Best draft fits for NFL Rookie of the Year candidates

One week. Can you feel it in the air? The 2024 NFL Draft is right around the corner, filling NFL fans with hope and the idea that their team is about to select a franchise cornerstone.

This is a strong draft class at the top, with a few players who can make immediate impacts and potentially take home hardware after the season ends. Here’s a few team/player fits that could maximize the ability of a few talented rookies this season.

Los Angeles, CA - March 20:USC quarterback Caleb Williams at Pro Day at USC on Wednesday, March 20, 2024.   (Photo by David Crane/MediaNews Group/Los Angeles Daily News via Getty Images)

Chicago Bears — Caleb Williams, QB, USC

Williams has found himself in a situation most No. 1 picks dream of.

In a normal year, the worst team in the league owns the first pick due to a myriad of reasons, mostly being a poorly constructed team that doesn’t have the talent or identity to stack wins. That’s not the case for the Bears, who have a strong foundation and appear ready to take that next step toward being a playoff team.

Williams will walk into an offense that has a few investments along the offensive line, including last year’s top-10 pick Darnell Wright, two Pro Bowl wide receivers, a solid tight end in Cole Kmet and a veteran running back with D’Andre Swift. That’s a blessing! Most quarterbacks who go first overall have to play in a destitute situation with no hope of overcoming for a year or two. Barring health, Williams will even be playing with a defense that has the potential to be a top-10 unit in 2024.

It’s an incredibly friendly situation for a rookie, who will undoubtedly need time to get used to playing in the NFL. Still, Williams has the talent and situation around him where he’ll be able to make a massive impact in Year 1. He will most likely be the odds-on favorite for Offensive Rookie of the Year after the draft, and for good reason.

Arizona Cardinals — Marvin Harrison Jr., WR, Ohio State

If Harrison gets to play with a quarterback who has had success in the NFL, he has the talent to put up a monster rookie season. He’s that good. In a class that features Malik Nabers and Rome Odunze, Harrison is largely seen as the unquestioned top wideout in the draft. Harrison essentially skipped the draft process outside of interviews and a scouting combine weigh-in and no one expects him to fall down the draft board.

Putting Harrison with Kyler Murray is something Cardinals fans should immediately be excited about — and they need him, too. Marquise Brown is off to the Chiefs, Rondale Moore is with the Falcons and the best wideout on their roster is probably second-year wide receiver Michael Wilson, who has promise, but does not profile to be as dominant as Harrison.

It seems the only thing that could stop the Cardinals from landing Harrison would be a team trading up with New England to snatch him from their grasp. Hopefully, the Cardinals can land Harrison because with a real quarterback, he can have a rookie season that everyone remembers for years to come.

OXFORD, MISSISSIPPI - SEPTEMBER 30: Wide receiver Brian Thomas Jr. #11 of the LSU Tigers catches a pass for a touchdown in front of cornerback Deantre Prince #7 of the Mississippi Rebels during the first half of play at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium on September 30, 2023 in Oxford, Mississippi. (Photo by Michael Chang/Getty Images)
Brian Thomas Jr.'s skills would fit nicely as Josh Allen's No. 1 wideout in Buffalo. (Photo by Michael Chang/Getty Images)

Buffalo Bills — Brian Thomas Jr., WR, LSU

Buffalo has a massive need at wide receiver, but the Bills don’t pick until the later portions of the first round. The 28th pick is way too far to get someone like Marvin Harrison Jr., Malik Nabers or Rome Odunze, but it might be a spot where they can land a prospect like Thomas.

Just like Nabers, Thomas is a big-play threat who can do immense damage down the field. Thomas scored 17 touchdowns on just 68 receptions in 2023, while averaging nearly 18 yards a reception. Now throw in being 6-foot-3 with 4.33 speed and a 38.5-inch vert? That’s a profile that oozes high potential in the NFL.

That also sounds like the type of receiver Josh Allen would have a ton of success with. If Thomas can be a better version of Gabe Davis for the Bills (in a world where he gets drafted by Buffalo, of course), he could be a monster as a rookie from a production standpoint while he gets used to the finer points of being an NFL receiver. Allen with a real big-play threat would allow Buffalo to still have a credible passing game while it reshapes its roster. If it worked well enough, Thomas could get himself some Rookie of the Year votes.

New York JetsBrock Bowers, TE, Georgia

This is probably the dream scenario for Bowers as things stand — assuming Aaron Rodgers can get somewhere close to being an MVP-level quarterback again. The Jets already have an emerging superstar at wide receiver in Garrett Wilson, a strong No. 2 wideout in Mike Williams and a star running back with Breece Hall. A dynamic tight end could take this offense to the next level in a season when they’re trying to win the Super Bowl.

Bowers did everything for the Bulldogs' offense. From traditional tight end duties, to playing in the slot, outside wide receiver and even running the ball, Georgia trusted him with everything. Throwing him into what looks like an extremely talented Jets offense might be the secret sauce New York needs to launch its first playoff run since 2011.

Las Vegas RaidersQuinyon Mitchell, CB, Toledo

Mitchell checks so many boxes for a smaller-school prospect. Outstanding on-ball production for a cornerback, strong performance at the Senior Bowl and elite athleticism at the NFL scouting combine should alleviate any concerns talent evaluators have on his ability to translate to the next level. A realistic landing spot for Mitchell where he could have a Rookie of the Year-level impact is with the Raiders, due to the big free-agent addition they made this offseason.

It’ll be hard to find many duos along the defensive line that can create disruption in the way Christian Wilkins and Maxx Crosby are projected to do. They have a potential three-headed monster up front if Tyree Wilson can take those next steps into stardom in his sophomore season. That’s a cornerback’s dream — a multitude of pass rushers who can cause quarterbacks to make errant throws. Mitchell already has the ability to make plays on the ball, but getting with this defensive line could make him a real weapon that can get him into the Rookie of the Year race on defense.