2025 NFL mock draft: QB Shedeur Sanders lands in late first, Travis Hunter in top three

The lead-up to the NFL draft centers on uncertainty. It's only fitting then to mark the end of this year's edition of the event with an absurdly premature stab at a 2025 NFL mock draft.

Attempting to project even a rough shape to next year's class with so little in place − the draft order, for one − is an exercise in making oneself look foolish down the line. Therefore, it's better to consider this more of a general sketch than an attempt at pinpoint precision, though potential team needs were considered.

With those caveats in place, here's our way-too-early look at how the first round could shake out in 12 months, using ESPN's pre-draft win projections for next season to establish a rough order.

2025 NFL mock draft

1. New York Giants – Carson Beck, QB, Georgia

Unlike this point last year with Caleb Williams and Drake Maye, there's no quarterback out there who looks to be a surefire top-five pick. Beck, however, might be the front-runner to be the highest signal-caller taken – and therefore in the mix for No. 1. The 6-4, 220-pound passer stepped into his first year as a starter and took command, throwing for 3,941 yards while completing nearly 73% of his passes.

Beck's arm strength can help bring back a big-play element that has long been absent for New York with Daniel Jones at the helm. But the Georgia standout is also a precise and on-schedule operator, which should allow him to form a potent connection with 2024 first-round receiver Malik Nabers, an electric threat after the catch.

With an off ramp to Jones' contract available after this season, Big Blue could end up moving quickly to admit fault on the extension and change course. Beck might make for an attractive option to which the team could pivot, especially after reports that the team made a serious push to try to move up for Drake Maye.

2. New England Patriots – Travis Hunter, CB/WR, Colorado

A cornerback has never been taken this early in the draft. Hunter, of course, is not merely a cornerback. College football's premier two-way player should be a highly sought-after prospect on either side of the ball.

As a receiver, he could be the spark that Eliot Wolf has sought for the offense but was unable to provide for Maye in building out the supporting cast. But his other-worldly ball skills could also come in handy on defense, where he could prompt opposing quarterbacks to stay away from his side of the field entirely. If Hunter is able to focus on developing at one position – and stay fresh by actually coming off the field every now and then – he could be in for astronomical growth. No matter where he ends up, Wolf and Jerod Mayo would likely be overjoyed to incorporate playmaking talent.

3. Denver Broncos – James Pearce Jr., DE, Tennessee

A record 14 offensive players were picked before the first defender heard his name called this year. There's little chance for a similar situation to unfold in 2025, thanks in large part to Pearce. At 6-5 and 242 pounds, he is long, explosive and loose, making him a truly troublesome matchup off the edge.

The Broncos put their pass rush on the backburner somewhat as they used their first-round pick this year on quarterback Bo Nix. In Pearce, Denver would land a potentially dominant presence to lead a group that has mostly been left to try to scrape by.

4. Washington Commanders – Will Johnson Jr., CB, Michigan

If Hunter is the premier ballhawk in this class, Johnson is its top overall cover man − and one fully capable of being the first player selected at his position. The 6-2, 202-pounder can drape an assortment of receivers all over the field, making him a highly desirable piece to help counteract NFL passing attacks.

After being bombarded for a league-worst 262.2 yards per game through the air last year, the Commanders only made minor improvements to their secondary, signing cornerback Michael Davis and safety Jeremy Chinn before drafting second-round nickel Mike Sainristil. Expect another tough go in 2024 before the organization gets its shot at Johnson, who would be the most exciting cornerback for Washington since Champ Bailey.

5. Arizona Cardinals – Mason Graham, DT, Michigan

The cupboard is hardly bare at Michigan even after a school-record 13 players were taken in this year's draft. Graham joins Johnson as a defender who has already set a sky-high standard during his first two seasons with the Wolverines.

Despite adding a defensive player in each of the first five rounds of the draft this year, the Cardinals are still short on true difference-makers on that side of the ball. Graham could team with first-rounder Darius Robinson to provide some serious power up front for Jonathan Gannon's crew.

6. Las Vegas Raiders – Quinn Ewers, QB, Texas

Locked out of the running for the top quarterbacks in this year's draft class, Antonio Pierce and Tom Telesco will have to push through this season with Gardner Minshew II and Aidan O'Connell before evaluating their long-term options next spring. Ewers still lacks consistency as a decision-maker, but there's no questioning that his outstanding ability to zip passes into tight windows will help him stand apart from his peers in the pre-draft process.

7. Tennessee Titans – Luther Burden, WR, Missouri

Measuring in at a squat 5-11 and 208 pounds, Burden sizes up far differently than the prototypical receivers taken in the top 10 picks this year. But there's no denying how easily he can strain a defense, particularly with his run-after-catch prowess. The Titans seem likely to still be focused next year on easing the burden on Will Levis, and the quarterback would have a very favorable setup if he can throw to Burden and Calvin Ridley for the foreseeable future.

