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2024 NFL Draft: Four potential surprise first-rounders

There is drama at the top of the 2024 NFL Draft, as a likely run on quarterbacks -- and some accompanying trades, presumably -- should spawn a fascinating start to the action in Round 1 on Thursday night.

But who fills out the final picks in the first round, once the true blue-chip prospects are off the board?

Here are four players who haven't exactly headlined mock drafts of late, but hearing their names called on Thursday evening wouldn't shock some of the NFL executives, scouts and coaches I've talked to in recent weeks.

Keon Coleman
Florida State · WR · Junior

A disappointing time in the 40-yard dash (4.61 seconds) dropped Coleman out of most first-round mock drafts. However, Coleman reached a top speed of 20.36 mph in the gauntlet drill -- best among all receivers at this year’s NFL Scouting Combine and faster than Puka Nacua’s combine-best 20.06 mph in 2023. Coleman has size (6-foot-3 1/4, 213 pounds with a 78 1/8-inch wingspan), production (108 catches and 18 TDs over the past two seasons), ball skills and good hands. He was among the busiest players during the pre-draft process with a dozen top-30 visits, plus a couple private team workouts. 

One veteran assistant coach said Coleman has some qualities that remind him of another former Seminoles receiver: Anquan Boldin. A different coach pointed out Coleman wasn’t even training full time for football until recently -- he played basketball for Michigan State in the spring of 2022 -- and hasn’t fully developed physically. Coleman has time to grow into his body, as he turns 21 next month. NFL teams won’t want to miss on the next Nacua, who caught 105 passes for 1,486 yards and six touchdowns in a Pro Bowl rookie season for the Rams after his own underwhelming 40 time (reportedly a 4.57 at his pro day) contributed to his fall to the fifth round. There are enough receiver-needy teams at the end of Round 1 and top of Round 2 in this draft to think Coleman won’t remain on the board too long.

Junior Colson
Michigan · LB · Junior

As my colleague Daniel Jeremiah noted recently, this isn’t a good year to need off-ball linebackers. But if one player at that position sneaks into Round 1, it might be the 21-year-old Colson, who led the national champion Wolverines in tackles for the second straight season in 2023 with 95. He also won the Lott IMPACT (Integrity, Maturity, Performance, Academics, Community, Tenacity) Trophy last season -- an honor that went to a pair of top-three picks (Aidan Hutchinson and Will Anderson Jr.) in the previous two years. Colson has good size at 6-2 1/4, 238 pounds. He's also a PFF favorite, as one of just six FBS linebackers to boast 80-plus grades in run defense and coverage in 2023 (min. 600 snaps).

Colson didn’t participate in drills and testing at the combine because of a hamstring injury suffered in training, and a busy string of visits -- including to the Cowboys, who served as his medical recheck -- made it impractical to ramp up training again in time to work out at Michigan's pro day. But he played in all 43 games (36 starts) over three seasons at Michigan, despite battling a foot injury in 2022 and breaking his left hand in 2023, forcing him to play in a cast. (He also wore a splint on his right hand down the stretch of last season.) Value will be the question, but Colson profiles as the definition of a safe pick. 

Kingsley Suamataia
BYU · OT · Sophomore (RS)

A five-star recruit who originally followed cousin Penei Sewell to Oregon, Suamataia transferred after one year to become a two-year starter for the Cougars. He started at right tackle in 2022 and left tackle in '23, allowing just two sacks in 701 total pass-block snaps, per PFF. Suamataia has NFL size (6-4 5/8, 326 pounds with 34 1/4-inch arms) and strength (31 bench reps at the combine, third among tackles), and he just turned 21 in January.

Suamataia is a polarizing prospect -- Jeremiah has him ranked No. 121 on his Top 150 prospects list and several scouts said they’d be stunned if he ends up in Round 1. But it only takes one team to bet on Suamataia’s upside. He had a top-30 visit with fellow BYU alum Andy Reid and the Chiefs, who own the final pick in Round 1 (No. 32 overall).

Xavier Legette
South Carolina · WR · Senior

An impressive combine performance -- including a 4.39-second 40 time and 40-inch vertical at 6-1, 221 pounds -- put Legette in the conversation of this draft’s risers. And while some NFL scouts and coaches aren’t sold after just one year of production for the Gamecocks, Legette's athletic ability alone could entice a team to take him Thursday night.

Legette had just 42 catches and five touchdowns over his first four seasons at South Carolina, missing parts of 2020 (hamstring) and 2021 (motorcycle accident), but he made the most of his extra year of eligibility, totaling 71 catches for 1,255 yards (second in the SEC behind only projected top-10 pick Malik Nabers) and seven TDs last season. He had roughly a dozen top-30 visits and did a private workout for the Bills, who just traded Stefon Diggs to Houston and own the No. 28 pick.

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