TST’s NFL Mock Draft 3.0 comes into clear focus

Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
The Sporting Tribune's Brandon Deutsch break down how the NFL Draft will go after Caleb Williams is selected by the Chicago Bears.

The NFL Draft is just a few weeks away. It’s time for the third version of The Sporting Tribune’s mock Draft.

The combine and pro days are over, so the process has become more clear:

1. Chicago Bears: Caleb Williams

Vitals: 6-1/215, QB, Southern California

Lowdown: It has been known for months that the Bears would keep their No. 1 overall pick and select the ultra-talented Caleb Williams from USC. Williams did hold the ball too long in college and he won’t have as much time to improvise and find big plays in the NFL, but his athleticism and football IQ are off the charts, not to mention he has one of the better arms in this draft.

The most talented and highly touted prospect of any Lincoln Riley-QB, Williams should alter the Bears franchise and debunk the notion that no quarterback can succeed in Chicago.

After acquiring Keenan Allen (best acquisition of the offseason considering the price) and signing D’Andre Swift, Williams will enter the league with one of the better situations we’ve ever seen for a No. 1 overall selection. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Williams throw for 4,000 yards and 30 touchdowns his rookie year, helps the Bears win 10 games and make the playoffs — even in a tough division that includes Green Bay and Detroit.

NFL comp: Patrick Mahomes (lite)

2. Washington Commanders: Drake Maye

Vitals: 6-4/230 QB, North Carolina

Lowdown: The Commanders get their guy with Drake Maye, who has the highest upside (with Williams) in this draft. He can throw the ball like Justin Herbert and use his legs to extend plays like Josh Allen.

He had the best QBR on 20-plus-yard throws in college football over the last few years and could be a superstar sooner than later. Sometimes he has trouble reading certain schemes on defense and can get happy feet but from a pure talent perspective, the kid has the goods.

His size, athleticism and intangibles show he will be successful in the NFL.

NFL comp: Justin Herbert

3. New York Giants (via NE): Jayden Daniels

Vitals: 6-4/200, QB, LSU

Lowdown: The Giants make their big move in the 2024 NFL Draft trading up 3 spots to select Heisman winner Jayden Daniels, an ultra quick athlete with elite downfield passing abilities. The Giants still need to trade for Brandon Aiyuk or a high-end wide receiver for Daniels to succeed right away, but it remains clear they done with Daniel Jones and will do everything in their power to select their quarterback of the future.

Daniels has two flaws in his game that could prevent him being a success: He takes too many sacks when being pressured outside of the pocket (48.7%) which is an indicator of being a possible “bust” based on history; he also has tiny legs and will need to add 15 pounds in the weight room to take on the big hits when he scrambles.

NFL comp: RGII/Lamar Jackson

4. Minnesota Vikings(via ARI): J.J. McCarthy

Vitals: 6-3/202, QB, Michigan

Lowdown: The Vikings haven’t made it a secret that they want a different quarterback under center next season and J.J. McCarthy is gaining a lot of buzz to the Vikings. McCarthy is at best a game manager that can use his legs to extend some plays.

He has late second-/early third-round grade, but scouts are enamored with his poise and championship pedigree.

He stepped up in big moments for the Wolverines last season. But he did play alongside the best offensive line, defense and running-back room in the country, so that can be take with a grain of salt.

Either way, if Minnesota goes with McCarthy, the young quarterback will be in the best draft position of any quarterback not named Caleb Williams.

NFL comp: Faster Jimmy Garoppolo

5. Los Angeles Chargers: Marvin Harrison Jr.

Vitals: 6-4/205, WR, Ohio State

Lowdown: Marvin Harrison Jr. falls to the Chargers, who have an obvious need at wide receiver after trading Keenan Allen and releasing Mike Williams. Though Rome Odunze and Malik Nabers are better prospects, Harrison Jr. with Justin Herbert would become a top five wide receiver in football sooner rather than later.

NFL comp: Randy Moss

6. New England Patriots: Malik Nabers

Vitals: 6-0/201, WR, Lousiana State

Lowdown: The Patriots thought about Jayden Daniels at the No. 3, but they received future draft compensation and moved down three spots to select their wide receiver of the future in Malik Nabers. There is no point in drafting a quarterback if he has no one to throw to, and the Patriots take the first step in revamping their offense with a future all-pro in Malik Nabers.

Nabers’ yards-after-catch ability is off the charts. He’s one of the best athletes in this class and moves a lot like prime Antonio Brown.

