Mock Draft 2.0
MOCK DRAFT 2.0
Jan. 11, 2024
This week began with crowning the Michigan Wolverines as the new NCAA National Champions. It was a wild ride this season as the Wolverines saw an off-field investigation lead to the suspension of their head coach Jim Harbaugh to close out the regular season. However, the players overcame that adversity by defeating the Alabama Crimson Tide in overtime in their first playoff game, then winning the national title game by completely dominating the Washington Huskies on both sides of the ball. The singing of "Hail to the Victors" could be heard as confetti fell on college football's national champions.
As Wild Card Weekend approaches, we have already had a wild start to the NFL offseason. With Pete Carroll, Mike Vrabel and Bill Belichick being relieved of their head coaching duties. There now is a total of seven head-coaching vacancies that need to be filled. This makes it even more difficult to predict what some of these teams will do for their selections in this updated mock draft as we do not know who will be leading these teams on opening weekend of the 2024 season.
What we do know is that the Chicago Bears once again have control of the No. 1 overall pick and hold the keys to how this year's draft is going to start. They retained their head coach Matt Eberflus but fired the whole coaching staff on the offensive side of the ball. The deciding factor as to how the Bears begin the 2024 NFL Draft depends on their final evaluation of quarterback Justin Fields.
In this mock draft, I will assume that the Bears are still going to hold onto Fields, leading them to trade the No. 1 overall selection for the second straight year. However, that will not be their only move, as I see them moving down from their second first-round selection as well. Also, Ihave included another NFC North team making a trade to get its quarterback of the future. Finally, I will make some fun predictions as who will fill some of the open head-coaching vacancies.
Lets begin with MOCK DRAFT 2.0!
2. Chicago Bears:
* Trade: Chicago sends the No. 1 and No. 75 picks to the Washington Commanders. In return they receive the No. 2, No. 36, No. 67, and a 2025 first round pick.
As stated in mock draft 1.0, I will continue to have the Chicago Bears select Marvin Harrsion Jr. as long as Justin Fields remains on their roster. When we look at the 2021 quarterback draft class we will find that Justin Fields and Trevor Lawrence are the two survivors that remained the starting quarterback for the franchises that selected them during that draft. Trey Lance has already found a new home in Dallas, and it looks like Mac Jones and Zach Wilson will also be looking for new homes this offseason as well.
In the three years Justin Fields has been the quarterback for the Chicago Bears, he has never had any other talent surrounding him on the offensive side of the ball. During Year 1 of his NFL campaign, he had Darnell Mooney and Allen Robinson lined up on the outside. During Year 2 the Chicago Bears brought in Chase Claypool to replace Robinson and that ended in disaster, while Fields found himself running to a 1,100-yard season in the process. This past year he did get to team with DJ Moore, but once again had only Darnell Mooney playing opposite of him. Also, Fields has never had a significant running back to assist him either.
The offensive issues do not solely rest on Fields' shoulders. The Bears need to draft a prolific wide receiver to team with DJ Moore. They also would benefit from signing a veteran running back like Josh Jacobs or Saquan Barkley. Such moves would significantly change the offense and help Fields continue to develop.
Finacially, they can pick up Fields fifth-year option and it would only cost $25 million for that season, which in today's market is still pretty cheap for a quarterback. If after year five there are still questions about Justin Fields, they can look to pair another Manning with Harrison Jr., when Archie declares for the 2026 draft.
3. New England Patriots: QB, DRAKE MAYE, NORTH CAROLINA
In the 24 years that Bill Belichick served as the head coach of the New England Patriots, he compiled a record of 266 wins and 121 losses. He also led the Patriots to a 30-12 playoff record and brought home six Superbowl wins in nine tries. All of this is very impressive until you look at the years he did not have Tom Brady as his quarterback. Since Brady left for Tampa Bay in 2020, the Belichick-led Patriots produced a record of 29 wins and 38 losses. The non-Brady years amounted to a .426 winning percentage, which is actually lower than the .450 winning percentage Belichick compiled during his head-coaching tenure in Cleveland in the 1990s. Belichick will be mentioned as one of the all-time great head coaches, but one does wonder if that would be the case had he never had a Tom Brady as his QB?
