2024 NFL Mock Draft: Sean Payton trades up for QB as 4 go in top 10, but Patriots go in different direction

By Tom Fornelli Feb 9, 2024 at 11:52 am ET • 1 min read

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The Super Bowl will be played in Las Vegas this Sunday, and while millions of Swifties around the world prepare to tune in, the fans and front offices of 30 NFL teams have turned their attention to the offseason and the NFL Draft.

There’s a long way to go between now and the actual draft and plenty more to be learned about what teams will need by the time they all get together in Detroit. I have plenty of work left to do myself. While I watch more college football games than most people on Earth during the season, there’s a vast difference between evaluating a player in college based on his performance and what his team needs and evaluating him as a future NFL prospect. I know plenty about the former, but I’ve barely scratched below the latter’s surface.

I’m keeping things basic for my first mock draft of the year. I only have one trade, and I’m not pushing too far outside the norm here. That will change as the draft approaches, and I’ve formed stronger opinions on players and have heard more from others about what’s likely to happen. That said, there are a few players I’ve snuck into this mock who I have not seen or heard mentioned much as first-rounders, but I’m willing to pound the table for them.

Let’s get to it.

For more draft coverage, you can hear in-depth analysis twice a week on “With the First Pick” — our year-round NFL Draft podcast with NFL Draft analyst Ryan Wilson and former Vikings general manager Rick Spielman. You can find “With the First Pick” wherever you get your podcasts: Apple Podcasts, Spotify, YouTube, etc. Listen to the latest episode below!

NFL Mock DraftRound 1

  From Carolina Panthers Round 1 – Pick 1 Caleb Williams QB USC • Jr • 6’1″ / 215 lbs

Projected Team Chicago PROSPECT RNK 2nd POSITION RNK 1st

The most popular opinion is the Bears will trade Justin Fields and use the first pick on a QB. I believe this to be the most likely scenario, too, but I’m not as sure the pick will be Caleb Williams. Williams is a tremendous prospect capable of making throws few others can. However, many of his flaws are the same ones the Bears have failed to iron out of Justin Fields’ game. Williams has shown an ability to read the entire field already, but he sometimes does so by holding onto the ball for far too long. He gets away with it a lot in college, but he’ll need to make quicker decisions in the NFL.

Round 1 – Pick 2 Drake Maye QB North Carolina • Soph • 6’4″ / 230 lbs

Projected Team Washington PROSPECT RNK 6th POSITION RNK 2nd

It was awkward when Maye and Sam Howell showed up to watch the North Carolina-Duke game together, wasn’t it? Anyway, I like Maye a lot. He has Justin Herbert’s build with Josh Allen’s aggressiveness downfield. He’s also an intelligent runner when it’s time to eject from the pocket. However, while he fires lasers across the field, most of North Carolina’s offense is built around deep throws. Maye needs to improve accuracy and touch on some of the shorter timing routes. All that said, he and Williams are on a tier far above any other QB in this class on my board.

Round 1 – Pick 3 Marvin Harrison Jr. WR Ohio State • Jr • 6’4″ / 205 lbs

Projected Team New England PROSPECT RNK 1st POSITION RNK 1st

I’ve seen Jayden Daniels mocked here a lot, but I’m not nearly as confident he’s somebody who will go this early, even with the premium on QBs. Instead, I have New England adding a receiver in Marvin Harrison, who is as polished and talented as any receiver I’ve seen come out of college in a long time. He has a broader route tree than most college receivers and excellent footwork. It’s almost as if he was mentored by one of the greatest route-runners we’ve ever seen.

Round 1 – Pick 4 Olumuyiwa Fashanu OT Penn State • Jr • 6’6″ / 317 lbs

Projected Team Arizona PROSPECT RNK 3rd POSITION RNK 1st

Fashanu is not a perfect prospect. He can lose his balance and be overpowered when run-blocking. That said, I’m not drafting a left tackle for his run-blocking ability. As a pass-protector, Fashanu is a dream prospect for the position. He has some learning left to do, but Fashanu could be one of the best left tackles in the league for a decade.

Round 1 – Pick 5 Joe Alt OT Notre Dame • Jr • 6’7″ / 322 lbs

Projected Team L.A. Chargers PROSPECT RNK 5th POSITION RNK 2nd

Jim Harbaugh wants tough, physical football teams, and that starts along the line of scrimmage. Brock Bowers or another receiver could be in play here, but I expect the first pick of the Harbaugh era to be on the offensive line. Alt isn’t as polished as Fashanu, but he’s huge, strong, and has great feet. The Chargers have their franchise QB, and Alt could be the franchise LT who protects his blind side.

