Hayes: Way-too-early 2024 NFL mock draft
Remember, it’s always about the quarterback. So it should come as no surprise that the 2024 NFL Draft will be all about quarterbacks, too.
Just like our way-too-early mock draft.
It begins with the 2022 Heisman Trophy winner (Caleb Williams), and includes 4 quarterbacks selected in the first 11 picks, and 5 selected overall. Those quarterback projections don’t include 2 SEC quarterbacks who could move into the first round with big seasons (Georgia’s Carson Beck and Tennessee’s Joe Milton III).
Here, then, is our way-too-early 2024 NFL mock draft, with selection order based on projected finish in 2023 season (does not include potential trades):
1. Arizona: QB Caleb Williams. QB Kyler Murray is scheduled to earn $51 million in 2024, but the Cardinals aren’t passing on a player some scouts are comparing to Patrick Mahomes.
2. Arizona (from Houston): WR Marvin Harrison Jr. The Cardinals get their quarterback, and a No. 1 wide receiver. Might be too high for Harrison, but the need is there — and he’s elite.
3. Tampa Bay: QB Drake Maye, North Carolina. The No. 2 overall pick — if the Cardinals have both 1 and 2 — will fetch a ransom, and could keep the Bucs from landing Maye unless they move up 1 spot.
4. Los Angeles Rams: CB Kool-Aid McKinstry, Alabama. Rams are desperate for a quarterback, and could move up to No. 2. For now, they get the best corner in the draft for a shaky secondary.
5. Indianapolis: OT Joe Alt, Notre Dame. The Colts are all-in on The Anthony Richardson Project, so they better find a way to protect him. Alt is massive (6-8, 315) and an elite pass protector.
6. Washington: QB Quinn Ewers, Texas. Long ago, the Commanders won Super Bowls with great teams (and game managers at quarterback). Time to find a unique franchise QB, and Ewers, when healthy, has shown franchise quarterback talent.
7. Green Bay: TE Brock Bowers, Georgia. The Packers aren’t necessarily committed to QB Jordan Love (they didn’t pick up the 5th-year option). Whoever plays QB in 2024 gets an elite difference-maker with Bowers.
8. Las Vegas: Edge Jared Verse, Florida State. Would’ve been a 1st-round pick had he entered this year’s draft. Explosive and athletic off the edge, with length and bend.
9. Chicago: WR Rome Odunze, Washington. Bears must continue to build around QB Justin Fields. Odunze consistently wins on the outside and is a smooth route runner with deep speed.
10. Atlanta: CB Kalen King, Penn State. Joey Porter Jr. got the hype, King played better. King isn’t tall and long like Porter, but he mirrors routes better, runs better and had 3 INTs and 15 PBUs in 2022.
11. Seattle: QB Michael Penix Jr., Washington. Geno Smith won’t last past 2023, and his contract is structured to allow Seattle limited cap damage. Penix will have another huge season in 2023 (he had 4,641 yards and 31 TDs in 2022). He’s accurate and can make every throw.
12. New Orleans: OT Olumuyiwa Fashanu, Penn State. Might have been the first OT picked in the 2023 draft. Need overtakes positional talent in the first 11 picks in 2024, and Saints get an elite pass protector.
13. Pittsburgh: ILB Jamon Dumas-Johnson, Georgia. A big hitter, a quick mover laterally. Perfect fit for Steelers’ 3-4 defense, and a wildly underrated pass rusher.
14. Tennessee: OT JC Latham, Alabama. Titans got their left tackle in the 2023 draft (Peter Skoronski), and get their right tackle in 2024. A 5-star recruit, Latham has been hit and miss in his 2 seasons, but (like many) will turn it up in a money season.
15. New England: DT Maason Smith, LSU. As much as QB Mac Jones and OC Bill O’Brien want weapons on offense, it’s rare when Patriots coach Bill Belichick passes on an elite interior defensive lineman.
