2024 NFL Mock Draft: Commanders replace Howell, Broncos find successor for Russ

Happy New Year! The NFL regular season is entering its final week and some surprising Week 17 results have shaken up the draft order in a very meaningful way. Under the old NFL format, this would be the end of the season. In a 17-game season, we still have one more week to go before we know the top 18 picking in the 2024 NFL draft.

In a year where so many teams need a quarterback, what better way to kick off the new year than with a brand new first-round mock draft! The draft order is according to Tankathon and I did not allow any trades in this one. Let's dive into what might unfold come April.

Maye threw for over 8.000 passing yards in his career at North Carolina.
Maye threw for over 8.000 passing yards in his career at North Carolina. / Grant Halverson/GettyImages

1. Chicago Bears via Carolina Panthers (2-14) - Caleb Williams, QB, USC
Justin Fields has had his moments down the stretch and very well could be the Bears starting quarterback next season. However, Ryan Poles did not draft Fields and I believe the opportunity to reset the "quarterback clock" by getting a promising passer on a rookie deal is difficult to pass up. Williams definitely had some rough patches in his 2023 campaign, but he has elite arm strength, great mobility and impressive touch downfield.

2. Washington Commanders (4-12) - Drake Maye, QB, UNC
It seems like Sam Howell's time as the Commanders' starting quarterback has reached its end. He would have been benched this week if not for an injury to Jacoby Brissett, who had replaced him off the bench in the previous two games. I think Howell deserves a shot again, perhaps with some better protection, but that chance should not come in D.C. now that the Commanders are slated to draft No. 2. Ironically, Maye would once again replace Howell. The redshirt-sophomore took over at quarterback when Howell left for the NFL. Over the past two years, he has dazzled with his arm strength and physicality. He has some worrying lapses in judgment on film, but his talent is undeniable.

3. New England Patriots (4-12) - Jayden Daniels, QB, LSU
This is actually a tricky spot for the Patriots. They seemed to be on track to land either Williams or Maye for much of the season, but landing at No. 3 would mean they likely miss out on both. It presents the dilemma of whether to take the best player in the draft, at a position of need as well, or take a swing on a dynamic quarterback. I opted for Daniels here. The 2023 Heisman winner is electric in the open field and can spin it when throwing downfield. New England will need to devote resources to adding playmakers and protection for him to be successful, but he would raise the ceiling of this offense exponentially.

4. Arizona Cardinals (4-12) - Marvin Harrison Jr., WR, Ohio State
There had to be some Cardinals fans out there who were furious to see their team upset the Eagles in Week 17. Never fear, Arizona can still land the top player in this draft. Harrison is polished, pro-ready, and prolific. He is super well rounded, with great hands, impeccable route running and impressive acceleration. After investing heavily in the offensive line and Kyler Murray, adding a bonafide playmaker feels like a no-brainer for this offense.

5. New York Giants (5-11) - Malik Nabers, WR, LSU
The Giants miss out on the early quarterback run, but Nabers is no consolation prize. He is a legitimate No. 1 receiver prospect. New York has a good amount of depth at the position but lacks a clear go-to target. That is exactly what Nabers could be for Daniel Jones, Tyrod Taylor, Tommy Devito or whoever the Giants decide to go with under center in 2024.

6. Los Angeles Chargers (5-11) - Joe Alt, OT, Notre Dame
The board falls nicely for the Chargers here, giving them their pick of the top offensive tackle prospects. Justin Herbert dealt with injuries all season long. Los Angeles needs to invest in protecting him. This comes down to preference, but given that the Chargers are already set at left tackle with Rashawn Slater, I think Alt would be the better fit at right tackle. He has a massive frame, excels at run blocking and has elite length to stymie pass rushers. Whoever is running this front office should make beefing up the offensive line a priority.

7. Tennessee Titans (5-11) - Olu Fashanu, OT, Penn State
This is a dream scenario for the Titans. They feel like they found their quarterback of the future in Will Levis and now they would have the chance to select a franchise tackle to protect his blindside. Fashanu is an incredible pass blocker with great fluidity in the open field. He would be a great addition in the screen and outside run game as well, in addition to greatly improving this team's ability to keep the quarterback clean. After taking Peter Skoronski in the first round a year ago, this would be a great way to continue building in the trenches.

8. New York Jets (6-10) - Tailese Fuaga, OT, Oregon State
It feels a little bit like last year where the Jets missed out on the top tackle prospects in the class, but this time, there is a bit more depth on the board for New York to capitalize on. Fuaga is a people-mover with great size and finishing power in his blocks. In his second year as a starter, he has turned a lot of heads. One big determining factor for Fuaga's draft stock will be how confident teams are in his ability to transition to left tackle after exclusively playing on the right at Oregon State. He will likely get some reps on the left side at the Senior Bowl. That is going to be crucial for him.

