Post-Combine Mock Draft 1.0

With the NFL Combine in the rear-view mirror, now is the perfect time to release a new mock draft. This is my first mock draft of the season, and I’ll be releasing several more as we get closer to the draft. No trades were done in this exercise, though that may change as we draw closer to draft weekend.

This is a predictive mock, meaning I am guessing what NFL teams will do, not picking based on what I would do. This far out, we don’t know much about what most teams are thinking, but we can scrape together some tidbits for most.

A lot can change between now and April 25, but this is how I see things shaking out as they stand today. Let’s dive in to my post-Combine mock draft 1.0!

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

Don’t overthink it, Chicago. Williams is a franchise star in waiting. He’s the best quarterback prospect in this draft and compares favorably to other recent all-time prospects like LSU’s Joe Burrow and Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence. Williams has everything you want in a star QB. He has excellent arm talent with the ability to make off-platform throws reminiscent of the stars in today’s NFL. He excels when scrambling and can win from the pocket or on the run.

There’s a lot of chatter around Chicago’s plan with the No. 1 pick: will they trade it for the second consecutive year? Will they trade current starter Justin Fields instead and reset the rookie contract QB window? Williams is a can’t-miss prospect and could be the face of the franchise for the next decade or more. There’s no real choice here.

2 – Washington Commanders: North Carolina QB Drake Maye

Word at the Combine was Washington is seriously scoping out a trade up to No. 1 for Williams. If they can’t get a deal done, Maye is an excellent consolation prize. Maye has excellent footwork and vision, with an ideal frame and a big arm. He’s a red zone and third down threat with his legs and can make every throw in the NFL.

Accuracy is a bit of a concern for him with his tendency to miss throws inexplicably, but that can be coached up. Maye may not be a prospect on the level of Williams, but he has all the tools to be a franchise quarterback and is someone the new owners in Washington should love to draft.

3 – New England Patriots: LSU QB Jayden Daniels

The Patriots are an interesting team to watch as an inflection point of sorts in the draft. They need a new quarterback; they cannot go into 2024 with Mac Jones and Bailey Zappe as their options under center. Perhaps they try the veteran market, though it isn’t an appealing one outside of Kirk Cousins, who doesn’t align with their contention timeline. They are also a trade-down candidate if they feel like they can get their guy further down.

In this scenario, I have them taking Daniels. It sounds like there are those within the Patriots building who want to try their luck taking a QB at No. 3, and Daniels has emerged as the consensus QB3 in this draft. Daniels is the best running QB in the draft and can threaten all areas of the field with both his arm and his legs. New head coach Jerod Mayo can craft his team around Daniels’ explosiveness and kick off a new era in New England.

4 – Arizona Cardinals: Ohio State WR Marvin Harrison Jr.

The Cardinals are in an odd transition period as a team. They have their franchise quarterback on a big contract in Kyler Murray, but this roster is far from ready to compete at a high level. The coaching staff and front office are entering their second year at the helm, spending last year clearing the books and prepping for the future, and are ready to add talent with their draft picks.

Harrison Jr. is the best wide receiver in the draft and is in the discussion with Ja’Marr Chase for the best WR prospect in the last decade. He immediately upgrades a wide receiver room that already features Michael Wilson and Rondale Moore for Murray to throw to. Having Harrison Jr. fall into their laps is the dream scenario for Arizona.

5 – Los Angeles Chargers: Oregon State OT Taliese Fuaga

New Chargers HC Jim Harbaugh couldn’t stop talking about how important it is to surround QB Justin Herbert with a strong run game. The Chargers have struggled in that department recently, and Harbaugh does love his trench players. Fuaga isn’t the top offensive tackle in this class, but he is the best run blocker.

Fuaga is one of the top risers from this past season of college football. He made a statement every week on the field, dominating in the run game and enforcing his will on opposing defenses. He has some things to work on in his pass protection sets, but Harbaugh will love his mentality and grit. Fuaga plays right tackle and would pair well with stalwart LT Rashawn Slater.

