NFL beat writer mock draft 2024: Trades shake up top 10 picks and QB landscape – The Athletic

By The Athletic NFL Staff and moreFeb 22, 2024

The 2024 NFL Draft is just over two months away, and the jockeying for quarterbacks is just beginning.

Our NFL reporters gathered for a virtual mock draft, with each representing the team they cover. We encouraged writers to trade picks to move up or down as they saw fit, and they weren’t shy. Two teams made trades in the top 10 to grab quarterbacks, as four signal-callers went in the first nine picks, and another team acquired a veteran QB via trade. Here’s how it all shook out:

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

It’s a new era in Chicago. It’s difficult to see the Bears and general manager Ryan Poles passing on a quarterback with the first pick two years in a row. As tempting as it would be to acquire a haul of draft picks, it’s important to highlight and evaluate why Williams would be worth that much draft capital in the first place. Poles will do that. He played an important role in the Chiefs’ draft evaluation of Patrick Mahomes as Kansas City’s college scouting director in 2017. In Williams, the Bears get a QB with rare gifts. They also get to reset their books and project more for the future with a rookie quarterback under contract. — Adam Jahns

Advertisement

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

Whatever noise the rumor mill spits out over the next few weeks, don’t assume the Commanders’ new football leaders have already reached a consensus. Due diligence requires consideration of trading up to secure Williams, a D.C. area native, or moving down — a significant haul would accelerate the current roster “recalibration,” as coach Dan Quinn described it. However, the most likely outcome is choosing between Maye and LSU QB Jayden Daniels. We’ll go with the younger of the two (Maye is 21, Daniels is 23) with the prototypical size (6-foot-4, 230 pounds) and arm talent, and familiarity with a version of the “Air Raid” system new offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury runs. — Ben Standig

3. Atlanta Falcons (from New England): Jayden Daniels, QB, LSU

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

The Falcons tried the patience game at quarterback last time, drafting Desmond Ridder in the third round and convincing themselves that would work. It didn’t. Owner Arthur Blank and CEO Rich McKay say they think this team can win now with a good quarterback. If that’s the case, waiting at No. 8 and leaving the draft telling everyone that you wanted J.J. McCarthy all along is not going to work. The dynamic Daniels is worth the price because of what The Athletic’s Dane Brugler wrote in his most recent Big Board: “Daniels forces opponents to defend him like Lamar Jackson.” — Josh Kendall

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

Had New England stayed at No. 3 and selected Harrison, the Cardinals, who have several needs, would have entertained offers to move back. GM Monti Ossenfort moved back last year and has the draft capital to do so again. But not this time. Not with Harrison still on the board. The Cardinals desperately need playmakers to surround quarterback Kyler Murray, and Harrison is the best in the draft. He provides immediate big-play ability to an offense in need. — Doug Haller

GO DEEPER

2024 NFL Draft Big Board: Who are the top 100 prospects in this year’s class?

5. Los Angeles Chargers: Malik Nabers, WR, LSU

I tried to trade down, but with the top three quarterbacks off the board, I did not get any bites. There is certainly a chance that new head coach Jim Harbaugh will look to take an offensive lineman at this spot. But I was unwilling to pass up the opportunity to draft a blue-chip receiver for Justin Herbert. The Chargers could be forced to move on from Mike Williams for cap reasons. Quentin Johnston, a 2024 first-round pick, had a rough rookie year. Supplying Herbert with weapons will always be a good team-building strategy. — Daniel Popper

Advertisement

6. New York Giants: Rome Odunze, WR, Washington

Despite some chats about moving up to No. 3, nothing materialized and the Giants stuck with the No. 6 pick. Initially, the front office was leaning toward selecting Nabers, who is close behind Harrison on Brugler’s board. Plus, Nabers’ speed was tantalizing to consider next to Darius Slayton, Wan’Dale Robinson and Jalin Hyatt. But with Nabers off the board, the Giants can’t be disappointed with Odunze. He’s got the ability to secure catches in crowded areas and can create explosive plays downfield, which would greatly benefit quarterback Daniel Jones. — Charlotte Carroll

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

The Titans have three strong choices here, including two players capable of fixing their biggest issue: left tackle, which has been a disaster area the past two seasons. Alt is the choice over Penn State’s Olu Fashanu, which might mean choosing a high floor over a high ceiling. But Brugler believes both will play in Pro Bowls, and Alt appears ready right now to step in and stabilize that position — as Taylor Lewan did for nearly a decade. The question is, are the Titans blowing it by passing on Brock Bowers? — Joe Rexrode

