2024 NFL Mock Draft: Trades shake up Round 1; QBs, WRs dominate early – The Athletic

Dane BruglerMar 5, 2024

After a week at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, we are left with information overload. The next step is scrubbing the testing data, workout notes and late-night rumors to figure out how it all will affect the picks on NFL Draft weekend.

Trades shake up the first round every year, and 2024 won’t be an exception. For this mock draft, I wanted to include seven realistic trades — several of them in the top 10 — which would create a domino effect for the rest of the first round.

With a little less than two months until the draft, there is still plenty that will change. But given what we know right now and what I heard while in Indianapolis, here is an updated look at Round 1 (plus a couple picks in Round 2):

(Note: An asterisk indicates a proposed trade for the purposes of this mock.)

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1. Chicago Bears (from CAR): Caleb Williams, QB, USC

While this isn’t a done deal, I didn’t talk to anyone at the combine who believes this won’t happen. An intriguing scenario would be if the Commanders try to make a move up to No. 1 to bring Williams back home — that possibility came up a few times during my conversations in Indianapolis. And if the Bears have similar grades on multiple quarterbacks, a move down might make sense for them.

But with what we know right now, Williams to Chicago is the expected final outcome.

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2. Washington Commanders: Drake Maye, QB, North Carolina

From team to team, there is split opinion on how to rank the projected top three quarterbacks. With Williams already off the board, would Washington general manager Adam Peters prefer Maye or Jayden Daniels?

Peters, head coach Dan Quinn, offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury and quarterback coach Tavita Pritchard sat down with both Maye and Daniels at the combine, the latest step in their process. Peters has said that getting the “person” right is the key to nailing this pick — and that fact-finding mission is still ongoing.

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3. Atlanta Falcons (from NE)*: Jayden Daniels, QB, LSU

Projected trade: Falcons send No. 8, No. 43 and a 2025 first-round pick to the Patriots for No. 3

After years in salary-cap hell, would the Falcons be open to throwing a massive check at Kirk Cousins? Many in the league believe so, which speaks to Atlanta’s craving to upgrade at quarterback. But if Cousins elects to stay in Minnesota, the Falcons trading up to No. 3 feels like the next likeliest option.

Owner Arthur Blank once signed off on a trade that surrendered a massive haul of draft picks to jump up for a wide receiver (Julio Jones). He won’t hesitate to do it again if it means landing the upgrade at quarterback his franchise has been coveting. Is Daniels that guy? It’s a strong possibility.

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

Harrison has been mocked to the Cardinals incessantly since the moment last year’s draft ended — and part of me would like to swap in LSU’s Malik Nabers or Washington’s Rome Odunze for the sake of switching things up. But even without testing data, Harrison remains the favorite to be the first non-quarterback drafted.

5. Chicago Bears (from LAC)*: Rome Odunze, WR, Washington

Projected trade: Bears send No. 9, No. 75 and a 2025 fourth-rounder to the Chargers for No. 5

All right, now we’re cooking. The Chargers want to move back and add more picks as Jim Harbaugh rebuilds the roster to fit his vision.

For the Bears, fortune favors the bold. None of the top three receivers are falling to No. 9, and this is a relatively low price to pay for an impact pass catcher who will help win games from Day 1. Only GM Ryan Poles knows which receiver he would prefer in this scenario, but a popular theory to emerge from combine buzz was that a Bears-Odunze pairing might be the best fit in the draft.

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

General manager Joe Schoen won’t be able to hide his smile if Nabers is still available at No. 6. Regardless of who’s playing quarterback for the Giants, this offense drastically needs a true X receiver who changes how defenses game plan against it. Nabers is that, and more.

