2024 NFL Mock Draft: Bears have two top-five picks

The twists and turns of an NFL season randomly and dramatically shift the fortunes of organizations, ultimately affecting draft positioning while forcing teams to reassess their short and long-term goals.

The return of Arizona’s franchise quarterback Kyler Murray immediately produced a victory, dropping the Cardinals from the top pick down to the fourth spot. Whereas the Browns’ recent loss of starting signal caller Deshawn Watson may negatively impact their current 24th position, forcing a move into the top third of the draft.

The NFL is a capricious business, as is devising weekly mock drafts, so enjoy the process.

NOTE: For the draft order, we used tankathon.com’s projected draft order.

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

Once again, the Bears find themselves holding down the first overall pick in the draft, albeit due to last Spring’s trade with the Panthers. Currently, Chicago owns two top-10 draft picks and has an opportunity to make significant talent upgrades to its roster. Uncertainty at the most important position may influence an organizational shift from incumbent starting quarterback Justin Fields to 2022 Heisman Trophy winner Caleb Williams.

2.New York Giants: QB – Drake Maye, North Carolina

Giants’ head coach Brian Daboll’s weekly exasperated looks of frustration along the sidelines will probably continue as New York manages the rest of the season with backup quarterbacks. However, as the losses mount, last season’s coach of the year could be in a position to draft a solution for his weekly blues. Maye is arguably the best overall quarterbacking prospect in the upcoming 2024 NFL Draft.

3.New England Patriots: QB – Bo Nix, Oregon

If the Patriots part ways with future Hall-of-Fame head coach Bill Belichick, then initiating a reset could start with Heisman hopeful Bo Nix at quarterback. Nix still leads the nation in completion percentage (77.7), is second in touchdown passes (25), and seventh overall in passing yards (3135). In addition, he may be the most experienced passer, leaving college with 50-plus career games played.

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

Star quarterback Kyler Murray looked rusty but electrifying in his first game back after overcoming last season’s knee injury. A unique talent, Murray is still extremely young but experienced, with his greatness potential still pointing upwards. Targeting Marvin Harrison, an elite can’t-miss prospect, and pairing him with Murray, could expedite Arizona’s designs to be Super Bowl-worthy.

5. Chicago Bears: OT – Joe Alt, Notre Dame

Many a Golden Domer has been a part of Chicago Bears lore, and Alt may find himself a part of that legacy if taken by the Monsters of the Midway. During the 2023 campaign, Alt’s monstrous six-foot-eight, 322-pound frame has successfully mauled opponents in the run game (166 yards per game) and in pass protection, allowing only one sack and four pressures.

6.Green Bay Packers: OT – Olu Fashanu, Penn State

Although the Packers are seventh in sacks allowed (19) after nine games, ironically, they rank 23rd in total offensive yards (2799), passing yards (1880) and rushing yards (919). Fashaun is a dominant offensive tackle who moves lightly but powerfully when engaging defenders. His ability to efficiently execute run and pass-blocking schemes could immediately impact Green Bay’s stagnant offense.

7.Los Angeles Rams: Edge – Laiatu Latu, UCLA

An athletic force multiplier, Latu is a tremendous pass rusher with good acceleration and closing speed. Ten games into the 2023 campaign, the six-foot-four, 256-pound Latu generated 18 tackles for loss along with 11 sacks.

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8.Tennessee Titans: TE – Brock Bowers, Georgia

Bowers is a matchup conundrum for most defensive coordinators attempting to curtail his effectiveness on the field. His ability to block in-line and then release down the seam of a defense compromises many defensive coverages. An athletic pass catcher, he can also align anywhere on the field, leveraging his size against smaller pass defenders.

9.Atlanta Falcons: Edge – Dallas Turner, Alabama

Turner is a quick-twitch athlete with excellent length and bendability off the edge when rushing the passer. He is decidedly more explosive from a two-point stance, but his athleticism allows for some schemed alignment versatility. Turner has already exceeded last season’s totals in tackles for loss (10.5) and sacks (7) in just nine games played.

