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2024 Rookie Profile: J.J. McCarthy – Quarterback

Come join our @fakefootballs as he dives into what he likes and dislikes about one of the hot names of the 2024 NFL Draft and 2024 rookie drafts: Michigan QB J.J. McCarthy.

It was Fast and the Furious movie star Christopher Brian Bridges who once famously said, “Ludacris goin’ in on the verse ’cause I never been defeated and I won’t stop now…”

But in all fairness to him, T-Payne, and DJ Khalid, it is Michigan star quarterback Jonathan James McCarthy who should be bragging, “All I do is win.”

“J.J.” McCarthy finished his career at Ann Arbor with a 27-1 record as the Wolverines’ starting quarterback. That goes down as the third-highest winning percentage for a starting quarterback in college football history.

Prior to that, McCarthy went 26-2 in high school as the starter at Nazareth Academy in La Grange Park, Illinois, for his sophomore and junior seasons. He took Nazareth to the state championship game both years, winning the title as a sophomore. McCarthy attended IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, for his senior year after Nazareth’s 2020 football season was canceled due to COVID-19. Unsurprisingly, McCarthy led IMG to an 8-0 record and a consensus national title.

Even back in middle school, McCarthy was winning. In the eighth grade, he received his first major Division-1 football scholarship offer from Iowa State. More and more offers soon began rolling in for the teenaged McCarthy. Among those was his beloved Ohio State Buckeyes. “I grew up first being an Ohio State fan. I won’t lie,” McCarthy said before the Michigan/Ohio State clash this past season.

Following a recruiting visit to Columbus, Ryan Day allegedly promised a sixteen-year-old McCarthy — then the fifth-ranked high school quarterback in the country — that Ohio State would not commit to a final quarterback recruit until the end of the summer. A few weeks later, Day and the Buckeyes committed to Kyle McCord over McCarthy.

McCarthy committed to archival Michigan the following month, saying that Day and the Buckeyes “lied to my face.”

“I used to love them. Now I want to kill them,” McCarthy said afterward.

The rest, as they say, is history. Michigan has not lost to Ohio State since McCarthy arrived on campus, and the Wolverines are the reigning National Champions — the school’s first since 1997 — thanks largely to McCarthy. McCord has since transferred to Syracuse.

After throwing for 6,226 yards and accounting for 59 touchdowns against 11 interceptions over 28 starts at Michigan, McCarthy now takes his talents to the pros. He is expected to be a top fifteen selection in the 2024 NFL Draft.

The recent hype surrounding McCarthy as an NFL and fantasy football prospect has been rising since the 2023 college football season ended. Dynasty managers and the NFL scouting community alike are trying to decide if McCarthy — who won’t turn 22 years old until after his rookie season — has what it takes to be an NFL franchise quarterback despite relatively pedestrian statistical production in college.

Let’s dig a bit deeper into McCarthy’s game to see if we can predict whether or not he can continue his winning ways (and hopefully put up stats!) in the NFL as a high-level starting quarterback.


Making Plays Outside the Pocket

He kept his eyes downfield and delivered the ball with pace and accuracy while on the run, which is probably McCarthy’s best trait on film. He is especially good at moving to his right.

This is highly translatable at the next level because of how often quarterbacks are asked to perform off-platform. McCarthy’s future NFL coordinator will be able to get creative with moving pockets, bootlegs, and other forms of movement to create favorable throwing angles against scrambling defenders, especially down the field. His accuracy throwing on the run is already better than that of a lot of NFL starters.

McCarthy is evasive when operating in a congested pocket as well. He has good instincts to go along with underrated short-area quickness and burst to escape collapsing defenders and extend the play as needed.

In addition, McCarthy is just generally a very fast runner with or without the ball:

No one will mistake him for Lamar Jackson or Michael Vick. Still, McCarthy does show impressive speed, agility, and fluidity to where you might expect Trevor Lawrence-level rushing production for fantasy.

Commanding the Middle of the Field

McCarthy’s mastery of in-breaking routes inside the numbers is among the best in this class. His ability to throw with anticipation and lead his receivers into space is his bread and butter.

Michigan’s passing game was predicated on giving McCarthy many simple, straightforward throws: slants, digs, crossers, etc. He excelled in this area. His “arm talent” inside the hashes is solid. Not only can he whip the ball into small windows, but he can also utilize different arm angles and slots to get around defenders.

This command of the middle of the field will be vital to his professional success because so many routine, chain-moving plays are made in this area in the NFL. Having this baseline ability seems elementary, but it’s hard to sustain an NFL passing game over the course of a season or even a game if your quarterback cannot consistently hit those easy throws, regardless of how spectacular their other traits might be (see Fields, Justin).


