NFL Draft 2024: Final one-round mock draft feat. Patriots' surprise non-QB pick

NFL Mock Draft - Cover Photo 2024
NFL Mock Draft - Cover Photo 2024

We’ve arrived at draft week, only a couple of days away from Roger Goodell officially putting the Chicago Bears on the clock in Detroit, and it’s time for me to reveal my final mock draft.

Putting this thing together was as challenging as I can ever remember at this point, because of the uncertainty starting so early. I’m not going to shock anybody with the first overall pick here, but number two appears to be a coin-flip and then from three to six, we could see a bunch of movement, which of course dictates everything that follows.

So I might still talk about some potential adjustments that may be coming based on more information coming out, but let’s have some fun here! This is going to be a predictive exercise, meaning based on what I hear, read and believe will happen, rather than what I think teams should do.

Here, we’re going to make our way through the top-32 selections plus fits for the three teams who don’t currently own a first-round pick.

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NFL Draft 2024: Final one-round mock draft


1. Chicago BearsCaleb Williams, QB, USC

Because of all the intrigue around who will be QB2 and some wide-ranging opinions on how these six names generally discussed as first-round picks will ultimately come off the board, there actually hasn’t been a ton of talk about Caleb Williams on the field at least.

To me, he’s the best quarterback prospect I’ve personally evaluated in the eight years I’ve really done work on the draft. The backyard-style of play and Houdini-like play extension stuff is truly special and why he gets a lot of Patrick Mahomes comparisons, but what isn’t discussed enough is how clean his mechanics are, the fact he fights to stay within the pocket and how well he can operate within structure if he has answers for what the defense is doing.

Last year, the protection and receivers he was working with at USC, along with head-scratching offensive designs, blurred the minds of some people. But I would be shocked if he didn’t at least turn into a quality starter in Chicago for a long time, considering the infrastructure they’ve now incorporated. He has a chance to be called the best signal-caller in franchise history by the time he signs his second contract. Hope is coming, Bears fans!

2. Washington CommandersDrake Maye, QB, North Carolina

This is where things get interesting because we’ve had three different front-runners to go second overall since Williams became the overwhelming favorite in terms of betting odds. Right now, I believe it’s a toss-up between North Carolina’s Drake Maye and LSU’s Jayden Daniels. However, since I have Maye graded significantly higher, that’s what breaks the tie for me.

I've been saying that he is the most overthought prospect in this draft. In terms of size, arm talent, composure and mobility, this is what the NFL is always looking for. Yet, all of a sudden, he’s the guy people nit-pick like crazy when it comes to things like locking out his front foot, not always having his base aligned and some of the oddly missed throws.

The high-level stuff he brings in terms of layered throws down the field, the off-platform deliveries and the timely chain-moving runs easily makes me look beyond those and I can live with him being a little bit too aggressive of a decision-maker. With the continued investment in the offensive line and the pass-catching crew they’ve assembled, I think he has the pieces around him to be successful.

I’m just worried about what we’ll get from Kliff Kingsbury, who coincidentally was responsible for some of the issues we saw on Caleb Williams’ tape as the OC for the Trojans, which can induce more hero-ball tendencies, as we discuss these top two names. But Maye to me has been QB2 for a calendar year now.

3. New England Patriots – Marvin Harrison Jr., WR, Ohio State

We’ve heard about the Patriots being “open for business” with this third overall pick, kicking off what could be three or four straight trades, but I actually think they stick and pick here. Unless the Giants love whoever the Commanders don’t take and move up three spots here, New England will likely be in contact with one of the three teams just outside the top 10 and that probably takes them out of the range for Notre Dame offensive tackle Joe Alt and the trio of top wide receivers.

So in this scenario, I don’t think they get an offer that blows them away and take the slam-dunk player in Marvin Harrison Jr. He has nimble feet off the line, is really strong to break free from physical corners, weirdly flexible in his ankles to make precise cuts for being 6’4”, 205 pounds, tracks the ball exceptionally well and his body-control at that composition is just bonkers.

He doesn’t have elite long speed and the reason some people have Malik Nabers ahead of him as the top receiver is that he doesn’t offer a lot of creativity in the open field, but he’s as complete and pro-ready a pass-catcher as we’ve seen enter the league in a decade. The Patriots haven’t built up the support system for a rookie QB yet, but this is a critical building block for if they end up picking early again next year, as they finally get a legit number one to go with the complementary pieces they have in place.

4. Las Vegas Raiders (via ARZ) – Jayden Daniels, QB, LSU

Alright, let’s get this party started! The Cardinals have been connected as the Marvin Harrison team pretty much since the draft order was locked in. If he’s available for them, I’d think it would take massive draft capital to move off him, but in this case, he’s off the board and general manager Monti Ossenfort will be very happy to trade down.

The Vikings have the highest draft capital to offer here and there could be some other teams in the mix, but I have the Raiders jumping them and taking Jayden Daniels. In this scenario, to move up nine spots, they also need to throw in the 44th overall pick and their first-rounder next year.

However, I had to take the connection between Daniels and the guy who originally helped recruit him at Arizona State in now-Raiders head coach Antonio Pierce. I’m not sure if they would be this aggressive for any other QB, but I think the Heisman trophy winner lighting up the “Death Star” in Vegas should also have owner Mark Davis on board.

I don’t know if this is a plug-and-play team yet, but they’ve looked at themselves differently, handing out a huge contract to Christian Wilkins in free agency and Davante Adams still there as a star receiver, who I imagine catching a bunch of the slot fades we saw Daniels air out for those LSU guys.

I’m a little concerned about the development plan of offensive coordinator Luke Getsy, coming over from Chicago, where he was working with a similar type of profile as more of a one-read-and-go player in Justin Fields, but this possibility isn’t talked about enough, I believe.

