2024 NFL Draft insider notes: The Brock Bowers vs Drake Maye conversation and Steelers' plans to shore up ranks

2024 NFL Draft insider notes: The Brock Bowers vs Drake Maye conversation and Steelers
2024 NFL Draft insider notes: The Brock Bowers vs Drake Maye conversation and Steelers' plans to shore up ranks

The 2024 NFL Draft is just 10 days away, and as final draft meetings around the league are coming to an end, here are some of the latest rumblings and chatter as team’s break out of those summits.

The conversation around the media the past few weeks has centered on quarterback Drake Maye, with many believing the North Carolina quarterback is underrated.

Yet in speaking with a few teams, they believe the most underrated player at the top of this draft is Georgia tight end Brock Bowers. While some have mocked Bowers into the middle part of Round 1, no team I spoke with believes he’ll get out of the top 10, and at the very latest he will end up with the Denver Broncos at pick 12. Bowers brings too much playmaking ability and consistency to fall out of the top dozen selections, and teams believe he’ll be a Day 1 starter.

Mike Sainristil rising up draft boards

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Which cornerback will be drafted earlier than anyone expects? The overwhelming belief is Mike Sainristil could be selected at least a round earlier than most people believe. Right now, I’m hearing early-to-mid second round for the Michigan defensive back, and he could be the seventh corner off the board. And I’ve reported on the reasons in previous articles.

I wrote about Sainristil’s pro-day workout at Michigan on March 22, and it’s viewed as the best single-day postseason performance of any player available in this draft by several decision makers. His position work at receiver was as dominant as the defensive-back skills he displayed.

His interviews since the combine have been off the charts, which comes as no surprise since many have described Sainristil as being a “genius” talking Xs and Os. And though he’s just 5-foot-9.5 and projects as a nickel back, people I’ve spoken with point out that nickel backs are on the field 75% to 80% of the defensive snaps each week.

So where could Sainristil end up? People I’ve spoken with believe the Carolina Panthers at the top of Round 2 are a possibility, as are the Los Angeles Chargers with the 37th pick. Both teams need cornerbacks and in Los Angeles, Sainristil would be reunited with Jim Harbaugh. Basedon conversations the past two weeks, there are few teams have Sainristil getting out of round two.

The other player who is getting a tremendous amount of buzz that will be selected earlier than anyone presently predicts is Marshawn Kneeland of Western Michigan. Despite participating in the Senior Bowl and combine, Kneeland has had 16 official-30 visits, a huge number for a player with no medical or character concerns.

His recent schedule included trips to meet with the Tampa Bay Bucs, Carolina Panthers and Indianapolis Colts last week, the Detroit Lions this past weekend and the Buffalo Bills as well as the Green Bay Packers on Monday through Wednesday of this week. While teams are doing a lot of double checking, Kneeland is considered one of the safest pass rushers in this draft.

So who could take Kneeland and where will he go? The San Francisco 49ers were hot on his trail, but the team signed two pass rushers in free agency, so cross them off the list. The Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions have shown a ton of interest in Kneeland, and he could end up with either team at the end of Round 2 (assuming Detroit does not take a pass rusher in the first round).

Inside Steelers' plans for the 2024 NFL Draft

What will the Pittsburgh Steelers do in Round 1? The widely held belief is that they will select an offensive lineman or cornerback with the 20th selection. People in the league tell me the team is sending signals they will take a blocker with that selection, but who?

Speculation from people in the league familiar with the organization is that Graham Barton of Duke will likely be the pick. The reasoning is simple: Barton was an accomplished offensive tackle at Duke and projects to center in the NFL. The Steelers need help at both positions, and Barton’s ability to line up at either makes him very attractive.

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