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JJ McCarthy draft prediction: Where will Michigan QB land in NFL?

JJ McCarthy draft prediction: Where will Michigan QB land in NFL? originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

A Michigan man is perhaps the biggest mystery man of the 2024 NFL Draft.

Fresh off a national championship season, J.J. McCarthy is entering the pro ranks. He joins USC’s Caleb Williams, LSU’s Jayden Daniels and UNC's Drake Maye at the top of a loaded quarterback class, one that could potentially be historic.

Quarterbacks have never been selected with the first, second, third and fourth picks in the same NFL draft. QBs will almost certainly go 1-2-3 for the fourth time in history, but McCarthy could be the wild card that makes it four straight.

Where will McCarthy land, and will there be a trade involved to get him? Let’s dig in and make a prediction:

J.J. McCarthy stats

McCarthy, 21, is the youngest signal-caller in this year’s quarterback class, but he doesn’t lack big-game experience.

The 6-foot-2, 219-pound QB lost just one game over his two seasons as a starter at Michigan. He threw 22 passing touchdowns to four interceptions while sprinkling in three rushing touchdowns across 15 games. He wrapped up his college career by going 10-for-18 passing for 140 yards in a College Football Playoff National Championship victory over Washington.

J.J. McCarthy draft visits

So, which teams could be interested in McCarthy?

Speaking on “The Rich Eisen Show” on Wednesday, McCarthy said he has taken personal visits with three teams during the draft process: New York Giants, New England Patriots and Washington Commanders. Asked further about if he knows where he will end up, he said he has “somewhat of an idea” before complimenting Giants head coach Brian Daboll and his visits in New York.

After the Chicago Bears take Williams with the No. 1 pick, the Commanders will be up at No. 2 for its choice of Daniels, Maye and McCarthy. Despite some Top Golf turmoil, all signs leading up to the draft indicate Daniels will be heading to Washington, which brings the Patriots up at No. 3. The Giants are at No. 6, behind the Arizona Cardinals (No. 4) and Los Angeles Chargers (No. 5).

There are other QB-needy teams at the top of the draft. The Minnesota Vikings are at No. 11 and own a second first-round pick at No. 23. The Denver Broncos and Las Vegas Raiders are also lurking at No. 12 and No. 13, respectively, without long-term commitments at the position.

Will J.J. McCarthy be the No. 3 pick?

With Williams going to Chicago and Daniels going to Washington, the realistic earliest spot for McCarthy to go is No. 3 – but it may not be with the Patriots.

Eliot Wolf, New England’s director of scouting, said Wednesday that the team will field calls for the No. 3 pick up until the pick is made Thursday night. At No. 6, the Giants could be a trade-up contender if they are worried about a team jumping in front of them for a quarterback, though they also have a glaring need at wide receiver. The Vikings have indicated they are preparing for a move into the top 10 – or even higher – after picking up another 2024 first-rounder in a trade with the Houston Texans last month.

NBC Sports Boston Patriots insider Tom E. Curran reported Thursday morning that the expectation is Wolf and Co. will stay at No. 3 and take Maye unless they are blown away by a trade offer. Fox Sports’ Ralph Vacchiano later reported that he believes the Giants will make an offer but doubts they have enough to move the Patriots off their spot.

Then there are the Vikings, who can offer three first-round picks to the Patriots. However, New England would fall back further into the first round if it accepted Minnesota’s picks as opposed to New York’s No. 6 selection.

The Broncos have the No. 12 pick at their disposal but do not own their 2024 second-rounder. The Raiders have No. 13, a pick in each of the next five rounds and two sevenths.

Will a team trade up for J.J. McCarthy at a later pick?

If those trade arsenals aren’t enough to get to No. 3, could they be enough to move elsewhere in the top 10?

The Cardinals at No. 4, Chargers at No. 5, Atlanta Falcons at No. 8 and Bears at No. 9 stand out as potential trade-back candidates.

Arizona already has 11 picks in the 2024 draft, tied for the most in the NFL. The team figures to be in the mix for a wide receiver, but it could conceivably get one of the “big three” receivers – Ohio State’s Marvin Harrison Jr., LSU’s Malik Nabers and Washington’s Rome Odunze – later in the top 10.

The Chargers could be in the market for receiver or offensive tackle help at No. 5. However, with loaded classes at both positions, they could add more draft capital in a trade and still possibly add a blue-chip prospect in the first round.

If the Falcons are thinking about the other side of the ball, they won’t need to use the No. 8 pick to get a top defensive player. The first defensive player may not come off the board until Nos. 10-13, especially if someone wants to move into Atlanta’s spot for McCarthy.

While the Bears are getting the next face of their franchise at No. 1, they only have three other picks: No. 9, No. 75 and No. 122. A trade out of No. 9 would net the team more selections, while running the risk of missing out on a premier receiver or tackle to put around Williams.

Do the Vikings need to trade up from No. 11 to get J.J. McCarthy?

Minnesota could potentially strike gold if the draft board falls its way.

Even if Maye is their top QB option, it is out of the Vikings' control if the Patriots stand pat and take the North Carolina star. However, there’s no telling if any other quarterbacks will fall off the board between Nos. 4-10. The Vikings could conceivably stay put at 11, still get the fourth QB in McCarthy and then use the No. 23 pick on a supporting player or trade back to recoup some of the draft capital it used to get No. 23 from the Texans in the first place.

Now, this obviously comes with an extraordinary risk. The Giants could take McCarthy at No. 6 (or earlier) or the Broncos or Raiders could make a jump, leaving the Vikings to decide between Washington’s Michael Penix Jr., Oregon’s Bo Nix or a non-quarterback at No. 11.

J.J. McCarthy draft prediction

I think McCarthy will get a helping hand from his college coach.

Jim Harbaugh shakes things up in his first draft with the Chargers and OKs a trade with the Vikings. Minnesota moves up to No. 5, avoiding the potential disaster of missing out on a top-four quarterback and handing the keys to McCarthy. Los Angeles, meanwhile, moves back to No. 11, picks an offensive tackle and secures additional picks to build up the roster.