2024 NFL Mock Draft: Could Bears make surprising skill position pick at No. 4

2024 NFL Mock Draft: Could Bears make surprising skill position pick at No. 4 originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

By virtue of owning the first and fourth overall picks in the initial round of the 2024 NFL Draft, the Chicago Bears are poised to tangentially affect many teams’ destinies, especially their own.

Quarterbacks will dominate most conversations, but unique generational talents at other positions, like a wide receiver (Marvin Harrison Jr.) and tight end (Brock Bowers), will create more buzz than last year’s initial draft night.

Several marquee prospects with household name appeal and a litany of skill position players will be available on day one of the draft. Speculatively speaking, this may be one of the most impactful first rounds of the last ten years.

Check out this week’s mock and see which future star is headed to your favorite team.

NOTE: For the draft order, we used's projected draft order.

1. Chicago Bears (via Carolina): QB - Caleb Williams, USC

Choosing Williams makes sense both fiscally and structurally regarding roster viability, especially at the sport’s most important position (quarterback). Combining his productivity from Oklahoma and USC, Williams completed 67 percent of his passes for 10,000 plus yards, throwing 93 touchdowns to just 14 interceptions. These are hard numbers for the Bears to ignore.

2. Arizona Cardinals: WR - Marvin Harrison Jr., Ohio State

Harrison Jr. is a phenomenal talent with stratospheric potential and little, if any, downside to his game. A tremendous downfield weapon, Harrison averaged 16.9 yards per catch on 155 career receptions with 31 receiving scores. Targeting Marvin Harrison, an elite can’t-miss prospect, and pairing him with Murray, could expedite Arizona’s designs to be Super Bowl-worthy.

3. New England Patriots: QB - Drake Maye, North Carolina

Former first-round pick (15th overall, 2021 draft) Mac Jones is in danger of being labeled a quarterbacking bust. Jones has been benched four times this season, creating uncertainty in the main position. It’s possible the Patriots select quarterback Drake Maye in hopes that his above-average passing ratio (61 TDs/14 Ints) can translate into future wins for New England.

4. Chicago Bears: TE - Brock Bowers, Georgia

There’s a strong possibility the Bears will miss out on the Marvin Harrison Jr. sweepstakes. Yet, they may still be in a position to draft Bowers, arguably the most impactful offensive talent in the draft. Bowers possesses an enviable blend of size, power, athleticism, and seam-splitting speed that most defenses struggle game planning against.

5. Washington Commanders: Edge - Laiatu Latu, UCLA

Latu is a no-nonsense pass rusher who attacks the offensive perimeter with determined focus and purposefulness. More quick than fast, Latu creatively sheds blocks and possesses an innate ability to maneuver between offensive linemen efficiently, slipping into opposing backfields and disabling plays. Latu’s 13 sacks lead the Pac-12 and is tied for fourth throughout the entire FBS.

6. New York Giants: OT - Joe Alt, Notre Dame

Alt possesses uncommon athleticism and agility for a man his size (6’8”, 315 lbs). Impressive lateral quickness helps Alt gain leverage at the point of attack, while his balance and grip strength allow him to manipulate pass rushers away from the quarterback. Last season in over 800 plus snaps, he never surrendered a quarterback sack.

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: WR - Rome Ondunze, Washington

Longtime Bucs wideout and all-time leading receiver Mike Evans (11,275 yds / 90 TDs) is an unrestricted free agent. Odunze, who possesses excellent size (6-3, 201 lbs) and speed (4.35 40-time) could be an affordable replacement. His ability to track long passes over either shoulder makes him a deep threat defenses shouldn’t underestimate.

8. New York Jets: OT - Olu Fashanu, Penn State

An extremely athletic lineman with an impressive six-foot-six, 321-pound frame, Fashanu moves lithely but powerfully when engaging defenders. His rugged grip and long arms decisively maneuver pass rushers away from their intended targets. When attacking downfield, Fashanu’s agility allows him to maintain blocks onto the second level of defense.

