Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy is going out a national champion.
McCarthy announced Sunday that he was declaring for the 2024 NFL Draft. He could be a first-round pick after helping lead the Wolverines to an undefeated season and a win over Washington on Monday in the national title game.
“After three incredible years at the University of Michigan, I have decided to enter the 2024 NFL draft,” McCarthy wrote in a statement posted to social media.
“I have talked to many in and out of football, including my family, Coach Harbaugh, and many whose opinions I greatly admire and respect. The decision was not easy and how could it be — I love my teammates. I love my coaches and I love it here in Ann Arbor.”
After splitting time with Cade McNamara in 2021, McCarthy took over as the starter during the 2022 season. He was 240-of-332 passing for 2,991 yards and 22 TD passes in 2023. He threw just four interceptions and finished sixth in the country in completion percentage.
McCarthy’s arm and athleticism make him an intriguing prospect for teams looking for their quarterback of the future, though he could be a quarterback who doesn’t start right away. Michigan had a tendency to lean on the run game in big games, especially when it knew that its defense and a ball-control offense were the keys to victory.
McCarthy didn’t throw a pass in the second half of the Wolverines' win over Penn State on Nov. 11 and never threw more than 30 passes in a single game in 2023. He was 16-of-20 for 148 yards and a TD in Michigan’s win over Ohio State and was just 10-of-18 for 140 yards in the national title game win over Washington.
His best performance in a big game this season came against Alabama in the Rose Bowl when he was 17-of-27 passing for 221 yards and three scores — though McCarthy did throw an ill-advised pass on the first play of the game that would have been an interception had Alabama DB Caleb Down’s heel not been out of bounds before leaping to secure the pick.
North Carolina QB Drake Maye and USC QB Caleb Williams are seen as the top two quarterbacks in the draft and could go in the first two picks. McCarthy is likely in the tier below them among quarterbacks with LSU QB and 2023 Heisman winner Jayden Daniels and Washington QB Michael Penix Jr.
McCarthy's decision also answers one of the two biggest questions facing Michigan ahead of the 2024 season. The question that looms now is about Jim Harbaugh's future. Harbaugh could head to the NFL after flirtations with heading back to the pros in recent seasons, or he could sign a massive contract extension with the Wolverines that could make him the highest-paid coach in college football. With McCarthy's immediate future settled — and the path for Alex Orji to be the team's starting QB in 2024 set — all eyes now turn to Harbaugh.