2024 NFL Mock Draft: Conor Orr Predicts the First Round

Four trades in the top 10 picks, six quarterbacks selected, and 10 offensive linemen taken based on the information we do know as we count down to showtime in Detroit. 
The Vikings would like nothing better than to move up and draft their franchise quarterback, which could be Maye.
The Vikings would like nothing better than to move up and draft their franchise quarterback, which could be Maye. / Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

I was talking to someone recently who was bemoaning the state of NFL draft media and, really, the entirety of this process. Not on the media side of the operation, this longtime eater, sleeper and breather of the draft has been reading mocks for years and was disgusted by the desperation all of us have writing them to seem in the know, when we really can’t totally be. 

Sure, we can study the prospects and do. We can ask coaches about them, and do. We can spend time with the players and their families, and do. And we can attempt to use all of this information and put it toward some sort of practice replica of what Thursday night’s first round will look like. And we do. 

The problem is when these mocks become more than what they are supposed to be. Back when Paul Zimmerman—you know him as Dr. Z—wrote mock drafts for Sports Illustrated, there existed a different kind of landscape before the mock became, at the highest levels, not only a tool of prognostication but a tool for teams and agents to spread mass deception and chaos. I don’t know if any football writer is going to nail the top 12 picks anymore, trades included, and have someone in the team facility care little enough to send them a copy of the draft board (or something like that). I also think that, less and less, there is a version of this process completely removed from politics and subterfuge. More and more, owners are able to, without a flicker of self awareness, walk into the building and demand a quarterback so that they can hold up their end of the reality show. They upend any sensible part of this process. More and more, agents are calling around and suggesting some teams like player X better than player Y in order to improve their theoretical “stock.”

And so, there are going to be years when a mock draft is nothing more than a mockery. That’s O.K. to admit from where I’m standing. We don’t have to always have the answers. We can have fun, disseminate what information we do have, and, in the process, enjoy the spirit of the thing. Let’s go!

1. Chicago Bears | Caleb Williams, QB, USC

The only real decision since Day 1. My only issue with this selection? By not bringing in Williams with a new regime, the Bears are putting a lot of institutional pressure on Williams and a win-or-go-home coaching staff that has already experienced the rigors of the hot seat. 

2. Washington Commanders | Jayden Daniels, QB, LSU

The first big mystery of the draft is here. I like Daniels personally, and I would imagine he shined in Washington’s unorthodox, en masse pre-draft visit. I spoke to one evaluator whom I trust who wondered why Daniels did not get more of a reasonable discussion as a potential No. 1 overall pick. Daniels gets it from a leadership perspective, having regularly wined and dined his offensive linemen at Ruth’s Chris Steak House while at LSU. He’s experienced in multiple offensive systems, and if he can learn to better protect himself in the pocket, he’ll be an elite player. 

3. TRADE: Minnesota Vikings (via New England Patriots) | Drake Maye, QB, North Carolina 

As I’ve written, this is the only option for the Vikings. One rival source I recently spoke with said they would be stunned at this point if the Vikings didn’t plow their way into the top three and treated it like an inevitability. Minnesota cannot come out of the draft with the fourth-best passer and attempt to pass off to us the idea that he was really their favorite all along. Maye checks a lot of boxes and could be the solution for a decade in the Twin Cities.  

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

Some teams fall into a handful of generational quarterback, offensive line or defensive back prospects. The Cardinals will have drafted both Larry Fitzgerald and Marvin Harrison Jr. over the last quarter-century, which is pretty fortuitous. Harrison is far and away the best player on the field whenever he lines up. This is a simple choice for a Cardinals team struggling with firepower. 

5. TRADE: New York Jets (via Los Angeles Chargers) | Rome Odunze, WR, Washington

Former Washington receiver Rome Odunze
Aaron Rodgers needs more playmaking on offense, so Odunze could be the choice in the first round. / Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

How all-in are the Jets? This should sum it up well. I’m not that enamored by the Mike Williams signing in free agency, and we should all be cautious. Williams fits a mold in the Jets’ outside zone style offense, but Odunze can grow into a more consistent version of that player. The Washington star is physical, he blocks well and makes quarterbacks look good on contested catches. The Jets are setting themselves up for a life after Aaron Rodgers with general manager Joe Douglas calling upon another executive born of the Ravens tree for a massive deal.  

