New Jersey Prospects In The 2024 NFL Draft

Several football players from the Garden State are hoping to hear their names called in downtown Detroit at the 2024 NFL Draft and reach their dreams of playing pro football.

Rutgers cornerback Max Melton and Notre Dame running back Audric Estimé are two New Jersey football players hoping to be picked in the 2024 NFL Draft.

Rutgers cornerback Max Melton and Notre Dame running back Audric Estimé are two New Jersey football players hoping to be picked in the 2024 NFL Draft.

Photo Credit: Instagram - @maxmelton16 and @_audricestime_

Rutgers cornerback and Mays Landing native Max Melton is looking to be the highest-drafted Scarlet Knight since defensive end Kemoko Turay was selected by the Indianapolis Colts with the 52nd overall pick in 2018. While 14 Rutgers players worked out during the team's pro day on Thursday, Mar. 28, Melton is the only Scarlet Knight listed on the prospects list.

According to his draft profile, Melton was given a prospect grade of 6.24, which said he "will eventually be [an] average starter." The Cedar Creek High School graduate ran a 4.39-second 40-yard dash and posted a 40.5-inch vertical jump at the NFL Scouting Combine.

While in Piscataway, Melton had eight interceptions, 30 passes defended, 114 tackles, and four blocked punts in 43 games for the Scarlet Knights. He was also a fourth-team all-Big Ten selection, according to college football reporter Phil Steele.

Many mock drafts have Melton as a second- or third-round pick but football analyst Emory Hunt said Melton was his No. 1 cornerback draft prospect.

"[He] can play press, does a great job in the open field as a tackler, drives on the ball rather well, plays the ball rather well in the air, just a complete cornerback," Hunt said on the Ross Tucker Podcast. "He's a cornerback's cornerback. I love his game and you can't go wrong with a [Rutgers head coach] Greg Schiano-coached defensive back. I think he is someone that I would take in the first round."

Boston College offensive lineman and Elmwood Park native Christian Mahogany may also go in the first three rounds, according to mock drafts. The Paramus Catholic High School graduate's draft stock took a hit when he missed the entire 2022 season after tearing his right ACL in June.

Mahogany bounced back in 2023, playing in all 12 games for the Eagles and making first-team all-ACC as a right guard. He played every offensive snap in 10 games and didn't allow a sack or quarterback hit on 424 dropbacks.

Pro Football Focus (PFF) said Mahogany is a "throwback interior offensive lineman" that run-heavy teams will want.

"He is built well for a guard, with a barrel chest, good weight in his midsection, and plenty of sand in the pants (weight in the hamstrings and glutes)," his PFF scouting summary said. "This helps him generate a ton of force as a run-blocker. He has an eraser's mentality and will completely block his guy out of the play."

Two running backs with New Jersey ties are also hoping to get picked in the three-day draft: Notre Dame's Audric Estimé and Monmouth's Jaden Shirden. Estimé played at Saint Joseph Regional High School in Montvale and Shirden is a West Haven, CT, native.

Estimé was a second-team all-American for the Associated Press, The Sporting News, USA Today, and CBS Sports in 2023. He ran for 2,321 yards and 29 touchdowns in three seasons for Notre Dame, including career highs of 238 yards and four TDs in his final game for the Fighting Irish at Stanford on Saturday, Nov. 25, 2023.

PFF said Estimé was "the ultimate sleeper" of the 2024 draft.

"Estimé could prove to be a diamond in the rough… as long as you can politely ignore his 40-yard dash time [of 4.71 seconds]," his PFF scouting summary said. "Speed was never the primary contributor to Estimé’s ability to generate breakaway runs, anyway. The way Estimé wins is through strength, power, and the ability to run through contact – three traits that make him among the most intriguing prospects heading into the 2024 NFL Draft. Don’t sleep."

Shirden is trying to become the fifth Monmouth player to be drafted to the NFL in program history. The last Hawk selected was wide receiver Neal Sterling, who was taken in the seventh round (220th overall) back in 2015.

Despite playing in FCS, Shirden has grabbed the attention of scouts with his impressive stats at Monmouth, finishing third in Hawks history with 3,697 career rushing yards. The Walter Camp Foundation named him FCS Player of the Year and a first-team FCS all-American in 2023.

According to his draft profile, Shirden may be undervalued due to his size at 5'8" but he has the speed (4.45-second 40-yard dash) to make an impact for an NFL team.

"He flashes plus acceleration as an outside runner and impressive vision and processing quickness as an interior runner," said. "He runs behind blockers and dodges tacklers in space but doesn’t have the size or power to be a tackle-breaker."

Some other Jersey prospects to watch for include Notre Dame defensive end Javontae Jean-Baptiste (Bergen Catholic High School in Oradell), Holy Cross offensive lineman C.J. Hanson (DePaul Catholic High School in Wayne), and Central Connecticut State cornerback Tyler Boatwright (Hillsborough High School).

As for New Jersey's two NFL teams, both went into draft day expected to pick in the top 10 of the first round. The New York Giants had the sixth overall selection, while the New York Jets were slotted to pick 10th.

The NFL Draft's first round begins at 8 p.m. on Thursday, Apr. 25. The second and third rounds start at 7 p.m. on Friday, Apr. 26, and the fourth through seventh rounds begin at noon on Saturday, Apr. 27.

You can watch the NFL Draft on ABC, ESPN, and NFL Network.

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