We are at the crossroads of the football calendar with the Super Bowl still on the docket but all-star games at the college and NFL level happening.
I put together my first big board to mark the transitioning period of focus from the NFL regular season and playoffs to the season of prospects and hope. A 40-pack of players to peruse over as the prop bets start to come into focus for the big game and the silly season starts to take hold.
First, a look at my top-10 mock draft:
Remaining draft order
11. Minnesota Vikings
12. Denver Broncos
13. Las Vegas Raiders
14. New Orleans Saints
15. Indianapolis Colts
16. Seattle Seahawks
17. Jacksonville Jaguars
18. Cincinnati Bengals
19. Los Angeles Rams
20. Pittsburgh Steelers
21. Miami Dolphins
22. Philadelphia Eagles
23. Houston Texans
24. Dallas Cowboys
25. Green Bay Packers
26. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
27. Arizona Cardinals
28. Buffalo Bills
29. Detroit Lions
30. Baltimore Ravens
31. San Francisco 49ers
32. Kansas City Chiefs
1. Drake Maye, QB, North Carolina
I had a more in-depth breakdown of Maye and why he’s my No. 1 player for this year’s NFL Draft in my past mock draft. Here's the abbreviated version: Maye is the Lex Luger-esque total package at quarterback. He's a blend of size, athleticism and arm talent, paired with an aggressive mindset. He has a clean path to elitedom. As a thrower, Maye already shows a deep toolbox. He can drive or layer throws over the middle, win over the top and place the ball consistently on underneath routes. He constantly creates and extends plays with his athleticism as a scrambler or ad libber, and generates positive or at least neutral outcomes when the play was set up for something negative.
There are still a few months of the draft process to go and Maye can still work on aspects to his game, like more consistently stepping up in the pocket and cooling down some of his heat-check moments. He has already improved upon both of those things. As just a redshirt sophomore, Maye has me currently stacking him as one of the best QB prospects I’ve recently scouted.
2. Marvin Harrison Jr., WR, Ohio State
Tie goes to the quarterback for this one because as much as I just gushed about Maye, I can easily do the same with Harrison Jr. He's a wide receiver prospect with ideal traits and advanced technique that leaves few blemishes to hang up on. Harrison has size, agility and route-running polish. He can win isolated from the outside or from the slot. He can win deep or underneath, all while having impressive catching range, ball skills and a sprinkling of yard-after-catch creation. Harrison even has underlying numbers that speak to his down-to-down dominance, ranking fourth among all FBS players (minimum 300 routes, according to TruMedia statistics) in yards per route run (3.6), despite inconsistent quarterback play. Harrison is a scheme-proof pass catcher who can instantly be a high-usage player in a good passing attack. He will stack up as a top-10 WR soon. Don’t overthink him.
3. Brock Bowers, TE, Georgia
OK, a little more thinking here. The “tight end” position is the incorrect nomenclature for Bowers, as his versatility — a trait that is not just theoretical, but proven on the field — combined with his speed, balance and hand-eye coordination allow him to move across a formation and create defensive matchup issues. Bowers is a true “offensive weapon” that a creative offensive coordinator can use for cheeky and fun shenanigans with personnel and formation design because of Bowers' ability to maximize whatever role is asked of him. There are many interesting route and role combinations he could open up. Bowers is a willing blocker, but has limits from the in-line position. Having said that, his ability to win on the outside and from the slot in the passing game, along with the ability to create explosives whenever he touches the ball, is worth the price for a team with a plan.
4. Caleb Williams, QB, USC
Creativity is the name of Williams’ game. He opens throwing lanes with his accuracy from different platforms and arm angles. This ability to consistently place throws opens up yards after the catch. With Williams firing off throws like he’s skipping rocks at the lake, that quick throwing motion also opens up windows that others can’t even fathom. Williams has zip to his passes and flashes the ability to work over the middle. He also throws a beautiful moon ball (when he had room to work in the pocket), but they were definitely more flashes than real down-to-down stuff in the inconsistent 2023 USC offense. But that quick-hitting accuracy and ability to extend plays as a runner (his contact balance is excellent) can open up offensive attacks. Williams in a cleaner NFL offense could make the other aspects more consistent, keeping the improv artist more on script.
