2024 NFL Draft

Bears take Williams, nab pass rusher after trading down in latest mock draft

Bears general manager Ryan Poles picks his guy, Caleb Williams, with the No. 1 pick while trading back from No. 9 and adding a pass rusher

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The 2024 NFL Draft is less than 50 days away and the anticipation surrounding its approach continues to add wild speculations as to what teams will do leading up to the first player chosen. Several benchmark events like the NFL Combine and the league’s tag deadline have begun and ended.

Yet, it’s the impending start of NFL free agency and subsequent negotiations that may better dictate the direction teams decide to take. This latest mock will introduce some unconventional takes, anticipating possible signings and their effects before the draft begins on April 25th.

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

The Bears and general manager Ryan Poles have been sold on Williams, the player, for some time. However, after weeks of vetting and an initial meeting at the NFL Combine, Chicago brass is more comfortable with Williams the person. The 2022 Heisman Trophy winner displayed the confidence and bravado to match his dynamic talent, and the Bears are serious about making him their franchise centerpiece for the foreseeable future.

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

2. Washington Commanders: QB - Jayden Daniels, LSU

Washington’s new ownership may have valiantly tried to acquire hometown prodigy Caleb Williams away from the Bears, but after being rebuffed, the Commanders likely pivot towards 2023 Heisman Trophy winner Jayden 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: WR - Marvin Harrison Jr., Ohio State

It’s possible the Patriots choose to select the best player in the draft regardless of the position and take a true “generational” talent in Harrison. In order to make this bold and unconventional selection, New England might forgo drafting potential franchise quarterback Drake Maye.

Instead, the Patriots could sign Super Bowl winning signal caller Russell Wilson to a league minimum contract (1.2 million dollars), and offer an enticing deal to star running back Saquon Barkley. The Patriots have the most cap space available to instantly become a problem in a turbulent AFC Eastern division.

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

4. New York Giants (via Arizona): QB - Drake Maye, North Carolina

If Harrison is off the board, it’s possible the Cardinals open bidding for their fourth spot in the draft. New York may recognize an opportunity to upgrade at the quarterback position and make an offer the Cardinals can’t refuse. The Giants exchange their sixth pick with Arizona’s fourth, and also send their 39th (2nd), 70th (4th) and second round pick in 2025 to the Cardinals. The Giants like Maye’s career college passing percentage of 64.9 and his touchdown to interception ratio of 63 to 16.

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

5. Los Angeles Chargers: TE - Brock Bowers, Georgia

The receiving talent in this class is about three rounds deep, so new head coach Jim Harbaugh might lean towards taking the highest-rated tight end off the board. Bowers is a matchup conundrum that can also athletically align anywhere on the field.

6. Arizona Cardinals (via NY Giants): WR - Malik Nabers, LSU

Although Arizona missed out on the Marvin Harrison Jr. sweepstakes, by trading down, the Cardinals picked up additional draft capital and positioned themselves to take arguably the best route-running prospect. Having acquired New York’s sixth overall pick, Arizona may still achieve the goal of getting a primary target for incumbent quarterback Kyler Murray. 

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

The possible acquisition of Alt may not seem as exciting a move as the previous six picks seem, but getting an elite pass blocker could be just as essential to the Titans' future gridiron successes. Alt’s 91.2 pass-blocking rating (top five) should vastly improve protection and production for Tennessee across the line of scrimmage.

8. Atlanta Falcons: WR - Rome Odunze, Washington

Atlanta might be able to take advantage of Chicago’s inability to attract significant trade offers for 24-year-old former first-round pick quarterback Justin Fields. Chicago might acquiesce and accept Atlanta’s low offer of this year’s 110th pick (4th) and a fourth-round spot in 2025. Should the Falcons acquire the dynamic playmaking talents of Fields, targeting another tall, athletic, pass-catching weapon like Odunze could truly make Atlanta a potent offense.