6. New York Giants | Malik Nabers, WR, LSU

The run on wide receivers is here, and the Giants are leapfrogged for a receiver I think fits their profile slightly better than Nabers. I will say this: If there is a receiver who could drop and leave everyone wondering why, it might be the LSU wideout, who was outstanding in college but may need to find the right fit within a building. Still, this is a prospect that is too intriguing to pass up. I believe in the argument that J.J. McCarthy is a fine option here, especially if he can sit a year, but the Giants are trying to win now. I would think that Drew Lock offers more upside over a two-year period as a spot starter-developmental prospect alongside head coach Brian Daboll than McCarthy. But … that’s just me. 

7.  Tennessee Titans | Joe Alt, OT, Notre Dame 

I think Alt is the best of a tackle class that I’m not sure is as good as we’re projecting it to be. A lot of the players we’re seeing mocked in the top 20 could end up being pushed inside to guard. The advantage with taking Alt is that he may be able to start on the right side while he irons out his game. There is concern about his height as it relates to his mechanics, and I think there is a reality to that concern. However, he’s going to work with Bill Callahan, quite possibly the best offensive line coach in modern NFL history, along with Dante Scarnecchia, Jeff Stoutland, Chris Foerster and Howard Mudd, to name a few. 

8. Atlanta Falcons | Terrion Arnold, DB, Alabama

Mostly doing this sheerly out of spite for the almost unanimous pairing of Dallas Turner and the Falcons. But, it’s a worthwhile argument to have when discussing Raheem Morris, no? Sure, he had Aaron Donald in Los Angeles, but even on plays when Donald was resting, I often thought that Morris’s strength as a defensive play-caller was in his feel and timing of different stunts and pressures. At his best, Morris could do this successfully thanks to sound coverage on the back end. Atlanta loves being in this spot, with a pick of the top edge and corner in the draft. 

9. TRADE: Indianapolis Colts (via Chicago Bears) | Brock Bowers, TE, Georgia 

The Colts look to make a statement with Bowers, who I’m honestly having a hard time slotting in this draft. I’ve seen him compared to George Kittle by NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah, but I’m wondering if that projection assumes Bowers will beef up a little bit and become a stronger blocker. I’m not saying he’s a bad blocker, but I’ve seen him get steered around at times. If he can become an integral part of a run game like Dallas Goedert was for Shane Steichen in Philadelphia, he would make for a great weapon and general offensive upgrade. 

Steichen’s bread and butter as an NFL coach has been making the simple look complex. Bowers is a big part of that process, with an every-down mismatch on the field. 

10. TRADE: Denver Broncos (via Los Angeles Chargers, via New York Jets) | Bo Nix, QB, Oregon 

Former Oregon quarterback Bo Nix
The Broncos just acquired Zach Wilson in a trade, but Nix might be a better fit in Payton's offense. / Rob Schumacher/The Republic / USA TODAY

Here’s the first absolute stunner of the NFL draft. I see everyone with Bo Nix as an early second-round pick, but I think he offers Sean Payton something unique: Nix is ready now. He’s not going to have the same kind of rookie learning curve. He’s matured. He’s also incredibly developed as a passer and set the NCAA record for completion percentage a year ago. While we don’t know next year’s class of quarterbacks that well, I think that’s part of the problem. So who is to say the Broncos will have a better shot? 

Personally, I feel like Payton has something bigger up his sleeve. I wrote as much a few weeks back. We could see something monumental from the Broncos on draft night that involves a veteran. Truly. But in the absence of pulling off some prearranged Dak Prescott trade in Week 4 (also, how they would pull it off with the cap I do not know), the Broncos get themselves a good one here at No. 10. The move is also symbolic. Payton missed out on Patrick Mahomes years ago when the Chiefs came up to this very spot. He leapfrogs the Patriots, who also heavily scouted Nix’s pro day, to lock up their projected 2024 starter. 

