2024 NFL mock draft: Six QBs land in top 16 picks of post-combine shake-up

INDIANAPOLIS – With the 2024 NFL scouting combine now a wrap, April’s draft has come into focus just a bit more. It will further crystallize once free agency, which begins in earnest a week from now, plays out and pro days reveal further information about the prospects who didn’t fully participate in Indy. (And, for a draft that appears loaded with quality quarterbacks and wide receivers, most of the top ones declined to take part in the combine’s on-field drills.)

Regardless, much will shift in the coming weeks, but a post-combine mock draft is a good time to assess who’s building momentum as the pre-draft evaluation process crosses its most prominent milestone.

Post-scouting combine 2024 NFL mock draft

1. Chicago Bears (from Carolina Panthers): QB Caleb Williams, USC

He didn’t do much more at the combine than talk to team executives and media members while rooting on his fellow prospects during workouts. Regardless, nothing coming out of the Bears camp to indicate Chicago is sticking with incumbent QB Justin Fields. And given the 2022 Heisman Trophy winner’s arm, vision, ability to make off-platform throws and vast potential, why wouldn't you take him and reset the position's contractual clock for the next half-dozen years or so? Williams is also a red-zone weapon (21 rushing TDs over the past two seasons) but typically uses his mobility to extend plays rather than break the pocket. He’ll have to learn to protect the ball better and when to give up on bad plays, but Williams could soon be the linchpin of a Chicago revival that seems on the verge of materializing.

2. Washington Commanders: QB Jayden Daniels, LSU

Per ESPN, new team owner Josh Harris sat in on interviews with six quarterback prospects, so that tells you something. Daniels, the 2023 Heisman winner, did mention “how cool the whole staff was” during his session with the club, among the few things he did in Indy. Still, his decision-making (40 TD passes, 4 INTs last season), accuracy, touch, processing speed and eye-popping ability to run (2,019 yards, 22 TDs over past two seasons) make him a truly tantalizing prospect. He must learn to avoid big hits – ask Robert Griffin III how that goes in the nation’s capital – but Daniels could be a big hit in OC Kliff Kingsbury’s offense.

3. New England Patriots: OT Joe Alt, Notre Dame

The massive (6-9, 321), unanimous 2023 All-American – and son of legendary Chiefs lineman John Alt – is almost unanimously regarded as the best blocker in this draft. He might not go quite this high, but this is more a projection that the Pats might be a team that trades back rather than take a quarterback given how many holes new director of scouting Eliot Wolf must fill – possibly including both tackle spots with Trent Brown and Mike Onwenu apparently headed for free agency. (Also, given Wolf grew up in the Packers organization, don’t be surprised if he takes an inside out roster-building approach.) So maybe address the blind side, add some picks and build the supporting cast for a young passer TBD down the road.

4. Arizona Cardinals: WR Marvin Harrison Jr., Ohio State

He didn’t appear on the field at Lucas Oil Stadium on Saturday night, nor did he address reporters. Doesn’t mean the 2023 Biletnikoff winner and two-time All American with Hall of Fame bloodlines isn’t, arguably, this draft's best player. Harrison averaged better than 1,200 receiving yards and 14 TDs over the past two seasons and might be the best product issuing from what seems like a Buckeyes receiving assembly line. And, even if speedster Marquise Brown re-signs in Arizona, it likely wouldn’t take Harrison long to emerge as QB Kyler Murray’s No. 1 target, something he hasn’t really had from the wideout position following the departure of DeAndre Hopkins.

5. Los Angeles Chargers: WR Rome Odunze, Washington

Like the Pats, the Bolts could be a fascinating pivot point in the top five. They’re set at quarterback but still have serious salary cap issues to resolve – which could increase areas of the depth chart new HC Jim Harbaugh’s team will need to address. But if Harbaugh and first-year GM Joe Hortiz go the “best player available” route in this scenario, Odunze would likely be the guy (especially so if either WR Keenan Allen or Mike Williams is cast out). He actually embraced the combine grind, running a 4.45 40-yard dash while acing the gauntlet and looking every bit the part of a potential All-Pro down the line. Odunze (6-3, 212) has a sterling off-field reputation, the size, ball skills and production (92 catches, for 1,640 yards, 13 TDs in 2023) to readily supplant Allen or Williams.

