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Dan Kelley’s NFL Mock Draft 5.0: Draft Day Edition

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NFL Draft prospect and New England Patriots potential draft pick, Southern California quarterback Caleb Williams smiles while walking off the field after winning an NCAA college football game against Nevada, Saturday, Sept. 2, 2023, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ryan Sun)

With the 2024 NFL Draft starting tonight, it’s time for a fifth and final attempt at a mock draft. The fourth edition covered all seven rounds, but this one is back to Round 1 only.

As a reminder, these selections are not made based on who I believe the teams should take, but simply on whom I believe they will select. There are several players not included in this Round 1 mock that I have a first-round grade on and would not be surprised to see get picked tonight.

But every year the NFL Draft includes a few trades, a few surprises, and a few picks that made perfect sense all along. The gap between the end of the college football season and the start of the NFL Draft sometimes leaves analysts too much time to out-think themselves. So I’ve attempted to combine what I know now, what I knew three months ago, and twirl in a few shockers.

If I were running every NFL franchise, players like Jer’Zhan Newton, Kool-Aid McKinstry, Nate Wiggins, and Kingsley Suamataia would not still be on the board in Round 2, but that is the case here.

Without further ado, my final 2024 NFL Mock Draft for Round 1:

1. Chicago Bears – Caleb Williams, QB (USC) via Carolina

Everyone believes the 2022 Heisman Trophy winner is going to be the first pick of the 2024 NFL Draft, so who am I to argue? Chicago has set him up with some nice weapons already, putting him in a good position to succeed.

2. Washington Commanders – Jayden Daniels, QB (LSU)

The 2023 Heisman Trophy winner goes No. 2 despite his reported unhappiness with the Top 30 visit process. An electrifying player who will give Commanders fans something to get excited about for the first time in a while.

3. New England Patriots – Drake Maye, QB (North Carolina)

The Patriots have a chance to select a possible franchise quarterback and Maye has the best chance of becoming just that. Fans need to realize he’s not coming to Foxboro as a finished project. There is a work to do, but plenty of potential.

4. Arizona Cardinals – Marvin Harrison Jr., WR (Ohio State)

Marvin Harrison Jr. has been dissected as a prospect for so long that it is easy to forget just how good he is. The best wide receiver prospect in years gives Kyler Murray a true WR1.

5. Minnesota Vikings – J.J. McCarthy, QB (Michigan) via L.A. Chargers

TRADE: Minnesota trades No. 11 and No. 23 to the Los Angeles Chargers for No. 5 and No. 105

The Vikings weren’t willing to pay the cost to move up a few additional spots and secure Maye, so they’ll settle for a nice consolation prize in the national championship QB from Michigan.

6. New York Giants – Malik Nabers (LSU)

After getting leapfrogged by the Vikings, the Giants decide between the two elite receivers still on the board. My gut tells me Rome Odunze will be the pick here, but I’ll continue flip-flopping between the two options and land on Nabers to the Big Apple.

7. Tennessee Titans – Joe Alt, OT (Notre Dame)

The Titans need help on the offensive line and the best offensive lineman in the draft is still on the board. There is no need to overthink this one. Sometimes the obvious choice is the correct one.

8. Atlanta Falcons – Rome Odunze, WR (Washington)

Everyone has been mocking Dallas Turner to Atlanta at No. 8, including me in several previous mocks. However, having Rome Odunze still on the board here is going to prove too tough to pass up. The first major surprise of the draft is Atlanta getting Kirk Cousins a new weapon at wide receiver.

9. Chicago Bears – Dallas Turner, ED (Alabama)

I don’t believe the need for offensive tackle help is as great for Chicago as some state. Getting an additional defender to compliment Montez Sweat is an ideal pick here. There are three top edge defenders in the draft (Turner, Laiatu Latu, and Jared Verse) so the Bears get their choice here.

10. New York Jets – Brock Bowers, TE (Georgia)

Offensive tackle was a consideration here. With Tyron Smith and Morgan Moses both added, the Jets have the luxury of taking the top player remaining on the board. Brock Bowers gives Aaron Rodgers a dynamic offensive weapon to create mismatches all over the field.

