Saturday, May 25, 2024

NFL mock draft: Vikings trade up for QB, Bills move up for WR in latest predictions

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The 2024 NFL Draft is almost here. In less than a week, hundreds of former college football players will live out their dreams at the highest level of the sport. Team officials will make key decisions for the futures of their franchises and fans will have a new group of players to cheer for.

This year’s crop of talent is one of the best in recent memory, especially on offense. Standout players at the most important positions of that side of the ball — quarterback, wide receiver and offensive tackle — could power a record number of offensive players drafted in Round 1.

With so much talent, there’s plenty of uncertainty surrounding the first round beyond the No. 1 overall pick. Here’s what USA Today’s draft experts Michael Middlehurst-Schwartz and Nate Davis predict will happen next week in the first round:

No. 1 overall

Middlehurst-Schwartz: Caleb Williams, QB, USC to the Chicago Bears

Davis: Caleb Williams, QB, USC to the Chicago Bears

One of the few consensus picks on the board, Williams seems all but certain to go first to Chicago. The Bears traded last year’s starter Justin Fields to the Steelers and Williams is one of the best college prospects at quarterback in years. His combination of arm talent, mobility, size, accuracy in all phases and ability to create second-chance plays is rare. He will need to improve as a consistent pocket passer but all of the traits are there for a high-level quarterback.

Middlehurst-Schwartz: “Draft day itself will serve as the long-awaited coronation, with Williams set to be on hand in Detroit. At least there’s some mystery awaiting Chicago not too much later in the first round.”

Davis: “The 2022 Heisman Trophy winner will inherit something far closer to a turnkey operation than Fields ever had in the Windy City (or Williams himself enjoyed in SoCal last year). But make no mistake, his athleticism and creativity as a passer should elevate this franchise sooner rather than later.”

No. 2 overall

Middlehurst-Schwartz: Jayden Daniels, QB, LSU to the Washington Commanders

Davis: Jayden Daniels, QB, LSU to the Las Vegas Raiders via proposed trade

Both analysts agree the 2023 Heisman Trophy winner is the choice here. Daniels broke out to the tune of 4,946 total yards and 50 total touchdowns in his fifth college season. His accuracy shines though – especially on deep throws – and he was a plus athlete in the SEC. His smaller frame and impressive surrounding talent at LSU gives some pause but Daniels is likely a top pick this year. Davis projects the Raiders moving up from No. 13 to secure their quarterback of the future.

Middlehurst-Schwartz: “Daniels is hard to shake as the Commanders’ potential target at No. 2. The Heisman Trophy winner’s command from the pocket and ability to rip off big gains as a runner will be attractive features to whichever team drafts him.”

Davis: “New Silver and Black HC Antonio Pierce, who was an associate head coach at Arizona State when Daniels played there and badly desires a multi-threat quarterback, is trying to manifest this into existence. Raiders WR Davante Adams is trying to manifest it into existence. ESPN’s Adam Schefter keeps reporting how desperately Las Vegas wants to get into position for the 2023 Heisman winner.”

No. 3 overall

Middlehurst-Schwartz: J.J. McCarthy, QB, Michigan to the New England Patriots

Davis: Drake Maye, QB, LSU to the Minnesota Vikings via proposed trade

Quarterback again, but different players in different places. McCarthy’s flashes of impressive throws, above-average mobility and youth make him an intriguing prospect to develop. Maye’s size, arm strength, playmaking and football IQ have drawn comparisons to Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert. Both prospects have their drawbacks but will likely be top picks. Davis predicts the Vikings move up to grab their quarterback of the future as well.

Middlehurst-Schwartz: “New coach Jerod Mayo has raved about [Maye], but McCarthy’s continued ascent – both as a player and prospect – could take him all the way to the top three. No matter the pick, however, New England might not want to throw its rookie quarterback into the fray right away unless it can significantly upgrade its skill-position talent later in the draft.”

Davis: “Newly hired quarterbacks (Vikings) coach Josh McCown… coached Maye at Myers Park High School in Charlotte. From there, Maye went on to stardom at UNC, where was the ACC Player of the Year in 2022. His huge arm and ability to be a bruising runner outside the pocket on his best days already evoke mentions of Josh Allen and Justin Herbert.”

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No. 4 overall

Middlehurst-Schwartz: Marvin Harrison Jr., WR, Ohio State to the Arizona Cardinals

Davis: J.J. McCarthy, QB, Michigan to the Washington Commanders via proposed trade

The first non-quarterback comes off the board at No. 4. Harrison Jr., the son of a Hall of Fame wideout, is one of the most complete talents in recent draft history thanks to his size, athleticism, route running and ball skills. Davis predicts Washington, after trading down with Las Vegas, trades back up to grab a quarterback they met with pre-draft.