8. Minnesota Vikings – Benjamin Morrison, CB, Notre Dame

The 6-0, 186-pound Morrison has been a standout from the outset of his time with the Fighting Irish, recording nine interceptions in the last two years. Cornerback has been a sore spot for the Vikings for a while, but Minnesota has had to deal with higher-order priorities in pivoting at quarterback and retooling its pass rush.

9. Carolina Panthers – Kelvin Banks Jr., OT, Texas

The driving motivation for nearly all of the Panthers' offseason moves this year has been providing more support for Bryce Young. If disappointing left tackle Ickey Ekwonu doesn't progress in 2024, the next task might be finding his replacement. Banks isn't the lengthiest blindside protector at 6-4 and 324 pounds, but his athleticism and footwork should help him hang with NFL edge rushers.

10. Los Angeles Rams – Will Campbell, OT, LSU

Everything seemed much easier for Los Angeles when the offense could count on Andrew Whitworth to lock down the left side. Unless Matthew Stafford indicates he's ready to retire anytime soon, the Rams might be wise to consider Campbell, an ascending pass blocker who could follow in Whitworth's footsteps as LSU's next standout offensive lineman.

11. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Harold Perkins Jr., OLB, LSU

Listed at 6-1 and 220 pounds, Perkins could prove to be a tricky evaluation for NFL teams that typically want their pass rushers to be far rangier. Yet it's clear Perkins knows how to chart a course to the quarterback after he recorded 13 sacks and 26 tackles for loss in his first two seasons in Baton Rouge. The Buccaneers added second-rounder Chris Braswell to their edge rush this offseason, but Tampa Bay would surely benefit from someone with Perkins' burst and disruptive tendencies.

12. Los Angeles Chargers – Deone Walker, DT, Kentucky

It's rare to find a defensive tackle who stands 6-6 and 342 pounds. It's rarer still a player of that build to be as natural at making plays in the backfield as Walker is, with his 7 ½ sacks and 12 ½ tackles for loss in 2023 underscoring his rare finishing touch. Jim Harbaugh's mission to be physical up front could help lead him to Walker, who would help transform a lackluster group.

13. Pittsburgh Steelers – Tetairoa McMillan, WR, Arizona

At 6-5 and 210 pounds with strong hands, McMillan is built to win on contested catches and deep shots downfield. He could be a perfect asset for Russell Wilson should the quarterback prove effective enough to warrant a return in 2025, and he'd also be a fine running mate for George Pickens.

14. Indianapolis Colts – Malaki Starks, S, Georgia

The SEC stage has never proven too big for Starks, a standout performer both in coverage and against the run since early in his freshman season. A young Colts secondary experienced its share of turbulence last season, and it could use a steadying figure like Starks as C.J. Stroud and Trevor Lawrence reign over the AFC South.

15. Jacksonville Jaguars – Mykel Williams, DE, Georgia

Trent Baalke certainly has a type when seeking out players for his front seven, as the Jaguars GM consistently gravitates toward supersized, hyperathletic defenders. Williams certainly fits the bill at 6-5 and 265 pounds, and he could showcase his pass-rushing ability as he transitions to more of a stand-up role this season.

16. Seattle Seahawks – Princely Umanmielen, DE, Mississippi

Umanmielen opted to transfer from Florida rather than declare for the NFL draft, and the 6-5, 255-pounder looks to be squarely on a first-round trajectory thanks to his quick-twitch athleticism. Mike Macdonald's defense works best when it can unleash a diverse array of pass rushers, just as the Ravens did last season in racking up an NFL-best 60 sacks. Umanmielen

17. Chicago Bears – Walter Nolen, DT, Mississippi

The former No. 1 overall recruit has the traits to rocket into the early portion of the first round, but the middle of the first round seems like the right spot until he puts everything together. Bears coach Matt Eberflus might grow impatient and want more from his interior rush than what 2023 draft picks Gervon Dexter and Zacch Pickens can provide.

18. Green Bay Packers – Denzel Burke, CB, Ohio State

Burke was one of a handful of Buckeyes players who chose to return to school for another season rather make the leap to the NFL. Green Bay has to decide whether to exercise Eric Stokes' fifth-year option, and doing so might not be an attractive move given that the 2021 first-round cornerback played in just 12 games over the last two years.

19. New Orleans Saints – JT Tuimoloau, DE, Ohio State

Coming back to Columbus could help the massively talented 6-4, 270-pound defensive lineman find more consistency after he posted one of last season's most dominant defensive performances against Penn State (two sacks, two interceptions, one forced fumble and fumble recovery and one touchdown). Chase Young is only signed in New Orleans for one season, meaning he'll either disappoint or price his way out of the Saints' spending range. And a replacement eventually will be needed for franchise great Cameron Jordan, who turns 35 in July.

20. Houston Texans – Emeka Egbuka, WR, Ohio State

Noticing a trend here? After Michigan controlled the 2023 draft, the Buckeyes could be set to make a serious imprint on next April's class. An ankle injury spoiled Egbuka's season last fall, but the 6-1, 205-pound target consistently outmaneuvers cornerbacks with his crafty route-running and natural fluidity. Re-teaming him with former Ohio State signal-caller C.J. Stroud should be of great interest to both the quarterback and the team should the Stefon Diggs move not work out.

