The mock draft is Embracing the chaos of potential smokescreens

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But, hey, the NFL draft is typically chock full of surprise picks and/or the stunning trades that so often precipitate them.
As for Minnesota, this is partially an exercise in connecting dots, a draft tradition like no other.
New Washington GM Adam Peters needs a quarterback (and purportedly loves the former Wolverines star) but could also use more draft freight to build up the remainder of the Commanders’ roster.
Chargers [PROJECTED TRADE with Jets]: OL Taliese Fuaga, Oregon State A right tackle for the Beavers, Fuaga is excellent in pass protection and especially nasty as a run blocker.
Patriots [PROJECTED TRADE with Vikings]: OL Troy Fautanu, Washington Better not to force a quarterback here, which is also the presumption for their potential willingness to vacate the No.
Bears [PROJECTED TRADE with Raiders via Commanders and Cardinals]: DE Jared Verse, Florida State Why would Chicago punt on a second top-10 pick?
Seahawks [PROJECTED TRADE with 49ers]: QB Michael Penix Jr., Washington A strong pro day certainly didn’t damage his stock.
Yet getting him here still allows Seattle to add draft assets – maybe Illinois DT Johnny Newton in Round 2?


With the 2024 NFL draft scheduled to begin in Detroit in less than two weeks, now is the ideal moment to relax, crack open a cold one, and take in the smoke (screens).

A lot of speculation, rumors, and misleading and inaccurate information are available to sort through around the middle of April. However, the NFL draft is usually filled with unexpected selections and/or the spectacular trades that lead up to them. This draft mock will embrace some of the alleged chaos, as long as it stays within reason, and explore some of the more outrageous possibilities that might arise in the first round—that is, after the smoke clears, of course.

1. QB Caleb Williams, USC, is the Chicago Bears’ (from the Carolina Panthers) acquisition.

This doesn’t call for any (more) deceit. When Southern California’s Williams campus welcomed Bears brass for Williams’ pro day last month, former quarterback Justin Fields was already in Pittsburgh. The winner of the 2022 Heisman Trophy will take over an enterprise that is considerably more similar to a turnkey setup than Fields ever experienced in the Windy City, or Williams had in SoCal the previous year. Without a doubt, though, his athleticism and passing creativity should help this team advance sooner rather than later.

2. Las Vegas Raiders [PROJECTED TRADE with Washington Commanders]: Jayden Daniels, LSU, at quarterback.

Antonio Pierce, the associate head coach at Arizona State during Daniels’ time there and current head coach of New Silver and Black, is attempting to bring this to pass. He has a strong desire to have a multi-threat quarterback. Raiders wide receiver Davante Adams is making an effort to make it happen. The desperation of Las Vegas to position itself for the 2023 Heisman winner is something that ESPN’s Adam Schefter consistently reports. Daniels has given thought to the idea of playing in Sin City, stating on his pro day that “it would be insane if that were to happen.”. Given the presence of Adams, a respectable offensive line, a solid defense, and veteran quarterback Gardner Minshew II, whose arrival via free agency would free up Daniels to play right away, the Raiders would be a plus situation for a rookie passer. A small problem exists: general manager Tom Telesco would probably have to give up at least three first-round selections, including No. 13 overall this year, to make this happen; however, a package like that might only serve as icebreaker with a Washington team that is also in the running for a franchise quarterback.

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3. QB Drake Maye, North Carolina, is a projected trade addition to the Minnesota Vikings from the New England Patriots.

This is predicated on the idea that the Vikings, who have already acquired a second first-round pick from the Texans, will attempt to fill QB Kirk Cousins’ departure through another trade in addition to Sam Darnold’s short-term signing. The 49ers did something similar three years ago to position themselves for quarterback Trey Lance, and we all know how that turned out. However, Minnesota can now offer two first round picks this year, which eliminates the need for three first round picks—something San Francisco was unable to do at the time. Given the multiple holes on his roster, multiple mid-round picks in 2025 should be sufficient to complete such a deal. The Vikings’ current next pick after Round 1 is in the fourth round. This makes sense for new Pats director of scouting Eliot Wolf. Why not push the quarterback further down the road and stick with seasoned quarterback Jacoby Brissett for the time being? New England doesn’t appear to be in a better position to support a young quarterback than it was under Mac Jones.

