Another mock draft has hit as the NFL gets ever close to fully moving into draft season. And this latest one, from NFL.com analytics expert Cynthia Frelund, is quite a departure from others, especially the top overall pick.
Frelund isn’t trying to project picks or report out who teams are planning to take. Instead, her mock draft is centered around what players teams could add to add immediate value, taking information about available free agents into account, as well. Frelund also noted she incorporated a number of advanced scouting and tracking systems and metrics into her mock.
And the order of picks No. 1 through 30 are set, but Nos. 31 and 32 are still up for grabs in the Super Bowl on Sunday. For the purpose of the mock, Frelund goes by regular season record, giving the 49ers the No. 32 pick after the Kansas City Chiefs at No. 31.
Check out the full first round 2024 NFL mock draft below.
1. Chicago Bears: OT Joe Alt, Notre Dame
While most Bears fans would assume the franchise has traded back if not selecting a quarterback with the No. 1 overall pick, this mock very much zigs while the rest zag. Enter: A No. 1 overall pick left tackle.
This pick would likely face intense scrutiny, not only for passing on a quarterback and a trade, but also for the specific selection of Alt over other tackles, as plenty are higher on another linemen going in the Top 10. Given the woes on the Bears offensive line, the pick was Alt and not a pass catcher, and Justin Fields and Co. get some help in the passing game later in the mock.
2. Washington Commanders: QB Caleb Williams, USC
With the Bears passing on a quarterback in this mock draft exercise, Washington could be the biggest winners. Williams, along with being considered the top (or one of the top) quarterback in his class, is a native of the DMV.
It would also be a reunion for Williams and Kliff Kingsbury, who is now the Commanders offensive coordinator. And for a franchise in need of a star to build around, and particularly a quarterback, the pairing on the field makes plenty of sense.
3. New England Patriots: QB Drake Maye, North Carolina
New England needs a quarterback, with the Mac Jones–Bailey Zappe duo failing to make muster. And with a new coach in charge and the No. 3 pick in hand, New England can get better right now by adding one of the top quarterbacks in the draft.
Maye’s blend of top-level arm talent and movement ability would be a big departure from the quarterbacks New England has had in recent years. And he’d hopefully spark the Patriots offense from under center, something that hasn’t really happened since Tom Brady moved on.
4. Arizona Cardinals: WR Marvin Harrison Jr., Ohio State
Even absent specific choices to add immediate value, Harrison to the Cardinals has been a popular pick in plenty of mock drafts. Widely considered one of the top overall players in the draft regardless of position, Harrison would immediately become the top target for Kyler Murray.
And while the Cardinals need defensive help, there’s not really a player worth taking at the No. 4 slot that could boost them a ton. Instead, they accentuate a strength and give their quarterback a premier target.
5. Los Angeles Chargers: CB Terrion Arnold, Alabama
The battle for the top cornerback taken in the 2024 NFL Draft is going to be an interesting one, with Arnold jockeying with three or four others at the top of the group. After an abysmal defensive season in 2023, the Chargers pick up some outside corner talent.
Arnold finished the 2023 season and his career at Alabama on a high note, improving week-to-week and even surpassing one of his star cornerback teammates in the eyes of plenty of evaluators. His length, play strength and smarts also give him a chance to be an immediate impact defender against the pass and run at the NFL level.
6. New York Giants: WR Rome Odunze, Washington
The Giants need pass catching juice, badly. And they get it via one of the top receiving talents to come out of college football in a number of years. Odunze would be the top wide out in pretty much any class that didn’t have Harrison in it.
With Daniel Jones still under contract, adding a wide out who can win at multiple levels of the field and create separation or make contested catches could help him reach and sustain new levels of play as a down-to-down passer. And offensive line was also a potential choice here.
7. Tennessee Titans: OT Olu Fashanu, Penn State
Fashanu’s strength and size, combined with a young age — he turns 22 in December — make him an intriguing NFL prospect, and one many have pegged as the top offensive lineman. For a Tennessee team that’s entering a bit of a reset with new coach Brian Callahan, shoring up the offensive line makes plenty of sense.
A combination of Fashanu and Peter Skoronski up front could be a nice core for a line that can protect whoever the Titans have at quarterback. It can also help get the most out of Derrick Henry as he enters the twilight of his prime.
8. Atlanta Falcons: QB Jayden Daniels, LSU
Some have Daniels going as high as the No. 2 pick in the draft, but this mock gives a more modest draft slot as the Falcons move on from Desmond Ridder. Dropping Daniels into the offensive ecosystem that Atlanta already has in terms of personnel could be an attractive option.
With Bijan Robinson, Drake London and Kyle Pitts as the main trio with plenty of talented and versatile pieces beyond, Daniels could be the quarterback that makes it all come together. His playmaking and accuracy downfield are big plusses to his game.
9. Chicago Bears: WR Malik Nabers, LSU
Nabers might be in the 2024 draft what Jahmyr Gibbs was for the Lions after the 2023 NFL Draft: A walking, talking big play waiting to happen. Nabers brings game-altering speed to the table, along with being general explosive and coming off a highly-productive season.
With the Bears already shoring up the offensive line for Fields, adding a pass catcher with a somewhat contrasting skill set to DJ Moore could pay dividends. And really any offense could benefit from the out-of-thin-air explosive plays that Nabers might end up creating.
10. New York Jets: OT Taliese Fuaga, Oregon State
The Jets had an elite defense, fine skill players and what they thought to be a good quarterback going into 2023. The offensive line, though, struggled, and it was a woeful season for the Jets after Aaron Rodgers was lost for the season on the first series of the season.
And with a need to solve the issues up front with Rodgers back as the likely starter, Fuaga was the pick. A number of metrics played to Fuaga’s advantage, including his prowess at staying balanced and engaged as a blocker in the run game.
Picks No. 11 through 32
11. Minnesota Vikings: EDGE Dallas Turner, Alabama
12. Denver Broncos: CB Cooper DeJean, Iowa
13. Las Vegas Raiders: QB Bo Nix, Oregon
14. New Orleans Saints: WR Brian Thomas Jr., LSU
15. Indianapolis Colts: TE Brock Bowers, Georgia
16. Seattle Seahawks: DT Byron Murphy II, Texas
17. Jacksonville Jaguars: EDGE Jared Verse, Florida State
18. Cincinnati Bengals: OT JC Latham, Alabama
19. Los Angeles Rams: OT Tyler Guyton, Oklahoma
20. Pittsburgh Steelers: OL Graham Barton, Duke
21. Miami Dolphins: WR Keon Coleman, Florida State
22. Philadelphia Eagles: OL Jackson Powers-Johnson, Oregon
23. Houston Texans: CB Quinyon Mitchell, Toledo
24. Dallas Cowboys: OT Troy Fautanu, Washington
25. Green Bay Packers: CB Nate Wiggins, Clemson
26. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: CB Ennis Rakestraw Jr., Missouri
27. Arizona Cardinals: OT Amarius Mims, Georgia
28. Buffalo Bills: WR Troy Franklin, Oregon
29. Detroit Lions: EDGE Chop Robinson, Penn State
30. Baltimore Ravens: EDGE Laiatu Latu, UCLA
31. Kansas City Chiefs: CB Kool-Aid McKinstry, Alabama
32. San Francisco 49ers: OT Jordan Morgan, Arizona
With all the information still yet to be gathered on these prospects — from the combine, interviews, pro days and more — and NFL teams still set to make moves in free agency or trades prior to the draft, this whole exercise could have a very different outlook in the next month. But for now, it’s at least some food for thought about how each of these teams can help themselves get better right now.