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

9. Denver Broncos (via Chicago): QB - J.J. McCarthy, Michigan

The Broncos swallowed a bitter pill when they “ripped the band-aid” off the failed Russell Wilson trade from 2022 by releasing the oft-criticized quarterback and taking an 85 million dead cap hit. Despite the financial hole created by Wilson’s release, Denver might offer the Bears its 12th overall draft slot along with the 76th (3rd), 146th (5th) picks, and a third-round position in 2025 to move up three spots. If the Broncos successfully select McCarthy, they’ll be getting an accurate short to intermediate passer with above-average athleticism and exceptional leadership traits.

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

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. The Jets are in serious need of talented blockers, especially with 40-year-old, future Hall-of-Fame quarterback Aaron Rodgers returning from an Achilles injury.

11. Minnesota Vikings: Edge - Dallas Turner, Alabama

Although long-time signal caller Kirk Cousins is testing the free agent market, he may eventually re-sign with the Vikings. If so, then Minnesota might focus on replacing free agent defector Danielle Hunter and choose Turner as the Viking's new explosive edge rusher. Turner is an exceptional athlete with next-level acceleration and playmaking skills most NFL teams covet. 

12. Chicago Bears (via Denver): Edge - Laiatu Latu, UCLA

Using free agency, it’s possible the Bears will solve their issues at wideout by convincing former Bills receiver Gabriel Davis to sign with Chicago. If Davis (or another free agent pass catcher) signed with the Bears, Chicago could focus on finding an edge rushing talent to play opposite Montez Sweat (acquired in trade last season). Chicago could take advantage of Denver’s offer to trade down into the 12th position and obtain more draft capital. Latu's 13 sacks last season led the Pac-12, eventually leading to him becoming the conference’s last Defensive Player of the Year (Pat Tillman Award).

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

13. Las Vegas Raiders: CB - Quinyon Mitchell, Toledo

A relatively unknown defensive back from the MAC Conference, Mitchell carved out an eventual first-round grade through hard work, consistent play, and outstanding performances at the Senior Bowl and NFL Combine. Mitchell is an explosive athlete who exhibits an acute sense of timing when breaking up passes in man or zone coverages.

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

The Saints respected offensive line is showing signs of age and inconsistencies especially against formidable defenses. Fashanu is surprisingly athletic for his size (6 '6, 312 lbs), exhibiting fluid agility and the ability to effortlessly flip his hips when blocking speed rushers. 

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

15. Indianapolis Colts: DL - Jer’ Zhan Newton, Illinois

The 2023 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year is an indefatigable defender whose relentless style piques the interest of many league decision-makers. Newton is a scheme-friendly, versatile defensive lineman who can consistently generate pressure from anywhere along the line of scrimmage.

16. Seattle Seahawks: Edge - Demeioun “Chop” Robinson, Penn State

Chop Robinson’s amazing performance at the combine raised many eyebrows impressed with his quick-twitch athleticism. A blur off the edge at the snap of the ball, Robinson’s bendability and cobra-like fluidity make him an intriguing prospect.

17. Jacksonville Jaguars: C - Jackson Powers-Johnson, Oregon

The 2023 Rimington Award winner and consensus All-American is a powerfully built individual whose physicality matches his enormous stature (6’3”, 328 lbs). He should bring a tough physical demeanor to the Jaguars offense and establish a more intimidating presence in critical game situations.

18. Cincinnati Bengals: OT - J.C. Latham, Alabama

The Bengals drafted franchise quarterback Joe Burrow in 2020, and the superstar signal-caller hasn’t finished two campaigns due to season-ending injuries. Cincinnati must seriously commit to his protection, or they’ll find themselves permanently without his services sooner rather than later. The massive six-foot-six, 342-pound Latham is a human wall of opposition defenders crash futilely into when rushing the passer.

19. Los Angeles Rams: CB - Terrion Arnold, Alabama

The Rams are quietly re-tooling their roster and becoming a formidable team with high-end young talent assembled through the draft. Arnold is the type of blue-chip athlete whose ball-tracking skills and tight pass-coverage abilities form the centerpiece for an elite secondary.