9. Atlanta Falcons (7-9) - Michael Penix Jr., QB, Washington
The Falcons have an offense full of potential star players. They just need someone to get them the ball consistently. Penix can do that and a whole lot more. He has the arm talent to hit just about any spot on the field. Letting him work with Kyle Pitts and Drake London would be exciting to watch to say the least. He has an extensive injury history and operates best playing within structure, which is perfect for Atlanta if Arthur Smith is back running the show.

10. Chicago Bears (7-9) - Rome Odunze, WR, Washington
Penix's top target comes off the board next. Chicago could reshape its offense, which could suddenly feature Caleb Williams, Odunze, D.J. Moore and Cole Kmet. Odunze took his game to a different level in 2023, improving drastically as a contested-catch receiver and once again showcasing his ability to consistently rack up yardage. The Bears would be learning from their mistakes with Fields, putting Williams in a position to succeed early in his career rather than hanging him out to dry with a dearth of playmakers.

11. Las Vegas Raiders (7-9) - Jer’Zahn Newton, DL, Illinois
After 10 offensive players come off the board, we finally get our first defensive prospect! There are a number of avenues for the Raiders to potentially explore, but landing an elite interior pass rusher feels like a viable option. Maxx Crosby has been a one-man wrecking crew for far too long. Newton is a bit undersized, but has the speed and power combination to give interior offensive linemen fits at the next level. Quarterback will be a big discussion point for this team in the offseason, but with four already off the board, I imagine the Raiders would turn their attention elsewhere. Maybe a trade for Justin Fields would be in play for Las Vegas.

12. Minnesota Vikings (7-9) - Laiatu Latu, EDGE, UCLA
Minnesota had a rollercoaster of a season, complete with major injuries, confounding defeats and inexplicable wins. The Vikings have a tough decision to make this season regarding Kirk Cousins' future. The 35-year-old quarterback is out of a contract and coming off a torn Achilles. Quarterback could definitely be a need. However, I think Minnesota believes in Cousins and already has a number of potential fill-in candidates in-house. Instead, they can turn their attention to the defense, where Danielle Hunter is also a pending free agent and figures to demand top dollar on the open market. Even if the Vikings find a way to bring him back, adding Latu would go a long way in boosting their ceiling for next year. He is the most polished pass-rushing prospect in this draft class, with an array of moves to beat opposing linemen. He has an extensive medical history, which could cause him to tumble, but his production is incredible and worthy of a top-15 selection.

13. New Orleans Saints (8-8) - Amarius Mims, OT, Georgia
The Saints have a litany of needs this offseason and no clear path forward. That being said, they cannot fix everything in one offseason. A good place to start would be along the offensive line, where New Orleans ranks 29th in the league in pass block win rate. It is going to be hard to move on from Derek Carr, so protecting him is the next best option. Mims is a bit of a projection at this stage, without much starting experience, but he has all the physical tools you look for in an NFL tackle. His quickness is impressive for a player who measures 6'7" and 330 pounds. He faced great competition in the SEC and thrived. He could be the Saints long-term answer at left tackle.

14. Denver Broncos (8-8) - Bo Nix, QB, Oregon
Clearly, the Broncos are ready to move on from Russell Wilson. I imagine Sean Payton will want to bring in his own quarterback. This is a bit early for Nix in my estimation, but he could be a great fit for what Payton has done in the past. I'm not trying to say he is Drew Brees, but Payton won a Super Bowl and created an offense that allowed the future Hall of Famer to compete for the all-time passing yardage mark. Nix is a point guard, capable of protecting the ball and getting it to his playmakers in space.

15. Cincinnati Bengals (8-8) - Brock Bowers, TE, Georgia
This is a dream match for prospect and team. Cincinnati has gotten very little production from their tight ends this season. The group accounted for roughly 600 yards receiving heading into the season finale. For a frame of reference, there are 11 tight ends in the league this year that have amassed over 600 yards receiving by themselves. Bowers is a mismatch for opposing defenses and a great blocker as well. If Tee Higgins does leave this offseason, this will be a good way to lessen the blow.

16. Seattle Seahawks (8-8) - Dallas Turner, EDGE, Alabama
Should Turner come off the board before this spot? Almost definitely. However, the run on tackles, receivers and quarterbacks has pushed the top defensive prospects down the board. The Seahawks would be ecstatic to land the Alabama edge rusher. He bulked up this past offseason and it led to a monster 2023 campaign. He has good bend off the edge and his improved power is apparent. He would be a great addition to Seattle's pass-rushing rotation.

