Draft season is my absolute favorite time of the football year. Not the actual season where games are played for real and we find out who is good and who is not. No. I like the the speculation and mystery of the draft. Team building theory. Stats. Skillsets. Physical profiles. Trades. I love it all.
And that's why I’m doing a mock draft in November with half the season still to be played, a mock draft that will be hopelessly inaccurate come April. Because why the hell not?
I have very briefly previewed all the players I’m including in this article. This is by no means well-studied or comprehensive. There are a ton of very good players I have not even looked at yet. I pulled these names from various sources, looked over their stats, and watched at least one game of all of them. There is still a massive amount of work to be done on the draft later. I can and will be researching all of these players and more in much greater detail in the months to come. This is simply meant to be a fun early look at some possible scenarios and trends.
Note: The draft order below is not the current order if the season ended today. It is a speculative order based upon my projections. I’m sure the real order will look very different.
Chicago Bears (from Carolina): QB Caleb Williams, USC
Many fans are not going to like or agree with this, but if Chicago lands the #1 overall pick courtesy of the Panthers trade from last year, I do believe they will trade Justin Fields and take Williams first overall.
Yes, Fields is a dynamic playmaker, but he is not and was never a very good passer. You simply cannot last long in this league as a QB if you aren’t a competent passer. Williams is more than a dynamic passer. He’s the closest thing to Patrick Mahomes we’ve seen yet. He’s ready to play in the NFL right now and there’s just no way Chicago can pass on him and pray Fields suddenly figures out how to throw.
Inevitably, a handful of other teams will offer a massive package of picks for the right to take Williams, and there will be some people that argue taking a bunch of picks and building around Fields is the correct move. It’s not. The other thing you will hear is that Drake Maye is the better QB and should be the pick over Williams. That’s nonsense too. The two are not close in my opinion.
New York Giants: QB Drake Maye, North Carolina
This pick might seem a little shocking based on the fact that New York just gave Daniel Jones a huge contract, but I don’t think anyone with a brain is really going to argue the point. The consensus has always been that Jones was massively overpaid, and his play this year validated that opinion in every way. And that was before Jones tore his ACL. There’s a chance he’ll be ready for the start of next season, but the Giants simply cannot risk it on top of praying that Jones somehow improves his game massively to justify the huge contract. They have to move on and the #2 overall pick is their easy chance to do so.
As for Maye himself…he’s fine in my opinion. I’ve seen a lot of praise get heaped his way, but I wasn’t overly impressed during my preview. I thought he looked like a nice safe college passer in the Trevor Lawrence mold (I do not subscribe to the theory that Lawrence is a generational QB). He’s a safe bet to be a top 2-5 pick however.
New England Patriots: QB Jayden Daniels, LSU
This is by far my hottest take at the moment and one I’ll be alone on for some time. The mainstream will catch up to me eventually, but for now Daniels is a consensus 2nd round pick. He’s being thought of in the same vein as Jalen Hurts was coming out of college…which is precisely why he won’t befall the same unfair fate. Hurts was an excellent prospect and should have been a first round pick. Daniels will be in the end. He’s the most explosive runner we’ve seen since Lamar, but his passing skills are much more advanced than Lamar. Daniels is more like a faster Deshaun Watson.
As for the Patriots, clearly they have to move on from Mac Jones, and Belichick is almost certainly gone as well. It’s possible the new coach signs someone in free agency or possibly makes a trade (Justin Fields?), but sitting this high up in the draft makes me lean QB. Daniels is certainly worthy of going this high. Personally, I would take him over Maye.
Arizona Cardinals: WR Marvin Harrison Jr, Ohio St
Three QB’s to start the draft and Arizona gets to take the first non-QB and the player most people will have rated as the single best player in the entire draft. I’m skeptical of that ranking, but that’s a discussion for another day. The reality is that Harrison will be taken very highly, almost assuredly in the top 5. He’s a good player and a natural replacement for DeAndre Hopkins.
Chicago Bears: EDGE Laiatu Latu, UCLA
Chicago gets the fifth pick to go along with their first. I could see them trading out of this spot to accumulate more picks, but with three QB’s already off the board they are likely stuck. However, because of how things have fallen, they can follow the same plan Houston took last year and take their franchise QB and the best pass rusher all in the same draft. Hard to beat that.
Latu is hands down the best pass rusher. I don’t see anyone close. There will likely be a little talk of Dallas Turner and Jared Verse, but neither of those guys has Latu’s production and they aren’t as well-rounded.