For Minnesota, on the other hand, this is in part a .-connecting exercise—a draft custom unlike any other. (To be fair, it’s also an attempt to address a position that will be crucial to All-Pro wide receiver Justin Jefferson’s future as he approaches the last year of his rookie contract. Josh McCown, who was recently hired as the quarterbacks coach, was not only Darnold’s teammate with the Jets but also Maye’s coach at Charlotte’s Myers Park High School. McCown played in the league for almost twenty years. Maye achieved fame at UNC after that, winning the ACC Player of the Year award in 2022. Already, Josh Allen and Justin Herbert come to mind when considering his enormous arm and his ability to be a devastating runner outside the pocket on his best days. Okay, okay, so during the previous two years, he did run for sixteen touchdowns and had a nearly four-to-one TD-to-INT ratio in college. However, Maye’s college record isn’t always up to par, especially from the previous season, when his Chapel Hill supporting cast was, to be fair, a little lackluster. Maye is nevertheless knowledgeable and skilled, possessing a wide range of resources, and is convincing enough to be discussed as the No. overall choice, as well.

4. [Projected trade with Arizona Cardinals] Commanders: QB J. A. J. McCarthy, Michigan.

The framework can be in place if you know where you want to go, but a three-way trade at draft time isn’t particularly feasible. Although he is rumored to be in love with the former Wolverines star, new Washington general manager Adam Peters could use more draft picks to bolster the Commanders’ roster. Peters needs a quarterback. When gambling, you can increase your winnings to No. if you can obtain a bounty from the Raiders. 4 – and Cards general manager Monti Ossenfort, positioned behind center with Kyler Murray, has made it obvious that this position is up for grabs – you could be able to make some progress. It’s also conceivable that Peters could accomplish this by sending Arizona his second-round pick (36th overall), the first-round pick he acquired from Las Vegas, and perhaps a third or fourth to complete the transaction.

Peters, a native of San Francisco, has seen quarterback Brock Purdy lead the Niners to success. McCarthy is similar in certain ways, but he possesses far more remarkable physical prowess than one might anticipate from a “Mr. Unimportant. A move like this could put McCarthy back in a familiar position, managing a talented team while developing into a player who can carry one, especially considering what’s in place in Washington in terms of receivers and what Peters could bring to the O-line and elsewhere.

5. Los Angeles Chargers and New York Jets are expected to trade wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. Ohio State.

At the most recent league meeting, Jim Harbaugh, the head coach of the Bolts, appeared to be hinting at his main positional interest for a team that has a number of problems, stating, “The offensive line is important to me.”. Even though the value might not match a pick this early, that would also be consistent with his historical team-building philosophy. As they continue to look for talent to support quarterback Aaron Rodgers and company, the Jets are in win-now mode. at once. Since the top quarterbacks in this draft aren’t available, the Jets may be able to move up for a player they can use now and develop around later in exchange for this draft capital, which would still benefit the Chargers.

Harrison, who won the 2023 Biletnikoff and was a two-time All-American with Hall of Fame ancestry, averaged over 1,200 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns in the previous two seasons. He may be the best player coming off of the Buckeyes receiving assembly line. Aside from his size and speed, the 6-3, 209-pound player excels at running smooth routes and catching balls that are contested. Along with veteran wide receiver Mike Williams (who is on a one-year contract) and former teammate Garrett Wilson of the Buckeyes, he could form quite the triumvirate. Harrison appears to be the kind of pillar that could assist the NYJ in becoming successful right away, but he would also remain an important piece if they decided to move on from Williams and possibly even Wilson.

6. Rome Odunze, Washington, wide receiver, New York Giants.

Though Harrison is amazing, there are many supporters of Odunze, who was an All-American the previous season and a member of the Pac-12 the year before. With a stellar reputation off the field and 92 catches for 1,640 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2023, the 6-3, 212-pound player is a reliable weapon to add firepower to an offense lacking in weapons, especially in the red zone with its Smurfs-studded pass-catching corps. As the Huskies’ captain, Odunze’s leadership style and disposition make him an excellent fit for the Big Apple market.

6. Joe Alt, an offensive tackle from Notre Dame, plays for the Tennessee Titans.

They won’t get too cute, probably, from a team that looks to be in the midst of a rapid rebuild. Son of the late great Chiefs lineman John Alt, Alt (6-9, 321) is a massive, unanimous 2023 All-American who is considered the best blocker in this draft and a plug-and-play blind side tackle. The Titans may as well keep leveling up the line after selecting LG Peter Skoronski with their first-round pick in 2023, considering they addressed the offensive skill positions in free agency (WR Calvin Ridley, RB Tony Pollard). In an effort to further enhance the protection surrounding second-year quarterback Will Levis, let’s insert Alt next to him. Not to mention, in 2023, the new head coach Brian Callahan brought in his father, the renowned O-line coach Bill Callahan, to help his front five, which tied for the most sacks in the AFC with 64.