5. Olu Fashanu, OT, Penn State
Fashanu is the Mountain That Rides on the left side of the offensive line, but also plays with finesse that allows him to control his unbelievable ability.
Olu Fashanu (#74) with tight hands, bend, drive and finish in the run game. pic.twitter.com/OIfLglSioQ
— Nate Tice (@Nate_Tice) December 27, 2023
Fashanu is strong and explosive, with long arms and very good overall size. He plays under control and uses his hands well, and with good eyes, he constantly passes off defensive line games and stunts, adjusts to blitz looks and stays balanced the whole time.
Fashanu is a blue-chip type of tackle prospect who will adjust early to the NFL because of his first-rate combination of traits, technique and intelligence. He already shows an impressive understanding of how to harness his ability, especially in the pass game. I am higher on his blocking in the run game than some. Fashanu has the ceiling of a bona fide blindside protector who can be the tip of the spear, or face of the hammer, for a run game.
6. Joe Alt, OT, Notre Dame
Alt is, somehow, someway, close to Fashanu as a prospect. A smooth operator in his pass sets, Alt shows off his tight end background with excellent footwork and quickness, and never seems to get out of whack. He improved on his hand usage this season, especially with bringing more initial pop with his blocks, which let him stun defensive linemen as a pass protector and at the point of attack in the run game.
Alt’s mix of size, length and athleticism, with a rapidly improving game, makes him another elite offensive prospect at the top of the draft.
7. Rome Odunze, WR, Washington
8. Malik Nabers, WR, LSU
I have been, and will be, flipping Odunze and Nabers in my rankings throughout this draft cycle. Odunze checks every box for a modern NFL wide receiver, thriving with a blossoming route tree, size, good speed, excellent catching range and ball-tracking ability. Odunze can win outside against press and from the slot, more feathers of his do-it-allness cap. His willingness to scrap as a blocker is another box that Odunze fills in permanent ink. He's a wide receiver’s wide receiver I like to compare to Chris Godwin.
Nabers is the cymbal crash to Odunze’s snare drum. He's a little rawer as a route runner (but still good), with excellent explosive ability to win deep or underneath. He repeatedly created yards and touchdowns with the ball in his hands. Nabers has no qualms with working over the middle of the field or snatching throws away from his body, sometimes fluidly adjusting and still eating up yards after the catch. His burst and productivity, while still showing room for growth, make him an exciting prospect.
9. Dallas Turner, Edge, Alabama
Our first defender gets onto the big board. Turner is long and is outstanding when knifing inside as part of a defensive line movement, constantly disrupting offenses with his bend and surprising strength despite his leaner frame.
Turner can create pressure as a pocket pusher or with his athleticism, and he is still improving his pass rush tool set. He is a positive-play generator against the run or pass, and will fit into any defensive scheme with his flexibility as a player, even opening possibilities as a spy or coverage player.
10. JC Latham, OT, Alabama
Latham is built like a globe with legs (listed at 6-foot-6, 360 pounds) and his blocking in the run game could move a globe as well:
— Nate Tice (@Nate_Tice) December 2, 2023
Latham is the strongest and most dominant run blocker in this draft, but don’t let his build and ground dominance at right tackle fool you. He has quick feet and is a strong pass protector. His hand strength nullifies pass rushers once he locks on and he is consistently able to recover and mirror inside moves with clean footwork and solid awareness. Latham’s strength shows up when he anchors against bull rushes as well. Latham will easily project to provide a boon to a team’s run game, but his ability as a pass blocker is underrated too.
Side note: Latham is turning just 21 next week, Alt is turning 21 at the end of February and Fashanu turned 21 in December. This crop of offensive tackles are young.
11. Amarius Mims, OT, Georgia
Because of Georgia’s depth and injuries, Mims started eight games and played 655 snaps in his college career. Those rep counts look more like a one-and-done NBA prospect than a potential offensive line lottery pick in the NFL Draft. Mims has prototypical size (6-foot-7, 340 pounds) and length, and is a surprisingly smooth athlete despite his gargantuan frame. Watching Mims in space as a puller or on a screen is a sight to behold, but his technique and awareness are still a work in progress (but still adequate, considering his lack of playing time), and he has primarily been only a right tackle. Yet Mims is such a powerful player and superb athlete, whose on-field impact is tangible, that if teams are fine with his medicals, Mims’ sky-high ceiling at a premium position will be worth the gamble.