Los Angeles Rams: OT Joe Alt, Notre Dame
The Rams never properly replaced Andrew Whitworth when he retired. Here’s their chance to rectify that. Alt isn’t nearly as thick and strong as Whitworth, but he’s plenty tall and has room to fill out his frame. He does need to get stronger, but that’s easily improved. From my initial look Alt is the most polished and balanced tackle in a very good class. He’s not a near perfect prospect like a Joe Thomas, but he’s pretty good. Can’t go wrong here.
Tennessee Titans: OT Olumuyiwa Fashanu, Penn St
Tennessee has lots of holes to fill and left tackle is easily at the top of the list. They may not get their first choice, but they should be able to pick a good one from what looks like the best class of tackles in years.
Fashanu is currently the consensus top tackle for most people (some have Alt), but I’m a little hesitant to endorse him that highly. The tape I watched of him was definitely not the most flattering. Fashanu looks like a polished pass blocker but lackluster in the run game, possibly even a liability, and I think he needs to work on his defensive recognition. I saw what looked like some mental mistakes that will need to be cleaned up. It makes me worry that he’s more of a projection than a lot of people are thinking. We’ll see when we dive deeper this spring.
Green Bay Packers: OT Taliese Fuaga, Oregon St
The third straight offensive tackle comes off the board to Green Bay. Tackle is by far their biggest need and a position they routinely expend resources on. I’ll be surprised if this is any other position.
Fuaga is currently rated behind many of the other tackles for most in the mainstream, but I loved what I saw from him on my initial preview. He’s a big, strong right tackle but moves with a level of explosiveness I was not prepared for. Reminds me of Tristan Wirfs. Right now he’s usually mocked in the mid to late 20’s but I’m betting he’s going to be a consistent riser throughout the draft process. Highly impressed.
Washington Commanders: TE Brock Bowers, Georgia
I don’t feel very good about this pick right now, but that’s probably because we don’t know what Washington will look like come next spring. Rivera will be gone. There’s a decent chance Belichick might be the new coach. Would Bill take a tight end in the top 10 of the draft? Maybe. I don’t really know. I think it’s pointless to speculate about yet though because we really don’t know who will be in charge here.
What we do know is Washington has some very clear holes. Edge rusher, offensive tackle, and corner are the biggest areas of need. Tight end could become one but the position is generally not regarded as very important by most around the league. The argument for Bowers would be that he’s one of the best TE prospects in years, certainly since Kyle Pitts (not sure I agree with this but that would be the line of thinking). So for now I’ll just slot Bowers here since he’s well regarded. Maybe Bieniemy will take over and draft Bowers to be his version of Travis Kelce.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: WR Malik Nabors, LSU
Mike Evans is a free agent in 2024 and will be 31 years old by next season. He’s put together an unprecedented run to start his career, but will the team be willing to shell out one more big contract to keep him around? We’ll see. Even if they don’t though they’ll need to start bringing in more receiver talent to prepare for his eventual exit.
Nabors is one of the most impressive college receivers I’ve ever scouted. He’s so smooth, so fluid in his movement and routes, wonderful feet, strong hands to snatch the ball out of the air, speed to burn, perfect size for the modern NFL…he’s the whole package. At this point I would even take him over Harrison Jr.
Denver Broncos: EDGE Jared Verse, Florida St
Verse got a lot of hype last year as the next great college edge rusher, but I’m suspicious. On tape I see a guy that looks great. He’s got the body and the athletic ability of a star edge rusher, but I don’t see him actually making a lot of plays and that’s reflected in the stat sheet. If he’s so great, how come he doesn’t produce? I’m open to the idea that I’m wrong about him, but we’ll have to see.
Denver needs help on defense and Sean Payton is notoriously in love with guys that look the part of a pro player. When he picks high in the draft he wants to get a prototype. Verse certainly fits that criteria.
Las Vegas Raiders: CB Kool-Aid McKinstry, Alabama
The Raiders will have a new coach in 2024 and it’s possible he wants a new QB, but it’s also entirely possible that Garoppolo simply returns for one more year as a bridge. They owe him $28 million which isn’t an outrageous number for a bridge starter. He could be cut for no penalty but are you sure you can upgrade when he’s gone? It’s not a guarantee. The 12th pick in the draft isn’t high enough to be sure of getting a capable rookie starter. Michael Penix is available here but has some injury concerns and again the Raiders might be inclined to just roll with Jimmy for one more year before turning it over to a rookie in 2025.
