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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13. Way-too-early pick: Chicago Bears - Laiatu Latu, EDGE, UCLA
Actual draft pick: Las Vegas Raiders - Brock Bowers, TE, Georgia
Latu was one of my favorite prospects throughout the draft process. He was my highest rated defender heading into the draft and ended up being the first defender selected just a couple picks after this spot. He is about as technical a pass rusher we have ever seen coming out of college. Chicago chose to go offense instead with its two first round picks, but Latu would have been an excellent fit across from Montez Sweat.

14. Way-too-early pick: Green Bay Packers - J.C. Latham, OT, Alabama
Actual draft pick: New Orleans Saints - Tailese Fuaga, OT, Oregon State
Turns out, Jordan Love was a lot better than we anticipated and the Packers were picking nowhere near this point. Latham actually came off the board before this point, so the Saints turned to Fuaga instead. He was a major riser this season, hat tip to Trevor Sikkema for championing him earlier than anyone else I can remember. His fluid movement skills for a player his size make him an intriguing option to eventually flip to left tackle in the NFL.

15. Way-too-early pick: New York Giants - Rome Odunze, WR, Washington
Actual draft pick: Indianapolis Colts - Laiatu Latu, EDGE, UCLA
It was no secret the Giants needed wide receiver help. We knew that way back in May of 2023. New York's season ended up going much worse than this, with Daniel Jones struggling early before suffering a season-ending injury. The Giants were actually heavily linked to Odunze throughout the draft process and he would have been a great fit.

16. Way-too-early pick: Seattle Seahawks - Jer'Zhan Newton, DL, Illinois
Actual draft pick: Seattle Seahawks - Byron Murphy, DL, Texas
Clearly, the sportsbooks nailed this one. I will give myself some partial credit here as well. Seattle needed defensive line help in a big way. They traded for Leonard Williams at the deadline and still wound up selecting Murphy on draft day. Newton wound up sliding into the second round, which surprised a lot of analysts. He had a great season for Illinois and looked like a first-round pick, even if not quite this high. Meanwhile, Murphy lands in a perfect situation to thrive at the NFL level.

17. Way-too-early pick: Minnesota Vikings - Dallas Turner, EDGE, Alabama
Actual draft pick: Minnesota Vikings via Jacksonville Jaguars - Dallas Turner, EDGE, Alabama
It's better to be lucky than good. I would love to take credit here for projecting a first draft pick nearly a year ahead of time, but I think this is an excellent illustration of how difficult it is to predict what will happen in the NFL draft. I had Turner as the third edge rusher off the board in my way-too-early mock, behind Verse and Latu. When the draft actually rolled around, I expected Turner to be the first edge rusher selected, likely in the top 10. A historic run on offensive players pushed him down the board to this point. He had a really strong 2023 season and has elite athleticism. His ceiling is incredibly high at the next level.

18. Way-too-early pick: Denver Broncos - Maason Smith, DL, LSU
Actual draft pick: Cincinnati Bengals - Amarius Mims, OT, Georgia
Smith was such a projection pick this early in the process. Then again, I guess every pick was. Anyway, Smith is such a rare athletic talent, but he was coming off a torn ACL this past season. He had a fine season, but nothing that warranted a first-round selection. He landed in the second round with the Jaguars. Perhaps, Smith will look even better two years removed from his injury. On the other hand, we have Mims, who is still a relative unknown. He has ideal traits and size to be a high-level starter in the NFL. However, due to injuries and talent ahead of him at Georgia, he only has eight collegiate starts. He will essentially get a redshirt year in Cincinnati, assuming Trent Brown can stay healthy, before likely taking over at right tackle in 2025.

19. Way-too-early pick: New Orleans Saints - J.T. Tuimoloau, EDGE, Ohio State
Actual draft pick: Los Angeles Rams - Jared Verse, EDGE, Florida State
Ohio State messed with a lot of the depth in this draft class, bringing back a ton of draft eligible talent for another run. Tuimoloau is a strong player, but he hasn't really shown much development as a pass rusher. He has 12 career sacks in three seasons, and it is not for a lack of opportunity or playing time. For what it is worth, I did not include him in my way-too-early mock for 2025. I think he projects more as a Day 2 rotational player than a potentially impact starter.