8. New England Patriots (from Atlanta): Olu Fashanu, OT, Penn State

Trade: Patriots send No. 68 to Bears for QB Justin Fields

This wasn’t the initial plan. I think the Patriots want a quarterback with the third pick, so I was ready to grab Daniels, which is why I rebuffed early offers from the Giants and Falcons, letting them know it would take a silly trade offer to acquire No. 3. And then, well, a silly offer arrived from the Falcons. So we changed course, netted the Falcons’ first-round pick next year plus a second-round pick this year, and then sent our third-round pick to the Bears for Fields. We used the No. 8 pick to grab Fashanu, who fills a massive need at offensive tackle and can help protect our new quarterback.

The Patriots don’t want this rebuild to last long, and Fields helps that. They can look at this like a two-year audition for Fields to show he’s the franchise quarterback, and if not, they can use that time to build up the roster elsewhere (there are plenty of holes) before drafting a rookie in a couple of years. — Chad Graff

Olu Fashanu did not allow a single sack on 733 career pass blocking snaps in college. (Tommy Gilligan / USA Today)

A fresh start would be best for Fields and the Bears if they select a QB at No. 1. The Bears will look to add at least a second-round pick, because they don’t have one after acquiring defensive end Montez Sweat at the trade deadline. But after the Falcons traded up for their next quarterback, interest in Fields was limited. The fourth pick of the third round will work. — Jahns

GO DEEPER

Bears QB Fields ‘tired’ of hearing trade talk

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

Trade: Broncos send No. 12, No. 76 and a 2025 fourth-round pick to Bears for No. 9

The Broncos appear ready to move on from Russell Wilson before free agency and the draft, leaving the franchise with a massive dead-money charge and another hole at quarterback. In McCarthy, Sean Payton gets a young, cost-controlled QB with a winning pedigree he can build around. If Payton beats Jim Harbaugh in the AFC West with his own QB, it would only be a bonus. — Nick Kosmider

Advertisement

10. New York Jets: Taliese Fuaga, OT, Oregon State

The Jets need at least two new starting offensive linemen, possibly three — and that includes at left tackle. It was tempting to take Bowers here, but the Jets don’t have the luxury of adding a tight end unless GM Joe Douglas addresses all of the O-line needs in free agency. Fuaga is already an expert-level run blocker, and he was a standout at the Senior Bowl. He should be able to slot in as a starter right away and provide an improvement over what the Jets had in 2024. — Zack Rosenblatt

11. Minnesota Vikings: Dallas Turner, Edge, Alabama

The Vikings were willing to move up to snag a quarterback, but the price was too high. The Vikings were also willing to move down to add more premium picks to the holster, but there were few takers. In the end, Turner made too much sense. Minnesota needs defensive talent, and while Texas defensive tackle Byron Murphy II and Florida State defensive end Jared Verse offered intrigue, Turner is the best fit. He’s young. He’s productive. He’s versatile. He’s dogged. Minnesota hasn’t drafted a player on the defensive front in Round 1 since 2013, and it’s time to change that. — Alec Lewis

12. Chicago Bears (from Denver): Jared Verse, Edge, Florida State

The idea of pairing a proven, highly paid defensive end in Sweat with a young, promising rookie is very appealing. In Verse, the Bears get a pass rusher who fits the long, fast and physical profile that coach Matt Eberflus wants for his defensive players. But Verse also plays with the relentless effort and energy that fits the Bears’ no-loafing identity. His rise from the University of Albany to Florida State will resonate with the Bears, too. — Jahns

13. Las Vegas Raiders: Byron Murphy II, DT, Texas

We’re not going to lie to you and say this draft worked out just like we wanted it to, and that we got our guy. We like Murphy fine. He is the best interior pass rusher in the draft, and he is also good against the run. Pit-bull mentality, Gerald McCoy comp, yada, yada, yada. Great value at 13? Probably not. We wanted a quarterback but were unable to top the Falcons’ offer to move up to No. 3. And McCarthy doesn’t float our boat. So we’ll sign a veteran like Kirk Cousins, add impact players in the first two rounds and live to fight another mock draft. We’ll take any questions now … — Vic Tafur and Tashan Reed