If they don’t draft a QB then corner makes a lot of sense as it’s their weakest position on defense. They have Nate Hobbs and no one else. McKinstry is the consensus top rated corner. I don’t have a strong opinion on him right now. He seems fine, but I would not be surprised in the least if there is a better corner in this draft or even several.
Atlanta Falcons: QB Michael Penix, Washington
It seems like Arthur Smith might get fired at the end of the year, but we won’t know for sure until it happens. He’s on the hot seat for sure. Even if they do dump Smith, it’s possible they stick with Desmond Ridder for another year. He isn’t hopeless. But they also don’t owe him any money and Penix (for all his flaws) still feels like an upgrade over Ridder.
I am very skeptical about how Penix translates to the NFL due to the scheme and phenomenal blocking he got at Washington, and that’s not even considering his multiple major injuries. Penix feels like a ticking time bomb to me.
Indianapolis Colts: EDGE Dallas Turner, Alabama
Indy could go a lot of different directions with this pick. Improving their offensive line to support Anthony Richardson is an option. But defense is also a big need, particularly an edge rusher to pair with Kwity Paye. Turner looks decent but not great to me. He’s expected to test well though and is getting some comps to Brian Burns. This feels like the range he should go in.
New York Jets: OT Amarius Mims, Georgia
Last year everyone and their mother mocked an offensive tackle to the Jets for obvious reasons, and they absolutely would have taken one if available but Pittsburgh knew that as well and traded up to snipe Broderick Jones from them. This year I imagine we’ll see everyone again mock a tackle to the Jets and I’m not going to fight it. They have to protect Rodgers. Mims is a massive guy in the mold of Dawand Jones, Orlando Brown, and current Jet’s left tackle Mekhi Becton who he would start opposite of.
Los Angeles Chargers: S Kamren Kinchens, Miami
The Chargers almost have to take defense here, probably in the secondary. This could easily be a cornerback, but I’m going to give them a free safety to pair with Derwin James. My first look at Kinchens was very impressive. Love what I saw on tape. He’s rangy, instinctive, aggressive, and a very good playmaker with 10 INTs the last two years including two that he took back for scores. Reminds me of Earl Thomas.
Cincinnati Bengals: OT/OG JC Latham, Alabama
Cincinnati is likely to be looking hardest at two positions, offensive line and wide receiver. Both Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd are free agents and there’s no guarantee they’ll be back. Higgins especially could be hard-pressed to get the kind of deal he wants since Burrow got his extension and Chase will be getting one soon.
Luckily for the Bengals their top needs line up perfectly with the strength of this draft. Receiver and tackle are, in my opinion, the two deepest positions in this class. Here I’ll give them a potential right tackle to replace Jonah Williams. Some people have Latham very high, but I saw some concerning tendencies on tape and think he might be a better fit at guard. For now though this seems like a good spot. Latham just feels like a Bengals type of lineman.
New Orleans Saints: WR Keon Coleman, Florida St
The Saints could really use another big bodied receiver to replace the shell of Michael Thomas. Coleman is an excellent mover for his size and is expected to test as an explosive athlete. My concern is that the production doesn’t match the supposed talent, but so long as the testing numbers are strong, Coleman is just the type of big, explosive player the Saints love to go for in the first round.
Buffalo Bills: DT Jer’Zhan Newton, Illinois
Jordan Phillips signed a one year contract with Buffalo but might not resign next year. Either way Buffalo needs to add depth and a potential long term partner for Ed Oliver. Newton is widely considered the best defensive tackle in the class. If you squint he even looks a little like a young Ed Oliver, a bit undersized but quick and strong. I don’t think he’s nearly as disruptive as the mainstream but he seems fine.
Minnesota Vikings: EDGE Chop Robinson, Penn St
The Vikings could look a lot of different directions here but a bookend opposite from Danielle Hunter seems like the kind of thing that DC Brian Flores could be interested in. Robinson seems to be following in the footsteps of fellow Penn St edge rusher Odafe Oweh in that he is supposedly incredibly athletic but also light on production. Robinson is getting some top 10-15 hype but seems more likely to be drafted sometime after pick 20 to me.