21. Buffalo Bills – Nic Scourton, DE/OLB, Texas A&M

The 6-4, 260-pound transfer from Purdue can beat offensive linemen in a variety of ways, though his calling card is a spin move that bewilders blockers. Buffalo looks due for a little more juice from its pass rush, especially with Von Miller in the twilight of his career.

22. Atlanta Falcons – Abdul Carter, DE/OLB, Penn State

Behold, the Falcons' long-awaited premium investment in an edge rusher. Carter could follow Micah Parsons and Chop Robinson in becoming Penn State's next explosive first-round defender. He has the chance to go considerably higher than this if his move this year from linebacker to a full-time defensive end role is fruitful, but he's currently facing a misdemeanor assault charge in an alleged incident with a tow truck driver.

23. Philadelphia Eagles – Jonah Savaiinaea, OT, Arizona

At some point, Howie Roseman is going to want to make a big move to bring aboard Lane Johnson's successor at right tackle. While eventual first-round offensive tackle Jordan Morgan seized the spotlight on Arizona's front last season, Savaiinaea could flourish under famed offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland.

24. Miami Dolphins – Tyleik Williams, DT, Ohio State

The 6-3, 327-pound Williams tied for the team lead in tackles for loss with 10 and can play all across the line. Miami is sure to miss Christian Wilkins after his departure to the Las Vegas Raiders, and Williams can step in to fill the void.

25. Cleveland Browns – Earnest Greene III, OT, Georgia

The Bulldogs could see one of their offensive tackles called on Day 1 for the third consecutive year with Greene, who holds down the left side for Georgia. The Browns might soon need to reshuffle their protection plan for Deshaun Watson with left tackle Jedrick Wills Jr. entering the final year of his deal.

26. Cincinnati Bengals – Evan Stewart, WR, Oregon

A former five-star recruit, Stewart could be headed for a highly anticipated breakout season after transferring from Texas A&M. Even though the team took Alabama wideout Jermaine Burton in the third round, Cincinnati's receiving corps will require recalibrating upon Tee Higgins' expected exit at some point down the line.

27. Detroit Lions – Donovan Jackson, G, Ohio State

The 6-4, 320-pound Jackson is experienced and savvy. Kevin Zeitler just turned 34 and probably isn't much more than a stopgap solution for Detroit on the interior.

28. Dallas Cowboys – Shedeur Sanders, QB, Colorado

Quarterback Shedeur Sanders #2 of the Colorado Buffaloes throws during their spring game at Folsom Field on April 27, 2024 in Boulder, Colorado.
Quarterback Shedeur Sanders #2 of the Colorado Buffaloes throws during their spring game at Folsom Field on April 27, 2024 in Boulder, Colorado.

What is this exercise for if not ridiculous hypotheticals? There are myriad obstacles standing in the way of this ever coming to fruition, but perhaps everything here is worth explaining first. While Sanders ranks higher for some others and could end up going earlier, he still has to process quicker and figure out a way not to invite so many sacks (49 taken last year). While there's plenty of time for Dak Prescott to iron out an agreement to stay in Dallas for the foreseeable future, the eight-year veteran hasn't engaged in any contract talks yet and can force his way onto the free-agent market – where he'd be sure to command an astronomical payday – thanks to his deal's no-tag clause. If the nightmare scenario somehow materializes for Jerry Jones, having Sanders take the reins to the Cowboys' attack would be a fascinating possibility – and one sure to be approved by Coach Prime.

29. Baltimore Ravens – Jack Sawyer, DE, Ohio State

Stout against the run and able to generate consistent pressure as a pass rusher, Sawyer sizes up as the kind of hard-nosed, well-rounded defender who would fit right in with Baltimore's defense. The Ravens' front seven might require more reconfiguring if the group takes a significant step back from last season as Zach Orr takes over as coordinator.

30. Kansas City Chiefs – Tyler Booker, G, Alabama

It might not be long before the two-time depending champions embrace a shift on the interior as they sort out the financial futures of guards Joe Thuney and Trey Smith and center Creed Humphrey, with the latter two set to enter the final year of their contracts. The massively powerful Booker could step in to fill a hole at guard while creating some of his own in the run game.

31. New York Jets – Isaiah Bond, WR, Texas

Finally, a first-round receiver pick for Aaron Rodgers. If Mike Williams works out and returns to Gang Green, this might be superfluous for a franchise squarely in a win-now mindset. But Bond, the Alabama transfer and former Georgia high school track champion, offers elite speed that could be difficult to resist if the Jets are in the market for a big-play target.

32. San Francisco 49ers – Dani Dennis-Sutton, DE, Penn State

At 6-5 and 270 pounds, Dennis-Sutton puts together an impressive set of athletic tools for highly respected 49ers defensive line coach Kris Kocurek to bring along. He also would give San Francisco someone who could be a long-term fixture opposite Nick Bosa.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 2025 NFL mock draft: QB Shedeur Sanders lands in late first round