11. Los Angeles Chargers – Taliese Fuaga (Oregon State) via Minnesota

TRADE: Minnesota trades No. 11 and No. 23 to the Los Angeles Chargers for No. 5 and No. 105

The Chargers passed up their chance to take either an offensive tackle (Joe Alt) or wide receiver (Malik Nabers, Rome Odunze) when they traded down. But by moving down they can add to both positions. They grab a starting right tackle here with an eye on wide receiver at No. 23.

12. Philadelphia Eagles – Quinyon Mitchell, CB (Toledo) via Denver

TRADE: Philadelphia trades No. 22, No. 50, and No. 172 to the Denver Broncos for No. 12

The Broncos add draft capital, as they only have one selection scheduled between No. 12 and No. 121 (No. 76). The Eagles move up to give themselves the first cornerback on their draft board. Mitchell is ultimately the choice.

13. Las Vegas Raiders – Michael Penix Jr., QB (Washington)

The Washington QB might be the most “Raiders” QB prospect. He’s big, he’s strong, he’s fast, he’s lefty, and he throws a beautiful deep ball. There is potential interest in Las Vegas moving up to take Jayden Daniels, but not sure they have the trade capital to make it happen.

14. New Orleans Saints – Olu Fashanu, OT (Penn State)

Fashanu slipped down draft boards a bit but is still an elite tackle prospect. The Saints selected Trevor Penning in the first round in 2022 (No. 19) but Penning has done little to validate that pick today. Fashanu would be an immediate upgrade.

15. Indianapolis Colts – Cooper DeJean, DB (Iowa)

This pick is partially about me just being stubborn. I’ve had in my head for months that DeJean will end up in Indianapolis, so I’m sticking with it whether or not it is a popular pick. Certainly, Terrion Arnold would make a lot of sense here. But I’m sticking with my gut and mocking DeJean to the Colts.

16. Seattle Seahawks – Laiatu Latu, ED (UCLA)

Latu was one of the most impressive players in all of college football this past season. He should be under consideration as high as No. 8 to Atlanta or No. 9 to Chicago. Seattle gets a potential steal here with an elite pass rusher.

17. Jacksonville Jaguars – Terrion Arnold, CB (Alabama)

The Jaguars have needs at cornerback and edge. Jared Verse is a tempting option here but Jacksonville goes for Arnold, the top corner on many boards. Still just 20, there is potential for further growth from his already evolving game.

18. Cincinnati Bengals – Byron Murphy II, DL (Texas)

This selection came down to Amarius Mims, the OT from Georgia, and Murphy. Mims would have an opportunity to learn under fellow behemoths Orlando Brown Jr. and Trent Brown for a year before being asked to jump in to the lineup. But on a Bengals team with Super Bowl aspirations, getting immediate help in Murphy is the call. If Tee Higgins is traded, Brian Thomas Jr. would also be a nice fit here.

19. Los Angeles Rams – Jared Verse, ED (Florida State)

Selecting a replacement for Aaron Donald is on the table (Byron Murphy II, Jer’Zhan Newton). An understudy for Matthew Stafford is in play as well (Bo Nix). But ultimately Jared Verse is too tough to pass up at No. 19. If the Rams don’t draft him, they may trade the pick to somebody who will.

20. Pittsburgh Steelers – Jackson Powers-Johnson, C (Oregon)

Powers-Johnson shot up draft board following his impressive Senior Bowl and NFL Scouting Combine. For some reason talk has cooled on him in recent days. It just feels like a perfect match in Pittsburgh, even with the team’s needs at offensive tackle.

21. Miami Dolphins – Troy Fautanu, OL (Washington)

Fautanu could go significantly higher than No. 21 but Miami is happy to see him here. He can play guard or tackle. The Dolphins might have him start inside and kick him out when Terron Armstead retires. Miami adding a replacement for Christian Wilkins here is also a distinct possibility (Murphy or Newton). Like DeJean to the Colts, Fautanu to the Dolphins is just something I believe is true so I’m sticking with it.

