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An Early 2024 First Round NFL Mock Draft

Now that the 2023 NFL season has officially wrapped up, each team’s draft position has been solidified, with the exception of any future trades. As the NFL Scouting Combine approaches with free agency following closely behind, it’s still too early for any certainty in a prediction, but projecting future possibilities always makes things more interesting.

For this mock, all picks are going to stay where they originated, as I want to wait until after free agency to entertain any changes in draft position.

Pick 1: Chicago Bears (via CAR)

Caleb Williams, QB, USC

Sticking with Fields and prioritizing another position just doesn’t make sense for Chicago if they are serious about rebuilding the franchise, especially with all of the questions that still surround him as an overall player. As the elite prospect that he is, Williams might not be flawless, but his cool under pressure makes him worthy of the Bears’ #1 overall pick, especially since they can target another need just eight picks later.

Pick 2: Washington Commanders

Jayden Daniels, QB, LSU

With Caleb Williams off the board and a desperate need at the QB position, taking the best dual-threat quarterback in the class would be a smart decision for the Washington Commanders. The franchise would have an exciting new look if they paired Jayden Daniels with their dangerous receiving core under new head coach Dan Quinn.

Pick 3: New England Patriots

Drake Maye, QB, UNC

As the Patriots close out the Belichick era in favor of Jerod Mayo, they find themselves in an unfamiliar position at the front of the draft. They need a QB that they can build a new offense around, and Maye who’s 6-4, 230-pounds at 21 years old seems like the guy for the job, with surprising pocket agility and an efficient utilization of the middle of the field. He might need time to develop once he enters the league, but time is one thing that the Patriots aren’t lacking.

Pick 4: Arizona Cardinals

Marvin Harrison Jr. WR, Ohio State

Possibly the easiest pick to project, there is no way that Arizona could pass up on an extraordinary prospect like Marvin Harrison Jr. if he’s still available at pick #4, especially since Marquise Brown is now a free agent. Harrison effortlessly glides across the field as he breaks the spirits of opposing defenses, a true playmaker that could completely reinvent the entire feel of the Cardinals’ offense. An acquisition like this for Arizona would be a dream come true for the entire franchise, as well as their devoted fans.

Pick 5: Los Angeles Chargers

Brock Bowers, TE, Georgia

The most unique player in this class in terms of usage, Brock Bowers can basically line up wherever he is needed on the offensive side of the ball and excel with ease. A pairing of Herbert and Bowers torching defenses under a new head coach like Jim Harbaugh would be a recipe for success that the Chargers desperately need to revive the team after a disappointing 2023 season. While offensive tackle is another huge need for the Chargers, this is a tackle-heavy class with plenty of alternatives available later in the draft. The same cannot be said for a game changing tight end like Bowers.

Pick 6: New York Giants

Malik Nabers, WR, LSU

With the second-fewest passing yards in the league last season, the Giants are definitely in the market for a superstar at the wide receiver position. This is where Malik Nabers comes in. Arguably the most explosive player in this class, Nabers will pile on big play after big play for any offense that he goes to, while opening up the field and absorbing the defense’s attention in the process.                                        

Pick 7: Tennessee Titans

Joe Alt, OT, Notre Dame

An impenetrable pass-blocker like Joe Alt is the solution to a significant problem on the Titans’ offense after the last few years of constant quarterback injuries. As Pro Football Focuses’ highest-graded offensive lineman last season, Alt has allowed only 1 sack and 11 quarterback pressures since 2022. He would be a valued addition to the team and will make an immediate impact.

Pick 8: Atlanta Falcons

Dallas Turner, EDGE, Alabama

The Falcons could take several different approaches to the draft this year regarding their need at QB, including trading up for a player like Jayden Daniels or pursuing a trade for Justin Fields. However, this early in the offseason, I’ll say that they stay put at #8. Keeping the eighth pick definitely doesn’t mean that Atlanta is settling though, since there is still plenty of talent remaining in the class, like Dallas Turner. Turner finished out his college career as the SEC Defensive Player of the Year with a total of 10 sacks. As 37-year-old Calais Campbell hits free agency, the Falcons will be looking to fill a huge hole on the edge, and nobody would fit better than Turner.

