2024 NFL Mock Draft: B/R NFL Scouting Dept.’s Post-Super Bowl Picks
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USC quarterback Caleb WilliamsJordon Kelly/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
With Super Bowl LVIII in the books, the 2024 NFL offseason is now in full swing. Interestingly, the game provided a commentary on how to properly build a roster that multiple franchises should take under consideration.
The incoming draft class will be defined by its crop of quarterbacks. North Carolina’s Drake Maye, USC’s Caleb Williams and LSU’s Jayden Daniels are expected to come off the board quickly. From there, the trio of Michigan’s J.J. McCarthy, Washington’s Michael Penix Jr. and Oregon’s Bo Nix could work their way into first-round consideration.
But what’s the right way to address the game’s most important position?
The Kansas City Chiefs once made a gigantic leap of faith by trading up for Patrick Mahomes, which has paid off like hitting a mega-jackpot in Las Vegas. Meanwhile, the San Francisco 49ers took their last chip, threw it into the pot and landed a franchise signal-caller with a minimal investment in 2022 Mr. Irrelevant Brock Purdy.
Those teams serve as the prime examples of how to address quarterback and build around him properly. The Chiefs and Niners offer different approaches to roster-building, yet they both reached the title round by placing the right talent around their chosen triggermen.
In Bleacher Report’s latest mock draft, four quarterbacks come off the board in Round 1. From there, half the first-round picks are wide receivers, offensive linemen or tight ends.
Clearly, the emphasis on how to win at the highest level has been noted.
1. Washington Commanders (from Chicago via Carolina): QB Caleb Williams, USC
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TRADE ALERT! Typically, Bleacher Report mock drafts don’t include trades. In this instance, overwhelming anticipation of Josh Harris and the new Washington Commanders ownership group wanting to make a big splash was too much to ignore, particularly after the organization hired Dan Quinn as head coach and Kliff Kingsbury as offensive coordinator.
“It’s easy to envision a world where the Commanders hire Kliff Kingsbury with the express purpose of trading for Caleb Williams,” Bleacher Report scout Derrik Klassen said. “In that world, regardless of what you think of Kingsbury, the Commanders would greatly benefit from doing so.
“Williams’ calling cards are his arm talent and creativity. Few quarterbacks can throw from the angles and platforms Williams can without sacrificing accuracy. At the same time, Williams is much more put-together as a pocket passer than is often led on, showing off wonderful pocket presence and more consistent processing than his outrageous highlight package would suggest.”
To Klassen’s final point, Williams led the nation last season with a 94.3 clean-pocket grade, according to Pro Football Focus. The Commanders will finally have a triggerman capable of taking full advantage of their talented wide receiver corps, even if Curtis Samuel leaves in free agency.
To move up one spot and become the first team ever to trade for No. 1 after owning the second overall selection, the Commanders would likely have to surrender their second-round pick, if not more. Still, the Commanders get their preferred target, which is all that matters.
2. Chicago Bears (from Washington): QB Drake Maye, North Carolina
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Chicago Bears general manager Ryan Poles is already playing the game.
“Chicago would need a historic haul of draft picks and overall compensation to move off the first pick of the 2024 NFL draft,” sources told NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.
To translate: Don’t expect the Bears to move this year’s top pick when they have an opportunity to reset the clock at the game’s most important position. However, they might get offered a deal too sweet to ignore, much like last season when Poles traded down with the Carolina Panthers.
The biggest difference between this year and last year is that the Bears will likely trade quarterback Justin Fields to another team, add an extra asset or two and still look to gain more.
In this instance, the Bears trade down one spot, let the Washington Commanders get their guy and still land B/R’s top-rated quarterback prospect, North Carolina’s Drake Maye.
“Maye to Chicago should be a slam dunk,” Klassen said. “After Fields’ struggles with playing from the pocket and on time, that won’t be an issue for Maye. The North Carolina quarterback has exceptional pocket presence, often preempting pressure with shuffles and drifts throughout his drops when he knows he is being heated up. Maye also has a booming arm and is a scary strider out in the open field.
“Maye has all the tools and a good baseline to work with as a decision-maker.”
3. New England Patriots: QB Jayden Daniels, LSU
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The clandestine New England Patriots led by the inscrutable Bill Belichick no longer exist. New head coach Jerod Mayo isn’t being secretive about everything the Patriots plan to do.
In fact, he pretty much told everyone exactly what to expect when New England is on the board with the third overall pick during an interview with CBS News Boston.
“We’re gonna draft the best player for a position that’s very important,” Mayo said. “You put the pieces together.”
Frankly, there’s no reason for the Patriots to be secretive. They’re within range to select one of the top three quarterbacks. Neither Mac Jones nor Bailey Zappe is the right person for the job. Instead, New England can get a massive talent upgrade by drafting the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, LSU’s Jayden Daniels.