5. Minnesota Vikings (via LAC) – J.J. McCarthy, QB, Michigan

And we keep the train rolling, as the Chargers at number five have been the obvious trade-down candidate the entire way pretty much. Could they just stick here and take the top offensive tackle or whoever they prefer as WR2 on their board if they don’t love any of the offers made to them? – Sure.

But they’re motivated to add more shots here and the Vikings didn’t set themselves up this way if they didn’t want to get their guy from Michigan. No team has been linked more frequently to McCarthy than Minnesota, and even though I believe that if Drake Maye is available at number three, they’ll absolutely be calling New England, this just makes way too much sense.

They swap their two first-rounders (11th and 23rd overall) plus a second next year for this pick and if there’s a team set up to get the most out of J.J., it’s them. Anybody who’s taken a look at my big board (which you can check out at, knows I’m significantly lower on him than consensus and I think it’s crazy that we talk about him in this range, but with how long this has been in the works seemingly, this doesn’t feel like a Will Levis-type of smokescreen.

This is one of the best situations we’ve seen a rookie QB dropped into, where he has star receivers, a good offensive line, linked at the hip with a tremendous young play-caller and having Sam Darnold there, to not force him into the action right away. McCarthy’s willingness to attack the middle of the field and the ability to deliver the ball accurately on the run with his flexible arm, when they move the pocket, would fit very well.

6. New York Giants – Malik Nabers, WR, LSU

The top four quarterbacks are off the board and while the noise around the Giants being ready to move on from Daniel Jones seems to be getting louder, I don’t think they love either of the two still available at this point. So instead I’m going to go chalk here and give them what would be the number one receiver in the vast majority of draft classes in Malik Nabers.

There’s been some discussion around how well his personality would fit in with a big-market team, especially with how the marriage between the Mara/Tisch franchise and Odell Beckham Jr. eventually came to an end, but Nabers provides a dynamism on the offensive side of the ball that this team has been severely missing since they moved on from OBJ.

They already have a bunch of designated slot receivers on the roster, which is where this guy primarily operated from in 2023, but while I prefer him off the ball, I don’t have too many questions about play strength and I think he would be an awesome flanker.

The instant acceleration pops off the screen, the way he either threatens vertically and then snaps off routes or lures defenders into stopping their feet momentarily and then blows by them is rare. His focus and coordination to haul in passes even through contact at just six foot stand out and then he’s an absolute game-breaker once the ball is in his hands.

7. Tennessee Titans – Joe Alt, OT, Notre Dame

Who has thrown their names out as another potential trade-down candidate, but I’ll take another lay-up in what otherwise is a highly challenging draft to project. I have Olu Fashanu just ahead of Alt in my offensive tackle rankings.

But this is still where he stacks up for me on the big board and I’d think he’s number one for the majority of NFL teams. 6’9”, 320 pounds, with just over 34-inch arms, checked all the boxes from an athleticism standpoint at the combine and then he’s still improving, as a 21-year-old former tight-end, who has only been a full-time offensive lineman for the last three seasons with the Fighting Irish.

Tennessee has let us know what they think of themselves, throwing big money at Calvin Ridley, still a solid sum for Tony Pollard, trading for and locking up L’Jarius Sneed on the defensive side of the ball – they want to see what they have in Will Levis during this rookie QB contract window. New Titans head-man Brian Callahan hands a potential future All-Pro to his dad and one of the great O-line coaches in Bill Callahan. No need to overthink this or get cute here.

8. Arizona Cardinals (via LV and ATL) – Rome Odunze, WR, Washington

At number eight we would typically see the Falcons making their selection, but I have the Arizona Cardinals repeat what they did a year ago when they allowed the Texans to trade up to third overall for Will Anderson Jr. but then popped back up for the offensive tackle of their choice in Paris Johnson.

This time around they secure themselves the last of the “big three” wide receivers. For the move up by 5 spots, they give up the first of their 3 third-rounders at 66th overall plus one of their fives. The reason they have to do this is that I can’t really see Rome making it past the Bears or Jets as the next two teams up and this way they still secure themselves a legit number one, with what they currently have at the position.

Odunze is incredibly smooth at 6’3”, and 210 pounds. Looking at the Reception Perception profile from Matt Harmon, he finished between above-average-to-elite on every route he ran and then his body control and ball skills are just insane.

The way he adjusts to passes down the field and how he positions himself to win through contact is illustrated very well by the fact that he had a 75% contested catch rate. While he’s not quite as physical, we’ve already seen this type of profile match very well with Kyler Murray when he was working with DeAndre Hopkins and now the other receivers they have in Arizona slot into their more natural pecking order.

Ole Miss v Alabama
Ole Miss v Alabama

9. Chicago Bears – Dallas Turner, EDGE, Alabama

This of course really throws off the Bears here and they may be scrambling a little bit, because Rome would’ve been pretty much perfect to round out their receiver room. With just four total picks in this entire draft, they certainly can’t give up any more however and if anything should be moving back.

Where do I have them going is the presumptive EDGE1 based on consensus boards across the league. Once Montez Sweat arrived in Chicago at the trade deadline, this defense went from 30th overall all the way up to 5th over the final nine games in terms of EPA per play.

They locked up their All-Pro corner Jaylon Johnson and brought in free agent safety Kevin Byard, but by allowing Yannick Ngakoue to walk, they’re looking for that more bendy speed-rushing profile across from Sweat. Dallas Turner tested well above the 90th percentile in the 40 and the jumps, to pair with 34.5-inch arms and a lot of jolt in those hands for that physical stature.

That’s why I actually believe he could be a high-quality run defender and at this point he’s actually best converting speed-to-power as a pass-rusher. If he continues to improve his hand-combats to win at the top of the rush, with his explosion up the field and quicks to cross-face blockers or create softer edges by threatening inside, he could be a double-digit sack producer in multiple years of his rookie deal.

