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Gaffney's 2024 NFL Pre-Postseason Mock Draft

With the first pair of NFL Playoff games just days out, the annual Senior Bowl just over three weeks out, and the NFL Combine about a month and a half out, this feels like a pretty good time to find out where the draft board is with most teams knowing where they now pick come April. Once again, things run through the Bears front office, but the question is, will they remain in the top spot, or trade out like they did last year? Other fun questions are how many quarterbacks will fly off the board in the opening round? What about receivers, in what might be the deepest wideout class in years? Well, as of mid-January, here's how I see things going down.


Notes:

-Selection order for playoff teams is based on Tankathon's ordering as of the conclusion of Week 18.

-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.



2024 NFL (Mock) Draft Round 1

Pick 1) Chicago Bears (via Carolina Panthers) - Caleb Williams, QB (USC)

Speaking personally, I'd give Fields one more year and take Marvin Harrison Jr here, but I think the Bears decide to cut bait and trade him to a team like Atlanta or Denver potentially, and go quarterback at No. 1. Having personally scouted both Williams and Maye recently, however, I feel confident in saying he's the only choice to make at No. 1 if the Bears want to go with a quarterback. His ability to create plays as a passer and a runner is unmatched in this class, and assuming the Bears get the right coaches and personnel around him (given the last decade, that's a huge question mark), the USC product has the chance to be special right out of the gate.



Pick 2) Washington Commanders - Drake Maye, QB (UNC)

A lot of things can change in about a month and a half. I was in the camp that Sam Howell had bought himself another year through the opening 8/9 weeks of the season, even with a potential coaching switch on the horizon. Now, after how he played down the stretch, anything but a quarterback here for the Commanders would be a massive upset. While I believe there's a notable gap between Williams and Maye right now, he's still the best option available for the time being. Hard not to think of Justin Herbert when you watch him, but the footwork and decision-making have to improve.



Pick 3) New England Patriots - Jayden Daniels, QB (LSU)

I wouldn't disagree with you if you said Daniels at No. 3 overall was a bit of a reach on merit, regardless of team need, but with the Giants and Falcons in the top 10, I'd doubt they have the option to trade down and still get him. Fortunately, that isn't an issue here with no trades, and the quarterback is enough of a need that the Patriots going Daniels here would be a perfectly understandable choice. There's not a better dual-threat guy in this class than Daniels. He enters the league as a better all-around passer than you'd expect, and his running ability is out of this world good, like top five the second he enters the league good. I don't think he's quite on the level with Williams or Maye just yet, but it's hard not to think about the upside and get really excited.

Pick 4) Arizona Cardinals - Marvin Harrison Jr., WR (Ohio State)

The big winner in the draft order race here is Arizona. The entire non-QB board is open to them, and since they're on the record saying Kyler Murray is still their guy, they have many options to help him out, including the best player in this entire draft. Replacing Hollywood Brown with MHJ, paired with an already interesting enough skill group of James Conner (I imagine he sticks around), Trey McBride, Rondale Moore, and Michael Wilson, would make Arizona a potentially devastating offense, assuming they can shore up the offensive line a bit more.



Pick 5) Los Angeles Chargers - Jared Verse, EDGE (Florida State)

The Chargers are about to be in a very interesting predicament. They'll be managing a search for a new coaching staff and front office, while also trying to get out of a 38 million dollar salary cap hole, in which they'll almost certainly have to part with some great talent. One of which could be Khalil Mack, who despite having the best season of his career (no, seriously, look at the numbers), his cap hit in 2024 sits at 38 million dollars, and they could save 23 million by cutting bait a year early, which I think they end up doing.

That would leave the Chargers in need of a new standout pass rusher, and at the moment, my top option is Florida State's Jared Verse. He carries the best blend of size profile, speed, and power as a pass rusher, plus the motor to succeed at the next level in all phases, given that he's 6'4 and 260 lbs on the button.


Pick 6) New York Giants - Malik Nabers, WR (LSU)

Nearly 10 years to the day that the Giants drafted LSU standout receiver Odell Beckham Jr., they could be in the market for a guy who fits that mold in Malik Nabers. While the WR2 argument will be a fun one in the coming months, the one where Nabers clears every non-MHJ wideout is his play speed and ability to create after the catch. Additionally, while his route tree was limited in the bits and pieces I've seen, there's enough to suggest he can run a more expansive tree as a pro. One downside though: six drops in 2023.


