2024 NFL Draft

Bears select Caleb Williams, trade back from No. 9 twice in latest mock

Ryan Poles trades Chicago Bears No. 9 pick twice to bolster the defense

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The 2024 NFL Draft is two weeks away as teams continue to make trades, acquire free-agent talent, and jockey for better draft positioning. Three organizations have two first-round picks (Chicago /Arizona / Minnesota), and depending on how they utilize them, these teams could dramatically impact opening draft night.

Ultimately, it’ll be the draft prospects that drive anticipation and intrigue for the league and its fans. Will there be four quarterbacks selected sequentially from the first pick through the fourth? Could the top ten picks all be offensive players?

Whatever the results, the NFL will once again masterfully market its product, even when it only promotes “hope” months before the actual season begins. This week’s mock zeros in on several “hopeful” first-round choices for teams in the upcoming draft. Enjoy.

1. Chicago Bears (via Carolina): QB - Caleb Williams, USC

Of all the myriad possibilities where these draft prospects may eventually land, Williams to the Bears is a virtual lock. The lengths general manager Ryan Poles has gone to, to ensure a supportive environment for Williams speaks to the commitment the organization has for the 2022 Heisman Trophy winner. The only thing left is for the Bears to turn in their draft card on April 25th.

Learn more about Caleb Williams here: Players that Bear watching: USC QB Caleb Williams

2. Washington Commanders: QB - Jayden Daniels, LSU

Any attempts by Washington to trade with Chicago for the number-one pick will undoubtedly be rebuffed by the Bears. Chicago isn’t moving off of drafting Caleb Williams, so the Commanders need to implement “plan B” and target another Heisman Trophy winner in Daniels. This past season, Daniels passed for 3812 passing yards with 40 touchdown passes while running for 1134 rushing yards and 10 rushing scores.

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

There are growing scenarios being discussed involving the Patriots trading out of the third spot and possibly foregoing drafting Maye as their franchise quarterback. There may be enticing offers that cross the desk of new general manager Eliot Wolf, but the need for an accurate throwing six-foot-four, 233-pound quarterback-of-the-future will likely outweigh any offers for New England’s third overall pick. Taking Maye could be the best first-draft pick of Wolf’s career as an NFL general manager.

Learn more about Drake Maye here: Players that Bear watching: North Carolina QB Drake Maye

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

It’s highly probable that the Cardinals will choose the best player in the draft regardless of position and take a true “generational” talent in Harrison. A tremendous downfield weapon, Harrison averaged 16.9 yards per catch on 155 career receptions with 31 receiving scores.

Learn more about Marvin Harrison Jr. here: Players that Bear watching: Ohio State WR Marvin Harrison Jr.

5. Minnesota Vikings (via Chargers): QB - J.J. McCarthy, Michigan

Trade: Minnesota sends #11(R1), #23(R1) to LA Chargers for #5(R1)

Although the Vikings acquired journeyman quarterback Sam Darnold this offseason, the need for a franchise signal-caller is paramount in Minnesota. McCarthy won the 2023 National Championship and excelled in clutch moments throughout his collegiate career (27 wins in 28 starts). More importantly, the front office must convince impending free agent superstar receiver Justin Jefferson that the organization is committed to winning.

6. New York Giants: WR - Malik Nabers, LSU

The Giants are an organizational contradiction of past decisions mixed in with future choices. Their need for a franchise quarterback is hampered by the team’s current compromising contract with incumbent signal caller Daniel Jones. There is an apparent need for better protection because the past two first-round offensive tackles are leaning toward “bust” status. Yet, the Giants may select the best player on their draft board and take Nabers. His abrupt speed and subtle moves create an organic separation that should translate well at the NFL level.

7. Tennessee Titans: OT - Joe Alt, Notre Dame

The Titans hired former Bengals’ offensive coordinator Brian Callahan to be their new head coach. He, in turn, hired his father, Bill Callahan - longtime NFL coach and former head coach (Raiders) - to be the Titans' offensive line coach. The Callahans and general manager Ran Carthon might target Alt to protect Tennessee's starting quarterback. According to PFF, the massive Alt (6-8, 322 lbs) earned a pass-blocking grade of 90.7 and an overall blocking metric of 91.2 by the end of the 2023 campaign.

8. Atlanta Falcons: Edge - Dallas Turner, Alabama

Having secured the services of veteran passer Kirk Cousins (four years /180 million), the Falcons are in a position to potentially draft the first defensive player off the board. Turner is a disruptive pass rusher who wins more with athleticism than technique. He’s a high-ceiling talent whose upside outweighs any technical deficiencies. 

9. Philadelphia Eagles (via Chicago): Edge - Jared Verse, Florida State

Trade: Philadelphia sends #22(R1), #53(R2), and 2025(R3) to Chicago for #9(R1)

Philadelphia traded away its best pass rusher in Haason Reddick, while edge talents Josh Sweat and Brandon Graham will be unrestricted free agents entering the 2024 campaign. Over the past two seasons, the Eagles and Bears have connected on several trades together and may do so again this draft. Verse comparatively plays very much like former Eagles edge star Reddick, but it could do so at a more reasonable price tag.