I’ll add that this pick feels a little like the Giants–Daniel Jones pick in that we may all view Nix as less of a true first-round prospect and feel like Denver can move back up in the first round to get him. 

11. New England Patriots (via Minnesota Vikings) | Olu Fashanu, OT, Penn State

While Jacoby Brissett was not directly in the mold of the Patriots’ traditional fast-strike, low-snap-to-throw-time quarterbacks, he is not a signal-caller who tends to grossly abuse his time in the pocket and hold the ball for too long. New England won’t draft a quarterback this year because they aren’t ready to. Fashanu is not necessarily ready to be a left tackle, but breaking him in for a season against the AFC East, which is not a daunting pass-rushing division save for the Jets, is a sensible move that paves the way for the Patriots to succeed when they eventually make a move at quarterback. 

12. Los Angeles Chargers (via New York Jets and Denver Broncos)  | JC Latham, OT, Alabama

I think a lot of Jim Harbaugh’s offseason has been building to a point he’s made on multiple occasions during his interviews with ownership: This team needs to be tougher. This team needs to be able to pound the ball. This team needs to be stout through the most critical parts of the offensive line and defensive front seven. Taking Latham, my second-best tackle on the board, is ideal because he can play on the right side. I’ve said this with Alt as well. I don’t think there are any true No. 1 left tackle starters in this draft. 

13. Las Vegas Raiders | J.J. McCarthy, QB, Michigan

Tom Brady pulls levers and stops the McCarthy slide, making it five quarterbacks in the top 13. Deliciously enough, this takes place after Harbaugh had the chance to take McCarthy twice and passed after talking him up all offseason. Again, the Raiders are staring down an uncertain future at the quarterback position and won’t have much drawing power with the veteran free-agent class of 2025, and McCarthy is young enough to potentially sit for a year and develop in a quarterback room that will be led in spirit by Gardner Minshew. There are worse situations to be in, you know. Las Vegas has a ton of pressing needs, but the biggest one will be securing the quarterback of the future.  

14. New Orleans Saints |  Jordan Morgan, OT, Arizona

I may like Morgan more than a lot of draft tweets, and that’s O.K. The 6'5", 325-pound tackle out of Arizona could develop into an All-Pro at two different positions, which fits perfectly with what the offensive line-needy Saints are searching for right now. New Orleans needs help across the offensive line, and Morgan, a little like Alijah Vera-Tucker with the Jets, could be solid wherever he goes. 

15. Chicago Bears (via Indianapolis Colts) | Jared Verse, DE, Florida State

Former Florida State defensive end Jared Verse
Verse will join Montez Sweat on the edge to give the Bears one of the best pass-rush tandems in the league. / Melina Myers-USA TODAY Sports

The board breaks for Chicago, and the Bears get the No. 1 quarterback and pass rusher available in the draft. Verse had 30 tackles for loss and 18 sacks over two seasons with the Seminoles, and gives head coach Matt Eberflus the ammunition he needs to create hell up front for opposing teams. A Bears defense that played well defensively down the stretch last year gets much better. 

16. Seattle Seahawks | Laiatu Latu, DE, UCLA 

The Seahawks feel comfortable with drafting Latu, who many believed was a top talent before questions about his medical retirement and spinal fusion arose. New head coach Mike Macdonald comes from a Baltimore defense that thrived not only on chaotic, well-timed blitzes, but on winning consistently up front. A defensive core featuring Latu, Boye Mafe and Leonard Williams isn’t a bad place to start for the brilliant defensive mind in Seattle. The Seahawks will try and disrupt the 49ers and Rams instead of scoring with them. 

17. Jacksonville Jaguars | Quinyon Mitchell, DB, Toledo

Especially in Dallas and Seattle over the past two years, the addition of an aggressive, turnover-hawk cornerback changes the entire complexion of a defense and can immediately chokeslam a high-powered offense. Mitchell breaks up passes, forces hesitation on behalf of opposing quarterbacks, and, with the right defensive coordinator, he can be a Day 1 difference-maker. Mitchell helps the Jaguars stay a step ahead in an increasingly competitive division. 

