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2024 NFL Mock Draft: First-Round Picks & Predictions

2024 NFL Mock Draft: First-Round Picks & Predictions

After some time without putting together an NFL Mock Draft, this seemed like a good chance to have another try at projecting how the first round might end up.

Ultimately, players ended up going higher and (in many cases) lower than I had anticipated before starting, which could suggest that trading around the board could make sense for several teams. So this doesn’t necessarily reflect where I value each player, but rather who I think might fit the teams well as they’re currently constituted. Typically, I tried to find an upgrade for the roster as-is unless there wasn’t an obvious option, in which case I thought about how free agency might turn out for the team.

The draft order has also been updated to reflect the NFL Wild Card games.

2024 NFL Mock Draft: First-Round Picks & Predictions

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

This might have been a more difficult decision if Caleb Williams was a lesser quarterback prospect. Although the Bears went 4-2 over the last six games of the year, Justin Fields still hasn’t shown enough to pass on an elite creator like Williams. It’s worth mentioning that general manager Ryan Poles was in Kansas City when Patrick Mahomes was drafted but didn’t get to Chicago until Fields’ second season.

2. Washington Commanders: Drake Maye (QB – North Carolina)

Is it possible Washington could go with Jayden Daniels over Drake Maye? Let’s see who they end up hiring as head coach. However, I’ve seen more from Maye on tape that directly translates to the pro game. Fellow Tar Heel Sam Howell melted down near the end of the year (four touchdowns to 12 interceptions in the last seven games), but there’s not much similarity between them, so I don’t think it matters.

3. New England Patriots: Marvin Harrison Jr. (WR – Ohio State)

Could this be Daniels? Certainly, depending on who the Patriots bring in as general manager and offensive coordinator. For now, I’m not going to rush into that, especially given how much support new head coach Jerod Mayo has from Robert Kraft. Hopefully, the Mac Jones experiment showed New England how a lack of supporting cast talent can derail a quarterback’s development.

4. Arizona Cardinals: Joe Alt (OT – Notre Dame)

This would have been much easier if Harrison Jr. was available. Since he’s not, I think it’s possible the Cardinals could decide to continue building in the trenches. Monti Ossenfort drafted Paris Johnson Jr. last year, and both the Patriots and Titans often prioritized linemen when he was in director positions there. Arizona can save $16 million by moving on from D.J. Humphries, who was extended under the prior regime.

5. Los Angeles Chargers: Olu Fashanu (OT – Penn State)

This is a bit of an awkward spot, so I could imagine a trade-down, given that the Chargers need defensive help. Still, the best players left are mostly offensive players. Ultimately, I went with Olu Fashanu as an upgrade over right tackle Trey Pipkins. The offense was pass-heavy with a zone-based run game, so I think Fashanu’s smooth play would fit in well, assuming they go with something similar under a new coach.

6. New York Giants: Rome Odunze (WR – Washington)

The sixth pick looks difficult to project because the Giants have various solid options at positions of need here. I don’t think they’ll eat $47 million in dead cap to dump Daniel Jones, but they could go with almost any of the top-skill players. This was the second-worst passing offense in the league, and I think they’re missing a big-bodied receiver to complement their speedier, smaller options.

7. Tennessee Titans: Malik Nabers (WR – LSU)

This could be something like a tackle if one of the top two makes it, but I think Chris Hubbard played relatively well before getting hurt. We all know Will Levis has a cannon for an arm, and I think Malik Nabers would make a lot of sense here, too, given that his game is based around slot fades. He’d add dynamism to an offense that went with a less-explosive receiver corps of DeAndre Hopkins and Treylon Burks.

8. Atlanta Falcons: Jayden Daniels (QB – LSU)

I didn’t have to spend too much time thinking about who the Falcons would take here. Atlanta has a good supporting cast in place and could build a fun offense with a dynamic athlete like Jayden Daniels. If unavailable, I could imagine a wide receiver here, as one could slide down the board if New England took Daniels third overall. A defensive back could work, but I don’t know if the value is quite there yet.

9. Chicago Bears: Jared Verse (DE – Florida State)

This could be another weapon for Williams, but I’m going with a pass rusher here. Yes, the Bears invested in Montez Sweat, but they still finished second-to-last in sacks this year. Jared Verse isn’t quite my top edge defender, but I think his relatively more power-based approach could appeal to Matt Eberflus more than some of the more speed or technique-based rushers available. He’s usually gone for thicker players.

10. New York Jets: Taliese Fuaga (OT – Oregon State)

Protecting Aaron Rodgers will be key to the Jets’ 2024 season, and when I think of the types of offensive linemen Joe Douglas looks for, Taliese Fuaga seems to fit the bill. He’s big, tough and nasty, plus relatively pro-ready. Drafting a right tackle this high might mean flipping Alijah Vera-Tucker over to the left side, but I think that could work from an athletic standpoint and give the team a pair of solid bookends.