17. Arizona Cardinals via Houston Texans (9-7)) - Cooper DeJean, DB, Iowa
The Cardinals went into the season with many thinking they could end up with the top two picks in the draft. They came nowhere close to that, but the opportunity to add another first-round prospect is still incredibly valuable. Arizona has allowed the second-highest completion percentage to opposing quarterbacks this season. DeJean brings versatility and big-play ability to the table in spades. He can line up at safety, in the slot or on the perimeter. He also has seven interceptions over the past two seasons and is an excellent punt returner. Arizona would greatly benefit from landing a player with his skill set.

18. Pittsburgh Steelers (9-7) - Nate Wiggins, CB, Clemson
Quick shoutout to Mike Tomlin, who has posted another non-losing season. He has done so despite having a severely undermanned secondary. Pittsburgh ranks in the bottom third of the league in yards allowed per pass attempt and passing yards allowed per game. Joey Porter Jr. has looked good in his debut season, but the Steelers need more depth behind him. Wiggins is a similarly built prospect with good ball skills. He has a knack for making big plays and has the right tenacity and mentality to play in Pittsburgh. Whenever Patrick Peterson decides to hang them up, Wiggins can step into his spot and give the Steelers an exciting young tandem at corner.

19. Green Bay Packers (8-8) - J.C. Latham, OT, Alabama
The Packers have a few spots on their roster that need patching so to speak, but it is hard to overlook the need at offensive tackle. Green Bay's offensive line has actually played pretty well this year, posting the second-highest pass-block win rate and allowing the third-fewest sacks. Yosh Nijman is a free agent after the season and former 7th-round pick Rasheed Walker has struggled. Latham is not a perfect solution given that he has never started on the left side in college, but his power and intangibles are undeniable. Perhaps this could see Zach Tom move to left tackle, but the Packers definitely need a long-term plan to protect Jordan Love.

20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-8) - Troy Fautanu, OL, Washington
Baker Mayfield has played well above expectations this season. It is easy to forget that he was in a quarterback battle with Kyle Trask back in the preseason. However, Week 17 was the perfect encapsulation of what ails this Buccaneers offense still and that would be the offensive line. Even if Ryan Jensen is able to return, the interior of Tampa's line needs reinforcements. Fautanu is a left tackle by trade, but he projects best as a guard or center at the next level, similar to Peter Skoronski out of Northwestern a season ago. He would give the Bucs a huge boost on offense next season.

21. Indianapolis Colts (9-7) - Terrion Arnold, CB, Alabama
If you had told Colts fans that Anthony Richardson was going to miss the bulk of the season and Jonathan Taylor would manage only 553 rushing yards through nine games, you would think this team would be tanking. Instead, Indianapolis enters the final day of the season with a chance to win the AFC South. For as good as Indianapolis' defense has been on this run, they need help in the secondary. JuJu Brents has been an awesome addition so far in his rookie campaign, but in the modern NFL, you need depth at corner. Arnold has developed into a really strong defender. He has a nose for the football and excels at making plays in coverage. The arrow is firmly pointed up for the redshirt sophomore.

22. Jacksonville Jaguars (8-5) - Kool-Aid McKinstry, CB, Alabama
Jacksonville would probably prefer to take an offensive tackle in this spot, but with five already off the board, Trent Baalke turns his attention to the defense instead. Darious Williams is entering the final year of his contract and could be a cap casualty this offseason. Finding a potential replacement will be a priority. McKinstry is a big, physical corner with really impressive athleticism. He brings a ton of starting experience and some fun upside as a returner on special teams as well. Putting him opposite Tyson Campbell would give the Jaguars an imposing duo on the perimeter.

23. Los Angeles Rams (9-7) - Jared Verse, EDGE, Florida State
Verse should be off the board before this point, but falls victim to a run on offensive players in the top 20. He is a powerful player on the edge, using his heavy hands to manipulate and move opposing tackles. His 2023 campaign has not been quite as prolific as the season prior, but he still showcased his clear talent as an edge setter and pass rusher. For a Rams team that ranked near the bottom of the league in sacks and takeaways, adding Verse across from Byron Young would give the Rams a young pair of players to build around in the front seven.

24. Buffalo Bills (10-6) - Emeka Egbuka, WR, Ohio State
The Bills could certainly consider going with a corner here, but Christian Benford has played well and Rasul Douglas is under contract for another season. Meanwhile, the outlook for the Bills at receiver is pretty dire. Stefon Diggs' production has fallen off a cliff and Gabe Davis is a pending free agent. Buffalo needs to prioritize finding playmakers to surround Josh Allen. In Egbuka, they would land a reliable receiver with a great sense for how to get open. He is more of a possession receiver than a burner, but he would be a logical replacement for Davis in this offense.

