Final Mock Draft 3.0

It’s a big week. The 2024 NFL Draft officially kicks off this Thursday in Detroit at 8 p.m. EST. Round 1 will be in the books probably sometime around midnight. Until then, speculation abounds. NFL Draft

It’s the dream of many NFL sportswriters to build a mock that accurately predicts the many twists and turns the first round inevitably takes. I am no different. Each year, I pore over the rumors and endless dot connections, hoping to channel the spirit of Pythia, the fabled Greek Oracle of Delphi. Instead, I am Sisyphus, laboring toward the peak of perfection I will never reach. 

But the challenge is invigorating. 

My mock is the third “final” mock at NFL Trade Rumors this week. Two of our other writers have taken a crack at predicting the first round of Thursday’s draft, with new addition Ethan Woodie dropping his mock on Monday and esteemed founder and CEO Nate Bouda gracing the site with an extra round of predictions on Tuesday. We also have some other helpful links before we get down to business. 

Final 2024 NFL Mock Draft 3.0

1 – Chicago Bears (CAR): USC QB Caleb Williams

Most years, we know the No. 1 pick before the card is officially turned in. That’s no different this year. Williams is going to be the pick. 

2 – Washington Commanders: LSU QB Jayden Daniels

The Commanders have rebuffed trade interest in the No. 2 pick which signals they have zeroed in on a quarterback. Which quarterback in particular remains a mystery but there is a good deal of buzz about Daniels around the NFL as being the most worthy of the pick. There’s still room for Washington to pull a surprise here but I think it’s more likely than not Daniels will be the selection. 

3 – New England Patriots: North Carolina QB Drake Maye 

One way or another, I expect Maye will be the pick here. The biggest question is whether it’s the Patriots making this selection or the Vikings. 

Let’s expand. New England is willing to listen to offers for the No. 3 pick because they have a roster riddled with holes and this is a relatively deep class for quarterbacks. A huge haul of multiple first-round picks and other premium selections could fast-track the rebuild without completely sacrificing their ability to get a quarterback.

There have been some connections between the Patriots and Michigan QB J.J. McCarthy, and for what it’s worth, Patriots director of scouting Eliot Wolf was the assistant GM for the Browns in 2018 when they pulled a rare surprise with the No. 1 pick and took Baker Mayfield over Sam Darnold and Josh Allen, citing Mayfield’s leadership intangibles despite the physical gifts of the other two. You can draw parallels between that situation and how McCarthy is viewed relative to the rest of this quarterback class. 

But reports from the Patriots beat have made it abundantly clear that it will take a massive offer for the Patriots to actually pull the trigger. Three first-round picks would be the starting point and you’d have to think multiple Day 2 selections as well. Are the Vikings desperate enough to do that? They certainly have the ammunition after acquiring a second first-round selection this year. 

What it will come down to is the respective level of conviction the Vikings and Patriots have on Maye and whether Minnesota’s walk-away price in a trade is higher than New England’s threshold. The Vikings reached that point with veteran QB Kirk Cousins and pivoted to another player they liked at a price they liked better. That could happen again here, as it will almost assuredly cost the Vikings far less to trade up for McCarthy than it would Maye. 

4 – Arizona Cardinals: Ohio State WR Marvin Harrison Jr

There has been persistent trade speculation surrounding this slot as the landing spot for a team that falls in love with McCarthy. Perhaps it’s the Vikings after missing out on Maye, or perhaps the Broncos and HC Sean Payton get aggressive to secure a long-term option at quarterback. Cardinals GM Monti Ossenfort traded down in a similar situation last year and then moved right back up to get the player he coveted. 

This year feels a little different though. In a different year, Harrison would be a candidate to go No. 1 overall. He’s as clean a prospect as you’ll see, and he fills a massive need for Arizona at a premium position. So while Ossenfort has explored all of his options — and it helps that there are two other receiver prospects who are really good as well — to me it feels like the wind is blowing toward the Cardinals sitting tight and getting a blue-chip player at this pick. 

