Who Will Be the First Defensive Player Taken in the 2024 NFL Draft?

Skyler Carlin
Skyler Carlin@skyler_carlin
Who Will Be the First Defensive Player Taken in the 2024 NFL Draft?

There has been a ton of hype surrounding this year's class of quarterbacks, wide receivers, and offensive linemen in the 2024 NFL Draft. Even though scoring points is the name of the game in football, the incoming defensive prospects also deserve some love.

With the draft taking place in over a month, FanDuel Sportsbook is offering plenty of markets in the NFL Draft odds section. One of the markets made available for this year's draft is the "First Defensive Player Drafted."

Considering the importance that teams place on rushing the passer and covering the league's best receivers, could we see a defensive player go early in the first round? Let's take a look at the incoming defensive players and discuss the top contenders to be the first defensive player taken in the 2024 NFL Draft.

NFL Draft Odds

First Defensive Player Drafted

2024 NFL Draft First Defensive Player Taken
Dallas Turner+100
Quinyon Mitchell+350
Jared Verse+380
Terrion Arnold+470
Byron Murphy+2500
Laiatu Latu+2500
Nate Wiggins+4000
View Full Table

Dallas Turner, Edge, Alabama (+100)

The favorite in FanDuel Sportsbook's NFL Draft odds to be the first defensive player to hear his name called on draft night is Dallas Turner at +100. Turner is an edge rusher from the Alabama Crimson Tide who tallied personal-best marks in sacks (10.0) and tackles for loss (14.5) in 2023.

According to PFF, the talented pass rusher posted the 14th-most total pressures (55) among defensive players who saw 200-plus pass-rushing snaps in college football last season. After having only four sacks and eight tackles for loss in 2022, it was a fantastic bounce-back campaign for Turner in 2023.

At the NFL Scouting Combine, Turner did nothing but improve his stock in the pre-draft process. Among pass rushers who were invited, Turner ran the fastest 40-yard dash (4.46 seconds) and recorded the highest vertical jump (40.5 inches) while tying for the fastest 10-yard split (1.54 seconds).

Quinyon Mitchell, CB, Toledo (+350)

The title of being the consensus top cornerback prospect in this year's draft has changed hands various times, but Quinyon Mitchell helped his case at the NFL Scouting Combine. Mitchell, a cornerback from the Toledo Rockets, measured in at 6-foot flat and 195 pounds while clocking in the second-fastest 40-yard dash (4.33 seconds) among corners at the event.

The incoming rookie cornerback also showed off his physical strength with the most bench-press reps (20) at the position, which shows up in his tape on the field. In his final two seasons at Toledo, Mitchell totaled 82 tackles, 37 pass breakups, six interceptions, and two touchdowns.

Just this past year, Mitchell was tied for the 10th-lowest catch rate allowed (43.5%) among corners with 300-plus pass-coverage snaps in 2023, and he had just three missed tackles on 781 total defensive snaps. With Mitchell having the size and speed that teams are looking for in a No. 1 cornerback, the former Rocket could be the first defender taken in this year's draft.

Jared Verse, Edge, Florida State (+380)

Another edge defender receiving buzz is Jared Verse from the Florida State Seminoles. Before arriving at Florida State in 2022, Verse began his collegiate career at the University of Albany -- an FCS school -- where he would notch 9.5 sacks and 11.5 tackles for loss in 2021.

Across his two seasons with the Seminoles, Verse accumulated 18 sacks and 29.5 tackles for loss. The athletic sack artist logged the fifth-most total pressures (62) and tied for the sixth-best pass-rush win rate (21.8%) among defensive players with 200-plus pass-rushing snaps last season.

Standing at 6-foot-4, and weighing in at 254 pounds, Verse would earn the fourth-fastest 40-yard dash (4.58 seconds) and tied for the sixth-fastest 10-yard split (1.60) among the pass rushers at the NFL Scouting Combine. Following a productive collegiate career, Verse could be the first defensive player to shake Roger Goodell's hand.

Terrion Arnold, CB, Alabama (+470)

Alabama has consistently churned out top-tier cornerbacks over the years, and Terrion Arnold is expected to join that list in the 2024 NFL Draft. While Arnold tied for the 19th-fastest 40-yard dash (4.50 seconds) and tied for the 16th-fastest 10-yard split (1.54 seconds), he did manage to reach the fourth-fastest speed (18.40 MPH) within the first 10 yards of his 40-yard dash, per NextGenStats.

Production wasn't an issue for Arnold in his final two seasons for the Crimson Tide, accruing 108 tackles, 20 pass breakups, and six interceptions. The cornerback duo of Arnold and Kool-Aid McKinstry -- who has an all-time cool name -- made it extremely difficult for opposing teams to put the ball in the air with confidence.

During the 2023 college football campaign, Arnold tied for the 33rd-most defensive stops (11) -- PFF defines this as a tackle that constitutes a "failure" for the offense -- which will likely catch the eye of scouts and teams seeking a well-rounded cornerback. While Mitchell is expected to be the first corner off of the board, we've seen teams prioritize prospects from Alabama and other blue-blood programs.

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The above author is a FanDuel employee and is not eligible to compete in public daily fantasy contests or place sports betting wagers on FanDuel. The advice provided by the author does not necessarily represent the views of FanDuel. Taking the author's advice will not guarantee a successful outcome. You should use your own judgment when participating in daily fantasy contests or placing sports wagers.