Pick 7) Tennessee Titans - Olu Fashanu, OT (Penn State)

Two teams in the top 15 should only go offensive tackle in round one. The Tennessee Titans are one of those two. He's currently the No. 2 option on the TDT board, but I lean towards Fashanu as my top tackle option in this draft. The run blocking is still a work in progress, although improved, and the pass blocking is already fantastic. He's not the physical specimen Joe Alt is, but count me in on the Fashanu bandwagon.



Pick 8) Atlanta Falcons - Dallas Turner, EDGE (Alabama)

While I could see the Falcons' attempt to handle their lack of pass rush through the free agent market, getting another fresh body to pair with Arnold Ebiketie as he enters year three isn't the worst idea, since a QB here would be a monumental reach. Dallas Turner possesses the speed and explosiveness to make himself a pass-rush threat the second he enters the league, but he likely will have to bulk up his 6'4 frame. Playing anywhere from 242-252 lbs in 2023, he got better in the play strength department, but I don't think he can play at the same weight in the pros.



Pick 9) Chicago Bears - Joe Alt, OT (Notre Dame)

I know the Bears seem high on left tackle Braxton Jones, but I find it hard to believe they would take him over Joe Alt in this spot. Jones may be good, Alt, much like Fashanu, has the opportunity to be great, and the Bears would be unwise to let him fall to the Jets. Granted, that feels like something the Bears would do, so I'm going with my choice here. At 6'8 and 322 lbs, Alt is as good as it gets as far as left tackle prospects go and would be a day-one starter for most teams in the league, so quite the get for the Bears here.



Pick 10) New York Jets - Armarius Mims, OT (Georgia)

Even with the two best options off the board, the Jets need to go tackle here. I would go as far as saying the key decision-makers should be fired mid-draft if they don't. Everyone but them knew the New York offensive line was in an awful spot going into, and it took less than a half dozen snaps for that to become apparent this year, with a blown protection sack leading to Aaron Rodgers tearing his Achilles. Especially since they don't have a second-rounder this year, they can afford to reach a tad to go for Armarius Mims, who while an incomplete product, has a ton of upside at the tackle spot. Not a perfect pick, but this is the corner Joe Douglas personally backed himself into.


Pick 11) Minnesota Vikings - Laiatu Latu, EDGE (UCLA)

The good news for the Vikings is that they have many options to try and fix their defense with the board in the shape it's in. Even if they retain Danielle Hunter, he, D.J. Wonnum, and Marcus Davenport are all slated for the open market, and I doubt they retain all three. The issue with them going out and getting Latu would be his health, having been medically retired before transferring to UCLA. However, based on his availability and production these last two years (23.5 sacks, 34 TFLs, five forced fumbles), that's a risk I'd be willing to take. Brett Kollmann some time ago, said Latu gives off some shades of Matt Judon, so I could think of worse outcomes.


Pick 12) Denver Broncos - Brock Bowers, TE (Georgia)

Your guess is as good as mine to what Denver does at QB in 2024, but I don't think they'll find it here at pick 12. They have more than enough options on both sides of the ball, but I have a hard time seeing Brock Bowers make it past this spot, with tight-end production in Denver being well below average. As of today, I believe the Georgia tight end is second only to Marvin Harrison Jr. among all players in this draft. His blocking ability is already in a great spot with room to get even better, and as a pass catcher, he gives off serious shades of a notable Patriots tight end not named Gronk, Ben Coates, or Russ Francis. You can probably narrow it down.


Pick 13) Las Vegas Raiders - Terrion Arnold, CB (Alabama)

While like the overall depth of the Raiders cornerback room with Jack Jones, Nate Hobbs, and Amik Roberston, they lack that true No. 1 outside guy that could make a good Raiders pass defense (12th in the league this season) great. A loose friend of the program (more so an acquaintance), Connor Livsay of the 33rd Team, has been banging the war drums for Alabama cornerback Terrion Arnold for a while now, and having done some light research on him, I see the vision. Although a bot more on the raw side, he has the man coverage ability and ball skills to get high leverage snaps in the NFL right away, and carries a frame at 6'0 and 196 lbs, similar to that of former DPOY Stephon Gilmore, with a seemingly wider wingspan. I can see his stock only getting higher from here on out too.