5 – Los Angeles Chargers: Notre Dame OT Joe Alt

While the Chargers have a massive need at wide receiver and some quality options on the board, I do think HC Jim Harbaugh has been frank about how he wants to build this team and that’s through the trenches. In that regard, it would make sense for them to prioritize Alt over the two remaining receivers, as the Notre Dame blindside protector is every bit on the same level.

Trading down is an option. There is a lot of depth at tackle in this class and the Chargers could land a solid prospect who might even be a slightly cleaner fit as a right tackle. Drafting Alt would mean moving either him or current LT Rashawn Slater to the right side. It’s not ideal but it can be done. Underdog’s Josh Norris and Hayden Winks noted in their mock draft show that moving to the right side was a topic of conversation between the Chargers and Alt in their Combine interview. Slater played on the right side during his first two years at Northwestern. Both left and right tackle are premium positions in the modern NFL. 

In the end, I think the Chargers will have a high price on this selection, and that might be enough to ward off a team looking to trade up for McCarthy. Chargers GM Joe Hortiz has said they view this selection like having the first pick in the draft because of how many quarterbacks will go ahead of them. And despite all the buzz, I’m just not sure McCarthy is a player an NFL team is ready to mortgage the future for. 

6 – New York Giants: Washington WR Rome Odunze

There are a lot of wildcards in this draft, including the Giants. They have been in the thick of the NFL teams pounding the pavement and doing research on this incoming class of quarterbacks. Yet as the draft has drawn closer, there has been less and less steam behind the idea of following through with a pick. A trade up would cost a lot for a team that still has a lot of holes and invested $40 million a year in QB Daniel Jones. They could draft McCarthy and reset the clock in anticipation of cutting Jones next year, but then McCarthy faces some of the same issues that Jones did in terms of having a roster set up to allow him to have success. 

To me, the tea leaves say the Giants are going to pass on a quarterback and instead take a bonafide No. 1 receiver that they haven’t had since Odell Beckham was thrilling the country. But while there’s another dynamic LSU receiver in this class who gets mocked to the Giants frequently, I think there is a strong chance they pass on Nabers for Odunze.

For starters, Odunze is an outstanding prospect in his own right. He had a reputation as a contested-catch receiver at the start of the draft process but absolutely dominated the Combine and showed he’s a far better athlete than he was given credit for. His work ethic and football character have drawn rave reviews, and he’s about as clean a projection off the field as he is on the field.

Nabers is a terrific prospect in his own right, but there have been murmurs about issues off the field with him. That matters for teams, especially in markets like New York. If the Giants rate Nabers higher than Odunze, they’ll overlook those concerns, if they even have them. But it’s worth noting as a potential tiebreaker. 

7 – TRADE: Minnesota Vikings (TEN): Michigan QB J.J. McCarthy

Alt has been the chalk pick for a long time for the Titans in this slot, so what would the team do if he was off the board? Another tackle is a possibility, like Fashanu from Penn State or Latham from Alabama, the latter of whom had an official visit with the Titans. I personally think the idea of the Titans drafting Nabers should not be discounted. Titans HC Brian Callahan said earlier this offseason that all else being equal, he’d take the pass-catcher over the tackle like the Bengals did with Ja’Marr Chase over Penei Sewell in 2021. 

Trading down to acquire more draft picks, especially just a little ways down the board, is also a viable option. More often than not, teams have to trade up to secure a quarterback and I think Minnesota will trade up for McCarthy, but in this scenario, they don’t have to go nearly as high or give up nearly as much. It’s just a short jump to box out other QB-needy teams, giving up a 2024 fourth (No. 108) and a 2025 third. 

8 – Atlanta Falcons: LSU WR Malik Nabers

Most expect the Falcons to target defense with this pick given their needs on that side of the ball and the available talent. The Falcons are strong candidates to take the first defensive player off the board. However, Nabers is a special player, maybe too special to pass on. It’s not like Atlanta couldn’t use him either, as their receiving corps is not daunting outside of WR Drake London even though they do have other notable weapons in TE Kyle Pitts and RB Bijan Robinson

If the Falcons do pass on Nabers, I think it would be in a trade. Nabers is the type of talent worth trading up for, and the Falcons could move back, still address their need on defense and potentially offset some of the picks it seems like Atlanta is poised to lose in 2025 for tampering with Cousins during free agency. 