9. Los Angeles Chargers: CB - Kool-Aid McKinstry, Alabama

McKinstry excels in disrupting a receiver’s route tempo and negatively affecting the rhythm of any team’s passing attack. Like many of his Alabama predecessors at defensive back, McKinstry competes with a consistent physicality buoyed with solid coverage techniques.

10. Tennessee Titans: DL - Jer’Zhan Newton, Illinois

Recently named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, Newton embodies the definition of perseverance and discipline with his consistency and productivity on the gridiron. An indefatigable defender, Newton’s relentlessness on the field should translate well at the NFL level.

11. Las Vegas Raiders: QB - Jayden Daniels, LSU

Daniels may be the most dangerous offensive weapon within this draft class. A true dual threat, he is extremely sudden when running and displays an elastic-like arm that can sling passes downfield with accuracy. Over the course of this season, Daniels generated 3812 passing and 1134 rushing yards with 50 combined touchdowns.

12. New Orleans Saints: WR - Malik Nabers, LSU

Nabers is a tactical route-runner who unfailingly catches passes away from his body with confident hands. His ability to exploit defensive backs, combined with executing precise angled cuts, makes Nabers a reliable option for third-down conversions.

13. Green Bay Packers: OT - Taliese Fuaga, Oregon State

One of the fastest risers on many draft boards is offensive lineman Talises Fuaga. According to PFF metrics, Fuaga is one of the highest-rated overall offensive tackles, combining run and pass blocking with an 88.3 rating. In over 1500 plus snaps, Fuaga has never surrendered a sack and provides immediate impact as a run-blocking mauler.

14. Los Angeles Rams: Edge - Dallas Turner, Alabama

Turner is a quick-twitch athlete with excellent length and bendability off the edge when rushing the passer. He is decidedly more explosive from a two-point stance, but his athleticism allows for some schemed alignment versatility. Turner has already exceeded last season’s totals in tackles for loss (12.5) and sacks (8) throughout the 12 games he’s played.

15. Cincinnati Bengals: WR - Keon Coleman, Florida State

Coleman’s ability to create separation and leverage his wide catching radius against defenders projects favorably at the next level. Currently, Coleman is catching passes at a rate of 13.9 yards per reception while having caught 11 touchdown passes in 11 games.

16. Buffalo Bills: Edge - Jared Verse, Florida State

A speed-to-power pass rusher, Verse attacks with improving counter moves and purposefulness, making him less predictable and difficult to block. He competes with a tenacity that matches his production over the past 24 games. His 26.5 tackles for loss and 16 sacks illustrate how effective and impactful he can be for a defense.

17. Arizona Cardinals (via Houston): CB - Nate Wiggins, Clemson

The Cardinals play hard defensively yet are ineffective when forcing interceptions (9 picks in 12 games) and struggle to make impact plays to close out games. Both of Wiggins’ career interceptions resulted in defensive returns for scores. His length, sinewy strength, and football IQ make him a viable target for Arizona’s future defensive designs.

18. Denver Broncos: DB - Cooper DeJean, Iowa

Extremely versatile and skilled, DeJean is an athletic defensive back who could literally play any secondary position and be a difference-maker (7 career interceptions) wherever he’s lined up. Denver’s skill and depth in its secondary, especially the cornerback position, needs immediate improvement to seriously compete against the elite receiving talent in the AFC.

19. Atlanta Falcons: CB - Josh Newton, TCU

Newton is an extremely experienced defensive back, having appeared in 58 games to date. A transfer from Louisiana-Monroe, over his last 27 games, Newton registered 52 solo tackles while boasting a career 35.4 average in interception return yards.

20. Minnesota Vikings: QB - Bo Nix, Oregon

Aside from the fact that veteran signal-caller Kirk Cousins is a 35-year-old, 35 million-a-year unrestricted free agent, he’s also done for the season due to an Achilles tendon injury. It's increasingly hard to ignore the consistent production Nix provides on a weekly basis. He leads the nation in pass completion percentage (78.6) and has thrown 37 touchdowns with just two interceptions on the season.