Middlehurst-Schwartz: “Will the Cardinals GM again shake things up by engineering a deal with a team desperate for a rookie quarterback? Passing up on Harrison would be extremely difficult given that the decorated receiver prospect could change the entire complexion of the offense, so Ossenfort should be happy to stay put if he’s not bowled over by an offer.”

Davis: “New Washington GM Adam Peters needs a quarterback (and purportedly loves the former Wolverines star) but could also use more draft freight to build up the remainder of the Commanders’ roster. If you can get a bounty from the Raiders while gambling you can get back up to No. 4… you might be able to accomplish some things.”

No. 5 overall

Middlehurst-Schwartz: Drake Maye, QB, LSU to the Minnesota Vikings via proposed trade

Davis: Marvin Harrison Jr., WR, Ohio State to the New York Jets via proposed trade

Both experts believe the Chargers will trade out of the No. 5 overall pick. In one mock draft, Minnesota waits for Maye to fall out of the top four and trades up to get arguably the second-best prospect at the position. In the other, New York moves up to secure a top wide receiver for aging quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

Middlehurst-Schwartz: “Unless Kwesi Adofo-Mensah can somehow pry the No. 3 pick from the Patriots, the Vikings might be limited in their likely options at quarterback – and getting into position for whichever top passer is left could still prove mighty costly… For Maye, there might be no better situation for his development than learning under McCown and Kevin O’Connell while having Justin Jefferson on the receiving end of his deep bombs and Christian Darrisaw keeping him clean.”

Davis: “The Jets are in win-now mode as they continue to seek talent that can help QB Aaron Rodgers and Co. immediately. With this draft’s top quarterbacks off the board, this could be a trade that would still land the Chargers extra draft capital while allowing the Jets to perhaps move up at a bit of a discount for a player they could leverage now and still build around later.”

No. 6 overall

Middlehurst-Schwartz: Malik Nabers, WR, LSU to the New York Giants

Davis: Rome Odunze, WR, LSU to the New York Giants

After a flurry of moves, the Giants sit pat at No. 6 and both mock drafts point to a wide receiver. Nabers’ dynamic abilities in the open field and catch-point skills could immediately improve an offense. Odunze’s mix of size, route-running, ball tracking and contested catch ability make him a fit for most any offense in the NFL.

Middlehurst-Schwartz: “John Mara has given Big Blue brass the green light to make a bold move for a quarterback if there’s one to leadership’s liking. Regardless of whether the team actually pursues that route, there’s a clear mandate to waken a dormant passing attack. The electric Nabers can do exactly that for a receiving corps that could lose tight end Darren Waller, who is still mulling retirement.”

Davis: “[Odunze] has a sterling off-field reputation plus the ball skills and production (92 catches, for 1,640 yards, 13 TDs in 2023) to bring juice to an offense that lacks weaponry, particularly in the red zone given its pass-catching corps of Smurfs. A team captain for the Huskies, Odunze’s leadership and demeanor also seem like superb fits for the Big Apple market.”

No. 7 overall

Middlehurst-Schwartz: Joe Alt, OT, Notre Dame to the Tennessee Titans

Davis: Joe Alt, OT, Notre Dame to the Tennessee Titans

Another consensus pick sees the Titans pick up an immediate upgrade to the offensive line. The 6-foot-9 Alt has NFL bloodlines and is already an above-average run blocker. His agility at his size means he could develop into a high-end pass protecter and become a premier tackle in the league for Titans quarterback Will Levis.

Middlehurst-Schwartz: “Titans GM Ran Carthon can celebrate a more complete roster renovation by snagging Alt. The 6-9 blindside blocker sizes up as the savvy left tackle who can help Tennessee move past its ill-fated buy-in of Andre Dillard, who was cut after one year.”

Davis: “Given the Titans addressed the offensive skill positions in free agency (WR Calvin Ridley, RB Tony Pollard), may as well continue leveling up the line after they made LG Peter Skoronski their first-round pick in 2023. So let’s drop Alt in next to him in a bid to continue improving the protection around second-year QB Will Levis.”