11. Minnesota Vikings: Cooper DeJean (CB – Iowa)

Teams felt pretty comfortable attacking the Vikings through the air this year, and although neither of the Vikings’ two starting corners, Byron Murphy and Akayleb Evans, are liabilities, it’s possible neither develops into a No. 1 option, either. Meanwhile, 2022 second-rounder Andrew Booth barely played this season. Cooper DeJean has a great set of tools and has been highly consistent over the past two seasons.

12. Denver Broncos: Jer’Zhan Newton (DL – Illinois)

Jer’Zhan Newton has some of the most impressive tape of any defender in the class and, having played on the end of many three-man lines, might be a good fit in Denver. The team ranked 29th in defensive yards, 30th in rushing yards allowed and last in yards per attempt allowed, so help is needed. Bringing in a disruptor to play opposite Zach Allen could give them a solid foundation for the future at the five-technique spots.

13. Las Vegas Raiders: Brock Bowers (TE – Georgia)

It’s surprising how well-rounded the Raiders are despite picking this high. Claiming Jack Jones on waivers gave them another affordable young corner to play with Nate Hobbs, and they have various weapons, with good blocking up front on offense while rushing the passer well. If their next coach continues to run two TE sets as much as the Raiders did this year, how about Brock Bowers to replace Austin Hooper‘s 556 snaps?

14. New Orleans Saints: Amarius Mims (OT – Georgia)

The Saints are a team that historically loves to build through the trenches, and there are several options they could go with here. 2022 first-rounder Trevor Penning lost his starting left tackle job to Andrus Peat, and the team wasn’t very efficient at rushing the passer either. I like the value a little better on the edge, but I don’t see a perfect big-bodied power rush to fit Allen’s preferences, so how about a toolsy left tackle?

15. Indianapolis Colts: Terrion Arnold (CB – Alabama)

The Colts somehow finished 10th in points scored this year despite starting veteran journeyman Gardner Minshew for most of the year, so I think this might be a defensive player. Their defense front is relatively deep, but on the back end, they need to bank on 2023 rookies Julius Brents and Jaylon Jones to take big steps forward this coming year. They seem to like big-bodied corners, so either Alabama player could work.

16. Seattle Seahawks: Chop Robinson (DE – Penn State)

This is another team currently looking for a head coach, but a couple of possible picks might be an offensive lineman or edge rusher. Charles Cross looks pretty solid at left tackle, but the rest of the line is sketchy at best. Despite sacking quarterbacks relatively often this year, the team lacks a high-end complement to Boye Mafe. I went with Chop Robinson because of the value and because they tend to like slightly stronger edges.

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17. Jacksonville Jaguars: Tyler Guyton (OT – Oklahoma)

Getting exposed down the stretch caused the Jaguars to slip out of the playoffs, and there are several positions of concern. Blocking generally wasn’t good. They couldn’t rush the passer well (25th in sacks), and tackling in the secondary was poor. Could they draw from the Oklahoma well again after choosing Anton Harrison in the first round of last year’s draft? Tyler Guyton should be an upgrade over right tackle Walker Little.

18. Cincinnati Bengals: J.C. Latham (OT – Alabama)

Had they not lost Joe Burrow for the season, Cincinnati would likely be in the playoffs, and they have the well-rounded roster you’d expect from a playoff team. I wonder what they’ll do about impending free agents Tee Higgins and Jonah Williams. Tentatively, it seems they might be open to tagging Higgins, and I could imagine Williams looking for a left tackle job. J.C. Latham could be the top tackle left at this point.

19. Los Angeles Rams: Dallas Turner (DE – Alabama)

I have to think this ends up being a defensive pick after the Rams recovered their explosiveness on offense in 2023. There are some real studs on the Los Angeles defense – Aaron Donald, Kobie Turner and Ernest Jones all played very well – but they could use top-flight pass-rushers and corners. Any of the top Alabama players would make sense here, but I have Dallas Turner ranked higher than Kool-Aid McKinstry at this point.

20. Pittsburgh Steelers: Kool-Aid McKinstry (CB – Alabama)

It should be obvious to most who’ve followed the 2023 season that Pittsburgh’s offense has been a problem this year; the Steelers rank 28th in points scored but sixth in points allowed. I don’t love the tackle fits here, and they’ve seemingly mastered the art of finding second-day receivers. So, how about a cornerback? Outside of Joey Porter Jr., Patrick Peterson will be 34, and Levi Wallace has struggled this year, too.

21. Miami Dolphins: Nate Wiggins (CB – Clemson)

Xavien Howard has struggled for the past two years, and the Dolphins can save $18.5 million in cap room by designating him as a June 1 cut. The fates of impending free agents like Christian Wilkins, Andrew Van Ginkel, Jerome Baker and DeShon Elliott could also significantly change the team’s strategy. How Bradley Chubb and Jaelen Phillips recover from their season-ending injuries could affect it, too, but it’s too early for Miami to think edge.