10.Washington Commanders: Edge – J.T. Tuimoloau, Ohio State

Tuimoloau is a game-wrecking edge rusher who is just grazing the tip of his potential and may yet develop exponentially over the course of the season. His ability to diagnose screen-plays is advanced, as is his knack for penetrating behind offensive lines. Impressively, Tuimoloau registered 20.5 tackles for loss, 11 sacks, and seven passes defended in just 34 games played.

11.Tampa Bay Buccaneers: WR – Rome Odunze, Washington

Longtime Bucs wideout and all-time leading receiver Mike Evans (11,162 yds / 87 TDs) is an unrestricted free agent. Odunze, who possesses excellent size (6-3, 201 lbs) and speed (4.35 40-time) could be an affordable replacement. His ability to track long passes over either shoulder makes him a deep threat defenses shouldn’t underestimate.

12.New York Jets: OT – J.C. Latham, Alabama

Latham is a limber 326-pound pass protector whose knee-bending flexibility allows him to stay leveraged behind his pad level. He is an experienced lineman, having already logged over 1,500 snaps. Latham improved overall as a blocker and significantly decreased the amount of penalties called against him.

13.Denver Broncos: CB – Kool-Aid McKinstry, Alabama

The six-foot-one, 188-pound defensive back is an intelligent pass defender who wins with patient anticipation and quick feet. Mckinstry’s loose hips allow for easy transitions when mirroring pass catchers or squaring himself to break down for open-field tackles.

14.Los Angeles Chargers: DB – Cooper DeJean, Iowa

Extremely versatile and skilled, DeJean is an athletic defensive back who could literally play any secondary position and be a difference-maker wherever he lined up. Los Angeles’ skill and depth in its secondary, especially the cornerback position, needs immediate improvement to seriously compete against the elite receiving talent in the AFC.

15.Indianapolis Colts: DL – Jer’Zhan Newton, Illinois

Technique and tenacity are apt descriptions of how Newton consistently wins against opposing linemen. Extremely quick and purposeful with his movements, Newton sheds blocks with efficiency and flows toward ball carriers on running plays. He is equally effective in applying pressure on quarterbacks trying to run from option-style plays or complete downfield passes.

16.Las Vegas Raiders: QB – Michael Penix Jr., Washington

Arguably the leader in the room for this season’s 2023 Heisman Trophy, Penix is leading his undefeated Huskies for a run at the National Championship. Penix’s injury history prior to arriving at Washington (two torn ACLs in 2018 and 2020) could be the main reason he’s not considered a top-five draft prospect.

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17.Buffalo Bills: DL – Leonard Taylor III, Miami (FL)

Taylor is a disruptive, thick-bodied interior defender with a good initial burst off the snap of the ball. His ability to shed blocks and penetrate behind the offensive line is evident by his 22.5 tackles for loss over the course of 28 collegiate games.

18.Cincinnati Bengals: WR – Keon Coleman, Florida State

Currently, Coleman is catching passes at a rate of 13.4 yards per reception while having caught 10 touchdown passes in just nine games. So, with Cincinnati wideouts Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins being unrestricted free agents, it’s possible the frugal Bengals will only re-sign one of the two. Coleman’s size, youth, and affordability potentially make him an ideal replacement for either receiver.

19.New Orleans Saints: WR – Malik Nabers, LSU

Over the past several seasons, drafting a receiver from LSU has proven to be a prudent decision. Nabers offers alignment versatility and an elite route-running element any NFL team could utilize. His ability to exploit defensive backs, combined with executing precise angled cuts, makes Nabers a reliable option for third-down conversions.

20.Arizona Cardinals [via – Houston]: CB – Nate Wiggins, Clemson

The Cardinals play hard defensively yet are ineffective when forcing turnovers (10 takeaways in 10 games) and struggle to make impact plays to close out games. Both of Wiggins’ career interceptions resulted in defensive returns for scores. His length, sinewy strength, and football IQ make him a viable target for Arizona’s future defensive designs.

21.Minnesota Vikings: QB – J.J. McCarthy, Michigan

Aside from the fact that veteran signal-caller Kirk Cousins is a 35-year-old, 35-million-a-year unrestricted free agent, he’s also done for the season due to an Achilles tendon injury. McCarthy is an athletic quarterback built similarly to former number-one overall pick Alex Smith (2005) and plays with a veteran’s poise and leadership. Statistically, McCarthy is completing 76.2 percent of his passes with a six-to-one (18:3) touchdown to interception ratio.