9 – Chicago Bears: Texas DT Byron Murphy II

There has been serious buzz about Murphy in the last week or so. He might not be climbing up the boards but the rest of us on the outside looking in are starting to get clued into how high the NFL has him. He could be the first defensive player off the board as the importance of a pass-rushing defensive tackle has skyrocketed — along with the salaries for the position. 

The Bears have been trying to get HC Matt Eberflus a pass-rushing three-technique defensive tackle for a couple of years now. One of GM Ryan Poles‘ first big signings after taking over was veteran DT Larry Ogunjobi, but Chicago backed out of the deal after failing Ogunjobi on his physical and pivoted to signing DT Justin Jones, who left this past March. Murphy doesn’t quite have the length of Eberflus’ prototype but he’s a disruptive presence and the best player at his position in this class. 

10 – New York Jets: Georgia TE Brock Bowers

Jets GM Joe Douglas is all about the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, so in one sense, it’s hard to justify passing on a tackle at this slot, particularly with a handful of really good players still available. In real life, they might not. 

But after signing LT Tyron Smith and trading for RT Morgan Moses in free agency, the Jets have Week 1 starters. Both players are approaching their mid-30s and missed time due to injury last year, so the argument remains that tackle is a need, especially for the future. Still, if the Jets take a tackle here, the odds are that player will not be a starter in Week 1. That’s a bit of a challenge for a top-ten pick entering a make-or-break 2024 season. 

That’s why Bowers has become a part of this conversation. Last year exposed a lack of reliable pass catchers for the Jets outside of WR Garrett Wilson, and Bowers is viewed as one of the best receiving threats in this class. He’s someone the Jets would be able to get on the field right away and there’s clear interest. He’s taken an official visit with New York, one that just happened to coincide with the start of the offseason program and a chance to chop it up with QB Aaron Rodgers. Barring one of the top three receivers sliding here, or even a slight trade up to go get one, Bowers would be the pick with the biggest chance to make an immediate impact in 2024 for the Jets. 

11 – TRADE: Tennessee Titans (MIN): Alabama RT JC Latham

There are enough quality tackles in this class that the Titans can move down and still get a player they would have thought hard about selecting if they stayed at No. 7. Latham has been on an official visit with the Titans, and while he played right tackle in college, he’s made it a point in interviews to say he’s not limited to the right side. No matter which side of the line he played on, he’d be a big upgrade for the Titans. 

12 – TRADE: Arizona Cardinals (DEN): Alabama DE Dallas Turner

The Broncos have explored trading down, which makes sense as they have an abundance of needs and need to restock their draft capital. At this stage, it feels like the teams to watch to come up the board are the Cardinals and the Eagles, with each team looking to get ahead of a tier drop at a certain need position like cornerback, tackle or pass rusher. Denver could drop into the late first and pick up more Day 2 selections, which both teams have in abundance. Arizona can send Denver two third-round picks at No. 66 and No. 90 and still have one left over at No. 71. 

Last year, the Cardinals passed on Alabama DE Will Anderson Jr. to get a tackle. This year, I think they’ll fortify the other side of the line of scrimmage and go back to the well at Alabama for a player some evaluators a year ago thought had more potential. This class has less depth at edge rusher than it does cornerback, and the Cardinals still have plenty of options with an early second and a third. 

13 – Las Vegas Raiders: Toledo CB Quinyon Mitchell

To me, this pick comes down to either a right tackle or a cornerback, with a lean toward cornerback because of how good this class is at the top and how Las Vegas wasn’t able to find the bonafide No. 1 cornerback it was hunting in March. After that, it comes down to Mitchell or Alabama’s Terrion Arnold. Both have major fans in the scouting community. Arnold has the big-game experience in the SEC, while Mitchell dominated in the MAC, at the Senior Bowl and at the Combine. It’s 50-50 to me and I’m guessing Mitchell. 

