Chris McGlynn: Comparing My Way-Too-Early Mock Draft to the 2024 NFL Draft

Minnesota traded up to draft Dallas Turner at No. 17.
Minnesota traded up to draft Dallas Turner at No. 17. / Gregory Shamus/GettyImages
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History is usually not too kind way-too-early mock drafts. Spencer Rattler, Eli Ricks and many more have opened the draft cycle as highly-touted prospects who failed to live up to expectations. Many more have seen their "stock fall" in large part because their tape is put under the microscope, revealing that they never should have been that highly regarded in the first place.

And so, it is time for one of my favorite exercises. I am taking my way-too-early mock draft for 2024 and comparing it to what happened at the draft in Detroit. It is a great way to see how much has changed in a year. Several prospects lived up to the hype, many more fell off and others still came from way off the radar to be high draft picks.

1. Way-too-early pick: Arizona Cardinals - Caleb Williams, QB, USC
Actual draft pick: Chicago Bears via Carolina Panthers - Caleb Williams, QB, USC
This one should come as no surprise. Williams was seen as the top quarterback in this draft from the very beginning, and while some will argue Drake Maye was worthy of the top pick, there was never really any doubt that Williams would be the first selection. Turns out that the Cardinals were a bit better than we all expected and the first year of the Bryce Young experience was a bitter disappointment.

2. Way-too-early pick: Arizona Cardinals via Houston Texans - Marvin Harrison Jr., WR, Ohio State
Actual draft pick: Washington Commanders - Jayden Daniels, QB, LSU
Remember when we all thought the Cardinals could have the top two picks in the draft? Don't blame me, blame the sportsbooks. Turns out the Texans were way better in C.J. Stroud's and DeMeco Ryans' debut campaign. Still, the Cardinals did wind up taking Harrison, just at No. 4, not No. 2. As for Daniels, he was a player I was really excited about heading into the 2024 draft cycle, but I did not have him in the first round of this mock. He took a huge step as a passer and leader in his second season at LSU, propelling him into this spot.

3. Way-too-early pick: Indianapolis Colts - Olu Fashanu, OT, Penn State
Actual draft pick: New England Patriots - Drake Maye, QB, UNC
Fashanu entered the 2024 in a fierce competition for Joe Alt for the top tackle spot. Alt took some major strides in 2023. Fashanu had the same issues pop up regarding his play strength and overall power. In the end, Fashanu still wound up going in the top half of the first round. For the Colts, expectations were low after drafting Anthony Richardson. Even when the No. 4 pick in the 2023 draft went down, Shane Steichen got this team to compete and really turned the outlook for Indianapolis around heading into 2024. We will talk more about Maye in just a moment.

4. Way-too-early pick: Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Drake Maye, QB, UNC
Actual draft pick: Arizona Cardinals - Marvin Harrison Jr., WR, Ohio State
I will admit, I did not see Baker Mayfield leading the Buccaneers to the playoffs and landing a big extension in the offseason. Let's remember that he opened training camp in a quarterback battle with Kyle Trask! That was put to bed quickly, Tampa wound up winning the division and knocking out Philly in the wildcard round before falling short against the Lions. Maye came into the cycle with a top of hype, but ultimately had an uneven year with a worse supporting cast. I believe in his upside, but he is a bit of a project as he heads to New England. Harrison was my top player on the board heading all the way back in May of 2023. That never changed and he was the first non-quarterback off the board.

5. Way-too-early pick: Tennessee Titans - Brock Bowers, TE, Georgia
Actual draft pick: Los Angeles Chargers - Joe Alt, OT, Notre Dame
Bowers was a known quantity heading into this draft cycle. Injuries and a lengthy debate about his positional value pushed him down the board. He might be the best tight end prospect we have had in nearly two decades, but given the lackluster impact of Kyle Pitts so far (more of a coaching issue than a talent issue it seems), teams backed off taking Bowers so early. Alt, who I mentioned before when talking about Fashanu, was seen as a top-10 candidate given his size, length and experience. He made some small improvements as a pass blocker in 2023, which I think gave him the edge over the rest of the tackles in the draft class.

6. Way-too-early pick: Washington Commanders - Quinn Ewers, QB, Texas
Actual draft pick: New York Giants - Malik Nabers, WR, LSU
We have found our first major outlier from the way-too-early mock. Ewers had an up-and-down season, ultimately deciding to return to Austin for his senior year. I clearly learned nothing from this exercise, because I projected Ewers at No. 6 in my 2025 way-too-early mock, coincidentally to the Giants. Meanwhile, Nabers put together another impressive season, leading to months of debate as to who WR1 in this class truly was. I stuck with Harrison, but Nabers was one of the highest graded players I scouted in this draft cycle. He has superstar potential in New York.

