As we get deeper into the college football season, prospects are flying up draft boards and cementing their status for the 2024 NFL Draft. This class is loaded in the trenches, with pass-rushers and offensive tackles making up much of the depth in the first round. Yet, the blue chip talent at quarterback and wide receiver understandably will steal the show.
Let’s get into how things could shake out with the current draft order.
1. Chicago Bears (via Carolina Panthers)
Caleb Williams, QB, USC
The race to be the first quarterback taken has gotten much tighter between Caleb Williams and North Carolina's Drake Maye, but Williams' unique ceiling makes him Chicago’s pick here.
General manager Ryan Poles will most likely find a fresh start for Justin Fields elsewhere this offseason and select his own signal-caller for the first time. The real question becomes will the same coaching staff be kept in place to develop the new face of the franchise?
Drake Maye, QB, North Carolina
It’s been a brutal season for the Giants, but if they continue to lose games they can capitalize on a quarterback class that is especially strong at the very top.
Forget the money Daniel Jones is owed in 2024. Taking Maye gives them not only the best chance to win in the long-term, but even in the short term.
Brian Daboll did an excellent job helping to develop Josh Allen in Buffalo and as rough of a year as Daboll's had, allowing him and general manager Joe Schoen to draft their own guy is the right move.
Maye’s size (6-4, 230 pounds), athleticism and touch throws all jump out on tape. I think it will come down to the wire on which of the top two quarterbacks ends up going first, despite public opinion heavily expecting it to be Williams.
Olu Fashanu, OT, Penn State
This is a tough spot for the Patriots. They would love to reset at the quarterback position and get one of the top two prospects, but there’s no way the Bears or Giants can pass on Williams or Maye.
Instead, in this scenario they get a franchise left tackle in Fashanu to protect whoever the future under center will be.
He is an excellent athlete with great length, making him a standout pass protector. He’s shown improvement in the run game, especially in his performance against Michigan in Week 11. From a pure traits perspective, he’s one of the better tackle prospects to come through the draft over the last few years.
Marvin Harrison Jr., WR, Ohio State
After his 7-catch, 149-yard performance against Michigan State in Week 11, Harrison Jr. surpassed 1,000 receiving yards for the second consecutive season.
It’s not hard to see his combination of size (6-4, 205 pounds) and speed, but his ball tracking and body control is as good as any prospect I’ve evaluated at the position. For all of the natural gifts he has, there is also polish in his game.
In this mock, the Cardinals move forward with Kyler Murray as their franchise quarterback and surround him with a vast group of weapons in Harrison Jr., Hollywood Brown and Michael Wilson. That group will score a ton of points through the air.
5. Chicago Bears
Malik Nabers, WR, LSU
In my preseason mock draft, I compared Nabers to D.J. Moore. In this scenario, he becomes Moore’s teammate, forming an electric pairing for Caleb Williams to throw to.
Setting up their new young quarterback for success will be a vital mission for general manager Ryan Poles. The versatile LSU standout (he plays both in the slot and outside) has gone for 100+ receiving yards in seven of his 10 games this season and 453 of his 1,283 yards have come after the catch, largely due to 24 forced missed tackles (per PFF). Nabers is a high-level playmaker.
Joe Alt, OT, Notre Dame
A sad reality for the Packers is that it’s hard to rely on David Bakhtiari going forward due to his injury history. On a positive note, this is an excellent tackle class with not one, but two blue chip talents.
Enter Joe Alt, a colossal human in the trenches at 6-8 who has rarely gotten beat in pass protection over the last two years. His technique is very consistent and he’s coordinated, considering how tall he is.
In the zone running game, it’s fun watching him erase defenders on the move. He’s a plug-and-play prospect, which is rare at offensive tackle.
Amarius Mims, OT, Georgia
Are you seeing a theme with this mock draft? The NFL needs help in the trenches on the offensive line because edge rushers and defensive tackles are more athletic than ever. The supply rarely ever meets the demand in the draft at offensive tackle, but this class is trending in a very positive direction.
The 6-7, 340-pound Mims missed time this year with an ankle injury, but the early season results were as advertised. Even in the 385 snaps he played in 2022, you could see upper tier ability that simply needed reps.
He’s got light feet for a massive human, making it extremely difficult to get around him. Unlocking a consistent mean streak in the run game will be something to keep an eye on down the stretch, but I expect Mims to go in the top 10 based off his immense potential.