NFL comp: Antonio Brown

7. Tennessee Titans: Joe Alt

Vitals: 6-7/322, OT, Notre Dame

Lowdown: The Titans had the worst offensive line last season. Although they’ve been spending tons of money on playmakers in the offseason, they won’t select a playmaker despite how tantalizing it may be.

Alt is one of the best tackle prospects over the last few years and it would be shocking if they pass up an opportunity to protect their young quarterback Will Levis.

NFL comp: Joe Thomas

8. Atlanta Falcons: Dallas Turner

Vitals: 6-2/235, Edge, Alabama

Lowdown: Dallas Turner has a lot of upside and plays a lot like his former teammate in Tuscaloosa, Will Anderson Jr. He has a 6-foot-9 wingspan at 6-2 and his first step is excellent.

Turner is young and talented and that will appeal to the Falcons, who are going for a playoff spot next season and want to continue to contend with a very young roster.

NFL comp: Will Anderson Jr.

9. Chicago Bears: Rome Odunze

Vitals: 6-3/205, WR, Washington

Lowdown: Rome Odunze is going to be an all-pro receiver in the NFL. He also is neck and neck with Malik Nabers for the best overall playmaker in the draft (also ahead of Harrison Jr.).

Odunze is 6-3 but he plays a lot like a taller Ja’Marr Chase with an ability to catch anything and create separation.

His route-running probably isn’t as crisp as Chase right now, but Odunze makes 50-50 balls look like 90-10 balls. He caught 21 out of 29 contested catches (72%) last year, by far the best mark in the nation.

The Bears understand that Keenan Allen has been hurt a lot and will make sure Caleb Williams has everything he needs to succeed.

NFL comp: Ja’Marr Chase

10. New York Jets: Brock Bowers

Vitals: 6-3/225, TE, Georgia

Lowdown: The Jets have been balling this offseason, acquiring Haason Reddick, Mike Williams and Tyron Smith. They have an obvious need at tight end.

Aaron Rodgers is 39 years old and the Jets should be looking to add as many playmakers as possible to win a Super Bowl over the next two years and Brock Bowers is the next generation’s George Kittle or Travis Kelce. He has all time great potential and there hasn’t been a tight end prospect this polished with the yards-after-catch ability Bowers has.

NFL comp: George Kittle

11. Las Vegas Raiders (via ARI): Michael Penix Jr.

Vitals: 6-3/215, QB, Washington

Lowdown: The home-run selection of the draft, the Raiders move up two picks to take their quarterback of the future. People may disregard Michael Penix Jr. because of his age and injury history, but the kid has poise few quarterbacks in the NFL possess — and his accuracy is unmatched.

If he was right-handed, he’d be the third quarterback off the board, and though it’s been reported that Penix Jr. is going in the top 20 most likely, don’t be shocked if he goes top 12. Gardner Minshew and Aidan O’Connell won’t cut it in the AFC West but Penix Jr. will as he has “star” written all over him.

NFL comp: Tua Tagovailoa

12. Denver Broncos: Bo Nix

Vitals: 6-3/220, QB, Oregon

Lowdown: Bo Nix is one of the big sleepers. Nothing he does will jump off the board but he showed extreme poise and an ability to read different defensive schemes over the last two seasons at Oregon. Sure, he is older and you’ve probably heard the jokes about him being in college forever.

He can play football at a very high level and is a perfect fit in Sean Payton’s offense. He spreads the field well and can use his legs to extend plays. Nix is headed to the Broncos if McCarthy goes in the top 5.

NFL comp: Brock Purdy

13. Arizona Cardinals: Quinyon Mitchell

Vitals: 6-0/196, CB, Toledo

Lowdown: Whenever someone is projected to go in the top 15 that went to a smaller FBS school, they have to be that much better than anyone else. That is exactly what Quinyon Mitchell is, the next great cornerback in the NFL. He’s not as tall as Sauce Gardner or Pat Surtain II, but he’s ultra quick (4.33 40-yard dash time at the combine) and has great coverage and ball skills. He should be able to thrive in any system and the Cardinals have a desperate need in the secondary.

NFL comp: Jaire Alexander

14. New Orleans Saints: Jared Verse

Vitals: 6-5/250, Edge, Florida State

Lowdown: Jared Verse is a mammoth of a man with explosiveness off the chart. He has an excellent cross-chop and arm-over move, but his inside moves need work. Still, like Dallas Turner, he has great bend and his athleticism allow for him to improvise even if his first move doesn’t work. He projects to be an elite pass-rusher and the Saints need a replacement for Cam Jordan, who will likely retire soon.