“Daniels can help jump-start the new era of Patriots football,” Klassen said. “A five-year starter, Daniels brings a relatively high floor. His pocket presence, decision-making and accuracy are all far from elite. But they are good enough.
“When coupled with his elite athletic ability—both in the designed run game and as a scrambler—it’s not hard to see how Daniels could come in right away and contribute at a much higher level than the Patriots have recently gotten at that spot.”
4. Arizona Cardinals: WR Marvin Harrison Jr., Ohio State
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The Arizona Cardinals can sit back, relax and smile from ear to ear knowing the first three picks will almost certainly be quarterbacks. They aren’t in the same market.
As such, the best prospect in this year’s draft will fall into their proverbial lap.
“This fit is so clear that it’s kind of boring,” Klassen said. “Ohio State’s Marvin Harrison Jr. is a true No. 1 receiver with the ability to line up both outside and inside. From either spot, Harrison shows off exceptional route-running technique and explosiveness, especially for someone with his length. Harrison also brings phenomenal ball skills, both in the air and when dancing on the sideline.
“While Harrison isn’t the scariest YAC threat, everything else makes up for it.”
Harrison would have a positive ripple effect on the rest of the Cardinals’ wide receivers. If they re-sign Marquise Brown, he’d become the team’s second option. The Cardinals wouldn’t have to rely on Michael Wilson and Rondale Moore as primary threats, either.
Since Kyler Murray became the Cardinals’ starting quarterback, he’s had only one 1,000-yard wide receiver (DeAndre Hopkins). Harrison can finally give Murray a long-term running mate to make Arizona’s offense truly dangerous.
5. Los Angeles Chargers: OT Joe Alt, Notre Dame
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With Jim Harbaugh taking over as Los Angeles Chargers head coach, the team’s identity will shift. While Justin Herbert will remain the centerpiece, Harbaugh figures to place a greater emphasis on physicality and establishing the run.
At each of Harbaugh’s stops, he’s focused on improving the trenches and making them a focal point. The Chargers shouldn’t approach this offseason any other way.
“The Chargers will be looking to solidify their offensive line this offseason to facilitate their new coaching staff’s intention of being able to efficiently and effectively run the football,” B/R scout Brandon Thorn said. “With a hole at right tackle, selecting Notre Dame’s Joe Alt to pair with Rashawn Slater would give them options to fill both tackle spots.
“Alt has the rare combination of being extremely polished and young, with a similar playing style as former Jim Harbaugh standout blocker Joe Staley.”
Alt has the edge here over Penn State’s Olu Fashanu because he’s more polished and better at the point of attack. With Alt at right tackle, the Chargers would feature one of the league’s most talented young offensive lines. Slater, left guard Zion Johnson and right guard Jamaree Salyer are all 24 or younger.
6. New York Giants: OT Olumuyiwa Fashanu, Penn State
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The New York Giants have already sunk significant investments in their offensive line, particularly the tackles. It’s time to go back to that well, because the current group isn’t working out.
Penn State’s Olumuyiwa Fashanu is the class’ best pass-blocker. The Giants drafting him at No. 6 would cause some movement up front, but it’s necessary.
“The Giants could decide to kick former top-10 pick Evan Neal inside to guard this offseason, opening them up to select one of the top tackle prospects in the class to fit Fashanu into their plans,” Thorn said. “While he would need to move to the right side in this scenario, the Giants would have three top-10 picks along their front five, with Fashanu’s pass-protection skills being a major upgrade over what they have had on the right side in recent memory.”
The move will be a transition for Fashanu, too, since he hasn’t played on the right side. The moving parts could cause short-term complications.
But the point of this selection is to maximize the Giants’ investments at multiple positions, including quarterback and running back. If the 21-year-old Fashanu reaches his full potential on the strong side, Big Blue will feature the game’s best pass-blocking bookends.
7. Tennessee Titans: TE Brock Bowers, Georgia
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To be fair, Bowers prefaced the answer by saying that he’s willing to play for anyone. When pressed, he answered Tennessee because he likes the area.
Financially, the chance at becoming the seventh overall pick (with its accompanying contract) and playing in a state with no income tax certainly wouldn’t hurt. The Titans could certainly do worse than selecting an elite talent and providing the offense with a legitimate weapon.
“Bowers gives the Titans some real juice in the passing game,” Klassen said. “DeAndre Hopkins was solid last season, and Chigoziem Okonkwo is an interesting tight end, but the former is getting old and the latter is inconsistent.
“By contrast, Bowers is a young player still growing into his frame, who brings one-of-a-kind YAC ability for the tight end position. Bowers is also an efficient route-runner and good at winning at the catch point, thanks in part to his long arms.”
At this point, it’s hard to argue against Bowers being the greatest tight end prospect of all time considering his elite production, pedigree and hardware.
8. Atlanta Falcons: EDGE Jared Verse, Florida State
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The Atlanta Falcons may own a top-10 pick, but they also find themselves in a difficult position.