Pick 9: Chicago Bears

Rome Odunze, WR, Washington

As I mentioned before, the Bears are able to quickly turn around and add another piece to their rebuilding puzzle just eight picks after they take Caleb Williams at #1 overall. As college football’s receiving yards leader last season, Rome Odunze would thrive as a reliable weapon for Williams alongside D.J. Moore. His crisp route running and ability to come away with every contested catch makes him a dangerous 1B receiving option in Chicago. If the Bears came away from the first nine picks of this draft with Caleb Williams and Rome Odunze, they would completely transform the offense and set the team on a path to success.

Pick 10: New York Jets

Olumuyiwa Fashanu, OT, Penn State

This one’s pretty straightforward for me. After last season, we’ve seen that above all else, the Jets’ number one priority should be protecting Aaron Rodgers. Fashanu didn’t allow a single sack throughout all 697 pass-blocking snaps of his college career making him a reliable anchor at left tackle, which is exactly what the Jets need after cycling through several offensive lineman last season.

Pick 11: Minnesota Vikings

Jared Verse, EDGE, Florida State

It’s not at all out of the realm of possibility for Minnesota to be left with a desperate need for a pass-rusher as they head into the draft, considering their current cap limitations and the fact that Danielle Hunter will soon be a free agent. Using this pick to acquire an edge-rusher like Jared Verse makes a lot of sense for the Vikings, especially when you consider the deadly onslaught of pass-rush moves that he would bring with him. Of course, this is assuming that Kirk Cousins remains in Minnesota, which could drastically change this pick depending on the outcome.

Pick 12: Denver Broncos

J.J. McCarthy, QB, Michigan

Obviously, this pick means that I definitely don’t expect Russell Wilson to stay in Denver next season, and the Broncos aren’t going to get out of the contract without taking a big hit to their salary cap. The limited options for the position in free agency combined with the fact that Denver doesn’t have a second-round pick lead me to believe that there is a good chance the Broncos use this pick on a QB. I like McCarthy going to Denver at #12, based solely on gut feeling and the fact that I see Sean Payton preferring a QB that he can develop, as opposed to long-time starters like Nix and Penix. 

Pick 13: Las Vegas Raiders

Byron Murphy II, DT, Texas

The Raiders need a lot, but four QB’s are already gone, and this year’s tackle class has enough depth for Las Vegas to wait until the second round to bolster their line. Following his impressive 2023 season, Byron Murphy would fit perfectly into the Raider’s defensive front as a remarkable run defender that often finds a way to get his fair share of pressures in as well.

Pick 14: New Orleans Saints

Tyler Guyton, OT, Oklahoma

It’s very likely that the Saints look to replace both offensive tackles this year, since tenured starter Ryan Ramczyk is still managing a knee injury that could potentially send him into an early retirement, and Trevor Penning has struggled since he was drafted in 2022. It doesn’t take much review of Tyler Guyton to see that he is clearly full of potential, with impressive quickness and agility that suggest he could become a trustworthy anchor at either tackle position for the foreseeable future.

Pick 15: Indianapolis Colts

Terrion Arnold, CB, Alabama

This is another one that’s pretty simple. Indianapolis desperately needs help at corner, and they can’t really go wrong by taking Terrion Arnold 15th overall. He has obvious playmaking traits, and he’s a physical player that loves to rely on his instincts, making him a great fit for the Colts as they continue to assemble a unit that can truly compete.  

