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Boris’ 2024 mock draft has quarterbacks going early and Eagles trading up to select Toledo’s Mitchell

The NFL draft is an inexact science, which is a nice way of calling it an educated guessing game. Between mock drafts, smokescreens, TV analyst debates and social media reports, there is now so much draft information (and misinformation) out there that it can be excruciatingly difficult to decipher just how the event might actually play out.

This year is no different. In fact, you can almost make a case that the 2024 NFL draft is two drafts built into one. First, we have the “quarterback draft.” We know Caleb Williams will be the top overall selection and we can be pretty confident that quarterbacks will be selected with the top three picks. However, could a trade be in the works that would see four quarterbacks going off the board to start the draft? If so, it would be the first time it’s happened in the history of the NFL draft. Speaking of history, there’s a possibility that six signal callers could be taken in the first round – a feat which hasn’t been seen in 41 years. If that were to happen tonight, it would tie the 1983 NFL draft (headlined by John Elway) as the only two drafts in the modern era with six first-round quarterbacks.

Then, we have the “position player draft.” It is no secret that this year’s first round will be dominated by offensive players, especially wide receivers and offensive linemen. The most offensive players ever selected in a first round was 19, which happened three times (1968, 2004 and 2009). I fully expect a new record to be set tonight, with at least 20 players being selected from the offensive side of the ball.

Over the years, the NFL Draft has become more than just a player selection process – it has turned into a cultural phenomenon filled with storylines, drama and unpredictability. It has captivated audiences and dominated headlines; in fact, the only thing crazier than considering all the possibilities is trying to predict how it will all unfold.

That being said, I am here once again to offer some insights and opinions on this year’s first round with the release of my 2024 final mock draft, which has become an annual staple of the Times News for the past 24 years and has been ranked as one of the most accurate mock drafts in the industry over the past 13 years according to www.thehuddlereport.com. So, without further ado, here is how I see things unfolding tonight (before the first trade blows it all up):

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

If you’re looking for drama with the top overall selection, you’re not going to find it in this year’s draft. Caleb Williams has been locked in to this pick ever since the Bears traded Justin Fields to the Steelers last month. In fact, Williams only made one pre-draft visit and it was to Chicago (where the Bears were apparently installing the offense with him).

2. Washington Commanders – Jayden Daniels (QB, LSU)

New regimes usually signal new franchise quarterbacks, and that will indeed be the case here. The Commanders aren’t entertaining trading this pick, and we’re going to see back-to-back Heisman Trophy winners selected at the top of this draft for the first time since 2015 (Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota). Daniels can create havoc with this arms and legs, and could be viewed as Lamar Jackson 2.0.

3. New England Patriots – Drake Maye (QB, North Carolina)

The Patriots will listen to trade offers here, but I think it’ll take a king’s ransom for them to budge on moving this pick. New England is rebuilding and that starts with finding your quarterback of the future. Mac Jones was traded away and Jacoby Brissett is only a bridge quarterback. This pick will come down to Drake Maye vs. J.J. McCarthey and I think Maye’s physical traits and intangibles win out.

4. * TRADE * Minnesota Vikings (from Arizona) – J.J. McCarthey (QB, Michigan)

I’m always hesitant to project trades in my mock draft, but this just make too much sense not to happen. When Minnesota acquired Houston’s first round pick last month (#23), it was strictly to obtain more ammo to move up the board for a quarterback. In this scenario, they can package their two first-round picks (#11 and #23) to Arizona and the Cardinals could then consider moving back up in the top 10 to draft a wide receiver (possibly the same player they would have selected at #4). The Vikings absolutely need to come out of the first round with a quarterback. Their preference might be Drake Maye, but I’m told they’d be more than happy with McCarthey, who has won championships everywhere he’s played.

