a problem against bigger and more physical wide receivers.

For example, will he hold up against deep threat and contested catch specialists? As a rookie especially, Wiggins can expect to be targeted aplenty by opposing QBS when he’s lined up against top receivers.

Wiggins is simply a guy who will rely on his speed, instincts, and football IQ more than anything. Does he have the physicality to hold up against bigger guys in coverage? That’s the main question — and it’s why this likely first-round pick has a very high chance of being a bust.

Buyer beware.

Potential Steal: Blake Corum

HOUSTON, TEXAS – JANUARY 08: Blake Corum #2 of the Michigan Wolverines reacts during the press conference after defeating the was during the 2024 CFP National Championship game at NRG Stadium on January 08, 2024 in Houston, Texas. Michigan defeated Washington 34-13. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Going back to Michigan Wolverines prospects…

Blake Corum had a monster final season at Michigan, racking up 1,245 rushing yards and 27 touchdowns. The year before, he had 1,463 rushing yards and 18 rushing scores.

There are several reasons why Corum promises to be a great value pick in the NFL draft. For one, he plays a devaluing position where RBs are RARELY taken in round one anymore.

Secondly, Corum is viewed as merely the third or fourth-best RB in this draft class, with Texas’ Jonathan Brooks and Tennessee’s Jaylen Wright the consensus top two. Depending on who you ask, many consider FSU’s Trey Benson a superior prospect than Corum, too.

That’s no issue for Corum and whichever NFL team drafts him. The 5-foot-8, 205-pound running back is a workhorse in the backfield who racks up the yards after contact. He’s not quite as big as Derrick Henry, of course, but boy can Corum lower the boom and get those extra yards.

Corum will likely be a late second or early-to-mid third-round draft pick. That will be a great value pick because he has the skill set and physical tools to be a consistent 1,000-yard rusher in this league.

Potential Bust: Laiatu Latu

PASADENA, CALIFORNIA – NOVEMBER 11: Laiatu Latu #15 of the UCLA Bruins at Rose Bowl Stadium on November 11, 2023 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Compared to more recent NFL drafts, this year’s class doesn’t have as many grade-A pass-rushing prospects.

UCLA’s Laiatu Latu is among the top edge rushers, though, so he’s bound to be a first-round pick — likely somewhere in the top 20. But unlike Alabama’s Dallas Turner, Latu is far from a near-sure thing to succeed — due largely to his limited skill set.

Latu had 10.5 sacks in 2022 and 13 last year, so he’s your guy if you’re in the “sacks tell the story” crowd.

Latu isn’t as polished as other edge rushers in this class because of his leaky run defense. And though he’s listed at 6-5, 259 pounds, Latu isn’t naturally athletically gifted compared to today’s top NFL pass-rushers.

He relies on his quick thinking and instincts more than pure strength and power. As such, he could struggle considerably to win his 1-on-1 matchups against the pros.

Latu has awfully high upside, but the many question marks surrounding his physical abilities also make him a giant risk. Needless to say, it’ll be interesting to see which team takes a chance on the UCLA stalwart.

Potential Steal: Javon Baker

ORLANDO, FLORIDA – SEPTEMBER 30: Javon Baker #1 of the UCF Knights catches a 65-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter against the Baylor Bears at FBC Mortgage Stadium on September 30, 2023 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)
Marvin Harrison Jr., Rome Odunze and Malik Nabers are the “big three” receivers in the 2024 NFL draft class.

The next tier includes Xavier Worthy and Adonai Mitchell of Texas, LSU’s Brian Thomas Jr., Florida State’s Keon Coleman and Georgia’s Ladd McConkey.

Those guys all have tremendously high upside, but be sure to throw a mini celebration if your team lands UCF Knights wideout Javon Baker.

The 6-foot-1, 202-pound wideout has the size and physicality to be a multi-time 1,000-yard receiver in this league. According to Pro Football Focus, Baker had a phenomenal 93.6 receiving grade in single coverage during his college career.

Baker’s speed and size make him a dangerous deep threat and red zone weapon. If he lands with an elite QB like Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, Joe Burrow or Lamar Jackson, Baker could be a sleeper for Offensive Rookie of the Year honors.

There’s a lot to love about Baker’s game. If he’s paired with the right coach and quarterback, Baker could have an unexpected elite rookie year similar to what we saw from Puka Nacua for the Los Angeles Rams in 2023.

Potential Bust: Xavier Worthy

AUSTIN, TEXAS – NOVEMBER 24: Xavier Worthy #1 of the Texas Longhorns reacts after a touchdown in the third quarter against the Texas Tech Red Raiders at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium on November 24, 2023 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)
Worthy turned heads at the NFL Combine when he ran for a 40-yard dash time of 4.21 seconds.