Pittsburgh Steelers: CB Nate Wiggins, Clemson
Patrick Peterson and Chandon Sullivan are both free agents in 2024. Pittsburgh will definitely need to draft a corner at some point to go along with Joey Porter. For years the Steelers were content to draft smaller corners, but I suspect a philosophical change happened when Omar Khan took over the front office. Last year they drafted two corners, Porter and Cory Trice, both of them very tall and long. That describes Wiggins as well. His body type reminds me of Sauce Gardner, about 6’2” but thin. Wiggins isn’t nearly as physical as Sauce was, but he’s quite smooth and a good mover at his size. If there’s a prototypical lockdown corner in this draft it very well might be Wiggins.
Seattle Seahawks: LB Barrett Carter, Clemson
Until the Seahawks add more linebackers I have to mock one to them. They simply do not have anyone under contract for 2024 at this point. Carter is probably going to be the top LB off the board this year, but I could see his teammate Jeremiah Trotter getting in the mix as well. Carter looks like the faster, more explosive of the two and is excellent in pass coverage. Looks like he might have a little Fred Warner in him.
Cleveland Browns: WR Xavier Worthy, Texas
The Browns could go for just about any position but we’ll give them a receiver for now even though they’ve spent a lot of resources on the position the past few years. Worthy is a track star but also a very good football player. He’s being held back by the Ewers and the offense in my opinion. He will help continue the transition to a more open, dynamic offense in Cleveland.
Miami Dolphins: DT Leonard Taylor, Miami
Miami needs help on defense so we’ll give them a young, disruptive defensive tackle. In my short preview I actually prefer Taylor to Newton. We’ll see if the mainstream eventually agrees. Miami does have Christian Wilkins and signed Zach Sieler on a multi-year contract so I’m not sure they’ll be looking for another tackle though.
Dallas Cowboys: OT Tyler Guyton, Oklahoma
Once again the Cowboys need offensive line help. I swear they pour more resources into the position than just about any team and yet they always seem to need more despite having a quality group. It’s strange. Regardless, I have them dipping back into the well here. Guyton reminds me a little of current Cowboy Tyler Smith, big guys that move bodies in the run game but can struggle in space against quicker pass rushers.
Jacksonville Jaguars: CB Quinyon Mitchell, Toledo
Mitchell isn’t on the 1st round radar for many yet, but he will be. If there’s going to be a surprise small school riser that goes much higher than expected, Mitchell is on the short list for it. Good size, fast, strong, sticky, quick feet to mirror, and extremely productive. There’s a very good chance he’ll be my top corner before we’re done.
Detroit Lions: WR Rome Odunze, Washington
Yet another one where a player is up for free agency and might not be back, Josh Reynolds could be replaced in Detroit next year. He’s a quintessential Dan Campbell pick, big, competitive, productive, and quite frankly his best comp might be Josh Reynolds so that makes it easy.
Baltimore Ravens: CB Kalen King, Penn St
The past few years Baltimore has constantly drafted players that were “falling” from whatever the mainstream expected. King is currently projected to go much higher but he’s small and got beaten on tape a few times from what I saw. Baltimore needs a corner so it’s a perfect match when King tumbles farther than what the media expected.
Philadelphia Eagles: OT Kingsley Suamataia, BYU
The Eagles spend more draft picks on their offensive and defensive lines than most anyone in football, and even though they don’t need a starting tackle right this second, they will soon. Lane Johnson is getting older and they need depth anyways. Suamataia is a freak athlete but still needs to clean up some technique issues. He’s just the kind of high upside developmental pick the Eagles love to make.
Kansas City Chiefs: WR Tony Franklin, Oregon
Kansas City has been spending a lot of picks trying to find a #1 receiver to replace Tyreek Hill, but it still hasn’t happened. Skyy Moore isn’t very good and Rashee Rice is just ok. Do they shoot yet another shot in 2024? Maybe. Franklin is a tall and thin but very smooth and confident in his skills. He reminds me of a less aggressive George Pickens. Perhaps he’ll finally fill Tyreek’s shoes and become the top option for Mahomes.
San Francisco 49ers: OT Jordan Morgan, Arizona
All the offensive line picks SF has made in recent years have been disappointments, but the scheme won’t continue to protect them. They need more talent, specifically at right tackle. They would love to get someone that can eventually replace Trent Williams as well. Jordan Morgan isn’t getting the hype some of the other tackles are, but I could absolutely see him ultimately being the best of the bunch. He is a very smooth mover for his size and makes it look way too easy at times. There are some inconsistencies to iron out, but he has all the potential in the world.
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