Pick 14) New Orleans Saints - J.C. Latham, OT/IOL (Alabama)

Both Andrus Peat and James Hurst are set for free agency as 30+-year-old linemen, but it's also worth noting that the Saints line gave up just 35 sacks all year (eighth fewest in the NFL) and gave up sacks on just 5.5 percent of their dropbacks. Although Micky Loomis will find a way to cheat our beloved salary cap, once again, this New Orleans line is a bit on the older side minus Ceaser Ruiz and Trevor Penning (just six starts in year two), so that feels like priority one. What J.C. Latham would give the Saints is simply options. While a primary right tackle at Alabama, there are draft heads that I've talked to who believe he could kick in at guard at 6'6. In any case, he'd be a starter in the big easy on day one at either left tackle or left guard.


Pick 15) Indianapolis Colts - Rome Odunze, WR (Washington)

Even if the Colts retain Michael Pittman Jr, I'd love to see them get one more pass-catching option for Anthony Richardson, to go along with Josh Downs and Alec Pierce. Outside of film watching, I don't know if there's been a time that I've watched Rome Odunze and have not been at least somewhat impressed. He's not a complete product and needs to polish up some nuances to make himself a complete NFL wide receiver, but the production from 2023 and his athletic traits are through the roof, which should be enough for Colts' GM Chris Ballard.

Also, a fun fact. Odunze punctured his lung and broke a rib recovering an onside kick against Arizona State in late September, had to drive back to Washington, and he never missed a game. Warrior doesn't even begin to describe him, dog mentality.


Pick 16) Seattle Seahawks - Johnny Newton, IDL (Illinois)

John Schnieder had the vision to help the Seahawks' interior D-Line when he traded for Leonard Williams, but this always felt like a rental situation more than a long-term solution. Johnny Newton would be exactly that, a player who's another smaller but hyper-active interior pass rusher who'd be another great young addition to a Seattle defensive core that already boasts former Illini teammate Devon Witherspoon, Julian Love, and Boye Mafe.



Pick 17) Jacksonville Jaguars - Bralen Trice, EDGE (Washington)

While it's hard to say what the future holds for Josh Allen in Duval County after a 17.5 sack campaign, I could easily envision him being out of Jacksonville's comfort zone on a new deal, leaving the Jags with a monumental hole to fill. Insert Bralen Trice, who's put up 17 sacks in the last two seasons at U-Dub. Not the most flexible edge rusher you'll ever see in terms of bend, but the power and natural leverage should translate to the pros on day one.


Pick 18) Cincinnati Bengals - Tailese Fuaga, OT (Oregon State)

Judging from a brief stroll through Bengals' Twitter, they do not seem keen on the idea of Jonah Williams being brought back for 2024, and I'm not one to entirely disagree. That said, they need to spend a first-rounder on the offensive line, even if that means passing on a receiver with Tee Higgins potentially on the way out. Bengals fans, really any fanbase for that matter, would love to have a guy like Fuaga, who's as close to the textbook definition of punisher as it gets. He has some comically fun running game highlights if you have the time. Additionally, while spending his entire tenure at Oregon State playing right tackle, there's no reason to believe he couldn't swap sides at the NFL level.


Pick 19) Green Bay Packers - Jordan Morgan, OT (Arizona)

Green Bay has themselves a certified superstar under center in Jordan Love, and an exciting young receiving core, but they haven't had stability at left tackle ever since David Bakhtiari went down in practice one unfaithful New Year's Eve day in 2020. Morgan can provide that level of stability on day one for the Packers, putting together a couple of solid campaigns to end his Arizona Wildcats career, and brings a ton of good physical tools and pass-blocking traits to the table at 6'5 and 325 lbs.