5. * TRADE* Arizona Cardinals (from Los Angeles Chargers) – Marvin Harrison Jr. (WR, Ohio State)

Reminiscent of last year when the Cardinals traded down (from 3 to 12) and then moved back up (from 12 to 6), I can see the same thing playing out this year. Arizona has six picks in the top 90, so they certainly have the pieces to wheel and deal (let’s call it the “Monti Manuever” – for Cardinals G.M. Monti Ossenfort). I believe the Chargers would be an ideal trade partner, since they can pick up an additional first round pick and still get a quality offensive lineman at #11. For Arizona, I think this pick comes down to Marvin Harrison or Malik Nabers. There are strong recent rumblings that the Cardinals actually prefer Nabers over Harrison, but I’m going to play it safe with this one and stick with the player I had mocked to the Cardinals for months.

6. New York Giants – Malik Nabers (WR, LSU)

There is a chance the Giants will explore moving up to #4 with the Cardinals to draft a quarterback (but can they outbid the Vikings in a trade?). Daniel Jones might not be the answer in New York, but he hasn’t exactly been surrounded by weapons in the receiving corps either. With Darren Waller mulling retirement, this is a great opportunity for the Giants to get an elite receiver in this draft to be their WR1. Nabers, Harrison Jr. or even Rome Odunze would all certainly qualify.

7. Tennessee Titans – Joe Alt (OT, Notre Dame)

One of the chalkiest picks in mock drafts this year is Joe Alt to the Titans. Tennessee drafted Peter Skoronski last year to plug in for Nate Davis, but there is still a massive hole at left tackle to fill Taylor Lewan’s shoes. Alt can learn under offensive line guru Bill Callahan, who is now in Tennessee coaching under his son Brian. The only team that could select Alt prior to Tennessee is the Chargers (if they stay and pick at #5), but I don’t see him as a scheme fit necessarily. I also wouldn’t totally rule out a wide receiver being in play here for the Titans.

8. Atlanta Falcons – Laiatu Latu (EDGE, UCLA)

We’ve been talking about offensive players in the first seven picks, so it’s time to check in on the defensive side of the ball. The Falcons have been drafting offensive skill position players early in their previous three drafts (Kyle Pitts, Drake London, Bijan Robinson), and with the signing of Kirk Cousins in free agency, it’s time to beef up the defense. Dallas Turner has been a popular connection to the Falcons in mock drafts, but Latu (who had some injury concerns in college) has jumped up the draft board after his medicals checked out. Latu has more size, speed and production than any other first round edge rusher. Plus, Atlanta’s new defensive coordinator Jimmy Lake coached Latu at UCLA.

9. Chicago Bears – Dallas Turner (EDGE, Alabama)

This is a tough pick to project because with only four picks in this year’s draft, I think the Bears would want to move down to stockpile more picks. If they stay here and pick, they’ll only have two more selections the rest of the way (a third and fourth round pick). This will be a prime spot for teams wanting to move up for either Odunze or an offensive tackle. If they make a pick here though, I think it would come down to either defensive end or offensive tackle. Dallas Turner would be a great bookend to Montez Sweat.

10. New York Jets – Rome Odunze (WR, Washington)

The Jets are in it to win it and that starts and ends with surrounding Aaron Rodgers with weapons. Offensive tackle was a huge need for the team, as protecting Rodgers is paramount coming off last year’s torn Achilles, but All-Pro left tackle Tyron Smith was signed (as well as Morgan Moses) to help shore up the trenches. I ultimately believe this pick will boil down to Brock Bowers and Rome Odunze. Since wide receiver is the more premium position, I’ll side with Odunze and I wouldn’t rule out the Jets moving up a pick or two to snag him.

11. * TRADE * Los Angeles Chargers (from Arizona though Minnesota) – JC Latham (OT, Alabama)

Considering the Chargers parted ways with Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Gerald Everett and Austin Ekeler), it’s easy to say their biggest need is someone to catch the football; however, that just isn’t Jim Harbaugh’s M.O. With Greg Roman as his offensive coordinator, and J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards coming over from Baltimore, it’s clear what the Chargers want to do – establish the run and pound the football. Rashawn Slater is solidified at left tackle, so Los Angeles is probably looking for an upgrade on the right side. Joe Alt is strictly a left tackle (hence why I didn’t mock him to the Chargers), but the best right tackle in this year’s draft and the strongest run defender is JC Latham.