No. 8 overall

Middlehurst-Schwartz: Dallas Turner, OLB, Alabama to the Atlanta Falcons

Davis: Dallas Turner, OLB, Alabama to the Atlanta Falcons

The first defensive player off the board gives the Falcons pass-rush help they’ve been missing arguably since John Abraham’s prime. Turner’s mix of explosiveness (4.46 40-yard dash), age (21) and length (83-inch wingspan) make him an ideal pass-rushing prospect. He can make an impact right away before maturing with more coaching from new Falcons head coach Raheem Morris‘ staff.

Middlehurst-Schwartz: “Bringing aboard a blur off the edge in Turner feels like the most reasonable answer for an Atlanta team that has merely been scraping by with its pass rush for far too long.”

Davis: “Turner, Co-Defensive Player of the Year in the SEC last season while racking up 10 sacks, may well be this draft’s premier defensive prospect – one who can bend around blockers and maybe change this D’s complexion.”

No. 9 overall

Middlehurst-Schwartz: Jared Verse, DE, Florida State to the Chicago Bears

Davis: Malik Nabers, WR, LSU to the Arizona Cardinals via proposed trade

Instead of grabbing the final top wide receiver off the board, Middlehurst-Schwartz’s mock draft predicts Chicago bolsters the defensive line with the powerful Verse. The competitive edge defender is solid against the run and pass and posted a faster 10-yard split in the 40-yard dash than Turner (1.59 to 1.61) at the combine. Nabers drops to No. 9 and Davis’ mock draft predicts Arizona, after trading back with Washington, trades back up to grab a top wide receiver.

Middlehurst-Schwartz: “Both Ryan Poles and Matt Eberflus know how difficult it is to find premium pass rushers after they paid up at the trade deadline last year to land Pro Bowler Montez Sweat. Verse could step in as a complementary piece and quickly make his mark both in generating pressure and holding firm against the run.”

Davis: “In this hypothetical, the Cards have dropped from fourth to 13th before moving back up to get an elite receiver for QB Kyler Murray … while adding picks to the quiver. [Nabers] could give the Cards their first bona fide No. 1 receiver since DeAndre Hopkins, maybe Larry Fitzgerald … and neither of them had comparable afterburners.”

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No. 10 overall

Middlehurst-Schwartz: Rome Odunze, WR, Washington to the New York Jets

Davis: Taliese Fuaga, OT, Oregon State to the Los Angeles Chargers via proposed trade

New York stays put in Middlehurst-Schwartz’s mock draft and gets arguably the safest pick among the top wide receivers in the class with Odunze. After trading out of No. 5 down to No. 10, Davis’ mock draft likes the Chargers to make good on hints of building out the offensive line. Fuaga is arguably the best run blocker in this class which would match new Chargers coach Jim Harbaugh‘s identity from his time in Michigan.

Middlehurst-Schwartz: “A first-round receiver is a fitting welcome-back present for Aaron Rodgers. The quarterback unquestionably would relish having an alpha target capable of consistently securing jump balls, even if Odunze will have to win over a player known for being tough on rookies.”

Davis: “[Fuaga’s] college spot seems perfect for the Bolts, who have Rashawn Slater entrenched on Herbert’s blind side. And Fuaga’s grit and attitude could be ideal for a franchise in the midst of a philosophical reset under Harbaugh. Especially helpful if you can draft him 10th rather than fifth.”

No. 11 overall

Middlehurst-Schwartz: Taliese Fuaga, OT, Oregon State to the Los Angeles Chargers via proposed trade

Davis: Troy Fauntanu, OL, Washington to the New England Patriots via proposed trade

Fuaga ends up in Los Angeles again one pick later for Middlehurst-Schwartz’s mock draft. For Davis, New England’s trade back with Minnesota nets them one of the more versatile offensive linemen in the draft. Fautanu showed the athleticism and length at the combine to show he can play tackle in the NFL, but could end up as a high-end guard as well.

Middlehurst-Schwartz: “In trading back, the Bolts gain additional resources to rebuild a roster that’s decidedly in transition. Meanwhile, Fuaga figures to be exactly the kind of aggressive, overpowering force at right tackle that Jim Harbaugh and Greg Roman will prize in establishing a rugged running attack.”

Davis: “Better not to force a quarterback here, which is also the presumption for their potential willingness to vacate the No. 3 spot… Fautanu, an All-Pac-12 performer with sweet feet, could erase the Patriots’ problem at left tackle – or, at worst, be an All-Pro guard – as they begin to amass a supporting cast worthy of a young passer.”

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No. 12 overall

Middlehurst-Schwartz: Bo Nix, QB, Oregon to the Denver Broncos

Davis: Bo Nix, QB, Oregon to the Denver Broncos

Just the second consensus quarterback choice across both mock drafts sees the most experienced quarterback in college football history heading to the Mile High City. Nix tied the FBS record for completion percentage and offers a mix of solid arm talent, above-average mobility and a quick release.

