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Spencer Brod

Spencer Brod

NFL Mock Draft: The Top Ten

Introduction:

Well, it’s that time of year again. The most highly anticipated free agency period in a while is behind us, and NFL general managers have their attention directed toward tonight’s NFL Draft. Phones will buzz, fistbumps will be handed out, and much more will go down in the Motor City at 8:00 PM tonight. 

Now, the questions begin. How many quarterbacks will go in the top 10? Will a team trade up for a quarterback? Who will be the next QB in the nation’s capital? 

I’ll have those questions answered for you in my condensed mock draft, where I’ll be delving into who I think each will pick tomorrow night and why. This isn’t necessarily what I would do as a GM, but rather what I believe to be the most likely outcome.

Pick 1: Chicago Bears – QB, Caleb Willams, USC

Chicago is in dire need of a franchise quarterback, and former USC Trojan Caleb Willams has all the tools that can fit that bill. He displays excellent poise, has a rocket of an arm, and can maneuver in and outside of the pocket with ease. His veteran-like feel for the game will be essential in rejuvenating a Bears franchise that has dealt with several quarterback blunders over the past decade, and he should instantly turn this team into a playoff contender at the very least.

While Williams will certainly hope to yield positive results on the field, his leadership and demeanor are on par with a ten-year NFL veteran and should immediately translate when he steps into the team’s practice facility. Despite widespread criticism of being arrogant and overconfident, there’s no truth to those rumors, as Williams has acted nothing but mature and confident in his pre-draft interviews. The uber-talented prospect brings grit, swagger, confidence, and energy to the table alongside his skill set, all components of a franchise quarterback Ryan Poles shouldn’t think twice about taking at one. 

With an array of talented skill position players at his disposal including Keenan Allen and DJ Moore, the rookie should be in perfect position to succeed from Day One and silence the doubters bashing him on social media. Chicago gets their guy.

Windy City, help is on the way.

Pick 2: Washington Commanders – QB, Jayden Daniels, LSU

Here’s where things start to get interesting. Williams is the only surefire selection in this draft, leaving Washington as the first team that could potentially surprise everyone. 

JJ McCarthy’s name has been circulating in rumors as of late, but the consensus is that either Drake Maye or Jayden Daniels will be the pick here. 

It’s more or less a tossup, but I think it’ll be Daniels in the end, as he is primed to be a more logical fit for Kingsbury’s offense. The Commanders hiring of former Arizona Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury as their offensive coordinator ruffled some feathers amongst fans this offseason. That said, he still has the potential to be a creative offensive mind and Jayden Daniels multi-dimensional ability would greatly benefit him. 

Speaking of Daniels, he broke onto the scene in 2023 with a Heisman-winning campaign at LSU. Though he may not have the strongest arm, his ability to make defenders miss and create something out of nothing with his legs makes him an enticing option for Washington. Additionally, he’s also accurate, poised, and makes smart reads. With a bit of refinement to his passing game, there’s no doubt he could blossom into an elite quarterback at the NFL level.

It may be a rocky rookie year for the former Heisman winner, but he simply has too much talent to be a complete bust in the league. As long as Adam Peters continues to build up the trenches and adds a few complementary receivers, Daniels should take this long-suffering franchise to new heights. 

Pick 3 – New England Patriots – QB, Drake Maye, North Carolina

Some analysts have speculated a team like the Vikings could trade up for a quarterback here, but New England will likely stay put and select their presumed QB of the future in North Carolina’s Drake Maye. 

Maye certainly has his flaws and would likely need to sit behind experienced quarterback Jacoby Brissett, but he possesses all the tools to be a bonafide franchise quarterback and superstar down the line. His arm talent and build shadow are a mixture of Josh Allen and Justin Herbert, and his accuracy is very solid as well. Maye’s college stats won’t wow you by any means, but his pass catchers at North Carolina were prone to drops which didn’t make life easy for the six-foot-four gunslinger. 

If Maye sees the field immediately as a rookie with his top receiver likely being Demario Douglas or Kendrick Bourne, his development would be heading downhill rapidly. On the other hand, if he sits for at least half a season (ideally all of 2024), the sky’s the limit for him. Patriot fans can only hope that he’s their long-term answer, as they’ve been quarterback-deprived ever since the departure of Tom Brady.

Pick 4 – Arizona Cardinals – WR, Marvin Harrison Jr, Ohio State

After the Cardinals lost their leading receiver Hollywood Brown to the Chiefs, wide receiver is at the top of their needs. Enter the phenomenon which is Maserati Marv. 