12. * TRADE * Philadelphia Eagles (from Denver) – Quinyon Mitchell (CB, Toledo)

If Bo Nix is the player Denver wants, the Broncos need to trade down since they don’t have a second-round pick. If recent history has taught us anything, it’s that Howie Roseman loves trading up to get his guys (in four of the last five drafts, Roseman has traded up in the first round). To me this is a perfect marriage for both teams. There are two routes for the Eagles to go with this pick – an offensive lineman for the future or a cornerback for the present. If Mitchell is on his radar, he’ll probably need to jump the Raiders, Colts and/or Jaguars, all of which could be looking at Mitchell. If an offensive tackle is the goal, he’ll need to jump the Raiders, Saints and/or Bengals.

13. Las Vegas Raiders – Taliese Fuaga (OT, Oregon State)

There is a lot of buzz connecting the Raiders with Washington quarterback Michel Penix Jr. However, similar to Denver, matching a team need (of quarterback) with positional value at this point in the draft doesn’t align very well. I think there is a better shot of Las Vegas trading back into the later portion of round one and trying to snag Penix. If that happens, just remember that the right tackle will be Penix’s blindside protector, so someone like Taliese Fuaga or JC Latham would seem to make the most sense, as they both played right tackle in college.

14. New Orleans Saints – Olumuyiwa Fashanu (OT, Penn State)

I’d be completely shocked if the Saints didn’t address the offensive line with this pick, as it is without a doubt their most glaring need. Unlike some of the teams in front of them, the Saints would probably prefer a left tackle, since Trevor Penning hasn’t exactly panned out as a starter for them. In this instance, Olumuyiwa Fashanu is the best pure left tackle still available and checks all the boxes (a team captain who didn’t allow a sack last year). However, any of the top offensive linemen would probably be an upgrade for New Orleans.

15. Indianapolis Colts – Brock Bowers (TE, Georgia)

I think this is Brock Bowers’ ceiling, as he could easily go as high as #10 to the Jets or even #12 to the Broncos. I get the feeling the Colts want an explosive playmaker in this draft though and Bowers or Rome Odunze would certainly fit the bill. Bowers would be a “Swiss army knife” for Shane Steichen. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Colts looked for a cornerback though (Terrion Arnold, Quinyon Mitchell) to combat all of the firepower the Texans, Jaguars and Titans have at the wide receiver position.

16. Seattle Seahawks – Byron Murphy II (DT, Texas)

I originally had Washington offensive lineman Troy Fautanu ticketed to Seattle to address a major need; however, a few medical red flags have popped up on him in the days leading up to the draft. He could still be taken in the teens, but I’m going to pivot with defensive tackle Byron Murphy, who grew up rooting for the Seahawks as a kid. Last year, I was convinced Seattle was going to take defensive tackle Jalen Carter in the top 10, but that didn’t pan out. With a new defensive-minded coaching staff, I’m going back to the well with another pass rushing defensive tackle.

17. Jacksonville Jaguars – Terrion Arnold (CB, Alabama)

Jacksonville’s biggest need is cornerback and there should be a few good ones available to them in the mid-first round. In my opinion, the two best fits for the Jaguars both played at Alabama – Terrion Arnold and Kool- Aid McKinstry. While Arnold is preferred, McKinstry is a nice fallback option if he is off the board. Jacksonville must also replace Calvin Ridley, so you can’t totally rule out a wide receive to help Trevor Lawrence.