8. Atlanta Falcons: Dallas Turner, an Alabama OLB.

With Cousins back, the offense seems ready to go. In terms of pressure or coverage, however, it appears that the pass defense is a serious problem. Only one player, OLB Arnold Ebiketie, who had more than four sacks in 2023 and only six in his second season, is returning to the unit. With 10 sacks and a co-defensive player of the year award from the SEC last season, Turner is perhaps the best defensive prospect in this draft class. He can get past blockers and potentially transform this defense.

9. The Cardinals [PREDECTED TRADE with the Bears] have acquired LSU wide receiver Malik Nabers.

Even though Ossenfort might not volley around Round 1 in the same manner as he did in 2023, history tends to repeat itself. The Cards, in this hypothetical scenario, would have fallen from fourth to thirteenth place before climbing back up to acquire a premier receiver for quarterback Kyler Murray and adding picks to their roster. During the previous two seasons in Baton Rouge, Daniels’ main target, Nabers, truly blossomed during a 2023 All-American campaign in which he caught 89 passes for 1,569 yards and 14 touchdowns. At the Tigers’ pro day, he ran in the 4 point 3 range (though Nabers insisted it was in the 4 point 2 range), and he could provide the Cards with their first legitimate No. Larry Fitzgerald was the best receiver since DeAndre Hopkins, but neither player had similar afterburners.

10. OLB Taliese Fuaga of Oregon State is a projected trade addition for the Chargers in exchange for the Jets.

Fuaga, a right tackle for the Beavers, excels at blocking runs and has great pass protection. Though he can likely play anywhere up front save for center, he will be Oregon State’s first-ever Round 1 O-lineman. Rashawn Slater, who is firmly established on Herbert’s blind side, makes the Bolts the ideal fit for his college spot. And a team under Harbaugh who is going through a philosophical overhaul might find Fuaga’s tenacity and demeanor ideal. Particularly useful if you can select him in the tenth round as opposed to the fifth.

11. Patriots (THROUGH PROJECTED TRADE with Vikings): Troy Fautanu, offensive lineman.

It would be best to avoid pressuring a quarterback in this situation, which also assumes that they may be willing to give up the No. Position 3. It would also not be shocking if Wolf didn’t start the New England rebuild in the trenches, considering his Green Bay ancestry. As the Patriots start to assemble a supporting group deserving of a young quarterback, Fautanu, an All-Pac-12 player with excellent feet, could solve their left tackle problem or, at worst, be an All-Pro guard.

12. NFL team: Denver Broncos: Oregon QB Bo Nix.

Although they were more than happy to consume Russell Wilson’s high-calorie contract, Jarrett Stidham and Ben DiNucci make the diet seem drastic. Nix possesses the quickness, accuracy, and mobility that coach Sean Payton values. In fact, the Ducks’ offense may have contributed to part of his record-breaking 77.5% completion rate in 2023. He also has a nose for the goal line, having scored 38 rushing touchdowns in five college seasons. Furthermore, Nix is one of the more prepared rookie quarterbacks in the class, having made an FBS record 61 starts so far.

13. DE Jared Verse of Florida State is a projected trade addition for the Bears through the Commanders and Cardinals.

Since those high-round picks, even on rookie contracts, can be costly, one may wonder why Chicago would punt on a second top-10 pick. Despite the favorable circumstances, general manager Ryan Poles only has four picks this year, which is a league-low. By going down this far, he can still acquire a quality pick and add a potential choice that could be selected in the second or third round, depending on the year. Poles also still needs a pass rusher on the opposite side, despite adding DE Montez Sweat during the trade deadline last year. Verse was a first-team All-American in both of his Seminoles seasons and finished with nine sacks each. He will also give way to the run.

14. Olumuyiwa Fashanu, OT, New Orleans Saints, Penn State.

The Nittany Lions’ 2023 All-American quarterback, Derek Carr, makes too much sense considering the amount of abuse (physical and otherwise) he will likely receive in 2023, especially considering the performance—or lack thereof—so far of former first-round linebacker Trevor Penning, as well as the knee problems and cost attached to RT Ryan Ramczyk.

15. Boston Celtics: tight end Brock Bowers, Ga.

For GM Chris Ballard, the value in this scenario may be simply too alluring. For Anthony Richardson, the team’s second-year quarterback, Indianapolis is lacking in both downfield weapons and tight ends. The only two-time Mackey Award winner in history, Bowers had 26 touchdown catches in his three years of college and averaged almost 60 grabs for 850 yards. He was one of the few players at his position who could dominate a game offensively, sometimes as a ball carrier, even though he missed a significant portion of the 2023 season due to an ankle injury. He could become a good option for Richardson and a viable replacement for wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. for a team that prefers formations with multiple tight ends.

sixteen. Defensive end Laiatu Latu, UCLA; San Francisco 49ers [PROJECTED TRADE with Seattle Seahawks].

