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  • Writer's pictureEthan Hoffman

Way Too Early NFL Mock Draft: 3 QBs in the Top 10; Bears add new target; Unprecedented run on DBs

By Ethan Hoffman -- Staff Writer

As the football season turns another page onto the fourth week of the NFL, and the fifth of College Football, the first wave of the pre-draft process starts officially solidifying. With that being said, we’ll likely look back on this mock draft come draft season and laugh at how wrong it is but, hey, let’s have fun.

1. Arizona Cardinals: Caleb Williams, QB (USC)

The Cardinals sit in a non-preferable position, as they just paid Kyler Murray a massive 5-year, $180 million in October, but with the opportunity to draft the biggest QB prospect in a long time, you have to take that chance. Williams would have been the number 1 pick in any of the last two drafts, if eligible. While Murray is a serviceable QB, he has not proven to be a big-time winner and has less of an upside than Williams.

Thus far, Williams has never had a season with lower than a PFF grade of 91. Lincoln Riley’s Newest project could be set to take the job of his former.

2. Chicago Bears: Marvin Harrison, Jr., WR (OSU)

If Caleb Williams is the best QB prospect we’ve seen since Trevor Lawrence, Marvin Harrison, Jr. is the best WR prospect we have seen since the late ‘90s with Keyshawn Johnson. The son of Colts royalty, Harrison Jr., looks like a better play than his dad was. A hard thing to accomplish when you put into fact that his dad is an 8x Pro Bowler and an NFL Hall of Famer.

The Bears need to do everything in their power to commit to Justin Fields, and an added offensive weapon would turn the Chicago offense lethal … hopefully this time with a new Head Coach.

3. Chicago Bears: Laitu Latu, DE (UCLA)

The Bears get back-to-back picks due to their trade with the Carolina Panthers, which gave the Panthers the No. 1 pick. The Bears are in dire need of some defensive talent, and Latu is one of the biggest risers of the draft process so far. Latu is a freaky Defensive End with Nick Bosa levels upside. The Sacramento native has seen a massive improvement from last season so far, helped by an incredible game against Coastal Carolina, where he looked nearly unblockable.

4. Minnesota Vikings: Drake Maye, QB (UNC)

The easy QB2 out of the class so far, Maye would be the #1 QB in any of the last few classes if not for the addition of Caleb Williams. Maye, who is from North Carolina, decided to stay at his hometown school instead of transferring to a bigger, more competitive school this past portal season. Some criticized this decision, but I believe that his draft stock will not drop one bit.

The Vikings have been horrible so far this season, with Kirk Cousins' production finally starting to take a down-tick, seemingly unable to get the ball out to his weapons. Cousins’s contract is set to expire in two years, at his age 37 season, but the Vikings do have an out in 2025. Maye would set Minnesota up for the future in a seemingly open division.

5. Indianapolis Colts: Olu Fashanu, OT (PSU)

Olu Fashanu likely would have been a top 5 pick in the 2023 draft, but after a long talk with Penn State Head Coach, James Franklin, and a mighty NIL check, Fashanu decided to stay in school for his junior season. The excellent run block would be assigned to a Colts team, that really isn’t in dire need of a lineman, but could certainly use his talents to block for their franchise guy, Anthony Richardson

6. Tennesee Titans: Brock Bowers, TE (UGA)

This class has something for generational players we have never seen the likes of. Brock Bowers is one of the biggest generational players we’ve been hearing about since early in Georgia’s CFB title quest in early 2021. Bowers has had an incredible career with the Bulldogs, being the main weapon in both championship-winning seasons.

Bowers would be headed to the Tennesee Titans that, not only need weapons for whoever their QB of the future is but also a team that could use his run-blocking ability for Mike Vrabel’s run-first mindset.

7. Arizona Cardinals: Jer’Zhan Newton, DI (IL)

The Cardinals get an extra top-10 pick from the Houston Texans in the Will Anderson, Jr. deal, which just so happens to be sitting in the perfect spot for the Cardinals to boost their defense.