14. New Orleans Saints: JC Latham, OT, Alabama

The Saints bombed two years ago when trying to fill their left tackle void by taking Trevor Penning with their second first-rounder in the 2022 NFL Draft. The team benched Penning after his poor play early last season, and that’s where he remains. Andrus Peat (who is a free agent) and/or James Hurst aren’t the long-term answers at left tackle or left guard. Plus, right tackle Ryan Ramczyk is dealing with a knee injury that might never go away. Latham makes too much sense given the numerous OL question marks. — Larry Holder

15. Indianapolis Colts: Brock Bowers, TE, Georgia

The Colts have other needs, but passing up on the best player available wasn’t an option. Brugler calls Bowers “a home-run threat with the ball in his hands” and has him ranked fifth on his big board. The Colts don’t have a true No. 1 tight end, and with veteran Mo Alie-Cox a potential cap cut and Drew Ogletree on the reserve/commissioner exempt list, Bowers might be more equipped than Indianapolis’ other three tight ends (Jelani Woods, Kylen Granson and Will Mallory). Coach Shane Steichen has a stellar track record with tight ends, and giving QB Anthony Richardson another dynamic playmaker would be crucial for his development. — James Boyd

Brock Bowers is fifth on Dane Brugler’s Big Board, but it’s rare for tight ends to go in the top 10. (Eakin Howard / Getty Images)

16. Seattle Seahawks: Troy Fautanu, T/G, Washington

Fautanu fits well in Seattle as a tackle who might project to guard for an offense coordinated by his college OC, Ryan Grubb. The Seahawks’ interior offensive line was a problem in 2024, making it tougher for QB Geno Smith and the running game to succeed. Fautanu would provide a low-risk building block with the versatility to help at more than one position (injuries were a problem at tackle for much of last season). — Mike Sando

Advertisement

17. Jacksonville Jaguars: Terrion Arnold, CB, Alabama

Jacksonville has bigger needs in the trenches on offense and defense, but Arnold, Brugler’s No. 1 cornerback and No. 10 player, was too good to pass up. And the Jaguars could need a cornerback if Darious Williams is cut in a cap-savings move. Arnold was a playmaking machine at Alabama (SEC-best 17 passes defended and five INTs in 2024), which makes him a good replacement for Williams and a great long-term partner for Tyson Campbell. Remember: If the Jaguars want to reclaim the AFC South, they’ll have to figure out a way to stop Houston’s C.J. Stroud. Creating a formidable, young secondary is a great way to do that. — Jeff Howe

18. Cincinnati Bengals: Amarius Mims, OT, Georgia

The Bengals will have eyes on the collection of massive offensive tackles in this range, assuming they don’t surprise with a big splash in free agency at right tackle to replace Jonah Williams. Mims might be raw with only eight starts, but the allure of his monstrous power planting as the bookend to Orlando Brown Jr. on the other side checks a significant box in a pick that should center on the trenches. Investing in Joe Burrow’s protection is never a poor decision. — Paul Dehner Jr.

19. Los Angeles Rams: Jackson Powers-Johnson, C, Oregon

You already know the Rams seriously thought about trading back from No. 19, as this would be their first first-round selection since 2016. They also considered other needs such as cornerback, edge and receiver. It was a tough call (especially with UCLA pass rusher Laiatu Latu still available), but Powers-Johnson could become their center for the next decade, anchoring a vastly improved offensive line alongside second-year left guard Steve Avila — and both would be on manageable contracts in the shorter term. — Ken Bradley

20. Pittsburgh Steelers: Tyler Guyton, OT, Oklahoma

Knowing GM Omar Khan, he might not have stayed put at No. 20 with Powers-Johnson on the board and the center-needy Rams coming up. So, if the draft breaks this way, don’t be shocked if the Steelers move up to grab the massive center. Their consolation prize here isn’t too shabby. The Steelers want to solidify the trenches, and picking Guyton and flipping last year’s top pick Broderick Jones to left tackle would be ideal. Once a defensive tackle recruit at TCU before moving to the offensive line and then transferring, the 6-foot-7 Guyton is similar to Jones, as he doesn’t have a lot of collegiate experience, but the talent is too great to overlook. — Mark Kaboly

21. Buffalo Bills (from Miami): Brian Thomas Jr., WR, LSU

Trade: Bills send No. 28, No. 99 and No. 192 to Dolphins for No. 21

With Gabe Davis set to hit free agency and the Bills already lacking explosiveness, adding a young, home-run threat with tantalizing potential is top of mind this offseason. Thomas possesses everything the Bills would be after: speed, deep threat, size, leaping ability and a high ceiling to become one of the best in his class. He could quickly take over the X-receiver role Davis vacates and would complement Stefon Diggs nicely. For ever-aggressive Bills GM Brandon Beane, giving up a late third-round pick and a sixth-round pick to move up for Thomas is an easy decision. — Joe Buscaglia