The announcement made by the New England Patriots today that they are hiring Jerod Mayo spoiled my prediction that former player Mike Vrabel would be Belichick's successor. Now that the head coach position has been decided, it is time to focus on replacing the quarterback with this selection.
4. Arizona Cardinals: WR, MALIK NABERS, LSU
In Week 17 of the season, the Arizona Cardinals played spoilers to the Philadelphia Eagles by beating them 35-31. This win had a not-so-sweet affect on the Cardinals draft stock as they fell from the No. 2 overall selection to the No. 4 spot, likely costing the Cardinals a chance at getting a generational talent at wide receiver in Marvin Harrision Jr.
However, the Cardinals are no strangers in taking a chance on a wide receiver in the top five selections as they selected Larry Fitzgerald with the No. 3 overall selection in the 2004 draft. Nabers is drawing comparisons to fellow LSU Alumni Ja'Marr Chase, who was also selected in the No. 4 slot in the 2021 draft.
If the Chicago Bears and Arizona Cardinals do decide to go wide receiver with each of their first selections in this year's draft, it will be the first time two wide receivers were selected in the first four selections since 2003, when the Detroit Lions selected Charles Rogers with the No. 2 overall pick, and the Houston Texans selected Andre Johnson with the No. 3 pick.
5. Minnesota Vikings: QB, JAYDEN DANIELS, LSU
*Trade: Minnesota sends their 2024 No. 11 and No. 109 selections, along with a 2025 second-round pick to the Los Angeles Chargers. In return they receive the No. 5 overall selection.
Although Kirk Cousins has verbalized he would be willing to take a discount to return to the Minnesota Vikings next season, it would be in the Vikings best interested to draft a young dynamic signal-caller out of LSU — the reason being they have to find cap space to retain edge rusher Danielle Hunter and to extend star wide receiver Justin Jefferson.
6. New York Giants: OT, JOE ALT, NOTRE DAME
The New York Giants would have been in the market to take Malik Nabers were he to fall to this spot. However, they may need to find a replacement for offensive tackle Evan Neal, whom they selected high in 2022 draft. Neal, has found it difficult to adapt to the NFL, having given up 82 pressures and missing 14 games in his first two years in the league.
Aside from the injuries, there may be some character concerns with Neal moving forward. These stem in part from his Week 4 postgame comments after quarterback Daniel Jones was sacked seven times by the Seattle Seahawks on Monday Night Football. Addressing booing Giants fans Neal said, "Why would a lion concern himself with the opinion of a sheep? ... I genuinely don’t care. Why should I? I’m in the National Football League. The person that’s commenting on my performance, what does he do? Flip hot dogs and hamburgers somewhere?" Neal, later apologized for these comments, but his play on the field warrants an even bigger apology.
The Giants have committed to quarterback Jones for at least the next two seasons and will be looking to find him some protection with this selection.
7. Tennessee Titans: OT, OLUMUYIWA FASHANU, PENN STATE
There will be some changes coming to the Tennessee Titans in the upcoming season, starting with their head coach. This would be a great fit for a young offensive coordinator looking to step up to the head-coaching ranks. Last year we saw two assistant coaches from the Philadephia Eagles coaching staff get hired by the Indianapolis Colts and Arizona Cardinals, respectively. I predict that we will see a third assistant coach from the Eagles organization make the jump up when the Tennesee Titans hire Brian Johnson. The young offensive coordinator has helped mold Jalen Hurts into an MVP candidate, and will be looking to bring that same harmony to a Music City partnership with QB Will Levis, Tennessee's top selection from a year ago.
Regardless of whom the Titans tap as their next head coach, they still need to build a solid offensive line to protect Levis and thats what Fashanu will do with this selection.
8. Atlanta Falcons: DE, LAIATU LATU, UCLA
Currently, the Atlanta Falcons are the favorites to be Bill Belichick's next landing spot, and we may be see a reuniting of Belichick and Josh McDaniels in Atlanta. Arguably, the Falcons' head coach position may be the most desirable of the seven available. The Falcons have a solid defense, finishing just outside of the top ten in 2023 in terms of yards allowed. On offense, in TE Kyle Pitts, receiver Drake London and last year's first-round selection, Bijan Robinson, they have some of most underutilized young talent in in the league. Not to mention the NFC South is the NFL's most winnable division.