10. New York Jets – Troy Fautanu, OT/IOL, Washington

Rounding out the top ten, I really thought about closing the chapter on the premiere pass-catchers with tight-end Brock Bowers, who seems to be the clear favorite to be the pick here, but if the Jets are serious about winning this year and honest with themselves about where they could once again be vulnerable, they need to continue investing into the offensive line and I have them going with the versatile blocker from Washington.

They have their choice here of OT2 and could go several different directions, but I believe Fautanu presents the most logical choice here. Looking at Gang Green’s currently slated starting five, you can win with that group if you have it for a full 17, but Tyron Smith has played a total of 30 games over the past four seasons combined and Alijah Vera-Tucker has only logged 12 starts since his rookie year in 2021.

So even if whoever they select here doesn’t start day one theoretically, you probably need him to fill in at one of those spots sooner rather than later. And that’s where I love the match with Fautanu, because while all but two of his 31 career starts came at left tackle, I feel best about his ability to take snaps at four of the five spots at least, because of the easy movement skills he presents, whether that’s sliding laterally to mirror pass-rushers or climbing up into the defensive backfield in the run game.

11. Los Angeles Chargers (via MIN) – J.C. Latham, OT, Alabama

This sets off our run on offensive linemen to some degree, with seven of 15 selections from pick ten onwards being from that group. The Chargers were already linked to this player early on and I wouldn’t be shocked if they took him fifth overall, but in this case they can add two more valuable selections and still get J.C. Latham.

They could certainly go Brock Bowers here without a difference-making tight-end on the roster or take their top corner, but the messaging by Jim Harbaugh and general manager Joe Hortiz has been clear, wanting to become a “bigger, more physical team”. Well, how does a 6’6”, 340-pound All-SEC right tackle from Alabama sound?

Latham packs a ton of raw force in those 11-inch hands and can unlock that lower half to dig defenders out of the lane, 35-inch arms extend his range as a pass-protector and when he puts those clamps on you, he puts you in a cage. Funnily, a couple of bad plays from their College Football Playoff game against Harbaugh’s Wolverine is what people refer to negatively with him, but he played a really good game otherwise and I think offensive Greg Roman is licking his chops at the possibility of swapping out Trey Pipkins – off a regression year – for this guy.

12. Jacksonville Jaguars (via DEN) – Quinyon Mitchell, CB, Toledo

This is where I make another trade and of the ones I’ve done so far, this is not cleanest one to predict. However, there’s no player that truly sticks out to me for the Broncos in terms of a need they want to address and where value exists.

They could absolutely target this player here themselves, but I think Jaguars GM Trent Baalke will be even more intrigued with this profile and be willing to trade up the top corner in this class. And the Broncos should be very interested in getting a second-round pick back (since they don’t currently own one themselves) in exchange for their fourth plus one of their two fives, as they move down five spots.

Mitchell is right there in terms of the measurables you’re looking for at the position, has 4.33 speed, major ball-production, dominated at the MAC level and absolutely rocked this pre-draft process.

The two days he spent at the Senior Bowl were as clean as I’ve ever seen for a corner, with how easy he could de- and re-accelerate, wants to locate and make plays on the ball and while he played a lot of off-zone coverage, he has 10-inch hands and the mirror skills to project as someone who could become very effective in press.

So while they have Tyson Campbell on the final year of his rookie deal with a decision looming, Quinyon can jump into the spot of Darious Williams – who they shockingly released early on this offseason – playing off, with vision on the quarterback in that field-side role he also excelled at with the Rockets.

13. Atlanta Falcons (via ARZ and LV) – Laiatu Latu, EDGE, UCLA

So the Falcons move back five spots in this scenario, because while EDGE is the clear favorite in terms of positions they want to address, they probably feel confident that they can get one of those big three names at the top here still – and with how this played out, Alabama’s Dallas Turner is the only one off the board.

So the decision here came down to Florida State’s Jared Verse and the guy I actually picked for them is the reigning Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year. Who if you take away the injury concern, I believe has a very strong case to be the best defensive player in this draft at this moment. His technical advancement with all the different hand-combats in his toolbox, how he counters the approach of tackles against him and is able to build up comprehensive rush plans in those individual matchups, is about as good as you’re going to find from a college player at that position.

Not the type of freakish athlete or has the length of Turner, but I don’t have any concerns with the functional movement skills. He’s not a firm edge-setter by the book in the run game, but the block-deconstruction and ability to create quick stops are on display. Latu gets to reunite with his former defensive coordinator at Washington in Jimmy Lake, who along with Raheem Morris will value his ability to peel off into coverage occasionally, on top immediately becoming their best true edge rusher.

14. New Orleans Saints – Olu Fashanu, OT, Penn State

You kind of know this pick is going to be an offensive tackle or that power-profile edge defender they love so much. I went with the former, because of how pressing a need it is, giving them the All-Big Ten left tackle from the Nittany Lions. The Saints’ tackle situation somewhat quietly is an absolute catastrophe.

Trevor Penning unfortunately has been even more problematic in his first season of action than I thought he might be when they traded up for him in the draft two years ago, getting benched eventually, with Andrus Peat moving out to left tackle from guard – whose only remaining presence on the roster is his 13-million-dollar dead cap hit.

And then, we recently got news on Ryan Ramczyk on the right side with his degenerative knee issues, which could lead to an early retirement. Fashanu is actually my number one tackle, right there with Notre Dame’s Joe Alt, and he would’ve been a top-ten pick in last year’s draft by all accounts.

Fashanu is one of those names who has just been overthought during the process and while he didn’t show a whole lot of improvement in the run game, where he’s still more of a positional blocker than a road-grader, he doesn’t have many missed assignments in that regard and then he has the ability to become an elite pass-protector, thanks to his impeccable balance and quick hands, even if they are weirdly small. My high-end comparison for him is Texans Pro Bowler Laremy Tunsil.