Middlehurst-Schwartz: “Denver stays put and scoops up Nix, an experienced and discerning signal-caller whose ability to make plays on the move should aid him as he figures out the pro game.”

Davis: “They were only too willing to eat Russell Wilson’s high-calorie contract, but Jarrett Stidham and Ben DiNucci seem like a crash diet. Nix has the mobility, accuracy … and quick decision-making coach Sean Payton values, plus a nose for the goal line (38 rushing TDs in five college seasons).”

No. 13 overall

Middlehurst-Schwartz: Quinyon Mitchell, CB, Toledo to the Las Vegas Raiders

Davis: Jared Verse, DE, Florida State to the Chicago Bears via proposed trade

In one mock draft, Las Vegas stays put and ends up with one of the best defensive prospects in the draft. Mitchell shined in Toledo, then proved at the Senior Bowl he could do it against top-level talent. In the other, the Bears move back via the Cardinals to gain more picks and pick up a solid contributor on the defensive line.

Middlehurst-Schwartz: “Taking a hyperathletic cornerback with a knack for generating big plays seems like a page out of the Al Davis playbook, but Mitchell’s coverage credentials would make him a fine first pick to kick off Tom Telesco’s tenure. His addition would serve as a nice final piece to a burgeoning secondary.”

Davis: “As good a situation as it appears, GM Ryan Poles has a league-low four picks this year – and moving down just this far would still enable him to fill a need with a stud while adding a choice likely to be in the third- or second-round range depending on what year it lands… Verse, who will also bow up against the run, was a first-team All-American during both of his seasons with the Seminoles and registered nine sacks in each.”

No. 14 overall

Middlehurst-Schwartz: Oluwuyima Fashanu, OT, Penn State to the New Orleans Saints

Davis: Oluwuyima Fashanu, OT, Penn State to the New Orleans Saints

Both mock drafts agree the Saints build up the offensive line with Fashanu. The former Nittany Lion spent much of the pre-draft process in contention with Alt for the top tackle prospect. His foot speed and anchor make him a plus pass protector immediately but he has the size and athleticism to develop in run blocking.

Middlehurst-Schwartz: “New Orleans needs to prioritize the position given the protection problems left by Trevor Penning’s ineffectiveness and Ryan Ramczyk’s uncertain health outlook. Though Fashanu is still finding his way as a blindside protector, proper coaching should shore up many of his issues and put him on the track toward becoming a promising starter.”

Davis: “The Nittany Lions’ 2023 All-American makes too much sense – particularly given the amount of abuse (physical and otherwise) taken by QB Derek Carr in 2023.”

No. 15 overall

Middlehurst-Schwartz: Brock Bowers, TE, Georgia to the Indianapolis Colts

Davis: Brock Bowers, TE, Georgia to the Indianapolis Colts

Another consensus pick for the Colts across the two mock drafts. Bowers is one of the best tight end prospects in recent years thanks to his versatility and speed. He can line up across the formation to create mismatches for an offense. In this case, he can provide another target for Indianapolis’ young quarterback Anthony Richardson.

Middlehurst-Schwartz: “The two-time Mackey Award winner’s range seems to begin at No. 10. If he gets past that point, however, it’s hard to pinpoint an exact landing spot in the middle of the first round. Indianapolis, however, would have to take a long look at Bowers, who could significantly ease Anthony Richardson’s learning curve.”

Davis: “The value in this scenario might just be too tantalizing for GM Chris Ballard… He’d be a nice fit for a team that favors formations with multiple tight ends while becoming a nice option for Richardson and alternative to WR Michael Pittman Jr.”

No. 16 overall

Middlehurst-Schwartz: Troy Fauntanu, OL, Washington to the Seattle Seahawks

Davis: Laiatu Latu, DE, UCLA to the San Francisco 49ers via proposed trade

Fautanu reunites with his former offensive coordinator Ryan Grubb and stays in Seattle in Middlehurst-Schwartz’s mock draft. Davis sees an intra-division trade with the 49ers moving up to take Latu who is considered the most polished pass rusher in the class. His ceiling may be lower than Turner’s, but his immediate impact could be much bigger.

Middlehurst-Schwartz: “The two-time Mackey Award winner’s range seems to begin at No. 10. If he gets past that point, however, it’s hard to pinpoint an exact landing spot in the middle of the first round. Indianapolis, however, would have to take a long look at Bowers, who could significantly ease Anthony Richardson’s learning curve.”

