2024 NFL Mock Draft Before the merger our college football

2024 NFL Mock Draft: Before the merger, our college football writers plan Round 1

The 2024 NFL Draft is still eight weeks away, and the team's arrival in Indianapolis this week gives The Athletic's college football staff an opportunity to discuss how some of the standout players of the 2023 college football season will play out in the year Becoming impact professionals in 2024 and beyond. The draft experts and NFL beat reporters have their jokes, but what about the writers who have covered these prospects for several years?

Below, ten members of The Athletic's college football team provide their insights and predictions for this NFL mock draft: Nicole Auerbach, Max Olson, Chris Vannini, Audrey Snyder, David Ubben, Chris Kamrani, Cameron Teague Robinson, Seth Emerson, Antonio Morales and Scott Dochterman.

Despite heavy speculation about what might happen at the top, no trades were allowed for this mock draft.

The Bears have invested so much in Justin Fields, and if they were to go second or fourth, it would make perfect sense to bring in a playmaker to surround him. But after three seasons, Chicago has a chance to reset its quarterback clock with a more consistent passer. Fields can make plays, but Williams can make throws. Williams won the Heisman Trophy in 2022 for good reason, and USC's defense let him down in 2023. For a franchise that hasn't had a starting quarterback in a Pro Bowl since the 1941 season (when it was NFL champions against NFL all-stars), it's time to go for the head rather than the heart hear. —Scott Dochterman

Although the Commanders are unhappy with trades being banned in this mock draft, new head coach Dan Quinn and offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury aren't upset about the opportunity to work with and build around Maye. He has everything you could want in a franchise quarterback and has all the tools necessary to become a top 10 QB in the league. The arm talent impressed during his two seasons as North Carolina's starter, but Maye also made plenty of plays on the move and racked up 1,574 rushing yards (not including sacks) in his college career. He is a safe bet in this election. – Max Olson

Yes, Bill Belichick's successor is an equally defensive mind, but that doesn't mean Jerod Mayo and the Patriots will feel compelled to stick with this pick on that side of the ball, especially given the unique talent of reigning Heisman Trophy winner Jayden Daniels it is available. Since Tom Brady's departure, New England's quarterback play has been disappointing to say the least. The Patriots are rolling the dice on whether Daniels' dual-threat upside exists and whether he can continue to thrive. —Christopher Kamrani

Kyler Murray hasn't had a true WR1 since DeAndre Hopkins left, and this is an easy pick for the Cardinals. Harrison is arguably the best player in the draft class and likely would have been the No. 1 receiver in 2023 had he turned pro a year ago. He can do it all, as evidenced by his back-to-back seasons of over 1,200 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns. —Chris Vannini

With Jim Harbaugh now in charge, I've definitely thought about picking an offensive lineman here. The trenches were an integral part of every Harbaugh building, be it at Stanford, the 49ers or Michigan. But the Chargers' passing game needs more juice and Justin Herbert needs more weapons. They can't go wrong with Bowers, a tight end so good that he briefly turned heads for the Heisman Trophy. Harbaugh has always valued tight ends and Bowers gives the Chargers a dynamic threat. —Antonio Morales

The Giants desperately need a true No. 1 receiver, someone who can excite the fan base. Check and check. Nabers caught 89 passes for 1,569 yards last season at LSU, leading the nation in receptions of 30 or more yards. He'll be a star at the next level, and that's exactly what the Giants need to fix their struggling offense – no matter who plays quarterback. —Nicole Auerbach

Will Levis needs protection. The Titans gave up 64 sacks last year, and only one team gave up more than 65. Fashanu is also a plug-and-play option at high-ceiling tackles. He may not be an elite run blocker, but he is a prototypical NFL tackle who may be the Day 1 solution to a major problem in Nashville. The Titans should consider themselves lucky if they can choose between Fashanu and Notre Dame's Joe Alt at No. 7. – David Ubben

8. Atlanta Falcons: Rome Odunze, WR, Washington

The results so far confirm the assumption that the Falcons have to do everything they can to move into one of the top three places. They need a quarterback, and Michael Penix Jr., JJ McCarthy or anyone else seems like a real reach here. But the rules of this mock draft prohibit trading up or down, so you might as well give quarterback TBA an elite receiver. Of course, this would mean that the franchise used a top-10 pick on an offensive player who wasn't a quarterback (Kyle Pitts, Drake London, Bijan Robinson) for the fourth straight year, making an argument for an edge rusher like Dallas could be Turner or Jared verses. But in the end, Odunze's mix of size, speed and ball skills is just too intriguing, especially since London and Pitts haven't emerged as stars yet. —Seth Emerson

This is an obvious trade back spot for Chicago. The top three receivers plus Brock Bowers are gone, and the Bears would like to have another weapon for Williams. But in this mock draft, we're going with the best player available rather than need, and Fuaga could end up being the best offensive lineman in the draft. According to Pro Football Focus, Fuaga allowed no sacks in 351 passing snaps and posted a 90.9 run-blocking grade at Oregon State. Fuaga is a physical hitter at 6-6, 334 pounds and has immediate Pro Bowl potential. – Dochterman

