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NFL mock draft: Patriots trade out of No. 3 but still get their QB, and what do Bills do after Stefon Diggs trade?

With college basketball winding down, MLB Opening Day in the rearview mirror and The Masters still days away, attention is heating up on the NFL's marquee offseason event. Let's make our turn toward the NFL Draft. (Taylar Sievert/Yahoo Sports)
With college basketball winding down, MLB Opening Day in the rearview mirror and The Masters still days away, attention is heating up on the NFL's marquee offseason event. Let's make our turn toward the NFL Draft. (Taylar Sievert/Yahoo Sports)

You love mock drafts. So do we. Let's do another one!

Free agents have signed, big trades have been swung, and we're starting to get a clearer picture of what each team needs in the upcoming NFL Draft. Here's how we see them addressing them — for now.

In this edition, Nate Tice makes the selection of the odd-numbered draft picks while Charles McDonald selects the even.

1. Chicago Bears (via Panthers) — Caleb Williams, QB, USC

Justin Fields is in Pittsburgh and seemingly the entire Bears franchise was in Los Angeles to watch Williams at his pro day. This is an easy one to lock in as Chicago goes with the dynamic dart thrower to launch the franchise forward. Perhaps there's another pass catcher ahead to turbocharge it?

2. Washington CommandersJayden Daniels, QB, LSU

The Commanders are going quarterback no matter what here. They’ve cleared the runway for a signal-caller, which is Daniels in this case. He had a monster season to close out his college career, winning the Heisman and putting up video game-level numbers. He has concerns about his physical build and how he’ll hold up with his reckless style of play, but he’s undoubtedly an upgrade over what the team has recently had.

3. Minnesota Vikings (via Patriots) — Drake Maye, QB, UNC

My No. 1 player on my big board. (Again, this is Nate. Hi.) Maye has huge upside with his combination of traits and arm talent. He has a few kinks to iron out at the next level to achieve that elite ceiling, but ends up in the ideal situation to do so. Picturing Maye with Justin Jefferson, Jordan Addison, (a hopefully healthy) T.J. Hockenson, a solid OL and Kevin O’Connell dialing things up has me giddy.

4. Arizona Cardinals — Marvin Harrison Jr., WR, Ohio State

Arizona needs a wide receiver desperately. Here’s the best one in the draft — and one of the most talented prospects to ever come out of college. Sometimes one plus one just equals two.

5. Los Angeles ChargersJoe Alt, OT, Notre Dame

A pay-by-the-letter favorite and an offensive tackle prospect with measurables comparable to Jonathan Ogden. Alt’s tight end background shows up all the time with his film; he’s an easy mover despite his large frame and his hand placement rapidly improved with another year of maturity in South Bend. Alt is big, young and talented and gives Jim Harbaugh a building block to start his inside-out revamp in L.A. Alt can easily make the switch to the right side given he’s had prior experience there since Rashawn Slater is in place on the left. Trading back might be the best move for the Chargers, but let’s give Harbaugh some beef to gnaw on.

6. New England Patriots (via Giants) — J.J. McCarthy, QB, Michigan

In this mock, New England jumps down to 11, then back up to the sixth pick to grab McCarthy. He wouldn’t have a whole lot to work with as a rookie, but perhaps he’s the young quarterback the Patriots need to build around for the future.

7. Tennessee TitansOlu Fashanu, OT, Penn State

After the Calvin Ridley splurge, an offensive line selection feels inevitable for the Titans. Alt is off the board, so the Titans go with the other top offensive tackle in Fashanu. An offensive line molded by Bill Callahan with Fashanu and 2023 first-rounder Peter Skoronski on its left side gives Tennessee an über-talented launch point from which Will Levis and the rest of the offense can operate, not to mention more answers on whether Levis is the long-term solution at QB.

8. Atlanta FalconsRome Odunze, WR, Washington

The Falcons have been vocal about their “best player available” strategy in the draft and Odunze falls into that description at this point of the draft. Odunze has knocked this draft season out of the park to go with a dominant final season at Washington. It might not be the most obvious fit with Drake London on the roster, but the Falcons' offense would have some serious firepower.

9. Chicago Bears — Malik Nabers, WR, LSU

Imagine a Bears offense with this kind of speed and teeth. DJ Moore and Malik Nabers are yards-after-the-catch monsters who can also win downfield. Keenan Allen can continue his metamorphosis into a jumbo slot who does his damage underneath. The running backs room is explosive. (Plus whatever you think of Cole Kmet.) There is some push for adding an offensive lineman here, which I’ll never say is a bad idea, but Braxton Jones is a solid left tackle and Darnell Wright has “star” written all over him. It’s hard to turn down adding a weapon of Nabers’ caliber, which also gives the Bears' shiny new quarterback of the future another weapon to help make his life easier at the next level.