The word “generational” when it comes to discussing prospects is overused. Marvin Harrison Jr. is one of the lone exceptions in recent memory. Just about every prospect comes into the draft with at least one glaring weakness, and it’s difficult to even nitpick and find one in the former Buckeyes game. He’s elusive, a polished route runner, maintains excellent footwork and can make any defender miss in the open field. On top of this, his ball-tracking skills are unmatched and can pose a nightmare for an opposing cornerback. In his final two years at Ohio State, he eclipsed 1,200 receiving yards in both years, despite inconsistent quarterback play from Kyle McCord in 2023. 

Adding Harrison into the mix will do wonders for this offense and should allow Murray to showcase his dazzling deep ball once again. We’ve seen what a healthy Kyler can do with a potent WR1 such as DeAndre Hopkins, and there’s little reason to believe that Marvin Harrison won’t be able to replicate what Hopkins did during his time in Arizona. 

Pick 5 – Los Angeles Chargers – WR, Malik Nabers, LSU

Quentin Johnston. Joshua Palmer. Simi Fehoko. Derius Davis. In case you weren’t sure who these players are, now you do. They are the only four receivers currently on the Chargers roster. Forget even the idea of trading down, it’s extremely unlikely that Los Angeles will pass on an elite playmaker for Justin Herbert. 

In almost any other draft class, Malik Nabers would be the first receiver off the board. Due to Marvin Harrison Jr, that’s not the case this year. However, that doesn’t negate the fact that Nabers backburning speed and elusiveness would provide an element to the Chargers offense they haven’t seen in a while, speed. Keenan Allen and Mike Williams were an above-average receiver duo a year ago and had been for the last few years, but they must aim to get younger at the position. Justin Herbert will have a new best friend with the former LSU Tiger in the fold. 

Joe Alt or a trade-down is definitely in the cards here, but it’s more likely that Jim Harbaugh pulls the trigger and adds a versatile playmaker on the outside for superstar quarterback Justin Herbert.

Pick 6 – Minnesota Vikings (via NY Giants) – QB, J.J. McCarthy, Michigan

Joe Schoen and the Giants are in a strange position right now. They could elect to take Washington receiver Rome Odunze here, but could also trade back to acquire more draft assets for the future. To put it lightly, this roster stinks and needs an overhaul in many ways. Moving back five spots to 11 offers New York flexibility too, as they’d likely have their choosing between WR Brian Thomas Jr, and TE Brock Bowers, among others. With New York’s endless list of needs, cornerback may even be in the realm of possibility here. I think Daboll and Co. realize that reaching McCarthy here could cost them their jobs, and I think they acquire an additional first-rounder from Minnesota (23rd pick) and move back in the process.

As for Minnesota, there’s good reason to believe that their front office while pouncing on a golden opportunity here to select their quarterback of the future in J.J. McCarthy. It’s certainly a gamble, but the upside is evident and his supporting cast is filled with dynamic pass-catchers. From Justin Jefferson to T.J. Hockenson, Minnesota is arguably the former Michigan Wolverine’s best chance to flourish as a player. 

McCarthy is one of the most polarizing players in this draft class. Some people believe he’s the second-best quarterback in this draft and worthy of a top-five selection, while others think he shouldn’t sniff the first round. The highly touted prospect certainly has the physical attributes to succeed, specifically solid agility and the ability to create outside of the pocket after being chased. His arm is also above average and his throw velocity was terrific in his final season at Michigan. 

Still, there are a few glaring concerns with McCarthy which lead certain analysts to believe he won’t pan out at the pro level. Aside from their grit and grind run game in 2023 led by Blake Corum, Michigan football’s success revolved mainly around their stifling defense. J.J. wasn’t asked to do much, and head coach Jim Harbaugh didn’t trust him to do much through the air as the season progressed. Part of this can be attributed to how balanced the roster was, but his spotty accuracy and up-and-down decision-making are a cause for concern. 

I’m not buying into the narrative that McCarthy will either be a superstar or a bust. His ceiling is very high and his floor is quite low, but he should be a respectable NFL starter with the right pieces around him.

Pick 7 – Tennessee Titans – Joe Alt, OT, Notre Dame

Ran Carthon would be ecstatic if this came true, and I think there’s more than a 98% chance it happens. The Titans had a putrid offensive line in 2023 mainly due to the incompetence of tackle Andre Dillard, and Joe Alt would give the unit a massive boost from Day 1. His intangibles and feel for the game are off the charts, and he’s one of the more well-rounded prospects in this class. 