12. Terrion Arnold, CB, Alabama
Arnold’s role and influence on Alabama’s defense expanded throughout the 2023 season. Whether it was from the outside or in the slot, Arnold loved to challenge wide receivers and was willing to mix up his coverage looks while doing so. His ball skills are also an asset, not just with interceptions but making plays on the ball, which he helps create with his play recognition and very good burst with some Gary Payton-like ball swipes.
Arnold is an aggressive player who can get burned once in a while, but he can play inside and out, and is willing to press wide receivers (and win). His length, twitchiness and feisty style are going to give him plenty of fans throughout the league.
13. Jayden Daniels, QB, LSU
Daniels got better throughout his college years, culminating in a Heisman season in his final year at LSU. He will do damage from the pocket, with plus-marks in accuracy and arm strength. He has no issues with working within the confines of the offense. He has shown a polished understanding of the dropback passing game that correlates with his multi-year starter background.
When things break down, Daniels is an excellent straight-line athlete (although not overwhelmingly shifty) and explosive runner. Daniels does a nice job of toggling between being a thrower and runner, with his ability to get vertical in a hurry with both skills creating space in the offense.
Daniels’ toughness should never be questioned and he has some Johnny Knoxville to his game. You appreciate his competitiveness, but it is something coaches will have to smother out almost entirely at the next level, especially given his slight frame. Daniels’ athleticism creates a sliding scale with his size, an athleticism that allows him to create more than a typical passer. But it’s really the consistency and advanced nature of his passing ability that make Daniels so intriguing.
14. Brian Thomas Jr., WR, LSU
One of Daniels’ battery mates in Baton Rouge, Thomas is an excellent athlete with very good size. His route running improved throughout the season, showing off his agility that is especially impressive given his frame. Thomas’ foot quickness also shows up when he beats press coverage, opening up quick-hitters to his route tree and keeping him on time in the offense. He has the burst to separate after the snap and has the long speed to take the top off the coverage. Thomas still has work to do with his overall game, but his arrow is strongly pointing up. His potential as a true isolated wide receiver with a vertical route tree makes him another strong addition to this wide receiver class.
15. Cooper DeJean, CB, Iowa
A top-shelf athlete who has Pro Bowl potential at outside cornerback, slot, safety or punt returner, DeJean is one of my favorite players in the draft. He is competitive, a strong tackler and loves to press wide receivers when working on the outside, with clean hands to avoid penalties and the coordination and speed to stay in lockstep with wide receivers. He can rely on his ability to recover a bit too often, but when you have DeJean’s burst, I guess you can get away with it. A playmaker no matter where he is on the football field, DeJean’s ability to impact the game in a variety of ways will help out any defensive backend or special teams unit.
16. Quinyon Mitchell, CB, Toledo
Mitchell is more than just the classic height-weight-speed riser who is an annual draft cycle tradition. An outstanding athlete with notable production (he has a game with four interceptions and two pick 6s in his career), Mitchell knows when to uncoil his spring-like explosiveness and make plays on the ball, with that seek-and-destroy mentality that carries over in run support.
It must be noted the reduced level of competition that Mitchell played against in the MAC, but he constantly looked like the best player on the field when playing at Toledo, a visual that held steady with a notable week of practice at the Senior Bowl this week in Mobile, Alabama.
17. Troy Fautanu, OT/OG, Washington
Fautanu has a playing style that most resembles a shotgun, with heavy hands that will move defenders and stop pass rushers in their tracks. Fautanu isn’t static with his attack, either, and he has light feet and can hold up on the outside without help in pass protection because of his strong hands and ability to stay square with pass rushers. His footwork and long arms help him recover when needed. His love for firing quickly into defenders can get him out of position at times, and he might end up as a better fit at guard at the next level. But his hit-first style, athleticism and positional versatility means Fautanu will have plenty of team fits come April.