22. Philadelphia Eagles: Leonard Taylor III (DL – Miami)

Defensively, the Eagles have fallen off significantly from last season, from eighth in points allowed in 2022 to 30th this year. What complicates a defensive selection is the fact that the team is mostly locked into high-value contracts in 2024. If I understand Fletcher Cox‘s contract correctly, it’s set to void, so although he’s been playing well, he’s 33 years old, and the Eagles could opt to bring in a younger replacement here.

23. Houston Texans: Kris Jenkins (DL – Michigan)

There are a few directions in which I could see this pick going. If the Texans are not sold on John Metchie, a receiver could work. Otherwise, the interior of the line could use help. Defensively, I could see a stout interior lineman or (less likely) a linebacker. They could maybe add a safety to complement team captain Jalen Pitre. I went with Kris Jenkins over Leonard Taylor because he may be a slightly better scheme fit here.

24. Dallas Cowboys: Tyler Nubin (DB – Minnesota)

Tyler Nubin is the pick here, as Dallas usually uses three safeties, and Jayron Kearse has played poorly. I also considered tackle but didn’t like the value as much. Should the Cowboys try to re-sign Tyron Smith, who had an excellent rebound year but dealt with injuries in recent years? That could be hard after extending right tackle Terence Steele, who struggled this year (there’s an out in his deal after the 2024 season).

25. Green Bay Packers: Ennis Rakestraw Jr. (CB – Missouri)

Green Bay struggled to stop the run this year (28th), but they have some pieces in Kenny Clark, Devonte Wyatt, Karl Brooks and T.J. Slaton. Eric Stokes has struggled throughout his career before landing on IR early this past year, so a third cornerback could make sense. If other top corners made it, I’d maybe favor Wiggins over Ennis Rakestraw Jr. or Kool-Aid McKinstry because the Packers tend to value freakish athletes.

26. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Troy Fautanu (OL – Washington)

The Bucs have a pretty deep defensive front. A corner could work after Carlton Davis and Jamel Dean got banged up, but this seems high for (hopefully) a slot. Either a safety to replace box-heavy starter Ryan Neal (Tampa ranked 29th in pass defense) or a guard to upgrade the last-ranked rushing attack in the league makes sense, so I picked based on value. I also think Tampa Bay will re-sign Baker Mayfield after a strong 2023.

27. Arizona Cardinals: Laiatu Latu (DE – UCLA)

If the Cardinals don’t land Harrison Jr. at the top of the draft, a receiver could be the pick here. The defense is a real mess, with the possible exception of safety. Jonathan Gannon coached a loaded Eagles front and then finished third-last in sacks this year. So, given the value at this point, I think that’d be a good choice. It’s unlikely Laiatu Latu makes it this far on draft day unless he fails medicals.

28. Kansas City Chiefs: Brian Thomas Jr. (WR – LSU)

Although the receivers available now and in the mid-to-late second round are ranked fairly closely to me, I went receiver here. Tackle play has been a problem, too, but the Chiefs are committed to Jawaan Taylor long-term. The team has defended the pass very well as a collective, although the picture at safety is muddy. Mike Edwards‘s deal is expiring, and Justin Reid looks overpaid, with $10.75 million in savings if he’s cut.

29. Buffalo Bills: Chris Braswell (DE – Alabama)

With two impressive edge defenders in Gregory Rousseau and A.J. Epenesa, this might seem excessive. Still, the Bills also like to have an explosive stand-up rusher. They’re locked into Von Miller‘s deal for at least another year, but he’s had a 2023 to forget, and Leonard Floyd‘s contract is expiring. If the Bills move on from Gabe Davis, a receiver makes sense, but I think it could be worth trying to bring him back.

30. Detroit Lions: Bralen Trice (DE – Washington)

The Detroit secondary has been exposed, finishing 27th in yards allowed this year. They have quality safeties on the roster (primarily Brian Branch), but C.J. Gardner-Johnson is set to hit free agency. Finding a No. 1 corner should be a priority, too. Ultimately, I went with a rusher, as no edges aside from Aidan Hutchinson have established themselves as every-down impact-makers, and I like the value more there.

31. San Francisco 49ers: Graham Barton (OL – Duke)

If the value’s there, this should be a lineman, probably someone who can shore up the interior. For that reason, I went with Graham Barton, who’s been playing left tackle at Duke but could be a better fit inside at the next level. With one of the most loaded rosters in football, it’s hard to find another need here. Depending on whether Chase Young re-signs, they could look for an edge, but I like the defense otherwise.

32. Baltimore Ravens: Keon Coleman (WR – Florida State)

Odell Beckham Jr. will be a free agent, and it looks like Nelson Agholor‘s contract is voiding, too, so I went with a third receiver here to complement Rashod Bateman and Zay Flowers. Defensively, the team is loaded, so that shouldn’t be a major consideration, at least until free agency occurs. A guard could make some sense, but the value’s not there with Barton off the board, and even he might be a bit of a reach.

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