GO DEEPER

NFL free-agent rankings: Brian Burns, Saquon Barkley, Kirk Cousins lead the top 150

22. Philadelphia Eagles: Quinyon Mitchell, CB, Toledo

The Eagles presented trade offers to the Jets, Vikings, Raiders and Rams that were “perfectly reasonable,” a source familiar with the negotiations told The Athletic, and they were fielding a discussion with the Bills about trading back to No. 28 when Buffalo hung up and bolted for No. 21. Oh well. The Eagles readily picked Mitchell, who, in addition to being 11th on Brugler’s board, addresses the team’s immediate need. James Bradberry has regressed, and Darius Slay is 33 with two years left on his contract. The Eagles are also being proactive by securing an All-American who can play immediately under a rookie deal. — Brooks Kubena

23. Houston Texans (from Cleveland): Cooper DeJean, CB, Iowa

DeMeco Ryans’ defense has a strong front, with last year’s No. 3 pick Will Anderson Jr. leading the way, but the Texans need some help in their secondary. DeJean — No. 23 on Brugler’s board — meets that need, bringing size (6-1, 207), athleticism and versatility because of his ability to play on the outside or slide inside to cover the slot. He’s also an excellent returner. — Mike Jones

Advertisement

24. Dallas Cowboys: Graham Barton, C, Duke

Linebacker and defensive tackle might be bigger needs, but offensive line isn’t far away. If the Cowboys re-sign free-agent center Tyler Biadasz, they’d probably go in a different direction at 24. But center looks like it could be a need, and Barton was a good value. Though center is projected to be his best spot in the NFL, he offers position flex, having played mostly left tackle in college. If Dallas re-signs Biadasz, Barton could play left tackle or left guard, if the Cowboys wanted to move left guard Tyler Smith to left tackle. Either way, offensive line seems like a pretty good bet for Dallas at No. 24. With the top six offensive tackles and Powers-Johnson off the board, Barton was a relatively easy pick. Texas DT T’Vondre Sweat was also considered. — Jon Machota

25. Green Bay Packers: Nate Wiggins, CB, Clemson

Carrington Valentine held his own as a seventh-round rookie last season after the Rasul Douglas trade, but the Packers might need a better starting outside cornerback opposite Jaire Alexander for new defensive coordinator Jeff Hafley. Even if they’re comfortable with Valentine starting, nickel cornerback Keisean Nixon is a free agent. At the very least, Green Bay needs better depth, in part because it can’t count much on 2021 first-round pick Eric Stokes after he missed the majority of the last season and a half with injuries. Here’s what Brugler says about the 6-foot-2, 185-pound corner: “Wiggins moves with quiet, controlled feet/hips to seamlessly transition out of breaks and accelerate to top gear and allowed only one catch of 20-plus yards last season, on 41 targets.” — Matt Schneidman

26. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Chop Robinson, Edge, Penn State

The Bucs started a pass-rush overhaul in the draft last year but could use another player they can count on to put pressure on quarterbacks. Robinson, a former five-star recruit, didn’t have great production last season because of injuries, but he could be a value pick with high-end potential. It’s possible Robinson’s stock will shoot up and he will be gone by this pick if he works out as well as his tape suggests he could. — Dan Pompei

Chop Robinson is one of the most explosive pass rushers in this class. (Michael Reaves / Getty Images)

27. Arizona Cardinals (from Texans): T’Vondre Sweat, DT, Texas

With left tackle D.J. Humphries due to miss the bulk of the season because of an ACL injury, the Cardinals could go offensive line here and fill a significant need. No one would argue. But the chance to draft a run stopper such as Sweat is too good to pass. Upgrading the defensive line might be Arizona’s biggest offseason need. The Cardinals have the cap space to do so in free agency, but Sweat (6-4, 362 pounds) gives them an anchor and someone they can build around. — Haller

28. Miami Dolphins (from Buffalo): Laiatu Latu, Edge, UCLA

After a (frustrating) run on offensive linemen, I moved back rather than forcing a position of need or even drafting the best player available at No. 21, though I was tempted by Mitchell. The Dolphins have many big contracts (and more coming), so collecting picks for more young, cheap talent was an appealing Plan B. While the O-line should remain Miami’s top priority, I was thrilled to see Latu available at No. 28. The refined UCLA pass rusher can wreak havoc alongside Bradley Chubb and Jaelan Phillips, both of whom are coming off serious injuries. The Dolphins will still need to address their interior offensive line, but having a couple of extra picks will help there. — Jim Ayello

