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NFL mock draft: Trades galore as Patriots make it a 5-QB first round at No. 31

Welcome to the NFL mock draft world you’ll be existing in for the next 50 days. These mock drafts are really about creating scenarios and playing them out to see how the draft can change based on moves the teams make.

For this mock draft, we’re exploring a world where the Atlanta Falcons get their hands on Kirk Cousins, likely eliminating the need for them to be in the quarterback game for the draft. Still, the draft will start with the Chicago Bears, where it seems like they’ve already decided what to do.

In this edition, Charles McDonald makes the selection of the odd numbered draft picks while Nate Tice selects the even.

1. Chicago Bears (from Panthers) — Caleb Williams, QB, USC

This pick seems just about done by all intents and purposes. Barring any shakeups, Williams will likely be the new quarterback of the Bears. Figuring out a landing spot for Justin Fields is probably the more uncertain story at this point. — Charles McDonald

2. Washington CommandersDrake Maye, QB, UNC

The Commanders tab Maye as their franchise signal-caller of the future under their new regime. While some think it’s a battle between Maye and Daniels to go as the second quarterback, I think Maye is in the same tier as Caleb Williams and stacks well ahead of Daniels after extensively breaking them down. This makes standing pat and building around Maye’s excellent combination of size, athleticism and arm talent an easy decision to make. — Nate Tice

3. Chicago Bears (via New England Patriots) — Marvin Harrison Jr., WR, Ohio State

The Bears make the first big in-draft trade by moving up with the Patriots to secure the best wide receiver in this class. Marvin Harrison Jr. and DJ Moore would be one of the better wide receiver duos in the league and give Williams a chance to hit the ground running. Williams, Moore, Harrison and the Bears defense would give them a shot to make the playoffs in 2024.

4. Arizona CardinalsRome Odunze, WR, Washington

With the Bears sniping Harrison right in front of them, the Cardinals go with another one of the blue-chip wide receiver prospects in Odunze. He checks every box as a wide receiver, from ball skills to size to speed to route running, even his willingness to scrap in the run game is a commendable trait. Put the good-at-everything Odunze with Kyler Murray and tight end Trey McBride, and the intriguing and well-coached Cardinals offense might straight up be called “good” by the end of the 2024 season under rising offensive coordinator Drew Petzing.

5. Minnesota Vikings (via Los Angeles Chargers) — J.J. McCarthy, QB, Michigan

In this world where Kirk Cousins has become the quarterback of the Falcons, the Vikings need to find their new guy. Here, they trade up for McCarthy, who has the upside to become a good NFL starter, even if he needs time to grow into the player people hope he can be in the future.

6. New York GiantsMalik Nabers, WR, LSU

The third upper-echelon wide receiver goes off the board in the top six picks to Big Blue. Nabers’ game is all about his explosive play ability. Whether it's taking the top off the defense or taking any type of target underneath to the house, explosiveness has been desperately needed in New York for quite some time. Whoever is throwing passes for the Giants this year and beyond, Nabers will give them a big-play option right out of the box with a still-developing skill set.

7. Tennessee TitansJoe Alt, OT, Notre Dame

Alt is probably the cleanest offensive tackle prospect in the draft. The Titans need an offensive tackle. No need to overthink this one. Alt and Peter Skoronski would be a great young duo for the Titans to build their offensive line around.

8. Las Vegas Raiders (via Atlanta Falcons) — Jayden Daniels, QB, LSU

In this mock scenario, Kirk Cousins is signing with the Falcons, which makes the No. 8 selection a key pivot point in the draft. With three quarterbacks going in the top five and the Giants and Titans staying at their original draft spots, the Raiders finally find their trade partner in the Falcons and move up to take the dynamic Daniels. He gives the the Raiders a fast and accurate signal-caller to usher in the Antonio Pierce era in Las Vegas, with Pierce having familiarity with Daniels from their time together at Arizona State. Rather than kicking the Russell Wilson option can down the road, the Raiders decide to make Daniels their guy and let everything else start to fall into place.

9. New England Patriots (via Bears) — Olu Fashanu, OT, Penn State

The Patriots picked up an extra first-round pick to launch their rebuild and now have a top-flight offensive tackle prospect to build around. This is a long-term rebuild for the Patriots, so no need to force it with a quarterback pick — this team is incredibly far away from competing on offense.

10. New York Jets — Amarius Mims, OT, Georgia

I feel quite safe that the Jets will be going with an offensive lineman at No. 10, especially considering how last season ended for No. 12 on their roster. Which flavor of this talented group of offensive tackles is more of a bigger question mark. Mims started only a handful of games in college, but he has as much upside as any other prospect in this draft. Period. But it’s not to say he’s a total project. Mims’ film is actually solid in terms of awareness and polish, but he needs more time. His combination of size, length and movement ability are so rare that the Jets take a chance on a potential elite offensive tackle and hope he can hit the ground running for their make-or-break 2024 season.