20. Pittsburgh Steelers: CB - Nate Wiggins, Clemson

Wiggins’ speed (4.28 40-time) and explosive athleticism (36-inch vertical / 10’7” broad jump) are exactly the type of athletic infusion an aging Steelers’ defense needs to compete. His length and loose hips allow him to easily mirror receivers, while Wiggins’ elite quickness engenders a quiet confidence to bait quarterbacks into throwing interceptions.

21. Miami Dolphins: OL - Troy Fautanu, Washington

Fautanu tested out at the combine as one of the more athletic offensive linemen, having run a five-second 40 time and posting a vertical jump of 32 inches. His versatility as a blocker could provide Miami with competent protection from either the interior or perimeter of the offensive line. 

22. Philadelphia Eagles: Edge - Jared Verse, Florida State

Entering the 2024 season, both of Philadelphia’s starting edge rushers will be in the final year of their contracts. Drafting a consistently productive pass rusher like Verse (18 sacks in 25 games), could ease the loss of either veteran should the Eagles decide to move on for financial reasons. 

23. Houston Texans (via Cleveland): DL - Byron Murphy II, Texas

A stout, compact athlete with first-step quickness, Murphy competes with efficiency and decisiveness when attacking blockers at the line of scrimmage. His ability to quickly disrupt plays makes him a better run defender than most suspect and an effective interior pass rusher on any down.

24. Dallas Cowboys: OT - Tyler Guyton, Oklahoma

Dallas chose not to re-sign long-time offensive tackle Tyron Smith (33 years old) and found themselves in need of an immediate replacement. Guyton is a high-caliber pass protector who plays with intelligence, balance, and athleticism, attuned to protecting a quarterback’s blind side.

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

An excellent zone defender, DeJean also possesses next-level athleticism to successfully compete in man coverages. His size, quickness, and recovery speed expand his versatility enough to play any secondary position effectively. He is a defensive response to orchestrated mismatches offensive coaches try to scheme into their game plans.

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: CB - Ennis Rakestraw Jr., Missouri

Rakestraw is a hyper-competitive defensive back who plays with an in-your-face approach to covering wideouts. A tenacious run-supporting cornerback, Rakestraw is similarly aggressive when diagnosing receivers’ routes to all levels of the field. The Cardinals allowed 32 aerial scores last season, ranking third worst in the league.

28. Buffalo Bills: WR - Brian Thomas Jr., LSU

The Bills are hemorrhaging talent as several accomplished players have become free agents after not being re-signed. Targeting Thomas, a talented receiver with size, length, and speed, is necessary because of losses like 24-year-old wideout Gabriel Davis to free agency. Based on Thomas’ exemplary 2023 season (68 receptions / 1177 receiving yards / 17 touchdowns), he is an amazing talent with unlimited upside.

29. Detroit Lions: CB - Kool-Aid McKinstry, Alabama

McKinstry’s Jones fracture injury, which was discovered at the NFL Combine, may drop him into the second round. However, Detroit's front office executives have made bold, unconventional selections in the recent past. So, taking a chance on an injured but highly-rated first-round prospect like McKinstry seems like something the Lions would strongly consider.

30. Baltimore Ravens: WR - Adonai Mitchell, Texas

Mitchell’s elite athleticism alone makes him draft-worthy. However, it’s his skill and high-ceiling talent that’s catapulting him into first-round consideration. Mitchell ran one of the fastest top five 40 times (4.34) last weekend and broad-jumped over 11 feet. An incredible athlete with the ability to beat press coverage will always intrigue scouts and pass-game coordinators.

31. San Francisco 49ers: DL/Edge - 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. Robinson is surprisingly elusive for a six-foot-five, 285-pound defensive lineman, displaying a flexible bendability when rushing the passer. In addition, his girth helps anchor him against the run when aligned within the defensive interior.

32. Kansas City Chiefs: WR - Troy Franklin, Oregon

The Chiefs were plagued throughout the 2023 regular season with dropped passes and other missteps from the pass-catching unit. Targeting a sure-handed receiver like Franklin, whose blistering speed and clutch performing skill set, would only make All-Pro quarterback Patrick Mahomes more dangerous on offense and insufferable to defend.

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