Jer’Zahn Newton has been College Football’s biggest riser the last few weeks. Stuck on a terrible Illinois team, Newton has looked to fit right into the collective of incredible defensive interior talent to go into the draft the last few seasons. Newton looked like a man amongst boys in his game against Penn State, showing he has the potential to be an interior game-wrecker at the next level.

8. Los Angeles Rams: Kalen King, CB (PSU)

The first, of many, corners fall off the board, with the LA Rams knabbing Nittany Lions CB, Kalen King. The Rams’ biggest weakness so far this season has been their lack of talent in the Defensive Backroom. The team lost Jalen Ramsey this offseason, and while King is not the same type of player as Ramsey, he adds juice to a weak position for the Rams.

9. Las Vegas Raiders: Michael Penix, Jr., QB (WSH)

The lefty QB out of Tampa, Florida is a long-time CFB starter, 5 years to be in fact, who has shown the potential to be a weapon at the next level. Penix spent four seasons at Indiana University before transferring to Washington, a school that he felt better for his play style. And boy did it. Since joining Pennix has been one of College Football’s best and most fun to watch QBs. Pennix would give the Raiders, who are floundering under Jimmy Garrapolo, somewhat of an athletic boost at the QB position. Something the Raiders have never really been known for.

10. Washington Commanders: Kool-Aid McKinstry, CB (ALA)

Ever since his emergence as the “best-named” player in College Football, McKinstry has been projected as the next high first-round Corner out of Alabama, the likes of which we have seen many times over the last decade and a half.

McKinstry would be joining a Commanders’ defense that does not have many holes but nonetheless needs to start getting younger talent. The team took Emmanuel Forbes in the first round last year but still needs another boundary corner to replace the aging Kendall Fuller.

11. Atlanta Falcons: Chop Robinson, DE (PSU)

If there’s a single takeaway so far through the 2023 NFL seasons, it’s that the Atlanta Falcons can not get to the Quarterback at all. The offense is actually running on all cylinders with Desmond Ridder, Tyler Allgaier, and Bijan Robinson, but the front 7 is awful. Penn State’s Chop Robinson is exactly what the Falcons need to stay competitive in the NFC South, something that is very easy to do.

12. Green Bay Packers: Graham Barton, OT (Duke)

My 2nd Offensive Tackle off the board, Duke’s Graham Barton goes to the Green Bay Packers to be the franchise blindside blocker for their franchise guy, Jordan Love. Barton, a four-year starter with the Blue Devils, has the size and consistency that the Packers are looking for in a replacement for the aging David Bakhitari.

13. New England Patriots: Jared Verse, DE (FSU)

In last year’s draft cycle, Jared Verse was one of the most talked about names as a rising star, and likely first-round pick. The now 2nd-year Seminole was a measly transfer out of a mid-sized FCS school with little expectations. Verse would go on to light the world on fire in his first year of FBS play, garnering 9 sacks and looking like a well-rounded NFL prospect. Late into the process, Verse decided it was best to stay at Florida State for his final season, before declaring for draft eligibility.

Verse heads to a Patriots team that is scrounging for a versatile player on the defensive line. Verse can play both Outside and Inside, on Nickel, Dime, and Base sets respectively. Bill Belichick loves his can-do-everything players, and Verse is just that.

14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Malik Nabers, WR (LSU)

If you were watching the LSU vs. Mississippi State game just a few weeks ago, you heard the name Malik Nabers. Nabers had 13 catches, for 239 yards and 2 touchdowns over the Bulldogs, not having a single incompletion of any of his targets. Nabers would be a perfect fit for a Bucs team looking to get younger in the wide receiver room.

15. Denver Broncos: Keon Coleman, WR (FSU)

Back to Back Wide Receivers off the board as Florida State’s Keon Coleman gets selected 15th overall by the Denver Broncos. The Broncos are lacking a solid #2 option on the outside, especially now with the injury of Tim Patrick. Patrick was almost a trade target last year so it seems the team is slowly working on replacing his role in the offense. Coleman has a similar archetype to Patrick and can fit Sean Peyton’s system like a glove.