Pick 20) Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Brian Thomas Jr., WR (LSU)

Midway through the year, I felt like Tampa and Mike Evans were due for a split, and seeing as they're starting down a MONSTER contract extension for Antoine Winfield Jr, my feelings have only grown. This is a little bit of stock-rising anticipation on my end, but I see Brian Thomas Jr as a guy who'll wow teams in the pre-draft process and make himself a 100 percent lock of a first-round guy, and here, a great replacement for Evans. He has all the making of a matchup nightmare outside receiver at 6'4 and 205. Great hands, tracks the ball very well, and while not the fastest guy you'll ever see, can create after the catch. Never mind that Thomas would get the chance to work with a proven winner and Champion, Chris Godwin, on a daily basis, this would be an awesome landing spot for the Bayou Bengal.

Pick 21) Arizona Cardinals (via Houston Texans) - Kool-Aid McKinstry, CB (Alabama)

Here's a fun stat for you. Did you know the Arizona Cardinals only gave up 300-plus passing yards twice all season? As good as that is to build off of in 2024, they lack a true No. 1 corner, and much like the Vikings, they go after a Bama product, and in this case, multiple spots later than you may think. But hey, who are the Cardinals to complain if this comes to pass? While the opinion has shifted towards Arnold being the best Crimson Tide corner, McKinstry is still excellent in his own right, and at pick 21, would be a coup on the level of the Patriots getting Christian Gonzalez at 17th overall last year.


Pick 22) Los Angeles Rams - Cooper DeJean, CB (Iowa)

And the cornerback run is on just like that. Not a ton has changed with DeJean's stock over the last few months. His hyper versatility in the secondary and his prowess as a kick returner should get him plenty of work on a Rams defense that wasn't exactly a juggernaut against the pass this year. Not to mention that Sean McVay and Les Snead could be losing Ahkello Witherspoon in just a matter of weeks, making this the obvious choice for the Rams.


Pick 23) Pittsburgh Steelers - Tyler Guyton, OT (Oklahoma)

The fact that the Steelers are a playoff team despite starting Dan Moore at left tackle this year is an affront to any number of holy deities. In other words, they cannot, under any circumstances, go into the 2024 tilt with him on the blindside. Omar Khan drafting Tyler Guyton gives them a couple of options, both of which are good. Either the Oklahoma product sticks at right tackle, where he's logged just south of 1000 snaps since 2022, swinging Broderick Jones over to left tackle. Or simply stick with Jones where he's spent this stretch run for Pittsburgh, and kick Guyton and his 6'7 and nearly 330 lb frame over to left tackle. No real bad option there.


Pick 24) Miami Dolphins - T'Vondre Sweat, IDL (Texas)

I've sat on this opinion for a while now, but since Miami didn't get an extension ironed out with Christian Wilkins in the summer of 2023, he's 100 percent gone after this year. Miami is in a 40-plus million dollar cap hole, a franchise tagging would only hurt the Dolphins, and quite frankly, someone will pay the big man a ton of money the moment free agency opens. As far as replacement options, I like T'Vondre Sweat out of Texas. He'd be an instant plug-and-play starter as a 3-tech IDL, and while I'd say he's far more raw a prospect than say, Johnny Newton, his upside would warrant a round-one selection.


Pick 25) Philadelphia Eagles - Kamari Lassiter, CB (Georgia)

If you weren't expecting a Georgia Bulldog to end up on the Eagles here, that's 100 percent on you. My hands were tied, folks. Outside of weighing in the 180 lb bracket and having virtually zero turnover production to speak of, Lassiter should have zero issues transferring to the pros, especially if he can add some weight to his frame. Even despite being underweight, Lassiter is a tone-setter and has great instincts in coverage as well. Did I mention he's from Georgia yet???


Pick 26) Kansas City Chiefs - Xavier Worthy, WR (Texas)

Patrick Mahomes has now lived through Tom Brady's personal hell, aka his 2006 and 2013 seasons, having by far his worst supporting cast at the skill spots. Travis Kelce's drop issues and ability to produce against man coverage are glaringly bad at 34 years old, and guys like Kadarius Toney, and Marquez Valdez-Scantling haven't been able to produce consistently or at an adequate level. Rashee Rice has been a pleasant surprise in year one, but he's just one guy.