18. Cincinnati Bengals | Taliese Fuaga, OT, Oregon State

The Bengals have a chance to get their D.J. Reader replacement here, but I can’t ignore the fact that their pre-draft visit attendance list focused heavily on offensive tackle. Fuaga would compete with Trent Brown on the right side, though Fuaga’s arm length is below the threshold teams often identify as a prerequisite for the position. Both Trent and Orlando Brown Jr. have 35-plus-inch arms, making Fuaga, like a lot of the tackles in this class, a player to be kicked inside unless he shows an uncanny wherewithal during the early days of camp and unseats Trent Brown quickly. The Bengals have poured resources consistently into Joe Burrow, and with Burrow coming off a season-ending injury, caution will be at an all-time high. 

19. L.A. Rams | Byron Murphy II, DT, Texas

Alright, alright. Team loses Aaron Donald, team picks a defensive tackle in the first round. It’s too easy, right? This just happens to be how my fictitious yarn has unraveled itself to this point. Murphy is not the same kind of player as Donald, but he has adequately won big pass-rushing situations at several spots across the defensive line. He could also give new Rams defensive coordinator Chris Shula a weapon to play with as the team develops its promising young defense for a playoff run in 2024. 

20. Pittsburgh Steelers | Amarius Mims, OT, Georgia 

Mims has visited with the Steelers twice, sealing the deal between Pittsburgh and the man Brian Baldinger called “the human solar eclipse.” Mims, 6'7" and 340 pounds, is the perfect fit for a team slowly rebuilding its bookends one offensive line prospect at a time. The Steelers will need solid anchors, as Russell Wilson tends to take all the time he can get in the pocket. 

21. Miami Dolphins | Johnny Newton, DT, Illinois

Former Illinois defensive tackle Johnny Newton
Newton should help replace Wilkins, who departed in free agency. / Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

I feel like the Dolphins are in a less than enviable position of having to draft for immediate needs as they carry the Mike McDaniel experiment into Year 3. In a perfect world, they could start to search for ways to diversify the offense with Tyreek Hill starting to approach his mid-30s. But right now, we’re looking at an attempted one-for-one replacement for the departed Christian Wilkins. This defense, on paper, doesn’t look great. And while there aren’t a ton of world-beating backs within the division, Miami can’t afford to keep its high-scoring offense on the sideline for large chunks of a game. 

22. Philadelphia Eagles | Cooper DeJean, DB, Iowa

I love the idea of pairing DeJean with someone such as DC Vic Fangio, although hybrid players are always tough. Do they fit anywhere or nowhere? DeJean would be a salve at his best for the aging Eagles defensive backfield, which still aspires to be aggressive in zone schemes and make life miserable for opposing quarterbacks. So the Eagles load up on secondary help here, planning to absolutely flummox an NFC East that may be planning to start two rookie quarterbacks (Washington and the Giants) this year.  

23. New England Patriots (via Minnesota Vikings) | Dallas Turner, Edge, Alabama 

Sans Belichick, the Patriots–Alabama pipeline remains intact. Turner is a linebacker who can play anywhere, and his tape sparks true inspiration for first-time head coach Jerod Mayo. Mayo will retain from his former head coach the ability to utilize a defensive end both in coverage and as a situational rusher comfortable rushing any gaps. 

24. Dallas Cowboys | Jackson Powers-Johnson, IOL, Oregon

Powers-Johnson gives the Cowboys some flexibility as their once-vaunted offensive line continues to exist in various stages of decay. Powers-Johnson is fun to watch, a center with guard flexibility who is incredibly fast and has a solid anchor against bigger defensive tackles. Unless an event at the quarterback position occurs giving Dallas some additional capital this evening, they will try and net a Day 1 starter to aid in Mike McCarthy’s quest to keep the weirdest job in professional sports. 

25. Green Bay Packers |  Tyler Guyton, OT, Oklahoma 

The Packers have a lot of flexibility at the back end of this draft, but I do think that they need to address the offensive line if they’re seriously planning to make a deep run in 2024. I like that many analysts have pegged Guyton as an athlete first, which seems to not only fit the team’s profile of drafting for potential and skill, but within the offense itself, which requires being able to move quickly and laterally. The Matt LaFleur coaching staff has done a great job of teaching the system’s complexities to young offensive linemen so far. 