Brock Bowers, TE, Georgia
The Titans need to find out what they have in Will Levis, but that might be difficult with the state of their offensive line and an aging skill group. Brock Bowers is a unique prospect who can help in all areas.
He’s a gifted, creative pass-catcher with possibly the best hands in the entire draft. He’ll also help in both pass protection and in the run game. This is a player with experience in the slot, out wide, on the line of scrimmage and in the backfield, all at just 20 years old.
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Laiatu Latu, EDGE, UCLA
Latu is one of the best stories in this draft class. Once medically retired after a neck injury suffered at Washington, he’s had a resurgence as one of the best pass rushers in the country.
He’s racked up over 20 sacks the last two seasons for UCLA, showing off a vast array of moves ranging from a long arm, cross chop, spin and much more. The Broncos have some young promising players in the front seven, but they need a complete game wrecker. That’s what I expect Latu to be.
10. Atlanta Falcons
Chop Robinson, EDGE, Penn State
Robinson doesn’t have the same production as the projected first-round EDGE players in this class, but his explosiveness, burst and bend give him an extremely high ceiling. That was on display early against Michigan, which has one of the better offensive lines in the Big Ten.
The Falcons are another quarterback-needy team, but if they pick in no man’s land they might opt to solve that problem in free agency.
Taliese Fuaga, OT, Oregon State
Another massive riser this season, Fuaga’s tape is a display of a big man relocating defenders to another county. He’s got big, strong hands and plays with an edge in the run game.
Sam Howell has done enough to warrant building around and the offensive line is the key area on this offense that needs an upgrade right now.
Jared Verse, EDGE, Florida State
Verse has heavyweight fighter hands that throw tackles off balance and since transferring to Florida State from Albany two years ago, he’s not only held up against tough competition, but thrived.
13. New York Jets
Keon Coleman, WR, Florida State
The Jets offensive line has been ravaged by injuries, but not having a capable number two pass catcher has been just as big of an issue. Coleman plays above the rim at the catch point with an impressive 6-4, 215-pound build and he’s already hauled in 10 touchdowns this season.
Kool-Aid McKinstry, CB, Alabama
The Chargers' defense routinely lets down impressive performances from Justin Herbert and the offense. They need a steady presence at the other corner spot across from Asante Samuel Jr., making McKinstry a safe play here. He has size (6-1, 195 pounds), a high compete level and a ton of experience in press coverage.
Rome Odunze, WR, Washington
A blueprint is starting to take shape with the Colts offense. They have Jonathan Taylor in the fold for the long-term, a big-bodied possession receiver in Michael Pittman and a reliable slot in Josh Downs.
Now pencil in Rome Odunze and you have a group of skill players who complement each other extremely well. At 6-3, 215 pounds, he’s a size and speed vertical target who has improved in contested situations in 2023. With Anthony Richardson’s arm talent, the Indianapolis offense will be able to target all areas of the field.
JC Latham, OT, Alabama
The Raiders could certainly get involved in this quarterback class, but in this mock they would go with a best player available approach, instead. They’ve got a sure thing in Kolton Miller at left tackle, but putting Latham across from him would create a long-term foundation on their offensive line.
The 335-pounder is a people mover with good burst off the snap and assuming Josh Jacobs is back in 2024, this is a team that, at a minimum, will be able to run the football.
17. Buffalo Bills
Cooper DeJean, CB, Iowa
Some of my favorite targets for the Bills are already off the board in the top half of this mock draft, but they still get talent at a need in DeJean for their secondary.
He can most likely handle any role you ask of him in the secondary thanks to his great awareness, vision and ball skills, while being a willing tackler with a big frame (6-1, 207 pounds).
Troy Fautanu, OL, Washington
Most are projecting Fautanu to move from tackle to guard at the next level. It wouldn’t shock me if he follows a similar path as former Pac-12 offensive lineman Alijah Vera-Tucker, who has seen time all over the line.
He’s got a thick, athletic lower half and an anchor that brings pass rushers to a halt. I love his burst off the snap to drive block in the run game. It’s a broken record, but the Bengals once again need to upgrade their line in front of Joe Burrow.
Jordan Morgan, OT, Arizona
The Trevor Penning pick looks like a disaster for the Saints, one that they even realize at this point. If not for an ACL tear in 2022, Morgan would probably be starting on an NFL offensive line right now.
He’s rebounded nicely from injury, showing off excellent movement for the position. This aids him both as a mirroring pass protector, but also when they get him on the move in the run game.
