After one of the better Super Bowls ever played if you ask me, the NFL offseason is officially here, and as things sit, we're just over 2.5 months away from the annual NFL draft. With the Senior and Shrine Bowls also in the rearview, that leaves the Combine and school Pro Days as the only key events left before all eyes land on Detroit for the big weekend in April. With that in mind, I felt like this was as good a time as any to drop my first official mock draft of the offseason. Here's how we have the opening round going as of the middle of Feburary.
The selection order is now finalized post-Super Bowl 58.
-Picks based on the following criteria: Team needs. Pending free agents. What I would do or what the team would do should I consider it warranted. Etc.
-No trades beyond those that have already been completed. (Trades will begin in upcoming mocks).
2024 NFL (Mock) Draft (Round 1 Only)
Pick 1) Chicago Bears (via Carolina Panthers) - Caleb Williams, QB (USC)
No change at the top for the Bears. The widely believed consensus at this point is Williams is in, and Justin Fields is on the way out, and recently, it's been said the Bears want "historic compensation" for this pick. As good as Williams is, I have a hard time seeing teams willing to give up more than what Carolina did for this pick a year ago (taking D.J. Moore out of the equation, the Panthers forked up draft value nearly in between the second and third overall pick), not that a trade should be ruled out though. I could see New England, Atlanta, or Las Vegas being potentially interested on top of Washington. Here, Williams gets paired up with Shane Waldron, who's coming off a largely successful stint in Seattle.
Pick 2) Washington Commanders - Jayden Daniels, QB (LSU)
I had been closing in on this opinion for a while, but Daniels is now my No. 2 QB in this draft ahead of Maye. Furthermore, I think he makes a ton of sense in a Kliff Kingsbury offense if they can't get Caleb and him linked up again. Even as he still needs to polish up some stuff as a passer, he's far enough along going into the league to feel good about his long-term future, and his running ability is unmatched. It probably won't show in year one, but in year three or four, this could be one of the better draft picks in recent memory, and that gamble is worth passing on Maye, who has some issues himself. Speaking of whom...
Pick 3) New England Patriots - Drake Maye, QB (UNC)
There are about seven different reported directions in which the Patriots are allegedly going, but they shouldn't overthink this; get the best available QB, and if that means trading up to one, do it. In this scenario, meanwhile, they get Maye instead of Daniels. His footwork and some of his 'Josh Allen brain shutting off' tendencies give me pause, but he's the closest thing to the prototype in this class, even with some issues. You won't find 6'4" 230 lb gunslingers on trees, and I don't hate the fit of him working with Alex Van Pelt and Ben McAdoo.
Pick 4) Arizona Cardinals - Marvin Harrison Jr., WR (Ohio State)
Mark it down as yet another mock where I have MHJ going to the desert. It's hard to say much else than I'd love the Cardinals' pass-catching group with him, Michael Wilson, Rondale Moore, and Trey McBride.
Pick 5) Los Angeles Chargers - Jared Verse, EDGE (Florida State)
While I wouldn't be shocked to see the Chargers try to get some Michigan players in the building now that Jim Harbaugh is on board, now wouldn't be the time. Sticking with my last mock, Jared Verse is the pick here for all the same reasons. Assuming Khalil Mack is on the way out, the Florida State product would be an instant impact pass rusher aligned opposite Joey Bosa.
Pick 6) New York Giants - Malik Nabers, WR (LSU)
Another repeat pick here that I still think makes a ton of sense. The Giants lack explosive playmakers and could be without Saquon Barkley moving forward. Even if he becomes a primary slot guy, Nabers would 100 percent be worth it at sixth overall. His ability to accelerate and create after the catch is elite enough to make him an impact guy the second he gets into an NFL building.
Pick 7) Tennessee Titans - Joe Alt, OT (Notre Dame)
While I still lean slightly towards Olu Fashanu as my top tackle in this class, Joe Alt is still fantastic, and he's been the consensus top guy for some time now, so I have no issue conceding him being the first tackle off the board here to the Titans. Especially as they enter a post-Derrick Henry world, they need better play in the trenches, and getting a franchise left tackle would be a hell of a start.
Pick 8) Atlanta Falcons - Rome Odunze, WR (Washington)
Plop the Falcons in the same box the Chargers are in, where they can do a lot of things. The biggest reason why Oduzne makes a ton of sense is that while he's certainly more raw than polished, he wouldn't have to bear the burden of being a top target right away in Atlanta. That said, he has the physical tools and ability to be enough of an impact guy right away to warrant taking him inside the top 10. Would've liked to see him more polished, but it's hard to watch Odunze and not get excited about his upside. As far as quarterback, it appears Justin Fields is in play for the Falcons.
Pick 9) Chicago Bears - Brock Bowers, TE (Georgia)
I've advocated for the Bears to go this route via back channels for about a month now, and now that Shane Waldron is in the building, Bowers at nine feels like a no-brainer for the Bears. Waldron loved to run 12 personnel in Seattle, and with some of the deficiencies the Bears have up front, going Bowers, my No. 2 player in this draft, over a tackle would be worthwhile. And if you're wondering about Cole Kmet, the Georgia product is better than him right now. Not at the end of next season, not even in the middle of next season, right now. Giving Caleb Williams a borderline generational tight end to pair with D.J. Moore would be worth putting off some offensive line reinforcements until day two.
