NFL Nation mock draft: Caleb at No. 1, Harrison at No. 4 and a big surprise at No. 5

NFL

You’ve read the latest mock drafts from our ESPN gurus, and now it’s time for our NFL Nation reporters to share their expertise as we close in on the opening pick of the 2024 NFL draft Thursday (8 p.m. ET on ESPN, ABC, ESPN App) in Detroit.

NFL Nation reporters played general manager for the teams they cover and executed a first-round mock on Tuesday night. By the end, there were four quarterbacks taken in the first five picks after the Minnesota Vikings shook things up to go get their guy with the fifth pick.

No surprise at No. 1, as the Chicago Bears took Caleb Williams, but things got interesting after that. You can watch the full mock draft here.

So without further ado, here are the picks:

ROUND 1

Courtney Cronin’s pick: Caleb Williams, QB, USC

Drafting Williams with the No. 1 overall pick has felt like a foregone conclusion since Chicago traded quarterback Justin Fields to Pittsburgh last month. The Bears are the only NFL franchise to never have a quarterback throw for 4,000 yards or 30 touchdowns in a season and will rely on Williams, the 2022 Heisman Trophy winner, to put an end to their decades-long QB futility. Williams joins a roster flush with Pro Bowl talent.


John Keim’s pick: Jayden Daniels, QB, LSU

Daniels creates chaos for defenses and not just with his legs. At the NFL’s annual meetings last month, Commanders coach Dan Quinn praised Daniels’ ability to process quickly in the pocket. Quinn also said he wanted someone who could connect on deep balls, and Daniels led all NCAA passers with 22 touchdowns and a 66.7% completion rate on throws of 20 air yards or more. Don’t be surprised if J.J. McCarthy is in the mix, as well as Drake Maye, but Daniels’ ability to create will be the difference.


Mike Reiss’ pick: Drake Maye, QB, North Carolina

In this mock, Minnesota offered No. 11, No. 23 and a 2025 first-round pick for the third pick — a deal that was turned down after consulting with Patriots sources on what it would have taken to move up to this pick. One thing is known: The Patriots are targeting a quarterback. One thing remains a wild card: Which quarterback they believe suits them best. The hunch is Maye’s combination of physical traits and intangibles wins out in the end.


Josh Weinfuss’ pick: Marvin Harrison Jr., WR, Ohio State

It’s hard to pass on arguably the best player in the draft, and that’s Harrison. It just so happens the Cardinals need a WR1. He’ll be a foundational player for Arizona and will give quarterback Kyler Murray the kind of offensive playmaker who could eventually take the Cardinals to the playoffs.


Trade: Vikings jump up

With the Chargers on the clock, Vikings reporter Kevin Seifert made the call to Chargers reporter Kris Rhim with a deal he couldn’t refuse.


Kevin Seifert’s pick: J.J. McCarthy, QB, Michigan

This trade was the cleanest way to ensure the Vikings got a first-round quarterback and true successor to Kirk Cousins. They used substantial draft capital but preserved their 2025 first-round pick. Offers for No. 3 and No. 4, which included three first-round picks, were turned down. Absent this deal, McCarthy could have gone as early as No. 6 to the Giants, which would have left the Vikings competing for the fifth quarterback of the draft at their original No. 11 spot. In terms of coaching and personnel, McCarthy lands in the best spot of all the first-round passers.

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Vikings trade up to No. 5 for J.J. McCarthy in NFL Nation mock draft

Kevin Seifert breaks down why the Vikings would attempt to trade up to the No. 5 pick for Michigan QB J.J. McCarthy.


Jordan Raanan’s pick: Malik Nabers, WR, LSU

Don’t think for a second quarterback wasn’t in serious consideration. The Vikings beat the Giants to the punch on McCarthy. But it’s not a consolation prize to get a wide receiver with the explosiveness and run-after-the-catch ability that Nabers possesses. Think Deebo Samuel or DJ Moore in coach Brian Daboll’s offense. Just how badly did the Giants need a No. 1 WR? They haven’t had a receiver top 1,000 yards since Odell Beckham Jr. in 2018.


Turron Davenport’s pick: Joe Alt, OT, Notre Dame

Despite being interested in possibly trading back, the Titans decided to address a major need by getting the top left tackle in this year’s draft class and having him learn under offensive line guru Bill Callahan. Tennessee desperately needed help after last season’s left tackle duo yielded 29 of the 64 total sacks allowed. Pairing Alt with left guard Peter Skoronski gives the Titans security on quarterback Will Levis‘ blind side for years to come.


Mike Rothstein’s pick: Laiatu Latu, EDGE, UCLA

This would be a scenario where the Falcons would consider trading down in order to build more draft capital, considering they could still land a high-level defensive player down the board. Latu offers Atlanta an extremely talented player at a premier position, which also happens to be the Falcons’ biggest need.


Cronin’s pick: Rome Odunze, WR, Washington

Bears general manager Ryan Poles continues to add to the offense with Odunze, a receiver who might have been the first off the board in drafts that didn’t feature so much talent at wideout. Adding the big-bodied receiver to a position group that already boasts DJ Moore and Keenan Allen gives the Bears an unquestioned top-five trio for Williams’ rookie season.