Davis: “San Francisco also has 10 picks but hardly needs 10 more players, whereas Seattle has a hole in Round 2 … and holes throughout its roster… [Latu] would not only replenish a pass rush where San Francisco likes to roll deep, Latu might immediately supplant veteran addition Leonard Floyd as the starter opposite 2022 Defensive Player of the Year Nick Bosa.”

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No. 17 overall

Middlehurst-Schwartz: Terrion Arnold, CB, Alabama to the Jacksonville Jaguars

Davis: Quinyon Mitchell, CB, Toledo to the Jacksonville Jaguars

Both of these mock drafts agree Jacksonville will address the defensive backfield. In one, the Jaguars pick up one of the most productive cornerbacks from last fall in the athletic, scheme-versatile Arnold. In the other, Mitchell brings similar athleticism and scheme versatility with even more ball skills (52 career passes defensed).

Middlehurst-Schwartz: “With the passing attacks throughout the AFC South only growing more formidable, Jacksonville has to find more solutions for a pass defense that ranked 26th in yards allowed. Able to handle a wide variety of receivers in man coverage, Arnold would open up a lot of possibilities for new defensive coordinator Ryan Nielsen.”

Davis: “He’s got size (6-0, 195), blazing speed (4.33 40 time) and ball skills, two of his six interceptions over the past two seasons turned into pick-sixes. And the Jags now live in a world where they better be ready to defend the AFC South champion Texans and a suite of playmakers that now includes WR Stefon Diggs.”

No. 18 overall

Middlehurst-Schwartz: Byron Murphy II, DT, Texas to the Cincinnati Bengals

Davis: Brian Thomas Jr., WR, LSU to the Cincinnati Bengals

Cincinnati bolsters two different needs at No. 18 overall here. Middlehurst-Schwartz’s mock draft points to Murphy, a powerful defensive tackle with pass-rush upside, upgrading the Bengals’ defensive line after free agent departures. Davis points to Thomas Jr., Nabers’ tall, speedy running mate in Baton Rouge, providing a succession plan pending Tee Higgins’ future in Cincinnati.

Middlehurst-Schwartz: “Whether it’s more protection for Joe Burrow or an additional push on the interior, Cincinnati seems like a good bet to focus on bolstering one of its lines. While the 6-1, 297-pound Murphy isn’t the typical solution for a run defense that ranked 30th in allowing 4.7 yards per carry last season, he can still throw opposing attacks off balance by shooting gaps and creating havoc in the backfield.”

Davis: “The 6-3, 209-pounder put down a 4.33 40 at the combine in the wake of a season when he had 1,177 yards on 68 catches – a quarter of those receptions resulting in TDs. With Tyler Boyd unsigned and franchise-tagged Tee Higgins seeking a trade, good time to find a new Robin for Cincinnati’s Batman, Ja’Marr Chase, a Bayou Bengal himself.”

No. 19 overall

Middlehurst-Schwartz: Laiatu Latu, DE, UCLA to the Los Angeles Rams

Davis: Adonai Mitchell, WR, Texas to the Buffalo Bills via proposed trade

Latu helps ease the loss from Aaron Donald’s retirement in one mock draft. In the other, Davis predicts Buffalo aggressively moves up for a new pass-catcher, moving the Rams down to No. 28 overall. Mitchell has traits — length, speed and catch point skills — but needs to improve his consistency in the NFL.

Middlehurst-Schwartz: “Staying local seems like a no-brainer for the Rams when the available option is a player like the caliber of Latu, this class’ most refined pass rusher. There aren’t many better bets for an instant-impact defender, which should be attractive to an outfit looking to stay competitive with 36-year-old Matthew Stafford at the helm.”

Davis: “After divorcing themselves from Diggs, the Bills may have to get a bit aggressive in Round 1 in order to find a potential replacement at WR1 – and that could be a move for Mitchell, who has Velcro hands and postseason bona fides.”

No. 20 overall

Middlehurst-Schwartz: JC Latham, OT, Alabama to the Pittsburgh Steelers

Davis: JC Latham, OT, Alabama to the Pittsburgh Steelers

Both mock drafts agree the Crimson Tide’s standout right tackle is the choice for Pittsburgh. Latham’s strength and power compliments his movement skills to be an immediate upgrade for the Steelers. He earned the nickname “TK,” short for “Trench King,” at Alabama for a reason.