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

It’s no secret the Lions could use an influx of talent at cornerback, and McKinstry just so happened to be one of the best players available regardless of position. It’s an easy fit and one that doesn’t need much overthinking. McKinstry has size and length, and he’s capable of handling business in man coverage. The Lions could also use some pass rush help, and Latu — had he fallen to No. 29 — would have made an intriguing running mate opposite Aidan Hutchinson. Instead, Detroit gets help at cornerback, ahead of one of the most anticipated seasons in franchise history. — Colton Pouncy

30. Baltimore Ravens: Jordan Morgan, G, Arizona

When nine offensive linemen went within the first 24 picks, it was looking like Baltimore would have to go in another direction. However, Morgan is a solid consolation prize. The Ravens’ starting guards, Kevin Zeitler and John Simpson, are pending free agents, and their starting tackles are older and coming off injury-plagued seasons. So, the Ravens have needs at both guard and tackle. Morgan (6-4, 312) isn’t physically imposing, but he is extremely athletic. And though he played tackle at Arizona, some evaluators feel his skill set profiles best at guard. His versatility should allow him to be a plug-and-play guy. — Jeff Zrebiec

Advertisement

31. San Francisco 49ers: Darius Robinson, Edge, Missouri

With Chase Young, Clelin Ferrell and Randy Gregory heading for free agency, the 49ers could use another body — a big body — at defensive end opposite Nick Bosa. That’s Robinson. He’s 6-5, 286 with nearly 35-inch arms and would provide the power element on the edge the Niners have been missing in recent seasons. Robinson had 8.5 sacks and 14 tackles for loss in 12 games at Missouri last season. He’d complement the speed and finesse game of youngsters Drake Jackson and Robert Beal Jr., and it’s easy to see him rushing from the inside on obvious passing downs, too. That is, Robinson would be a multi-functional fit in a defensive front that requires a steady rotation of players. — Matt Barrows

32. Kansas City Chiefs: Adonai Mitchell, WR, Texas

An easy way to look at this selection is that Mitchell would replace six-year veteran Marquez Valdes-Scantling. Both players are 6-4 and known for their speed and big-play ability. The reason for the switch is that Mitchell is younger and will have several years to build chemistry with Patrick Mahomes, while Valdes-Scantling is the most logical candidate to be a salary-cup cut. Such a move would create $12 million in cap space with just $2 million in dead money, according to Over the Cap. — Nate Taylor

GO DEEPER

NFL salary cap cut candidates for all 32 teams: Nick Chubb, Joe Mixon among possibilities

Teams without Round 1 picks

33. Carolina Panthers: Ladd McConkey, WR, Georgia

The Panthers desperately need to surround Bryce Young with more weapons, both in the draft and free agency. They had several receivers last season ranked poorly in average separation. And ultimately, that’s why I took McConkey over Keon Coleman. The latter racked up highlight-reel moments but also contested catches — something Young saw too much of last year. McConkey had an impressive week at the Senior Bowl after an injury-plagued final season for the Bulldogs. What he lacks in size, he makes up for with burst, lateral quickness and elite route running. He’ll play primarily slot in the NFL but also has the speed to stretch defenses. — Joseph Person

54. Cleveland Browns: Malachi Corley, WR, Western Kentucky

The Browns need more pop out of their receiving corps, and Corley — who measured 5-10, 215 at the Senior Bowl and has been compared to Deebo Samuel — would immediately be in line for snaps across the formation. He could join forces with Pro Bowl tight end David Njoku to give Deshaun Watson another playmaker who can turn easy completions into big gains. The Browns might want to draft a taller outside wide receiver who could eventually become a starter and a deep-ball threat, but Corley’s versatility and ability to break tackles would give him a chance to help immediately and in a variety of ways. — Zac Jackson

(Top photos of, from left, Justin Fields, Jayden Daniels and J.J. McCarthy: Quinn Harris, Jonathan Bachman, Gregory Shamus / Getty Images)

Get all-access to exclusive stories.

Subscribe to The Athletic for in-depth coverage of your favorite players, teams, leagues and clubs. Try a week on us.

Start Free Trial

Source

×