2023 Pac-12 Championship - Oregon v Washington
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The 2024 NFL Draft directly taught us how teams view certain positions and indirectly taught us why one team could be in trouble. Here are some of the lessons learned over the course of three days in Detroit:  

Global expansion continues

The league grows more widespread on an annual basis. Germany, England and Brazil will host regular season contests in the upcoming season. Mexico had previously hosted an International Series game. For the first time in NFL history, reality contestant Ozo Chukwu announced a draft pick from Nigeria. There are more and more international academies preparing players for a professional future in the NFL. Fans should expect first-time International Series city hosts in the coming years. 

Unconventional ways of finding NFL players

The last subcategory is certainly aiding in the next one. In addition to the traditional scouting of collegiate athletes, the NFL found talent in a variety of other ways: one from the Canadian Football League (CFL), two from Canadian universities and one from the International Pathway Program. The institution and expansion of the practice squad allows teams to carry players that may require additional development. 

Denver's campaign to be the smartest in the room

Atlanta taking Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr. came as a surprise, but it prepared everyone for the possibility that Oregon's Bo Nix could go sooner than expected. Denver needed a quarterback but few considered Nix to be worthy of the No. 12 overall selection. Upon the announcement of the pick, the organization immediately set course on controlling the public narrative. A report from ESPN's Adam Schefter claimed that head coach Sean Payton feels as confident in Nix as he did in Patrick Mahomes. Payton then used his press conference to pat himself on the back for what he considered baiting Minnesota into trading up for Michigan's J.J. McCarthy. 

The reality is that NFL production is all that matters and Nix has an opportunity to prove himself just like every other draft pick. If he wins, then the franchise will have the last laugh. However, it is a red flag when the only supporters of the decision are found within your own building.

The reasoning for Atlanta's selection of Penix actually made a lot of sense. They do not anticipate picking this high in the coming years and wanted to take their swing on a quarterback of the future. My issue, specifically, is with the execution. Cousins' contract will impact decision-making for at least two and probably three years. Penix will turn 24-years-old in a little over a week. He played nearly 3000 offensive snaps in college; this is not a traditional, youthful quarterback that benefits from sitting on the bench for a year or two. 

Active free agent RB market was indicative of talent in the draft

Running backs Saquon Barkley, Josh Jacobs and Aaron Jones signed lucrative deals in free agency as teams sought out difference makers at the position. Those decisions were not made in a vacuum, but rather with an eye towards the future. Carolina selected the first running back (Texas' Jonathon Brooks) at No. 46 overall. The latest that the first running back has been taken in the NFL Draft was in 2016 when Tennessee took Washington's Bishop Sankey. Had it not been for Brooks, who the Panthers traded up to select, the first running back would not have been taken until No. 66 overall. Four were taken in the Top-100 overall.