Los Angeles could go the offensive weapon route with this pick, as well. Georgia TE Brock Bowers is an option here, though it sounds like NFL execs aren’t convinced Bowers will be a top-ten pick. The Chargers are likely to move on from WR Mike Williams and WR Keenan Allen is getting older, so LSU’s Malik Nabers or Washington’s Rome Odunze could be in play here. However, Harbaugh’s comments point me towards offensive line.

6 – New York Giants: LSU WR Malik Nabers

The offensive talent available in this draft is staggering, which is a great thing for the Giants. They need an infusion of talent in their offense badly. They seem to be open to taking a quarterback should one be available, but in this mock, the board didn’t fall that way. Instead, they take Nabers, a smooth-moving, crafty receiver who would provide a much-needed jolt to their passing attack.

Nabers would be the surefire WR1 in almost any other class, and word is some teams do have him ahead of Harrison Jr. on their boards. He’s that good. He has elite change-of-direction ability and glides to open spaces on the field better than any receiver I’ve seen in recent years. New York would be getting a stud No. 1 receiver with this pick.

7 – Tennessee Titans: Washington WR Rome Odunze

Titans HC Brian Callahan made headlines at the Combine when he said that all things equal, they would prefer to take the skill player over the offensive lineman. With Odunze still on the board, they jump at the chance to add him to QB Will Levis’s arsenal.

Odunze can win at all three levels of the field, using his frame and athleticism to bury defenders off the line of scrimmage. His route running is impressive, especially for his size, and he can squeeze off defenders at the apex of his routes with his surprisingly quick hips. Tennessee needs size, speed and toughness on the outside. Odunze provides all three.

8 – Atlanta Falcons: Alabama DE Dallas Turner

Atlanta is a team that could try and trade up for a quarterback. The Falcons have also shown interest in the veteran market, with rumors abounding they’re Minnesota’s primary competition to resign Cousins. Perhaps they trade up from this spot or even take a QB here.

However, they also desperately need help at edge defender, and Turner provides that. With long arms, blazing speed and a quick bend, Turner is a prototypical edge rusher with room to grow. He needs to add strength and work on his pass-rushing arsenal, but he has all the tools to terrorize QBs off the edge and would add a supremely talented piece to the Falcons’ defensive line.

9 – Chicago Bears: Florida State DE Jared Verse

This pick is a prime trade-up spot for teams in the early teens who want to jump their competitors for QB4. Chicago still needs to add a lot of talent and GM Ryan Poles does seem to love a good trade down. Here, they take my ED1 in this year’s draft in Verse to anchor their defensive line.

Verse is a powerful, NFL-ready edge rusher. He has strong hands and a bevy of moves he uses to overpower and blitz past opposing tackles. I love his character and determination. He’s someone every defensive coordinator would love to have in their building. He could have come out last season and may have even gone higher than this in a weaker draft class. The Bears need a star off the edge, Verse could be their guy.

10 – New York Jets: Notre Dame OT Joe Alt

The 2024 season for the Jets is all about maximizing their time with QB Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers’ first season in New York ended with a torn Achilles on his fourth snap of the season. Now, nothing is guaranteed beyond this season, and the Jets expect to compete for a title with a loaded roster and star QB.

To achieve their goals, they need to upgrade Rodgers’ protection. Alt would do that and then some. Having the consensus OT1 fall to them is a dream scenario for the Jets. Not only does he help in their winning window with Rodgers, but he would also be their left tackle of the future.

Alt is a massive human being, starting at left tackle for three years at Notre Dame and improving his craft every year. He’s got the best combination of run-blocking and pass-blocking skills of any tackle in this draft. New York would love him protecting Rodgers’ blind side as they chase a Super Bowl in 2024.