First off, these front offices have struck deals on the first night of the draft prior, despite being NFC West competitors. Second, the Niners, who will have to pay Purdy in the upcoming season, will surely stay committed as long as they can profit from having a full roster centered around the quarterback, who is still bound by his seventh-round contract. While Seattle has a hole in the Round 2 ., San Francisco has 10 picks as well and hardly needs 10 more players. and weaknesses all over its roster.

In two seasons with the Bruins, Latu racked up 35 tackles for loss, 23½ sacks, five forced fumbles, a pair of interceptions, and the Pac-12 defensive player of the year in 2023. He also won the Ted Hendricks Award and the Lombardi Award for being the nation’s best collegiate defensive end, posting an FBS-best 1.8 tackles for loss per game. Latu was placed on medical retirement due to a neck injury he sustained while attending the University of Washington, but he stated during the scouting combine that his current medical reports indicate he is no longer considered high risk. Latu might take over for veteran addition Leonard Floyd as the starting guard opposite 2022 Defensive Player of the Year Nick Bosa right away. He would not only bolster San Francisco’s pass rush, which loves to roll deep.

17. Quinyon Mitchell, a wide receiver, Jacksonville Jaguars.

In the last two seasons, two of his six interceptions have resulted in pick-sixes. He possesses impressive size (6′ 1½”), lightning speed (4 points in 40 minutes), and ball skills. Now that the AFC South champion Texans and a group of playmakers, including wide receiver Stefon Diggs, are in their midst, the Jags had better be prepared to repel them.

18. WR Brian Thomas Jr. of the Cincinnati Bengals. LSU.

Following a season in which he amassed 1,177 yards on 68 receptions, with a quarter of those receptions ending in touchdowns, the 6-3, 209-pound player turned in a 4 point 33-40 at the combine. Ja’Marr Chase, a Bayou Bengal himself, is looking for a new Robin for Cincinnati’s Batman, since Tyler Boyd is unsigned and franchise-tagged Tee Higgins is looking for a trade.

19. The Buffalo Bills are expected to trade wide receiver Adonai Mitchell of Texas to the Los Angeles Rams.

The Bills may need to be a little more aggressive in Round 1 to find a potential replacement at wide receiver, and Mitchell, with his Velcro hands and postseason credentials, may be a good fit for that role after they split from Diggs. Although Allen prefers to go deep, he can gain from a wider catch radius on intermediate throws. He is quite large (6-2, 205) and incredibly quick (4.34 40 time). In Mitchell’s lone season with the Longhorns, the Georgia transfer scored 11 touchdowns.

20. Pittsburgh Steelers: OT JC Latham, Alabama.

They would have benefited from having another wide receiver, but Buffalo beat them to Mitchell. Yet Latham, the All-SEC right tackle who has experience at guard, would bolster a weak offensive line while allowing the Steelers to execute their plan to flip 2023 first-round OT Broderick Jones back to the left side. Furthermore, it is entirely reasonable to take a road grader like Latham given the run-oriented strategy of the new OC, Arthur Smith.

21. Duke and OL Graham Barton of the Miami Dolphins.

Given his relatively short arms, the two-time All-ACC selection and Blue Devils left tackle is probably headed inside in the NFL. And following the apparent losses of Robert Hunt and Connor Williams during free agency, the Fins could use some assistance there.

22. CB Terrion Arnold of the Philadelphia Eagles hails from Alabama.

Howie Roseman, the EVP/GM of the Philadelphia Phillies, isn’t making one of his signature draft trades if Arnold is still available. Though he doesn’t quite have Mitchell’s exceptional speed, the first-team All-American has toughness, confidence, and production, so unlike some Eagles DBs in 2023, he will tackle. However, with starting CBs James Bradberry and Darius Slay both older than 30, this is a close to ideal combination of value and need.

Number 23. DT Byron Murphy II, Texas, is a projected trade addition for the Patriots in exchange for the Cleveland Browns via the Houston Texans and Minnesota Vikings.

After addressing one side of the trenches, Wolf moves on to the other by bringing in the All-Big 12 D-lineman. When he teams up with DT Christian Barmore, Murphy has the potential to become a potent force in the NFL. There is no better way to get to players like Allen, Rodgers, and Tua Tagovailoa than via the stomach.