18. Nate Wiggins, CB, Clemson
Long and twitchy, Wiggins already has the starter kit for an outstanding NFL cornerback. Wiggins uses his twitchiness to close space on wide receivers, with an understanding of how to use his hands when looking to make a play on the ball. Wiggins constantly hinders vertical routes with his ability to stay in-step with wide receivers. He’s just “fine” against the run and lacks size (listed at under 190 pounds) to be a difference-maker in that area, but he has the ability to work well in man or zone without help, with the length to match up with longer receivers in the NFL.
19. Byron Murphy II, DT, Texas
Murphy is a classic gap-shooting defensive tackle who can disrupt a play before it starts. His ability to create explosive plays with his quickness and violent hands (he loves a good ol’ club-rip move) will provide a spark for any defense that might be filled with more plugger-types. His lack of ideal size and length will knock him with some teams and fits, but Murphy can stop drives with his play and is better at holding up against the run than he gets credit for.
20. Taliese Fuaga, Oregon State, OT/OG
Using the snap like a sprinter uses the shot of a starter pistol, Fuaga simply fires off the football. He is good on straight-ahead run combinations and can get to the second-level in a hurry, but can struggle to adjust at times and will end up too tall and off-kilter. He is good in pass protection, with a mirroring and shielding style that can frustrate pass rushers because of Fuaga’s ability to stay in a sound position.
Fuaga has potential to move inside because of his work in the run game, but I like him best at right tackle because of his ability to hold up in protection and potential chemistry he could create in the run game with a good guard next to him.
21. Laiatu Latu, Edge, UCLA
Latu is a technician as a pass rusher. Switching between fighting styles like Neo being uploaded Kung Fu in “The Matrix,” Latu adapts his attack as the game goes along, constantly working and picking at weaknesses or lapses in the protection. Latu’s play against the run is a bit more boom-and-bust and he lacks ideal length and athleticism, leading to questions about his upside. His medicals are also going to be poured over by teams, as there will be different opinions of risk. Still, Latu’s effort and pass move set gives him value for teams looking to create pressure on the quarterback. Think of him as a Diet Coke version of Trey Hendrickson.
22. Jackson Powers-Johnson, C/OG, Oregon
Built like a strongman from an early-1900s circus, Powers-Johnson is always doing something when on the field:
howling at Jackson Powers-Johnson (#58) finishing across the goal line on the screen pic.twitter.com/57124khGC1
— Nate Tice (@Nate_Tice) January 29, 2024
The 2023 season was Powers-Johnson’s first full-time experience at center (he also has starting experience at guard and even defensive tackle), and while there are still moments of his rawness at the pivot spot, Powers-Johnson is an explosive and powerful player who plays with an infectious style. He can move in space as a puller and on screens (like in the play above), while also having the size (he weighed in at over 330 pounds at the Senior Bowl), and plays like he has the awareness meters cranked up. There are multiple times a game where Powers-Johnson will sift through traffic and work to find a more dangerous defender when his original assignment is taken out of the play, or tries to take on two blitzing pass rushers at once.
Powers-Johnson still has to develop and add polish to his game — he can still get a bit too high out of his stance and he uses his hands like a barroom brawler and not a disciplined boxer — but he can be a keystone player for an offensive line for years to come with a few more games under his weightlifter's belt.
23. Kingsley Suamataia, OT, BYU
24. Tyler Guyton, OT, Oklahoma
25. Jordan Morgan, OT/OG, Arizona
This trio of offensive linemen are tough to split for me, but all provide different flavors. Suamataia and Guyton are more developmental players, with Guyton being especially raw and having barely more than a dozen starts to his name, but his size and movement ability are hard to teach. He is going to need a developmental plan and patience, but he is a fun piece of clay for an offensive line coach to work with. Suamataia has a bit more advancement to his game and a sturdier frame than Guyton. He shows good strength and athleticism as a run blocker and in pass protection, but still needs work and time to bring everything together more consistently.
Morgan is another good athlete and wins with more speed and skill than bruising force. He will need to keep developing his strength, as power-first players will give him issues, and he has trouble getting consistent movement at the snap of the ball. He could be a good fit as a guard in a zone-heavy run scheme because of his movement and length, while also covering up any strength deficiencies.