11 – Minnesota Vikings: Texas DT Byron Murphy II

The Vikings need a boost of talent on the defensive side of the ball, and here they get that in Murphy II — a powerful presence in the middle of the defense who impresses with his speed and ability to rush the passer from the interior. Vikings DC Brian Flores loves aggressive players who can put the quarterback in the dirt, and Murphy II checks that box with flying colors.

Minnesota also has a major need at edge defender, but that will be lessened somewhat if they manage to resign Danielle Hunter. With all the draft capital they’ve invested in their secondary the past few drafts, they could look for the best player available along the defensive line, and I’ve heard people are excited about Murphy II’s potential.

12 – Denver Broncos: Michigan QB J.J. McCarthy

Of all the quarterback-needy teams picking in this range, Denver seems the most likely to trade up and secure their guy. In this mock, I have McCarthy landing in their lap at No. 12. McCarthy checks every box Denver HC Sean Payton seems to value in QBs: he’s a big-armed pocket passer who can throw with anticipation over the middle of the field. He’s tall and can move under pressure a little, though his accuracy is inconsistent.

McCarthy’s main flaw as a prospect is his inexperience. He started at Michigan for two seasons but was never asked to carry the offense or elevate his play for the team to win. Evaluators will have to weigh his physical tools and abilities with the fact he’s raw. The Broncos are desperate at QB, and while I personally wouldn’t take McCarthy this high, it seems more and more likely someone will.

13 – Las Vegas Raiders: Clemson CB Nate Wiggins

The Raiders need a cornerback, and Wiggins is a great prospect. After an impressive Combine with some of the best athletic testing in the class, Wiggins has cemented himself as a contender for CB1. Long, fast, with twitchy hips and a fast read, he is the guy you want shutting down half of the field. Wiggins can stick with anyone in coverage and has the potential to develop into an excellent lockdown corner.

Las Vegas has other needs, most notably along the trenches, but it’s tough to pass on the top of the cornerback class when it’s such a major need.

14 – New Orleans Saints: Penn State OT Olumuyiwa Fashanu

The Saints have problems to solve on their offensive line. After years of overpaid and underperforming players clogging the roster, New Orleans can start to move on. The Trevor Penning pick in 2022 has not panned out and the Saints need a starting-caliber tackle, either in free agency or the draft.

Fashanu is perfect for that end. The best pure pass protector in the draft, Fashanu’s stock has slipped a little recently as evaluators have questioned his play strength and ability to sustain blocks in the run game. These weaknesses pale in comparison to his routine erasure in pass pro, however, and that’s the premium quality for tackles in today’s NFL.

15 – Indianapolis Colts: Toledo CB Quinyon Mitchell

Colts GM Chris Ballard is nothing if not consistent. He targets elite athletes like no one else in the business. The Colts have major needs at cornerback and wide receiver, and Mitchell is the best player – and the best athlete – at either position left on the board.

Mitchell is a scheme-versatile plus athlete at the cornerback position and the player who’s had the best pre-draft process so far of anyone. Evaluators had major questions after watching his college tape, since he played off-zone coverage almost exclusively at Toledo, despite having the body type and athleticism to play press-man. Mitchell answered all those questions and then some with his performance at the Senior Bowl, dominating in press coverage drills and scrimmages, before going on to wow with his athletic testing at the Combine. He’s in the conversation for CB1 and would have star potential in Indianapolis’s secondary.

16 – Seattle Seahawks: Georgia TE Brock Bowers

Seattle is a tough team to mock for. They need some help on the interior of their offensive line – perhaps Washington OL Troy Fautanu is in the cards – but here, with Bowers still on the board, the Seahawks leap at the chance to upgrade their passing game with one of the most skilled and versatile weapons in this draft.

Bowers is likewise a tough player to place in a mock draft, due to the uncertainty surrounding how the NFL will value his position. His floor is probably with Miami at No. 21, and he could go as high as No. 5 to the Chargers. His talent isn’t the question — he has elite speed, strength, and route-running capabilities. He’s the kind of game-changing tight end teams covet and would immediately upgrade Seattle’s passing attack into one of the league’s best.