Oh and I’m not buying the Michael Penix Jr. to the Raiders smoke at all. At least not this early in the draft. 

14 – New Orleans Saints: Penn State LT Olu Fashanu

I expect the Saints to pick a tackle. They have a glaring need at the position with Trevor Penning on a bust trajectory and career questions for RT Ryan Ramczyk due to his knee. Fortunately, the board should align with their needs picking No. 14. Fashanu stands out for his ability on the left side as a true blindside pass protector in this class, and he could end up a top-ten selection. If he’s off the board, there are quality prospects like Latham, Oregon State’s Taliese Fuaga or Washington’s Troy Fautanu who could also be options. 

15 – Indianapolis Colts: Alabama CB Terrion Arnold

The Colts need a cornerback and GM Chris Ballard usually tends to draft for needs. He also tends to prefer outstanding athletes, and while Arnold is no slouch, I’m not sure that he’s quite the prototype Ballard prefers. If Mitchell was available at this slot, I would not have any hesitancies. 

16 – Seattle Seahawks: Iowa CB Cooper DeJean

I think this is a spot to watch for a trade but DeJean has also come up as a Seahawks target in the past week or so. He flew under the radar during the pre-draft process as he rehabbed a broken leg from last season but he excelled at his private pro day earlier this month and went on an abbreviated whirlwind visit tour, including a stop in Seattle. Some NFL teams have questions about whether DeJean’s best fit is at cornerback or safety, but in Seahawks HC Mike Macdonald‘s scheme, that versatility becomes a weapon and not a headache. DeJean is exactly the kind of versatile chesspiece Macdonald has utilized at previous stops in the past. 

17 – TRADE: Philadelphia Eagles (JAX): Oklahoma OT Tyler Guyton

The Eagles have done homework on moving up the board. A lot of people think it’s for a cornerback. I’m not so sure. Eagles GM Howie Roseman hasn’t drafted a first-round cornerback in ages, preferring instead to focus on the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, including having replacement plans in waiting to learn and develop into starting roles. So it’s caught my eye that Eagles RT Lane Johnson, who will be 34 and is entering his 12th season, has been going back to Oklahoma to mentor Guyton. 

Like Johnson, Guyton is also incredibly toolsy as a tackle prospect. Both played tight end at one point before converting to tackle in college. Roseman also had a notable quote last week about the value they see in having players who will be tasked with taking over for team leaders having the benefit of actually seeing how those players approach things day in and day out. 

Guyton’s stock is all over the place but there is a series of tackle-needy teams coming up that I think Philadelphia will want to leapfrog. They could give up next year’s third, or work out some kind of pick swap. 

18 – Cincinnati Bengals: Oregon State OT Taliese Fuaga

The Bengals’ needs should line up well with the board and the depth at tackle in this class. Fuaga might even end up inside the top ten but someone has to slip every year, and in this case it’s to the Bengals’ benefit. Some teams envision Fuaga as a better fit at guard but he has enough length and athleticism to stick at tackle. 

19 – TRADE: Buffalo Bills (LAR): LSU WR Brian Thomas Jr.

Bills GM Brandon Beane downplayed the team’s need for a receiver or the need to trade up aggressively, but the roster is the roster. Curtis Samuel and Khalil Shakir are good supporting receivers but the team needs more firepower. Beane has also seen a number of targets over the past few years go in front of him with teams trading up the board. This year, he puts his foot down and sends a second to the Rams for No. 19, in addition to getting a third back while swapping a fourth. Thomas is perfect for what the Bills need at wide receiver with his blend of size and speed and gives them a potential new No. 1 target with a little development. 

20 – Pittsburgh Steelers: Washington OL Troy Fautanu

I think the Steelers would be turning cartwheels if the board played out like this and Fautanu, a consensus top-20 prospect, was available at their pick. Pittsburgh usually telegraphs their intentions pre-draft and this year it’s clear they want a blocker up front. The specific blocker is TBD but they will have plenty of options in all likelihood. 