This wouldn't solve everything, but adding a guy like Worthy would be a nice start. A bit undersized, even as smaller receivers go, but he can be that burner that they'd probably hoped Mecole Hardman could develop into once Tyreek Hill left for Miami. Worthy has lights-out speed, and I could easily envision Andy Reid trying to use him as he did Hill with pre-snap motion. There are a few guys that I'd rank over him in this spot, but I think this is the best fit for the Chiefs and a direction I can easily see them going in.


Pick 27) Houston Texans (via Cleveland Browns) - Emeka Egbuka, WR (Ohio State)

I'm not too concerned over Johnathan Greenard's potential free agency, and I imagine he, and Sheldon Rankins, for that matter, will both be back in Houston next season. That would leave the defense in a good enough spot, giving Nick Caserio the freedom to go for the jugular on the other side of the ball, setting up the Texans' early Super Bowl window with C.J. Stroud. And what better way to do that than getting one of his former compatriots, in the form of Emeka Egbuka? There's enough to suggest he may be best suited as a slot receiver, but rolling out him, Tank Dell and Nico Collins would be a nightmare for opposing defenses. Those two taking the attention off of Egbuka and allowing him to shred zone looks and create after the catch as he did for the Buckeyes is a dream scenario.


Pick 28) Detroit Lions - Nate Wiggins, CB (Clemson)

While the Lions' 2023 draft panned out as good as Brad Holmes could've hoped, they notably passed on every round-one corner not named Devon Witherspoon. A year later, getting a guy like Nate Wiggins, whose physical profile matches up very well with that of Christian Gonzalez, would give a Lions' defense ranked 27th against the pass a bonafide No. 1 corner they've seemingly lacked ever since they dealt Darius Slay. Like Gonzalez, Wiggins is a very fluid mover who possesses great length and athleticism. At the cornerback position, those are always great traits to bank on.



Pick 29) Buffalo Bills - Kamran Kinchens, SAF (The U)

I'm assuming there are Bills fans furious that this pick isn't a receiver, but allow me to explain. Micah Hyde's contract is up at the end of the year at 33 years old, Jordan Poyer is only a year younger with just one more year on his deal, and this Buffalo secondary has been hit hard with injuries over the last few years. Adding Kam Kinchens, who does a bit of everything, and then worrying about another pass catcher for Josh Allen is the best long-term course of action. Besides, Kinchens is an absolute stud. The only reason he's still here is positional value and team need.


Pick 30) Dallas Cowboys - Quinyon Mitchell, CB (Toledo)

As good as Stephon Gilmore is/was for the Cowboys this year, they may not be able to keep him for more than this one-year deal, as they prepare to get money set for a Dak Prescott and Micah Parsons extension. And if the last few years have taught us anything, Jerry Jones salivates over cornerback turnover production at all hours of the day. There might not be a better corner around the ball in this draft than Quinyon Mitchell out of the MAC. While he only has six career picks, he also has 45 PBUs over the last three seasons and 37 in the last two. The sense is that Mitchell doesn't have enough press man snaps, but that wouldn't be much of an issue in Dallas, assuming Dan Quinn sticks around.


Pick 31) San Francisco 49ers - Chop Robinson, EDGE (Penn State)

Facing a tight cap situation, it feels unlikely that the 49ers keep their borderline Avengers-level defensive front intact, as Chase Young, Clelin Ferrell, Javon Kinlaw, and newcomer Sebastian Joseph Day all find themselves on the verge of free agency. Adding a guy like Chop Robinson would give San Fran another option to send off the edge with Nick Bosa and double as Drake Jackson insurance after the former 61st overall pick was held to just eight games this year due to a tendinitis issue in his knee.


Pick 32) Baltimore Ravens - Denzel Burke, CB (Ohio State)

While the Ravens' pass defense completely turned it around from 2022 to 2023, the focus should be to get another young body in the mix to go behind Marlon Humphrey and Brandon Stephens. The best option here would be Denzel Burke, who while lacking a bit in the tackling and physicality departments, has the fluidity and stickiness in coverage to work as an NFL cornerback on day one.


UPDATE (2:15 EST 1/10/24): Burke announced that he is returning to Ohio State about an hour after this mock draft was scheduled. Very rude timing if I say so myself.


2024 NFL (Mock) Draft Round 2

Before you ask, no, the irony of T.J. Tampa ending up in Tampa is not lost on me.



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