Expect the Falcons to pursue Kirk Cousins or Russell Wilson in free agency to address their quarterback situation. If Belichick does become the head coach he will continue to build on this team's strength and take the best avaiable defensive prospect on the board for this selection.
9. Arizona Cardinals: OLB, DALLAS TURNER, ALABAMA
*Trade: The Arizona Cardinals send their No. 21 and No. 35 picks in this years draft to the Chicago Bears. They will receive the Chicago Bears No. 9 selection in return.
Jonathan Gannon will take a page out of the Houston Texans' playbook from last years draft, when they went offense with their first selection, and then traded up to take an explosive defensive playmaker out of Alabama with their second selection.
10. New York Jets: OT, JC LATHAM, ALABAMA
Much like their Big Apple counterparts, the Jets also find themselves in need of replacing an oftentimes injured offensive tackle. Entering this past season Mekhi Becton had missed 33 consecutive games with right-knee issues. Although he did actually play in 16 games during the 2023 season, his 12 sacks allowed tied for the most in the NFL, and he was the second-most penalized offensive lineman in the league, racking up 18 infractions. Considering the Jets will be banking on Aaron Rodgers to return from his Achilles injury, it is pretty clear that Becton has been an "Achilles Heel" to the Jets offensive line since drafting him.
11. Los Angeles Chargers: TE, BROCK BOWERS, GEORGIA
*Trade: The Los Angeles Chargers send their No. 5 overall selection to the Minnesota Vikings. They will receive the Miinesota Vikings No. 11, No. 109, and 2025 second-round pick in return.
Once again, the Chargers didn't disappoint in the "underachievers" department during their 2023 compaign. I'm pretty sure that after the 2023 season, the phrase "getting off on the right foot" will be banned from the team's locker room. Early in the season RB Austin Ekeler missed three games to an injured right ankle. Then All-Pro defensive end Joey Bosa suffered a right foot injury and was placed on IR. He would eventually be joined by Mike Williams, Keenan Allen, Zion Johnson, and even Justin Herbert, by season's end. This ultimately led to coach Brandon Staley and GM Tom Telesco getting canned the day after a humiliating 63-21 loss to the Raiders in prime time.
Early rumors point towards former Chargers quarterback, Jim Harbaugh returns to the NFL ranks as the franchise's next head coach, having just won the national championship with the Michigan Wolverines. He also returns to the state of California, where he found great success in head coaching tenures at Stanford and San Francisico.
If there is one thing we know about a Harbaugh-led offensive system, there will be a fullback and a premier talent at the tight end position. This is exactly what the selection of Brock Bowers will bring to this team.
12. Denver Broncos: QB, BO NIX, OREGON
The Doctor Jekyll-Mr. Hyde season the Denver Broncos had on the field quickly turned heads by season's end with the benching of Russell Wilson. Head coach Sean Payton's frustrations with Wilson's play led to him benching the All Pro quarterback for the final two games of 2023. With this this relationship in sight, we can see the Broncos looking at Bo Nix as the franchise's next quarterback.
When we think about quarterback success in a Sean Payton system, Drew Brees immediately comes to mind. There is no question that Nix can perform on the field. However, it will be Brees' off-the-field preparation that Nix will have to mimic if Payton is invest a first-round pick in him.
13. Las Vegas Raiders: CB, KOOL-AID MCKINSTRY, ALABAMA
Before we even get to the selection of the Las Vegas Raiders on draft day. We must wait and see what owner, Mark Davis decides to do with his interim head coach, Antonio Pierce. We have seen this scenario before: an interim Raiders head coach both wins games and the hearts of players and fans alike—only to see Davis hire a name brand head coach such as Kiffin, Gruden, and, most recently, Josh McDaniels. Now we are facing the same scenario where Antonio Pierce has the support of the players and the fanbase, but ownership is considering more experienced options.