NFL comp: Danielle Hunter

15. Indianapolis Colts: Nate Wiggins

Vitals: 6-2/173, CB, Clemson

Lowdown: Nate Wiggins is tiny, but he has all the tools to dominate at the next level. He’s blazing quick (4.28 40 time) and has arguably the best ball skills in the draft. His speed will keep him from getting beat by wide receivers but he will struggle to defend the DK Metcalf’s in the NFL because of his size.

Nonetheless, the Colts struck out on acquiring L’Jarius Sneed and have one of the worst secondaries in football.

NFL comp: Tariq Woolen

16. Seattle Seahawks: Troy Fautanu

Vitals: 6-4 317, OL, Washington

The Seahawks biggest need is either edge rusher or interior offensive line, and they’ve been linked to Troy Fautanu (the best interior offensive lineman in the draft). If Michael Penix Jr. falls to 16 they could jump on him here, but they get Geno Smith (or Sam Howell) better protection on the line with a guy that is projected to go top 10 in many mock drafts.

NFL comp: Wyatt Teller

17. Jacksonville Jaguars: Brian Thomas Jr.

Vitals: 6-3/205, WR, LSU

Lowdown: Brian Thomas Jr. gets overlooked because of his star teammates Nabers and Daniels, but Thomas Jr. is a star by himself. He is a mismatch nightmare and has blazing speed at 6-3 (4.33 in the 40).

He could shine with Trevor Lawrence and they’ll end up going wide receiver after losing Calvin Ridley to the Titans and have Christian Kirk and Gabe Davis as their top options.

NFL comp: Nico Collins

18. Cincinnatti Bengals: Jer’Zahn Newton

Vitals: 6-2/295, DT, Illinois

Lowdown: Jer’Zahn Newton is an ultra quick defensive lineman who should excel right away. His first move is very quick and he has the prototypical build to play defensive tackle.

Some people will have Byron Murphy II going here, but the Bengals should go with Newton. A lot of evaluators compare him to Jalen Carter but he is more like Calijah Kancey (which is not a bad thing at all).

Kancey had a good rookie year and will only further improve on the Buccaneers. The Bengals need help on the DL and since they franchise-tagged Tee Higgins and have no trade completed at this point in time, they may not be taking a wide receiver here after all.

NFL comp: Calijah Kancey

19. Los Angeles Rams: Laiatu Latu

Vitals: 6-5/275, Edge, UCLA

Lowdown: Laiatu Latu is a gifted pass-rusher who would easily be a top 5 pick if he didn’t have an injury history or was 23 years old. In fact, a Pro-Bowler in year one. His numbers at UCLA last year were off the charts (13 sacks, 2 interceptions) and the Rams could use another edge rusher to pair with Kobie Turner and Byron Young with the departure of Aaron Donald.

20. Pittsburgh Steelers: Terrion Arnold

Vitals: 6-0/196, CB, Alabama

Lowdown: A poor 40 time at the combine has made Terrion Arnold fall a little bit, but he has the highest in-game skill and IQ of any cornerback in the draft. His speed won’t jump out to you but he makes almost every correct read and his ball skills are excellent.

The Steelers have a need opposite of Joey Porter Jr. and Arnold makes the most sense falling to No. 20.

NFL comp: Devon Witherspoon

21. Miami Dolphins: Byron Murphy II

Vitals: 6-1/308, DT, Texas

Lowdown: With the departure of Christian Wilkins, the Dolphins will look to replace him with high-end talent from the draft and it’s looking like one of the two top DT’s will drop to them. In this mock it’s Byron Murphy II, but regardless of which defensive tackle it is, the Dolphins will get more depth to their pass rush which dealt with serious injuries last season.

NFL comp: Alim McNeil

22. Philadelphia Eagles: Kool-Aid McKinstry

Vitals: 6-1/194, CB, Alabama

Lowdown:The Eagles have been linked to Kool-Aid McKinstry and though he will get surgery for a foot fracture, he was still able to run a sub 4.50 40-yard dash at Alabama’s pro day. McKinstry could be the best cornerback from the draft.

It’s no secret the Eagles desperately need help in their secondary with James Bradberry struggling.