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Rome Odunze’s NFL draft resume

Check out some of the numbers that make Washington’s Rome Odunze a top-10 NFL prospect.


Rich Cimini’s pick: Brock Bowers, TE, Georgia

The Jets could really use another offensive tackle because starters Tyron Smith and Morgan Moses, both 33, are considered one-year Band-Aids, but they can’t resist the temptation of another playmaker for quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Bowers is “a Swiss Army knife,” according to GM Joe Douglas. They believe Bowers can do what rookie TE Sam LaPorta (86 catches, 889 yards, 10 TDs) did for the Lions last season.


Kris Rhim’s pick: JC Latham, OT, Alabama

On a team laden with roster holes, turning the Chargers’ No. 5 pick into two first-rounders and two additional picks appeared to be the best way to quickly turn this team around. Coach Jim Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Greg Roman are eager to boost the run game, and Latham, who started 25 games at right tackle in college, potentially gives the Chargers a second high-end offensive tackle alongside LT Rashawn Slater.


Jeff Legwold’s pick: Dallas Turner, EDGE, Alabama

General manager George Paton said last week the Broncos “have to hit” on this pick with an impact player. Despite their glaring need at quarterback, the fifth QB on the board in this spot might not bring that impact. If they don’t trade down in this scenario, the best player available is either Turner or Florida State defensive end Jared Verse. Turner, who should be an immediate contributor, gets the nod.


Paul Gutierrez’s pick: Taliese Fuaga, OT, Oregon State

Unable to trade up for Daniels, the Raiders address the next most glaring need, getting a right tackle with nimble footwork and a nasty disposition. Fuaga allowed one sack the past two seasons at right tackle, and the 6-foot-6 324-pounder is an impressive bookend to left tackle Kolton Miller, who is 6-8, 325 pounds.


Katherine Terrell’s pick: Olumuyiwa Fashanu, OT, Penn State

Left tackle Trevor Penning, the 19th pick of the 2022 draft, hasn’t panned out as a starter yet. Longtime tackle/guard Andrus Peat left in free agency, and starting right tackle Ryan Ramczyk is battling knee issues. That makes offensive tackle a top priority, and Fashanu checks all the boxes as a team captain who did not allow a sack in 12 starts for Penn State last year.


Stephen Holder’s pick: Quinyon Mitchell, CB, Toledo

The Colts are entering the draft expecting an early rush of offensive picks, which sets them up to take the top defensive back. Mitchell gives the Colts the perfect combination of physical traits (his long physique) and speed (4.33 seconds in the 40-yard dash) they seek in cornerbacks. After finishing last season 21st in explosive passing plays allowed, Indy’s secondary gets more depth.


Brady Henderson’s pick: Troy Fautanu, OT/G, Washington

Seahawks general manager John Schneider hasn’t taken a guard higher than Round 3 in 14 drafts with Seattle, but now is the time to end that trend. There’s a reason the Seahawks and Fautanu were a popular pairing in mock drafts. It’s the perfect marriage of need (right guard is Seattle’s biggest hole), talent and familiarity (Seattle’s new OC and O-line coach came from UW). Schneider regularly trades back in Round 1, but Fautanu is good enough to justify staying put.


Michael DiRocco’s pick: Terrion Arnold, CB, Alabama

Cornerback is the Jaguars’ top need. Arnold is a physical player with good ball skills (six interceptions, 20 pass breakups in the past two seasons) who should be a good fit for defensive coordinator Ryan Nielsen’s system. Arnold could start out as the nickelback with Tyson Campbell, whose rookie contract expires following the upcoming season, and free agent signee Ronald Darby on the outside.


Ben Baby’s pick: Byron Murphy II, DT, Texas

Murphy gets the nod over some other good options here, such as Illinois’ Jer’Zhan Newton or Georgia’s Amarius Mims. Murphy gives Cincinnati an explosive interior pass-rusher and presents a value option in future years for a position that is getting increasingly expensive. With the addition of Sheldon Rankins this offseason, Cincinnati would be able to use Murphy in its rotation in ’24 and develop him into a starter in future years.


Sarah Barshop’s pick: Jared Verse, EDGE, Florida State

With the retirement of Aaron Donald, it’s no secret the Rams need to address their defensive front. At the annual meetings in March, general manager Les Snead said it “would definitely be a priority.” The pick was going to be Murphy out of Texas, but he went to Cincinnati. So instead, Los Angeles takes Verse, whom Steve Muench of Scouts Inc. calls “one of the most talented edge defenders in the 2024 class.”


Brooke Pryor’s pick: Jackson Powers-Johnson, C, Oregon

After cutting starting center Mason Cole and not signing a clear replacement in the early waves of free agency, the Steelers enter the draft with a major need at center — a crucial position not only to pair with quarterback Russell Wilson but also to establish a rushing attack-based identity. Powers-Johnson is arguably the best center in the class, and he was among the several centers whom the Steelers hosted for a visit.