16. Houston Texans: Kris Jenkins, DI (MICH)

Say what you want about the Houston Texans this season, but the defense is clearly incredibly improved under the control of new Head Coach, DeMeco Ryans. The only thing lacking on the Texans’ defense is the lack of Interior penetration. Neither Sheldon Rankings nor Maliek Collins can consistently win on the inside enough for Ryans’ liking. That would not be a worry with Kris Jenkins, the physical monster out of Ann Arbor.

17. Pittsburgh Steelers: Joe Alt, OT (ND)

2 weeks into the NFL season, the Pittsburgh Steelers could not stay out of their own way. Whether it be ridiculous fumbles, uninspired play calling, or bad interceptions. Their biggest fault has been their inability to pass block for Kenny Pickett. Joe Alt could turn that issue completely on its head. Alt, the 6’8” 322 mammoth, is one of the best pass blockers in modern-day College Football.

18. New York Giants: Bralen Trice, DE (WAS)

The Giants had the worst first 5 quarters of any football team, likely ever, being outscored 61-0. A major reason for that lack of production was their inability to put pressure on the quarterback. Both Azeez Ojulari and Kayvon Thibodeaux have struggled so far this season, neither being able to produce at a consistent level. The Giants could use the talent of the physical Husky out of Washington, Bralen Trice.

19. New Orleans Saints: Barrett Carter, LB (CLEM)

The Saints are in a weird spot heading into the 2024 draft, uncertain on whether the team is good enough to contend, or too weak to even compete in a weak NFC South. An aging team only getting older, the Saints have a ton of holes in their defense, mostly in their linebackers room. Barrett Carter, a junior out of Clemson, is the best bet for a linebacker who is versatile enough to play all 3 spots, which the Saints need desperately. Carter can really play wherever the Saints have a big enough hole. Whether that be in the Middle Linebacker spot, replacing an ancient Demario Davis, or in the Strong Side that lacks athleticism.

20. Seattle Seahawks: Kamren Kinchens, S (MIA)

The Seahawks currently sit 2-1 on the season, with their only loss being to the Los Angeles Rams, a game in which the Seattle defense was unable to cover anyone in the Rams uniform. Safety Quandre Diggs was most definitely the weak point during that game, and much of the other 2 games, leaving a sizable hole in production from the safety spot. Kam Kinchens is the perfect replacement for Diggs, someone who has a similar play style and a much larger size profile than Diggs.

21. Jacksonville Jaguars: Leonard Taylor III, DI (MIA)

Back-to-back Hurricanes off the board, with the Jaguars electing to stay local with their pick, taking Miami Defensive Tackles, Leonard Taylor III. Taylor is an excellent pass rusher on the inside, something that the Jags are missing with their two inside defenders, K’Lavon Chassion and Roy Robertson-Harris.

22. Los Angeles Chargers: Cooper DeJean, CB (IOWA)

If you think back to last season, it seemed like the Chargers were all but set at the CB position, banking on the progression of Asante Samuel, Jr., and the talent of the blockbuster free agent acquisition from New England, J.C. Jackson. Samuel has panned out moderately well … J.C. Jackson has not. After a dismal 7 games with the Chargers, Jackson is now a healthy scratch on a weekly basis for what seems like the immediate future. The Chargers now find themselves in a hole that they didn’t foresee, with a big need for talent in the Corner room.

Cooper DeJean, while not being your run-of-the-mill Cornerback in the NFL, could add some needed athleticism for the Chargers. A former track star and high school QB, DeJean transitioned into a lock-down, hard-hitting corner, a type of player that the Chargers do not currently have anywhere on their roster.

23. Miami Dolphins: DJ James, CB (AUB)

The run on Defensive Backs continues throughout the first round, with the Miami Dolphins taking DJ James, out of Auburn. James is much of a project player, but the Dolphins have the time to develop a talent like James. With a group that includes veterans like Jalen Ramsey and Xavien Howard, James can sit for one, two, maybe even three years before becoming the great NFL player that he could be.

