1. Chicago Bears (from CAR): QB Caleb Williams (USC)
With Carolina finishing with the worst record in football, the No. 1 will pick will be headed to Chicago. And, it seems like Justin Fields could be pushed aside for a new QB. Caleb Williams is simply too talented of a player to pass up here. Among the QBs coming out of the draft over the last decade, Williams looks like one of the best bets to be a franchise signal-caller.
Aside from the clear charisma he plays with, the skill set is supremely gifted. Williams gets terrific velocity on his throws — both from inside and outside the pocket. His improvisational skills are special yet calculated. Williams won’t be reckless with the football. A strong, bulky frame enables him to break tackles — and the feel inside the pocket Williams possesses is insanely good for a player his age.
2. Washington Commanders: QB Drake Maye (North Carolina)
Maye is generally considered to be the second-best quarterback in this class. Maye comes from a system that accentuates his strengths. He’s a big guy at 6-foot-5 with plus throwing power. Maye can run decently well with the football — though his bread-and-butter exists when pumping the ball downfield. The only real knock on him could be sitting with spotty footwork. With a little bit of extra polish, you’re looking at a potential Pro Bowler down the line.
Sam Howell is clearly not the answer. Washington needs a franchise-level talent to help get the team out of the NFC East cellar. Maye would not only give the Commanders a much-needed jolt from an ability standpoint, but he’d also get some buzz back in Washington. New head coach Dan Quinn has to hit here for the Commanders to have any chance at being competitive in the division moving forward.
3. New England Patriots: QB Jayden Daniels (LSU)
The Arizona State transfer took College Football by storm this year. Under the guidance of Brian Kelly, Daniels exploded. The Southern California native demonstrated improved refinement in his ability to deliver the ball downfield. His dual-threat skills were also on full display — as Daniels ran for 1,134 yards and 10 touchdowns (8.5 yards per carry). Daniels also took care of the ball, evidenced by throwing for 40 TDs to only 4 INTs.
Mac Jones did not work out, and there’s a massive absence of high-level talent on this team. It needs a galvanizing force to not only give New England some hope but also as a way to help Jerod Mayo transition into becoming the team’s head coach. Daniels’ ability to make plays with both his arm and feet is too tantalizing to pass up at this point.
4. Arizona Cardinals: OL Olu Fashanu (Penn State)
Fashanu is a fantastic athlete — laterally quick and fiercely competitive on the edge. His gigantic wingspan gives him a real chance to become a lockdown left tackle. Teams are salivating over his ability to play until he hears the whistle. Fashanu’s motor is not a question at the very least.
Arizona truly does need help everywhere. With that said, the offensive line this year has been truly abysmal. It’s easily one of the worst units in the league when it comes to pass protection. Fashanu would slot into the LT slot immediately with the ceiling of a guy who will be a perennial Pro Bowler. It’s not a sexy pick, but it’s the right one.
5. Los Angeles Chargers: DL Laiatu Latu (UCLA)
Over the last two years, you could make a strong case that Laiatu Latu has been the best pass rusher in the country. There are a few elements that swirl together to fortify the claim. For one, he’s got a terrific bend off the edge. Formerly a rugby player, Latu plays the game with both aggression and violence. He’s not a lumbering type, but rather a light-on-his-feet player with tremendous coordination.
Joey Bosa has been battling injuries for a while, and Khalil Mack will turn 33 next year. LA also plays in a division with some guy named Patrick Mahomes. As such, the Chargers would do well to nab the draft’s best edge rusher — especially since he plays in LA’s backyard with the Bruins. When further accounting for his character and leadership qualities, Latu should be an immediate impact guy from Day 1.
6. New York Giants: WR Marvin Harrison Jr.
The way the NFL is trending, adding a legit No. 1 receiver seems like the smart thing to do. Harrison has the pedigree — both from his father and Ohio State — to be one of the league’s best receivers. He fits the mold as a long, lengthy freak athlete who can make plays over the top and also in traffic. Harrison has great ball skills, competes super hard, and ultimately has the physical profile few can match. If he’s as good as people think he’ll be, you could be looking at a player who could elevate the future Giants QB to that next level.
