NFL Mock Draft 1.0: Caleb Williams becomes Bears’ franchise QB

Jason Parkhurst- USA Today Sports
Caleb Williams to the Bears, Michael Penix to the Falcons, and Brock Bowers to the Chargers in The Sporting Tribune's NFL Mock Draft 1.0.

With the College Football season officially over, it is now time to turn our attention to the 2024 NFL Draft which features some of the best prospects in recent memory at multiple positions. Led by USC Superstar Caleb Williams and North Carolina standout Drake Maye, this year’s quarterback class is as talented as they come, but its the wide receivers that really stand out to me. Malik Nabers, Rome Odunze, and Marvin Harrison Jr. could all be All-Pro WR’s at the NFL level. Nonetheless, there are a ton of QB needy teams at the top of the draft and we could see a record for QB’s taken in the first 15 picks this season because of that. Here we go.

1. Chicago Bears: Caleb Williams QB, USC

Let’s not get anything twisted: Caleb Williams is a generational prospect who has the ability to become the best player in the NFL with his elusiveness, pocket awareness, and ability to scramble and make electric plays. Every year scouts and evaluators at this point in the process look to make something out of nothing by writing off consensus top picks like Williams and trying to find a prospect that is trending at the moment and “should also be considered with the top pick in the draft”.

At this point in the process, it is Drake Maye out of North Carolina, and though he has all the physical traits to succeed in the NFL, he can’t read a defense and improvise like Williams can. The Bears should reset the QB clock, go with Williams here and then pick another high-end WR with the 9th overall pick.

2. Washington Commanders: Drake Maye QB, UNC

I think Michael Penix Jr. should be considered here but he won’t be. The top two quarterbacks picked will be Williams and Maye, and the Commanders will bank on the upside of an ultra-athletic 6-4 QB who has similarities to Josh Allen and Justin Herbert in his game. However, the problem that arises with Maye is that he didn’t show much consistency in his tenure at North Carolina, sometimes throwing for 400+ yards and 4 TD’s against a good team one week, then laying an egg and turning it over 4 times against a very bad team the next week. Still, Maye’s upside is very tantalizing and tough to pass up, especially for a team looking for a home-run selection to change the course of the franchise.

I have seen consistent stellar play from Williams, Penix, and Daniels and this is a very risky pick considering the Commanders still fail to employ a competent offensive line and run game. Maye could be set up for failure and never reach his potential if the Commanders don’t sign some lineman in free agency.

3. New England Patriots: Jayden Daniels QB, LSU

The Patriots would love for Maye or Williams to fall to them but unless they trade up that isn’t going to happen. The Commanders need a QB and if the Bears don’t draft a QB they will undoubtedly trade the pick and get a haul of future 1st and 2nd rounders. Instead they are stuck with Jayden Daniels, who is actually a very talented prospect with a ton of upside. He is 23 years old, but he put together one of the best individual seasons in recent memory at LSU this year finishing with 4,946 total yards, 50 total touchdowns, and just 4 interceptions.

Daniels is an excellent runner, but his arm and size get overlooked. Sure he isn’t the bulkiest guy in the world and will definitely need to gain a lot of weight in muscle to reach his potential, but he’s 6-4 with a great arm and is the fastest QB in this draft by far. He reminds me a lot of Lamar Jackson, but is a more gifted passer and less of a polished rusher at this age. The only issue in going to the Patriots is that they have no weapons besides Rhamondre Stevenson, so Daniels better hope the Patriots draft a WR in round 2.

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

Marvin Harrison Jr. is an excellent WR prospect that many scouts say could be better than his dad who was a first ballot Hall of Famer. I get the hype and I understand that Kyle McCord (his college QB) wasn’t that good, but I don’t see as big of a gap between Harrison Jr. and Malik Nabers/Rome Odunze as other evaluators do.

I think that all 3 of those receivers will become All-Pro’s but I wouldn’t be surprised if Nabers or Odunze have a better career than Harrison. Still, it is hard to argue against a 6-4 freak athlete who can catch any pass, run ay route, and outrun almost any cornerback. Cardinals get their WR1 of the future to help Kyler Murray.

5. Los Angeles Chargers: Brock Bowers TE, Georgia

There is a multitude of directions the Chargers can go in with this pick, but they simply haven’t had a Tight End that could push their offense to new heights and I think Brock Bowers can do just that. They have Keenan Allen and Mike Williams, and I get that they have dealt with a lot of injuries in their careers, but does that warrant taking another WR over perhaps a generational TE? I wouldn’t overthink this pick and I think Bowers could become the next generations Travis Kelce but a better blocker.

6. New York Giants: Olu Fashanu OL, Penn State

The Giants offensive line still is one of the worst units in football and Olu Fashanu would be a top 3 pick in almost any other year and can give Daniel Jones or whoever they have at QB better protection right off the bat. It is also important to note that with Andrew Thomas playing LT, Fashanu would likely move to RT and knock Evan Neal off the team.