24. Jackson Powers-Johnson, an offensive lineman from Oregon, plays for the Dallas Cowboys.

In place of the departing C Tyler Biadasz, “JPJ,” the 2023 Rimington Trophy winner as the nation’s best college center and a standout run and pass blocker, could slide one spot to the left, allowing LG Tyler Smith to take over the long-standing position left by LT Tyron Smith. It’s important to remember that RG Zack Martin’s contract expires in 2025.

25. Green Bay Packers: Oklahoma’s Tyler Guyton, OT.

A line that has lost G Jon Runyan Jr. and LT David Bakhtiari would benefit from the former tight end’s high-end potential and versatility. For the Sooners, Guyton mostly played right tackle but also played some left tackle. That might open up options in Green Bay, where Zach Tom, the current starting OT, has likewise lined up on both sides.

26th. DE Chop Robinson from Penn State is a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

6-3, 254-pound player’s astounding athleticism—he finished the combine with a sub-4:05 40-yard time—doesn’t always match his output, which in two seasons with the Nittany Lions included 17.5 TFLs and 9.5 sacks. However, given the loss of OLB Shaq Barrett in 2023, he might prove to be a valuable asset to a defense that relied heavily on the blitz.

26. DB Cooper DeJean of Iowa is a Cardinal (from the Texans).

A 2023 All-American and highly skilled athlete, DeJean was named the Big Ten’s best defensive back the previous season. He can play almost anywhere in the secondary, which is useful for a defense that needs help all over the back end and could potentially find a replacement for S Budda Baker soon. DeJean is a useful punt returner as well. At his personal workout on Monday, he ran a 4:43 40, seemingly well recovered from his broken leg from last November.

29. Rams [PREDECTED TRADE with Bills]: Missouri’s Darius Robinson, DL.

Therefore, it’s possible that they will hold off on selecting that first overall pick since 2016. If they do that, GM Les Snead would probably receive a second- or third-round pick in exchange for the Buffalo deal. Let’s reiterate: retired defensive lineman Aaron Donald will not be replaced by anyone entering the building. Robinson, though, has had a good pre-draft process and has plenty of room (and need) to establish a significant role for himself. The 6-5, 285-pound All-SEC pick is athletic and big enough to play both inside and outside while dominating against the run and pass, which seem like qualities that Los Angeles could really use right now.

29). Lions of Detroit: Alabama-born CB Kool-Aid McKinstry.

HC Dan Campbell seems to be drawn to a two-time All-SEC selection who runs a sub-4.5 40 while going through his pro day paces with a broken foot. Additionally, there is a need in this situation following Detroit’s sudden removal of Cam Sutton following a domestic abuse episode.

30. Amarius Mims, Georgia, is an offensive lineman for the Baltimore Ravens.

Mims is a right tackle who is already familiar with OC Todd Monken’s playbook. His 87-inch wingspan and 6-8, 340-pound frame help him block out sunlight, possibly even more effectively than the moon. After previous RT Morgan Moses was traded to the Jets, he was able to start right away.

32. Michael Penix Jr., quarterback for the Seahawks [PROJECTED TRADE with 49ERS]. Washington.

That didn’t hurt his stock, either, after a great pro day. Even though recent medical reports are encouraging, Penix’s history of knee and shoulder issues makes this potentially a bit rich. Yet getting him here still allows Seattle to add draft assets – maybe Illinois DT Johnny Newton in Round 2? – while securing the invaluable fifth-year option for a rookie quarterback. With the Huskies, Penix has had two outstanding seasons (67 touchdown passes, 19 interceptions). His performance against Texas in the College Football Playoffs (430 yards, two touchdown passes) was an all-time record, with the southpaw quarterback lasering the ball over the field. He was Daniels’ backup pick for the Heisman Trophy the previous season. His experiences and maturity are additional benefits. Ryan Grubb, an offensive coordinator hired by Seattle recently, previously served as Penix’s UW coach. Furthermore, Geno Smith’s contract was recently restructured by General Manager John Schneider, who scarcely gave any indication that the team will stick with the journeyman past the 2020–21 campaign.

32. Jordan Morgan, an OT from Arizona, is the Kansas City Chiefs.

Give the victors a plaything similar to Georgia’s Ladd McConkey or Texas wide receiver Xavier Worthy, who set the combine record with a 4 point 21 40-yard dash. But Patrick Mahomes, the quarterback, currently has a huge hole in his blind side. Too important to ignore unless LT Donovan Smith signs with the team again or HC Andy Reid and GM Brett Veach come up with a better solution in the interim. If not, Morgan has the potential to be a good one, especially in pass pro.


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