While this isn’t a must-need pick for the Giants, you simply cannot pass up a player as talented as Harrison if he were to fall into your lap. It also wouldn’t be shocking to see other teams try and engage both LA/Arizona in trades as a means to jump up and nab the receiver.
7. Tennessee Titans: TE Brock Bowers (Georgia)
When you dominate the SEC as a true freshman and then again as a true sophomore, you’re doing something right. Hailing from Napa of all places, Georgia’s tight end/H-Back is a walking mismatch. The physicality Bowers plays with is simply too much for corners and safeties. When linebackers try to check him, Bowers utilizes route-running skills, quickness, and an ability to garner separation when making big play after big play.
Oh — and the toughness Bowers plays with is further amplified by having a terrific set of hands. The Titans would love nabbing him here, where Bowers can be employed in several different ways. Line him up in the slot, in the backfield, or even in the perimeter… the man can do it all. He’d be another excellent target and foundational piece for Tennessee (and specifically Will Levis).
8. Atlanta Falcons: DT Jer’Zhan Newton (Illinois)
Newton isn’t a run-stuffing type of defensive tackle. He weighs approximately 290-295 pounds, which would put him on the smaller size of things comparatively speaking. With that said, he more than makes up for it as a quick, disruptive force. His motor simply does not stop. Newton is a beast against the pass, where he can unleash strong technique involving hand placement and leverage. For quite a while, the Bengals had a defensive tackle demonstrating many of these traits…
….his name was Geno Atkins.
9. Chicago Bears: OT Joe Alt (Notre Dame)
Keep your future QB upright. We’ve often seen once-promising quarterbacks with careers ending prematurely due to constantly taking hits. As such, Alt could be a very good selection. His dad was a former first-round pick/multi-time Pro Bowler with the Chiefs. At 6-foot-8 and north of 320 pounds himself, Alt is a much better athlete than would be assumed.
His kick-out in pass protection is quite good. The strength generated from his lower body enables Alt to disengage with defenders via a powerful initial punch. The athletic ability here is very good (especially when moving in space). The fact Alt comes from a school known for producing high-level offensive linemen is also a positive in the +/- column. Chicago would love to add him from right down the road in South Bend. Alt, along with 2023 first-round pick Darnell Wright, would give the Bears bookend tackles to build their offensive identity around.
10. New York Jets: WR Malik Nabers (LSU)
The Jets have gone all in on Aaron Rodgers. With Alt and Fashanu off the board, New York has to placate their aging QB somehow. With Garrett Wilson in need of a partner-in-crime, it would make some sense for the Jets to opt for Nabers.
Nabers has arguably been the best receiver in the SEC this year. A big and physical guy, he also possesses some real playmaking ability downfield. He garners separation at a high level, and he’s proven to be a big-time competitor versus elite talent in a big-time conference. Pairing Nabers with Wilson gives the Jets a potent perimeter punch.
11. Minnesota Vikings: EDGE Dallas Turner (Alabama)
Danielle Hunter will be a free agent at the end of this year. He also approaching 30, an age where pass rushers tend to drop off a bit. A possible replacement falls in our mock probably a bit later than anyone would expect. Dallas Turner is a versatile athlete with the ability to play standing up, but also with his hand in the dirt. Turner finished the regular season with 8.0 sacks and 12.5 tackles-for-loss (both career highs). In the process, he was named as a Bednarik Award finalist (given to the nation’s best defender). Brian Flores will love this guy.