Marcel Louis-Jacques’ pick: Jer’Zhan Newton, DT, Illinois

Sure, the Dolphins signed seven defensive tackles this offseason after losing Christian Wilkins in free agency, but they all won’t make the roster. Newton gives Miami a running mate for Zach Sieler on the defensive line, and he can create interior pressure and defend against the run. Graham Barton was tempting here, but the Dolphins can still address offensive guard in the second round.


Tim McManus’ pick: Tyler Guyton, OT, Oklahoma

Tackle might not seem like a pressing need at first glance — Lane Johnson and Jordan Mailata have the starting positions locked down — but a closer look reveals why Guyton is a fit in Philly. With the exception of quarterback, the Eagles prioritize the trenches above all other positions. Depth along the offensive front took a hit this offseason. And with Johnson turning 34 in May, a succession plan needs to be implemented at right tackle.


Rhim’s pick: Brian Thomas Jr., WR, LSU

After the departures of Keenan Allen and Mike Williams, the Chargers’ most glaring need is at wide receiver. At 6-3, 209 pounds, Thomas ran a 4.33 40-yard dash and had 1,177 yards and 17 touchdowns last season. He gives quarterback Justin Herbert a receiver with the potential to become one of the league’s best.


Todd Archer’s pick: Graham Barton, C, Duke

Ideally, perhaps the Cowboys would like to take a left tackle with their first-round pick, but there are questions about those available, and Dallas has a need at center, having lost Tyler Biadasz in free agency. Barton has position flexibility, but he projects as a center in the NFL. This might mean a move to tackle for Pro Bowl guard Tyler Smith, but it’s possible that tackle gets addressed later in the draft.


Rob Demovsky’s pick: Cooper DeJean, CB, Iowa

Could have gone with tackle Amarius Mims here since the Packers have moved on from David Bakhtiari and might want to eventually move Zach Tom to center, where they think he can be dominant. But DeJean is so versatile he can play outside corner, inside at nickel or perhaps even safety. The Packers want to give new defensive coordinator Jeff Hafley an influx of talent.


Jenna Laine’s pick: Chop Robinson, EDGE, Penn State

In this scenario, the Bucs would consider trading down, but they have a void to fill after losing Shaquil Barrett in free agency. Robinson might be the most boom-or-bust prospect in this first round. His get-off and explosiveness are terrific, but the production in college wasn’t there with 11.5 sacks in three seasons. I could also see Tampa Bay using this spot on Western Michigan’s Marshawn Kneeland, but he too has production questions.


Weinfuss’ pick: Nate Wiggins, CB, Clemson

The Cardinals need a CB1, and Wiggins can be their future. He has the size (6-2, 185 pounds) and can do it all. He can press, play off coverage and in zone, allowing defensive coordinator Nick Rallis to keep Wiggins on the field every down.


Alaina Getzenberg’s pick: Xavier Worthy, WR, Texas

If this is how the board falls, trading back (or up, including to potentially snag LSU’s Thomas) would be strong possibilities. Wide receiver is the Bills’ biggest — and most obvious — need, and moving back into the second round would allow Buffalo to potentially double-dip in a talented class, especially since the Bills do not have a third-round pick. Still, if the Bills went with Worthy, he would bring speed and the run-after-catch ability they need.

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Xavier Worthy’s NFL draft reel

Check out some highlights from Texas wide receiver Xavier Worthy.


Eric Woodyard’s pick: Kool-Aid McKinstry, CB, Alabama

One of the Lions’ biggest priorities is to upgrade the defense — even after a strong free agency period. Not only is Detroit addressing a pass defense that allowed 7.8 yards per pass attempt (second worst), but the Alabama pipeline continues to roll after the Lions selected WR Jameson Williams in 2022, and RB Jahmyr Gibbs and DB Brian Branch in 2023.


Jamison Hensley’s pick: Amarius Mims, OT, Georgia

The Baltimore Ravens could consider trading out of the first round if a team wants to move up to get a quarterback, but, if Mims is available, Baltimore will be ecstatic to make the pick. The Ravens fill their biggest need with Mims, who didn’t allow a sack at Georgia. Mims will start immediately at right tackle. Adding a big-bodied blocker for reigning NFL MVP Lamar Jackson would be a best-case scenario for the Ravens.


Nick Wagoner’s pick: Darius Robinson, EDGE, Missouri

The run of offensive tackles leaves the Niners in a spot where they would probably look to either move up to get one or move back for someone like Roger Rosengarten or Kingsley Suamataia in the second round. And while a receiver or cornerback can’t be ruled out, history says the Niners are always willing to bolster the defensive line if the fit is right.


Adam Teicher’s pick: Adonai Mitchell, WR, Texas

I was prepared to go with a cornerback, Ennis Rakestraw Jr. of Missouri, but when the board fell this way, with Mitchell still available, it was an easy switch. It’s no secret the Chiefs were deficient at wide receiver last season, and the uncertainty surrounding Rashee Rice after his legal issues makes the need even greater. They weren’t going to force a wide receiver, but they don’t have to by picking Mitchell.

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