16. Chicago (from Carolina): Edge Dallas Turner, Alabama. Bears addressed interior D-line in 2023 draft, and now go edge with Turner, who has huge upside. His 2nd full season in 2023 will be his best at Alabama.
17. Houston (from Cleveland): WR Emeka Egbuka, Ohio State. Former 5-star recruit made a huge jump in 2022 and would be the No. 1 receiver on 95% of FBS teams. A deep threat for Texans QB (and ex-Buckeye) CJ Stroud.
18. Denver: WR Xavier Worthy, Texas. The reclamation of QB Russell Wilson won’t be complete until Broncos coach Sean Payton surrounds him with better options on the outside. That begins with Worthy, a rangy and fast — and dynamic after the catch — No. 1 receiver.
19. Minnesota: Edge JT Tuimoloau, Ohio State: Must prove he can play consistently, week after week, at a high level. When he’s on, he’s a terror off the edge and will fit perfectly in the Vikings’ odd front.
20. Detroit: WR Malik Nabers, LSU. It doesn’t matter who plays quarterback, he needs weapons. Who knows what the Lions have in WR Jameson Williams, who will begin the 2023 season with a 6-game suspension for gambling.
21. New York Giants: WR Dorian Singer, USC. Had a huge season in relative obscurity in 2022 at Arizona but will be featured at USC with QB Caleb Williams. A ridiculous catch radius and is dynamic after the catch.
22. Dallas: LB Smael Mondon Jr., Georgia. Instinctual, athletic and active, he’ll fit well in a Cowboys scheme that values linebackers. A terrific complement to All-Pro LB Micah Parsons.
23. Los Angeles Chargers: DT JerZhan Newton, Illinois. Brandon Staley is a defensive coach, and the Chargers have given QB Justin Herbert everything he needs. Now it’s time to help the defense — and specifically, the interior, with a true run stuffer in Newton.
24. Green Bay (from New York Jets): QB JJ McCarthy, Michigan. It’s too hard to pass up McCarthy’s athletic ability and live arm. His gunslinger mentality fits perfectly in the Favre/Rodgers mold.
25. Baltimore: G Donovan Jackson, Ohio State. The Ravens made Lamar Jackson the highest paid player in the league. Now it’s time to protect the investment, and help the run game with a road-grading guard.
26. Miami: TE JT Sanders, Texas. He’s a move tight end but has enough in-line blocking skills to make it work. Adding the athletic and fast Sanders to a pass game that already includes speedy WRs Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle is almost unfair.
27. Jacksonville: CB Cooper DeJean, Iowa. A ridiculous athlete with 4.4 speed in the 40 and a 40-inch vertical leap. A big corner (6-1, 210) with instincts, he had 5 INTs in 2022.
28. Buffalo: Edge Chop Robinson, Penn State. If he develops as many on the Penn State staff believe he can, he could move into the top 15. Had 5.5 sacks and 10 TFLs in 2022, his first season at PSU (he played at Maryland in 2021).
29. San Francisco: OT Jonah Monheim, USC. There’s a glaring weakness with 1 of the top 3 talented teams in the NFL: offensive tackle. LT Trent Williams will play his 14th season in 2023, and the 49ers still haven’t figured out the right side. According to Pro Football Focus, Monheim had 570 pass protection snaps in 2022 and didn’t give up a sack.
30. Kansas City: CB Jason Marshall Jr., Florida. He received little help from the Gators’ pass rush the past 2 seasons but has excelled in man coverage. How much better can he be working behind elite Chiefs pass rush?
31. Philadelphia: C Christian Mahogany, Boston College. This has to be Jason Kelce’s last season, right? Eagles get a plug-and-play mauler. (And yes, Georgia’s Sedrick Van Pran was a thought here).
32. Cincinnati: G Donovan Jackson, Ohio State. The franchise is Joe Burrow, and there’s no bigger priority than protection — inside and out. Jackson won the left guard spot in 2022, and had a huge season.