26. Jared Verse, Edge, Florida State
Verse is all about power, power, power. He loves to lock onto offensive tackles and push them into quarterbacks’ laps, or drive them into the path of a running back trying to get outside. He doesn’t quite have many auxiliary moves, lacking finesse and bend to supplement his hammerhead approach, which means certain teams are going to like him for their defensive makeup more than others.
I like Verse a lot as a high-end secondary pass rusher who can help solidify any run defense, but his pass-rushing upside has a ceiling.
27. Keon Coleman, WR, Florida State
Sticking to another Seminole here, Coleman’s basketball background oozes off the screen when you watch him.
Keon Coleman ... interesting pic.twitter.com/WtHcSlmurS
— Hayden Winks (@HaydenWinks) January 26, 2024
Coleman is a ball-winner, through and through. An outside wide receiver who may lack a few limbs on his route tree, he makes up for it with his ability to finish alley-oops and adjust for throws all around his body.
Coleman is going to be a weapon in the red zone right away, his athleticism best exemplified with his jumping ability and burst. His long speed is more “fine” than overwhelming, but Coleman can create a few yards after the catch because of his twitchiness. Coleman could excel as a secondary player early in his career as he continues to add refinement to the more subtle aspects of the position. But his wow plays will be worth it as he adds more down-to-down consistency.
28. Ennis Rakestraw Jr., CB, Missouri
Rakestraw’s play is infectious. He takes on every blocker like it's an insult and relishes getting man or press coverage assignments, whether it’s inside or outside.
Rakestraw will still need to harness the energy he brings to the game, like Cyclops needing his visor, as his aggressive and handsy style might draw penalties at the next level. But his ability to hold his own against different types of wide receivers, with potential to play snaps in the slot, gives him a path as a quality starter. Carlton Davis is a bit bigger, but he is a good comparison at the position for Rakestraw.
29. Graham Barton, C/OG, Duke
Barton played left tackle to finish his career at Duke, but he will likely shift inside to guard or center at the next level. Providing quality play and positional flexibility that teams desperately covet in their offensive line room. Barton wins with quickness and hand placement that gives him a chance against better athletes, with enough bend and strength to hold up against more powerful rushers, but more elite defenders will likely give him issues at the next level. He's a high-floor player who can help out any offensive line somewhere.
30. Troy Franklin, WR, Oregon
Long and twitchy, Franklin eats up ground quickly bounding down the field. Although he looks more like a classic outside-only "X" wide receiver, Franklin actually has the quickness to win underneath and from the slot. Franklin is explosive and has more to his game than first meets the eye. He’s a good route runner with long speed and will snatch throws from all angles that can help him in contested catch situations and in the red zone. He is skinny, but has more real “football player” to him than you’d think and plays with toughness and is a willing blocker. I’m a fan.
31. Kool-Aid McKinstry, CB, Alabama
McKinstry is a crafty cornerback, one who wins with control and understanding of the position rather than overwhelming athleticism or length. McKinstry does a nice job of staying within himself and keeping himself near receivers with the ability to make plays on the ball. The other side of this is that McKinstry has to be in perfect position because if he makes a misstep, he lacks the ability to consistently recover due to just average long-speed and burst. He is not a bad athlete, just one who lacks the suddenness that you would prefer. McKinstry’s awareness, technique and willingness as a tackler make him an interesting candidate in a more zone-heavy defense that would let him play more as a “cloud” cornerback in the flat.
32. Jer’Zhan Newton, DT, Illinois
Another quick-trigger defensive tackle, Newton wins with violent hands and get-off at the snap of the ball. He isn’t a bendy athlete and lacks the bulk to hold the point consistently against double-teams, but he can jolt linemen in singled-up situations and also provide some instant-win explosive plays when he times up the snap.
33. Bralen Trice, Edge, Washington
Trice is a useful type of player for a defense. He is another edge in this class who lacks ideal length and might not be the bendiest of athletes, but he is strong, uses his hands well, is explosive and can create edginess across the offensive line (he has potential to kick inside on passing downs and go to work against interior linemen). Trice can make an instant impact as an auxiliary pass rusher while also providing valuable snaps against the run. Useful.