10. New York Jets: Joe Alt, OT, Notre Dame

Three offensive tackles in the top 10 tells me this is a great draft class if you need help on offense. And the Jets do; Due to injuries they had to start in 13 different OL combinations last season. Alt doesn't just look like he's 6-8 and 332 pounds. He is also extremely experienced, having made 33 starts for the Irish. He can help keep Aaron Rodgers upright and establish a consistent running game. — Auerbach

Minnesota could go one of two directions with this slot. The Vikings could take Michigan quarterback JJ McCarthy and do an awkward or extensive rebuild depending on what happens with Kirk Cousins. Or they could grab Iowa's most versatile defender, defensive back Cooper DeJean, who would immediately improve Minnesota's secondary and punt return game. After what happened last year when Cousins ​​was injured, it's time for the Vikings to start succession planning (assuming they re-sign Cousins). McCarthy was instrumental in leading Michigan to the national title and has the right mix of talent, arm strength and swagger to be the long-term answer in Minnesota. Give him two years and he might be on the verge of a Pro Bowl. – Dochterman

This is a new rule in the NFL Draft: Whenever you give up 70 points, your first-round pick the following spring must be a defensive player. And in Turner, the Broncos get a threat to get home at quarterback; he leaves Alabama with 22.5 sacks in three years. Denver needs another alpha on that side of the ball alongside fellow Crimson Tide Patrick Surtain II. – Kamrani

Quarterback was a consideration here, but the Raiders' running game was a disappointment last season. Strengthening the offensive line will make life easier for whoever lines up behind center in 2024. Would this choice be too close to the failed Alex Leatherwood experiment for some? Maybe, but Latham has the size (6-foot-1, 300 pounds) to be a road player in the run game and he's still developing as a player, as his final season in Tuscaloosa showed. – Morales

Latu is an elite pass rusher, and while there are a number of areas the Saints need to address this offseason, I would prioritize increasing their defensive pressure. Cameron Jordan is 34 and can't do it alone. Obviously, it's worth keeping an eye on NFL teams' impressions of Latu's medical history this spring. While in Washington in 2020, Latu suffered a neck injury during preseason training, which led to an illness-related retirement and a two-year absence from the field. He transferred to UCLA in January 2022, was cleared by doctors to return to play and has been one of the best fullbacks in the country ever since. — Auerbach

I don't think anyone would be upset about the addition of a receiver to further support Anthony Richardson, but with their AFC South competition now featuring not only Trevor Lawrence but also Offensive Rookie of the Year CJ Stroud, the Colts may be more interested in secondary help. Wiggins is slim but has good speed and ball skills. The Colts could get their shutdown corner here. —Cameron Teague Robinson

First-time head coach Mike McDonald takes over a defense that ranked 28th in yards per rush and 20th in yards per pass attempt a year ago. To return to consistent contention in the NFC West, the Seahawks will need to revive the side of the ball that once led them to consecutive Super Bowls. Seattle acquired Leonard Williams from the Jets before the trade deadline, but it could still use a star edge rusher on the outside, and Verse fits the bill. In his final two years as a starter at FSU, Verse totaled 18 sacks and showed signs of the terror he could become. – Kamrani

The receivers Brian Thomas Jr. and Keon Coleman as well as the offensive and defensive players receive a lot of attention here. The Jaguars are getting better but still have big needs, and cornerback Tyson Campbell is one of them. Some would argue for Alabama's other cornerback, Kool-Aid McKinstry, and cornerback is actually a deep position in this draft, so the Jaguars could target another position and hope to address that position in the second round (perhaps with Kamari Lassiter from Georgia?) . But Arnold is viewed by some as a top-10 pick, so dropping him that low is too tempting an opportunity to pass up. –Emerson

With the Bengals giving the franchise tag to second-rounder Tee Higgins, tackle appears to be a top priority for a franchise that desperately needs to keep Joe Burrow upright and healthy. Mims has little college experience, but he has the talent to step in right away and make an impact. – Teague Robinson

The Rams haven't made a first-round pick since 2016, so they're rarely in the thick of mock draft action. They need to add more talent on defense, especially in the secondary, where Akhello Witherspoon, the team's top corner in 2023, will have free agency. Mitchell has size (6-1, 199 pounds) and speed that make him an enticing prospect, and he shined at Senior Bowl practice. Bringing in a quarterback to sit and learn behind Matthew Stafford, who isn't getting any younger, is also an option. – Morales

20. Pittsburgh Steelers: Jackson Powers-Johnson, C, Oregon

Let's make it years in a row that the Steelers select an offensive lineman in the first round. Yes, there is plenty of room for improvement on offense, but the opportunity for longevity and consistency at a key spot on the line cannot be ignored. Powers-Johnson played right guard in 2022 before moving to center full-time in 2023 and winning the Rimington Trophy, awarded to the country's most outstanding center. –Snyder