6. New York Giants: QB J.J. McCarthy, Michigan

Michigan Wolverines quarterback J.J. McCarthy (9) celebrates after defeating the Alabama Crimson Tide in the 2024 Rose Bowl college football playoff semifinal game at Rose Bowl.
Michigan Wolverines quarterback J.J. McCarthy (9) celebrates after defeating the Alabama Crimson Tide in the 2024 Rose Bowl college football playoff semifinal game at Rose Bowl.

Yes, despite his relatively low usage in the passing game at Ann Arbor – where he was surrounded by a tremendous supporting cast on both sides of the ball – his stock seems to continue skyrocketing. Why? Demeanor, accuracy, leadership, athleticism, high ceiling, good decision-making. And he's a winner (27-1 record with the Wolverines). This situation would also make sense insomuch as McCarthy could sit and learn behind QB Daniel Jones, whom the Giants could more easily cut next offseason – or trade if he plays well in Year 2 of his four-year, $160 million contract.

7. Tennessee Titans: OL Taliese Fuaga, Oregon State

No team in the AFC allowed more than their 64 sacks – not the way you want to break in a young quarterback like Will Levis. A right tackle for the Beavers, Fuaga is excellent in pass protection and especially nasty as a run blocker. And if new HC Brian Callahan gives his father, legendary O-line coach Bill Callahan, another building block like this – Tennessee drafted LG Peter Skoronski in Round 1 last year – the Titans’ rebuild could quickly get ahead of schedule.

8. Atlanta Falcons: QB Drake Maye, North Carolina

Little doubt they’re making a major move under center, whether it’s trading for Fields, signing a free agent like Kirk Cousins, or drafting someone the caliber of Maye. The ACC Player of the Year in 2022, he’s been loosely compared to Josh Allen and Justin Herbert thanks to a live arm and excellent athleticism. Like Caleb Williams, Maye took a bit of a step back in 2023. Doesn’t mean he might not be the missing piece to a team that seems a quarterback away from serious NFC South contention. Former Tar Heels QB T.J. Yates is the positional coach in Atlanta.

9. Bears: WR Malik Nabers, LSU

Daniels’ primary target the past two seasons in Baton Rouge, Nabers really blossomed during a 2023 All-American campaign, when he caught 89 balls for 1,569 yards and 14 TDs. He wasn’t seen much at the combine yet would probably be way too intriguing for Chicago to pass up if it meant teaming Nabers with WR DJ Moore and TE Cole Kmet as targets for Williams.

10. New York Jets: TE Brock Bowers, Georgia

QB Aaron Rodgers needs more protection and downfield weapons going into the 2024 season. While offensive tackle could definitely be an option, wouldn’t it make more sense to acquire veteran blockers (Tyron Smith? David Bakhtiari?) to safeguard AR8 and let him break in a young game breaker like Bowers than entrusting his health to inexperienced linemen? Despite being limited by an ankle injury for a good chunk of the 2023 season, the only two-time Mackey Award ever had 26 TD catches during his three-year college career and averaged nearly 60 grabs for 850 yards as the rare player at his position who could dominate a game offensively – sometimes as a ball carrier. Of the prospect of playing with Rodgers, Bowers said last week it "would be pretty sweet."

11. Minnesota Vikings: OLB Dallas Turner, Alabama

Quarterback could well be atop the wish list, especially if Cousins doesn’t re-sign. Yet the Vikes also face the prospect of losing OLBs Danielle Hunter and D.J. Wonnum, meaning they wouldn’t return a player who had more than three sacks in 2023. Turner, Co-Defensive Player of the Year in the SEC last season while racking up 10 sacks, may well be this draft’s premier defensive prospect.