The organization spent back-to-back-to-back top-10 selections on tight end Kyle Pitts, wide receiver Drake London and running back Bijan Robinson. But the quarterback position remains unsettled.
With Desmond Ridder’s benching last season and a new head coach taking the reins, the Falcons must address the game’s most important position one way or another this offseason. However, the top three quarterbacks are already off the board here, and the No. 8 pick is arguably too rich for the next tier of prospects.
Maybe the Falcons make a play for Kirk Cousins or Justin Fields and then invest this pick into Bleacher Report’s top-rated defensive prospect, Florida State’s Jared Verse, after finishing among the bottom half of the league in sacks.
“Even if Bud Dupree wasn’t a free agent, the Falcons could use some help on the edge,” B/R scout Matt Holder said. “So, the fact Dupree’s contract is about to be up makes Verse an even better pick for Atlanta.
“Verse is strong and physical at the point of attack to make an impact against the run, and he’s an impressive power-rusher who can collapse the pocket against offensive tackles. Don’t sleep on the former Seminole’s finesse moves, either. He has a wide pass-rush arsenal.”
9. Chicago Bears: WR Rome Odunze, Washington
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After selecting quarterback Drake Maye earlier, the Bears do exactly what they should have done for Justin Fields years ago: invest heavily in the weapons around their quarterback.
General manager Ryan Poles doesn’t make the same mistake twice with the selection of Washington’s Rome Odunze at No. 9.
“The Bears already have their explosive route-running type in DJ Moore after acquiring the veteran as part of last year’s trade for the No. 1 overall pick,” Klassen said. “Odunze provides a big-bodied ball-winner to round out the receiving corps.
“At 6’3” and 215 pounds, Odunze is a legit X-receiver, with an explosive lower-half and a physical demeanor. He isn’t just a ball-winner, though. While those traits may be his strong suit, Odunze is also a crafty route-runner with great awareness of how to beat zones and manipulate defensive backs.
“Everything about Odunze’s game screams that he will be good right away.”
LSU’s Malik Nabers could also be a consideration here. However, Odunze’s overall skill set projects as a better fit for what Chicago needs.
The Bears can’t go wrong either way as long as they invest in Maye’s long-term future. Fields never had the pleasure, but it’s too late to fix that now.
10. New York Jets: OT Amarius Mims, Georgia
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New York Jets general manager Aaron Rodg…er, Joe Douglas might strongly consider LSU wide receiver Malik Nabers to pair with Garrett Wilson and create a hellish duo for opponents to defend. But the sensible approach is sinking yet another first-round pick into the offensive line in hopes of building a strong front to keep the 40-year old Rodgers upright.
Georgia’s Amarius Mims boasts as much raw potential as any prospect in the class.
“Mims is a bit of a wild card considering his inexperience level,” Thorn said. “But the physical traits are evident on film and should only be even more glorified after he tests at the NFL Scouting Combine.
“The Jets have glaring needs at several spots on their line, so Mims could stay at right tackle or even move over to the left. Mims is a towering (6’7″, 340 lbs), fluid athlete with starter-level play strength, giving the Jets a much-needed building block for their new-look offensive line.”
In some ways, the Jets could simply replace Mekhi Becton with a young and healthier version since the 2020 first-round pick is set to enter free agency. Alijah Vera-Tucker’s long-term projection as a tackle or guard will affect where Mims’ ultimately settles, but a few of the pieces will be in place with those two and center Joe Tippmann.
11. Minnesota Vikings: EDGE Laiatu Latu, UCLA
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The Minnesota Vikings are yet another team with uncertainty at quarterback, though general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah already stated his intention of bringing Kirk Cousins back into the fold.
That would allow the Vikings to concentrate on addressing other areas of the roster, specifically a defense that could lose Danielle Hunter, D.J. Wonnum, Marcus Davenport, Jonathan Bullard, Jordan Hicks and Anthony Barr in free agency.
Minnesota’s front seven could use significant reinforcements. An investment in the draft class’ best pure pass-rusher, UCLA’s Laiatu Latu, would be a good start.
Even if the Vikings bring one or two of their free agents back into the fold, there are caveats. Hunter turns 30 later this year, and Davenport dealt with injuries last season. An infusion of youth should serve the Vikings’ defensive front well.
“The Vikings ranked in the bottom half of the league for sacks last season, and that was with Hunter posting a career-high 16.5,” Holder said. “Considering the free-agent status of Hunter and Co., it’s safe to say Minnesota is going to be taking a long look as pass-rushers in the draft.
“Latu is the most complete and NFL-ready rusher in this draft class. He combines great hand usage with good athleticism and strength to consistently put pressure on opposing quarterbacks.”
12. Denver Broncos: QB J.J. McCarthy, Michigan
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Denver Broncos head coach Sean Payton is now a more important piece to the puzzle than quarterback Russell Wilson. So much so that the organization will likely eat Wilson’s $35 million salary-cap charge this year to rid itself of what turned into one the worst trades in NFL history.