Middlehurst-Schwartz: “Omar Khan made a decidedly un-Steeler-like maneuver to shake up the quarterback room with Russell Wilson and Justin Fields. Now, it’s back to business with Latham, a jolting right tackle who fits Pittsburgh’s offensive identity and would allow 2023 first-round pick Broderick Jones to shift back to the left side.”

Davis: “Latham, the All-SEC right tackle who has experience at guard, would bolster a weak offensive line while allowing the Steelers to execute their plan to flip 2023 first-round OT Broderick Jones back to the left side. And given the run-oriented approach of new OC Arthur Smith, taking a road grader like Latham is perfectly defensible.”

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No. 21 overall

Middlehurst-Schwartz: Brian Thomas Jr., WR, LSU to the Buffalo Bills via proposed trade

Davis: Graham Barton, OL, Duke to the Miami Dolphins

Another intra-division trade in one mock draft sees the Bills select Thomas Jr., who led the FBS in receiving touchdowns in 2023. Miami moves down to No. 28 in this scenario. Davis, meanwhile, has the Dolphins sticking at No. 21 in his mock draft and selecting Barton, a versatile prospect who could be an above-average starter at either center or guard as a rookie.

Middlehurst-Schwartz: “To ensure a shot at one of the top five receivers, the Bills move up in a deal with their AFC East foe… Josh Allen would surely appreciate how much the receiver can open up the offense after the Stefon Diggs trade.”

Davis: “A left tackle for the Blue Devils, the two-time All-ACC selection is likely headed inside in the NFL due to his relatively short arms. And the Fins could use help there after losing Connor Williams, apparently, and Robert Hunt during free agency.”

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No. 22 overall

Middlehurst-Schwartz: Tyler Guyton, OT, Oklahoma to the Philadelphia Eagles

Davis: Terrion Arnold, CB, Alabama to the Philadelphia Eagles

Philadelphia has had great success with an offensive tackle from Oklahoma before with Lane Johnson and could select yet another Sooner tackle. Guyton needs time to develop but, thanks to his athleticism and length, is already a solid pass protector. Davis predicts Philadelphia bolsters its porous defensive backfield in his mock draft with Arnold.

Middlehurst-Schwartz: “After breaking from his ways to sign Saquon Barkley, Howie Roseman gets back to business with his standard approach. Lane Johnson has already mentored Guyton and could pass the torch at right tackle… Philadelphia also has long planned ahead in its investments along the offensive line.”

Davis: “If Arnold is still available here, Philly EVP/GM Howie Roseman isn’t doing one of his patented draft trades… With starting CBs Darius Slay and James Bradberry both north of 30, this is a near-optimal intersection of need and value.”

No. 23 overall

Middlehurst-Schwartz: Adonai Mitchell, WR, Texas to the Los Angeles Chargers via proposed trade

Davis: Byron Murphy II, DT, Texas to the New England Patriots via proposed trade

Former Longhorns make it at No. 23 in both mock drafts. Middlehurst-Schwartz’s mock sees Los Angeles trade down with Minnesota and address a need after the Keenan Allen trade. In Davis’ mock, New England uses the pick from Minnesota to upgrade the interior defensive line.

Middlehurst-Schwartz: “The consternation regarding the state of the Chargers’ receiving corps will only amplify if Harbaugh and Co. trade back to a spot outside of the range of the top three wideouts. In this scenario, however, Los Angeles is able to land a potential go-to target in Mitchell, who should give Justin Herbert the fluid pass catcher he currently lacks.”

Davis: “With one side of the trenches addressed, [Eliot] Wolf goes to work on the other by taking the All-Big 12 D-lineman. Murphy could quickly develop into a disruptive NFL force playing alongside someone like DT Christian Barmore.”

No. 24 overall

Middlehurst-Schwartz: Amarius Mims, OT, Georgia to the Dallas Cowboys

Davis: Jackson Powers-Johnson, OL, Oregon to the Dallas Cowboys

Dallas bolsters the offensive line in both mock drafts. The Cowboys select the inexperienced and intriguing Mims, who started just eight games in college. His mix of size, athleticism and raw talent give him a very high upside in the NFL. Davis’ mock draft sees the Cowboys grab a similarly athletic interior offensive line prospect in Powers-Johnson, who won the Rimington Award as college football’s top center in 2023.

Middlehurst-Schwartz: “Tough spot for Dallas, which has to wait behind several other teams in the market for an offensive tackle before getting its shot. Mims is still an unknown and unfinished project after tallying just eight starts at Georgia, but Jerry Jones might be captivated by the upside of a smooth-moving 6-8, 340-pound blocker.”