Pick 10) New York Jets - Olu Fashanu, OT (Penn State)
The Jets are the big winner in that Bowers pick since they don't have to reach for a tackle at 10, which is the only position they should draft here. I love what Fashanu brings to the table as a pass-blocking, and he'll only get better. One thing I will note since Woody Johnson brought up backup quarterback at the NFL Honors: If the narrative that J.J. McCarthy's stock is higher than the public thinks (which I don't believe in the slightest), this is the beginning of his range with the Jets here and Minnesota up next.
Pick 11) Minnesota Vikings - Dallas Turner, EDGE (Alabama)
After the Senior Bowl, I lean more toward Latu > Turner, but UCLA's medical history can't be overlooked in this whole situation. At least one team won't feel comfortable selecting him, and the Vikings going with Turner here shouldn't be considered a bad move anyway. He has good size at 6'4, but I'd like to see Turner pack on some more muscle before his first NFL camp.
Pick 12) Denver Broncos - Terrion Arnold, CB (Alabama)
In a no-man's land of landing a quarterback, I love the idea of the Broncos going all in at the corner and pairing Arnold with Pat Surtain. There isn't a better man corner in this draft than the Alabama product, and he'd be a natural fit on the right side of the field, where he's spent most of the last two years in Nick Saban's defense.
Pick 13) Las Vegas Raiders - Cooper DeJean, CB (Iowa)
Although a primarily zone guy at Iowa, DeJean has the size and physical traits to make it work in most defensive schemes and is perfectly fine in man coverage. I came away a fan after an excellent red zone stand lined up on Marvin Harrison Jr in 2022. Vegas could use any secondary help they can get, so passing up on DeJean here would be unwise. I'd like to think the Colts would take him in a couple more picks.
Pick 14) New Orleans Saints - Laiatu Latu, EDGE (UCLA)
Of the teams that should be in on Latu in the middle of round one, the Saints should be willing to take the dice roll with their current edge rushing situation the most. They can't bank on Cam Jordan forever, and if Latu's health issues are a thing of the past, his upside is through the roof. 23.5 sacks after a medical retirement is insane.
Pick 15) Indianapolis Colts - Brian Thomas Jr., WR (LSU)
Thomas Jr coming in and filling a void left by Michael Pittman should he walk would be a fantastic outcome for Tony Richardson and Shane Steichen. You don't typically get guys his size this fast and this dangerous after the catch, and he still has room for improvement as well, which is a horrifying thought.
Pick 16) Seattle Seahawks - Byron Murphy, IDL (Texas)
Murphy is a name that has rocketed up the draft charts as of late, becoming a consensus top 25 player at worst, looking at some more recent mock drafts. Another undersized IDL like Johnny Newton in this class, he's still a good fit for the Seahawks with some of their issues upfront this year, leading to that swing of a Leonard Williams trade.
Pick 17) Jacksonville Jaguars - Jackson Powers-Johnson, IOL (Oregon)
Powers-Johnson is a guy who has quite the fan club after the Senior Bowl, and he'd make enough sense for the Jags here to replace Luke Fortner up the middle. Not the sexiest option by any means, but the Oregon product is an athletic specimen at 330 lbs. Trevor Lawrence would appreciate this enough anyway.
Pick 18) Cincinnati Bengals - Taliese Fuaga, OT (Oregon State)
Had the Jags had a more pressing need at tackle, Fuaga would've been the pick there 100 times out of 100. He's as fun an offensive lineman to watch in this class, and he has some elite run game upside the second he steps on an NFL field. He's not half bad in pass pro either.
Pick 19) Los Angeles Rams - Kool-Aid McKinstry, CB (Alabama)
Now, just weeks away from multiple corners potentially leaving in free agency, the Rams adding a guy like McKinstry would go a long way in keeping them in playoff contention moving forward. His frame is excellent, and he plays with enough aggressiveness to make him a tough guy to take snaps on. McKinstry also has a great track record of forcing incompletions with over 20 PBUs in the last two seasons at Alabama.
Pick 20) Pittsburgh Steelers - Nate Wiggins, CB (Clemson)
As long as the Steelers address corner or offensive tackle with this pick, Steeler Nation should feel good, and here they get a guy in Nate Wiggins who has a very similar physical profile as Christian Gonzalez. He's not a hyperphysical presence on the boundary, but he'd play well enough off of Joey Porter Jr with that said.
Pick 21) Miami Dolphins - Johnny Newton, IDL (Ilinois)
I still maintain that the Dolphins will probably lose Christian Wilkins next month, and when that happens, they need to make their interior defensive front a top priority, especially with the injuries they suffered off the edge late in the year. Newton would do a good enough job of filling the hole left by Wilkins in the pass rush department. He still has room to grow as a run defender, but he's up for the task.