7. Tennessee Titans: Joe Alt OL, Notre Dame

The Titans had the worst offensive line in football this season and shoring that up has to be the #1 priority in the draft. Joe Alt has All-Pro type abilities, is 6-8 322 pounds, and will fit right in on a rebuilding team with some young talent.

8. Atlanta Falcons: Michael Penix Jr. QB, Washington

New Falcons personnel won’t be able to pass up a talent like Michael Penix Jr., that would easily be a top 3 pick if he didn’t have an injury history or was 23 years of age. If I were drafting I would take Penix at #2 overall behind Williams because of his rocket arm, deadly accuracy, and grit, moxie, and leadership that he possesses.

Penix could be so good that GM’s and scouts lose their jobs after passing on him. Luckily he falls into the Falcons lap and will be in a great position to succeed right away with Bijan Robinson, Kyle Pitts, and Drake London as playmakers.

9. Chicago Bears: Malik Nabers WR, LSU

The Bears took Williams with the 1st overall pick and now take his WR1 of the future in Malik Nabers, a YAC (yards after catch) monster who had as dominant of a season for a WR that we’ve seen in recent memory (yes up there with DeVonta Smith’s Heisman year). Nabers finished with 1,569 yards and 14 touchdowns this year at LSU and will be a stud right away in the NFL.

10. New York Jets: JC Latham OL, Alabama

Protect Aaron Rodgers. Very simple, and the Jets will take whatever top lineman prospect is left here and that happens to be JC Latham in this mock. Latham is 6-6 360 and has the upside of an All-Pro tackle. He is very quick for his size and though it’s not all there quite yet (he’s not that polished yet) he could become a steal at #10 overall.

11. Minnesota Vikings: Jared Verse Edge Rusher, Florida State

Jared Verse was a top 6 projected pick before the season began and he did nothing to show he wasn’t worthy of that discussion, but he falls to 11 in this mock. Verse is explosive off the edge and will only be better paired next to another elite pass-rusher in Danielle Hunter (that is if the Vikings keep Hunter).

12. Denver Broncos: Bo Nix QB, Oregon

Bo Nix proved a lot to me this past year at Oregon: He’s excellent in the pocket, can read defenses like a book, and has an innate ability to scramble and pick up tons of yardage when needed to. Nix had one of the more efficient college seasons in recent memory throwing for 4,508 yards, 45 touchdowns, and just 3 interceptions on the year.

A lot of scouts are worried that Nix will enter the league at 24 years old, but with guys like Brock Purdy balling from the get go despite being in college for 4+ years, the experience may help both Nix and the Broncos. The Broncos plan to cut Russell Wilson and Nix is already better than Jarrett Stidham so they might as well go with the best available QB here.

13. Las Vegas Raiders: Rome Odunze WR, Washington

Rome Odunze is a vertical threat that can do a little bit of everything. He’s a mismatch nightmare in single coverage because of his size (6-3) and speed, but he is also very polished after the catch. Odunze is one of those guys who could get 1,000+ yards in his rookie season and the Raiders could feel the need to get another offensive weapon here instead of reaching for J.J. McCarthy.

14. New Orleans Saints: Laiatu Latu Edge Rusher, UCLA

Laiatu Latu had a dominant season at UCLA finishing with 13 sacks 2 forced fumbles and 2 interceptions. Many evaluators believe that Latu is even better than Jared Verse and it’s hard to disagree with that. The Saints need an heir to Cam Jordan and that could be Latu, who is as NFL-ready as any defensive prospect in this draft.

15. Indianapolis Colts: Dallas Turner Edge Rusher, Alabama

Dallas Turner finished with 10 sacks and 2 forced fumbles playing Linebacker at Alabama last season and he’s as gifted at getting to the QB as any edge rusher in this draft. Turner will fit right in on the Colts, who need another edge rusher next season.

16. Seattle Seahawks: Troy Fautanu IOL, Washington

Troy Fautanu is one of the quickest lineman you’ll see in this draft but he lacks enough length to stay at left tackle in the pros. He has finesse and good hands and can come in and help protect Geno Smith right away. It also helps the Seahawks draft a kid from their backyard at the University of Washington.

17. Jacksonville Jaguars: Tyler Guyton OL, Oklahoma

The Jaguars were riddled with offensive line injuries in the second-half of the season and they finished 1-5 as a result. Travis Etienne is one of the best running backs in the NFL yet because the offensive line was so atrocious, he couldn’t do much of anything in the final few games (besides a good performance vs. the Panthers).

Tyler Guyton is a 6-7 327 pound explosive athlete who is a menace when blocking upfield, but he isn’t a finished product. He is hit or miss in run blocking so far, but the Jaguars need a player with this upside and can take the risk going into next season.

18. Cincinnati Bengals: Jer’Zhan Newton DL, Illinois

A talented interior defensive lineman, Jer’Zahn Newton can excel against both the run and the pass with ease even if he is on the smaller side of lineman. Nonetheless, it is difficult to find good defensive lineman and the Bengals take the best one in the draft at #18.