10. New York JetsBrock Bowers, TE, Georgia

The Jets should sprint to the podium if the draft plays out like this. They’ve positioned themselves well to draft the best player available with the 10th pick and here Bowers falls right into their lap. Bowers and Garrett Wilson would be a fantastic duo to grow with for the future and he’s suited to help them try and make a playoff run this season.

(Amber Matsumoto/Yahoo Sports)
(Amber Matsumoto/Yahoo Sports)

11. New York Giants (via Patriots) — Brian Thomas Jr., WR, LSU

The Giants move back and select an LSU wide receiver! But it’s not Malik Nabers, it’s the other LSU wide receiver. Thomas adds the size and outside-winning elements to the Giants' offense that they have so desperately sought the past few years. Thomas' game isn’t advanced at this point, but he rapidly improved throughout 2023 and his athleticism and flashes show there is more to tap into. Since the Giants are still figuring out their timeline, Thomas should be eased along early. Hopefully.

12. Denver Broncos — Terrion Arnold, CB, Alabama

The first defensive player off the board is Arnold. The Broncos have so many needs it's hard to get picky about who to take. Arnold gives the Broncos a high-floor cornerback to pair with Pat Surtain II for the long term.

13. Las Vegas Raiders — Troy Fautanu, OL, Washington

D.J. Fluker, who hasn't played a snap since 2020, was high on the Raiders' O-line depth chart as recently as Friday, when they finally cut him. That helps make this decision. If the Raiders don’t go quarterback, their offensive line could definitely use an injection of talent. Fautanu would be exactly that. Whether he’s best at tackle, guard or even center, Fautanu will help the Raiders put their best five linemen out there in any given game in 2024 and beyond.

14. New Orleans Saints — Jer’Zhan Newton, DT, Illinois

New Orleans could go in a lot of directions here, but it currently doesn't have any long-term investments along its defensive interior. This is about the right range for Newton and he would be a nice cog who can rush the passer from the interior.

15. Indianapolis Colts — Quinyon Mitchell, CB, Toledo

I’m curious which way the Colts will go with this draft, but I can’t help but keep staring at the other cornerback position opposite of JuJu Brents. Enter Mitchell, a twitchy athlete with ball skills and upside as a true lockdown man coverage defender. Mitchell will be ideal for what defensive coordinator Gus Bradley likes in his cornerbacks and will get plenty of opportunities to work on winning in single coverage.

16. Seattle SeahawksGraham Barton, OL, Duke

The Seahawks could use some help on the interior of their line with some weak spots at both guard positions. Barton would be an ace, high-upside option for the Seahawks who holds down a spot for the next decade.

17. Jacksonville JaguarsCooper DeJean, CB/S, Iowa

The Jaguars need an outside cornerback, and with new signing Darnell Savage potentially operating mostly as a slot player, they might need a starting safety as well. Whether DeJean is best on the outside, in the slot or as a safety (I think he’s a plus-player at all of them), it doesn’t matter. He will instantly help the Jaguars' defense for 2024 and the long term. (The football nerd in me wants to see Jaguars defensive coordinator Ryan Nielsen working with DeJean and Savage and what stuff he’d do with them.)

Cooper DeJean could help shore up multiple areas of weakness with the Jaguars. (Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports)
Cooper DeJean could help shore up multiple areas of weakness with the Jaguars. (Jeffrey Becker/USA TODAY Sports) (USA TODAY Sports via Reuters Connect / Reuters)

18. Cincinnati BengalsJC Latham, OT, Alabama

Latham’s slide ends with the perfect landing spot. The Bengals have signed Trent Brown to play right tackle across from Orlando Brown, but it might be smart for a team who has had offensive line issues to dip into a class that is universally seen as strong. Latham is a plug-and-play starter who would give the Bengals elite depth with either Brown going to the bench.

19. Los Angeles RamsByron Murphy, DT, Texas

Murphy is not a 1:1 replacement for Aaron Donald. No one could ever be. But he would help at least somewhat fill the hole on the roster that Donald has left, in impact and also in terms of down-to-down alignment. Murphy is a gap-shooting defensive tackle who can get in the backfield and create explosive plays. I like this pairing with Kobie Turner.

20. Pittsburgh SteelersAdonai Mitchell, WR, Texas

The Steelers need to take a swing at wide receiver with George Pickens as the only established starter on their roster. Mitchell would fit right in as a high-upside option to mold into the next great Steelers wideout.

21. Miami Dolphins — Amarius Mims, OT, Georgia

The Dolphins need sustainability and consistency from their players more than anything ... so of course that’s why I have them tilting their shoulder back and swinging for the fences with Mims. He has rare size and athleticism traits but started only eight games in college. He showed more polish than you’d assume in those smattering of games, but what’s most important is Mims’ upside as a true, elite blindside protector. He has a heaping of risk with him, but the Dolphins don’t seem to mind that and this is a fair spot to take him, given the player and the need.