17 – Jacksonville Jaguars: LSU WR Brian Thomas Jr.

The Jaguars need a cornerback and could also use some help at edge defender. If they don’t resign Calvin Ridley, however, wide receiver immediately becomes their biggest need. It’s looking more and more like Ridley will test the open market in free agency, and he may get more from a different team than the Jaguars are willing to pay.

Thomas Jr. showed out at the Combine, recording a blazing 40-time and high marks in all the athletic testing. He stuffed the stat sheet in college, routinely taking the top off defenses and cementing himself as one of the best deep threats in college football. That will be his best skill in the NFL, but he’s not limited to downfield targets only. He would be a great compliment to Zay Jones and Christian Kirk.

18 – Cincinnati Bengals: Georgia OT Amarius Mims

The Bengals need a right tackle, and there are several available for them to select. Here, I have them taking the highest remaining tackle on my board. Mims is a big, toolsy prospect following in the footsteps of his former teammate, 2023 first-round pick Broderick Jones.

Both Jones and Mims are very large men with excellent movement skills. Mims has a long reach and thrives on the move in the open field. Jones was a bit more refined coming out of school, but Mims has every bit of the potential to be a stalwart on Cincinnati’s line.

19 – Los Angeles Rams: UCLA DE Laiatu Latu

The Rams need talent everywhere to supplement their aging core, and Latu is a supremely talented player at a position of need. A neck injury forced him into a medical retirement at Washington before healing and returning to play football at UCLA, and he’s dominated the competition the last two seasons. He’s the most advanced pass rusher in this class, armed with an overwhelming number of moves and counters to clear his way to the quarterback. His athletic testing was nothing to write home about, but he cleared the benchmarks he needed to.

Latu’s medicals will have to be cleared by whichever team drafts him, and his lack of athletic pop compared to his peers will likely push him down boards a bit. Whoever drafts him though is getting an NFL-ready player set to hound quarterbacks from Day 1, and Los Angeles could certainly use his abilities off the edge.

20 – Pittsburgh Steelers: Iowa CB Cooper DeJean

DeJean just feels like a Steeler, doesn’t he? Tough, rangy, athletic, long, fast, and the best run defender in this cornerback class, DeJean has been shutting down outside receivers for as long as he’s been playing. He’s everything Mike Tomlin likes in a defender and Pittsburgh needs to add to its secondary. DeJean has the versatility to play inside, outside, and even some safety if needed. He would add yet another switchable, interchangeable chess piece to Pittsburgh’s secondary, allowing them to play matchups like no one else.

DeJean is recovering from a broken leg suffered during the college football season, but if he’s recovering well, he’ll be in play for a top-20 pick and the Steelers are a perfect fit.

21 – Miami Dolphins: Alabama CB Terrion Arnold

Miami nabs a young, athletic cornerback with their pick here, adding some juice into a secondary with suddenly questionable depth after they released CB Xavien Howard. Arnold didn’t have the week many thought he would at the Combine, but he passed every threshold you could ask him to and he’s still got a ton of upside.

Arnold’s tape at Alabama is a mixed bag. 2023 was his first year as a starter, playing opposite star CB Kool-Aid McKinstry. Teams were reluctant to throw McKinstry’s way, and as a result, Arnold was targeted a lot. He had the ball production to match, and his movement ability pops when you watch him play.

His weaknesses show up on tape, namely that he gets burned by quick receivers and on double-moves uncomfortably often. That can be chalked up to inexperience, and coaches will love the chance to work with Arnold and develop his skills. Being such a young, raw player, it’s not hard to envision his potential as a stud corner who can lock up an opponent’s best receiver.

22 – Philadelphia Eagles: Oklahoma OT Tyler Guyton

In an offensive tackle class full of elite athletes, Guyton is the best of the best. Oozing raw athleticism and standing at an impressive stature, Guyton certainly looks the part of an NFL lineman. He’ll need some seasoning before he’s ready to start; his poor hand placement and tendency to get off-balance would have him struggling in a starting role right away. As a developmental prospect, though, he might be unmatched.