10. New York Jets: OL - Taliese Fuaga, Oregon State

The allure of drafting All-American tight end Brock Bowers will be difficult to ignore. However, the Jets have had offensive line issues for several seasons, and the importance of protecting 40-year-old, four-time NFL MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers is tantamount. Fuaga’s elite blend of size, mobility, strength, and physicality make him, in many scouts and pundits’ eyes, the best offensive lineman in this draft class.

11. Los Angeles Chargers (via Minnesota): WR - Rome Odunze, Washington

Trade: LA Chargers received Minnesota’s #11(R1) and #23(R1) in exchange for #5(R1)

The Chargers might be able to still acquire one of the top three receiving prospects from this draft class in All-American Rome Odunze. The Washington standout is a versatile receiver with size (6-3, 215 lbs}, speed (4.3 40-time) and route running efficiency (81 receptions / 13 TDs).

Learn more about Rome Odunze here: Players that Bear watching: Washington WR Rome Odunze

12. Denver Broncos: QB - Bo Nix, Oregon

Draft value-wise, targeting Nix as a top-15 prospect may be a bit of an overreach, but there is palpable desperation in Denver for a frontline quarterback. If selected by the Broncos, the organization will be acquiring an accurate and scheme-accountable passer. Nix is an experienced (60 plus college games) precision passer, having completed 77 percent of his passes for 4454 yards and 45 touchdowns.

13. Las Vegas Raiders: CB - Terrion Arnold, Alabama

Last season, the Raiders beat Kansas City at Arrowhead Stadium (20 - 14), by pressuring All-Pro quarterback Patrick Mahomes into throwing a pick-six; generated four sacks and held the Chiefs to a total of 14 points. Antonio Pierce is a defensive head coach who may favor a stronger first-round defender over a lesser-rated quarterback with the 13th overall pick. A talented cover corner like Arnold (63 tackles / 12 passes defended / five interceptions) could highlight the top of the Raiders’ list for April’s NFL Draft.

14. New Orleans Saints: OT - Olu Fashanu, Penn State

At the start of the 2023 college football season, Fashanu was considered a certifiable top-ten selection with the possibility of ascending even higher. Taking Fashanu might hint at a “drafting the best player available” strategy instead of addressing one specific area of need. His athleticism, easy knee bend, and consistent footwork create enough flexibility to play either on the interior or exterior of the offensive line.

Learn more about Olu Fashanu here: Players that Bear watching: Penn State OT Olumuyiwa “Olu” Fashanu

15. Indianapolis Colts: TE - Brock Bowers, Georgia

Bowers is an anomaly at the tight-end position. Arguably one of the most impactful offensive weapons from this draft class, Bowers is an elite athlete whose versatility makes him a singular talent. During his time at Georgia, Bowers caught 175 passes for 2,538 yards and 26 touchdowns. Impressively, he also averaged 10.2 yards per carry while rushing for five scores. 

16. Seattle Seahawks: OL - Troy Fautanu, Washington

Seattle’s new offensive coordinator, Ryan Grubb, served in the same capacity the past two seasons at the University of Washington. If anyone knows how to employ the skills and alignment versatility Fautanu possesses, it will probably be the prospect’s former college coach.

17. Jacksonville Jaguars: WR - Brian Thomas Jr., LSU

The Jaguars need a deep threat option with the speed to command defensive coordinators' attention and secondary defenders' respect. Thomas is a prolific receiver with tremendous upside, having caught 68 passes for 1177 yards and 17 aerial scores last season at LSU.

18. Cincinnati Bengals: CB - Quinyon Mitchell, Toledo

The Bengals could stay within the state of Ohio and select Mitchell, a second-team All-American who amassed 37 passes defended and six interceptions over the past two seasons. Toledo’s all-time leader in pass breakups (46), excelled in obscurity on a national level even though he once recorded four interceptions in a single game (2022 vs NIU). 

19. Los Angeles Rams: Edge - Laiatu Latu, UCLA

Latu’s injury history (neck surgery in 2020) could be the main reason he falls into the bottom half of the first round. An athletic six-foot-four, 265-pound pass rusher, Latu attacks with good acceleration, leverage, and closing speed. He finished the 2023 campaign as the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year, having generated 21.5 tackles for loss along with 13 sacks.

Learn more about Laiatu Latu here: Players that Bear watching: UCLA Edge Laiatu Latu

20. Pittsburgh Steelers: OL - J.C. Latham, Alabama

Latham allowed only one sack and nine hurries this season and performed at an above-average blocking rate (80.7), according to PFF. The massive six-foot-six, 342-pound Latham is a human wall of opposition defenders crash futilely into when rushing the passer.

