NFL Combine results: Grading the 2024 quarterback workouts, from Bo Nix and Michael Penix Jr. to Sam Hartman

The 2024 NFL Combine was an interesting showcase for the top quarterbacks in the class. The consensus top three prospects at the position — USC’s Caleb Williams, North Carolina’s Drake Maye and LSU’s Jayden Daniels all decided not to participate in the passing drills. 

Williams is all but locked in as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2024 draft, assuming the Bears move Justin Fields as expected. Maye and Daniels are then expected to go, in either order, to the Commanders and Patriots with the next two picks.

If Williams is considered in his own tier, with either Maye or Daniels coming in second, then all the other QBs invited to Indianapolis to work out Saturday were battling to emerge from the muddled middle.

Michigan’s J.J. McCarthy, Oregon’s Bo Nix and Washington’s Michael Penix Jr. are battling to be the next QB off the board. All took the field Saturday looking to make sure six QBs are taken in the first round.

With the three opt-outs, plus Florida State’s Jordan Travis still sidelined by injury, 10 quarterbacks threw at the combine Saturday. Here’s how they all did, ranking their performances from best to worst.

MORE: Live updates, highlights from NFL Combine workouts

NFL Combine results: Grading QB performances

Bo Nix, Michael Penix Jr.

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1. Bo Nix, Oregon (6-2, 214 pounds)

Grade: A

Nix came into the combine confident that he had an arm accurate enough to make most of the throws, plus athleticism. But the question was whether he could keep his footwork sound when dropping back in the pocket and just how big an arm he had on out routes. Nix solidified his status as a first-half first-rounder by adding more oomph to his well-rounded game.

2. Michael Penix Jr., Washington (6-2, 216 pounds)

Grade: A

Penix showed no medical issues and measured very well with his hand (10 1/2 inches) and arm size (33 5/8 inches). He then brought his calling card: terrific spin and accuracy on his tight, beautiful deep ball.

Because of his natural athletic limitations, he can’t catch up to the top five, but the question was whether he did enough to be a first-rounder. Some team willing to do a Lamar Jackson-like trade up could go after him as the last potential near-future starter in the round.

3. J.J McCarthy, Michigan (6-2, 219 pounds)

Grade: A-

McCarthy started rough with some inaccurate throws, but he got back on track, showing a live arm both on zipping passes on short-to-intermediate and deeper routes. He showed why he’s bit of a untapped talent coming out of a run-heavy offense.

His mental makeup and physical toughness are the hidden bonuses to his game, as he impressed several teams behind the scenes. The Michigan product wasn’t as sharp as Nix, but like Nix, he shouldn’t drop out of the first 13 picks. He even put some pressure on Maye and Daniels to ball out at their pro days later in March.

4. Spencer Rattler, South Carolina (6-0, 211 pounds)

Grade: B+

Rattler, once considered a potential high draft pick, has settled into a likely third-rounder, albeit an intriguing one.

His strong arm stood out, as he was rather smooth going through all the passes well through the deep ball. His size will hurt him a little, but he has some athleticism to help compensate.

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5. Kedon Slovis, BYU (6-2, 223 pounds)

Grade: B+

Once highly touted as an NFL prospect before some needed transfer rebooting, Slovis redeemed himself, much like Rattler did. With no Daniels in Indy, Slovis “won” the 40-yard dash as the fastest QB at the combine.

On the field, he showed some good footwork and all-around accuracy spreading the ball well all over the field. He also projects as a young backup with upside.

6. Devin Leary, Kentucky (6-1, 215 pounds)

Grade: B

Leary, who succeeded Will Levis by way of NC State, was lost in the shuffle among backup-type prospects before the combine. He did everything possible to get into the conversation with a strong all-around workout. He showed he can be a fundamentally sound passer, making the most of plus arm with consistent accuracy.

7. Joe Milton, Tennessee (6-5, 235 pounds)

Grade: B-

Milton did what he was expected to do: Put on a show flinging the deep ball and making it look smooth and effortless. He needs development in a lot of other areas, but he has an absolute laser for an arm and that will get him some consideration to go late on Day 2 (third round) vs. early on Day 3 (fourth round).

8. Michael Pratt, Tulane (6-2, 217 pounds)

Grade: C

Pratt does a little bit of everything well. But even with a decent throwing session, his athleticism, touch passing and decisiveness still stand out more than his arm and accuracy. He has a good baseline to be groomed into being a decent long-term backup in the right rhythmic passing system.

9. Austin Reed, Western Kentucky (6-1, 220 pounds)

Grade: C-

Reed was a grinder his entire well-traveled college career, and he seemed to be a facing another uphill battle with some of the effort he had to make to deliver some of his longer throws. He’s another developmental project like better recent Hilltopper prospect Bailey Zappe.

10. Sam Hartman, Notre Dame (6-1, 211 pounds)

Grade: D

Hartman’s hair stealing the slo-mo show during his fine 40-yard dash was his on-field highlight at the combine. That’s not a good sign.

He looked shaky with the passing drills, not showing the zip or deep arm needed. He’ll be a Day 3 later-round flyer at best and needs development to be trusted as a systemic backup.

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