15. Indianapolis Colts – Brock Bowers, TE, Georgia

Corner is certainly something GM Chris Ballard could be looking to address, after they were just throwing day-three picks and UDFAs out there last year, to see who sticks. Yet, this is where the Brocks Bowers slide stops. This has been one of the more fun pairings I’ve envisioned throughout the process, between Bowers and head coach Shane Steichen.

The Colts have a couple of young tight-ends they like in Jelani Woods, Kylen Granson and even Drew Ogletree, along with veteran Mo Alie-Cox still under contract. So this doesn’t jump out as a spot on the depth chart, where they don’t have anybody of note. With that being said, that designation doesn’t do Bowers justice and it’s more about the ways I can imagine him being used by a creative offensive coordinator.

He can obviously stretch the seams and run away from guys on crossing routes, but he can split out as a single receiver on the backside of the formation and win on all three levels with the way he can efficiently break off routes. The hand-eye coordination and strong hands in tight areas stand out, but then it’s that extra gear after the catch and the horsepower to drag tacklers along with him that made him a man amongst boys even in the SEC.

Now you add him to those two towers they have on the outside in Michael Pittman Jr. and Alec Pierce, Josh Downs as a quick-footed player in the slot and a guy in Bowers who can eat over the middle of the field, for Anthony Richardson to work with in year two, this offense could really take off.

16. Seattle Seahawks – Byron Murphy II, IDL, Texas

When we get to the Seahawks in these mock drafts, typically you see them go offensive line or with the edge rusher that falls to them, but I actually think they address the interior defensive line with who established himself as the top guy on NFL boards once he tested off the charts at the combine.

There are still a couple of offensive tackles from what I believe is the top-six available here, but with Mike Macdonald coming over from Baltimore to take over this franchise, I believe he wants to bring them back to the glory days of the Legion of Boom and what you do on the back-end doesn’t matter as much when you feel like you’re constantly being compromised by having to put more focus on the front.

Seattle has finished 26th and 29th respectively in rush EPA defensively these past two years, thanks to a combination of front dynamics, slow linebackers and a lack of consistent play from the nose-tackle spot. And I’m not saying Murphy is going to be lining up at zero-technique for them primarily and single-handedly fixing their run defense, but he actually spent more time there than his teammate T'Vondre Sweat, who has a good 60 pounds on him.

This guy has an innate feel for where pressure is being applied from and you see him at times with his body contorted, knee just inches off the ground anchoring against double-teams. Then if the offense spreads them out, he can line up in the B-gap, come off the ball like a submarine under the reach of the guard or take that guy into the quarterback’s lap. Right now, he’s playing a little bit out of control, but you let him learn from Leonard Williams and Dre’Mont Jones, he could turn into a legit game-wrecker.

Colorado v Oregon
Colorado v Oregon

17. Denver Broncos (via JAX) – Bo Nix, QB, Oregon

Alright, Broncos are finally on the clock and there are multiple avenues I could take here. I already mentioned that they could address CB2 opposite of Pat Surtain with someone like Terrion Arnold and even though I like some of their young guys on the edge, Florida State’s Jared Verse could make a lot of sense here.

However, they can not be trotting Jarret Stidham out there for 17 weeks and I’ve liked this landing spot this entire time for the guy who just finished second all-time in single-season completion percentage (77.2%).

I know people won’t like this and feel free to close the tab once you hear me say it, but Nix is my QB3, one spot ahead of LSU’s Jayden Daniels on my big board – even if this is more of a reflection of me being down a little bit more on this quarterback class past the top two than consensus.

I think Bo would be a tremendous fit with head coach Sean Payton for a quick-trigger passing attack, where he can accurately deliver the ball on time, based on what leverage and coverage structure dictates – unlike the frustrations he had last season with Russell Wilson. Moreover, I think Nix is being falsely labeled as a checkdown captain.

He can push the ball deep for Courtland Sutton and then his ability to manipulate rush angles, escape potential sacks, and create on secondary reaction plays is highly underrated, more so based on how well he executed the Ducks' offense within structure.

18. Cincinnati Bengals – Taliese Fuaga, OT, Oregon State

I look at the Bengals fairly similarly as the Saints, less so in terms of truly pressing needs, but having their eyes set on guys on the edge of the line – whether that’s on offense or defense – as long as Georgia tight-end Brock Bowers isn’t available at least. I have them taking what is generally considered the better player between those two spots in the ass-kicking Oregon State OT.

They selected Myles Murphy out of Clemson late in the first last year, who hasn’t really gotten on the field for them a whole lot but looked pretty good in limited action. I could see Fuaga going as high as number ten to the Jets, who he’s been linked to regularly, and this is much closer to the floor for him in terms of draft range.

Purely as a run-blocker, he may be the very best of the bunch, as a mean people-mover, whether that’s latching into edge defenders and taking them for a ride on the front side of zone concepts, driving a three-technique backward on combos with the guard or tossing linebackers to the turf when asked to climb.

He doesn’t have top-end length or foot agility, where he will be challenged in new ways by NFL speed off the edge, but he dominated against a murderous row of Pac-12 threats in the passing game. I think he may start at guard and as soon as Trent Brown misses any time – which is highly likely – sticks at right tackle for a long time.

19. Philadelphia Eagles (via LAR) – Terrion Arnold, CB, Alabama

We welcome back the Los Angeles Rams to the first round for the first time since they selected Jared Goff first overall back in 2016. Of course, they feel weird here to pick this early and when the Eagles call about moving up three spots, they do so in exchange for a 2nd-rounder, to now own picks 52 and 53, while giving Philly number 83 and one of their back-to-back fives (155th overall).