20. Arizona Cardinals (via Houston Texans)
Jer’Zhan Newton, DL, Illinois
After landing the elite Marvin Harrison Jr. for their offense earlier in this mock at No. 4, the Cardinals grab one of the best defenders in the entire draft in Newton. His ability to stack and shed to shut down the run game is pro ready. When the Illinois defense lets him get off the ball and attack, he’s a menace as an interior rusher. Just like that, this Cardinals roster looks significantly improved.
Michael Penix, QB, Washington
Finally, the third quarterback comes off the board. This is a fit I just can’t get enough of, as Kevin O’Connell will maximize the premium arm talent Penix brings to the table.
The Vikings have one of the best young tackles in football in Christian Darrisaw and I don’t think I need to fill you in on their pass catching group. Even if they bring back Josh Dobbs on a bridge deal, drafting and developing a signal-caller should still be in their plans.
22. Dallas Cowboys
Dallas Turner, EDGE, Alabama
Turner realistically goes earlier than this after he puts on a show at the NFL Combine, but the thought of him and Micah Parsons wreaking havoc together is too good to pass up. He plays with so much speed and can even make plays off the ball in space.
Per PFF, he’s already racked up 40 pressures this season, topping the 37 he had all of last year.
Nate Wiggins, CB, Clemson
Wiggins is athletic with length (6-2, 185 pounds), showing off a smooth back pedal and big-time leaping ability. His compete level has taken a huge jump throughout his Clemson career as well.
24. Houston Texans (via Cleveland Browns)
Troy Franklin, WR, Oregon
The Texans, yes those Texans, have one of the most intriguing passing offenses in the NFL right now. The impacts that rookie QB C.J. Stroud and offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik have had has been incredible to watch, so why not keep building on it?
Franklin, a true deep threat, has caught a 30+ yard reception in every single game this year. He’s averaging over 18 yards per catch and has topped 1,000 yards while playing largely on the outside.
25. Miami Dolphins
Patrick Paul, OT, Houston
Paul has put on a clinic in pass protection this year, with a pass block efficiency rating of 99.4 (per PFF). With arms down to the ground and mirroring skills at 6-7, he’s a very difficult player to get by on the edge. His technique is a little unorthodox and needs refinement, but he’s had a ton of success simply from the traits he possesses.
With Terron Armstead’s injury history and the overall lack of depth on Miami’s offensive line, targeting a tackle towards the end of Round 1 makes too much sense
26. Seattle Seahawks
Tyler Nubin, SAF, Minnesota
Nubin has hauled in 11 interceptions over the last three seasons, showing off instincts and range on the back end. He can also play a hard-nosed game up front when asked too, showing off great versatility at his position.
Terrion Arnold, CB, Alabama
Playing in the same secondary as Kool-Aid McKinstry, teams have gone after Arnold this year and he’s more than held his own. He’s been targeted 57 times and surrendered a 65.9 passer rating (per PFF) on those plays. It’s an added bonus that he plays both inside and outside, which would give a boost to a 49ers secondary that needs more talent.
Graham Barton, OL, Duke
Much like Fautanu mentioned earlier, Barton is a college tackle who might have a long-term home inside at the NFL level. The Jaguars' line needs to be better for Trevor Lawrence and the dynamic skill group they’ve built.
29. Baltimore Ravens
Emeka Egbuka, WR, Ohio State
With Odell Beckham Jr. on a one-year deal, Baltimore will once again be looking to add receiving talent to Todd Monken’s offense this offseason. Egbuka is a high IQ technician with good speed who Lamar Jackson can lean on.
30. Detroit Lions
Kamari Lassiter, CB, Georgia
Despite a slender frame (6-0, 180 pounds), Lassiter is a scrappy cover corner who fits the tough DNA of the Georgia defense. That will translate quite well to Detroit, which despite their drastic roster improvements, still needs help in the secondary. He’s locked down his area of the field all year.
Adonai Mitchell, WR, Texas
There are a lot of mouths to feed in the Texas offense, yet Mitchell has caught nine touchdowns this year after transferring from Georgia. His combination of length (6-4, 196 pounds) and speed will play on the outside in Andy Reid’s offense.
T.J. Tampa, CB, Iowa State
Tampa is one of the most underappreciated prospects in this class. He’s tall (6-2, 200 pounds), explosive and has long arms to compete at the catch point. Heading into the season, I questioned if he could find the ball more in 2023 and he’s pulled in two interceptions, while breaking up seven more passes, showing drastic improvement.