21 – Miami Dolphins: UCLA DE Laiatu Latu

The Dolphins have a lot of needs and the board sets up for them to just take the best player available and trust it will fill a need. Latu’s medical history has injected some uncertainty into his stock. I could see him going in the top ten or top 15 picks, and I could also see him sliding a bit. Latu knows Dolphins OLB Jaelan Phillips as another UCLA pass rusher, though the two didn’t directly overlap before Phillips’ injury issues forced him to transfer to Miami. That could help give Miami some additional comfort with the pick. 

22 – TRADE: Jacksonville Jaguars (PHI): Alabama CB Kool-Aid McKinstry

While there has been some smoke about the Jaguars exploring a trade up for a new No. 1 receiver to replace Calvin Ridley, I think the priority for GM Trent Baalke will be exiting the first round with help at corner for new DC Ryan Nielsen. McKinstry would have been a strong option for them had they stayed at pick No. 17. Just like last year, they trade back and still get their target while adding additional picks. Baalke has faults as a lead decision-maker but he does have a good grasp of trading back. 

23 – Minnesota Vikings (CLE via HOU): Florida State DE Jared Verse

If the Vikings don’t have to package both first-round picks in a trade up for a quarterback, that gives them flexibility to continue bolstering the defense. Verse gives DC Brian Flores another impact defender in his front seven and a long-term option at edge rusher. 

24 – Dallas Cowboys: Duke OL Graham Barton

Barton is such a clean prospect, the only thing that could push him this far down the board is the position he plays. While he played all five offensive line roles at Duke, the NFL sees Barton as an interior lineman or a center, which has lower positional value. The Cowboys have shown they don’t mind positional value so much, however, and they need a lot of help on the offensive line. 

25 – Green Bay Packers: Georgia OT Amarius Mims

The Packers haven’t drafted a first-round tackle since taking Derek Sherrod in 2011, well over a decade ago. Instead Green Bay has had a ton of success finding linemen in the middle rounds. They might break that trend this year, though, as the confluence of needs and the available board has led to Mims being available. The Georgia tackle has just eight career starts to his name which will spook some teams, especially with no shortage of other well-regarded tackles in this class. But Mims might have the best athletic traits of any of the tackles in this draft. He’s a huge projection and roll of the dice. Green Bay had him in on an official visit and that might have helped answer any concerns. 

26 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Clemson CB Nate Wiggins

The Buccaneers have a big hole at cornerback after trading away CB Carlton Davis and Wiggins is the best player left on the board. However, I do think there’s a chance Wiggins could be a surprise player to slip out of the first round entirely. He ran a 4.28-second 40 but he’s under 180 pounds and not especially long. Some teams will have size thresholds that Wiggins won’t meet. 

27 – TRADE: Denver Broncos (HOU via ARI): Penn State DE Chop Robinson

Most mocks that have the Broncos trading down also have them drafting a quarterback with the pick. I think they could still try to get aggressive on Day 2 to land a player but to me Oregon QB Bo Nix and Washington QB Michael Penix Jr. profile more as second-round selections. While there are a lot of quarterback-needy teams, the supply in the draft is usually oversold and prospects tend to slide. I would bet the under on 4.5 quarterbacks in the first round on Thursday. 

The Broncos have plenty of other holes and have looked at some of the tackle prospects who could be in this range to try and get ahead of LT Garett Bolles potentially leaving in 2025 after his contract expires. But the team also needs pass rushing help, and Robinson has been getting buzz as a player who could be flying under the radar and go higher than people think. 