12. Denver Broncos: QB Bo Nix, Oregon

Time was, it was unusual to see five or six quarterbacks in Round 1 of a given draft. But time was, it was unusual for a team to trade a boatload of high-end draft picks for a veteran quarterback, grant him a $240+ million extension, then give up on him two years later. But that’s where Denver currently is, the Broncos announcing Monday that they'll be officially divorcing Russell Wilson later this month. Nix appears to have significantly more upside than journeyman placeholder Jarrett Stidham, not to mention the accuracy – nearly 75% in two seasons with the Ducks – coach Sean Payton values, plus a nose for the goal line (38 rushing TDs in five college seasons). And with an FBS-record 61 starts under his belt, rookie passers don’t come much more plug-and-play than Nix would.

13. Las Vegas Raiders: DT Byron Murphy II, Texas

They need a lot of help, including – seemingly – behind center. But that might have to wait. New coach (and former NFL linebacker) Antonio Pierce wants a much tougher defense, and a dominant player like Murphy would alleviate focus on DE Maxx Crosby while perhaps helping to unlock disappointing, thus far, 2023 first-rounder Tyree Wilson.

14. New Orleans Saints: OT Olumuyiwa Fashanu, Penn State

With 2022 first-round LT Trevor Penning quickly trending toward bust territory, might be time to snatch a replacement like the Nittany Lions’ 2023 All-American. It would certainly be welcome news for QB Derek Carr given the amount of abuse he absorbed during his first year in the Big Easy.

15. Indianapolis Colts: CB Quinyon Mitchell, Toledo

He’s got size (6-0, 195), blazing speed (4.33 40 time) and ball skills, two of his six interceptions over the past two seasons turned into pick-sixes. And Indy could use help at corner, especially if Pro Bowl nickel Kenny Moore II signs elsewhere.

16. Seattle Seahawks: QB Michael Penix, Washington

Admittedly, this could be a bit rich given his history of knee and shoulder problems. But his past two seasons with the Huskies were sublime (67 TD passes, 19 INTs). The Heisman runner-up to Daniels last season, his performance against Texas in the College Football Playoff (430 yards, 2 TDs passing) was an all-timer, the southpaw lasering the ball over the field. His maturity and experiences are also plusses. Seattle recently hired OC Ryan Grubb, who coached Penix in the same role at UW. And GM John Schneider, who just restructured Geno Smith’s contract, hardly indicated the team is committed to him beyond next season. Again, the 16th spot might be high for Penix – though his high-RPM left arm turned heads Saturday, and his combine medical report was encouraging. But the Seahawks, who currently have no second-round pick, could easily trade down to get him while adding needed draft ammo.

17. Jacksonville Jaguars: OT JC Latham, Alabama

The All-SEC performer, who has experience at guard, could start there before eventually displacing unreliable LT Cam Robinson while forming a long-term bookend with 2023 first-round OT Anton Harrison.

18. Cincinnati Bengals: WR Brian Thomas Jr., LSU

The 6-3, 209-pounder put down a 4.33 40 in the wake of a season when he had 1,177 yards on 68 catches – a quarter of those receptions resulting in TDs. With Tyler Boyd headed for free agency and Tee Higgins on the franchise tag, seems like a good time to find a new Robin for Cincy’s Ja’Marr Chase, a Bayou Bengal himself.

19. Los Angeles Rams: DE Laiatu Latu, UCLA

This will mark their first Round 1 selection since they resumed playing in LA eight years ago. So why not take a local guy, especially one who racked up 35 tackles for loss, 23½ sacks, five forced fumbles and a pair of interceptions in two seasons with the Bruins. Latu was the Pac-12’s defensive player of the year in 2023, when he also earned the Lombardi Award and Ted Hendricks Award for being the country’s best collegiate defensive end after posting an FBS-best 1.8 TFLs per game. And the Rams need someone else to consistently take advantage of Aaron Donald’s inside mayhem and able to consistently apply pressure off the edge.

20. Pittsburgh Steelers: CB Terrion Arnold, Alabama

Somehow, they had a middle-of-the road pass defense despite the presence of T.J. Watt, Cam Heyward and Alex Highsmith up front. Pittsburgh is not only about to lose depth at corner but could certainly use a younger alternative to veteran Patrick Peterson.

