2024 NFL Draft: How Should Last Year’s Final 4 Teams Approach the Draft?

What will last year's Conference Championship Game participants do in the 2024 NFL Draft? Laying out draft strategies for the Chiefs, 49ers, Ravens, and Lions.

Much of the discussion around the 2024 NFL Draft is focused on the teams selecting in the top 10, and for good reason — the draft’s top players will inevitably land with clubs picking near the top of the board.

However, we might not spend enough time addressing draft strategies for the four teams that made it to last season’s conference championship games: the Kansas City Chiefs, San Francisco 49ers, Baltimore Ravens, and Detroit Lions.

While those squads have four of the best rosters in football, championship-level teams don’t stay competitive by sitting idle. Let’s run through the most significant needs for last year’s final four teams, beginning with the 2023 NFC North champions.

2024 NFL Draft Strategies for Last Year’s Final 4 Teams

Detroit Lions

  • Draft needs: iOL, CB, EDGE
  • Top-100 picks: 29, 61, 73 (from MIN)

The Lions boasted one of 2023’s most successful draft classes, receiving contributions from impact rookies like RB Jahmyr Gibbs, TE Sam LaPorta, and DB Brian Branch en route to winning their first playoff game in three decades.

General manager Brad Holmes made six top-100 picks last year, bringing in LB Jack Campbell, QB Hendon Hooker, and DT Brodric Martin in addition to Gibbs, LaPorta, and Branch. Detroit only has three Day 1/2 choices in 2024, so Holmes must make his selections count.

Fortunately, the Lions don’t have any glaring weaknesses on their roster. But the interior offensive line could be on the club’s radar after losing Jonah Jackson in free agency.

While Detroit signed veteran Kevin Zeitler as a stopgap, he inked a one-year deal and is 34 years old. Recurring injuries have hampered Lions center Frank Ragnow, so a versatile OL with positional flexibility like Oregon’s Jackson Power-Johnson or Duke’s Graham Barton might be in the cards.

Holmes and the rest of Detroit’s front office also need to think about cornerback, especially after releasing Cameron Sutton in the wake of his domestic violence arrest. Trade acquisition Carlton Davis III, free agent signing Amik Roberston, and Branch represent a solid nickel trio. But it might be difficult for the Lions to pass on CBs such as Nate Wiggins (Clemson) or Kool-Aid McKinstry (Alabama) at No. 28.

Baltimore Ravens

Free agency hit the Ravens harder than any team in the NFL. While Baltimore added RB Derrick Henry and franchised, then extended, DT Justin Madubuike, the club lost nine free agents who played at least 400 snaps in 2023.

Baltimore’s offensive line took the most shots. Guards John Simpson and Kevin Zeitler landed new contracts, while the Ravens traded right tackle Morgan Moses to the New York Jets.

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Free agent addition Josh Jones and holdovers Patrick Mekari, Daniel Faalele, and Ben Powers might compete to start in 2024. But Baltimore will presumably consider first-round OL prospects like Oklahoma’s Tyler Guyton or BYU’s Kingsley Suamataia.

Elsewhere on offense, the Ravens may think about drafting another wide receiver after failing to re-sign Odell Beckham Jr. Although GM Eric DeCosta could target a Round 1 pass catcher like Texas’ Adonai Mitchell or Xavier Worthy, this year’s WR class is so deep that Baltimore could wait until No. 62 to choose a prospect such as Ja’Lynn Polk (Washington) or Malachi Corley (Western Kentucky).

Let’s not rule out pass rusher for the Ravens, either, especially given that at least one of UCLA’s Laiatu Latu, Florida State’s Jared Verse, or Penn State’s Chop Robinson could be available at No. 30. Baltimore has to replace Jadeveon Clowney, who signed with the Carolina Panthers last month after playing 55% of the Ravens’ snaps and tying for fourth in pass-rush win rate (25%) in 2023.

San Francisco 49ers

While the Ravens require immediate offensive line help, the 49ers need options for the future. Trent Williams is arguably still the NFL’s best tackle but turns 36 in July, and long-term upgrades at center, right guard, and right tackle shouldn’t be out of the question for San Francisco. Arizona’s Jordan Morgan has the mobility to play in Kyle Shanahan’s scheme and could be on the board at No. 31.

Cornerback was a constant 2023 concern for the 49ers, who never found a reliable option to play alongside Charvarius Ward and Deommodore Lenoir (both of whom are entering contract years). San Francisco prefers to keep Lenoir in the slot, so a starting-caliber outside CB like T.J. Tampa (Iowa State), Max Melton (Rutgers), or Ennis Rakestraw Jr. (Missouri) may interest GM John Lynch.

Up front, the 49ers lost free agent pass rushers Chase Young, Clelin Ferrell, and Randy Gregory over the past month. New addition Leonard Floyd should help but is 31 years old, while fellow FA signing Yetur Gross-Matos never posted more than five sacks or 10 QB hits in four seasons with the Panthers.

San Francisco may be interested in pure defensive ends like Latu, Verse, or Robinson. However, if those higher-end options are off the board, the 49ers may have to settle for someone like Missouri’s Darius Robinson.

Kansas City Chiefs

Left tackle remains the most obvious need for the Chiefs, who have not re-signed veteran Donovan Smith after he started 12 regular-season games (and four playoff contests) in 2023.

Kansas City could theoretically turn Patrick Mahomes’ blindside over to last year’s third-round pick, Wanya Morris, who filled in for Smith a season ago. GM Brett Veach might also wait until after the draft to bring back Smith or target an external addition like Mekhi Becton. But if one of the draft’s top nine OTs falls to 32 — which seems likely — the Chiefs may pounce.

K.C. signed WR Hollywood Brown to a one-year deal in March, but receiver remains a concern, especially following Rashee Rice’s recent off-field incident. Although the Chiefs won’t have a shot at the Marvin Harrison Jr./Malik Nabers/Rome Odunze trio, they might find a suitable option like Florida State’s Keon Coleman or Georgia’s Ladd McConkey at the end of Day 1.

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On defense, Kansas City already has the cornerbacks in place — Trent McDuffie, Jaylen Watson, and Josh Williams — to replace L’Jarius Sneed after he was traded to the Tennessee Titans. Still, the club probably wants to keep its CB pipeline going, so a mid-round corner selection like Michigan’s Mike Sainristil or Auburn’s D.J. James could be on the docket.

Miss football? The 2024 NFL Draft is almost here, boss. Pro Football Network has you covered with everything from team draft needs to the Top 100 prospects available. Plus, fire up PFN’s all-new Mock Draft Simulator to put yourself in the general manager’s seat and make all the calls — lone wolf or with your friends!

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