With that, the Eagles secure themselves what some people still have as CB1. We all know about the Eagles’ struggles on the back end last season defensively and while they may also just stick at 22 and get a Cooper DeJean from Iowa, who can also fill in the nickel or even play some safety for them, I believe Arnold will generally be higher rated and can play inside and out.

I’m sure they regret the contracts they handed out to veterans Darius Slay and James Bradberry last offseason now, but they can get out of those next year and Avonte Maddox is only back for this season at a 2-million-dollar price tag. So however they want to approach this, Arnold is almost definitely an upgrade at one of those three spots, and for a forward-thinking franchise, they will value the flexibility this provides in the future.

I have Arnold as my CB4 because he gets a little sloppy in his backpedal and savvy route-runners can get him turned the wrong way, but he’s springy to click-and-close from off-alignment, has the loose hips to recover if opening the wrong way initially and I don’t think he plays like he runs a 4.51 with some of the reps of him hanging with speedsters down the field.

Add in the ball production in his one season as a starter and how aggressive he is coming downhill, and I think new Eagles DC Vic Fangio will love him.

20. Buffalo Bills (via PIT) – Brian Thomas Jr., WR, LSU

And we get straight to another trade, as the Pittsburgh Steelers are certainly tempted by the possibility of replacing Diontae Johnson with whoever they think is the number four receiver in this class, but they surrender that right to pick him here to the Bills, due to how well they’ve developed the position with mid-rounders, for the steep price of picks 128 and 153, as they come up from 28 to select the OTHER LSU wideout.

By trading away Stefon Diggs to a young contender in the Texans, along with – to a lesser degree – allowing Gabe Davis to walk in free agency, they’ve created a pretty substantial hole on the outside. I’ve really liked Khalil Shakir since I watched him at Boise State, Curtis Samuel is someone who can be a high-volume target and extension of your run game, but if you’re looking for that big-bodied X receiver, you’re asking last year’s fifth-round pick Justin Shorter or free agency addition Mack Hollins to step up massively.

Those guys certainly are more straight-liner who can be ball-winners, which funnily is kind of the profile Thomas Jr. presents as well, but I think he can clearly be more than that eventually. His juice off the line, the ability to elude contact in a more fluid fashion and how he can reduce his height at the break-point for being nearly 6’4”, project much better into someone who can win on all three levels.

At LSU, his route-tree was definitely limited, with a ton of hitches and goes, but that extra gear to run under one of Josh Allen’s bombs and then how he can pierce up the field or slide inside of pursuit defenders could make him highly productive for Buffalo.

21. Miami Dolphins – Graham Barton, IOL, Duke

When I look at the Dolphins, I think two position groups clearly stand above the rest in terms of where they might go here – offensive line and edge defender. The latter is largely based on the fact that both Jaelan Phillips and Bradley Chubb are coming off season-ending injuries which the suffered late in the year. But at least Chubb could be available once week one rolls around with the torn ACL and they did add veteran Shaq Barrett as a free agent.

So I’m more focused on the guys they’re putting in front of Tua Tagovailoa and the name that jumps out is Graham Barton. Played left tackle at an all-conference level for the Blue Devils, but expected to move inside due to the lack of arm length and even more so because of how well his game translates to the interior. Explosive out of his stance, latches and sustains with a finishing mindset as a run blocker, along with being able to showcase that tremendous athletic profile he backed up at his pro day as a puller. Able to use his hands in alternate fashion, adjust his aiming points & works with a great understanding for the depth of the pocket, which is why he only gave up 2 total sacks & QB hits combined over the last 2 years. Whether they need to him to jump in at center for Connor Williams leaving or if Aaron Brewer can stick there, to take over for Robert Hunt at right guard, he could be a quality starter at either, along with kicking out to tackle in a pinch.

22. Los Angeles Rams (via PHI) – Jared Verse, EDGE, Florida State

So as I already described, the Rams trade back three spots in this scenario and I think they have to go defense here, with how much they’ve invested financially into this offense. Nobody is currently slated to spend a lower rate of their cap dollars on that side of the ball than them at just under 25%. I could certainly see them address the interior D-line with the retirement of Aaron Donald or inject some youth into an old corner room, but I think they take what will be the highest guy on many boards still available in the back-to-back first-team All-ACC defensive end. How quickly Byron Young and Kobe Turner emerged as difference-makers on that D-line as rookies was a very pleasant surprise, but they’re still looking at Michael Hoecht once again starting at that second outside linebacker spot, where he’s asked to drop into coverage well over 200 times at 300+ pounds. Now, Verse doesn’t have a whole lot of experience with that, but I think they’ll ask him to go forward much more regularly because of the difference he can make there. This guy comes out of his stance with some fire, he has heavy hands to set the tone on contact and be a physical edge-setter in the run game. Those violent chops also allow to swat down the reach of tackles on pass plays and then he’s the best at condensing his rush lanes, taking advantageous paths to the quarterback by utilizing his power. He’s not an elite bender, but would immediately be the top edge rusher on this team.

23. Los Angeles Chargers (via MIN) – Jer’Zhan Newton, IDL, Illinois

As you look at this Bolts depth chart, they still need plenty of help. They took care of their one big need on offense with Latham at right tackle, considering they can add another receiver in this insanely deep class later. Defensively, there’s no linebacker worth this selection, but they could go corner here. With that in mind, thinking about the years under Brandon Staley and what stands out to me, is how soft they were at the spine of their defense – let’s change that with a dominant presence on the interior D-line. While Michigan didn’t face the Fighting Illini this past season, Jim Harbaugh saw the reigning Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year collect a couple of tackles for loss, QB pressures and a batted passes when they met in 2022. To me, Johnny Newton is one of the more underappreciated players in this draft class. Can knife through gaps and disrupt or pulls blockers off himself when the ball is in range. Already pretty advanced in terms of his hand-usage, reading the pass-sets of interior protectors, when there are opportunities to land cross-face moves or transition to power. And then he’s the best guy in the class at cornering his rushes from those inside alignments. I have him 13th overall on my big board and he’d a homerun pick gere. The Harbaugh era starts with two cornerstone pieces in the trenches on both sides of the ball – very fitting.