(Amy Monks/Yahoo Sports)
(Amy Monks/Yahoo Sports)

11. Los Angeles Chargers (via Vikings) — JC Latham, OT, Alabama

The Chargers need a right tackle and Latham might be the most classically built right tackle in the draft. He’s a force and can mirror well in pass protection for somebody his size. He also has the size and movement ability in the running game to be an impact player for the type of physical offense Jim Harbaugh has always liked to play.

12. Denver Broncos — Dallas Turner, EDGE, Alabama

The first defensive player off the board! The Broncos enter a strange new quasi-rebuilding world — seriously, look at how many players they have under non-rookie contracts in 2025, it’s like seven and that’s including Russell Wilson — with Sean Payton in charge and simply need good players to build around at all positions. This is where Turner steps in. While Turner’s pass-rushing upside might not be as high as other top-tier edge defenders that get selected in the top half of the draft, he is an extremely useful and versatile player who can play the run, drop into coverage or rush the passer at a winning level. He’s a great fit for Vance Joseph’s wonky defense and has the leadership and work ethic to build a unit around for the future.

13. Atlanta Falcons (via Raiders) — Quinyon Mitchell, CB, Toledo

The Falcons make their first selection after trading down from the eighth pick. They already have some talented young cornerbacks on their roster in A.J. Terrell and Clark Phillips, but if they stick to their best player available idea (within reason), then Mitchell could easily be the selection. They would’ve loved to land Dallas Turner at this point, but he went one pick ahead to the Broncos.

14. New Orleans Saints — Troy Fautanu, OL, Washington

Whether Fautanu can stay at tackle (I think he can!) or needs to kick inside to guard, it doesn’t matter: He is a very good player. It remains to be seen if Saints are going to give Trevor Penning more of a chance to figure it out on the blind side, or if they want to look at a potential left guard answer for the future (or even a Ryan Ramczyk succession plan at right tackle). Either way, Fautanu gives them an extremely valid solution no matter what question they’re trying to answer, not to mention more opportunities (in theory) for Derek Carr to find one of his talented pass catchers.

15. Indianapolis ColtsBrock Bowers, TE, Georgia

The Colts land someone who very well might be the most talented player in the draft when it’s all said and done. Getting Bowers at 15 is a total steal and would give Anthony Richardson and Shane Steichen a big-time target that can line up all over the field. Colts fans should party in the streets of Indianapolis if this happens.

If Georgia TE Brock Bowers fell to No. 15, Colts fans would probably feel like, well, this. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
If Georgia TE Brock Bowers fell to No. 15, Colts fans would probably feel like, well, this. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) (Kevin C. Cox via Getty Images)

16. Seattle Seahawks — Jackson Powers-Johnson, C, Oregon

At the time of writing, the Seahawks currently do not have any of their 2023 starting interior offensive linemen under contract. Powers-Johnson gets to stay in the Pacific Northwest and gives the Seahawks a player who can start at any of the interior three spots in 2024, but mainly a plan at a long-term starting center, with the size and athleticism traits of being a real needle-mover. Powers-Johnson is still learning to become more consistent with his technique and hand placement, but he has the tools and rapidly developing skills that teams love investing in. He'll help give the Seahawks a solid platform to launch from under new head coach Mike Macdonald.

17. Jacksonville JaguarsByron Murphy II, DT, Texas

Jacksonville has its edge talent locked in with Josh Allen and Travon Walker, but it needs to upgrade its interior talent to help take the defense to the next level. Murphy has damn near solidified himself as a first-round option in the draft this year and has a chance to be an explosive, up-the-field lineman.

18. Cincinnati Bengals — Taliese Fuaga, OL, Oregon State

I looked at defensive tackle here for the Bengals, too, but Fuaga is a tier above the remaining DT class and the Bengals have only three offensive linemen on their roster who are under contract for the 2025 season. So, some investment will likely be needed along the offensive line to keep Joe Burrow upright. Fuaga can stay at right tackle or bump inside if needed. He will be a positive player in the run game and is a fine pass protector with size. It’s hard to find good-or-better offensive tackles without investing in them, so the Bengals invest in Fuaga, who slides in for Jonah Williams at right tackle and would give the Bengals two powerful pieces in the run game at both tackle spots with Orlando Brown on the other side.

19. Los Angeles RamsCooper DeJean, CB, Iowa

DeJean can play anywhere from outside corner to slot to safety. That’s the exact player the Rams need as they try to infuse that side of the ball with young, explosive talent. Let DeJean start at cornerback and then see where he fits with the players around him.

20. Pittsburgh Steelers — Terrion Arnold, CB, Alabama

The Steelers would be giddy to be able to snatch up Arnold here. They could very possibly be looking at offensive line or other spots, but pairing the competitive and intelligent Arnold, who can also play inside in the slot, with 2023 second-round selection Joey Porter Jr. could give the Steelers one of the best young cornerback duos in the NFL. Mike Tomlin would love to get his hands on Arnold and his tenacious style.