To make the decision work, the Broncos must draft a quarterback to benefit from his rookie deal. This pick can’t be forced, though.
Michigan’s J.J. McCarthy isn’t on the same tier as Drake Maye, Caleb Williams or Jayden Daniels. But he presents intriguing upside as a 21-year-old prospect who has yet to fully tap into his potential thanks to a run-first Michigan Wolverines offense.
“This might still be a little too rich to pick McCarthy,” Klassen said, “but the pick is understandable based on the situation.
“McCarthy is a reliable pre-snap processor who plays with impressive timing and confidence as a thrower. He’s also unafraid to take hits in the pocket, or escape to make something happen if need be. All of that fits well into Payton’s offense.
“Concern still exists regarding McCarthy’s ability to layer throws outside the numbers, as well as his sub-210 pound frame, but you can see the bones of a quality NFL quarterback.”
13. Las Vegas Raiders: CB Terrion Arnold, Alabama
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This pairing has to be slightly disappointing for the Las Vegas Raiders since they’re in a tough spot at quarterback. However, Alabama cornerback Terrion Arnold shouldn’t be viewed as a consolation prize.
Arnold is currently graded as the class’ top cornerback prospect and a fringe top-10 talent. Plus, the Raiders are getting their pick among a premium position.
“Arnold is the first cornerback selected off the board,” B/R scout Cory Giddings said. “He’s a former 5-star prospect from the 2021 class. He’s a fluid athlete with very good length and excels in press-man coverage, showing the patience at the line of scrimmage and speed to carry receivers deep. Arnold should be a long-term building block for a Raiders secondary that’s generally young and talented yet lacks a true standout.”
Interestingly, Arnold converted from safety to outside corner during his time in Tuscaloosa. He still shows a safety’s mentality in his game, while he has also exhibited the natural traits to survive on an island against top wide receivers.
The first-team All-American led the Crimson Tide with five interceptions and 12 pass break-ups, while also finishing top three among cornerbacks with a 90.5 run-defense grade, per Pro Football Focus.
14. New Orleans Saints: WR Malik Nabers, LSU
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The New Orleans Saints should be downright giddy if LSU’s Malik Nabers is available at this point. This slotting isn’t a statement of Nabers’ status or anything else. It’s simply a byproduct of circumstance.
Nabers is graded as a top-10 talent and WR2 by the Bleacher Report Scouting Department. But different needs and fits got into the way until this point.
The Saints will gladly add Nabers to play alongside Chris Olave, Michael Thomas and Rashid Shaheed as part of a passing offense that finished 11th overall last season.
“Juice, juice, and more juice,” Klassen said. “Nabers brings a combination of size (6’0”, 200 lbs), speed and YAC ability that is unrivaled in this class. Nabers does a lot of his best work on posts, slants, and crossers—routes where he either gets to stride out or be a YAC weapon.
“However, Nabers is also fairly impressive elsewhere, especially when snapping back to the ball on curls and comebacks. Nabers’ best trait is definitely his creativity after the catch, but he fills out the rest of his profile very well.”
Long-term questions exist regarding Thomas and quarterback Derek Carr. But in the short term, Nabers makes the Saints better. Over the long haul, the local product and Olave would give New Orleans a nightmarish receiving duo to provide an identity.
15. Indianapolis Colts: EDGE Dallas Turner, Alabama
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Dwight Freeney was named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame during the same season when the Indianapolis Colts set a franchise record for sacks. The unlikely response of adding another pass-rusher seems counterintuitive.
However, the Colts already started certain moves this year to ensure they’re even more potent getting after opposing quarterbacks.
Gus Bradley employs one of the league’s least aggressive defensive schemes in regards to blitzing. His system is reliant on a talented front four generating pressure. To do so, the Colts chose not to bring back previous defensive line coach Nate Ollie and hired Charlie Partridge to fill the role in hopes of maximizing talent after he did so successfully for years in college.
The Colts lack a pure edge-rusher who consistently creates mismatches. Alabama’s Dallas Turner, the reigning SEC Defensive Player of the Year, has all of the necessary tools to become a game-wrecker at the professional level.
“On film, Turner shows some impressive athletic traits to work with as a pass-rusher, so he should light it up at the NFL combine later this month,” Holder said. “His technique needs some fine-tuning, but general manager Chris Ballard and the Colts err on the side of exceptional athletes.”
16. Seattle Seahawks: IOL Troy Fautanu, Washington
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The Seattle Seahawks recently hired former Washington Huskies offensive coordinator Ryan Grubb to serve in the same capacity for them. They could now pursue Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr. if they view the Heisman Trophy finalist as Geno Smith’s potential successor.
However, Penix isn’t a solid first-round talent. Collegiate teammate Troy Fautanu should be, as he’s B/R’s highest-graded interior offensive line prospect.