Philadelphia prioritizes premium draft assets toward the premium positions on the football field, especially in the trenches. Starting RT Lane Johnson won’t be playing forever, and the last few drafts they’ve been snagging future replacements for their aging stalwarts. Guyton is a Howie Roseman pick through and through, and in a few years, we might all be wondering how Roseman managed to do it once again.

23 – Houston Texans: Illinois DT Johnny Newton

With QB C.J. Stroud and DE Will Anderson Jr. winning NFL offensive and defensive rookies of the year, respectively, the Texans are officially ahead of schedule. What once looked like a long road back to relevance is suddenly a defending division winner and potentially a real contender in the AFC.

As such, Houston can afford to go best player available here. And Newton is just that, a massive presence in the interior that will anchor HC DeMeco Ryan’s defense for years to come. Flying a bit under the radar with the emergence of Texas’s Murphy II, Newton has been the best interior defender in college football the last two seasons. An elite run defender with significant pass-rushing chops, Newton would add beef and strength to an undersized Texans line.

24 – Dallas Cowboys: Oregon C Jackson Powers-Johnson

Coming off yet another underwhelming postseason, the Cowboys face a bit of a crossroads. Star QB Dak Prescott needs a new contract and the aging offensive line in front of him may be nearing its end. Dallas is moving on from LT Tyron Smith and C Tyler Biadasz‘ contract is also up. Powers-Johnson would be an elite replacement for Biadasz should they move on from him as well.

Powers-Johnson has put together several impressive years in college and an even more impressive Senior Bowl. He’s a tall, powerfully built center capable of anchoring the middle of an offensive line and overpowering defenders in the run game. He won’t be moved off his spot in pass protection and is the type of player Dallas covets. He’s not getting out of the first round and I have a tough time seeing the Cowboys pass on him if he’s still here.

25 – Green Bay Packers: Alabama OT JC Latham

This may be too low for Latham. I have my concerns, but tackles with his blend of size, athleticism and movement ability rarely make it this far. If he’s here, this would be a home-run pick for Green Bay. They’re likely to move on from longtime LT David Bakhtiari, with all the injuries he’s sustained in recent years, and they need a replacement. Latham would be a worthy successor.

Latham played right tackle in college, but he has the capability of switching sides. Alabama kept him on the right side as they were never in need of a left tackle, but he fits the mold of a switchable tackle. Latham is athletic and can run, getting out in the run game like a heat-seeking missile to bury defenders out of the play. His technique in pass protection needs refinement, but at his size and with his arm length, he still wins on pure talent too often to ignore. He’s a raw prospect, but one with the tools that teams salivate at the prospect of adding to their roster.

26 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Penn State OLB Chop Robinson

Robinson is a polarizing prospect. He’s the best pure athlete in this edge defender class, posting incredible 40-yard dash and 10-yard split times. His quickness and bend around the edge is arguably the best in the class, as well. He’s a raw prospect, however, without proven production despite starting for two years at Penn State. Right now, he wins purely off his length and explosiveness and doesn’t employ much of a pass-rush plan. If he can be coached up, however, his potential is enticing.

The Buccaneers need contributors on the edge, especially after releasing Shaq Barrett, and Robinson can step in and make his presence felt right away.

27 – Arizona Cardinals: Alabama CB Kool-Aid McKinstry

The Cardinals need an impact player at edge defender, but with the way the board has fallen, they instead pivot to adding a lockdown cover corner. McKinstry was a three-year starter at Alabama, locking down his half of the field weekly. Starting as a freshman in a Nick Saban defense is no mean feat, and McKinstry proved his mettle time and time again.

Questions about his long speed and overall athleticism have pushed him down most boards. The foot fracture discovered at the Combine didn’t help him either, not only for the injury alone but it also cost him the opportunity to put those concerns to rest. As long as his medicals clear, however, McKinstry is a Day 1 NFL starter who will challenge receivers of all kinds in coverage.