24. Detroit Lions: Dallas Turner, DE (ALA)

Dallas Turner, Alabama’s newest star Defensive End, is very much the prototypical ‘Nick Saban player”. An athletic monster who stands at 6’4”, that can fly past an Offensive Tackle like it’s nothing. Turner was unblockable this past week against Ole Miss, no matter who the Rebels through at him. With this pick, the Lions have a chance to pair Turner with 2021 2nd overall pick, Aidan Hutchison, creating one of the better Defensive End duos currently in the NFL.

25. Baltimore Ravens: Kamari Lassiter, CB (UGA)

The Georgia Bulldogs keep their streak of having at least one defensive player drafted in the first round, a streak that started in the 2021 NFL Draft. Lassiter plays boundary-side corner a majority of his snaps, something that the Ravens have been looking for, for what seems like the last 15 draft cycles. Every year, a young boundary side corner is one of the Ravens biggest needs, and every year they pass on the chance to grab a quality one. This year might finally be the one where Eric DeCosta pulls the trigger.

26. New York Jets: JC Latham, OT (ALA)

The fourth straight SEC player off the board, JC Latham heads to the New York Jets to either become their franchise Left Tackle or play on the right side in case of a Mekhi Becton slide. The Jets currently have an ancient Duane Brown on the left side, whilst Mekhi Becton plays on the right, even though Becton has been getting some play-time on the left side. Latham is a great value pick in the Jets’ quest to protect whoever their QB will be next year.

27. Dallas Cowboys: Emeka Egbuka, WR (OSU)

An Ohio State Wide Receiver lighting the scoreboards up in college and getting selected in the first round of the NFL Draft, a tale as old as time. Emeka Egbuka will most likely be the next Buckeye to follow that trend. Egbuka, while being undersized, would be a great fit for the Cowboys offense that is looking for a younger 2nd option to combat Ceedee Lamb.

28. Buffalo Bills: Adonai Mitchell, WR (TEX)

Compared to a couple of seasons ago, The Bills offense has kind of stalled out a bit. Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs’ chemistry is at an all-time low, both Dawson Knox and Dalton Kincaid have not met their expectations, and Gabe Davis is an unrestricted free agent after this season. The addition of Longhorn standout, Adonai Mitchell could bring back the spark to this possibly explosive Buffalo offense.

29. San Francisco 49ers: Nate Wiggins, CB (CLEM)

If you could spot a single hole in the San Francisco 49ers’ team that is big enough to fill with a first-round draft pick, you would be looking on the wrong team. The most quality roster in the NFL, the only “need” for the 49ers is a 2nd corner on the boundary. Deommodore Lenoir, the 2021 5th-round pick, is playing fine but is the weakest link on the defense. Wiggins is a talented boundary DB who has a big height advantage on Lenoir, that could help the Niners out.

30. Cincinnati Bengals: Josh Newton, CB (TCU)

The Defensive Back run continues for the 7th DB off of the board just in the first round alone. Newton projects more as a nickel in the league, something the Bengals could use a quality one of. The Bengals’ current player lining up primarily in the nickel, Mike Hilton, is having a massive regression compared to his previous season.

31. Philadelphia Eagles: Tyler Nubin, S (MINN)

Why not one more, the 8th DB falls off the board with the Eagles snatching Minnesota Safety, Tyler Nubin. Much like Newton, Nubin can very easily slot into a nickel role with Philly and make a day-one impact. Unlike Newton, Nubin is more versatile with his play, also showing an ability to Free Safety.

32. Kansas City Chiefs: Maason Smith, DI (LSU)

If the season openers vs. the Lions showed anything, it showed that the Chiefs NEED Chris Jones in their starting lineup. The only problem, Chris Jones isn’t getting any younger and will soon start to see his production decline. If the Chiefs want to get ahead of the curve, they can select Maason Smith, who is the closest player we’ve seen to Chris Jones in a long while. Smith is in the exact height and weight percentile as Jones, and could really benefit from learning under the game’s very best.

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