24. Dallas Cowboys – Amarius Mims, OT, Georgia

Duke’s Graham Barton has been a fit I’ve liked for the Cowboys, plugging him in at center for Tyler Biadasz or at left guard, where Brock Hoffman and T.J. Bass are currently projected to start, expecting Tyler Smith to move back out to left tackle. And I’m not ruling out Oregon’s Jackson Powers-Johnson at all either, but with one of the top six tackles still available, I think that’s where they need to go with the gigantic Georgia right tackle. I’d say it’s more likely he’s gone at this point, because he has the potential to develop into a top-five player from this entire draft. With that being said, only eight career starts and the foot injuries he was fighting through this past season, along with pulling a hammy at the combine, when he had the chance to wow NFL decision-makers, could push him down a little bit. But my god, this dude is built like Thanos at 6’8”, 340 pounds with almost no excess weight, a ton of natural power and athletic feet. There’s certainly room to grow in terms of framing rushers off the edge, but I think it’s all due to a lack of experience rather than being “raw” with how good his tape was already. If you can get consistent temperament in the run game out of this guy, you’re talking about someone with All-Pro potential. Mims actually split practice time pretty evenly between the left and right tackle, so he can be the replacement for Tyron Smith on the blindside while TYLER Smith can stay at the spot he was just named a second-team All-Pro at.

NFL Combine
NFL Combine

25. Green Bay Packers – Jackson Powers-Johnson, IOL, Oregon

The Packers are one of those teams whose expectations changed fairly quickly once we saw Jordan Love emerge as a top-10 quarterback over the latter half of this past season. So while they don’t operate in a way that they’d accelerate the clock for themselves, also because they don’t have the benefit of Love being on a true rookie deal, I think it may keep them from drafting another one of these talented defensive players, who may not be ready to contribute right away. Instead, I’m still looking at adding one more weapon in the pass game, but understanding they just don’t do that, I think the guy who can immediately make an impact here is the Oregon center. JPJ is right there with Graham Barton for me in terms of the top interior O-linemen in the class. Excellent zone-blocker in terms of the horizontal movement he provides, the ability to keep his hands latched and willingness to finish defenders. You love the way he flies out in space as part of the screen game. And in the pass game, he plays with busy eyes if unoccupied initially, while having the strong base to anchor against powerful D-tackles, not letting them get away anymore once he establishes control. If he can clean up his placement of snaps, I think he’s an upgrade right away over Josh Myers, and while I like Sean Rhyan, the same is true for right guard. At worst, he’s going to be a premiere backup for all three interior spots right away and once he gets onto the lineup, he’s not going to leave it anymore.

26. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Chop Robinson, EDGE, Penn State

I’m sure if one of those two top-ranked interior O-linemen is available for the Bucs at 26, they’d strongly consider it for their somewhat open left guard spot, but otherwise this really comes down to edge rusher or corner, since they let Shaq Barrett walk and traded Carlton Davis to Detroit. I went with probably the most divisive defender on the edge, who is expected to go somewhere in this range. A little undersized at 6’3”, flirting with 250 pounds and just 32.5-inch arms, but this guy’s first step and ability to threaten the corner with speed plus bend is as good as anybody in this class. He’s sort of a one-trick pony at this point and doesn’t string together pass-rush moves in a comprehensive fashion yet, but watching him snatch and lift the outside hand of tackle in order to create a softer angle along with some cat-like quicks on up-and-unders make me believe he could still find enough success on third downs to buy him time as the rest of his game develops. I like how low he plays and the strength in his triceps to lock out in the run game, he just need to get his upper and lower body more synchronized. So I think this is the range he should be taken in, but the pay-off could be massive. If Tampa plays with more even fronts basically on early downs, where Joe Tryon-Shoyinka is the only legit outside linebacker and Yaya Diaby is the guy on the opposite end of the line, allowing Chop to come in fresh in dropback settings, that would be an optimal situation.

27. Arizona Cardinals – Darius Robinson, EDGE/IDL, Missouri

And we stick on the defensive front for the Cardinals, who already addressed the number one receiver slot they needed to fill and now need to add difference makers on the opposite side of the ball with the physical presence of Darius Robinson. He’s someone who jumped up into first-round conversations during Senior Bowl week, then the hype cooled off a little bit when he tested poorly in comparison to a lot of the smaller pure EDGEs, but is on the rise again seemingly with how good his on-field workout at the Missouri pro day looked like. Packs incredible vigor in his hands combined with 34.5-inch arms to control the point of attack, work off blocks and create negative plays in the run game. As a pass-rusher, he relies heavily on that power as well, but you do see him opposing linemen with his agility and rapid hands to arm-over them. The Cardinals haven’t had a guy like this, who can mush up the pocket and then push off guys in order to find secondary escape lanes for himself with that inside-out flexibility since Calais Campbell three coaching staffs ago by now. Even with how badly they ultimately performed statistically, in part due to some injuries they were dealing with, we’ve heard a bunch of players mention how tough Arizona’s defense was to prepare for because of all the funky stuff they threw at them. Robinson is another piece in that and someone I don’t think makes it out of the first round.