The Dolphins suffered losses this year. Murphy can help fix that. He teamed with T'Vondre Sweat to create the best one-two punch on an interior defensive line in college football this year, helping lead Texas to the College Football Playoff. He can help balance the Dolphins' offensive players, and Mike McDaniel would be wise not to keep him out of the goal line on that side of the ball either: Murphy caught a touchdown pass last September and ran for another one against Washington. — Ubben

It’s time to seriously consider the future of Philadelphia’s secondary education. Darius Slay (33) and James Bradberry (30) won't be there forever. New coordinator Vic Fangio will overhaul this defense, and the addition of McKinstry, who was part of one of college football's best cornerback duos with Terrion Arnold last fall, is a good place to start. McKinstry also returned punts at Alabama. –Snyder

The Texans would be wise to invest in protecting quarterback CJ Stroud after their team struggled with injuries throughout his rookie season. The 6-foot-3, 300-pound Fautanu developed into an All-Pac-12 starter at left tackle for the Huskies, but also played left guard and appears capable of moving inside. According to Pro Football Focus, Fautanu allowed just two sacks in 1,231 snaps in pass protection in his two seasons playing in front of Michael Penix Jr. It's tempting to go with this pick on the D-line, as many suspect, but Fautanu's presence can help a young Pro Bowl QB (and his running game) get even better. –Olson

24. Dallas Cowboys: Keon Coleman, WR, Florida State

The Cowboys have options here, but the offense has been missing a WR2 alongside CeeDee Lamb since the Amari Cooper transfer. The 6-4 Coleman is a physical specimen who scored 11 touchdowns on 50 catches for FSU last season. There's no such thing as 50-50 ball with Coleman, especially against the No. 2 cornerback. Give Dak Prescott another elite receiving weapon. – Vannini

General manager Brian Gutekunst has five picks in the top 100. The Packers narrowly missed out on the first-round cornerback run and Fautanu is also gone, but they need to continue investing in that offensive line. When healthy, David Bakhtiari remains one of the best in the game, but the Packers need to continue thinking about who will guard Jordan Love in the coming years. Rasheed Walker's improvement at left tackle has been notable over the season, and Zach Tom has solidified the right side, but it's still a thin group. The last time the Packers drafted an offensive tackle in the first round was in 2011 (Derek Sherrod from Mississippi State). –Snyder

Mike Evans is a free agent, so the Bucs could replace him with Thomas or re-sign Evans and use that pick for another need, such as cornerback. But in this mock draft, five cornerbacks left the field compared to four receivers. Thomas could move up to the top half of the first round, so the Bucs are happy to have him fall into their lap. He's not as big as Evans, but still big (6-4, 201) and in that way a complement to the smaller and faster Chris Godwin (6-1, 209). –Emerson

27. Arizona Cardinals: Chop Robinson, Edge, Penn State

The Cardinals could use some speed, and Robinson provides that. He struggled with some injuries in 2023 and only recorded four sacks, but he managed a 40-yard dash in under 4.5 seconds at the combine and turned even more heads. The physical tools are all there. – Vannini

The Bills have an obvious need at receiver and there are still plenty of good options available late in the first round. Mitchell has proven to be a first-round talent in his only season with the Longhorns and brings plenty of big-game experience to a Super Bowl-seeking team. During his time at Georgia and Texas, he scored touchdowns in all five College Football Playoff games and posted his best season to date in 2023 with 845 receiving yards and 11 TDs. Josh Allen will enjoy facing off against this lithe 6-foot-2 playmaker. –Olson

The Lions need defensive help and with several cornerbacks already off the board, they're turning to the defensive line. The versatile Robinson could play inside or outside at 286 pounds, but he would most likely be working on the sidelines against rising star Aidan Hutchinson. Robinson racked up 8.5 sacks and 14 TFLs last season at Missouri, and his resume is on the rise after a great week at the Senior Bowl. – Vannini

Baltimore could go in a few different directions with this pick, but Morgan is one of the best O-linemen left and one of the most versatile. He played tackle at Arizona but can also play guard at the next level. – Teague Robinson

31. San Francisco 49ers: Cooper DeJean, DB, Iowa

Let's face it: If DeJean falls that far, the 49ers will be thrilled. At Iowa, DeJean returned three interceptions for touchdowns as a sophomore and did not allow a touchdown in coverage as a junior. He also returned two punts for touchdowns last fall (one didn't officially count). DeJean would give San Francisco a positionless player in the secondary and could thrive as the Niners' punt returner. – Dochterman

The Chiefs have speed, but they need receivers who can also play receiver. Aside from Rashee Rice, who is promising but not sure, the Chiefs don't have any major wideout talent. Worthy is fearsome with the ball in his hands, plays bigger than his height and was on the short list of fastest players in college football this year. Give him touches. — Ubben

(Top image: Sean Reilly for The Athletic; Photos: Ryan Kang, Ed Zurga, Steve Limentani / ISI Photos / Getty Images)