NFL Mock Draft 2024: Bears, Cardinals opt for top WRs; Falcons, Vikings join QB run with J.J. McCarthy, Michael Penix Jr.

The 2023 NFL regular season is in the books and the playoffs are here for 14 of the league’s teams. For  the18 other teams, they need to look ahead to improving themselves in the offseason, first in free agency and then in the 2024 NFL draft.

With the college football season also ending with the CFP championship game between Michigan and Washington and Monday night, that means the page is flipped to the Senior Bowl to kick off the heart of the pre-draft process.

The intersection of one set of playoffs ending and another beginning ahead of Super Bowl 58 is the ideal time to check  in with updated first-round projections.

Here’s Sporting News’ latest mock draft for the first 18 picks in the order, based on how the selections settled in Week 18:

NFL DRAFT: Big board of top 100 players overall, rankings by position

NFL Mock Draft 2024

1. Chicago Bears (from Panthers)

  • Marvin Harrison Jr., WR, Ohio State (6-3, 202 pounds)

The Bears might think about moving on from Justin Fields as their franchise QB despite his strong play down the stretch. They also could look to deal this pick for the second consecutive offseason to get a haul in return. But if they stay and stick with a rising Fields, it would be awesome to pair him with Harrison, after seeing the huge impact of getting D.J. Moore.

2. Washington Commanders (4-13)

  • Caleb Williams, QB, USC (6-1, 218 pounds)

The Commanders can bring the Washington, D.C., native home and get a desired franchise QB option for their looming new coaching staff after they hit the wall with overwhelmed Sam Howell. Williams, despite some disappointment to end his Trojans career, remains the complete dual-threat dynamo and worthy team leader.

3. New England Patriots (4-13)

  • Drake Maye, QB, North Carolina (6-5, 220 pounds)

The Patriots have already waved the white flag on Mac Jones, who didn’t work out at all as a pocket passer. Here they can go for the much bigger arm and athletic upside of Maye, who is a much better version of Howell, his Tar Heels predecessor.

4. Arizona Cardinals (4-13)

  • Rome Odunze, WR, Washington (6-3, 201 pounds)

The Cardinals won’t be re-signing Marquise Brown and need a true No. 1 target as they don’t have another such option to complement go-tight end Trey McBride for Kyler Murray. Odunze is the ideal replacement as an explosive size-speed vertical threat.

5. Los Angeles Chargers (5-12)

  • Dallas Turner, EDGE, Alabama (6-4, 240 pounds)

The Chargers need to be concerned that Khalil Mack will be 33 in February and Joey Bosa, who’s 28, simply cannot stay healthy to provide the needed impact. Going for Turner as a developing cornerstone makes sense as he has lot of former teammate Will Anderson Jr.’s game in him.

6. New York Giants (6-11)

  • Joe Alt, OT, Notre Dame (6-7, 316 pounds)

The Giants know how valuable Andrew Thomas is as their stalwart starting left tackle but now should be aware that 2022 first-rounder Evan Neal is a bust. They can’t afford to maintain that shaky blocking especially when Alt, a big, nimble, powerful anchor is sitting right there for them.

7. Tennessee Titans (6-11)

  • Olumuyiwa Fashanu, OT, Penn State (6-6, 321 pounds)

The Titans need to address offensive tackle badly after pass protection was a mess outside, for the sake of Will Levis’ bright future. After they chose to take left guard Peter Skoronski in last year’s draft. they go for a potential long-term left-tackle answer in the well-rounded and physical Fashanu.

8. Atlanta Falcons (7-10)

  • J.J. McCarthy, QB, Michigan (6-3, 202 pounds)

The Falcons are screaming for an athletic, hard-nosed playmaking QB who can maximize their offensive first-round skill trio of Bijan Robinson, Kyle Pitts and Drake London. McCarthy’s own running skills, arm and accuracy would fit well right away as the team moves on from the Desmond Ridder-Taylor Heinicke mess.

9. Chicago Bears (7-10)

  • Nate Wiggins, CB, Clemson (6-2, 185 pounds)

The Bears’ pass defense responded better down the stretch with Matt Eberflus calling plays and Montez Sweat providing some pass rush. They have some promise in rookie Tyrique Stevenson, but Kyler Gordon is better suited inside and Jaylon Johnson is a pending free agent. 

10. New York Jets (7-10)

  • Brock Bowers, TE, Georgia (6-4, 240 pounds)

The Jets could also think about offensive line help given that was a major issue for their non-Aaron Rodgers quarterbacks. Then again, Rodgers seems to have some control of what they do and should see Bowers is a special mismatch-creating weapon who would play perfectly off Garrett Wilson downfield and Breece Hall out of the backfield.

11. Minnesota Vikings (7-10)

  • Michael Penix Jr., QB, Washington (6-3, 214 pounds)

The Vikings can move on from Kirk Cousins and they learned quickly that neither Josh Dobbs nor Nick Mullens nor Jaren Hall could be any kind of real answer beyond short-term injury fill-in. The Kevin O’Connell Rams-like system calls for more of a strong pocket passer first, and the downfield arm and accuracy of Penix should be welcome to get for Justin Jefferson and Jordan Addison.

12. Denver Broncos (8-9)

  • Jayden Daniels, QB, LSU (6-4, 210 pounds)

The Heisman Trophy winner exploded for a big season with terrific speed and athleticism along with big-play passing flair, making him a first-round worthy dual threat. The Broncos can start over for Sean Payton here as they work to get out of Russell Wilson’s contract.

Jayden Daniels

13. Las Vegas Raiders (8-9)

  • Bo Nix, QB, Oregon (6-2, 217 pounds)

Nix has the experience, arm, athleticism to build on the fine end to his college carer with the Ducks. He would be a good face-of-franchise makeup fit as the Raiders turn the page with their quarterback in a new offense.

14. New Orleans Saints (9-8)

  • Jared Verse, EDGE, Florida State (6-4, 248 pounds)

The Saints need to address their pass-rush issues with Cameron Jordan now 34. Carl Granderson was productive but they need to develop a dynamic bookend for Dennis Allen. He’s the all-around producer they need to be a smooth successor to Jordan.

15. Indianapolis Colts (9-8)

  •  Kool-Aid McKinstry, CB, Alabama (6-1, 195 pounds)

McKinstry has a fluid shutdown game to go with his strong frame and fun name. The Colts desperately need a coverage and playmaking boost outside in their secondary.

16. Seattle Seahawks (9-8)

  • Laiatu Latu, EDGE, UCLA (6-5, 265 pounds)

Latu is coming off a great breakout season with the Bruins, posting 13 sacks. The Seahawks need to rev up their pass rush for Pete Carroll and he’s exceptional there while also being stout with his frame vs. the running game.

Laiatu Latu

17. Jacksonville Jaguars (9-8)

  • Amarius Mims, OT, Georgia (6-7, 340 pounds)

The Jaguars also could think addressing some upcoming issues on the pass rush and at wide receiver, as well overall in the secondary. But offensive line is also key for upgrading. They can think about guard, but by taking Mims, they can put him as an anchor at right tackle opposite Cam Robinson and kick 2023 late first-rounder Anton Harrison to a more comfortable spot inside.

18. Cincinnati Bengals (9-8)

  • Malik Nabers, WR, LSU (6-0, 200 pounds)

The Bengals are bound to pass on re-signing wide receivers Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd based on salary concerns so even with some intriguing youth on the depth chart, they can use this pick to go back to the Bayou to quickly support Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase. Nabers’ smooth route-running and work after the catch make him the ideal complement to Chase.

Source : ESPN.com

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