21. Indianapolis Colts: DL - Leonard Taylor III, Miami (FL)

Taylor is a disruptive, thick-bodied interior defender with a good initial burst off the snap of the ball. His ability to shed blocks and penetrate behind the offensive line is evident by his 22.5 tackles for loss over the course of 28 collegiate games.

22. Seattle Seahawks: QB - Michael Penix Jr., Washington

Among the top five leaders in the room for this season’s 2023 Heisman Trophy, Penix is leading his undefeated Huskies for a run at the National Championship. Penix’s injury history prior to arriving at Washington (two torn ACLs in 2018, 2020) could be the main reason he’s not considered a top-five draft prospect.

23. Pittsburgh Steelers: CB - Kalen King, Penn State

One of the Big Ten’s more formidable tacklers, King has registered 43 solo tackles in his last 25 games played. He is adept at zone coverage as well as providing sticky man-to-man defense regardless of the offensive formation and/or personnel. King’s twitchy short-area quickness and astute spatial awareness propelled him last season into leading the Big Ten Conference with 18 passes defended.

24. Houston Texans (via Cleveland): CB - Kamari Lassiter, Georgia

Lassiter’s ability to cover deep vertical routes makes him attractive to NFL scouts looking for athletic defensive backs with long speed. A true boundary cover corner, he also displays an elevated awareness that makes him a strong zone defender.

25. Miami Dolphins: TE - Ja’Tavion Sanders, Texas

The Dolphins’ passing attack is already lethal by NFL standards, but adding a pass-catching threat like Sanders could make it the deadliest in the league. Sanders is a quality route-runner who is surprisingly elusive after the catch. His size and speed demand attention, especially with his ability to threaten the seams of a defense.

26. Dallas Cowboys: OT - J.C. Latham, Alabama

Latham allowed only one sack and six hurries this season and performed at an above-average rate (79.4), according to PFF. Veteran offensive tackle Tyron Smith’s salary (12 million) may have outpriced his production, possibly opening the door for Latham to become an economical solution.

27. Detroit Lions: CB - Denzel Burke, Ohio State

Burke is an ideal press-cover corner with excellent change of direction and field awareness. His ability to anticipate plus click-and-close when breaking in on a pass is NFL caliber.

28. Jacksonville Jaguars: Edge - J.T. Tuimoloau, Ohio State

Tuimoloau is a game-wrecking edge rusher who is just grazing the tip of his potential. His ability to diagnose screen-plays is advanced, as is his knack for penetrating behind offensive lines. Impressively, Tuimoloau registered 21 tackles for loss and 11 sacks in just 36 games played.

29. Kansas City Chiefs: DL - Maason Smith, LSU

When completely healthy, there may be no one currently in the college game equally stout against the run, and troublesome to passing schemes as Smith. On the season, Smith registered 13 hurries and two sacks from the interior.

30. San Francisco 49ers: S - Kamren Kinchens, Miami (FL)

Kinchens is the type of versatile defensive back San Francisco covets. An intelligent surveyor of the field, Kinchens’ instincts and preparation are integral to his success. In his last 22 games played, Kinchens has tabulated 11 interceptions and 11 defended passes.

31. Baltimore Ravens: WR - Emeka Egbuka, Ohio State

Egbuka is a strong route-runner and pass catcher, and over the past 21 games he’s tallied 14 receiving scores with a career average of 14.7 yards a reception. Ohio State wideouts have excelled in the pros, and Egbuka may have the most untapped potential of them all.

32. Philadelphia Eagles: Edge - Bralen Trice, Washington

Trice is a handful for pass blockers to contend with when attacking the edges of an offensive line. A power pass rusher, Trice attacks with purpose employing counter moves that make him unpredictable and difficult to block.

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