Round 1 – Pick 6 Malik Nabers WR LSU • Jr • 6’0″ / 200 lbs

Projected Team N.Y. Giants PROSPECT RNK 10th POSITION RNK 3rd

I don’t know who the Giants QB will be a year or two from now, but whomever it is, they’ll be happy to have Malik Nabers to throw to. Nabers doesn’t have the route tree of Marvin Harrison or Rome Odunze, but he’s lightning-fast, has excellent hands, and is just as effective on the outside as in the slot. He’d be the most dangerous offensive weapon on the Giants the moment he stepped into the building.

  Mock Trade from Tennessee Titans Round 1 – Pick 7 J.J. McCarthy QB Michigan • Jr • 6’3″ / 202 lbs

Projected Team Denver PROSPECT RNK 32nd POSITION RNK 5th

My lone trade has Denver jumping in front of Atlanta to get the QB it wants in Michigan’s J.J. McCarthy. McCarthy didn’t throw in college nearly as often as the other QBs in this class, but he’s a tremendous athlete with a strong arm who can throw from multiple arm angles and gets through his progressions quickly. He’s the kind of QB Sean Payton will want to lead the Broncos.

Round 1 – Pick 8 Jayden Daniels QB LSU • Sr • 6’4″ / 210 lbs

Projected Team Atlanta PROSPECT RNK 8th POSITION RNK 3rd

Daniels got my Heisman vote for good reason in 2024, but while he took significant leaps forward as a QB, there are kinks to be ironed out when he moves to the next level. He has excellent accuracy down the field, but it drops off on the shorter throws. He’s also a bit too quick to take off and run, which is hard to blame him for because he’s absolutely electric in the open field. However, Daniels loves nothing more than jumping into tacklers. With his frame, he needs to learn how to get out of bounds or slide. I love the mentality behind it, but that extra yard is rarely worth the risk that comes with it.

Round 1 – Pick 9 Rome Odunze WR Washington • Jr • 6’3″ / 215 lbs

Projected Team Chicago PROSPECT RNK 7th POSITION RNK 2nd

What the Bears do with their second top-10 pick will depend on what they do in free agency, but here I have them pairing their brand new QB with one of the top receivers available. I have Harrison, Nabers, and Odunze as the top tier, but Odunze is slightly on top. He’s a proven winner at all levels of the field, can run every route you ask, and makes contested catches. Everything you need to do to be a successful NFL receiver.

Round 1 – Pick 10 Brock Bowers TE Georgia • Jr • 6’4″ / 240 lbs

Projected Team N.Y. Jets PROSPECT RNK 4th POSITION RNK 1st

Bowers is one of the most talented tweeners to come out in a while. As an in-line blocker, it’s not a question of effort or strength as much as technique. Perhaps he’ll refine it on an NFL roster where he’s not the No. 1 offensive weapon. Even if he doesn’t, he’s a great weapon in the passing game, as he’s a mismatch for most defenders. Put a corner on him, and he can outmuscle them for the ball. Put a linebacker on him, and good luck keeping up with him on the shallow cross.

Round 1 – Pick 11 Dallas Turner EDGE Alabama • Jr • 6’4″ / 252 lbs

Projected Team Minnesota PROSPECT RNK 9th POSITION RNK 1st

I don’t think this is a great class of edge rushers, but Turner is the highest on my board. He can line up in a two-, three- or four-point stance thanks to an explosive first step. He can be overpowered and lose leverage against the run, but I don’t know that there’s a better pure pass-rusher in the class. Might draw a roughing call or two, though.

  Mock Trade from Denver Broncos Round 1 – Pick 12 Terrion Arnold CB Alabama • Soph • 6’0″ / 196 lbs

Projected Team Tennessee PROSPECT RNK 16th POSITION RNK 1st

An all-around defender at the corner spot. Arnold was originally a safety who moved to corner, which shows in his ability to do a bit of everything. He’s smart and can diagnose what an offense is looking to do before the snap, which helps him make aggressive plays on the ball. He’s also strong and fearless enough to be a plus value against the run.

Round 1 – Pick 13 Cooper DeJean CB Iowa • Jr • 6’1″ / 207 lbs

Projected Team Las Vegas PROSPECT RNK 22nd POSITION RNK 4th

I have DeJean below Arnold on my board because I’d be more comfortable with Arnold in the slot and on the outside than I am with DeJean. DeJean is best suited for the outside, and while he’s not as strong in man as he is in zone, he’s capable of playing both well. Also a capable run defender.

Round 1 – Pick 14 JC Latham OT Alabama • Jr • 6’6″ / 360 lbs

Projected Team New Orleans PROSPECT RNK 11th POSITION RNK 3rd

Latham lined up at right tackle for Alabama last season, but I believe he has the ability to play left tackle, too. He has prototypical size and strength mixed with impressive athleticism and quick feet. Latham also has quick, powerful hands, and I sometimes worry he’ll accidentally punch a hole through a defender’s chest.