The former Notre Dame tackle would slide in at left tackle right away, and even if he struggles acclimating to the game early on, he’ll more than likely be less of a liability than Dillard was last season. Having an offensive line with Alt, newly signed center Lloyd Cushenberry, alongside 2023 first-rounder Peter Skoronski would give rising sophomore quarterback Will Levis plenty of time in the pocket. 

Alt isn’t the perfect prospect, but taking any other player over him would be a fireable offense by the Titans front office. Therefore, I’m almost 100% confident that he’ll be the pick tonight for Tennessee. 

Pick 8 – Jacksonville Jaguars (via Atlanta Falcons) – Rome Odunze, WR, Washington

Here’s the first truly unexpected move of the night. 

While a large factor of Jacksonville’s collapse down the stretch in 2023 was an injury to Trevor Lawrence, the team lacked a true clear-cut number-one receiver. Calvin Ridley was rusty at times, and Christian Kirk was better suited as a WR2. 

Rome Odunze is a freak of nature. His acrobatic catches and highlight reel touchdowns propelled the Washington Huskies to a CFP appearance last year, and all signs point to his game translating at the next level. He’s strong, fluid, and a jump ball specialist who can grab nearly any 50/50 ball. 

The Jaguars could stay at Pick 17, but the top receivers in this class are head and shoulders above the rest. With the rest of the AFC South ready to compete, Trent Baalke and Doug Pederson must ensure Jacksonville doesn’t fall behind.

Odunze is also a relatively safe prospect and should contribute right off the bat for this team. Trevor Lawrence’s untapped potential out of college may finally come to fruition if this trade-up happens, which I think is going to. 

Pick 9 – Chicago Bears – Laiatu Latu, EDGE, UCLA

Ryan Poles and the Bears have several options they can opt to do with the ninth pick. Since the team has only four total picks in the entire draft, a trade-down to accumulate more picks could be a wise move and also a realistic one. In addition, they could very well stay put and add another receiver for Caleb Williams. At the end of the day, Matt Eberflus is a defensive-minded coach and Chicago took an offense-heavy approach in free agency, leading me to believe it’ll be a pass rusher here at nine.

Aside from Montez Sweat, this pass rush is weak at the moment. Adding Latu changes that overnight, as his motor and effort along with football IQ will strongly impact this defense. He does come with an enhanced injury risk, hence why his pre-draft medicals were a tad worrisome. In particular, he missed both 2020 and 2021 after initially retiring from a severe neck injury. When he returned to game action after transferring to UCLA, he tallied consecutive double-digit sack years en route to being a highly regarded prospect this draft cycle. On a side note, his background story concerning injury is heartwarming and inspirational. His road to recovery embodied the true qualities of an NFL player: resilience, determination, and grit.

Chicago will be thrilled to have Latu opposite Montez Sweat next fall, and Eberflus’s defense should be amongst the NFC’s best.

Pick 10 – New York Jets – Brock Bowers, TE, Georgia

Big Apple Brock? It’s looking like the most likely outcome. New York added Mike Williams to their offense in free agency, but can still add another piece to ensure Aaron Rodgers has a balanced arsenal of pass catchers to work with in 2024. Tyler Conklin isn’t a scrub by any means, but he’s not a needle mover. Bowers is.

Joe Douglas, New York’s general manager, knows Rodgers well enough by now. He knows he’ll be aggravated if they take an offensive lineman who probably won’t see the field as a rookie. 

In short, Bowers does it all. His elite balance and acceleration stand out, but he’s also fantastic after the catch and displays tremendous strength. As Georgia fans probably know, he’s a homerun threat with the ball in his hands and if a defender misses a tackle, he’s almost guaranteed to go all the way to the endzone. He’s not the most refined blocker, but an improved offensive line will hopefully be a reality for Gang Green

A trio of Breece Hall, Garrett Wilson, and Brock Bowers would pose a nightmare for opposing defensive coordinators. This isn’t the most straightforward pick, but Joe Douglas knows he is on his final straw and will pick the former Georgia tight end.

Trades:

NYG/MIN:

GIANTS RECEIVE: PICK 11, PICK 23, 2025 2ND

VIKINGS RECEIVE: PICK 6

JAX/ATL:

JAGUARS RECEIVE: PICK 8, PICK 143 (R5)

FALCONS RECEIVE: PICK 17, PICK 96, 2025 2ND, 2025 4TH

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