22. Philadelphia EaglesNate Wiggins, CB, Clemson

Philadelphia is getting a little old at cornerback. Here’s a talented player in Wiggins who can help them start looking toward the future at that position. Wiggins needs to put on weight to make this work, but he has the upside to make this work.

23. New England Patriots (via Vikings) — Taliese Fuaga, OT, Oregon State

Keeping this other first-round selection was huge for the Patriots in our trade, as they get to take advantage of this deep offensive line class and nab Fuaga. Whether Fuaga can stay at right tackle or if he will have to bump inside remains to be seen, but the presence of Mike Onwenu eases that concern. Either way, the Patriots get a strong run blocker and a pass protector with pedigree to keep their new young QB upright.

24. Dallas Cowboys — Jackson Powers-Johnson, OL, Oregon

Look at the Cowboys’ depth chart. They might need help on the interior more than any other team in the league right now. Powers-Johnson can step in at center and hold that position down as the Cowboys retool their roster.

25. Green Bay Packers — Kingsley Suamataia, OT, BYU

The Packers have plucked solid lineman after solid lineman from later parts in the draft, but they decide to add some pedigree to the room and take Suamataia early. Suamataia has a bit to go to harness his raw ability, but he is long, strong and athletic with potential to be a good starter at either tackle spot. With a ceiling even beyond that, too.

26. Tampa Bay BuccaneersKool-Aid McKinstry, CB, Alabama

Lose a corner, gain a corner. Tampa Bay needs a cornerback on the outside and McKinstry might be their best option. McKinstry might be undervalued here as he has legitimate press skills for the NFL.

27. San Francisco 49ers (via Cardinals) — Jordan Morgan, OT, Arizona

The 49ers' weapons are great and what Kyle Shanahan does every week could be hung in an art gallery, so it’s time to address the elephant in the room and add an offensive lineman (outside of Trent Williams) with some needle-moving talent. Morgan has a chance to stick at tackle, but his size and movement ability would fit right in on the inside of a Shanahan offense.

28. Buffalo BillsJared Verse, EDGE, Florida State

The Bills just traded Stefon Diggs, but this wide receiver class is pretty deep. They also need help at pass rusher, where the talent drops off after Round 1. Verse makes a lot of sense as an option to keep their future at the position flexible, especially as they figure out what to do with Von Miller.

29. Detroit LionsLaiatu Latu, EDGE, UCLA

Latu’s slippage in this scenario is the Lions’ gain, adding some juice to their pass rush to go with their beefier D.J. Reader/Alim McNeill interior duo. Latu has some sameness to Aidan Hutchinson, but it would be a hard pairing for offenses to account for in passing situations.

30. Baltimore Ravens — Christian Haynes, G, UConn

This might seem like a surprise to some, but Haynes is a stud who is worth this selection. The Ravens desperately need help on the interior, but have run out of traditionally mocked options with the way this mock draft has unfolded. Haynes is a versatile, talented lineman who can block in a variety of run schemes. That works for an offense featuring Lamar Jackson and the newly signed Derrick Henry.

31. Arizona Cardinals (via 49ers) — Chop Robinson, EDGE, Penn State

There aren’t a lot of true ace pass rushers in this draft, but Robinson has as good of a chance as anyone else to become one as a pro. Robinson has excellent size and athletic profile, and he pops off the film, but he has to become a more consistent player to harness that ability. The Cardinals take a chance at finding someone who can end drives to complement their smoke-and-mirrors scheme.

32. Kansas City Chiefs — Tyler Guyton, OT, Oklahoma

The Chiefs let Donovan Smith walk in free agency and don’t have his replacement lined up yet. Guyton makes sense as a long-term option to keep that position group strong for the Chiefs.

Teams without a first-round pick

33. Carolina Panthers — Keon Coleman, WR, Florida State

Panthers fans might have some PTSD about drafting an oversized Florida State wide receiver who doesn’t consistently create separation, but Coleman is a good fit for what the Panthers have and what can help Bryce Young. He won’t add long speed, but he gives Young a player to target and chuck the ball up to when all else fails. He’s not a perfect fit for everyone, but Coleman can help give a quarterbacks room for error.

42. Houston TexansMaason Smith, DL, LSU

Smith has a ways to go before he should be seen as a long-term, every-down player, but he has the frame, athleticism and natural skills that should make a coveted player outside the first round of the draft. Smith played only one full season at LSU, but the upside is there for him to be a true game-wrecker if he lands with the right team. What better fit than landing with DeMeco Ryans? Ryans has done nothing but get the best out of his defensive linemen — this would be a great landing spot for Smith with established players like Will Anderson Jr. and Danielle Hunter around to make his on-field transition easier.

54. Cleveland BrownsBrandon Dorlus, DL/EDGE, Oregon

Here's a potential long-term Z'Darius Smith replacement. Dorlus has big-time skill and was an integral part to a successful Oregon defense (except when it played Washington).