Eight weeks of the NFL season down means it’s time to briefly put an eye toward the offseason. There’s still a lot of football to go, but some teams already don’t have much of a chance to make the playoffs.
Fans of bad teams deserve to look forward to something, which is why this mock draft is exactly the medicine those fans need. After last week’s loss, the Arizona Cardinals own the first pick in the draft and they’re set up to make a potentially polarizing pick.
1. Arizona Cardinals — Drake Maye, QB, North Carolina
This may be a bit of a surprise, but Drake Maye isn’t a consolation prize for teams that don’t get Caleb Williams. He’s a bona fide prospect worthy of the first overall pick with huge upside, and his floor might be a bit higher than Williams based on recent games. The Cardinals still have to make a decision on Kyler Murray, but if they choose to trade him, Maye makes a lot of sense.
Caleb Williams has struggled more this season than he has in the past, but he’s still a phenomenal quarterback prospect that teams would love to grow. He’s going to have to improve his play within the pocket and speed up his process after the ball is snapped, but the physical talent of his arm and his overall accuracy is impossible to ignore.
3. Chicago Bears — Marvin Harrison Jr., WR, Ohio State
Marvin Harrison Jr. is following in the footsteps of his father, in a bigger frame. He has the size, speed, catch radius and route-running ability to make him an instant impact No. 1 wideout. Williams and Harrison would be quite the haul for the Bears on draft day.
4. New York Giants — Brock Bowers, TE, Georgia
Brock Bowers might be the best player in the draft, but his position might ding him on draft day. Still, he’s as dynamic a receiving option as they come if he’s able to bounce back from his ankle surgery.
The Patriots need offensive tackle help and Olu Fashanu has the skill and athleticism to be the first overall pick in a draft that doesn’t feature Caleb Williams and Drake Maye.
6. Green Bay Packers — Keon Coleman, WR, Florida State
Jordan Love probably needs a real deal wide receiver if this thing is going to work and Keon Coleman looks like a superstar ready to bring his size and playmaking ability to an NFL offense.
7. Indianapolis Colts — Kool-Aid McKinstry, CB, Alabama
Indianapolis needs cornerback talent, and Kool-Aid McKinstry fits the bill with top 10 skill and a top-five nickname.
8. Denver Broncos — Jer’Zhan Newton, DL, Illinois
Denver has, for now, knocked themselves out of the range for Maye and Williams, but getting Jer’Zhan Newton at this point in the draft is still a win. He’s been arguably the most disruptive interior defender in college football.
The Rams found a stud in the second round last spring in Steve Avila to hold down the interior of their offense. Here’s a running mate at tackle.
Sam Howell has probably done enough to get another year as the Commanders’ quarterback, so here’s a tackle to help him stay upright.
11. Arizona Cardinals (via Houston Texans) — Cooper DeJean, CB, Iowa
A wide receiver here makes sense for Maye to throw to, but the Cardinals have holes all over their roster. Cooper DeJean can play all over the secondary and can provide a boost on special teams.
12. Las Vegas Raiders — Dallas Turner, EDGE, Alabama
Yup, another edge rusher for the Raiders. They have a lot of needs on defense, but giving Maxx Crosby a real deal edge rusher across from him will help and allow Tyree Wilson’s role to be a bit more flexible.
The Buccaneers aren’t that far off from getting back to the playoffs, but they do need to figure out their quarterback of the future. Perhaps J.J. McCarthy can be that guy.
A rising cornerback prospect for a team that desperately needs help on the outside.
15. Tennessee Titans — Amarius Mims, OT, Georgia
If Will Levis is going to be The Guy moving forward, they need a tackle to protect him. Amarius Mims has been injured, but has sky-high upside.
17. New York Jets — Rome Odunze, WR, Washington
The Jets still need to find a wide receiver that threatens defenses outside of Garrett Wilson. Odunze would be a strong talent to add to a passing game that needs some juice.
18. Cincinnati Bengals — Jared Verse, EDGE, Florida State
Edge rusher is not a huge need for the Bengals, but Jared Verse is too good to pass up at this point. They could form a pretty nasty NASCAR package with the amount of talent they would have.
19. Atlanta Falcons — Laiatu Latu, EDGE, UCLA
The Falcons’ defense has improved, but they still need help along the edge. Laiatu Latu is a solid dice roll at this point in the draft.
20. Minnesota Vikings — Leonard Taylor III, DL, Miami
A defensive tackle for a team that needs a young defensive tackle to develop.
Mike Tomlin loves his safeties, and here’s a talented running mate for Minkah Fitzpatrick and the long term of this defense.
22. Houston Texans (via Cleveland Browns) — Malik Nabers, WR, LSU
C.J. Stroud is the future of the Texans, and they need to keep building out this receiver room. Malik Nabers is an explosive option to add more big-play threats to this team.
23. San Francisco 49ers — Taliese Fuaga, OT, Oregon State
An athletic, nasty right tackle prospect who can slide in across from Trent Williams and lock down that side of the offensive line.
24. Buffalo Bills — Denzel Burke, CB, Ohio State
The Bills need to try again at cornerback. Kaiir Elam hasn’t developed into the player they were hoping for and they need some insurance for Tre’Davious White’s injury.
25. Detroit Lions — Emeka Egbuka, WR, Ohio State
Another wide receiver from the Buckeyes, here to give the Lions a legitimate wideout outside of Amon-Ra St. Brown.
26. Dallas Cowboys — Barrett Carter, LB, Clemson
The only glaring hole on the Cowboys’ defense is at linebacker, and this is a chance to remedy that.
Chop Robinson is a bit of a project, but the Jaguars desperately need some juice added to their pass rush, and he has that.
28. Baltimore Ravens — Nate Wiggins, CB, Clemson
Baltimore has had an elite defense this year, but they need some long-term stability at one of their cornerback spots. Nate Wiggins can add that to this defense.
29. Seattle Seahawks — Kris Jenkins, DL, Michigan
Seattle just traded for Leonard Williams, so they clearly see the interior defensive line as a need. Kris Jenkins is a talented prospect who can play up and down the line of scrimmage.
30. Miami Dolphins — Graham Barton, OT, Duke
The only thing the Dolphins are missing on offense is offensive line depth. Adding a starter at offensive tackle in the draft would have a nice ripple effect for the rest of the offense.
Another speed wide receiver for the Chiefs to give a try. They desperately need to find someone for Patrick Mahomes to grow with for the long term.
Kevin Byard cleared up one safety spot for the Eagles, but they could still use another one. Tyler Nubin and Byard would be a great combo for the Eagles to deploy.
NFL teams without a 2024 first-round draft pick
34. Carolina Panthers — Sedrick Van Pran, OL, Georgia
Offensive line, offensive line, offensive line. The Panthers need to add linemen to make Bryce Young’s life easier, and interior offensive line can make a big difference for shorter quarterbacks. Sedrick Van Pran has played a lot of good football for Georgia over the years.
53. Cleveland Browns — Braelon Allen, RB, Wisconsin
Some insurance in case Nick Chubb isn’t the same coming off of his knee injury. The Browns want to be able to run the ball at a high level, but they need a boost of running back talent to make that happen.