26. Tampa Bay Buccaneers | Troy Fautanu, OL, Washington 

The Buccaneers select the incredibly athletic Fautanu, giving them an option to solve any problem that may arise across their front five. Fautanu can give the Buccaneers options as a competitive, but somewhat undersized, tackle prospect in case of injury, or as a player who could immediately compete at several slots on the interior.  

27. TRADE: Kansas City Chiefs (via Cardinals) | Adonai Mitchell, WR, Texas

Former Texas receiver Adonai Mitchell
With Rice's future up in the air, the Chiefs move up and grab some insurance with the selection of Mitchell. / Aaron E. Martinez/American-Statesman /

Sensing that the rival Buffalo Bills want their pick of the top-tier two wide receivers, the Chiefs move up with the Cardinals and supply Arizona with additional building blocks for the future. The Chiefs, meanwhile, get themselves insurance for Rashee Rice and another swing at rebuilding Patrick Mahomes’s once fabled receiving corps. Kansas City is approaching legendary territory with a possible three-peat on tap, and it needs weapons.  

28. Buffalo Bills | Brian Thomas Jr., WR, LSU

I hate this one. I think if the Bills want a wide receiver, they’re going to have to move up. I also think Thomas may not be the Tigers wideout who ultimately falls on draft day. Make of that what you will. Anyway, the Bills need to rebuild at wide receiver and cornerback, and this is a good opportunity for them to get Josh Allen another new target without sacrificing any draft capital. I think teams are going to make Buffalo pay to navigate this board, and I think the Bills will want to, seeing as a lot of their picks fall beyond the top 100, where the talent level of this class drops off significantly. 

29. Detroit Lions | Zach Frazier, IOL, West Virginia 

When searching for a Lions draft pick, one is probably best suited picking the guy who looks like he’s trying to rip out an opponent’s lungs on every play. I am admittedly borrowing this suggestion, as I first saw and fell in love with it via the mock draft of Peter Schrager over at NFL Network, who I feel speaks Lion quite well. The Lions know the lifeblood of this team is in its ability to replenish a world-beating offensive line year after year. After losing Jonah Jackson to the Rams this offseason, Detroit needs an interior power player with flexibility at a few different positions. 

30. Baltimore Ravens | Ennis Rakestraw Jr., CB, Missouri

A physical ballhawk who can compete when a running play comes barreling right into his purview? That sounds like a Ravens cornerback to me. Continuing to build on the ascension of this versatile secondary is the key to Baltimore's success. Kyle Hamilton was unleashed a year ago, and now we have a steppingstone to another evolution of this intimidating defense. 

31. San Francisco 49ers | Chop Robinson, Edge, Penn State

The 49ers are in a good spot here, able to pivot to the wide receiver position, defensive line or offensive line. This receiver class is deep enough to get Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch some value later on, and their offensive line coaching staff is good enough to find some gems later in the draft, too. Robinson gives the team more rotational pass-rush strength after the 49ers tried to aggressively patch it together last year. 

32. Arizona Cardinals | Michael Penix Jr., QB, Washington

Six quarterbacks in the first round! And the Cardinals grab the last one. Shocking? Perhaps. Kyler Murray is going to be hard to remove contractually, but the Cardinals are building for the long term and give themselves an option to buttress the room and create a Jordan Love-type situation for the future if Murray doesn’t work out. Allowing Penix to learn under Cardinals OC Drew Petzing will help Penix round out his game and possibly be the future distributor of many Marvin Harrison Jr. touchdowns.


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John Pluym

JOHN PLUYM

John Pluym is the managing editor for NFL and golf content at Sports Illustrated. A sports history buff, he previously spent 10 years at ESPN overseeing NFL coverage. John has won several awards throughout his career, including from the Society of News Design and Associated Press Sports Editors. As a native Minnesotan, he enjoys spending time on his boat and playing golf.