Our 2024 NFL mock draft was conducted after thorough video scouting and data analysis. It’s important to note this exercise is based on what teams should do, not what they will do.

The 2024 NFL Draft, beginning Thursday night in Detroit, will be among the most unusual in recent football history.

If the phrase “defense wins championships” still holds water, it may become more difficult after this year’s draft.

But we’re providing a blueprint for NFL teams, with the help of Kyle Cunningham-Rhoads and Greg Gifford, in our mock draft of the first round.

Only six of the first 25 players and 10 of the 32 first-round selections are defensive players. Meanwhile, an incredible 11 offensive linemen have spots in our mock draft.

Yes, for the third straight year, we’ve gone through tons of video and even more data to identify team needs, weaknesses and potential best-prospect fits. The key caveat: Our selections are based around what we think teams should do, not what we think teams will do.

Mock Draft board

Picks 1-6: It’s a dream start for dynasty fantasy football players, with three quarterbacks and three wide receivers off the draft board over the first six picks. At the top, there’s no need to overthink things, USC QB Caleb Williams is the guy for the Chicago Bears. The 2022 Heisman Trophy winner has a chance to be special. Drake Maye gets the nod for us over Jayden Daniels at No. 2 because he has a higher ceiling. Daniels has much better tape, especially during his 2023 Heisman-winning season at LSU, but he played with two elite wide receivers and a fantastic offensive line, while Maye spent much of his time in the North Carolina offense running for his life. Maye is a year and a half younger than Daniels, has sneaky athletic ability, and loves to chuck the ball deep, which will fit well with wide receiver Terry McLaurin in the Washington Commanders offense. At No 3, the New England Patriots get Daniels – hardly consolation in the stacked QB class. It’s hard to go wrong with any of the top three wide receivers, all of whom would have grabbed our top spot at that position in either of the last two drafts. Marvin Harrison Jr. Is the most well-rounded wide receiver of the bunch, without a single weakness to his game. The Ohio State superstar immediately slots in as Kyler Murray’s new No. 1 receiver. With Keenan Allen and Mike Williams gone to different teams, we opted for the Los Angeles Chargers to go with the unique skill set that LSU wide receiver Malik Nabers possesses to pair with Justin Herbert. Rome Odunze goes sixth to the New York Giants, and all the Washington Huskies standout did was lead FBS players in burns in 2023.

Picks 7-12: The first offensive lineman comes off the board to the Tennessee Titans at No. 7 – Notre Dame’s Joe Alt, our clear top offensive tackle of the class who immediately slots in next to 2023 first-round pick Peter Skoronski to create a huge strength on the left side of the offensive line. Alt led all tackles in our 1-on-1 pass protection ELO rankings. Finally, our first two defensive players go eighth to the Atlanta Falcons and ninth to the Chicago Bears. For the Falcons, they take the edge rusher who blew away the rest of the FBS in pressure rate and was right up there in 1-on-1 pass rush ELO rating (see below) in UCLA’s Laiatu Latu. He’ll provide an edge rusher to go with Grady Jarrett up the middle. With their second top-10 pick, the Bears fortify a strength by taking the best interior defensive lineman in Byron Murphy II out of Texas to pair with Montez Sweat. Forget positions, Georgia tight end Brock Bowers is maybe the second-best football player in this draft, and a steal at No. 10. The New York Jets are in win-now mode, and Bowers paired with wide receiver Garrett Wilson and running back Breece Hall is a dream scenario for Aaron Rodgers. Bowers was one of only three FBS tight ends since 2010 to have a rushing touchdown of at least 75 yards. He also was one of only five tight ends during that same time frame to have a receiving touchdown of at least 89 yards. He’s a special playmaker who also is an above-average blocker at the tight end position. Given the buzz, JJ McCarthy isn’t likely to make it to the 11th pick, but he’s one of our toughest evaluations this draft cycle. The data we have on him is positive, but in a rush-heavy Michigan offense, he lacks the pass volume of the top-three quarterbacks. Albeit in a limited sample, McCarthy ranked sixth in the FBS in well-thrown percentage (78.8) under pressure (minimum 50 attempts). Being selected by the Minnesota Vikings with wide receivers Justin Jefferson and Jordan Addison and tight end T.J. Hockenson constitutes a best-case scenario for any quarterback, but particularly for McCarthy. Dallas Turner is the other elite defensive lineman of this class, and the Alabama product goes 12th to the Denver Broncos, a team with so many weaknesses on the roster they can just employ the “best player on the board” strategy.

Latu ELO rating

Picks 13-17: We mentioned earlier our mock draft has 11 offensive linemen, but there was only one in the top 12 picks. That changes in a major way starting at No. 13 with the Las Vegas Raiders, who take Penn State star Olu Fashanu (see below) to pair with Kolton Miller. This is the second straight mock draft we’ve selected an offensive lineman for the Raiders, who unfortunately (for now) took Tyree Wilson seventh overall last year. Troy Fautanu from Washington immediately comes off the board next to the New Orleans Saints, who will slot him in at guard and give 2022 first-rounder Trevor Penning one more shot to prove he belongs at tackle. If Penning can’t hold up, Fautanu’s flexibility across the offensive line gives the Saints the option to move him to left tackle. Alabama’s JC Latham is another player with offensive lineman flexibility, which comes in handy for the Seattle Seahawks, who have two solid tackles already but lack talent on the interior of the offensive line. He goes 16th, but only after the Indianapolis Colts select Quinyon Mitchell as the first of the cornerbacks in the draft at No. 15. Mitchell tested off the charts at the NFL Combine and posted elite marks in big play prevention at Toledo. Meanwhile, Alabama cornerback Terrion Arnold saw a lot of volume playing alongside another first-rounder (we’ll get to him in a little bit), but with five interceptions and 12 pass deflections last year, there’s a lot of positive tape on Arnold, and cornerback is one of the Jacksonville Jaguars’ areas of need, so they’re thrilled to nab the CB2 at No. 17.