Fautanu primarily played left tackle for the Huskies. His build and skill set project inside, though.
“The Seahawks already solidified their tackle spots through the draft,” Thorn said, “but they still need to boost the talent of their interior trio. Fautanu does have some experience at guard, so kicking inside from his primary home at left tackle shouldn’t be too difficult of a transition.
“The Morris Trophy winner as the Pac-12 Conference’s best offensive lineman has tackle length and athletic ability inside a guard’s body, with matching play strength. He should be able to make a similar level of impact as Brandon Scherff once did when he made a similar transition in Washington years ago.”
With Damien Lewis set to enter free agency, Fautanu could slide seamlessly into left guard to secure the interior.
17. Jacksonville Jaguars: CB Quinyon Mitchell, Toledo
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No individual prospect did more to help his stock at this year’s Senior Bowl than Toledo cornerback Quinyon Mitchell. Granted, the two-time first-team All-MAC selection has been a rising star for nearly two years now.
“Mitchell has continued to improve his draft stock, from the beginning of the season through Senior Bowl week,” Giddings said. “He has good length with versatility and top-notch movement skills.
“While at the Senior Bowl, Mitchell showed the consistency and competitiveness to place himself among the top cornerback prospects. With the Jacksonville Jaguars secondary fighting injury and inconsistency, he could upgrade the unit and possibly provide some stability.”
The Jaguars have already made significant investments in their secondary, with cornerbacks Tyson Campbell being a 2021 second-round selection and Darious Williams joining the squad after signing a three-year, $30 million free-agent contract prior to the ’22 campaign. Yet Jacksonville finished among the bottom seven in pass defense this past season.
Mitchell’s ascension depended on how he fared in an all-star setting against top competition while being asked to lock targets down in man coverage. He thrived when asked to do so, which shows a complete skill set with his ability to drive on the football in zone coverage after 44 defended passes over the past two seasons.
18. Cincinnati Bengals: OT JC Latham, Alabama
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Jonah Williams wasn’t thrilled with the idea of moving from left to right tackle after the Cincinnati Bengals signed Orlando Brown Jr. in free agency. Eventually, Williams acquiesced and settled into the position. But he’s now set to enter free agency for the first time, and he could look to play left tackle elsewhere.
With Williams potentially out of the picture, the Bengals should reassess their offensive line and realize their biggest opportunity to win comes at Joe Burrow’s behest.
Burrow must stay healthy. It’s been a battle so far, and the inconsistency up front hasn’t helped matters. A big investment in Alabama’s JC Latham could thus be a wise decision.
“The Bengals have started an identity shift along their offensive line in recent years to a bigger, hulking and physically imposing group that Latham would not only fit into perfectly but complete as well,” Thorn said. “Pairing with the 345-pound Brown, Latham provides a 360-pound body on the right side, which brings the most power of any prospect in the class.
“Stylistically, the fit in the AFC North, on this unit and for a team driven by a top quarterback, this investment makes sense on several different levels.”
19. Los Angeles Rams: CB Kool-Aid McKinstry, Alabama
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The Los Angeles Rams find themselves in uncharted territory after not owning a first-round pick in the past seven drafts. However, general manager Les Snead and his scouting staff have done an excellent job at identifying talent later in the process, including wide receiver Puka Nacua and defensive lineman Kobie Turner last year.
A pick this early should be a relatively easy choice, especially with Alabama cornerback Kool-Aid McKinstry still on the board.
“McKinstry is a long cornerback who has the versatility to play in both man and zone coverage,” Giddings said. “He uses his long arms well when in press and working down the field. He has good speed to carry receivers downfield and does a very good job of sinking his hips while getting out of breaks.
“Consistently at or near the very top of the cornerback rankings throughout this cycle, the Rams should jump at an opportunity to draft the talented McKinstry.”
Even after finishing 10-7, making the postseason and drafting well in recent years, the Rams’ roster is far from complete. The organization endured too many losses because of a tight salary-cap situation after it went all-in to win Super LVII.
McKinstry would give the Rams a legitimate No. 1 corner to replace Akhello Witherspoon since the veteran is a pending free agent.
20. Pittsburgh Steelers: IOL Jackson Powers-Johnson, Oregon
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Most NFL fanbases wouldn’t truly appreciate the selection of a top center prospect in the first round. The Pittsburgh Steelers are built differently, because center is a legacy position from Ray Mansfield to Mike Webster to Dermontti Dawson to Jeff Hartings to Maurkice Pouncey.
Good center play is embedded in the Steelers’ DNA, but the performance from the position hasn’t been good enough in recent years.
“The Steelers have struggled to replace Pouncey since his retirement after the 2020 campaign, patching the pivot spot with Band-Aids rather than a fully fledged blue-chip talent,” Thorn said. “Jackson Powers-Johnson‘s meteoric rise over the last year will likely land him as a first-round pick this April, and the fit in Pittsburgh fills a major need.