7. Way-too-early pick: Atlanta Falcons - Jared Verse, EDGE, Florida State
Actual draft pick: Tennessee Titans - J.C. Latham, OT, Alabama
I promise, I am not trying to draw anymore attention to the fact that we all expected the Falcons to draft an edge rusher in the top 10. We all know by now what Atlanta opted to do instead, so let's focus on Verse. He had top-15 buzz in the 2023 draft, but returned to school for one more season. I don't know that it hurt him in any way, because there is a chance a deeper dive into his film and the pre-draft process could have seen him slip down the board a bit. He had another impressive year at Florida State and wound up going inside the top-20 to the Rams. As for Latham, this was the first real reach of the draft for me. I think he is a bit raw and I have questions about his ability to thrive at tackle in the NFL in general, much less making the switch to playing left tackle. He goes to a great situation with Bill Calahan to lead his development, but this is a risky proposition to say the least.

8. Way-too-early pick: Chicago Bears via Carolina Panthers - Joe Alt, OT, Notre Dame
Actual draft pick: Atlanta Falcons - Michael Penix Jr., QB, Washington
This was the biggest stunner of the draft. We have picked apart why that is ad nauseam by this point. Let's talk more about Penix. He was iffy to be a first-round pick, much less a top-10 selection last summer. He was still only a year removed from an injury-plagued career at Indiana at that point. This is an interesting position for him to land in, but I am a big fan of the player.

9. Way-too-early pick: Los Angeles Rams - Bo Nix, QB, Oregon
Actual draft pick: Chicago Bears - Rome Odunze, WR, Washington
I was a bit too high on Nix heading into the 2023 season, but this wound up being only three spots earlier than he was actually selected. I thought he would have been a good candidate to eventually replace Matthew Stafford, who has struggled with injuries in recent seasons. Los Angeles still has not identified an heir apparent, but the Rams also had a much better season than this projection expected. The Bears ended up in this slot, taking one of the most entertaining players in college football in Odunze, who I had mocked just a little later on. He will form a terrifying trio with Keenan Allen and D.J. Moore in Chicago.

10. Way-too-early pick: New England Patriots - Emeka Egbuka, WR, Ohio State
Actual draft pick: Minnesota Vikings via New York Jets - J.J. McCarthy, QB, Michigan
There is a lot to unpack here. For starters, Egbuka had an injury-riddled year and wound up returning to school. He figures to be in the conversation to go in the first round in 2025. The Patriots had a much worse season than this, thanks in part to Mac Jones flaming out. Then there is McCarthy. He was not talked about a ton as a legitimate candidate to be drafted.

He had shown flashes as a true sophomore, but keep in mind that he wasn't the designated starter to open the 2022 season. That was Cade McNamara. He saw a massive jump in his completion percentage and made big plays in key moments as Michigan won a national championship. He is going to need some seasoning and it will be interesting to see what happens when he is asked to be more than a game manager. The talent is there and this is a great landing spot for him under Kevin O'Connell.

11. Way-too-early pick: Pittsburgh Steelers - Kool-Aid McKinstry, CB, Alabama
Actual draft pick: New York Jets via Minnesota Vikings - Olu Fashanu, OT, Penn State
McKinstry was the top corner on my radar heading into the 2023 season. He had his moments of brilliance, but struggled at points too, specifically against Adonai Mitchell. Additionally, his medical exam at the NFL combine revealed a Jones fracture in his foot, which likely pushed him down boards slightly. He landed in the second round with the Saints on draft day and has every chance to earn a starting spot.

12. Way-too-early pick: Las Vegas Raiders - Kalen King, CB, Penn State
Actual draft pick: Denver Broncos - Bo Nix, QB, Oregon
This projection did not work out well. King had a rocky 2023 campaign, highlighted by a really rough showing against Marvin Harrison Jr. A poor pre-draft process, including subpar measurables and testing numbers, saw King slide all the way to the seventh round. Perhaps he will bounce back and recapture some of his 2022 form in Green Bay, but his draft stock tanked throughout the season. For the Raiders, corner was and still is a need for them, but they opted to offense early before taking Decamerion Richardson in the fourth round.