19. Green Bay Packers: Taliese Fuaga OT, Oregon State

Taliese Fuaga is the best run blocker in this draft and has shown improvements in the passing game as well. He could become the best tackle from this class with further development and the Packers get Jordan Love some more help on the O-Line.

20. Pittsburgh Steelers: Kalen King CB, Penn State

Kool-Aid McKinstry is probably the move here, but with Joey Porter Jr. having the rookie season he is having and also the Penn State connection, Kalen King just makes a lot of sense here. King was a preseason top 15 pick and the undisputed top corner in this draft by a lot of evaluators entering the season, but after an up and down year at Penn State, his draft stock has fallen a little bit. Despite that, he knows how to play with Porter Jr. and has the speed and versatility to excel in different types of coverage.

21. Arizona Cardinals (Via HOU): Kool-Aid McKinstry CB, Alabama

Kool-Aid McKinstry falls to the Cardinals at 21 and they couldn’t be happier. The Cardinals have arguably the worst secondary in football and they draft a possible shutdown corner in McKinstry who excels in man coverage and had one of the highest forced incompletion totals at Alabama last season.

22. Philadelphia Eagles: Cooper DeJean CB, Iowa

Cooper DeJean can play outside cornerback, slot cornerback, and safety and is the most versatile CB in this draft because of it. An all-around excellent athlete who can read offensive schemes so easily, DeJean could become the best secondary player from this draft.

23. Miami Dolphins: Bralen Trice Edge Rusher, Washington

Bralen Trice has a motor like no other and mixes speed and power to perfection all at 6-4 273 pounds. The Dolphins saw both Jaelan Phillips and Bradley Chubb get hurt this year and their depth on the edge is not great. Drafting Trice will not only give them more pass-rushing depth, but also a player that could end up excelling in their system like Phillips.

24. Detroit Lions: Nate Wiggins CB, Clemson

Nate Wiggins is arguably the best corner in man coverage in this draft and has shutdown abilities. He struggles against the run, but he has the upside of an All-Pro and the Lions need to get better and more talented in the secondary.

25. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Keon Coleman WR, Florida State

With Mike Evans’ impending free agency, the Buccaneers could opt to go with his replacement in Keon Coleman, a twitchy athlete who made some of the most insane catches you’ll ever see in college football this past season.

26. Los Angeles Rams: Amarius Mims OT, Georgia

Amarius Mims is 6-7 with great agility and an already advanced feel for the game. Realistically he should be a top 20 pick but with the way this mock draft has gone, he falls to the Rams who will undoubtedly continue to bolster their offensive line this offseason.

27. Houston Texans (Via CLE): JT Tuimoloau Edge Rusher, Ohio State

JT Tuimoloau is still just 20 years old and had a great year at Ohio State despite finishing with just 5 sacks on the season. He’s 6-4 270 with an explosive first step and consistently gets pressure on the QB. DeMeco Ryans probably wants to form the Texans defense similar to the 49ers where he was the DC so adding more talent on the edge alongside Will Anderson Jr. is the likely move here.

28. Kansas City Chiefs: Brian Thomas Jr. WR, LSU

The Chiefs select will likely select whichever of the WR prospects left that they like at this point in the draft and it’s Brian Thomas Jr. in this mock. Thomas Jr. is a vertical threat “burner” who reminds me of Tank Dell but not as quick and explosive. Still, he should add another aspect to the Chiefs offense next year.

29. Buffalo Bills: Troy Franklin WR, Oregon

I think Troy Franklin is the most underrated WR in the draft and should be in the same conversation as Odunze, Nabers, and Harrison Jr with his explosiveness and YAC ability. Bo Nix’s favorite target at Oregon this past year caught 81 passes for 1,383 yards and 14 touchdowns and will be a high end option right away to whatever team he goes too.

30. Dallas Cowboys: Kamari Lassiter CB, Georgia

Da’Ron Bland has been excellent but shouldn’t have to be relied upon to do everything in the secondary for the Cowboys. Sure Trevon Diggs will be back but I think adding another top-notch CB in Kamari Lassiter will take pressure off of Diggs and Bland and allow more flexibility in coverage plays for Dan Quinn or whoever the next DC of the Cowboys will be.

31. San Francisco 49ers: Graham Barton IOL, Duke

The 49ers will be taking an offensive lineman with this pick regardless of what happens in the playoffs. Despite having the best left tackle in football in Trent Williams, the offensive line ranked bottom 10 in the NFL this season. Williams is also 35 years old and probably only has a few more good years left and drafting a possible replacement here may be the move.

Graham Barton is a little small to play LT at the NFL level but he was one of the most efficient run and pass blockers in college football this past season. Even if he moves to the interior, the 49ers desperately need to get Williams help on the line and do it here with the talented Burton.

32. Baltimore Ravens: Emeka Egbuka WR, Ohio State

I highly doubt Odell Beckham Jr. will be back in Baltimore next season and the Ravens could take their offense to another level with a top notch WR alongside Zay Flowers. Emeka Egbuka had an up and down year at OSU but he was a preseason top 15 pick and has all the talent to become a very good NFL WR, especially if he plays with one of the best players in football in Lamar Jackson.

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