“Powers-Johnson will likely play around 325 pounds, bringing outstanding athletic ability and power to the position, something the Steelers have desperately been missing.”
Considering the Steelers hired Arthur Smith to serve as offensive coordinator this offseason, Pittsburgh can expect a return to a rough-and-tumble, run-based scheme, with Powers-Johnson being the type of talent to dominate at the point of attack. Running backs Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren would be the biggest beneficiaries of this selection, but Powers-Johnson would also help take the onus off a suspect quarterback setup.
21. Miami Dolphins: IOL Taliese Fuaga, Oregon State
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Miami Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel is a Kyle Shanahan disciple. While the Shanahan offensive scheme continues to evolve, the zone-running game remains its base.
The Dolphins may be the league’s best when it comes to a high-flying offense thanks to wide receivers Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle as well as quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. But they need to be stronger at the point of attack when facing the best the AFC has to offer.
“The Dolphins’ offense is most effective when their run game is at the forefront, led by size and physicality along their offensive line that can unlock a zone-based run game that wants to get downhill on opponents,” Thorn said. “This is the exact sort of situation Taliese Fuaga has exceeded in over the last couple of years at Oregon State, making him a seamless fit for the Dolphins. He’d likely slide into one of the guard spots, though tackle remains a possibility.
“Fuaga has the size (6’6″, 332 lbs), technique and play strength to make an impact right away in the run game and function at a high level in the Dolphins’ offensive line-friendly pass game.”
The fact that guards Robert Hunt, Isaiah Wynn and Robert Jones (restricted) are all set to enter free agency makes this decision even easier.
22. Philadelphia Eagles: S Kamren Kinchens, Miami
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To paraphrase Eddie Murphy from The Nutty Professor, the Philadelphia Eagles’ draft plans should include, “Defense. All defense. Where’s the defensive section?”
The Eagles’ D basically hit rock bottom by dropping from the second overall total defense in 2022 to seventh-worst this past season. Coordinator Sean Desai was quietly stripped of his play-calling duties midseason. Both Desai and his replacement Matt Patricia were fired after the season.
A major bounce-back should occur under the watchful and influential eye of new coordinator Vic Fangio. However, an aging roster must be addressed, starting with the secondary.
Philadelphia did trade for two-time first-team All-Pro safety Kevin Byard during the season, but he was a Band-Aid on a gushing wound. Byard needs a legitimate running mate, and Miami’s Kamren Kinchens, the class’ top safety, is a logical starting point.
“Kinchens is a versatile defender, with the instinct and range to be a deep defender who covers sideline-to-sideline as well as the physicality and aggressiveness to quickly come downhill in the run game,” Giddings said. “Kinchens can even play down into the box, where he has also shown very good man coverage skills.
“The Eagles need secondary help in the worst way. If the top cornerbacks are already taken, as the top three are in this scenario, Kinchens is an excellent option to fill another major need.”
23. Houston Texans (from Cleveland): DL Jer’Zhan Newton, Illinois
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The Houston Texans didn’t just hit a home run during the 2023 NFL draft. They smashed a grand slam, with quarterback C.J. Stroud and edge-rusher Will Anderson Jr. both capturing Rookie of the Year honors.
With the foundation built, the Texans don’t need to come to the plate and still swing for the fences. A solid double will do.
Illinois’ Jer’Zhan Newton continually created havoc in opposing backfields despite playing for a sub-.500 non-bowl game qualifier. Still, his accomplishments were recognized as a consensus All-American and the reigning Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year.
In Houston, Sheldon Rankins could be the Texans’ biggest free-agent loss. The organization could replace the soon-to-be 30-year-old defensive lineman with a top talent in Newton.
“If his draft value was purely based on film, Newton would probably be taken much higher than this since he was very disruptive over the last two years,” Holder said. “However, size concerns at a listed 6’2″ and 295 pounds will be tough to overcome. The Illinois product would be a good replacement for Rankins, though, since he can contribute as both a run defender and pass-rusher.”
To Holder’s final point, Newton is the only collegiate defensive tackle to record grades of 90 or higher both against the run and pass over the past two seasons, per Pro Football Focus.
24. Dallas Cowboys: OT Tyler Guyton, Oklahoma
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The Dallas Cowboys have been exceptional when drafting offensive line talent. The organization drafted four of its current starters, three of which came in the first round.
Right tackle Terence Steele may be the oddball in this situation, but he immediately signed with the organization as an undrafted free agent and eventually developed into a starter. However, Oklahoma’s Tyler Guyton could eventually replace Steele.
“The Cowboys are as good if not better than any team in the league at acquiring blue-chip talent through the draft along the offensive line,” Thorn said. “Guyton is inexperienced and raw but easily passes the eye test as a franchise tackle with the movement skills and natural anchor to match.