28. Pittsburgh Steelers (via BUF) – Cooper DeJean, Defensive Back, Iowa

So, I had the Steelers moving back eight spots with the Bills here, punting on the chance to take what is considered the consensus number four receiver and in this scenario neither one of the potential centers is available anymore, which would make a lot of sense. They could go with whoever they believe is the next-best tackle, but we’ve seen the focus of this franchise being the back-end defensively and I think there’s no better fit than the versatile Iowa defensive back. DeJean gets to stay in the black and yellow for another tough-minded organization that prides itself on defense. However, they’ve finished 26th and 21st respectively in net yards per pass attempt these past two seasons, because they’ve been going through athletically limited veterans at those corner spots. Getting Joey Porter Jr. at the top of day two last year gives them someone with legit press-man ability with how much cover-one they like to run on early downs, and they did trade Diontae Johnson for Donte JACKSON from Carolina this offseason, who at least gives you some play-making ability on the far side of the field. DeJean now perfectly fits into the nickel spot. He can match up with Mark Andrews and David Njoku from detached alignments, his spatial awareness and football IQ allow him to get his hands on the ball in zone-coverage and whether he’s moved tighter into the formation or you want him to blitz off the edge, you don’t need a separate big nickel package. DeJean is going to finally fill the void left behind by Mike Hilton – who has been one of the league’s best slot defenders for the division-rival Bengals – and he’s going to also provide consistency in the return game.

29. Kansas City Chiefs (via DET) – Adonai Mitchell, WR, Texas

Alright, this brings up to the final four teams from last season, with the Lions being on the clock after giving away the NFC title game in heartbreaking fashion, but they actually get a call from the reigning Super Bowl champs in the Chiefs, who want to avoid the Ravens or 49ers snatching up their guy, which I believe Adonai Mitchell. I personally think Detroit should select him themselves to round out their receiving corp with a legit outside threat, but KC gives up their fourth-rounder (131st overall) for that right. I understand that this is somewhat of a divisive name, because the fantasy football community and data nerds talk about his highly concerning statistical profile, but the film truthers love his game – and that’s the corner I’m in. I see some of the plays, where people might call it a lack of effort and I agree with them to some degree as a blocker at least, but this is one of the more skilled route-runners I’ve evaluated. The term I’ve used to describe it is that he paints a picture with the way he sets up defenders, attacks their blindspots and is able to make adjustments on the fly based on the technique of the guy in front of him. The foot quickness and elusiveness off the line pairs up beautifully with that, to win as a legit X in isolated coverage and while he doesn’t always play up to it, you do see the 4.35 speed and ball-tracking skills to win down the field. He’s not a dynamic YAC threat – in part because of his high depth of target – but he snatches the ball with defenders converging on him and I think is exactly what the Chiefs need here. Now you have him on the backside of the formation, Hollywood Brown clearing out space, Travis Kelce taking advantage of that free real estate and we’ll see what happens with the Rashee Rice situation, with him being their run-after-catch specialist.

30. Baltimore Ravens – Jordan Morgan, OT, Arizona

If Mitchell were available here, I would love that as an Odell Beckham Jr. replacement and now you’d really be cooking with three first-round picks at receiver around the reigning MVP, but I think they very much have their eyes set on the offensive tackle position. The traded away long-time veteran Morgan Moses for a day-three pick swap, Ronnie Stanley on the left side is still in and out of the lineup and while I think Josh Jones was a sneaky signing in free agency, I’d be surprised if they don’t address this group in the first two rounds. Jordan Morgan is someone I think hasn’t been talked about enough throughout this process. Coming off a torn ACL in the year prior, the voters still snuck him into first-team All-Pac-12 despite the amount of talent they had in that conference this past season. Tremendous athleticism for the zone run game, being able to execute back-side cut-offs or gliding to the second level, great burst out to the corner when Baltimore wants to run those sweep plays with Lamar Jackson with impressive reactionary skills on the fly. Smooth in his kick-slide with the mental capacity to change up his technique in accordance to his matchups. Not like an overpowering drive-blocker and the length will be a question, with his arms being an eighth short of 33 inches, but he regularly is first to establish meaningful contact with rushers and the agility to mirror cross-face moves is excellent.

31. San Francisco 49ers – Tyler Guyton, OT, Oklahoma

And we actually stick with that position group, since the Niners couldn’t finish the job in the Super Bowl because of their issues on the right side of the offensive line. They take the guy that is regularly mocked ahead of Morgan, even though I personally have them stacked up this way, with OU’s big right tackle Tyler Guyton. He created a lot of buzz early on during Senior Bowl week, because you saw the athletic traits on his tape, but his ability to anchor was what stood out on day one at least. That went away a little bit, as edge rushers started to figure out that they could win the outside shoulder will well-timed swipes at that near-arm and because he’s tall in his pass-sets, he tends to widen his base too much, making him vulnerable to lateral movement. However, there’s still a lot to like with this guy at 6’8”, 320 pounds, some of the dominant reps you see on tape in the run game when his hands and feet are connected, to toss people out of the club, along with the length and recovery tools in pass-protection. He'll be taken under the wings of another former Oklahoma tackle, who had some things to work on in order to reach his sky-high potential in Trent Williams.

32. Detroit Lions (via KC) – Nate Wiggins, CB, Clemson

Which brings us to the end of the first round, where the hometown team hosting this event finally gets to make their selection, which is always fun, as we think back to the Chiefs doing the same a year ago. It would’ve been cool if it was another nearby product like Darius Robinson, who grew up in Michigan and would a lot of sense for them, but I’m addressing their other big need on defense with the Clemson standout cover corner. Wiggins is my personal CB2 and I think someone with the physical ability to be a legit shutdown number one corner – which is rare in today’s game. He is so incredibly loose, has instant explosiveness in his ability to plant-and-drive from off-alignment, 4.28 speed and you see the elite recovery skills, where his footwork isn’t by the book a lot of times, but he somehow makes it work. The eyes and range to make plays on routes in his vicinity, combined with the awareness to identify route-combination as a zone-defender is special, and then he can really climb the ladder and competes for the ball in the air. There’s some fine-tuning needed where he gets just a little too aggressive driving on the initial break, which makes him vulnerable to double-moves, and the big question of course is the frame at six foot and just 175 pounds, but he’s more than willing to race up and attack bigger ball-carriers down low and his effort combined with the speed in pursuit led to some tremendous chase-down plays. The Lions want to run so much man- or match-coverage, where they’ve added Carlton Davis who can battle with those bigger bodies, but now Wiggins is your de-facto number two as a rookie at least, he could be a star with major ball-production if targeted frequently.