21. Miami Dolphins: DL - Jer’Zhan Newton, Illinois

The heart of the defensive interior in Miami is no longer there, having allowed both Christian Wilkins and Raekwon Davis to leave via free agency. Newton is a scheme-friendly, versatile defensive lineman who can consistently generate pressure from anywhere along the line of scrimmage. Over the last two seasons, Newton registered 22.5 tackles for loss and 13 sacks from various defensive line positions.

22. Buffalo Bills ((via Philadelphia) via Chicago)): WR - Adonai Mitchell, Texas

Trade: Buffalo sends #28(R1), #128(R4), 2025(R4) to Chicago for #22(R1)

The Bills' lack of explosive play potential at the receiver position was exacerbated by the trade of primary wideout Stephon Diggs and the free agency departure of Gabe Davis. Buffalo might identify Mitchell as a high-ceiling talent based on his athletic measurables (6’2”, 205 lbs / 39-inch vertical / 4.34 40-time) and college productivity (18 receiving TDs in the last 20 games).

23. Los Angeles Chargers (via Minnesota): CB - Nate Wiggins, Clemson

Trade: LA Chargers received Minnesota’s #11(R1) and #23(R1) in exchange for #5(R1)

Taking advantage of acquiring an additional first-round pick from the Vikings, the Chargers may address their secondary issues by targeting Wiggins. In today’s pass-happy NFL, Wiggins’ length, sinewy strength, and football IQ make him a viable every-down playmaker for Los Angeles’ defensive designs.

24. Dallas Cowboys: C - Jackson Powers-Johnson, Oregon

Powers-Johnson might provide Dallas with the type of physicality and leadership that a recently departed free agent center Tyler Biadez supplied during his tenure with the Cowboys. A frame-filling size of six-foot-three and 320 pounds, his ability to leverage interior defensive linemen repeatedly to the ground is impressive.

25. Green Bay Packers: DB - Cooper DeJean, Iowa

Extremely versatile and skilled, DeJean is an athletic defensive back who could literally play any secondary position and be a difference-maker (7 career interceptions). An excellent zone defender, DeJean also possesses next-level athleticism to successfully compete in man coverages.

26. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: OL - Graham Barton, Duke

Over the past couple of seasons, the interior blocking for Tampa has been inconsistent and ineffective in both the run and passing game. Barton is a flexible, well-balanced drive blocker with solid spatial awareness and above-average lateral quickness. He would be an upgrade at either the guard or center position for the Bucs.

27. Arizona Cardinals (via Houston): CB - Kool-Aid McKinstry, Alabama

Ga’Quincy (Kool-Aid) McKinstry is a former high school Mr. Football from the state of Alabama who continued his aggressive play in college for the Crimson Tide. Expertly aware of his surroundings, McKinstry is rarely if ever out of position and confidently challenges receivers in man or zone coverages. However, there’s a possibility that McKinstry’s Jones fracture injury discovered at the NFL Combine may drop him into the second round. 

28. Chicago Bears (via Buffalo): Edge - Demeioun “Chop” Robinson, Penn State

Trade: Chicago receives Buffalo’s #28(R1), #128(R4) and 2025(R4) for #22(R1)

Chicago is trading down twice from the ninth overall pick into the bottom third of the first round, which might derive from a need to increase the team’s draft capital and overall roster depth. Robinson is considered by most pundits and scouts to be the quickest and fastest edge rushing prospect. The explosive pass rusher ran a 4.48 seconds 40-time at the NFL combine.

29. Detroit Lions: CB - Ennis Rakestraw Jr., Missouri

After recovering from an ACL injury (2021), Rakestraw began regaining the form and fluidity that made him a standout perimeter cornerback for Mizzou. He possesses NFL size and athleticism for the next level, but it’s his innate anticipation and quick reactions that separate him from his peers.

30. Baltimore Ravens: WR - Troy Franklin, Oregon

After losing defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald to a head coaching position in Seattle, Baltimore might pursue drafting more difference-making receivers. However, more than just a deep threat (17.1 yards per reception in 2023), Franklin is also a dependable target, averaging approximately five (5.4) receptions a contest over the past two seasons.

31. San Francisco 49ers: Edge/DL - Darius Robinson, Missouri

A disruptive element along the line of scrimmage, Robinson’s alignment versatility is a key factor in his ascension up draft boards. His length and hand strength help him power past most blockers. Robinson can overwhelm less athletic linemen at the point of attack and maintain the edge against the run. In the 49ers defensive system, he presents as a possible “steal-of-the-draft” prospect, especially this late in the first round.

32. Kansas City Chiefs: OT - Jordan Morgan, Arizona

Even though breakout rookie wideout Rashee Rice is currently dealing with legal issues stemming from driving incongruities, it’s likely the Chiefs address their deficiencies at offensive tackle. Standing six-feet-five inches and a svelte 315 pounds, it’s Morgan’s 10 ¾ sized hands and a wingspan of 81 ¼ inches that make him an ideal bookend blocker.

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