“Going into a system renowned for offensive line development with multiple Hall of Famers already in the room (assuming Tyron Smith comes back), Guyton would be put in a situation where he wouldn’t need to play right away, could learn from the best and develop inside a proven, stable environment.”
Maybe Guyton even becomes the eventual replacement for the 13-year veteran. Maybe Tyler Smith bumps back out to left tackle, with Guyton becoming his bookend.
Whatever the case, another premium talent added to Dallas’ great wall is exactly the type of move owner/general manager Jerry Jones should make.
25. Green Bay Packers: OT Kingsley Suamataia, BYU
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The Green Bay Packers love to draft versatile collegiate left tackles. Very few have been anywhere near as athletic as BYU’s Kingsley Suamataia.
The 6’4″, 329-pound Suamataia made the transition from right to left tackle this past season. He needed time to settle in. Once he did, those natural tools became readily evident.
According to The Athletic’s Bruce Feldman, BYU coaches view Suamataia as a more athletic option compared to former teammate Blake Freeland. To understand how amazing that assertion is, Freeland posted a top-25 relative athletic score among offensive tackles over the past 35 years. Suamataia is 27 pounds heavier.
But this selection is about more than straight upside. The Packers might be moving on from longtime left tackle David Bakhtiari this offseason. Green Bay can stick with Rasheed Walker on the blind side or try to upgrade.
“The Packers are able to succeed offensively with a middle-of-the-pack offensive line due to a run-first, play-action based system,” Thorn said. “But if they want to increase their flexibility schematically and open things up a bit more in 2024, the left tackle position could be in need of an upgrade.
“What happens with Bakhtiari will determine the urgency of this specific need. But if the Packers don’t bring him back or he’s unable to get healthy enough to play, Suamataia gives the team a golden opportunity to add a tackle with long-time starting traits at the end of Round 1.”
26. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: EDGE Chop Robinson, Penn State
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With expectations of Baker Mayfield returning to start at quarterback, the idea of possibly selecting Washington’s Michael Penix Jr. or Oregon’s Bo Nix at this point seems unnecessary.
The Buccaneers could also pursue a wide receiver depending on whether Mike Evans decides to stay or go during free agency.
For now, the assumption remains one or both will be back for the 2024 campaign. As such, the Bucs can turn their attention to the defense, particularly among its edge-rushers. Shaquil Barrett (31) is aging and not quite as effective as he once was, and Joe Tryon-Shoyinka has been a disappointment after the Bucs took him with the No. 32 overall pick in 2021.
YaYa Diaby flashed as a rookie, though. That gives the Bucs an opportunity to simultaneously build depth at a premium position while preparing for the roster’s long-term future by selecting Penn State’s Chop Robinson.
“Robinson is far from a finished product and needs some fine-tuning with his technique,” Holder said, “but he’s an incredible athlete and a high-ceiling prospect. Spending a year behind Barrett and Tryon-Shoyinka could be a perfect situation for the former Nittany Lion’s development, and then the Bucs would have a couple of highly athletic bookends in Robinson and Diaby.”
27. Arizona Cardinals (from Houston): DL Byron Murphy II, Texas
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It’s really difficult to be a potential first-round pick yet still be overlooked, not only on your own team but even your position group. This is Byron Murphy II‘s plight.
This past season’s Texas Longhorns featured numerous future NFL talents, including the massive presence of defensive tackle T’Vondre Sweat.
The 362-pound Sweat won the Outland Trophy, earned unanimous All-American recognition and was even named the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year. However, he’s not viewed as an every-down interior defender in the NFL. Murphy is.
Murphy is highly athletic and has significant upside as an interior pass-rusher. He would immediately upgrade the Arizona Cardinals’ defensive tackle contingent of Leki Fotu, Jonathan Ledbetter, Roy Lopez, Ben Stille and Naquan Jones. The first two are also pending free agents.
“While taking a generational talent at wide receiver in Marvin Harrison Jr. makes a ton of sense for the Cardinals at No. 4 overall, defensive tackle is probably a bigger need,” Holder said. “Murphy has been a steady riser this season and his stock got a bump after an impressive showing in the College Football Playoffs against the Washington Huskies. He’d immediately be Arizona’s best run defender and pass-rusher in the trenches.”
28. Buffalo Bills: WR Keon Coleman, Florida State
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Keon Coleman looked like a future top-10 selection based on how he started his season after transferring to the Florida State Seminoles. His play leveled out late in the year, as defenses keyed on him and after quarterback Jordan Travis suffered a season-ending injury.
Even so, Coleman’s frame, ability as a ball-winner and creator after the catch are still three highly intriguing traits to keep him in the first-round mix. The Buffalo Bills could certainly use a target of his build.
“The Bills do need size somewhere in their receiving corps,” Klassen said. “Coleman amply fills that void. Coleman is all of 6’4” and 216 pounds, and he plays with the physicality and ball skills you would imagine comes with that frame.