2024 CFP National Championship - Michigan v Washington
2024 CFP National Championship - Michigan v Washington

Other players I considered:

Michael Penix Jr., QB, Washington – I could absolutely see a team jump back into the first round to select him, secure the potential of a fith-year option, but with Penix you already have a guy that is 24 years old as a rookie and we know plenty about what he is, even though we may not be fully sure what the transition to the pros looks like, and the injury history at Indiana is of course concerning. 34 to the Patriots is very much possible or I could see the Raiders potentially trading up early in the second round, if they don’t end up making a move early, very much in the mold of what happened to Will Levis coming out of Kentucky last year, as the second pick of day two.

A few other receivers I was thinking about, but we’ll get to one here in a second. Just felt the need to mention Xavier Worthy from Texas, because the NFL obviously loves speed and this is officially the fastest man to ever enter the league – so I don’t expect him to hang around for very long if he doesn’t actually go in the first round.

Kool-Aid McKinstry, CB, Alabama – My number 3 corner, worthy of going somewhere in the 20s. I was kind of going back and forth with him and Wiggins – who is just ahead in my rankings – for who the Lions would pick at 32 and with how much single-high they like to run, he would’ve also made a lot of sense for the Steelers, but recovering from the foot surgery and not having done the agility drills at his pro day, as good as I think he is at anticipating routes and disrupting receivers off the line, in this case he has to settle for early 2nd round.

And two longshots that I wanted to bring up here quickly:

Marshawn Kneeland, EDGE, Western Michigan – Had an excellent Senior Bowl week, followed up by some great combine testing at 6’3”, around 270 pounds. Someone with incredible play-strength and untapped potential as a player who wasn’t always put in position for major production.

Edgerrin Cooper, LB, Texas A&M – In a fairly underwhelming linebacker class, he stands out in terms of athletic ability and some of the high-end plays he put on tape, as a guy that can shoot gaps & create TFLs in the run game, blitz from different angles & has the loose movement skills to make plays in coverage. N.C. State’s Payton Wilson I have just ahead of Cooper as LB1, but of course he comes with a pretty scary medical history

2023 SEC Championship - Georgia v Alabama
2023 SEC Championship - Georgia v Alabama

Teams outside the first round:

And we start with who would’ve been slated to pick 1st overall if not for the trade up there last year to select Bryce Young. The …

33 Carolina Panthers – Ladd McConkey, WR, Georgia

This is very much in-line with what you see out there in mock drafts, with Ladd being a guy right on the fringe of late first/early second round. I think there’s enough out there by now with people being clowned for comparing him to all the other well-known white receivers we’ve watched in recent years. He can certainly win on option routes and pick away against matchups in the slot, but he played nearly 80% of snaps on the outside last season and will be lining up at Z in two-wide receiver sets. Threatens vertically off the line, great ability to alter speeds and giving defenders false indicators, solid hands, routinely makes the first man miss after the catch and a smart, invested blocker. He’s my WR6. I also strongly considered Ricky Pearsall from Florida (who I have right behind him) – another light-skinned dude who is labelled as a slot only, but brings the same kind of speed component and I think can absolutely play as a flanker. I just think Ladd projects as a little bit more of a volume guy for a team that has targets to spare, based on what they have on the roster currently.

42 Houston Texans – Braden Fiske, IDL, Florida State

Looking at this Texans roster, there’s not a whole lot you’re considering as actual needs in terms of starting players, but rather depth on the offensive line and secondary – which I believe they can address later. Someone who could get on the field early and make real impact for them is Fiske. They brought in Foley Fatukasi and Denico Autry in free agency, along with Mario Edwards Jr. as another guy with inside-out flexibility. However, in terms of natural three-techniques playing on the edge of the guard and creating penetration – which DeMeco Ryans and defensive coordinator Matt Burke have valued highly during their time in San Francisco – they don’t really have anybody that you’d project to play volume snaps for them currently. I believe there are some concerns about Fiske’s ability to deal with double-teams and being outreached by blockers at around 290 pounds with 31-inch arms. However, the ball get-off is right up there with Texas’ Byron Murphy for best in the class among the D-tackles, packs a nice club-rip move, capable of cross-facing guards and plays with a relentless motor. He may not even have to play a whole lot of first downs for this Houston team, but then he’ll boost that interior rush in designated passing situations.

54 Cleveland Browns – Junior Colson, LB, Michigan

Finally, I did want to bring a linebacker into the equation, which was one of two positions – along with safety (unless you count Iowa’s Cooper DeJean as such) – where we might not see anybody get selected until this point. The Browns are very much like the Texans in terms of a roster where the starting-22 offense and defense combined are very complete. They just have more standout players I’d argue, but quarterback obviously is a much bigger question mark for them. As we look at this Cleveland defense, which finished first or second in pretty much every meaningful metric, they’re bringing back basically everybody from that group a year ago other than Anthony Walker Jr., who’s been the guy that’s been kind of a glue piece at middle linebacker, but they haven’t been willing to commit to, signing one-year deals each of the past three seasons, and he’s signed to Miami this offseason. Now you’re looking at Jordan Hicks or Devin Bush to fill that spot. Junior Colson should be an upgrade over either one of them, because he can actually stay on the field for all three downs. Rarely gets caught out of position, excellent short-area burst to fill gaps in the run game, sturdy to deal with bigger bodies in traffic, can cover backs and tight-ends in man, plus then he’s this rugged blitzer, who can help free up lanes as the actual set-up man on pressure looks.

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