18. Cincinnati Bengals – Aramis Mims (OT, Georgia)

I can see the Bengals going one of two ways with this pick – a right tackle to solidify the offensive line or a defensive tackle like Byron Murphy to plug up the defensive interior. Alabama’s JC Latham would be the dream pick here, but I’m just not sure he’ll still be on the board (if he is though, run the card to the podium). Cincinnati’s two starting offensive tackles average 6-8 and 350 pounds; however, Trent Brown is just on a one-year deal. Amarius Mims is another behemoth of a man who fits the mold of what the Bengals are looking for. He’s doesn’t have a lot of starting experience in college, but he doesn’t need to be a day one starter in this scenario.

19. Los Angeles Rams – Jared Verse (DE, Florida State)

As hard as it is to believe, this is the first time since 2016 that the Rams will be selecting in the first round of the draft. Considering that the Rams just lost future Hall of Fame defensive tackle Aaron Donald to retirement, you’d have to believe that addressing the pass rush is the top priority for Sean McVay. They can do this with an undersized defensive tackle who is similar to Donald in Byron Murphy or they can look to apply pressure off the edge with a player like Jared Verse.

20. Pittsburgh Steelers – Troy Fautanu (G/OT, Washington)

The identity of the Steelers this year will be running the football with Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren. To do that effectively, they need to make sure the offensive line is structurally sound. Pittsburgh recently cut starting center Mason Cole and they have yet to replace him. The Steelers could also use an upgrade at tackle, which could allow them to kick Broderick Jones over to the left side if they choose. I would be totally stunned if this pick wasn’t used on an offensive lineman, whether tackle (Fautanu or Amarius Mims) or center (Graham Barton or Jackson Powers-Johnson).

21. Miami Dolphins – Graham Barton (G/C, Duke)

Depending on where the value lies when they are on the clock, Miami should be on the lookout to upgrade the trenches. The Dolphins lost Christian Wilkins in free agency so a defensive tackle like Byron Murphy or Johnny Newton could be seen as a replacement. However, this draft is rich in offensive lineman and both offensive guard sports are seemingly open for competition. Barton, perhaps the best guard prospect in this year’s draft, is a very nasty run blocker and can play multiple positions on the line. A wildcard here might be wide receiver Xavier Worthy to fulfill Mike McDaniel’s need for speed.

22. * TRADE * Denver Broncos – Bo Nix (QB, Oregon)

The million-dollar question is what the Broncos are planning to do at quarterback. I’m not sure the signing of former #2 overall pick Zach Wilson will preclude Denver from selecting a quarterback here, but it does give me some pause. If the Broncos want Bo Nix, they need to consider trading down, since they don’t have a second-round pick. One other fun fact to consider is that Sean Payton has never drafted a first-round quarterback in his coaching career, but how in the world can you sell tickets with Wilson, Garrett Stidham and Ben DeNucci as your quarterbacks?!?!

23. * TRADE * Arizona Cardinals (from Minnesota through Cleveland) – Nate Wiggins (CB, Clemson)

If the Cardinals are able to land an elite receiver with their first pick, they should be able to focus on addressing their leaky defense with their next few picks – mainly cornerback and defensive end. Options for Arizona here will be Wiggins or Kool-Aid McKinstry. Wiggins can be a potential No. 1 cover corner with serious speed and athleticism. His one downfall is his slight frame of 173 pounds, which also could cause him to fall out of the first round.

24. Dallas Cowboys – Tyler Guyton (OT, Oklahoma)

I’m fairly confident that Dallas is locked into taking an offensive lineman with this pick. Their ideal scenario would be a left tackle to replace Tyron Smith, which would enable Tyler Smith to remain at guard. Offensive linemen will be flying off the board in this draft, so who makes it to Dallas’ selection is the question. The Cowboys also have a need at center (replacing Tyler Biadasz), so Graham Barton or Jackson Powers-Johnson will also garner consideration.

25. Green Bay Packers – Cooper DeJean (CB/S, Iowa)

The Packers have a history of drafting Iowa defensive players and it just so happens they have a need in the secondary to replace Rasul Douglas. DeJean is position-versatile, which could appeal to Green Bay. He can play outside corner, he can line up in the slot and he can even play safety. The other area that I can see the Packers looking to address is their offensive line, as a replacement for David Bakhtiari at tackle is needed.

26. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Chop Robinson (EDGE, Penn State)

The three main areas of concern for Tampa Bay are interior offensive line, cornerback and defensive end. At defensive end, a replacement for Shaq Barrett is needed, and Chop Robinson (although a bit undersized), will certainly fit the bill. Other players under consideration are Kool Aid McKinstry (cornerback), as well as Graham Barton and Jackson Powers-Johnson (interior offensive line).

27. Arizona Cardinals (from Houston) – Darius Robinson (EDGE, Missouri)

The Cardinals need multiple defensive linemen to replace all of the talent they’ve lost recently and they certainly have enough draft picks to do so. Darius Robinson started at defensive tackle for Missouri before transitioning to defensive end last season. He’s versatile enough to play in a 3-4 or 4-3 scheme, which will be appealing to the Arizona coaching staff. One other position the Cardinals could look to address in the first round is offensive line, even though they took Paris Johnson last year in the first round.

28. Buffalo Bills – Brian Thomas Jr. (WR, LSU)

Gabe Davis is now playing in Jacksonville and Stefon Diggs is now a member of the Houston Texans, so it’s pretty clear that Buffalo needs to find a wide receiver early on in this draft. I don’t think Thomas will be here at pick #28, but I do believe Buffalo will explore trading up for a wide receiver (either Thomas or Worthy). Brian Thomas is a huge receiver with great athleticism and upside, something that Josh Allen sorely needs right now.

29. Detroit Lions – Kool-Aid McKinstry (CB, Alabama)

In last year’s draft, Detroit was targeting Devon Witherspoon with this first pick in the draft and Seattle snagged him one pick before. I still think the Lions are in the market for a cornerback following Cam Sutton’s arrest and release. If McKinstry is on the board, he’d make perfect sense for the Lions here. If not, I can see Detroit looking to address the interior of its offensive line (Graham Barton or Jackson Powers-Johnson), which is starting to shows some red flags with aging veterans and injury-prone players.

30. * TRADE* Las Vegas Raiders (from Baltimore) – Michael Penix Jr. (QB, Washington)

When it gets this late into round one, you have to be on the look out for teams trying to trade up into the first round for players (especially quarterbacks) to guarantee a fifth-year option on their contracts. Las Vegas has their eyes on Michael Penix and if they don’t take him with their earlier first-round pick, I think they’ll do everything possible to try to move back into the first round to get him. If Baltimore was to make their pick here, I would think offensive line (Jordan Morgan) and cornerback (Nate Wiggins) are their two most pressing needs.

31. San Francisco 49’ers – Johnny Newton (DT, Illinois)

The 49’ers lost a lot of bodies along the defensive line this offseason. They brough in Leonard Floyd and Yetur Gross-Matos to work across from Nick Bosa, but the middle of the line is still a pressing issue after losing Arik Armstead, Javon Kinlaw and Sebastian Joseph-Day. Johnny Newton would make a ton of sense here. San Francisco can also look for an offensive lineman (Jordan Morgan or Tyler Guyton) since they are dealing with older veterans and expiring contracts next season.

32. Kansas City Chiefs – Xavier Worthy (WR, Texas)

In light of the Rashee Rice arrest and possible suspension, you would think the Chiefs would look at drafting a wide receiver here. Adonai Mitchel is popularly mocked to the Chiefs, but he has some health concerns (managing his Type 1 Diabetes) that might cause him to slip out of the first round. His teammate Xavier Worthy, who ran the fastest 40-yard dash (4.21 seconds) in the history of the Scouting Combine, might be available though. Worthy would instantly become Patrick Mahomes’ new Tyreek Hill. The Chiefs also have a huge hole at left tackle and Jordan Morgan (or BYU’s Kingsley Suamataia) could be looked at to protect Mahomes’ blindside.