“Additionally, Coleman is a good YAC threat—not so much as a home run hitter, but as someone who regularly turns eight yards into 15 yards. There are still inconsistencies in Coleman’s game, but he is a gamble worth taking.”
Among Buffalo’s top four wide receivers last season, only Gabriel Davis (6’2″) eclipsed the 6’0″ plateau, and he’s set to enter free agency this offseason. Coleman would give Josh Allen a massive downfield target and increase the margin of error to take advantage of his big arm.
29. Detroit Lions: WR Brian Thomas Jr., LSU
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Two critical drops from wide receiver Josh Reynolds during the NFC Championship Game will leave a bad taste in the mouths of Detroit Lions supporters for a long time. To be fair, Reynolds played well overall this past season as the Lions’ WR2. He even set a career high with five regular-season touchdown receptions.
But it’s how you leave ’em, folks, and Reynolds did not provide a good last impression as he enters free agency. Instead, he can be replaced with a more talented and younger deep threat with a nose for the end zone in LSU’s Brian Thomas Jr.
“Detroit’s offense is already good,” Klassen said. “But imagine replacing Josh Reynolds’ snaps with a fast, explosive presence who still has room to grow as a player. That’s Brian Thomas Jr.
“At 6’4″ and 205 pounds, Thomas is a little skinny for his frame, but he is incredibly explosive, both as a route-runner and with the ball in his hands. Though he isn’t yet a complete route-runner, he displays flashes of technical ability and enough agility to suggest he can blossom into something fierce.”
Despite playing alongside Malik Nabers, who finished second in the country with 1,569 receiving yards this past season, Thomas led the FBS with 17 touchdown grabs.
30. Baltimore Ravens: EDGE Bralen Trice, Washington
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The Baltimore Ravens do what they do: They let good players come to them. It’s rather remarkable how steady and consistent they are in that regard.
This particular pairing is no different.
Washington’s Bralen Trice has been one of college football’s most prolific pass-rushers over the past decade. He finished fourth on that list with 106 career pressures, according to Pro Football Focus.
Trice’s game is predicated on power and relentlessness. He’ll play through, around and chase down ball-carriers. His motor runs white hot at all times.
“The Ravens led the league in sacks during the regular season, but their top three pass-rushers—Justin Madubuike, Jadeveon Clowney and Kyle Van Noy—are all impending free agents,” Holder said. “With the way things look right now, Baltimore spending a first-round pick at a premium position to try and maintain the amount of pressure the Ravens were able to generate last season makes a ton of sense. Plus, Trice is the physical presence they seem to prefer among their front seven.”
The Ravens could possibly collect a compensatory pick or two and add yet another talented defender to the league’s top scoring defense.
31. San Francisco 49ers: CB Nate Wiggins, Clemson
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The San Francisco 49ers roster is among the NFL’s best-built from top to bottom. That’s why they can plunk Brock Purdy into the pilot’s seat and his natural skill set fits seamlessly into their approach.
On the back end, San Francisco features a solid-to-good trio of Charvarius Ward, Deommodore Lenoir and Isaiah Oliver. They don’t need to be upgraded immediately.
However, all three of those cornerbacks, as well as Ambry Thomas, are slated to become free agents in 2025. A little foresight will help elevate the 49ers’ secondary and keep it strong by selecting a top talent in Clemson’s Nate Wiggins, who slid slightly.
“Wiggins is a long and physical defender who runs well in the open field,” Giddings said. “He has shown some inconsistency with hip and pad levels, but he displays the raw skill set to stick into receivers’ pockets and get out of breaks with little wasted steps.
“At 6’2” and 185 pounds, the 20-year-old prospect has the frame to add weight. With time and maturity, Wiggins should improve his overall play strength.
“With an eye toward the future, the first-team All-ACC performer has the ability to be a quality NFL starter, but he will need to improve his technique early in his career.”
32. Kansas City Chiefs: WR Troy Franklin, Oregon
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Throughout the season, the story remained the same: The Kansas City Chiefs needed to find someone at wide receiver. Well, they did with Rashee Rice, who improved each week, became a reliable option for quarterback Patrick Mahomes and finished second among all rookies with 938 receiving yards.
From there, the Chiefs’ wide receiver options are suspect. That’s exactly why the position should remain a primary target this offseason.
“The Chiefs cannot run it back with Marquez Valdes-Scantling,” Klassen said. “Oregon’s Troy Franklin is a great replacement for those snaps. Franklin is a lean target at 6’3″ and 187 pounds, but it rarely hurts him on film.
“Franklin is one of the class’ cleanest route-runners to all levels of the field and has the raw speed to be a major vertical threat at the next level. Better yet, Franklin is active as a blocker, which will be necessary for the Chiefs and for replacing MVS specifically.”
Valdez-Scantling’s contract does run through the 2024 season. But the Chiefs could save nearly $12 million toward the 2024 cap by releasing the soon-to-be 30-year-old while simultaneously upgrading the offense’s vertical presence.