Pick 16: Seattle Seahawks

Jackson Powers-Johnson, C, Oregon

It looks like there’s a good chance that new head coach Mac Macdonald will be sticking with Geno Smith under center in Seattle for at least another year, since he was just guaranteed another $12.7 million for the 2024 season. As long as the veteran QB stays put, Jackson Power-Johnson makes a lot of sense for the Seahawks at #16, given that their offensive front was among the worst last season in pass-blocking grade and against quarterback pressures. As if the need wasn’t already great enough, all three of Seattle’s interior offensive linemen are set to become free agents, which only makes a prospect like Powers-Johnson that much more appealing after an electrifying Senior Bowl show out.

Pick 17: Jacksonville Jaguars

Quinyon Mitchell, CB, Toledo

No doubt about it, the Jaguars have holes on their offensive line and possibly at receiver depending on where Calvin Ridley ends up, but the exciting center out of Oregon was just snagged one pick prior, and Quinyon Mitchell is still on the board. I have a hard time seeing Jacksonville pass up on Mitchell at this point in the draft, especially when Power-Johnson is already gone. The Jags could use an explosive corner like Mitchell to pair with Tyson Campbell, and he’s become that much more appealing since his jaw-dropping performance in the Senior Bowl.

Pick 18: Cincinnati Bengals

Taliese Fuaga, OT, Oregon

Much like the Jets, Cincinnati’s number one priority this offseason should be protecting their star quarterback at all costs, especially after his season-ending wrist injury in 2023. Overall, Fuaga is a phenomenal prospect that feels like the ideal fit for the Bengals as an upgrade over Jonah Williams at right tackle.

Pick 19: Las Angeles Rams

Laiatu Latu, EDGE, UCLA

Although third-round rookie Byron Young and Aaron Donald maintained solid production for the Rams’ defensive front in 2023, the losses of Von Miller and Leonard Floyd over the last few years have left them with a sub-standard pass-rushing unit that could really use another threat off the edge. Laiatu Latu’s the type of a player that can fill this need for Las Angeles, especially when you consider his potential to dramatically impact any game that he’s in. Although his medical status will continue to have a big influence on his overall draft stock, when healthy, Latu is definitely worthy of the Rams’ first round selection.

Pick 20: Pittsburgh Steelers

Amarious Mims, OT, Georgia

I expect Pittsburgh to take the same route here that they did a year ago. In 2023, the Steelers went with Broderick Jones at 14th overall, and this year I have them taking another Georgia offensive tackle, Amarious Mims, just six picks later. Mims missed part of last year with an ankle injury, but there’s no doubt that he’s a dominant force when healthy. Mims going at #20 and reuniting with his former Georgia teammate on the opposite side of Pittsburgh’s offensive front just feels right.

Pick 21: Miami Dolphins

Troy Fautanu, OT, Washington

If they want to be able to hold on to the several expensive playmakers that are currently on the roster, the Dolphins are going to need to start filling certain needs on a budget. This could begin with the addition of Troy Fautanu to the interior offensive line. Fautanu is expected to make the switch to the interior as a pro after playing as a tackle in college, but his body control, flexibility, and agility suggest that he could excel at either position.

Pick 22: Philadelphia Eagles

Nate Wiggins, CB, Clemson

The Eagles might have a solid duo of veteran corners for now, but the 2023 season hinted that age is starting to become an issue for Darious Slay and James Bradberry. There’s a good chance that at least one of the two won’t be in Philly much longer, which would make Nate Wiggins an exciting selection at #22. While this class introduces plenty of quality options at corner, Wiggins is the definition of a ball-hawk that loves to rely on his instincts, and he would suit Philadelphia’s needs well.

Pick 23: Houston Texans (via CLE)

Jer’Zhan Newton, DT, Illinois

During his impressive performance in the Senior Bowl, Jer’Zhan Newton fully showcased his well-rounded skill set at the defensive tackle position. He’s solid when it comes to stuffing the run and pressuring the passer, a true three-down nose tackle that will perfectly satisfy a big need up front for Houston.