7. Minnesota Vikings (from TEN)*: J.J. McCarthy, QB, Michigan

Projected trade: Vikings send No. 11, No. 109 and a 2025 second-rounder to the Titans for No. 7

Bringing back Cousins and drafting McCarthy is the ideal outcome for the Vikings, as that would bridge the short-term with the long-term at the roster’s most important position. But with Denver, Las Vegas, New Orleans and maybe a few other teams potentially in the McCarthy market, it might require a trade up for Minnesota to nab the Michigan quarterback.

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8. New England Patriots (from ATL)*: Joe Alt, OT, Notre Dame

The Patriots have an obvious need at quarterback, but they have a ton of needs in general. And one league source told me that de facto general manager Eliot Wolf “wants to stockpile draft picks.” Not only would the Patriots add a haul of draft capital in a trade back, but in this scenario, they’re still getting a really talented prospect. Alt met with New England offensive line coach Scott Peters at the combine, and he would answer a pivotal need for the offense.

New England doesn’t address its quarterback need in the first round here. But let’s say the Patriots trade a third-rounder (No. 68) to the Bears for Justin Fields — that would give them a potentially cheaper (and more exciting) “let’s see if it works” plan as they build up the roster. They still would have two second-rounders this year and two first-rounders next year, which would allow Wolf to upgrade several positions.

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9. Los Angeles Chargers (from CHI)*: Taliese Fuaga, OT, Oregon State

Odunze to the Bears and this pick are my two favorite fits in the mock. It is no secret that Harbaugh wants to invest in the trenches so his rushing attack can be the backbone of the offense. Fuaga is an ass-kicker in the run game and a natural right tackle, making him a perfect complement for All-Pro left tackle Rashawn Slater.

10. New York Jets: Olu Fashanu, OT, Penn State

The Jets don’t have a left tackle currently on the roster, and the free-agent options will be lean.

Fashanu needs to continue improving as a run blocker, but he is outstanding in pass protection because of his footwork and body control. A rookie having to protect Aaron Rodgers’ blindside wouldn’t be ideal, but it might be the most realistic scenario.

11. Tennessee Titans (from MIN)*: JC Latham, OT, Alabama

If the Titans target offensive tackle in Round 1, they might feel comfortable trading back and adding picks because of the volume of options at the position. Latham didn’t test at the combine, but the 342-pounder looked outstanding in positional drills.

12. Denver Broncos: Brock Bowers, TE, Georgia

Talking with team sources at the combine about Bowers, they were effusive in their praise for the Georgia tight end — but all agreed his landing spot in the first round was tough to peg. One scout suggested the Broncos as a dark-horse possibility, which makes sense with Denver wanting to add more impact players on offense.

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As for quarterback, it is tough to figure out exactly what the Broncos’ plan will be if they’re unable to trade up for one of the top four QB prospects. One trade I almost proposed here had the Broncos moving back and selecting Bo Nix later in Round 1.

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

No defensive players in the top 12? The first defensive player selected is a MAC prospect? Neither outcome is crazy. Mitchell checks every box — tape, production, all-star game and now combine testing (including a 4.33-second 40-yard dash).

14. New Orleans Saints: Dallas Turner, Edge, Alabama

This match feels too easy. Turner isn’t quite Micah Parsons, but he can be used in a similar way with his ability to drop, rush from different angles or be an impact player versus the run. He would instantly upgrade New Orleans’ front seven.

15. Indianapolis Colts: Brian Thomas Jr., WR, LSU

Although the Colts have made it clear that Michael Pittman Jr. isn’t going anywhere, they’ll be looking for ways to upgrade on the outside for QB Anthony Richardson. At 6-foot-3 and 209 pounds, Thomas is a premier athlete (4.33 40-yard dash) and a better route runner than most think.

16. Pittsburgh Steelers (from SEA)*: Amarius Mims, OT, Georgia

Projected trade: Steelers send No. 20 and No. 84 to the Seahawks for No. 16 and No. 151

Déjà vu here with the Steelers trading up in Round 1 for a Georgia offensive tackle. (Pittsburgh moved from No. 17 to No. 14 to select Broderick Jones last year).