Davis: “‘JPJ’ – who excels as a run and pass blocker – could replace departed C Tyler Biadasz or slide one spot to the left and allow LG Tyler Smith to kick out to the longtime post vacated by LT Tyron Smith. Also worth noting, RG Zack Martin is out of contract in 2025.”

No. 25 overall

Middlehurst-Schwartz: Graham Barton, OL, Duke to the Green Bay Packers

Davis: Tyler Guyton, OT, Oklahoma to the Green Bay Packers

Two different types of offensive line prospects in these mock drafts for the Packers. Barton could be an upgrade at guard or center early on in Green Bay. Guyton could shore up the tackle spot after Green Bay let longtime blindside protector David Bakhtiari go in free agency and re-shuffled its starting offensive line group as a result.

Middlehurst-Schwartz: “Versatility and stability are Barton’s calling cards after a career in which he flipped from center to starting left tackle. Now, however, he looks set to slide back to the interior, and the Packers should be drawn to him as they seek additional reinforcements up front to match their impressive collection of young skill-position talent.”

Davis: “Guyton played some left tackle for the Sooner but was mostly on the right side. That could provide options in Green Bay, where incumbent OT Zach Tom has also lined up on both sides.”

No. 26 overall

Middlehurst-Schwartz: Chop Robinson, DE, Penn State to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Davis: Chop Robinson, DE, Penn State to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The final consensus pick among USA Today mock drafts sees the very athletic Robinson head south to bolster Tampa Bay’s pass rush. Robinson’s impressive first step and hand usage give him great potential at the NFL level. With proper coaching, he could end up as the top pass-rusher in the class.

Middlehurst-Schwartz: “GM Jason Licht has shown a willingness to spend heavy draft capital in a pass rush that still hasn’t panned out. Pairing YaYa Diaby with Robinson could provide massive dividends if the two electric athletes can fine-tune their techniques.”

Davis: “His eye-popping athleticism – the 6-3, 254-pounder ran a sub-4.5 40 at the combine – doesn’t necessarily align with his production, which included 9½ sacks and 17½ TFLs in two seasons with the Nittany Lions. But he could be a real asset to a defense that was reliant on the blitz in 2023 and just loss OLB Shaq Barrett.”

No. 27 overall

Middlehurst-Schwartz: Nate Wiggins, CB, Clemson to the Arizona Cardinals

Davis: Cooper DeJean, DB, Iowa to the Arizona Cardinals

Arizona’s defensive backfield gets help in both mock drafts. Wiggins has the speed, length and production to translate well to the NFL but his slight frame (173 pounds at 6-foot-1) causes some concern in run defense. DeJean’s one of the most scheme-versatile defensive backs in the draft and could line up at safety, outside cornerback or nickel cornerback.

Middlehurst-Schwartz: “It’s time to build out a defense that’s woefully underdeveloped. If the 6-1, 173-pound Wiggins can hold up against more physical receivers and become a more reliable presence against the run, he’ll be a significant difference-maker on a unit that has few to speak of.”

Davis: “DeJean can play pretty much anywhere in the secondary – convenient for a defense that needs help throughout the back end and, perhaps, a successor for S Budda Baker fairly soon. DeJean can also help as a punt returner.”

No. 28 overall

Middlehurst-Schwartz: Johnny Newton, DT, Illinois to the Miami Dolphins via proposed trade

Davis: Darius Robinson, DL, Missouri to the Los Angeles Rams via proposed trade

The Bills’ trade partner in each mock draft opt to bring in talent on the defensive line at No. 28. Newton’s undersized, but his mix of power and quickness make him a tough assignment in pass protection. Robinson, by contrast, is a long, powerful lineman who can move inside for sub packages but does have a initial burst like Newton.

Middlehurst-Schwartz: “Trading back would afford some flexibility for GM Chris Grier, who currently faces a gap of more than 100 picks between his second-round selection and his next choice in the fifth round. Newton is no one-for-one replacement for Christian Wilkins, but his disruptiveness would come in handy for a Dolphins defense in transition.”

Davis: “No one walking through that door is going to replace retired DL Aaron Donald. Yet there’s ample room (and need) here for Robinson, who’s had a nice pre-draft process, to carve out quite a role for himself. The 6-5, 285-pound All-SEC selection has the size and athleticism to play inside or out while thriving against the run or pass – which sure seem like traits LA could use right about now.”

No. 29 overall

Middlehurst-Schwartz: Cooper DeJean, CB, Iowa to the Detroit Lions

Davis: Kool-Aid McKinstry, CB, Alabama to the Detroit Lions

Middlehurst-Schwartz’s mock brings the versatile DeJean to Detroit. Davis’ mock draft sees the Lions select McKinstry, who was widely considered the top cornerback prospect ahead of the 2023 season. His athleticism can’t match Arnold or Mitchell, but his football IQ and savvy more than makes up for it.

