The 2023 NFL Draft has come and gone. The body isn’t even cold yet, but we’re onto the next draft cycle.
Such is life as a draft analyst. There will be plenty of months between now and the start of the 2023 NFL regular season to analyze the Bears’ selections, as well as their undrafted free agents. In these next few days, I and many of my Windy City Gridiron colleagues will be providing you with regular content regarding the newest rookie class.
That said, I’ll also be using these next few months to get a head start on the 2024 NFL Draft. Between the first-time eligible prospects I’ve watched in the last few weeks and the players who decided to stay in school for another year, I’m at over 170 prospects for next year’s class already. Many more will be added in the near future, but I’ve watched enough of the top rising juniors to have an idea of who some of the top players in the 2024 class will be.
Using reverse Super Bowl odds from Sports Betting Dime to determine the draft order, here are my super early Round 1 mock draft predictions for the 2024 NFL Draft.
1. Arizona Cardinals: Caleb Williams, QB, USC
If the Cardinals finish with the No. 1 pick, there’s a chance they trade down for a historic haul, having recently extended Kyler Murray. As gross as this seems, though, you’re not passing on Williams with the top pick. His arm talent, accuracy, athleticism and playmaking ability are all through the roof.
Arizona hits the jackpot with the first two picks in the draft, which would be absurdly helpful to their future. Harrison is a massive wideout whose intelligence, physicality, route-running ability and ball skills could make him the first WR drafted in the first two picks since Calvin Johnson in 2007.
Having acquired Anthony Richardson in the 2023 draft, the Colts need to help protect their new quarterback. Alt is a massive tackle with long arms, great raw power, elite spatial awareness and solid mobility for his size.
4. Tennessee Titans: Olu Fashanu, OT, Penn State
The Titans overhauled their offense in 2023, having used every single one of their draft picks on that side of the ball. However, adding an athletic pass protector with an insanely high ceiling like Fashanu would be a nice addition to a young Tennessee offense that also features the likes of Will Levis, Treylon Burks, Peter Skoronski and Derrick Henry.
5. Chicago Bears (via Panthers): Brock Bowers, TE, Georgia
This is a pick I’m making for the Bears even if they re-sign Cole Kmet. Bowers is the best YAC tight end I’ve ever seen at the collegiate level, and he has rare speed, agility and explosiveness coming out of his breaks as a route runner. He’s smaller for his position but has the athleticism and football IQ needed to become a superstar at tight end, where there aren’t exactly too many of those.
6. Atlanta Falcons: Drake Maye, QB, North Carolina
The lack of quarterback need pushes Maye down the board, but it’s highly likely a team would trade up for him in real life. He’s a big-bodied quarterback with very good pocket awareness, a cannon for an arm, nice deep-ball touch and ideal athletic ability. If he fixes some correctable footwork issues, he could be a franchise QB for a team like Atlanta.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Quinn Ewers, QB, Texas
Unless one of Baker Mayfield or Kyle Trask solidify themselves as a star in 2023, the Buccaneers will be in the market for a quarterback in the 2024 draft. Ewers is a tad raw as a decision-maker but is a tough quarterback with a playmaking mentality, an elastic arm and good anticipation across the middle of the field.
8. Washington Commanders: J.J. McCarthy, QB, Michigan
Though he’s skinny and plays too risky with the ball, McCarthy has the tools to be a star quarterback at the NFL level. He’s an elite athlete with a strong arm and the ability to hit dimes on the move and off-platform. I’m not sold one of Sam Howell or Jacoby Brissett will be the Commanders’ franchise passer.
9. Los Angeles Rams: Kool-Aid McKinstry, CB, Alabama
Along with having the coolest name in the 2024 draft, McKinstry broke up 15 passes and allowed only a 36.4% completion percentage in 2022. He’s a lengthy ball-hawk with ideal athletic tools who would be the Rams’ best bet to replace Jalen Ramsey as the star of their secondary going forward.