Round 1 – Pick 15 Nate Wiggins CB Clemson • Jr • 6’2″ / 185 lbs

Projected Team Indianapolis PROSPECT RNK 21st POSITION RNK 3rd

Wiggins could be a perfect fit for Indianapolis’ zone-heavy defense, as he spent most of his time in cover 3 playing for Clemson. He’s also got the ideal build for it, as he’s a tall and long corner on the outside. If I’m going to knock him, he’s not a burner (though he certainly isn’t slow), and he isn’t great against the run, though it isn’t for lack of effort.

Round 1 – Pick 16 Jer’Zhan Newton DL Illinois • Jr • 6’2″ / 295 lbs

Projected Team Seattle PROSPECT RNK 17th POSITION RNK 2nd

As an Illini fan, I’ve been hyping Newton for a few years. He’s a polarizing prospect due to his size, but he’s been one of the most disruptive forces on the interior in college the last couple of years. He uses his size to his advantage by winning the leverage war against his blocker and looks like an MMA fighter with his hands on the interior.

Round 1 – Pick 17 Brian Thomas Jr. WR LSU • Jr • 6’4″ / 205 lbs

Projected Team Jacksonville PROSPECT RNK 27th POSITION RNK 4th

It’s easy to be overlooked when your offense has a Heisman winner at QB and a potential top-10 pick in Malik Nabers alongside you, but don’t sleep on LSU’s No. 2 WR. Thomas isn’t the all-around threat Nabers is, but he’s 6-foot-4 and can fly. He may be the most dangerous deep-ball threat in the class. His ceiling will be determined by how much better he gets running everything else.

Round 1 – Pick 18 Taliese Fuaga OT Oregon State • Jr • 6’6″ / 334 lbs

Projected Team Cincinnati PROSPECT RNK 13th POSITION RNK 4th

Everything the Bengals do should revolve around keeping Joe Burrow upright and on the field. Taliese Fuaga is a big, mean man who is a dominant run blocker at right tackle but also a strong enough pass-blocker for the position. He needs more consistency with his feet, as he is prone to oversetting in pass pro, leaving himself vulnerable to the inside.

Round 1 – Pick 19 Jared Verse EDGE Florida State • Jr • 6’4″ / 260 lbs

Projected Team L.A. Rams PROSPECT RNK 15th POSITION RNK 3rd

I had high hopes for Verse coming off an excellent 2022 season but was mostly underwhelmed by him early in the season. Perhaps he was dealing with an injury because the 2022 version showed up late in the year. He has an arsenal of pass-rush moves, a quick first step and a high motor. He does get swallowed up a bit in the run game, but that’s a common theme with the edge rushers in this class, so I don’t know if it’ll hurt his stock too much.

Round 1 – Pick 20 Kool-Aid McKinstry CB Alabama • Jr • 6’1″ / 195 lbs

Projected Team Pittsburgh PROSPECT RNK 23rd POSITION RNK 5th

I won’t be surprised if the Steelers make a move for a QB in the first round, but based on how this mock went, I have them addressing their second-biggest need. McKinstry strikes me as a Pittsburgh Steeler. They may not want to use a first-rounder on another corner after taking Joey Porter Jr. to start the second round last season, but McKinstry fits what the Steelers like to do.

Round 1 – Pick 21 Amarius Mims OT Georgia • Jr • 6’7″ / 340 lbs

Projected Team Miami PROSPECT RNK 24th POSITION RNK 5th

Mims dealt with nagging injuries for most of the 2024 season that limited his playing time, so it’s possible he’s not a Day 1 starter for the team that drafts him. However, the ability he displayed when on the field is why he shouldn’t fall past the first round. Mims played right tackle for Georgia, but he’s athletic enough and smart enough to play on the left one day.

Round 1 – Pick 22 Quinyon Mitchell CB Toledo • Jr • 6’0″ / 196 lbs

Projected Team Philadelphia PROSPECT RNK 20th POSITION RNK 2nd

Mitchell has been rising up boards the last few weeks due to his performance at the Senior Bowl. He showed good instincts in Mobile, and if you watch his tape at Toledo, he often plays like the pass is intended for him instead of the wide receiver. It’s great when it works, but it can also get him in trouble.

  From Cleveland Browns Round 1 – Pick 23 Laiatu Latu EDGE UCLA • Sr • 6’5″ / 265 lbs

Projected Team Houston PROSPECT RNK 12th POSITION RNK 2nd

I loved what Latu was able to do with the Bruins in 2024, but I’m not as high on his NFL potential as many others. Like the other edge rushers in this class, he struggles at the point of attack in rush defense, and his arms seem shorter than desired, which could cause problems. That said, while I don’t see an elite ceiling for Latu, his motor and an already developed pass-rush skill set mean he should be an effective pass-rusher at the next level, if not an outstanding one.