20. Way-too-early pick: Houston Texans via Cleveland Browns - Jeremiah Trotter Jr., LB, Clemson
Actual draft pick: Pittsburgh Steelers - Troy Fautanu, OT, Washington
It turns out, we might have overrated the Clemson defense a little bit. Trotter is a fun player, flying around and getting to the ball, but he is undersized and lacks the ideal agility required to start at the NFL level. I will say, I do love that he landed with the Eagles, where his dad spent the majority of his career. While Trotter's stock slipped throughout the season, Fautanu's skyrocketed. Thought by most to be a guard, he put those questions to rest at the combine, measuring in with longer arms than Joe Alt. He is a brawler with great play strength. He fits Pittsburgh so well and has the potential to be the team's long-term starter at left tackle.

21. Way-too-early pick: Los Angeles Chargers - Ja'Tavion Sanders, TE, Texas
Actual draft pick: Miami Dolphins - Chop Robinson, EDGE, Penn State
When you look at where the Chargers were expected to be picking and then compare it to where they actually picked, you get a pretty clear picture as to why Brandon Staley was fired. Los Angeles is still in need of a tight end, with Will Dissley and Hayden Hurst the top two options at the position, but that will wait until next year, maybe until when Jim Harbaugh can draft Colston Loveland. Sanders wound up sliding all the way to the fourth round, which felt a bit harsh for a player as dynamic in space at the position. That being said, first round was too rich a projection as well. He lacks physicality and struggles as a blocker. As for Robinson, I did not have him in my way-too-early mock. I watched him against Ohio State in 2022 and did not see a first-round talent. I was low on Robinson throughout the process and thought this was a little earlier than he should have gone. He is a great athlete, but he is unrefined and had little production at Penn State.

22. Way-too-early pick: Miami Dolphins - Raheim Sanders, RB, Arkansas
Actual draft pick: Philadelphia Eagles - Quinyon Mitchell, CB, Toledo
This one did not pan out so well for me. I loved Sanders coming into the process. He had over 1,700 yards from scrimmage and 12 touchdowns for Arkansas in 2022. He followed that up 284 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns in just six games due to injury. His yards per attempt also plummeted from 6.5 to 3.4. He wound up transferring to South Carolina. We will see if he can bounce back and get himself back into top 100 consideration for 2025. Meanwhile, Mitchell went the other direction. He was a small school star with some consideration, but he proved he could contend at the Senior Bowl and wound up being the first corner selected. He could be a Day 1 starter in Philly.

23. Way-too-early pick: Jacksonville Jaguars - Cooper DeJean, CB, Iowa
Actual draft pick: Jacksonville Jaguars via Minnesota Vikings & Houston Texans - Brian Thomas Jr., WR, LSU
The Jaguars ended up picking here after a trade-down with the Vikings. DeJean inexplicably slid out of the first round, but he was definitely a first-round talent. Even after suffering a season-ending injury at Iowa, he returned for a great pre-draft workout and his tape is first-round caliber. He landed with the Eagles in the second round. Thomas benefitted from Jayden Daniels' Heisman season and a clear spot in the starting lineup. He entered the 2023 season with 770 yards and seven touchdowns through his first two years combined. He posted 1,177 yards and an FBS-leading 17 touchdowns in a monster breakout season. He will be a great field-stretching option in Jacksonville.

24. Way-too-early pick: Detroit Lions - Jack Sawyer, EDGE, Ohio State
Actual draft pick: Detroit Lions via Dallas Cowboys - Terrion Arnold, CB, Alabama
The offseason hype around the Lions turned out to be warranted. Detroit had to trade up to pick at No. 24. They took Arnold, which fills a huge void on their defense. He is a hard-nosed tackler with good ball skills. He started the year in Kool-Aid McKinstry's proverbial draft shadow, but ended up surpassing his teammate by the time the draft rolled around. Meanwhile, Sawyer, like J.T. Tuimoloau, returned to school for another year. He is similar in that he has great strength, but lacks the production to go with it. He has a future as an edge-setting defender, but he does not generate enough pressure to warrant first-round consideration heading into the 2024 season.