It is hard to pinpoint or quantify things like leadership, bravery, performing in the clutch, and winning mentality, but whatever “it” is, McCarthy has it.

Whether it’s being mature enough to defer to the running game in critical moments, hustling to throw a key block, or standing strong in the pocket and absorbing a big hit to complete a key pass, McCarthy has routinely shown his willingness to do whatever the team needs.

At the end of the day, as we discussed, McCarthy wins. He has won wherever he has gone. At a certain point, serial winning is more than a coincidence or a product of talented teammates. By now, we should recognize that perhaps McCarthy himself is largely responsible. We laud players like Joe Burrow and Jalen Hurts for their intangibles. It’s only fair we recognize that McCarthy also seems very strong in this regard.


Passing with Touch/Loft 

McCarthy, at times, lacks touch and loft on his throws, especially the deep ball. There are quite a few examples on film where he gives defensive backs a chance to make a play on the ball when a little air underneath the pass would make for an easy completion.

While McCarthy appears to have plenty of velocity on throws over the middle of the field and down the seam, some of his issues with lack of loft on the deep ball and throws outside the numbers stem from a lack of an elite arm.

I think McCarthy’s arm is pretty overrated. That’s not to say it’s bad. It’s not. It is plenty good for the NFL. I just think all these scouting reports on McCarthy touting his “elite arm talent” are going a little overboard. He has adequate strength to get the ball there, but things like touch and precise ball placement can suffer because he’s near his arm’s limit when throwing to those deeper areas of the field.

Not Ideal Size 

McCarthy is listed at 6-3, 202 pounds. His official NFL Combine measurements will be known soon. While he won’t deal with the Bryce Young size questions, one has to wonder if McCarthy’s body can hold up throughout a 17-game NFL schedule. This is especially true because athleticism and playing outside the pocket figure to make up a decent-sized portion of McCarthy’s game.

While he has room to add some bulk, I’m not sure beefing up by 20 pounds would suit McCarthy or his game. He is naturally lean, and his quickness in the pocket and raw speed to make plays outside of it might be affected by the added size. It will be vital for McCarthy to be coached on how to protect himself from taking too many big hits once he’s in the league. Perhaps there’s a middle ground somewhere.

Lack of Collegiate Production 

The elephant in the room. 

Yes, McCarthy and Michigan have won a ton of games. But the question marks remain because McCarthy and the passing game were not always relied upon as much as some draft evaluators would like to see. 

Lack of Statistical Production 

It is the elephant in the room. It is the main criticism of McCarthy as people discuss his prospects at the next level. Simply put, while McCarthy boasts an impressive win-loss record over his career, as we have mentioned, he did not produce the type of stats in college that we expect from early first-round prospects.

McCarthy put up (insert 2023 pass/rush stats) in 2023 on his way to (awards) and, of course, the National Championship with Michigan. The year prior, he threw for (insert 2022 stats) and rushed for (insert 2022 rushing stats).

On one hand, then-Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh is known for his run-first offense. Even if McCarthy was capable of more, Harbaugh is a coach everyone expects to stick to his scheme. A team employing a more pass-happy scheme, many believe that McCarthy’s abilities would have resulted in the statistical production we crave.

On the other, McCarthy’s lack of stats to support what we think we see in him is a leap of faith. This goes for his eventual NFL employer as well as those of us considering him for fantasy.


There is a lot to like about McCarthy. It does not surprise me that he is currently rising up draft boards, both in the NFL mock draft scene and rookie draft rankings.

Part of it might be prospect “fatigue” from the community towards the likes of Caleb Williams, Drake Maye and (to a lesser extent) Jayden Daniels. Those prospects have been such hot names for so long that sometimes a player like McCarthy can rise simply due to people getting tired of propping up those other guys.

McCarthy is a tier below Williams and Maye as a player. I do think, however, that McCarthy could see serious NFL and fantasy success if he enters into a system where he can utilize the middle of the field and rely on the talent around him to make plays.

The Minnesota Vikings fit the bill. They have talent at the skill positions and a very good duo of offensive tackles to help keep McCarthy upright. Many Vikings fans are also yearning for that young franchise quarterback that the team has not had since Daunte Culpepper. Minnesota picks at 11 in the first round of the 2024 NFL Draft. As it stands now, they might have to move up to get him.

The Jets at 10, Broncos at 12, Raiders at 13, and Saints at 14 represent McCarthy’s floor in the first round. I doubt he will fall past New Orleans at the latest.

I have McCarthy as my 1.08 in my 2024 Superflex dynasty rookie rankings. If he landed in a great situation, I could move him up a spot or two. There is a distinct “Top 6” in this year’s class. I’m not sure if McCarthy cracks those top six prospects regardless of the landing spot for the dynasty.

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