Round 1 – Pick 24 Jordan Morgan OT Arizona • Sr • 6’5″ / 325 lbs

Projected Team Dallas PROSPECT RNK 61st POSITION RNK 10th

I hope the Cowboys can resist the urge to make a splashy pick here and instead take the pragmatic approach. Tyron Smith is incredible at the left tackle spot, but Dallas needs to upgrade the right tackle position badly, and even though Morgan played LT at Arizona, he’s capable of playing both sides. Plus, Smith is 33 years old. He won’t be at LT forever.

Round 1 – Pick 25 Kamari Lassiter CB Georgia • Jr • 6’0″ / 180 lbs

Projected Team Green Bay PROSPECT RNK 35th POSITION RNK 7th

The Packers could go several different directions in this scenario, and it’d be smart to add Lassiter to their secondary. He’s inconsistent, which is why I won’t be surprised if he slips to Day 2, but Lassiter has the potential to be an All-Pro if he irons out the kinks. He’s fast, changes directions quickly, and is more physical than you might expect, judging by his size.

Round 1 – Pick 26 Chop Robinson EDGE Penn State • Jr • 6’3″ / 254 lbs

Projected Team Tampa Bay PROSPECT RNK 18th POSITION RNK 4th

As I’ve said, I’m not overly high on this class of edge rushers, but if there’s one player flying “under the radar” who might end up being an absolute stud, it’s Chop Robinson. He’s off the ball so quickly that you sometimes think he jumped offsides, he never stops playing, and he can drop into coverage. He has to add more moves to his repertoire, but there’s so much to like and work with here.

  From Houston Texans Round 1 – Pick 27 Chris Braswell EDGE Alabama • Sr • 6’3″ / 255 lbs

Projected Team Arizona PROSPECT RNK 64th POSITION RNK 6th

Braswell doesn’t get the same attention his teammate Dallas Turner does, but he’s a winning player. His lack of length will turn teams off, but he is strong as an ox. Braswell plays with a high motor, and while he’s not going to win any 40-yard dashes, he’s quick enough to beat a tackle off the snap. He’s also a strong player at the point of attack and can set an edge in the run game.

Round 1 – Pick 28 Xavier Legette WR South Carolina • Sr • 6’3″ / 227 lbs

Projected Team Buffalo PROSPECT RNK 50th POSITION RNK 8th

Here’s a player I’m much higher on than the industry consensus. Legette doesn’t have a ton of experience as a one-year starter with South Carolina, but he’s a big body who can win down the field and make contested catches. There’s a lot of learning left to do, but he would immediately fit as a downfield weapon in Buffalo and have the chance to become so much more.

Round 1 – Pick 29 T.J. Tampa CB Iowa State • Sr • 6’2″ / 200 lbs

Projected Team Detroit PROSPECT RNK 114th POSITION RNK 15th

This might not be the ideal fit for Detroit, but whomever the Lions take here, I’d put money on it being a defensive back. As for Tampa, he’s a tall and long corner who is better in zone coverages right now than man. He showed excellent ball skills at Iowa State thanks to his ability to dissect routes quickly.

Round 1 – Pick 30 Byron Murphy II DL Texas • Jr • 6’1″ / 308 lbs

Projected Team Baltimore PROSPECT RNK 14th POSITION RNK 1st

Players who can collapse the pocket and pressure the QB from the interior are a wonderful thing to have, and Murphy is capable of doing it. Like Jer’Zhan Newton, there will be concerns about his size, but Murphy uses that size to his advantage by getting leverage. He possesses a great first step and often shoots the gap before his blocker can get his hands on him.

Round 1 – Pick 31 Troy Franklin WR Oregon • Jr • 6’3″ / 187 lbs

Projected Team Kansas City PROSPECT RNK 51st POSITION RNK 9th

Rashee Rice emerged as a weapon for the Chiefs as the season progressed, but they could use more playmakers at the position. Getting a player like Franklin late in the first would be a steal. He’s not Tyreek Hill, but Franklin can fly and would be the reliable vertical threat Kansas City has missed since Hill left.

Round 1 – Pick 32 Ennis Rakestraw Jr. CB Missouri • Jr • 6’0″ / 188 lbs

Projected Team San Francisco PROSPECT RNK 30th POSITION RNK 6th

I like Rakestraw’s length and versatility. While he played most of his snaps on the outside, Rakestraw spent plenty of time in the slot the last few seasons, but there will be questions about his durability. Rakestraw missed time during the season with a groin injury and suffered a core muscle injury that cost him games at the end of the season and an appearance at the Senior Bowl. Depending on medical evaluations closer to the draft, what he put on tape during his time should warrant being a first-round selection.

The 2024 NFL Draft will take place from April 25-27 in Detroit. More draft coverage can be found at CBSSports.com, including the weekly updated draft order and a regularly available look at the eligible prospects