21. Miami Dolphins — Jer'Zhan Newton, DT, Illinois

Christian Wilkins is likely off to another team in free agency, leaving a big hole at defensive tackle for the Dolphins. Newton would be a good replacement for Wilkins for a defense that needs help on the interior all of a sudden.

22. Philadelphia EaglesGraham Barton, OL, Duke

The Eagles might look to move down a bit here, but they are going to look at only a few positions early in the draft, one of those positions being offensive line. Not sure if you heard, but the Eagles' starting center has recently retired, and while they already have Jason Kelce’s successor on the roster in 2022 second-round pick Cam Jurgens, Barton gives Philadelphia and offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland more options and another potential multi-position starter to build around. Barton played left tackle in college, but will move to the interior once he enters the NFL (he has playing time at center in college, too), with the right guard position being wide open for him to start at in Philadelphia. Barton will continue to make the line a strength of this Eagles franchise.

23. Houston Texans (from Cleveland Browns) — Laiatu Latu, EDGE, UCLA

The Texans have a stud in Will Anderson Jr. to develop a defense around, so they can continue adding pieces with Latu, who profiles as a strong No. 2 edge rusher for a defense. This would be a match made in heaven and the type of defensive line talent that head coach DeMeco Ryans is looking to build.

24. Dallas Cowboys — Kingsley Suamataia, OT, BYU

A bit of a home-run swing here, but Suamataia has all of the tools that teams covet at left tackle. There are other interesting offensive line options at this stage of the draft, but the Cowboys take Suamataia and his potential growing pains for that tantalizing ceiling he could achieve with his excellent combination of light feet and heavy hands. The Cowboys could pair him with young star left guard Tyler Smith to give Dallas a powerful left side for years to come.

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

The Packers need a tackle for the long-term, especially if they move on from David Bakhtiari. Guyton is a high-upside tackle who can get moving down the field and projects to be a strong fit for head coach Matt LaFleur’s offense.

26. Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Jordan Morgan, OT, Arizona

The Buccaneers feel like a bit of a dealer’s choice here. They’re bringing back Mike Evans, which kind of puts a damper on taking a new wide receiver for the future (not saying it’s impossible). They hit on several young defensive pieces the past few drafts, so I have them helping out their offensive line interior with Morgan. He was a tackle in college and has light enough feet to potentially stick out there. It’s still a question mark what his best spot will be, but he’s a good athlete who can help solidify the Bucs' run game and help it match Tampa's explosive pass game.

27. Arizona Cardinals (from Texans) — Kamari Lassiter, CB, Georgia

The Cardinals still need juice on defense and add some with Lassiter, who has high-end athleticism to pair with a lot of experience playing in the SEC for Kirby Smart.

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

Let’s get the big and fast quarterback a big and fast pass-catcher to throw to. Thomas has a long frame and very real long speed, and while he’s just an OK route runner at this point, his balance, tight feet and fluid athleticism points to a player who can rapidly add branches to that route tree once he enters the pro ranks. He will need some runway to take advantage of all of his traits in the NFL, but he has a true "X" wide receiver skill set and his vertical play synergizes well with Dalton Kincaid and Stefon Diggs (and even Khalil Shakir).

Brian Thomas Jr. is the second LSU wide receiver and third Tiger overall taken in the first round of this mock draft. (Photo by Michael Chang/Getty Images)
Brian Thomas Jr. is the second LSU wide receiver and third Tiger overall taken in the first round of this mock draft. (Photo by Michael Chang/Getty Images) (Michael Chang via Getty Images)

29. Detroit LionsChop Robinson, EDGE, Penn State

Pass rush help for Aidan Hutchinson and the Lions. Robinson is raw, but it’s hard to find the kind of speed he possesses off the edge. Robinson is a moldable bottle of clay that the Lions can use to build a dangerous pass rush duo.

30. Baltimore RavensJared Verse, EDGE, Florida State

Verse tore up the combine and the Ravens gain from this semi-fall in the draft (doesn’t that always seem to happen?). Verse’s game is all about strength; he is good against the run and does a great job of pushing the pocket and offensive linemen into the laps of quarterbacks. While I wouldn’t want him as the ace of my pass rush, dropping him onto a Ravens team that values the quantity of their pass rushers is a great fit for his skills.

31. New England Patriots (via San Francisco 49ers) — Michael Penix Jr., QB, Washington

The Patriots swap picks with the 49ers to get a low-stakes quarterback investment that may turn into something for them. Penix has injury questions to solve in the NFL, but he has the arm strength to entice teams even though he’s a more throwback type of quarterback.

32. Kansas City ChiefsAdonai Mitchell, WR, Texas

No more wide receiver chatter with the Chiefs! Hooray! Hang the banner! Mitchell is a long and twitchy true outside wide receiver who would give Patrick Mahomes a different type of player than he’s played with in his career. Mitchell is explosive, a better-than-advertised route runner and a true threat in the red zone. If teams want to keep double-teaming Travis Kelce on third down, and they will, Mitchell pairs nicely with rookie breakout Rashee Rice and gives Mahomes another supremely talented option with whom to develop chemistry.