10. New England Patriots: Emeka Egbuka, WR, Ohio State
Will this be the year the Patriots finally draft a wide receiver in the first round? A player like Egbuka would be worth it, as he’s a shifty receiver with great YAC ability, a high route-running IQ and a well-built frame that could see him develop into a WR1 at the NFL level.
11. Pittsburgh Steelers: Dallas Turner, EDGE, Alabama
Alex Highsmith is a tremendous complementary edge rusher to T.J. Watt, but if he departs for a bigger paycheck in 2024, the Steelers would need to find a replacement. Turner is a lengthy edge rusher with tremendous quickness off the ball, flexibility turning the corner and ideal pad level that could make him a star in the NFL.
12. Chicago Bears: J.T. Tuimoloau, EDGE, Ohio State
Chicago addressed its interior defensive line in the 2023 draft; now, it’s time to add some edge value. Tuimoloau burst onto the scene by dominating against Penn State, but he’s more than just a one-game wonder. His size, physicality and speed off the line of scrimmage are all elite and give him ample upside. In a bigger role for Ohio State’s defense in 2023, a top-10 selection isn’t out of the question for him.
13. Green Bay Packers: Calen Bullock, S, USC
My current top safety in the 2024 draft, Bullock is skinny but has tremendous length and size at 6-foot-3. He’s an aggressive ball-hawk with great ball skills and nearly limitless range in coverage. He would be a nice addition alongside Darnell Savage and could be a star as their free safety.
Verse was seen by many as a potential first-round pick had he declared for the 2023 draft, but now he finds himself as one of the top returning defenders in the nation. He’s a bendy pass-rusher with diverse hand usage, very good acceleration and a high motor. That would make him a nice fit for a Vikings defense that’s been undergoing a lot of changes recently.
15. Las Vegas Raiders: J.C. Latham, OT, Alabama
Latham reminds me a lot of recent Bears first-round draft pick Darnell Wright. He’s a big-bodied tackle listed at 6-foot-6 and 335 pounds with tremendous grip strength and a power anchor. He’s a nasty blocker who, though not the most athletic lineman in the class, has good body control for a guy as big as he is.
16. Houston Texans (via Browns): Michael Hall Jr., DL, Ohio State
Hall took a lot of reps as a 1-technique defensive tackle last year, but I think he projects best as a 3-tech at the next level. He’s an impressive athlete with a quick first step, agility out in space and good stack-and-shed ability against the run. He would provide Houston with another premier young defender alongside Will Anderson.
17. Jacksonville Jaguars: Denzel Burke, CB, Ohio State
The Jaguars have a lot to like on their roster, but there’s no such thing as too many cornerbacks. Burke has good length, fluidity and physicality in his game, and though he’s still developing as a processor, the tools are there for him to be a reliable starter at the next level.
18. Baltimore Ravens: Tyleik Williams, DL, Ohio State
Williams is a stout defensive tackle with the athleticism, power and pad level needed to thrive at the next level. He won’t wow anyone with his size, but he should be a quality 3-tech who can kick further inside if need be.
19. New York Giants: Xavier Worthy, WR, Texas
I liked the Giants acquiring Jalin Hyatt in Round 3, but they could still use a little bit of help at wide receiver. Worthy is another super athlete at the position who will need to bulk up, but he’s a polished route runner with plenty of agility with the ball in his hands.
20. Seattle Seahawks: Jack Sawyer, EDGE, Ohio State
Sawyer is another name I see benefitting greatly from a bigger role on Ohio State’s defensive line in 2023. He’s a well-built edge rusher with length who can win with leverage, speed or pure power at the point of attack. If he can add a few go-to moves to his arsenal that don’t rely so much on his physical tools, he could be a double-digit sack artist in the NFL.
The Saints play in a weak NFC South and could take advantage of that window this year, but they’d need to add another young weapon alongside Chris Olave for more sustained success. Nabers is a stud deep threat with great ball skills and inside-outside versatility who’s right in their backyard.