At 6-8, 340, Mims is the most fascinating player in the draft, because of his special traits. The body of work (eight starts) might not be there, but if he had a deeper resume, a team like the Steelers wouldn’t have a shot to get him this late.

17. Philadelphia Eagles (from JAX)*: Terrion Arnold, CB, Alabama

Projected trade: Eagles send No. 22, No. 97 and a 2025 fourth-round pick to the Jaguars for No. 17

Another perfect match in terms of need and fit, the Eagles move up here to nab Arnold. Head coach Nick Sirianni talks about his players competing with a “dog mentality,” and that might be the No. 1 trait that sticks out in Arnold’s game. He dominated during DB drills at the combine.

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18. Cincinnati Bengals: Byron Murphy II, DT, Texas

Right tackle feels like the most likely option for the Bengals, but — as happened here with five OTs off the board early — what happens if their targeted options get wiped out? I think the focus then would shift to defensive tackle, and Murphy would be a great fit for what Cincinnati likes at the position. He is terrific against the run and relentless to the quarterback.

19. Los Angeles Rams: Jared Verse, Edge, Florida State

Two years after missing out on a trade for Brian Burns, the Rams could turn to a different former Seminoles pass rusher. Verse is a power-based defender who competes with the energy that would make him an easy sell in the Rams’ war room.

20. Seattle Seahawks (from PIT)*: Jackson Powers-Johnson, G/C, Oregon

Since John Schneider took over as Seahawks general manager, 40 percent of his first-round picks have been offensive linemen. You could argue that center has never been a position he has targeted early in the draft, but Powers-Johnson has true center-guard versatility and the talent to quickly become the top offensive lineman on the roster.

21. Miami Dolphins: Troy Fautanu, G/OT, Washington

I find it hard to believe that Fautanu will fall out of the top 20 — he is too talented and well-liked around the league. But he lands at No. 21 in this scenario, and the Dolphins wouldn’t be mad to see it.

Can Fautanu stay at tackle in the NFL? Absolutely. But he also can be a really good plug-and-play guard, and that is likely where he would start in Miami.

22. Jacksonville Jaguars (from PHI)*: Nate Wiggins, CB, Clemson

Yes, Wiggins turned some heads with his 4.28 40-yard dash, but scouts also bring up another number with him — 173 pounds. Several teams simply will not draft a sub-175-pounder in the top 25, while others will be able to overlook his light frame (like the Commanders did last year with Emmanuel Forbes).

I think the Jaguars would feel great in this scenario, adding two extra picks by trading back and still getting a talent like Wiggins.

23. Houston Texans (from CLE): Laiatu Latu, Edge, UCLA

Latu will be a Round 1 wild card, because of his medicals and his good, but not great, athletic profile. However, the Texans and general manager Nic Caserio have been comfortable rolling the dice on medical risks in the past, and they value tape over testing when it comes to draft picks. Given the way he competes, Latu feels like DeMeco Ryans’ type of guy.

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24. Buffalo Bills (from DAL)*: Adonai Mitchell, WR, Texas

Projected trade: Bills send No. 28 and No. 99 to the Cowboys for No. 24 and No. 213

I am not 100 percent sold on Mitchell being a culture fit for Buffalo.

General manager Brandon Beane wants super competitive players, and Mitchell showed flashes of that, along with the talent to become a top-15 receiver in the NFL. Based on talent and skill level, Mitchell would be an upgrade at receiver — but how he interviews will determine everything. Beane will never be shy trading up for a player he thinks can be a difference-maker.

25. Green Bay Packers: Cooper DeJean, CB, Iowa

Matching the Packers and DeJean is very unoriginal, I know, but I’m mocking what makes sense more than going for hot takes. The “is DeJean a safety or a corner” discord is overplayed, because he can legitimately play both spots. He is the best run-defending defensive back in the class, too, and has the athleticism to cover in space.

