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  • Writer's picturekevinlaffey

Mock Draft 1.0: Pre-Combine

Mocking the First Round of the 2024 NFL Draft. (*pre-combine*)

It’s NFL Draft season, and I know, everybody has their thoughts and ideas about what teams will do – oftentimes reaching into fantasy land as they leap the rungs down the ladder of the 1st round.


Well I’m no damn different. I scour the web for stories of top prospects in my free time, I read what scouts believe about each guy; but I use my own eyes to make decisions in these scenarios, ESPECIALLY now that NFL free agency occurs pre-draft, which can seriously derail mock drafts this early.


We’re going to do it anyway, because what’s better?


This will be a no-trade scenario mock—there’s no real way to expect or anticipate those trades, but I’ll add my two cents.


Let’s a look at the 1st round of the 2024 NFL Draft!


Round 1:

1.         Chicago Bears: Caleb Williams ~ QB, USC

Ryan Poles was my King in the North last off-season. I really saw the vision of where the Bears could end up in a 3-year window. Two years in a row in the top five of cap space going into the offseason, and having a rookie QB contract on the books producing at an elite level is one way to have extra spending. Caleb Williams is the path that allows Chicago to keep that formula moving. No brainer.


2.         Washington Commanders: Jayden Daniels ~ QB, LSU

Washington has overhauled. Ownership? New. Management? New. Coaching staff? New. Talent? Abundant. The Commanders are in a top-heavy division with the Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys passing the belt back and forth, but they are not without skill. Terry McLaurin, Jahan Dotson, and Brian Robinson provide a nice little nest for a young QB to enter a Kliff Kingsbury offense, and Jayden Daniels is a player that can immediately add impact Year 1. The Heisman winner can come in and create a brand new dynamic for new defensive coordinators in Dallas, Philadelphia, and New York to figure out.


3.         New England Patriots: Drake Maye ~ QB, North Carolina

Now I think this is our first genuinely possible trade-down spot of the draft. With Jerod Mayo in charge now, New England may opt to add more young talent as opposed to making a forced-hand QB pick. But with that said… if Maye is on the board, you take him in my opinion. The raw traits are there, and while there is concern with his footwork in the pocket, and his potential to break reads plus the pocket without need to do so, Maye is a sky-high ceiling type of pick.


4.         Arizona Cardinals: Marvin Harrison Jr. ~ WR, Ohio State

The prodigal son has arrived. Kyler Murray and company get a potentially groundbreaking wide receiver added to an already fun and dynamically talented offense. In a long run of elite prospects turned stars: Michael Thomas, Garrett Wilson, Chris Olave, MHJ is the heir apparent to his father, the great Indianapolis Colt, Marvin Harrison. Yeah, home run pick at 4.


5.         Los Angeles Chargers: Malik Nabers ~ WR, LSU

The advanced metrics point towards Nabers potentially edging out MHJ on draft boards around the league, but I’m no source of Intel. With that said…yeah. Nabers is “that guy.” He stands at 6’0” as opposed to MHJ’s 6’4”, but where Nabers’ size potentially caps him vertically, boy does he have speed to boot. His film pops in a major way, looking a level above defenders in terms of burst and bend. Herbert needs a new weapon as his guard of old ages out (Keenan Allen, Mike Williams). A star receiver like Nabers on a rookie deal is a step in the right direction for LAC’s new staff.


6.         New York Giants: Rome Odunze ~ WR, Washington

Washington had one hell of a season, led by the Mount Rushmore of Michael Penix Jr., Ja’Lynn Polk, Jalen McMillan, and of course Odunze. New York has multiple holes to fill, but something they haven’t had since Odell Beckham Jr. was traded to the Browns is a true #1 option in the passing game. With Saquon most likely walking, Daniel Jones locked into a contract, and young gadget talent on the outside, Odunze can be that pop of star power a New York market needs.


7.         Tennessee Titans: Brock Bowers ~ TE, Georgia

Bowers wants Tennessee, Tennessee wants Bowers. What more could there be to discuss? He’s a one-of-one prospect by almost every advanced metric, with only Kyle Pitts to rival him for the most part. He was arguably the most dangerous offensive player on a National Championship team as a true freshman. Will Levis needs a stabilizing weapon if he’s going to elevate in the league, and Bowers is his guy.