Suamataia was a 5-star recruit out of Oregon who transferred to BYU and looks to be one of the top tackles in the nation this year. He’s a nasty blocker with good upper-body strength, and though he’s a bit too raw to truly be in OT1 contention at this raw, he offers the size and body control to match that could make him a nice fit alongside Rashawn Slater in L.A.
23. Miami Dolphins: Jer’Zhan Newton, DL, Illinois
Illinois lost a lot of defensive talent to the draft this year, but arguably their top returning player is Newton, a dynamic 3-technique with a deep arsenal as a pass rusher who can eat up gaps against the run. Get him on the Dolphins’ defensive line with Christian Wilkins, and it’s game over for AFC East offensive lines.
24. Denver Broncos: Leonard Taylor III, DL, Miami (FL)
In case you couldn’t tell, the 2024 draft could be loaded at defensive tackle! Taylor’s athletic ability for a 305-pounder is absurd, which can see him take reps outside as a 5-tech in some cases. He’s active with his hands, and though his play strength could improve, he offers tremendous interior pass-rushing value that could entice Denver here.
25. Green Bay Packers (via Jets, conditional trade): Amarius Mims, OT, Georgia
This is a big projection here, seeing as though Mims hasn’t been a starter prior to the 2023 season. However, he’s projected to step into the left tackle role for Georgia this year, and he’s a massive blocker with a strong anchor and good athletic tools to eventually develop into a successor for David Bakhtiari.
26. Detroit Lions: Kalen King, CB, Penn State
Arguably the Lions’ biggest need heading into the 2023 season is cornerback, but luckily for them, it could be a talented group of corners coming in the 2024 draft. King is one of the best, as though he doesn’t have elite size or physicality, he offers top-notch intelligence and athleticism with a competitive mindset, to boot.
27. Dallas Cowboys: Andrew Mukuba, S, Clemson
Mukuba is an all-around solid safety prospect with plenty of versatility up high, a red-hot motor and very good lateral quickness dropping back in coverage. If he can clean up his form and physicality as a tackler a bit, there’s no reason to think he couldn’t be a first-rounder down the line.
28. Cincinnati Bengals: Maason Smith, DL, LSU
The Bengals have an out in B.J. Hill’s contract, making it a possibility they look for an upgrade at defensive tackle. Smith is a lengthy interior defender with nice quickness off the ball, powerful jabs and good push-pull ability against the run. If he stays healthy in 2023, a first-round selection could be in his future.
29. Buffalo Bills: TreVeyon Henderson, RB, Ohio State
The Bills skipped out on their typical “take a shot at running back and see if it sticks” strategy this year, but Henderson would be a player worth taking a shot on late in Round 1. He’s a shifty back with tremendous agility, low pad level and the breakaway speed needed to pick up massive chunks of yardage on the ground.
30. Philadelphia Eagles: Barrett Carter, LB, Clemson
Jeremiah Trotter Jr. is a very talented defender, but it’s Carter who currently holds the higher grade for me in terms of Clemson linebackers next year. He’s undersized but is an elite athlete with rare coverage value out of the slot who could be a great addition to the Eagles’ defense. The only problem with that fit is that he didn’t go to Georgia.
31. San Francisco 49ers: Donovan Jackson, OG, Ohio State
One could make the argument Jackson would’ve been the first prospect with significant collegiate tape at guard if he had been eligible in 2023. He has a sturdy anchor, a wide base, good situational awareness and nice coordination in pass protection.
32. Kansas City Chiefs: Cooper DeJean, CB, Iowa
DeJean is another white Iowa cornerback, but I think he was actually the better player than Riley Moss last year, despite being even younger. He’s a lengthy outside corner with loose hips, good route-recognition ability and legit track speed. The four-sport high school athlete will be a name to watch after breaking out with 5 interceptions and 3 pick-sixes in 2022.