12. Denver Broncos: QB J.J. McCarthy (Michigan)
Russell Wilson is unlikely to return after he was benched to end the season. Sean Payton will get his quarterback of the future here. McCarthy is an accurate thrower of the football with decent athleticism. He’ll also come to Denver as a polished signal-caller having played in a pro-style system under former NFL player/coach Jim Harbaugh. This seems like a slam-dunk selection for the Broncos. Payton gets a big-armed QB who can usher in a new era in Denver. Oregon’s Box Nix could also be in play here as an option.
13. Las Vegas Raiders: QB Michael Penix (Washington)
Jimmy Garoppolo likely won’t be the Raiders’ quarterback for much longer. Concerning Aidan O’Connell, he’s also not the long-term answer for this franchise. In a draft loaded with talented signal-callers, it would behoove Las Vegas to nab one.
Enter Penix — an exceptionally accurate quarterback with some of the best deep ball skills of any thrower in the class. While there are some concerns over injuries and age, he’s proven consistently to be excellent in stretching the field vertically. Penix seems to always have the right amount of loft and touch on his throws. Without a doubt, he’d be an immediate upgrade over what the franchise currently has. Antonio Pierce tabbed Kliff Kingsbury as the team’s new OC. With Penix’s accuracy on both throws over the top and in terms of moving the chains, he appears to be a clean fit in Kingsbury’s scheme.
14. New Orleans Saints: QB Bo Nix (Oregon)
Nix had an absurd season in Eugene. The veteran signal-caller has a 45:3 TD-to-INT ratio along with a 77.4 completion percentage. As has been a theme throughout this piece, the Saints are another team needing a long-term QB on its roster. Derek Carr is merely a temporary solution until something better comes along.
A player with tons of experience at the collegiate level, Nix can come in right away and start. He’s supremely accurate and is also a plus athlete. Imagine Mitch Trubisky with real accuracy, and you’ve likely got a top-15 QB in the NFL already. Nix might end up being a real steal when it’s all said and done.
15. Indianapolis Colts: WR Rome Odunze (Washington)
The arrival of Odunze would take a lot of pressure off Richardson. In the process, you’d be keeping the signal-caller happy at the same time. Odunze has been elite this year — hauling in 92 catches for 1,640 yards and 13 TDs. His route-running ability is exquisite, and size-wise (6’3″, 215 pounds) he’d offer a nice alternative to what the Colts already have at the position.
16. Seattle Seahawks: DL Jared Verse (Florida State)
Verse falling to the Seahawks would be a fortuitous turn of events. We know new head coach Mike Macdonald loves his defensive players, and Verse is a guy with a great first step off the edge. He’s developed into one of the best defensive linemen in the ACC since transferring in from Albany. In two years in Tallahassee, Verse thus far has racked up a combined 26.5 tackles-for-loss and 16.0 sacks. Pass rushers are at a premium, especially in a conference including Jalen Hurts, Brock Purdy, Kyler Murray, and others.
17. Jacksonville Jaguars: DB Kamari Lassiter (Georgia)
Yet another Georgia defender. This time, a defensive back in the form of the uber-physical Kamari Lassiter. While Lassiter might not match up physically with some of the other top DBs in the pool (he needs to get stronger), he’s arguably the class’s best run-support corner. And, as we’ve seen over the years, corners that are willing to mix it up in the run game are at a premium. Jacksonville needs help in its secondary and would do well to nab an SEC-tested high-level defender here.
18. Cincinnati Bengals: OL Amarius Mims (Georgia)
Mims is a mauler. He engulfs defensive linemen with a massive frame, quick feet, and powerful hands. He looks like a prototype NFL lineman ready to step in right away and help Cincinnati win. More than anything, the stud right tackle will be put into a position to help protect Cincinnati’s most valuable asset, QB Joe Burrow. With Burrow racking up some injuries over the last few years, the Bengals need to do a better job of protecting him at all costs. It also helps that Mims hails from such a terrific college program.