NFL comp: Chevarius Ward

23. Washington Commanders (via MIN): Adonai Mitchell

Vitals: 6-3/196, WR, Texas

Lowdown: Adonai Mitchell has that rare blend of size (6-3) and speed (4.34 in the 40) that can make certain wide receivers very special in the NFL. Though some evaluators rate him higher, the Commanders need to pair whichever quarterback they draft and Terry McLaurin with another WR since Curtis Samuel joined the Bills.

NFL comp: Josh Reynolds

24. Dallas Cowboys: Taliese Fuaga

Vitals: 6-6/334, OL, Alabama

Lowdown: Following the loss of Tyron Smith, the Cowboys need to draft his replacement. It just so happens that Taliese Fuaga (who is a top 10 pick in a lot of eyes) falls to them at No. 24 and they get a future Pro Bowl player, who might be the best run blocker in the draft.

Fuaga was so dominant at Oregon State that it seemed like Beavers running back Damien Martinez always had holes waiting for him.

NFL comp: Christian Darrisaw

25. Green Bay Packers: Cooper DeJean

Vitals: 6-1/207, CB, Iowa

Lowdown: There is a chance that Cooper DeJean goes far earlier because of his versatility, but he’s a perfect fit with the Packers, who need to upgrade their depth at nickel. DeJean can play anywhere in the secondary and is one of the best available athletes.

If he falls to the Packers, then this is an A+ pick.

NFL comp: Jamel Dean

26. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Jackson Powers-Johnson

Vitals: 6-3/317, C/IOL, Oregon

Lowdown: The Buccaneers have a need on the interior offensive line and no one makes more sense than Jackson Powers-Johnson, who can play guard or center. They paid Baker Mayfield and Mike Evans, and now they need to bolster their offensive line.

NFL comp: Travis Frederick

27. Arizona Cardinals: Troy Franklin

Vitals: 6-3/187, WR, Oregon

Lowdown: Troy Franklin is 6-3 and is one of the fastest WR’s in this draft. In fact, he can take an offense to another level, especially with a quarterback like Kyler Murray.

Considering the Cardinals didn’t get Harrison Jr. at No. 4 after trading back, their second pick of the first-round has to be a wide receiver, and Franklin is the best option here.

Franklin creates some of the best separation in the draft and is great in the open field.

NFL comp: Brandon Aiyuk

28. Buffalo Bills: Ladd McConkey

Vitals: 6-0/185, WR, Georgia

Lowdown: Ladd McConkey has been soaring up draft boards after dominating both the combine and the Georgia pro day. He unofficially had a 3.97 shuttle time which would have ranked No. 1 among wide receivers at the combine.

The Bills have an obvious need at wideout. They could opt to go Troy Franklin here but McConkey is so versatile and one of the best athletes in the draft. Bills get a steal here at No. 28.

NFL comp: Cooper Kupp

29. Detroit Lions: Chop Robinson

Vitals: 6-3/254, Edge rusher, Penn State

Lowdown: The Lions will see that most secondary players considered first-rounders are off the board and their next need is getting Aidan Hutchinson some help on the edge. Chop Robinson didn’t have excellent stats at Penn State, but he has a lot of upside and tested extremely well at the combine.

NFL comp: Josh Uche

30. Baltimore Ravens: Keon Coleman

Vitals: 6-3/213, WR, Florida State

Lowdown: The Ravens desperately need an primary receiver, a guy that can be a vertical threat and spread their offense. Xavier Worthy doesn’t make any sense here because they already have a ton of speed with Zay Flowers at the wide receiver position. Keon Coleman drops a lot of passes and can’t create separation, but he does well with yards after catch and is a great athlete with upside.

NFL comp: Allen Robinson II

31. San Francisco 49ers: Amarius Mims

Vitals: 6-7/340, OL, Georgia

Lowdown: Amarius Mims is a very raw prospect, It might take him a few years to reach his potential as a high-end offensive lineman, but size can’t be taught and Mims is as big and strong as you’ll find in a lineman.

The 49ers have a need at right tackle. While Colton McKivitz was just signed to a new deal, they need a long-term answer and Mims could develop in an excellent pick.

NFL comp: Evan Neal

32. Kansas City Chiefs: Xavier Worthy

Vitals: 5-11/165, WR, Texas

Lowdown: Famously known as the prospect that broke the combine’s 40-yard dash record, Xavier Worthy could go much higher depending on how much teams value speed. Worthy is very small, but he’s a great route runner and gets immediate separation because of his speed.

The Chiefs will need to upgrade at wide receiver in the draft and they will go with Worthy.

NFL comp: Jameson Williams

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