Why do we need a mock draft in September? We are only two weeks into the NFL season and a ton has already changed. Suddenly, the Bears might be looking for a quarterback, the Jets have their first round pick again following Aaron Rodgers’ season-ending injury, and the Buccaneers are riding high led by Baker Mayfield. It’s been a weird start to 2023 for sure and there have been some major implications on the upcoming 2024 NFL draft.
Every mock draft will change a ton between now and April, but it is a good way to get familiar with prospects and begin exploring potential team needs for NFL franchises.
I did not set the draft order. It is largely based on the Super Bowl odds from Vegas Insider, tweaked slightly to make the appropriate number of teams from each conference appear in the playoffs and the resulting playoff results. If you don’t like where your team is picking, take it up with Vegas.
Without further ado, let’s dive into this September mock draft.
1. Arizona Cardinals – Caleb Williams, QB, USC
Josh Dobbs is doing well in relief and Kyler Murray is still under contract for a while, but I think Arizona needs to take Caleb Williams if they end up with the No. 1 pick. Williams has an explosive arm, impressive mobility and tons of experience. In many ways, he plays like a bigger Murray. This is a rebuilding team, so they can worry about the cap constraints of moving on from Kyler later.
2. Arizona Cardinals via Houston Texans – Marvin Harrison Jr., WR, Ohio State
Would you trade Will Anderson Jr. for Marvin Harrison Jr.? Hard to say exactly, but the Cardinals would gladly pair the best receiver prospect in a decade with their new franchise quarterback. Harrison checks all the boxes when it comes to route running, hands and size. Plus, he is one of the most athletic players on the field. Expect him to have a Ja’Marr Chase or Justin Jefferson-type impact right away.
3. Chicago Bears via Carolina Panthers – Drake Maye, QB, UNC
It is time Bears fans. If Justin Fields has Chicago picking third overall, it is hard to imagine him returning as the starting quarterback in 2024. I know there will be some who shutter at the thought of selecting another North Carolina passer, but Maye is the real deal. He has great arm strength and anticipation; plus he offers a good amount of upside as a runner. The interceptions are something worth monitoring with four in three games so far this season, but I don’t think it is something to panic about quite yet.
4. Chicago Bears – Jared Verse, EDGE, Florida State
It is very odd to see two teams controlling the top four selections, even if it is a mock draft. Don’t blame me. Blame Las Vegas. After finding their quarterback of the future, Chicago turns to the defensive side of the ball. Verse would instantly be one of the three best players on the Bears defense. He is an elite pass rusher with great length and tons of production. He will be about as pro-ready as you can get, after being viewed as a top-15 last year before returning to school.
5. Indianapolis Colts – Olu Fashanu, OT, Penn State
Anthony Richardson has shown flashes of being a franchise quarterback through the first two weeks of the NFL season. However, injuries are already cropping up. There is a higher risk of that with a run-first quarterback, but Indianapolis needs to do whatever it can to minimize the amount of unnecessary contact he takes. That starts with protecting his blindside. Fashanu did not have his best game against Illinois, but he is still my top tackle prospect in this class by a wide margin.
6. Las Vegas Raiders – Michael Penix Jr., QB, Washington
The Raiders are in an interesting spot. Jimmy Garoppolo has been solid if unspectacular in his first two games in Las Vegas. He is a natural fit in Josh McDaniels’ offense. That being said, the 31-year-old quarterback has an extensive injury history and feels like more of a bridge to the future than the actual future of the franchise. That opens the door for Penix, who unfortunately comes with his own injury history, but has been lighting up college football for the past two years at Washington. He has a great arm, nice touch on his deep ball, and tons of starting experience. I could see him excelling as a pocket passer under McDaniels.
7. Denver Broncos – Laiatu Latu, EDGE, UCLA
Could the Broncos move on from Russell Wilson? Possibly. I certainly won’t rule it out. However, Russ might not be the biggest issue right now. Denver’s defense collapsed in the second half against Washington. Through two weeks this season, the Broncos have the second-worst pass-rush win rate in the league. That screams the need to add Latu, who is one of the best pure pass rushers in this class. He has an incredible get-off at the snap, a fantastic array of moves, and the desired size and length to play at the NFL level. He already has four sacks so far this season and should be a force once UCLA opens conference play.
8. New York Giants – Keon Coleman, WR, Florida State
The Giants seem to be in major trouble. They snatched victory from the jaws of defeat against the lowly Cardinals. That came on the heels of being shutout 40-0 by the Cowboys at home in Week 1. New York needs some playmakers. Coleman could be the answer to their prayers. The big-body Michigan State transfer captured everyone’s attention with his dominance over the first two weeks of the season. He disappeared the past week against Boston College, but that will likely just be a bump in the road. He would be the best target Daniel Jones has ever thrown to in his career.
9. New England Patriots – Emeka Egbuka, WR, Ohio State
The more you watch this new Patriots offense, the clearer it is that they need more weapons for Mac Jones to play with. Jones’ top targets JuJu Smith-Schuster, Hunter Henry, Kendrick Bourne and DeVante Parker are not really cutting it. Egbuka would add an explosive element to this group. He is a polished route runner with plenty of run-after-catch potential. I know New England has not prioritized drafting wide receivers, but if Bill Belichick wants to truly evaluate Jones, he needs to give him a better-supporting cast.
10. Washington Commanders – Brock Bowers, TE, Georgia
The Commanders are one of a few surprising 2-0 teams so far this season. Sam Howell has looked solid through two weeks, thanks in large part to an impressive receiving corps. However, there is room for improvement at tight end. This is not a knock on Cole Turner, who has looked good when given opportunities, but Bowers would be an upgrade over probably two-thirds of the tight ends in the NFL right now. His ability to get open downfield mixed with his skill set as a blocker makes him the best tight end prospect we have seen in a long time, maybe ever.