19. Los Angeles Rams: DB Kalen King (Penn State)
Kalen King is looking to be the next Penn State defensive back to be drafted early. He saw his teammate Joey Porter Jr. selected in the second round of the 2023 NFL Draft, and King has a chance to sneak into the first round. With Porter Jr. on the opposite side last year, teams often opted to throw King’s way. He collected three interceptions last year and defended 15 passes. This year as a junior, King was one of the Big Ten’s best corners. With the way defenses are forced to play in today’s NFL, defensive backs with top-notch ball skills are highly valuable. King would be the playmaker the Rams desperately need at the cornerback spot.
20. Pittsburgh Steelers: DB Nate Wiggins (Clemson)
A player bursting with natural ability, Wiggins is quite good at flipping his hips and turning in coverage without losing much momentum. Pittsburgh would love to add to its trove of young, talented defenders. Locking down another corner spot with Wiggins gives the Steelers some much-needed playmaking on the back end — something essential when going up against the likes of Mahomes, Burrow, Jackson, Lawrence, Watson, Stroud, Richardson, Herbert, and others in the vaunted AFC.
21. Miami Dolphins: DL Chop Robinson (Penn State)
Miami could certainly use some defensive help. Robinson is a quick-twitch edge rusher. Playing at Penn State, he followed in the footsteps of many elite defensive linemen before him. There’s a polish to Robinson’s game which should enable him to contribute from the jump. Plus — having a defensive lineman with the name ‘Chop’ sounds like a good idea. With Jaelan Phillips and Bradley Chubb recovering from significant injuries, Miami needs help rushing the passer.
22. Philadelphia Eagles: DL Gabriel Murphy (UCLA)
Laiatu Latu got much of the attention for UCLA this past year. However, he wasn’t the only reason as to why the Bruins perhaps had the best defensive line in the country. Gabriel Murphy — identical twin of teammate/fellow defensive end Grayson Murphy — was fantastic this past year. He was second on the team in sacks (8.0) and tackles-for-loss (16.0). There were some discipline issues on the field with Murphy. At times he got a little too amped up and thus got called for combinations of offsides penalties or late hits. However, there’s no questioning Murphy’s short-area quickness. He’s a big, physical, aggressive player with terrific pressuring skills.
23. Houston Texans (from CLE): DL Byron Murphy (Texas)
DeMeco Ryans is a defensive-minded coach. As such, according to the philosophy he instilled previously with the San Francisco 49ers, you can never have enough quality defensive linemen. Murphy II emerged this year as a first-time starter for the Longhorns. The junior isn’t the biggest defensive tackle in the world. With that said, he’s terrific at the point of attack and often uses his quickness to get into the backfield. His disruptive nature also comes from excelling with his leverage versus offensive guards. Murphy II could be a fast riser based on how he tests. If you’re looking for an NFL comparison, think former Cincinnati Pro Bowler Geno Atkins.
24. Dallas Cowboys: OT Tyler Guyton (Oklahoma)
With the status of Tyron Smith going forward a major question mark, taking a younger guy with the potential to be his replacement seems like the prudent thing to do. Guyton is a massive athlete and one with some truly impressive physical tools. He’s the type of guy that seems to be a total Dallas pick. Aside from the obvious links to Oklahoma, Guyton still hasn’t tapped into the best football of his career yet. With some further development, you could be looking at a future multi-time Pro Bowler.
25. Green Bay Packers: OL J.C. Latham (Alabama)
The big elephant in the room is David Bakhtiari. Despite being one of the league’s best linemen when healthy, a plethora of injuries have hindered his ability to stay on the field. As he approaches age 33, the Packers face the real possibility of looking for a credible replacement. Latham is one of the better tackles in the draft. He’s a monster in the run game and has some tremendous athleticism for a guy his size. Additionally, he’s more than battle-tested having gone up against Dallas Turner every day in practice, as well as the other elite edge rushers found in SEC country.
26. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: CB Kool-Aid McKinstry (Alabama)
Kool-Aid probably has the coolest name of anyone in the draft. For his specific position group, he also probably benefits from garnering tutelage from the best secondary brain in the business. Of course, we’re talking about Nick Saban. Over the years, plenty of Alabama secondary players have gone on to not only become high-round draft choices but also perform well at the next level.