8.         Atlanta Falcons: Laiatu Latu ~ EDGE, UCLA

In this scenario where Odunze and Nabers are both gone, I see this as a big trade down spot. Let’s say the trade for Fields goes down, and Atlanta is in need of help on the edge. If Laiatu Latu can pass all 32 physicals with flying colors – and test well – at this week’s Combine, he can be a shock off the edge for the Falcons. I think a trade down to a spot where a guy like Brian Thomas Jr. or Troy Franklin can be had is more likely here, but Latu is a stud.


9.         Chicago Bears: Joe Alt ~ OT, Notre Dame

In this scenario, Chicago has sent Fields to Atlanta for a future 2nd round pick, and Caleb Williams has the keys to the Ferrari that is Chicago’s kingdom of the north. So, what better way to start this new reign of terror than to protect Williams’ blind side with arguably the best tackle prospect of the last decade?  He’s 6’8”, 330 lbs. and an ex-tight end, so Alt’s athleticism is there to boot. Add in the Notre Dame o-line pedigree and the fact he’s dominated the line’s most important spot while still being new to the position. Keeping Caleb standing gives the Bears the best chance to succeed.


10. New York Jets: Olu Fashanu ~ OT, Penn State

Aaron Rodgers going down on September 11th felt like a ripple was sent through the timeline; we got stories of dolphin sex sounds for rehabilitation, thirteen different o-line combinations, and a bunch of budding talent waiting to be utilized properly by their future Hall of Fame QB. Olu Fashanu is one of the best pass-blocking tackles I’ve watched in a long time, and in an offense that will need to pass a lot to have success, Olu is a surefire bet to be taken if he’s there.


11. Minnesota Vikings: Quinyon Mitchell ~ CB, Toledo

Minnesota ranked in the bottom ten when it came to defending the pass, and I know, there are questions for bigger fish to fry (Kirk Cousins free agency, Justin Jefferson extension) at the moment, so I can also see a JJ McCarthy pick here, but I feel by draft time, Mitchell is going to establish himself as the first defensive back off the board. He’s a known student of the game at Toledo, he showed out at the Senior Bowl, and a team is going to be very happy with Mitchell in town. Especially a DC like Brian Flores, who gets a corner he can trust to hold up the compromised back end of his blitzes.


12. Denver Broncos: JJ McCarthy ~ QB, Michigan

If all news points to the truth, then Russell Wilson will soon be descending from the Mile High. Denver currently sits in the negative in terms of cap space, so establishing their future at QB on a rookie deal is a great move. Sean Payton gets to mold a sneakily talented prospect fresh off of an undefeated, National Championship-winning season for Jim Harbaugh’s Michigan Wolverines. Denver has question marks, so a choice of Dallas Turner or JC Latham in a best player available scenario can unfold also, but it’s JJ for me.


13. Las Vegas Raiders: Taliese Fuaga ~ OT, Oregon State

I’ve read buzz around Justin Fields to Las Vegas, I’ve also read things that link there being a strong connection between incumbent starter (2023 4th round pick) Aidan O’Connell and head coach Antonio Pierce. Either way, what any talented young man in the pocket needs is a bear to protect them. Fuaga is THE bear. 6’6” and 330 lbs., Fuaga didn’t give up a sack on 351 passing snaps and dominated in the run-blocking game in 2023. He’s a franchise cornerstone.


14.   New Orleans Saints: J.C. Latham ~ OT, Alabama

New Orleans is in cap trouble…for yet another off-season. Mickey Loomis is one of the grandest wizards that exist when it comes to playing cap gymnastics, but a great tackle on a discount is a good place to start. Latham is a great pass protector, and he should be able to transfer into the pros as a run blocker in front of Alvin Kamara and Kendre Miller from day one.


