The 8 safest picks in 2024 NFL Draft, from Marvin Harrison Jr. to Brock Bowers

“That is a safe pick.” 

That statement is bound to be said at some point during the first and second rounds of the 2024 NFL Draft. It might not send a fan base through the roof with excitement, but it’s also not the worst thing to hear during the NFL’s yearly guessing game.

Take two-time Sporting News All-American Marvin Harrison Jr., for example. He leads a strong group of first-round receivers in this year’s draft, and there is nothing on his college resume that suggests he won’t continue that success at the next level. 

There are no quarterbacks on our annual “8 Safest Draft Picks” list despite the notion this might be a record-setting first round for signal-callers. Caleb Williams, Drake Maye, Jayden Daniels, and J.J. McCarthy – the four sure-fire first-round picks – are not going to be considered completely safe picks given they are expected to be long-term answers at quarterback for their respective franchises. 

Who are the eight safest picks for the 2024 NFL Draft? Here’s a closer look.

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Safest NFL Draft picks 2024

Marvin Harrison Jr., WR, Ohio State 

Harrison Jr. is the biggest “sure thing” in the 2024 NFL Draft. He averaged 1,237 yards and 14 TDs over the past two seasons at Ohio State — production that did not change much from C.J. Stroud to Kyle McCord other than a slight drop in catch percentage. At 6-3, 209 pounds, Harrison Jr. is an exceptional route runner who can be used at any of the receiver positions to create a mismatch. Given the success other Ohio State first-round receivers – Garrett Wilson, Chris Olave, and Jaxon Smith-Njigba come to mind – have had in the past few seasons,  Harrison will have an immediate impact as a rookie and beyond. 

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Brock Bowers, TE, Georgia 

First-round tight ends are inherently polarizing, but Bowers comes with fewer risks than most. That starts as a reliable open target. The 6-4, 240-pound Georgia product had a 78.1-percent career catch percentage at Georgia – an extraordinary number that had him in the Heisman Trophy conversation at various points in his career. Bowers split the majority of his snaps as an in-line tight end or slot, and he will be useful in both spots at the next level. He also averaged 10.2 yards per carry with five rushing TDs, a nod to the freakish athleticism he possesses. Bowers will be an immediate impact player in the intermediate passing game, and his value will be even better if he slips outside the top 10. 

Joe Alt, T, Notre Dame 

Alt, at 6-9, 321 pounds, likely would have also been a top-10 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. He had the highest overall grade at tackle at Pro Football Focus, and he ranked No. 2 as both a pass and run blocker. He allowed just one sack and two quarterback hits last season – and that came with just two penalties. Joe’s father John played 13 years with the Chiefs, and Joe has the same decade-plus future at the position. Multiple Pro Bowl selections seem like a given. Zack Martin (2014), Ronnie Stanley (2016), Quenton Nelson (2018), and Mike McGlinchey (2018) are Notre Dame’s last four offensive linemen to go in the first round. That’s the elite company Alt keeps. 

Malik Nabers, WR, LSU

Harrison might be the first receiver selected, but Nabers and Washington’s Rome Odunze also are in that conversation. Nabers (6-0, 200 pounds) is next in the line of dominant LSU receivers after totaling 1,569 yards and 14 TDs last season. According to PFF, Nabers had 19 receptions on 29 targets on passes of 20 yards or more, which led to 624 yards and nine TDs. He improved his contested-catch percentage and ran a 4.35 in the 40 at LSU’s Pro Day. Nabers left LSU with the school record in career yards (3,003). Considering the NFL stars that went through Baton Rouge, that’s saying something. 

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Dallas Turner, EDGE, Alabama 

Alabama has only had three defensive players drafted in the first round since 2019 – a list that includes Quinnen Williams (2019), Patrick Surtain II (2021), and Will Anderson Jr. (2023). If Turner follows that trend, then he will be worth the price as the first defensive player off the board in the 2024 NFL Draft. Turner had a sophomore slump in 2022, but he showed up in the season-defining games for Alabama in 2021 and 2023. In the Iron Bowl, SEC championship, and CFP – seven total games – Turner had 8.5 sacks. Turner ran a 4.46 in the 40-yard dash as part of an impressive NFL Scouting Combine performance. 

Taliese Fuaga, T, Oregon State 

Fuaga, at 6-6, 324-pounds, continues to move up draft boards. He ranked behind Alt on PFF’s rankings, but he did not allow a sack in 339 pass-rush opportunities last season. That included high-level performances against UCLA and Washington. He did allow a few more pressures toward the end of the Pac-12 schedule, but he simply didn’t make many mistakes at a tough position. He’s an underrated run blocker, too, meaning it’s not out of the question for him to play some guard in the NFL. 

Jared Verse, EDGE, Florida State 

Verse would have been a first-round pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, but he chose to return to Florida State — a move that did not hurt his value. Verse had nine sacks and 17.5 tackles for loss in 2022, and he had nine sacks and 12.5 tackles for loss with increased attention in 2023. According to PFF, he ranked fifth in the nation with 62 pressures last season. He’s a hand-down pass rusher who can collapse the pocket, and that showed in the final two games against Florida and Louisville when he combined for four sacks and 6.5 tackles for loss. When an edge rusher puts up two seasons of high-level production the way Verse did, then it’s easy to expect it to translate at the next level. 

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Quinyon Mitchell, CB Toledo 

Mitchell ran a 4.33 in the 40 at the NFL Scouting Combine, the second-fastest time among cornerbacks behind Clemson’s Nate Wiggins, who also will be a first-round pick. Mitchell, however, didn’t just grade out as the highest cornerback in coverage at PFF last season; he also led the way in 2022, finishing ahead of Devon Witherspoon, who was an impact player as a rookie in Seattle. Mitchell will do the same wherever he lands. Northern Illinois’ Jimmie Ward (2014) was the last MAC defensive back to be a first-round pick, and he’s entering his 11th season in 2024.

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