28 – TRADE: Los Angeles Rams (BUF): Texas WR Xavier Worthy

No one outside of the Rams’ front office has any idea of what this team is going to do with its first first-round pick since 2016 and the first one HC Sean McVay has ever had a chance to make. So I’ll just list a few dots I explored connecting before explaining why I settled on Worthy:

  • Rams beat reporter Jourdan Rodrigue, who is as plugged in as anyone on the Los Angeles beat, did a major feature story on UCLA DE Laiatu Latu at the end of February. It caught my eye since it was outside the normal confines of her beat. Latu has an interesting story and Rodrigue is a storyteller, so perhaps it’s as simple as that. But Latu would fill a huge need for Los Angeles on defense and they’ve been able to watch him up close. 
  • The Rams are incredibly secretive about their pre-draft visits compared to other teams. They have a pared-down presence at the Senior Bowl and Combine. So the nuggets of interest that do come out are worth noting. In that vein, the Rams went out to the East Coast to meet with Robinson after the window for official visits closed. I’ve also seen buzz about Robinson being graded higher in NFL circles than the current consensus, which is the late-first range. He stands out as a surprise pick possibility, either at No. 19 or in a trade down. 
  • Peter Schrager, who does TV for FOX and NFL Network, pointed out that since McVay came on board, the Rams have consistently used their first pick, wherever it fell, on an offensive player. That could mean a tackle, receiver or even a quarterback is in play. 

Here’s why I settled on Worthy. I think his record-setting Combine 40 time booked him a spot in the first round, it’s just a matter of finding the landing spot. Dolphins HC Mike McDaniel, who shares philosophical roots with McVay, has employed speed to devastating effectiveness with cheat motions, which the rest of the NFL quickly adopted. The Rams have a speedy weapon to attack the edges of the defense and downfield in WR Tutu Atwell, who had a mini breakout last year, but this is the last year of his contract and Worthy is viewed as a superior prospect. As the Rams look to stay ahead of the curve on offense, Worthy gives McVay a new and unique player to innovate with. 

29 – Detroit Lions: Illinois DT Johnny Newton

The Lions are big on character fits. Every team says it is, but the Lions have walked the walk more often than not over the past few seasons. On the one hand, that can help identify some potential targets, but on the other that’s not as obvious a threshold as arm length, for instance. One player who intersects at the meeting of need, value and qualifications for the Lions is Newton. Detroit has been looking for a pass-rushing three-technique and Newton fits the bill to a T. He’s had some meetings with Detroit during the pre-draft process that he says have gone great. This late in the round, you’re just trying to find good team to player fits rather than trying to game out the board exactly, and there’s a lot of dots to connect between the Lions and Newton. 

30 – TRADE: Washington Commanders (BAL): Arizona OT Jordan Morgan

To me, the Ravens feel like a good spot for a team like the Commanders to get back into the end of Round 1 to secure a prospective left tackle for their rookie quarterback. The Commanders have two seconds and three third-round picks, so they have some draft capital to spare. Giving up a third at No. 100 would get them from No. 36 to No. 30, and it would give the Ravens another pick in the range of the draft they love. Some teams project Morgan will move inside to guard but he’s held up fairly well at tackle for Arizona and Washingotn needs help at both spots. 

31 – San Francisco 49ers: Missouri DL Darius Robinson

A potential trade involving WR Brandon Aiyuk continues to hang over the 49ers as they enter the draft. That could shake up the first round dramatically and make receiver a much bigger need for the 49ers. As it is, I think they’d be tempted by Texas WR Adonai Mitchell to get some young blood in a group of offensive skill position players that will start to become long in the tooth in a year or so. However, the 49ers are always interested in reinforcing the defensive line. Robinson is one of just 13 prospects who will be attending the first round live in Detroit. He’s originally from the area, and he’s a strong candidate to be selected by the hometown Lions. But he’s a quality prospect in his own right and will be in the running for multiple teams to close out the round. 

32 – Kansas City Chiefs: BYU OT Kingsley Suamataia

The situation with WR Rashee Rice notwithstanding, I believe the Chiefs see tackle as higher up their list of needs than wide receiver. They’ve proven they can win with less at receiver, not so much tackle. The depth of this class at receiver also should allow them to circle back on Day 2. I wouldn’t rule out a move up the board for someone like Mims or Guyton honestly. As it is, they stick and pick Suamataia, who had an official 30 visit to Kansas City and possesses outstanding left tackle traits. He needs some time to develop, but the Chiefs have one of the better OL coaches in football in Andy Heck and Suamataia is a heck of a ball of a clay for him to work with. 

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