15.   Indianapolis Colts: Brian Thomas Jr. ~ WR, LSU

Indianapolis could go a multitude of ways at this pick; Terrion Arnold or Cooper DeJean in the secondary, Jared Verse or Dallas Turner off the edge are all options they can take. But I like points, and with Anthony Richardson coming back after missing the majority of the 2023 season with a shoulder injury, the Colts should re-sign Michael Pittman Jr. AND draft BTJ. Team Junior. Richardson and Jonathon Taylor RPOs, two 6’4” receivers with a multitude of abilities, and a playcaller who knows how to score? Yes. Please.


16. Seattle Seahawks: Byron Murphy II ~ IDL, Texas

Seattle got pushed around on the defensive side of the ball in the run game this year, and Murphy II is the arguable DT1 in this year’s draft. Murphy is a great athlete and anchored a CFP defense with T’Vondre Sweat at Texas. This is one of those simple cases of supply and demand, and Seattle gets a huge need with some questions in free agency.


17. Jacksonville Jaguars: Jackson Powers-Johnson ~ IOL, Oregon

Jacksonville could go with a few things: Jer’Zhan Newton on the IDL, Terrion Arnold to inject youth into the secondary. But the interior OL is a critical part to Doug Pederson’s play call. So get an anchor to protect Trevor Lawrence and provide stability to an offensive line that needs to create lanes for Travis Etienne to thrive. JPJ can play all three spots on the interior, and lucky for the Jags, they need help at all three spots on the interior.


18. Cincinnati Bengals: Amarius Mims ~ OT, Georgia

A National Champion, a tower of terror, and a huge need for the Cincinnati Bengals. Joe Burrow NEEDS to be protected, like a painting in the Louvre… because he costs that much now. Mims is a monstrous and powerful blocker, and in a league with so many elite EDGE players, tackles are as important as ever.


19. Los Angeles Rams: Terrion Arnold ~ DB, Alabama

The Rams are BACK in the first round of the NFL Draft! Wow, has my life changed since the last time the Rams made a first-round pick. It was Jared Goff. Seriously.

And now, they’re in the perfect spot to take the best player available. Terrion Arnold is my personal 1b to Quinyon Mitchell at DB in this draft. Seen by some people as the DB1 and worthy of a potential top-12 pick, Arnold fills an immediate vacuum that the Rams have in the secondary.


20. Pittsburgh Steelers: Kool-Aid McKinstry ~ CB, Alabama

Joey Porter Jr. was a gift handed to Pittsburgh by Chicago last year at pick one of round two, and he’s a gift that will keep on giving. So, why not assure the secondary has a high probability of succeeding long-term by taking the man they call Kool-Aid? He was half of, for my money, the best cornerback duo in college football in 2023 at Alabama, opposite Terrion Arnold, and he can be in the pros as well.


21. Miami Dolphins: Troy Fautanu ~ OL, Washington

Miami has fireworks that can be set off by coach Mike McDaniel at any moment like a 4th of July extravaganza. That’s great, and once the Tua contract is set, the offense is locked in. What they do need is elite offensive line help, and Fautanu is just that. He’s played inside, but was an all-conference anchor at left tackle for the Huskies in 2023. He gave up just two sacks across his two years with Penix Jr.


22. Philadelphia Eagles: Cooper DeJean ~ DB, Iowa

A spot where Philly can go many ways, a team that almost always drafts in the trenches. It may be time to break the mold.

James Bradberry has unfortunately begun his decline. Darius Slay is firmly grasping the peak of the mountain, but the tumble begins for everyone eventually, and the Eagles can get themselves a versatile defender and playmaker for an ailing defense on the verge of overhaul by new coordinator Vic Fangio.


23. Houston Texans: Jer’Zhan Newton ~ IDL, Illinois

Nick Caserio has done a lot of things right following the Deshaun Watson trade, and building a dynamic offense has been one of them. Hiring one of the great budding defensive head coaches in the league is another, and adding firepower to the trenches has to be at the forefront of Houston’s minds. Newton rivals Byron Murphy as the IDL1 in this draft. DeMeco Ryans should be salivating at this selection.


24. Dallas Cowboys: Tyler Guyton ~ OT, Oklahoma

The old legend Tyron Smith is officially a free agent, and Dallas is an ecosystem that thrives off of elite offensive line play. With the solution for Jerry Jones typically being addressing needs head-on, Guyton makes a ton of sense to bring in to Dallas to pair with 2022 first-rounder Tyler Smith at the two tackle spots.