Pick 22) Philadelphia Eagles - Kamari Lassiter, CB (Georgia)
I believe I initially had these next two picks swapped, but then I remembered Howie Roseman needs Georgia guys in Philly like his life depends on it. The fact he only weighs a buck-eighty concerns me a bit, but he certainly plays a weight class or two above. Think some time in the weight room during rookie minicamp and OTAs should do the trick for him.
Pick 23) Houston Texans (via Cleveland Browns) - Quinyon Mitchell, CB (Toledo)
Mitchell, largely due to his ball production, feels like a guy who has a 0 percent chance to get by the Cowboys in this first round, seeing as they'll probably be in the market for a boundary guy. Welp, their in-state rivals beat them to the punch here to pair him with Derek Stingley. One thing to note about Mitchell outside of his unreal PBU and INT production is that he's almost exclusively an off-coverage guy. Last week on the Third Down Thursdays show, friend of the program, Jake Schyvinck, brought up a conversation that Mitchell had with someone else at the Senior Bowl, mentioning that he likes to play off because it allows him to read the quarterback's eyes mainly. I'd like to see him get more comfortable working in press spots, but he's another guy with quite the fan club going into this year's draft.
Pick 24) Dallas Cowboys - Amarius Mims, OT (Georgia)
I wouldn't be shocked if the Cowboys decided to stick with Tyron Smith at this point, but he isn't getting any younger, and they'll have to replace him sooner or later. Mims is a mammoth of a human being, and if he can refine some technique stuff, he has all the makings of a decade-long franchise left tackle.
Pick 25) Green Bay Packers - Tyler Guyton, OT (Oklahoma)
Green Bay can do a ton here, most of which would be good, replacing David Bahktiari the best of all. Although mainly a right tackle in college, Guyton would be an instant plug-and-play guy on either side of the line and be a fantastic blindside blocker for Jordan Love, standing at 6'7 and 328 lbs.
Pick 26) Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Chris Braswell, EDGE (Alabama)
Regardless of Mike Evans' status moving forward, what the Bucs had in sack production and simply producing pressure wasn't good enough in 2023. Adding another body into the mix with Yaya Diaby and co. should be a must, if not in round one, then certainly on day two. As far as what Braswell would bring to Tampa, he has a wingspan over 80 inches, is an athletic freak, allegedly having hit over 405 on the bench, and has a 38.5-inch vertical via Bruce Feldman. Oh yeah, his 13 sacks in his first and only high usage season at Alabama stands out as well.
Pick 27) Arizona Cardinals (via Houston Texans) - T.J. Tampa, CB (Iowa State)
Tampa is another corner in this draft with an impressive frame on him, and has some elite upside as a press corner, although he's scheme versatile. Regardless, he'd be the top corner for Jonathan Gannon's Cardinals defense the second he walks in the door. Could think of worse landing spots for the 6'2" 200 lb cornerback.
Pick 28) Buffalo Bills - Kamren Kinchens, SAF (The U)
Sticking with what I had last mock. Buffalo needs secondary help badly, and I think Kinchens is their best bet in this spot, with almost all of the top corners off of the board. He'd be a day-one option to put back in center field by himself, but if not, getting the chance to play behind one or both of Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer is about as good as you could help from a learning standpoint.
Pick 29) Detroit Lions - Bralen Trice, EDGE (Washington)
If it wasn't clear after the NFC Championship game, the Lions need some better production off the edge to truly become a title contender. Trice has enough of a track record of getting to the quarterback and has the physical traits to warrant getting selected before day one ends, having 14 sacks over the last two seasons.
Pick 30) Baltimore Ravens - JC Latham, OT/IOL (Alabama)
In this year's installment of "How Did We Allow the Ravens to Draft Them?" take Latham for your consideration. Morgan Moses is less than a month away from turning 33, and the Ravens can get out of his contract scott-free a year early. Depending on Kevin Zeitler's future, Latham could end up in either spot on the right side of the line for Baltimore.
Pick 31) San Fransisco 49ers - Graham Barton, OT/IOL (Duke)
While Barton has spent the last three years at left tackle, he does have one collegiate season at center, and the 49ers brass may be looking to move on from Jon Feliciano. Quite honestly, he could play anywhere up front for the 9ers outside of left tackle, as long as Trent Williams is willing to stick around anyway. I don't hate the idea of San Fran taking Barton assuming he kicks back inside full time though.
Pick 32) Kansas City Chiefs - Kris Jenkins, IDL (Michigan)
Death, Taxes, and Tom Brady/Patrick Mahomes in the Super Bowl. Dread it, run from it, it matters not folks, even in a year where the Chiefs roster had as many holes as they've had in over a decade. Now with free agency approaching, they'll likely be without some key defensive guys moving forward, with Chris Jones potentially the biggest loss. If that happens (my guess is it does), getting a body in the defensive trenches is priority one.
Jenkins will never be able to replace what Jones can do, but he has a ton of experience in four-man fronts and would be an excellent run stuffer right out of the gate. He was arguably the key cog upfront for the now National Champion Michigan Wolverines, so he also brings some Championship pedigree to the table.
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