22. Denver Broncos – Bo Nix, QB (Oregon) via Philadelphia

TRADE: Philadelphia trades No. 23, No. 50, and No. 172 to the Denver Broncos for No. 12

I believe the Broncos would have taken Nix at No. 12. They move back ten spots, still get their target, and pick up two additional picks in the process. Nix will be allowed to win the starting job as a rookie.

23. Los Angeles Chargers – Adonai Mitchell. WR (Texas) via Minnesota and Houston

TRADE: Minnesota trades No. 11 and No. 23 to the Los Angeles Chargers for No. 5 and No. 105

The Chargers traded down from No. 5 and grabbed their offensive tackle in Fuaga at No. 11. Here they add the wide receiver they covet in Mitchell. After losing both Keenan Allen and Mike Williams, wide receiver quickly went from a strength to a position of need. They look to bring in some young, cheaper talent here and Mitchell should be able to produce immediately. Brian Thomas Jr. is also a strong consideration here.

24. Dallas Cowboys – Graham Barton, OL (Duke)

Barton is capable of playing anywhere along the offensive line. In Dallas, he will be counted on to play center. He practiced there are the Senior Bowl, where he impressed, after spending his college career as a left tackle. Cowboys take care of a positional need with a versatile prospect.

25. Green Bay Packers – JC Latham, OT (Alabama)

There are still several top tackles on the board, including JC Latham, Amarius Mims, and Tyler Guyton. The Packers make the Wisconsin native their selection here, likely hoping he transitions over to the left side.

26. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Darius Robinson, ED (Missouri)

Nate Wiggins or Kool-Aid McKinstry would have probably been the pick here had Darius Robinson not accepted an invitation to attend the NFL Draft. Although prospects do occasionally get left in the green room for the night (it happened to Will Levis last year) it is not something the league wants to happen. Robinson will likely go somewhere between 26 and 30.

27. Arizona Cardinals – Chop Robinson, ED (Penn State)

One of the most athletic edge defenders in the NFL Draft, Robinson has the chance to be a disruptive difference-maker in the NFL. His speed at the combine was impressive, looking more like a running back than an outside linebacker. Darius Robinson (if available) and Jer’Zhan Newton would both be under consideration here as well.

28. Buffalo Bills – Brian Thomas, Jr., WR (LSU)

After trading Stefon Diggs to Houston and losing Gabe Davis in free agency to Jacksonville, Buffalo looks to add another weapon for Josh Allen. Getting Brian Thomas Jr. at No. 28 feels like a steal for the AFC East champs.

29. Washington Commanders – Amarius Mims, OT (Georgia) via Detroit

TRADE: Detroit trades No. 29 to Washington for No. 36 and No. 100

Admittedly, I just think the idea of the host city trading out of the first round is hilarious. That said, Washington has enough picks to move up the board and secure their tackle. Detroit moves back seven spots and adds a third-round pick. The Commanders add Mims to hold down the right tackle spot and protect their new franchise QB in Daniels.

30. Baltimore Ravens – Tyler Guyton, OT (Oklahoma)

The Ravens stay put and land one of the prospects with the most upside in the entire draft. Still relatively new to football, and especially offensive tackle, Guyton has the size and athleticism to become an elite player at his position as long as he gets coached up and puts in the work.

31. San Francisco 49ers – Ladd McConkey, WR (Georgia)

This pick is being made under the assumption that Brandon Aiyuk is going to be traded by San Francisco shortly. A well-run organization always has a backup plan in mind. McConkey has two skills that every NFL team covets. He knows how to get open and catch the football.

32. Kanas City Chiefs – Xavier Legette, WR (South Carolina)

This pick came down to wide receivers Xavier Worthy and Xavier Legette. Legette’s size makes him a better compliment for Marquise Brown in Kansas City. Patrick Mahomes gets a wide receiver with a chance to become elite, given his measurables and rapid improvement in 2023.

Award-winning blogger, Dan's work has also been featured on Fox Sports, Boston Metro, Barstool Sports, MLB.com, and many other outlets.

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