NFL Combine takeaways: Caleb Williams still No. 1, Dallas Turner leads defensive players in 2024 NFL Draft

The 2024 NFL Combine provided its usual mix of surprise and priors-confirming info to help better evaluate the best prospects in the 2024 NFL Draft.

Although some big names chose to not participate in the workouts in Indianapolis, there were still plenty of results that provide more clarity (mostly good, some bad) for what should happen April 25-27 in Detroit.

Here are the most important things Sporting News learned from the latest NFL Combine.

MORE NFL DRAFT: Top 125 big board

The top takeaways from the 2024 NFL Combine, by position

Caleb Williams

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Quarterbacks: Caleb Williams does a lot while doing nothing, most others do something well

Williams wasn’t on the field trying to further prove himself as the clear-cut No. 1 QB in the 2024 class, but he was everywhere else in Indianapolis (except for the medicals). Williams doesn’t lack in confidence to the point he also fully expects to go No. 1 overall to the Bears. If there was any doubt on his status changing, he would have taken the field to compete, but there was simply no reason to do anything.

Meanwhile, Drake Maye and Jayden Daniels should have a little regret after the three QBs ranked behind them — Bo Nix, J.J. McCarthy, and Michael Penix Jr. — all showed well to enhance their own expected passing strengths. That trio gave the Commanders and Patriots a lot more to think about at No. 2 and No. 3 and have given the Giants more fodder to take a QB at No. 6.

MORE: Grading all the QB workouts from NFL Combine

Wide receivers: Rome Odunze leads rise of non-Marvin Harrison Jr. options

Harrison is the Williams of the wide receivers in this draft class, only with a wider gap from the rest of the field. That’s especially impressive given how strong and deep it is. There’s a good chance now there are 12 wideouts going off the board in the first round and a half (48 picks).

Malik Nabers is trying to hold off Odunze as the second wideout taken, but now it’s clear both should go in the top 10, even with the run on QBs. Odunze lit it up as a Garrett Wilson-like alpha fresh off his dazzling career at Washington. He’s a flat-out playmaker with the ideal combination of everything. His size gives him a shot to jump Nabers as a top-six pick.

Keon Coleman and Brian Thomas Jr. held very steady as first-rounders, but Texas speedsters Xavier Worthy and Adonai Mitchell also made their cases to go to contenders like the Bills, Chiefs, and Ravens. Xavier Legette and Ladd McConkey were among the other rising second-rounders who threw down, and sleeper Luke McCaffrey also came to show his speed. This is a very exciting class marked by a lot of big, perimeter deep threats.

MORE: WR Xavier Worthy among biggest combine winners

Running backs: Isaac Guerendo goes gonzo as red-hot sleeper

Guerendo, not Braelon Allen, was the buzziest former Wisconsin running back to have a day. While Allen was a bit up-and-down in his positional drills, Guerendo, who transferred to start at Louisville, blew up the combine with his blazing 4.33 40-yard dash and was even more jaw-dropping with his 41.5-inch vertical jump. This is a rather weak class, as bigger-name college stars Blake Corum and Audric Estime, were rather underwhelming.

Jonathon Brooks of Texans should be the first off the board, but fellow former Longhorns teammate Keilan Robinson (4.42 in the 40) stood out along with Guerendo as the high-upside speed merchants who are all the rage as change-of-pace backs.

Tight ends: J’Tavion Sanders hype cools behind Brock Bowers

Sanders was trying to join Bowers as a surefire first-rounder, but what gave pause before the combine was his lack of ideal size (6-4, 245 pounds) to hold up on tougher inside routes in the NFL. The thought was he could blow by defenders as a “move” option given his speed and quickness, but his 4.69 40 time didn’t stand out athletically vs. the other non-Bowers tight ends. Sanders still should be a late second-rounder, at worst.

Offensive linemen: Troy Fautanu, Taliese Fuaga live up to recent hype

Fautanu showed a powerful, dominant game in the drills. He has been tabbed as a guard, but at 6-4, 317 pounds, he plays bigger than his size as a blocker. His agility and quickness also can translate to playing right tackle well for many years in the NFL. He should have separated a little from similar prospect Graham Barton as a late first-round target for teams such as the Cowboys, Cardinals, 49ers, and Packers.

Fuaga, with Olumuyiwa Fashanu suffering a thigh injury and not being able to complete with the tackles, opened the door for prospects behind Joe Alt. Fuaga keeps creeping toward the top 10 because, like Fautanu, he is a smooth combination of everything needed to thrive as an NFL blocker. Fautanu won’t be far behind, working himself into the top 30.

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Edge rushers: Dallas Turner has a superstar turn

Turner hasn’t gotten the Will Anderson Jr.-like hype with his impact pass-rush potential, but his active playmaking should push him firmly into the top nine picks. His 4.46 40 and 40.5-inch vertical jump confirmed he’s a dazzling, rangy athlete in his own right. He did what he needed to do to officially separate from Laiatu Latu and Jared Verse as the best EDGE in the class.

MORE: How Dallas Turner dominated the agility drills at NFL Combine

Defensive tackles: Braden Fiske is now more reward than risk

Fiske, overshadowed at Florida State by the pass-rush production of Verse outside, had seen a gradual climb into third-round status before the combine. Fiske’s rise should continue after showing tremendous athleticism for his 6-4, 292-pound frame. His 4.78 40 and 9.9-inch broad jump were incredible numbers. Fiske worked himself into Round 2 and might get some late-Round 1 thoughts from the right team.

Linebackers: Edgerrin Cooper, Payton Wilson pull away

Cooper and Wilson are headed to a photo finish to be the first linebacker off the board. Cooper, at 6-2, 230 pounds, exploded for a 4.51 40. Wilson, at 6-4, 233 pounds, was even faster with a 4.43 mark. They both offer great speed and quickness with great instincts in coverage. They should go both early second round, at worst, with either being able to crack the top 32 depending on the team needs.

Cornerbacks: Nate Wiggins, Quinyon Mitchell one-up ‘Bama duo

Wiggins ran a 4.28 40 to prove he has the downfield speed to stay with anyone in coverage, and that will be the big takeaway from his combine vs. how his workout was cut short by a hip injury. Mitchell was right behind him at 4.33. They both possess ample size and technique assets to have shutdown potential. 

As for Alabama’s first-round hopefuls, Terrion Arnold slipped a little with 4.5 40, but he still can go in between Wiggins and Mitchell. Unfortunately, Crimson Tide teammate Kool-Aid McKinstry didn’t even get to work out to show his worth after a foot fracture was discovered during medicals. That likely will push him out of any first-round consideration.

MORE: Nate Wiggins’ speed comes through well at combine before hip injury

Safeties: Cole Bishop makes another move in wide-open class

Bishop become more attractive to teams beyond a late Day 2 pick because he combined his size (6-2, 206 pounds) with 4.45 speed and great agility. He is a natural cover man with an excellent frame to handle the big slot. He can also fly upfield and get after the running game. No pun intended: Bishop is an intriguing defensive chess piece now worth a second-round consideration.

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