Pick 24: Dallas Cowboys

J.C. Latham, OT, Alabama

At this point, tackle almost seems like a must for Dallas at 24th overall, since Tyron Smith is 33 years old, and Terrance Steele is coming off an iffy season. They’re also looking to make a long-term commitment to Dak Prescott once again, and they’ll want to make sure that he is protected. Latham is nothing short of an absolute unit with absurd movement for his size, that would fit well at either tackle position for the Cowboys.

Pick 25: Green Bay Packers

Cooper DeJean, CB, Iowa

A rare player that can line up anywhere in the defensive backfield, Cooper DeJean is essentially a defensive Brock Bowers in terms of versatility and usage. This feels like an easy addition to the Green Bay secondary, which could use help at both levels.

Pick 26: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Demeioun “Chop” Robinson, EDGE, Penn State

Due to salary cap limitations, it’s likely that Tampa will part ways with veteran Shaq Barrett, which will open up a big need for an edge rusher alongside the impressive YaYa Diaby. Chop Robinson would fit well with the Buccaneers as arguably the most explosive pass-rusher off the line in this class, and he will only continue to improve once he enters the league.

Pick 27: Arizona Cardinals (via HOU)

Ga’Quincy “Kool-Aid” McKinstry, CB, Alabama

After taking Marvin Harrison Jr. with the fourth overall pick to acquire a much-needed weapon for Kyler Murray, I have Arizona selecting the best corner still available, Kool-Aid McKinstry, at #27. The Cardinals haven’t had a reliable corner that can lock down the outside since Patrick Peterson, and here they expect McKinstry to fill that role with his pure physicality and playmaking ability, concluding an exceptional first round haul for Arizona.

Pick 28: Buffalo Bills

Brian Thomas Jr., WR, LSU

Between the poor utilization of Stefon Diggs last season, and the loss of Buffalo’s deep threat, Gabe Davis, to free agency, the Bills desperately need a jumpstart at the receiver position. Brian Thomas Jr. makes the most sense here, with the size and speed to reignite Buffalo’s vertical attack while simultaneously drawing some of the attention off Diggs. If the Bills find themselves in another postseason showdown with Kansas City, Thomas could be the outlying factor that finally flips the script in favor of Buffalo.

Pick 29: Detroit Lions

Ennis Rakestraw Jr., CB, Missouri

After years of disappointment, the Detroit Lions finally have a well-rounded roster that puts them in the conversation for Super Bowl 59. One of the bigger needs that still remain in Detroit lies at the corner position, due to injuries and inconsistent production. A passionate player with a viscous physical playstyle like Rakestraw Jr. is sure to demand the attention of someone like Dan Campbell and fit right in with the Detroit mentality.

Pick 30: Baltimore Ravens

Keon Coleman, WR, Florida State

Now that Odell Beckham Jr. and Nelson Agholor have reached their contract’s expiration date, Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens could really use someone with size and athleticism as a second option alongside Zay Flowers. At 6-4, 215 pounds, Keon Coleman looks to be the ideal candidate for Baltimore, as someone who Jackson can trust to win a 50/50 with the game on the line.

Pick 31: San Francisco 49ers

Graham Barton, IOL, Duke

Even after another devastating super bowl loss for San Francisco, they retain the best overall unit in the league. Weak spots are not easy to find on the 49ers roster, but with the obvious exception of the immovable left tackle, Trent Williams, the offensive front is in need of improvement. Despite playing left tackle in college, Graham Barton expects to slide over to the interior once he enters the league. Barton’s full of athleticism and has all he needs to fit right into San Francisco’s offensive scheme.

Pick 32: Kansas City Chiefs

Troy Franklin, WR, Oregon

The last pick of this draft is another one that doesn’t require much explanation. It’s hard to imagine the Chiefs taking any position other than wide out at #32, but they do have plenty of viable options. I project Kansas City to take Troy Franklin here as the sixth receiver off the board. He seems like the perfect upgrade from Marquez Valdes-Scantling, and he’ll make a great vertical compliment to the likes of Rashee Rice. 

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