28 – Buffalo Bills: Oregon WR Troy Franklin

With Gabriel Davis likely to depart in free agency, the Bills need to add a receiving talent opposite Stefon Diggs to help out Josh Allen. Franklin, the burner from Oregon, would fill the Davis-role and then some for Buffalo. He’s got the speed to take the top off a defense but isn’t a one-trick pony, capable of utilizing his agility and acceleration to gain separation in the intermediate and short areas of the field, as well.

Franklin is elusive in the open field and can turn a short catch into a huge gain. Other options at receiver for Buffalo, should Franklin be off the board before their pick, include Texas’ Adonai Mitchell, South Carolina’s Xavier Legette and Georgia’s Ladd McConkey.

29 – Detroit Lions: Florida State DT Braden Fiske

Talk about a riser from the Combine. Fiske tore up the athletic testing and skill drills, showcasing speed, strength and agility that should make him an intriguing addition for a Detroit defensive line in need of talent. Fiske is a bit undersized for the position but would pair excellently with Alim McNeill to form a powerful duo on the interior.

Realistically, this is a spot where teams looking for a quarterback could trade back into the first round to secure the fifth-year option, for a guy like Oregon’s Bo Nix or Washington’s Michael Penix Jr. However, we’re not doing trades in this mock draft. The Lions need pieces in the secondary, particularly at corner, but with Fiske still on the board, they’d have a hard time passing him up.

30 – Baltimore Ravens: Alabama DE Chris Braswell

Baltimore has one of the most complete rosters in the NFL, with few significant needs. They could use a cornerback, though none are left on the board that are likely first-round players. They’ll likely go to the veteran market to solve their wide receiver problem, especially after using a first-round pick on WR Zay Flowers just last year. Edge defender could be in play for them, as they need to find a long-term starter opposite Odafe Oweh, even if they manage to bring Jadeveon Clowney back for one more season.

Braswell impressed at the Combine, putting together one of the better all-around athletic scores among edge defenders. He’s been a productive player at Alabama, being a key contributor for the Crimson Tide the last two seasons and putting up consistent production while doing so. He’s not as flashy as some of the other names in this draft, but he’s a guy who will compete and has the strength and power to make a considerable impact at the NFL level.

31 – San Francisco 49ers: Washington OT Troy Fautanu

The 49ers have an offensive line problem. What has long been a strength of Kyle Shanahan’s roster is showing its cracks, as injuries and free agency departures have weakened the unit over the years. Chiefs DT Chris Jones single-handedly blowing up two key plays in the Super Bowl has only heightened the urgency to fix the line heading into 2024.

Fautanu played left tackle for Washington but projects more to the interior at the NFL level. He lacks the foot speed and mirroring ability to effectively shut down NFL edge rushers, but his play strength and movement in space makes him an excellent guard prospect. With the flexibility to fill in at tackle in a pinch, Fautanu can reinforce the middle of San Francisco’s line.

32 – Kansas City Chiefs: Texas WR Adonai Mitchell

While one Texas wide receiver set the NFL Combine 40-yard dash record, another was tearing up every test and drill possible. Mitchell exploded at the Combine, vaulting himself into the conversation for the most athletic receiver in this year’s draft. Mitchell’s tape is that of a borderline first-round player and someone teams would probably feel more comfortable selecting on Day 2, but athletes like him don’t make it out of the first round.

Though Patrick Mahomes managed to will his squad to another Super Bowl victory, the Chiefs need an influx of talent in their receiver room. Rashee Rice is a nice piece from the 2023 draft, but they could use a field stretcher on the outside. Mitchell perfectly fits what they need.

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  1. Braswell? He may be a late day two prospect not a 1st rounder and with immediate needs at CB, OT, OG and secondary needs at WR, RB and MLB there is zero chance the Ravens reach that badly for a middling prospect and ignore each ofbthwir top six needs where there are superior prospects available at each of those positions.

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