21. Miami Dolphins: CB Nate Wiggins, Clemson

Tall (6-1) and highly explosive (4.28 40 time), he’d nicely backfill the departure of Xavien Howard and could watch veteran Jalen Ramsey handle No. 1 receivers in high-leverage situations early on.

22. Philadelphia Eagles: CB Ennis Rakestraw Jr., Missouri

Still a lot of roster issues to shake out here. But EVP/GM Howie Roseman knows his defense needs some attention and knows starting CBs Darius Slay and James Bradberry are north of 30. Rakestraw’s physical style would resonate nicely in Philly.

23. Houston Texans (from Cleveland Browns): DE Jared Verse, Florida State

Even if they manage to retain underrated DE Jonathan Greenard, Houston will be lacking depth beyond him and Defensive Rookie of the Year Will Anderson Jr. on the edges. Verse had at least nine sacks each of the past three seasons.

24. Dallas Cowboys: OL Troy Fautanu, Washington

With LT Tyron Smith not expected back, Fautanu and LG Tyler Smith, a first-round choice two years ago with left tackle experience in college, could hold down the left side for years to come regardless of which positions they settle into.

25. Green Bay Packers: OT Tyler Guyton, Oklahoma

The former tight end would bring high-end potential and flexibility to a line that’s only had Bakhtiari’s services 13 times over the past three seasons.

26. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: DE Chop Robinson, Penn State

(Note: In the first edition of the post-combine draft, Texas WR Adonai Mitchell was slotted to the Bucs.)

How quickly things change. With pending free agent WR Mike Evans agreeing to a two-year deal Monday morning, Tampa Bay's needs are already shifting. Robinson, a bendy pass rusher with sub-4.5 speed, would be a nice addition to a unit that recently jettisoned Shaq Barrett and hasn't gotten nearly enough production from 2021 first-rounder Joe Tryon-Shoyinka.

27. Cardinals (from Texans): DT Johnny Newton, Illinois

Arizona needs a lot, perhaps nothing quite as much as some defensive beef. The Big Ten’s reigning Defensive Player of the Year, who's 6-2 and 304 pounds, is just about made to order.

28. Buffalo Bills: DE Bralen Trice, Washington

(Note: In the first edition of the post-combine draft, Penn State DE Chop Robinson was slotted to the Bills.)

A capped-out team poised to lose a good chunk of its defense takes a base end opposite Greg Rousseau who can both generate pressure and set an edge. Though not a similar player, Trice could also gather some quarterback-hunting tips from fading OLB Von Miller.

29. Detroit Lions: OL Jackson Powers-Johnson, Oregon

The 2023 Rimington Trophy winner as the country’s best college center, he would be a nifty insurance policy behind battered Pro Bowler Frank Ragnow. Barring that, “JPJ” – who excels as a run and pass blocker – could immediately fill one of the two holes set to open at guard in the NFC North champs’ lineup.

30: Baltimore Ravens: OT Amarius Mims, Georgia

A right tackle who already knows OC Todd Monken’s playbook. Mims’ 87-inch wingspan and 6-8, 340-pound frame help him block out the sun.

31: San Francisco 49ers: DL Darius Robinson, Missouri

(Note: In the first edition of the post-combine draft, Washington DE Bralen Trice was slotted to the Niners.)

While O-line should be a consideration here, the NFC champs need to reload a defensive front on the cusp of losing starting DE Chase Young and all of its primary backups (Randy Gregory, Javon Kinlaw, Clelin Ferrell and others). Robinson, a 6-5, 285-pound All-SEC selection, has the size and athleticism to play inside or out while thriving against the run or pass – especially if given the opportunity to develop alongside proven players like Nick Bosa, Javon Hargrave and Arik Armstead.

32: Kansas City Chiefs: WR Xavier Worthy, Texas

Why not give the champs the fastest player in combine history? His 4.21 speed would fill a need for a team set to lose deep threats Mecole Hardman and Marquez Valdes-Scantling. But don’t short Worthy’s chops as a receiver after he averaged 66 catches and better than 900 yards during three seasons with the Longhorns. He'll probably need to add to a 5-11, 165-pound build.


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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 2024 NFL mock draft: Six QBs taken in first round after combine