Middlehurst-Schwartz: “What better way to follow up last year’s addition of Brian Branch – and this offseason’s loss of C.J. Gardner-Johnson – than with another multitalented defensive back? DeJean could be a dynamic playmaker in Aaron Glenn’s scheme while filling a key void at outside cornerback, and his stout play against the run would endear him to Dan Campbell.”

Davis: “A two-time All-SEC selection who goes through his pro day paces on a broken foot – running a sub-4.5 40 in the process – seems like HC Dan Campbell’s kind of guy. There’s also a need here after Detroit abruptly cut Cam Sutton in the aftermath of a domestic violence incident.”

No. 30 overall

Middlehurst-Schwartz: Jordan Morgan, OT, Arizona to the Baltimore Ravens

Davis: Amarius Mims, OT, Georgia to the Baltimore Ravens

Baltimore lost multiple starters on the offensive line in free agency and these mock drafts address that need in a big way (literally, in Mims’ case). Mims could fill in right away at right tackle. Morgan’s quick feet at his size (6-foot-5, 311 pounds) helps in the run game, but his pass blocking needs improvement. He may be better at guard in the NFL, a spot Baltimore could use help in after losing Kevin Zeitler in free agency.

Middlehurst-Schwartz: “Nice marriage here between filling a void and adhering to Eric DeCosta’s approach of best player available. Morgan could step in at right tackle or serve as Ronnie Stanley’s eventual replacement, though kicking inside to guard is also a distinct possibility.”

Davis: “A right tackle who already knows OC Todd Monken’s playbook, Mims’ 87-inch wingspan and 6-8, 340-pound frame help him block out the sun (perhaps better than the moon). He could start straight away following the trade of previous RT Morgan Moses to the Jets.”

No. 31 overall

Middlehurst-Schwartz: Kool-Aid McKinstry, CB, Alabama to the San Francisco 49ers

Davis: Michael Penix Jr., QB, Washington to the Seattle Seahawks via proposed trade

McKinstry brings his experience and pedigree to the defending NFC champions in Middlehurst-Schwartz’s mock draft. In the other, Seattle’s trade down nets a potential quarterback of the future in Penix Jr. The 2023 Heisman runner-up excelled in a downfield passing attack at Washington under Grubb, who now is the offensive coordinator of the Seahawks.

Middlehurst-Schwartz: “With the run on offensive tackles complete, San Francisco doesn’t force the issue and instead pivots to another of its few problem areas. McKinstry projects as a solid No. 2 cornerback who should enjoy a smoother transition to the pros than many of his peers will thanks to his steady approach.”

Davis: “Admittedly, this could be a bit rich given Penix’s history of knee and shoulder problems – even if recent medical reports are encouraging… GM John Schneider, who recently restructured Geno Smith’s contract, hardly indicated the team is committed to the journeyman beyond next season.”

Which teams need a QB in NFL draft? Ranking all 32 based on outlook at position

No. 32 overall

Middlehurst-Schwartz: Ladd McConkey, WR, Georgia to the Kansas City Chiefs

Davis: Jordan Morgan, OT, Arizona to the Kansas City Chiefs

The two-time defending Super Bowl champions address two needs in these mock drafts. McConkey doesn’t have blazing speed or overwhelming size, but his route-running and suddenness make him an effective possession receiver. Morgan could help ensure star quarterback Patrick Mahomes stays well-protected in the pocket in the future.

Middlehurst-Schwartz: “Kansas City already looked ripe for another receiver even before Rashee Rice’s arrest, which likely will lead to a suspension. McConkey fits the bill of what the Chiefs need for their current era under Patrick Mahomes: a polished pass catcher who can consistently break free and move the chains.”

Davis: “There’s currently a gaping hole on QB Patrick Mahomes’ blind side. Too big a need to ignore unless LT Donovan Smith re-signs or HC Andy Reid and GM Brett Veach come up with an even better answer in the interim. Barring that, Morgan could be a good one – particularly in pass pro.”

When is the 2024 NFL Draft?

  • Where: Campus Marius Park at Hart Plaza in Detroit, Michigan
  • When: April 25-27, 2024
  • Cable TV: ESPN, ABC, NFL Network
  • Streaming: NFL+; ESPN+; fuboTV

How to watch: Catch the NFL Draft this year with a subscription to fuboTV

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