34. Ja’Lynn Polk, WR, Washington
Like his teammate Odunze, Polk checks a lot of boxes at the wide receiver position. Inside-outside versatility? Check. Good hands? Check. Smooth athleticism with some glimpses of a deeper bag of tricks as a route runner? Check. Willingness as a blocker? Check.
Polk has above-average-to-good size, speed, foot quickness, contact balance, along with everything listed above. He might not have true No. 1 option upside, but he can carve out a role in a lot of different types of offenses at the NFL level and become a reliable target-eater no matter what’s asked of him.
35. J.J. McCarthy, QB, Michigan
I have warmed to McCarthy’s game the more I’ve watched him (which is needed given his low usage in Michigan’s offense this season), but I will unlikely be able to raise him much higher than this. Having said that, he’s aggressive, willing to work the middle of the field, flashes good feel in the pocket and is a plus athlete who throws well on the move. He shows off vision as a scrambler and designed runner.
McCarthy can have inconsistencies anticipating outside and with layered throws over the middle, which will lead to some sprayed throws when he feels late and then overstrides. He is also alarmingly skinny, which causes me hesitation about his ability to pull away from a stronger NFL’s defender’s grasp in the pocket and potential to hold up to sustained hits at the next level. And while he is athletic, he’s again more of a good athlete than an excellent one.
Quarterbacks are always complex to evaluate and McCarthy, with his lack of substantial throws to evaluate, is even more complex. I think coaches from Kyle Shanahan offenses will like McCarthy more than others because of his ability to throw on the move and drive the ball in the intermediate areas. But there is a ton of projection needed with such a young and low-usage player.
36. Zach Frazier, C, West Virginia
Centers are back! Frazier is everything you want from the leader of your offensive line room. Competitive and tough with a high football IQ, Frazier is all about football and maximizes his limited traits on every snap. Frazier constantly gets himself in the right position and wins with quickness and hand placement, which allows him to create leverage with his blocks. Longer defenders will give him issues at the next level, but Frazier’s high-energy and tenacious style will make for an exhausting day for whoever goes across him on Sundays.
37. Patrick Paul, OT, Houston
Paul is big with incredibly long arms and the light feet of someone 200 pounds lighter, but he is currently more of a bundle of tools than a finished project. Paul can wallop defenders when he has everything working in the right direction, but he is going to need consistent coaching and a plan at the next level to focus his ability and reach his high ceiling. It will be more flashes until his hand placement and footwork can come together and start working in unison. Those willing to invest can come out on the other end with a quality starting left tackle, and who doesn’t want one of those?
38. Ladd McConkey, WR, Georgia
All he does is move the chains. McConkey’s production at Georgia might not jump off the page, but he is a route-running dynamo who is explosive with the ball in his hands and is coming off a strong week of Senior Bowl practices.
McConkey’s size (5-foot-11, 187 pounds) will limit some of his upside on the outside, but his burst, balance and footwork let him win out there more often than you would think. McConkey thrives in man coverage situations and in the slot, where he can pick apart his defender with his ability to bend and vary up his tempo in his route-running. He is another player with too many limitations to be a true No. 1, but McConkey has all the makings of a third-down target monster who can create explosive plays at the underneath and intermediate levels.
39. Chop Robinson, Edge, Penn State
Robinson projects as more of a designated pass rusher-type who makes his living in passing situations, while treating run plays as intermissions until the next time he can get after the quarterback. Robinson is twitchy and explosive, he bursts at the snap of the ball and can quickly drive blockers back, with some auxiliary pass moves to help balance out his pass-rush arsenal. Robinson is neutral-at-best against the run, which limits how high I can put him, but he provides wildly different skills than other edge defenders in the same range. His “pass rush-first, second and third” style reminds me a bit of Yannick Ngakoue.
40. Junior Colson, LB, Michigan
The lone off-ball linebacker to make my top 40! Colson has size and three-down potential against the run and pass that is an extremely hard skill set to find at linebacker these days. Colson is a sound tackler and plays with high awareness before and after the snap. He has adequate athleticism to make plays on the things he diagnoses correctly and recover in the situations he doesn’t. He can play on the line of scrimmage in certain looks and is a solid blitzer. While he is a bit bigger, his all-around skills but lack of outstanding traits reminds me of Nick Bolton.