25. Green Bay Packers: Nate Wiggins ~ CB, Clemson

Green Bay is one of my favorite young teams that I’ve watched get thrown together in recent memory, as it fits the recent mold of trading superstar QBs for very quick turnaround potential (Houston with Watson, Seattle with Russ). A choice of Jordan Morgan out of Arizona makes sense here to protect Jordan Love further with Bakhtiari leaving town, but Nate Wiggins was a great d-back at Clemson for Dabo, and he can help flesh out a loaded secondary for a young contender.


26. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Chop Robinson ~ EDGE, Penn State

Tampa Bay is in purgatory here until any official Baker Mayfield and Mike Evans news comes to light. But, with what we know about Shaq Barrett leaving Tampa in free agency, a freak of nature type EDGE prospect like Robinson should provide plenty of hope as Todd Bowles accepts the turning of the position’s chapter to the future. Bowles loves to send pressure, and honing in Chop’s insane physical tools may be a cheat code to success.


27. Arizona Cardinals: Kamari Lassiter ~ CB, Georgia

If Arizona wants to get out of Day 1 with a home run first circuit around the NFL Draft’s sun, a playmaker on both sides of the ball is an absolute must. They got their offensive cornerstone in MHJ earlier in the 1st, so the idea here is that Arizona gets a guy in the secondary that they can rely on to make plays for them. Lassiter has the skill, body, and pedigree coming from Georgia to be a strong candidate to translate his game to the pro level.


28. Buffalo Bills: Troy Franklin ~ WR, Oregon

Stefon Diggs is the lone ranger on the outside for Buffalo, and even that seems to be a tentative statement for the time being. Gabe Davis is gone, Joe Brady is staying in at OC for the Bills, and Josh Allen just somehow had another 40-touchdown season. All this to say: GET. ALLEN. HELP ON THE OUTSIDE. Diggs is nearing the age cliff sooner rather than later, so why not take this pick in a loaded WR class to grab a high-ceiling, high-octane threat to pair with Diggs?


29. Detroit Lions: Zach Frazier ~ IOL, West Virginia

Not much needs to be said for me here. Frazier is one of those meaner-than-you players. And lucky for his Lions, he can pretty much slot in anywhere on the line, hopefully clearing lanes for Gibbs and Montgomery. The kid is ferocious, given he’s an ex-state champion wrestler. Dan Campbell type of guy.


30. Baltimore Ravens: Jared Verse ~ EDGE, Florida State

Lamar Jackson gives a team an insane floor, but this year proved that as great and efficient as Lamar can play, there’s no explosion to take the tops off of a defense. But, the free agency class at WR is loaded, the cap just went up, and like Philadelphia, Baltimore has a formula. Enter Jared Verse, the lightning bolt off the edge from FSU. Baltimore plays in the AFC and AFC North’s land of great quarterbacks, and getting a guy who can constantly supply pressure is something of necessity.


31. San Francisco 49ers: Graham Barton ~ OL, Duke

San Francisco has the old wizard at LT in Trent Williams, and a scheme that thrives off of efficient play in the trenches. While they could go EDGE here and take a guy like Darius Robinson from Missouri, we have Graham Barton, a lineman who played left tackle at Duke, but allegedly can plug the power his massive frame packs into all interior spots as well. He fills immediate and ground-floor needs for San Francisco, and assures cheap protection for an otherwise expensive roster.


32. Kansas City Chiefs: Xavier Worthy ~ WR, Texas

Every year since Tyreek Hill left we mock a WR to Kansas City, and every year they let us down and don’t take the WR heir apparent. Well, I’m ready to get my heart broken again, and I think Xavier Worthy fits the bill swimmingly. In a KC offense that loves speed, Worthy may show up day one as the fastest player on the unit. A demon with the ball in the open field, and a lean WR that plays bigger than he presents, Kansas City may end the round’s last pick just how ended the season’s last game. With a home run.

With the salary cap number climbing another 30 million dollars, a loaded pool of free agents, and a draft class with some of the best potential upside we've seen in quite sometime, this off-season is positive to pack fireworks.


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