That time of 4.21 seconds broke the record set by John Ross, who ran a time of 4.22 seconds back in 2017. Unfortunately, as Ross showed, pure speed alone isn’t enough to make you a star in this league.

Ross has lightning-quick speed that has plenty of scouts and analysts drooling. But he’s listed at just 5-foot-11 and 165 pounds.

That’s concerning for a variety of reasons. One, Worthy’s route tree isn’t exactly deep. He can run the vertical route, sure, but this isn’t Madden mode where you can just air it out and expect your guy to win one-on-one coverage every time.

Opposing teams will be able to jam Worthy at the line of scrimmage and use a safety over the top to neutralize his explosive game-wrecking abilities. And with such limited size, Worthy isn’t exactly a good bet to win contested catches.

So whichever NFL team drafts Worthy must be keep in mind that he’s unpolished and requires a lot of work. He will have to expand on his route tree and bulk up considerably because a likely day-one pick like Worthy has to be more than a home-run-or-nothing receiver.

Potential Steal: Kamren Kinchens

MIAMI GARDENS, FLORIDA – OCTOBER 28: Kamren Kinchens #5 of the Miami Hurricanes returns an interception for a touchdown during the third quarter against the Virginia Cavaliers at Hard Rock Stadium on October 28, 2023 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Megan Briggs/Getty Images)
The safety position has devalued a little bit in recent years, too, as this year’s NFL free agent market showed.

Remember, Alabama’s Brian Branch was supposed to be a first-round pick last year — and he fell all the way to the Detroit Lions at No. 45 overall.

Kitchens is a consensus top-10 safety in the 2024 class, but there’s a good chance he will slip into round three or four. Consider that Georgia’s Javon Bullard is the top safety in the draft, and he’s most likely a day-two pick.

Over the last two years, Kinchens racked up 11 interceptions and 10 pass defenses. He was rock-solid in coverage and has the speed and athleticism to go one-on-one with both wideouts and tight ends.

So you folks go ahead and discount the safety position all you want. Kinchens was an absolute beast at Miami, and the skill set is there for him to be a day-one starter and future All-Pro.

Potential Bust: Michael Penix Jr.

HOUSTON, TEXAS – JANUARY 08: Michael Penix Jr. #9 of the Washington Huskies throws the ball in the first quarter against the Michigan Wolverines during the 2024 CFP National Championship game at NRG Stadium on January 08, 2024 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
Michael Penix Jr. could be a top-15 NFL draft pick, and he’ll most certainly be gone by the early stages of round two. He’s the ultimate boom-or-bust prospect, and we can’t wait to see which team rolls the dice on the Washington quarterback.

Penix Jr.’s aggressive style of play, elite deep ball and slick release make him an enticing prospect for several scouts. But there’s plenty of risk here with Penix Jr. that other teams need to consider.

For one: Injuries. Before transferring to Washington, Penix suffered season-ending injuries in each of his four years at Indiana — including two ACL tears. It’s not ideal for a 24-year-old man to have that many injuries before he turns pro.

Penix also doesn’t have the mobility or speed to extend plays like most of today’s young QBs. Accuracy is also a problem since Penix oftentimes goes for the home run ball instead of taking the easy stuff underneath.

Penix could certainly land with the right team and emerge as a star. Remember, Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen and Lamar Jackson were also hit-or-miss prospects, and their respective teams hit on them.

But there’s also a high chance that Penix also flops at the pros. He wouldn’t be the only QB to put up video-game numbers in the NCAA, only to unravel upon making the jump to the NFL.

Stay tuned because he’ll be a very fun rookie to follow one way or another.

Potential Steal: Brenden Rice

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – NOVEMBER 18: Brenden Rice #2 of the USC Trojans runs the ball after a reception during the first half of a game against the UCLA Bruins at United Airlines Field at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on November 18, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
Who else to end this list but the son of an NFL GOAT?

Yes, USC’s Brenden Rice is the son of the greatest NFL wide receiver ever, none other than Jerry Rice. Yanno, the three-time Super Bowl champion who holds every major wide receiver record?

The 6-foot-2, 208-pound Rice went off with Caleb Williams last season, recording 45 receptions for 791 yards and 12 touchdowns. Rice averaged a ridiculous 17.6 yards per catch, forming ideal chemistry with Williams’ big arm.

Like his old man, Rice isn’t going to blow you away purely with speed or athleticism. Jerry taught Brenden how to open up a library of routes — allowing himself to get consistently open just about anywhere on the field.

Rice feels like a guy who can produce in just about any offense since he can line up anywhere on the field. You can’t teach someone how to be Jerry Rice, but Jerry Rice can sure teach you how to read and burn defenses by thinking one step ahead.

Brenden has had that luxury for his entire life. Now, he can put it to good use once he gets drafted. Whichever NFL team drafts him after round one shall not be disappointed.

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