25. Kansas City Chiefs (10-6) - Brian Thomas Jr., WR, LSU
It's almost like a broken record at this point, but the Chiefs desperately need help at receiver. Specifically, they need someone to allow Patrick Mahomes to stretch the field again. Thomas fits the bill perfectly. He averaged 18 yards per reception this season and hauled in a ridiculous 15 touchdowns, which led the nation. The rest of the league should probably conspire to avoid letting Andy Reid get his hands on a 6'5" playmaker like Thomas.

26. Philadelphia Eagles (11-5) - Kamari Lassiter, CB, Georgia
It is hard to pinpoint what exactly is plaguing the Eagles at this moment, but let's start with the defense. When you allow 35 points to the Cardinals, that feels like a cry for help. Philadelphia got old at corner very quickly with Darius Slay and James Bradberry both seeing their level of play dip this season. As we all know, the Eagles love drafting Georgia players and this would be a perfect fit. Lassiter has come along nicely in his career with the Bulldogs. He lacks elite production with just one interception in three seasons, but his coverage skills are impressive. For an Eagles team allowing the fifth most passing yards per game, they will gladly take someone who can prevent completions.

27. Detroit Lions (11-5) - Bralen Trice, EDGE, Washington
The Lions feel pretty set on offense. Perhaps they could use some more depth at receiver, but that can come later in what is a loaded draft for the position. More pressing for Detroit is finding someone to line up opposite Aidan Hutchinson. Trice is not going to be a workout warrior, but he wins and wins consistently. Over the past two years, he has totaled 14 sacks and 20.5 tackles for loss. He excels at generating pressure off the edge and would likely benefit from Hutchinson seeing the bulk of the offense's attention.

28. Houston Texans via Cleveland Browns (11-5) - Keon Coleman, WR, Florida State
Coleman is a tough evaluation. On one hand, he dominates on jump balls and excels in the red zone. On the other, there is not a ton of separation in his game. That is a major red flag. We have seen plenty of big-body receivers struggle in the NFL when they are unable to create space for the quarterback to throw into. His physical profile screams first-round receiver, and if he tests well at the combine, he should be a lock for the first round. Houston needs to find more playmakers for C.J. Stroud, especially with Noah Brown headed for free agency this offseason. Coleman would be a fun complement to Tank Dell.

29. Miami Dolphins (11-5) - Kingsley Suamataia, OT, BYU
Dolphins fans are probably tired of seeing an offensive tackle mocked to them, but that's what Miami desperately needs right now. The Dolphins rank 31st in pass-block win rate this season and have struggled with injuries along their line all season. What I like about Suamataia is his size and versatility. He started at right tackle in 2022 before making the switch to the left side when Blake Freeman left for the NFL. At 6'6", 325 pounds, he is tough to move, but plays light on his feet. He could be the long-term answer at either tackle spot for Miami.

30. Dallas Cowboys (11-5) - Kamren Kinchens, S, Miami
What do the Cowboys need? Running back would be ideal, but there is not one worth taking in the first round this year in my estimation. Maybe some receiver depth, but that can likely wait until later rounds. I opted for the best player available, and that was Kinchens. He has legitimate centerfield range as a free safety, but is not afraid to mix it up and lower his shoulder. Malik Hooker and Donovan Wilson are under contract for the foreseeable future, but adding depth and versatility in the secondary is never a bad thing in such a pass-heavy league.

31. San Francisco 49ers (12-4) - Tyler Guyton, OT, Oklahoma
There are not many weaknesses on this 49ers team, but right tackle stands out. After losing Mike McGlinchey in the offseason, San Francisco turned to Colton McKivitz. PFF has him with nine sacks allowed this season, tied for third-most in the league. Guyton has been Oklahoma's starting right tackle for most of the past two seasons. He has the tools and size to be a solid starter in the NFL and should solidify the right side of San Francisco's offensive line.

32. Baltimore Ravens (13-3) - Denzel Burke, CB, Ohio State
Burke appeared in a lot of way-too-early mock drafts for 2024, mostly because not enough people had watched his 2022 film. He really struggled as a true sophomore for the Buckeyes and fell off the radar a bit. However, he put together a really impressive 2023 campaign, earning his way back into the first-round conversation. For the Ravens, they have gotten some decent production out of Brandon Stephens and Arthur Maulet, but Stephens is entering a contract year and Maulet will be a free agent this offseason. Burke could be a long-term successor on the outside.

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