22.Dallas Cowboys: OT – Taliese Fuaga, Oregon State

Veteran offensive tackle Tyron Smith’s effectiveness as a bookend protector has trailed off a bit, plus his age (32) and free agency status dampen his chances of being retained. In over 1300 plus snaps, Fuaga has never surrendered a sack and provides immediate impact as a run-blocking mauler.

23.Pittsburgh Steelers: CB – Denzel Burke, Ohio State

Burke is a classic Ohio State defensive back whose coverage skills mix well in man-to-man or zone schemes. His long arms and active hands allow him to stymie receivers in press coverage, while his length and speed provide enough athleticism to stick closely with pass catchers downfield.

24.Houston Texans [via – Cleveland]: DL – Maason Smith, LSU

Injuries have stalled the development and ascension of this former five-star recruit. Smith is an athletic mix of quickness, power, and explosion when healthy. He can dominate single blocking and disrupt running plays designed to attack various defensive alignment gaps. Smith plays with an inner motivation and sense of urgency that NFL scouts prioritize when assessing interior defensive linemen.

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25.Miami Dolphins: S – Kamren Kinchens, Miami (FL)

Kinchens is the type of versatile coverage defender defensive coordinator Vic Fangio desires for his schemes. An intelligent surveyor of the field, Kinchens’ instincts and preparation are integral to his success. In his last 20 games played, Kinchens has tabulated 10 interceptions along with 11 defended passes.

26.Seattle Seahawks: LB – Cedric Gray, North Carolina

Although linebackers as a position seem to be devalued in the first round, there are always exceptions to generalized perceptions. Casual college football fans may not be familiar with Cedric Gray, but his force-multiplying effect on games is eye-popping. Over the past 24 contests, Gray has compiled 241 total tackles, 22 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks, three interceptions, nine passes defended, and five forced fumbles.

27.Jacksonville Jaguars: Edge – Jared Verse, Florida State

Jacksonville has four unrestricted pass rushers and must consider setting aside money in order to afford franchise quarterback Trevor Lawrence’s contract beyond his rookie deal. So, drafting an aggressive edge rusher like Verse at cost may be part of the Jaguars’ fiscal reality heading into next season.

28.San Francisco 49ers: S – Tyler Nubin, Minnesota

Nubin is an experienced playmaking safety who possesses a knack for creating impactful turnovers (12 career interceptions) in crucial moments. An astute player, Nubin is keenly aware of his surroundings and rarely if ever, is out of position. A solid NFL physique (6-2, 210 lbs) and above-average athleticism make Nubin a fixture on many scouts’ draft boards.

29.Baltimore Ravens: WR – Troy Franklin, Oregon

The Ravens still need quality receiving talent and depth for their franchise quarterback Lamar Jackson to truly advance them to a Super Bowl. Franklin possesses solid size (6-3, 185 lbs) and speed (4.35 40-time) to challenge NFL defensive backs. His ability to track long passes over either shoulder makes him a deep threat defenses shouldn’t underestimate.

30.Detroit Lions: CB – Kalen King, Penn State

Detroit may be one standout secondary component away from fielding a multifaceted defense that could handle any varied or nuanced NFL offense. King is adept at zone coverage as well as providing sticky man-to-man defense regardless of the offensive formation and/or personnel. His twitchy short-area quickness and astute spatial awareness propelled him last season into leading the Big Ten Conference with 18 passes defended.

31.Kansas City Chiefs: OT – Kingsley Suamataia, BYU

The Chiefs have been exchanging offensive tackles almost yearly since franchise quarterback Patrick Maholmes became the starter. After restructuring his deal and having additional players’ contract negotiations loom into next season, the Chiefs might look to draft a tackle to remain entrenched for several years on Maholmes’ backside. Suamataia moves with fluidity and balance, yet his powerful upper body provides the strength to out-leverage defenders.

32.Philadelphia Eagles: S – Calen Bullock, USC

Currently, the Eagles have 22 unrestricted free agents on their roster, with both starting safeties being among that group. Considering the amount of money allocated to its franchise quarterback, Philadelphia may have to depend more on youthful and affordable talent to replenish any players lost to fiscal constraints.

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