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26. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Graham Barton, G/C, Duke

Like Fautanu, Barton is another prospect with a near-universal approval rating among NFL teams. He is athletic, strong and a charged-up competitor — and would be getting more buzz had he not been sidelined by an injury. Teams project him as an interior offensive lineman, an area Tampa Bay could be looking to upgrade.

27. Arizona Cardinals (from HOU): Darius Robinson, DL, Missouri

The Cardinals want to address edge rusher and defensive tackle this offseason — and Robinson can help in both areas. Arizona coach Jonathan Gannon would really appreciate Robinson’s versatility and violence.

28. Dallas Cowboys (from BUF)*: Tyler Guyton, OT, Oklahoma

Fourteen years ago, the Cowboys drafted an athletic right tackle in Round 1 and kicked him to the left side. That, of course, was Tyron Smith, who appears to have played his final game in a Dallas uniform. This feels like a possible passing of the torch.

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Built in a similar mold, Guyton isn’t quite as freaky, but the college right tackle has dynamic ability and his best football is ahead of him — possibly at left tackle.

29. Detroit Lions: Chop Robinson, Edge, Penn State

From the Nittany Lions to the Detroit Lions for Robinson. This pick came down to Johnny Newton or Robinson — and though I think Newton might be the better profile fit, the Lions also want to get more explosive on the edges. They went against the grain in the first round last year, and I can’t wait to see how they attack it in 2024.

30. Carolina Panthers (from BAL)*: Ladd McConkey, WR, Georgia

Projected trade: Panthers send No. 33 and No. 141 to the Ravens for No. 30

The Panthers have to get better on the offensive line, but they also have to add weapons who can get open and give Bryce Young a target. McConkey, who can play both inside and outside, is arguably the best in this draft class at creating space with his crisp route running and electric speed/quickness.

In this scenario, Carolina doesn’t let the Chiefs snatch up McConkey. First-year general manager Dan Morgan moves up and gets his guy.

31. San Francisco 49ers: Jordan Morgan, OT/G, Arizona

The eighth offensive tackle taken in this mock, Morgan is an ideal scheme fit for San Francisco. But he also makes timeline sense, because he offers versatility on the line despite having only played left tackle in college. Morgan can help fill in at guard or right tackle right away and potentially be the long-term plan on the left side whenever Trent Williams decides to hang ‘em up.

32. Kansas City Chiefs: Xavier Worthy, WR, Texas

Oh sure, the fastest man in combine history falls to the back-to-back Super Bowl champs. Worthy will be a really interesting test case, because the speed is special and it shows up on tape, but he was 165 pounds at the combine — and that number will scare off some teams. However, if he lasts all the way to pick No. 32, Red Raiders (like QB Patrick Mahomes) and Longhorns will learn to get along in Kansas City.

Teams without a Round 1 pick

33. Baltimore Ravens (from CAR)*: Kingsley Suamataia, OT, BYU

The Ravens moved back three spots and still got the player they would have targeted at 30. With his youth, size and versatility, Suamataia checks several boxes that general manager Eric DeCosta values in early picks. The BYU product offers experience and upside at both left and right tackle.

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54. Cleveland Browns: Ricky Pearsall, WR, Florida

I miss mocking for the Browns in the first round, so hopefully this is the last year they’ll have to wait until mid-Round 2.

Cleveland will be looking at defensive tackle and offensive tackle here, as well as wide receiver — and it might come down to who’s left for them among their true second-round grades. Pearsall is a dependable target with his route quickness and Velcro-like hands.

(Illustration: Dan Goldfarb / The Athletic; Photos of Byron Murphy II, J.J. McCarthy and Dallas Turner: Chris Leduc / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images, Ryan Kang / Getty Images)

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Dane Brugler is a national NFL writer for The Athletic covering the NFL Draft. He previously covered the NFL Draft for NFL Draft Scout and CBS Sports. Follow Dane on Twitter @DPBrugler

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