Fashanu PSU ELO Rating

Picks 18-19: We mentioned earlier the top three wide receivers are a class of their own, but if anyone has the talent to join that tier, it’s LSU’s Brian Thomas Jr., who has the most outrageous numbers of anyone in the draft class. Not only did Thomas’ 80.7 burn percentage lead the FBS, but his mark also was higher than any NFL wide receiver with at least 30 targets last season. He joins the Cincinnati Bengals with the thought they’ll trade Tee Higgins and create a full LSU collection of talent with Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase. Florida State edge rusher Jared Verse goes 19th to the Los Angeles Rams, who for the first time in over a decade will have to figure out how to get pressure on the quarterback without having Aaron Donald.

Picks 20-24: Picks 20 through 23 in the 2023 NFL Draft were all wide receivers. If there’s a run on any position in this year’s draft, it’ll be offensive linemen. Oregon’s Jackson Powers-Johnson is the best true interior lineman in this year’s class, and with the Pittsburgh Steelers moving on from center Mason Cole this offseason, JPJ is the perfect plug-and-play center to drop in. Oregon State’s Taliese Fuaga is a huge tackle at 6-foot-6, and the Miami Dolphins taking him at No. 21 is an investment into Tua Tagovailoa’s health. Maybe our favorite pick of this draft is Amarius Mims to the Philadelphia Eagles at 22. With two excellent tackles already in tow, the Georgia product wouldn’t start, but with the offensive line successes historically produced by the Eagles, he would be in line to take over for Lane Johnson after next season. If this class contains the greatest tackle in NFL history, Mims is the one most likely to turn into that player. Graham Barton struggled as a tackle at Duke, but he has all the traits of an excellent guard or even center, and with the Vikings taking McCarthy earlier in the draft, the 23rd pick (acquired from the Cleveland Browns) is to help fortify the young man’s protection. Maybe our data’s favorite late first-rounder, Patrick Paul finished fourth in our pass pro ELO ratings and won 94.1% of his 1-on-1 matchups, the second-best mark of any FBS O-lineman in the class. The Houston standout going to the Dallas Cowboys at No. 24 allows them to keep Tyler Smith at left guard, where he was arguably the top player at his position in the NFL last season.

Picks 25-28: Of all the defensive players in the draft class, only Latu is more capable of single-handedly taking over a game than Jer’Zhan Newton. His 43 pressures were second among all defensive tackles in the FBS last season. In our mock, the Green Bay Packers – a team with a history of taking defensive players with their first-round picks – cannot resist adding the Illinois standout to an already strong defensive line at No. 25. We mentioned Alabama cornerbacks a little earlier. While Arnold goes nine picks sooner, Kool-Aid McKinstry was a more productive college player, according to our data. And quite befitting with his name, the way to describe his game is “sticky” – players didn’t get open often when they were covered by Kool-Aid (see below). We mentioned Arnold got more of the attention from opposing quarterbacks and that plays out in the data – McKinstry was only targeted on 10.7% of coverage snaps last season, the lowest mark in the FBS – but the Tampa Bay Buccaneers love their pick at No. 26. Then at No. 27, former Iowa star Cooper DeJean fits in perfectly with the Arizona Cardinals’ defensive scheme that prioritizes big play prevention. Among players with at least 280 pass coverage snaps last season, DeJean finished second among all outside cornerbacks in big play percentage allowed (15.0%). The Buffalo Bills are looking for new blood at wide receiver with Stefon Diggs in a Houston Texans uniform and Gabe Davis in Jacksonville, so Adonai Mitchell makes perfect sense at No. 28. Their roster is filled with small slot guys, and Mitchell is a big-bodied outside receiver who scored a touchdown in all five of his college football playoff games.

open-allowed% vs. burn-allowed%

Picks 29-32: If the Detroit Lions have a weakness, it’s on defense, where they finished the 2023 NFL season sixth-worst in passing yards allowed. Clemson cornerback Nate Wiggins, meanwhile, finished fourth among FBS cornerbacks in open-allowed percentage, and is an ideal pick at No. 29. The Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers both struggled blocking in key moments last season, so they take Oklahoma’s Tyler Guyton and Washington’s Roger Rosengarten at 30 and 31, respectively. Rosengarten, in particular, might be the player our data thinks is the most underrated entering the draft. He led all tackles in pass protection wins and his pressure-allowed rate was half the FBS average. Finally at No. 32, the Kansas City Chiefs turn their attention to offense, and why not take a player whose game is quite similar to that of Travis Kelce. Ladd McConkey of Georgia finished first in the FBS in forced missed and broken tackle rate and will pair nicely with Kelce to create a tandem of intelligent football players who can exploit the middle of a defense for the game’s best player, Patrick Mahomes.

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