The team also needs to make a decision on what to do with its quarterback situation. Aiden O'Connell had a relatively successful rookie season after filling in for the injured/benched Jimmy Garoppolo. The Raiders may look to trade Garoppolo this off season as a post June 1 move would save the team roughly $24 million dollars in cap space and very little dead money would be taken on by that move as well.
If they decide to stick with Pierce, I believe this team will continue to build on the defensive side of the ball. The unit played extremely to close out the season and Kool-Aid McKinstry will immediately boost the secondary.
14. New Orleans Saints: DE, JARED VERSE, FLORIDA ST.
I truly do not understand how the New Orleans Saints let the NFC South title slip through their fingers this past season. On paper, they have one of the best rosters in the entire league. On offense, they brought in a veteran quarterback in Derek Carr, who had previous ties to Dennis Allen in their time with the Raiders. They have a dynamic running back in Alvin Kamara, and a star wide receiver in the making in Chris Olave. On defense they have one of the NFL's better units, and yet the team as a whole underperforms year in and year out. Consider New Orleans the Los Angeles Chargers of the NFC.
Heading into the offseason, the Saints will once again occupy one of the worst salary cap situations in the league. Sitting at $82 million dollars in the red, the team will surely lose key free agents, especially along the defensive front: ends Carl Granderson, Payton Turner, Tanoh Kpassagnon, and Kyle Phillips are all slated to become free agents in the next couple of years. It, therefore, only makes sense for the Saints to address this future talent drain with this selection.
15. Indianapolis Colts: DE, CHOP ROBINSON, PENN STATE
If there was a team in 2023 that fit the 12 steps of a Hero's Journey, it's Indianapolis Colts. The Colts started the season under new head coach Shane Steichen. They needed to find peace with their all world running back Jonathan Taylor by signing him to a contract extension. They also had high hopes for their new rookie quarterback in Anthony Richardson. With everything simingly in place they set out on their journey to win a divisional title.
However, the Colts soon ran up against adversity with injuries to Taylor and Richardson. With a "next man up" attitude Gardner Minshew and Zack Moss led the Colts' charge to key victories, before losing out on a playoff berth in a heartbreaking Week 18 loss to division rival Houston.
With the stage set for a continuation of their story heading into next season, Indianapolis will focus its attention on the defensive side of the ball in this year's draft.
16. Seattle Seahawks: DT, JER'ZHAN NEWTON, ILLINOIS
The Seattle Seahawks will have a new leader on the sidelines after letting go Pete Carroll, the franchise's most successful head coach ever. It make sense that they would bring in a familiar face this offseason to succeed him. Former Dallas defensive coordinator Dan Quinn held the same role with the Seahawks a decade ago and oversaw "The Legion of Boom," one of the dominant secondaries in recent NFL history. If hired, Quinn will first focus on the defensive line to rebuild that side of that ball.
17. Jacksonville Jaguars: WR, ROME ODUNZE, WASHINGTON
The Jacksonville Jaguars had an 8-3 start to the 2023 season and were in command of the AFC South. However, injuries to QB Trevor Lawrence and Christian Kirk led to a monumental collapse that saw the Jags lose five of their last six games and miss the playoffs entirely.
This team could go any direction with this selection as this team has several needs on both sides of the ball. However, they saw how Kirk's absence severly hampered the passing game and free agent Calvin Ridley is either leaving but, if he stays, certainly not getting any younger.
18. Cincinnati Bengals: OT, AMARIUS MIMS, GEORGIA
Before the season I had predicted that their would be three teams from the AFC North make the playoffs this year — that Cincinnati wasn't one of them is both surprising and disappointing. QB Jake Browning made 2023 interesting but the season-ending injury to Joe Burrows was a killer and the team once again needs to address the offensive line to keep Burrows upright. It's also time to part ways with Jonah Williams and find a true right tackle in the 2024 draft.
19. Green Bay Packers: CB, COOPER DEJEAN, IOWA
DeJean was left out of Mock Draft 1.0 as I wasn't sure how his season-ending injury would affect his draft stock. Most draft ratings still have him as a top-30 player, so it seems a safe bet that his name will be called on Day 1 of the draft. The Packers took a standout Hawkeyes defender (Lucas Van Ness) early in last year's draft, and they may find themselves heading in that direction again in 2024.