McKinstry has terrific size for the position at 6-foot-1 and nearly 190 pounds. He can flip his hips with the best of them when backtracking in coverage and has proven to demonstrate some very solid ball skills. Deep-field speed also isn’t a problem — particularly when McKinstry breaks on throws to the perimeter. We’d have to say he’s also quite proficient whether in a zone look or pressing at the line of scrimmage. Defensive-minded Head Coach Todd Bowles will love having the ability to coach this elite athlete.
27. Arizona Cardinals (from HOU): DB Cooper DeJean (Iowa)
Arizona needs playmakers in its defense — plain and simple. DeJean would fit the bill tremendously well here. He was the heart and soul of Iowa’s defense for multiple seasons. Considered among the best defensive backs in the country, DeJean is not only heady and intelligent but a very good athlete. He can play virtually anywhere in the secondary. Due to the supreme coaching he enjoyed under Kirk Ferentz, DeJean’s ability to diagnose plays is quite advanced for a player of his age. He’d be a Day 1 starter for Arizona without question.
28. Buffalo Bills: WR Brian Thomas Jr. (LSU)
The arrival of Thomas Jr. would take a lot of pressure off Stefon Diggs. In the process, you’d be keeping Josh Allen happy at the same time. Thomas Jr. was a terrific second option to Malik Nabers, and has some real game-breaking ability that Allen could tap into. The 6’4″ receiver hauled in 60 passes for 1,079 yards and 15 touchdowns during the regular season for the Bayou Bengals.
29. Detroit Lions: DL Bralen Trice (Washington)
Call this a luxury pick. Detroit’s roster is chock-full of young players playing for eventual second contracts and extensions. At some point, the team will have to make some tough decisions. Jared Goff is under contract for 2024, where his cap hit is north of $31 million. If they opt to let him go, a bunch of space will open up to further disperse throughout the roster. Trice was dominant versus Texas in the College Football Playoff Semifinal. His bend off the edge is excellent, and there’s a gifted skill set featuring hand violence and first-step quickness. Simply put, you can never have enough quality pass rushers.
30. Baltimore Ravens: OT Graham Barton (Duke)
At this stage in the draft, Barton would be the best offensive lineman on the board. He was a three-year starter for Duke. A smart and savvy player, he has the versatility to toggle between both tackle and center. Barton is known for playing with great leverage, and thus he is very good in the run game. Baltimore would do well to get younger along its offensive line. Barton — reportedly a tremendous leader with high character — would be a great value pick at this spot.
31. Kansas City Chiefs: WR Keon Coleman (Florida State)
The worst-kept secret in the league is the fact Kansas City needs receiver help in the most pressing way possible. While no one was expecting to replace Tyreek Hill as a like-for-like substitution, the Chiefs have been woefully bad at the position since his departure. Patrick Mahomes can’t rely solely on an aging Travis Kelce to be essentially the only receiving threat on the roster.
We could look back at this selection the way we now do with Justin Jefferson in his draft. There were other receivers taken before him, yet we now ponder as to why that was the case. Coleman is a freak of an athlete. His hand-eye coordination for a guy 6-foot-4 is fabulous. He’ll move the chains in third-down situations, and will also pop over the top for monster gains downfield. The key thing here for KC is giving Mahomes enough help to truly flourish.
32. San Francisco 49ers: OT Taliese Fuaga (Oregon State)
The right tackle from Oregon State is a perfect fit in San Francisco. For one, Fuaga is a road-grader. He stonewalls rushers at the point of attack by latching on with a pair of gigantically powerful mitts. Fuaga is also a technically sound player, which speaks to the development program in Corvallis which is widely respected by NFL franchises. San Francisco doesn’t have a lot of holes. However, if we’re nitpicking a bit, getting another young tackle with upside should be addressed.