Coleman, the former Michigan State Spartan found himself having a very successful final college football season as a member of the Florida State Seminoles. With the departure of free-agent WR Mike Evans being a real possibility, the Buccaneers could be in big need of a big target for Baker Mayfield or whomever quarterbacks the team in 2024.
21. Chicago Bears: DT, MAASON SMITH, LSU
Someway, somehow the Pittsburgh Steelers scratch and claw their way to another winning season under Mike Tomlin. The team struggled in pass protection and QB Kenny Pickett's health was casualty because of it. Pittsburgh went offensive line last year, and expect the front office to make addressing the unit a priority in 2024.
After watching the national championship game, it would be hard to imagine that anyone from the Washington Huskies line would find themselves being selected in the first round of this year's draft. However, carrying over from mock 1.0., it still makes sense for Miami to pick Troy Fautanu, as he fits the bill for adding much-needed depth to the offensive line.
There were a number of reasons for the Philadelphia Eagles' breathtaking collapse at the end of the 2023. A major component of that failure was the team's horrific pass defense that Arnold would surely help address.
26. Kansas City Chiefs: DT, LEONARD TAYLOR, MIAMI
Despite a repeat Super Bowl title, the Chiefs have several key positions in need of upgrading this offseason. On the offensive side of the ball, they have to consider changes to their line and their wide receiver corps. At some point, either because of free agency or age, they'll need to replace standout defensive tackle Chris Jones. Considering they have brought in a lot young receiving talent—Skyy Moore, Rashee Rice, Kardarius Toney, and Justyn Ross—I find it hard to believe that they will take another gamble on any of the wide receivers left on the board. Rather, it seems logical that the Chiefs will go DL with this pick.
27. Houston Texans:
Under rookie head coach Demeco Ryans and led by first-year QB sensation C.J. Stroud, the Texans made quick work of turning around a dormant franschise. Last year's No. 3 overall pick, Will Anderson, also played well at times in his first season, and Stroud received much help from third-round receiver Tank Dell, another highly productive player from last year's class.
Trice, the star defensive player on the runners-up to the national championship, displays a great first step and tremendous hand technique to break free from offensive linemen.
28. Detroit Lions: CB, QUINYON MITCHELL, TOLEDO
If there is one thing we learned about the Detroit Lions during last year's highly successful draft is that they will land a player that both fits a need and who buys in on Dan Campbell's system. In 2023, Detroit received quality play from each of its first four selectons last season; for this selection, the Lions will not need to look very far outside the Motor City to find the next diamond in the rough.
Mitchell consistently showcased his ball-hawking skills, intercepting four passes (including two pick-sixes against Northern Illinois) and ranking second in college football with 19 passes defensed.
The Buffalo Bills will be looking to replace WR Gabe Davis, who may test the free-agent market this offseason. Stefon Diggs' production also slowed down the stretch, and the Bills may look to trade the wide receiver this offseason. With those things in mind, I see Buffalo selecting the talented Mitchel to pair with Dalton Kincaid, the skilled pass-catching tight end taken at the end of the first round in the 2023 draft.
30. Dallas Cowboys: OT, JORDAN MORGAN, ARIZONA
The Dallas Cowboys will be looking to find a replacement for pending free-agent LT Tyron Smith at season's end. Jordan Morgan is familiar with playing in a pass-first offense, which characterizes the Cowboy's offense under Mike McCarthy.
The 49ers are loaded with talent on both sides of the ball and could go any number of directions with this pick. However, with left tackle Trent Williams nearing the end of his Hall of Fame career, GM John Lynch will be looking to groom Williams' successor to protect Brock Purdy’s blind side. With two picks each in Rounds 3–7, expect the 49ers to be movers and shakers throughout the draft.
32. Baltimore Ravens: WR, BRIAN THOMAS JR., LSU
The Baltimore Ravens found a great playmaker in drafting Zay Flowers in last year's draft and are hoping to repeat the process with this selection. With a number of NFL wide receivers hitting free agency, the Ravens will continue to stock up explosive talent to assist Lamar Jackson and the passing game.