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NFL mock draft 2024: Any possible challenge for No. 1 pick?

The midseason point is as good of a time as any to compile an NFL mock draft. Even if teams aren’t already looking ahead to the coming year’s draft, several fan bases already are.

While the college football season has seen several players raise their profile, the top prospects in this year’s draft remain the elite few who already had established themselves as the best of the bunch more than a year out from their draft date. That’s not to say there won’t be any surprises at the top of the order, which remains in flux. But for now, those first picks appear to be a race for the names many have been familiar with for some time.

Using an approximation of what the first round would look like if the season ended today, here’s USA TODAY Sports’ latest 2024 NFL mock draft:

1. Arizona Cardinals – Caleb Williams, QB, USC

After showing some early-season fight, the Cardinals stand at 1-8 and are in pole position for the No. 1 pick … which is about what most people expected of the floundering franchise. Williams’ follow-up to his dazzling Heisman Trophy campaign hasn’t gone as planned, but it speaks volumes that a season in which he has tallied 38 touchdowns in 10 games and repeatedly delivered singularly spectacular highlights has subjected him to scrutiny. The 6-1, 215-pounder’s performance under pressure has taken a sizable step back, though USC’s supporting cast has done him few favors. Still, Williams is without peer as a playmaker, and many of the issues that surfaced this year should be resolved if he pares back his big-game hunting. Even with Kyler Murray’s contract complications and the Cardinals having abundant other needs to repair arguably the NFL’s most talent-deficient roster, Arizona would be extremely hard-pressed to pass on a quarterback of Williams’ caliber.

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2. Chicago Bears (from Carolina Panthers) – Drake Maye, QB, North Carolina

Nice return for GM Ryan Poles on last year’s trade to move down from the No. 1 slot, as he’s now poised to land an additional franchise cornerstone with a top-two selection. Though it still seems like somewhat of a long shot he could actually overtake Williams as the front-runner to be the No. 1 pick, Maye at least has put himself in the conversation – and he’s no mere consolation prize. The 6-4, 230-pound passer possesses rare arm strength to attack downfield, and he’s comfortable operating both from within the pocket and on the move. Taking another toolsy Tar Heel signal-caller will surely invite lots of jokes from those who would rather forget the Mitchell Trubisky era, but Maye is a clearly superior prospect – and one who would give the Bears a needed reset after the botched development of Justin Fields.

3. Bears – Marvin Harrison Jr., WR, Ohio State

Chicago’s extended misery at quarterback has been uniquely dreadful, but the organization’s whiffs at wideout have been something to behold. If the Bears are able to land both a top-flight signal-caller and Harrison, who is possibly the best receiver prospect in a decade-plus, the franchise could have one of the most hyped draft hauls in some time. With his penchant for acrobatic catches and wide variety of ways to beat opponents, the 6-4, 205-pound target offers few reasons to find fault with his game. Teaming him up with DJ Moore would give the Bears one of the most formidable receiving tandems for years to come.

4. New York Giants – Brock Bowers, TE, Georgia

Daniel Jones – or whoever helms this offense in 2024 and beyond – needs difference-makers. That much was true last offseason, when the Giants overhauled their receiving corps, and it remains true now as the Giants stare down the remains of an injury-riddled season that exposed their rampant offensive shortcomings. If taken here, Bowers would tie Kyle Pitts for the title of highest-drafted tight end in NFL history, but even this year’s ankle surgery shouldn’t scare teams off from one of this class’ steadier prospects. The Mackey Award winner has repeatedly demonstrated he can take over a game and be the rare player at his position who can be a primary target for a passing attack.

5. New England Patriots – Olu Fashanu, OT, Penn State

Bill Belichick has never made a top-five draft selection during his time in New England, but this year is sparking several unwelcome firsts for the legendary head coach. While this move wouldn’t be as scintillating as grabbing one of the top quarterbacks or Harrison to reconfigure the languishing offense, the fleet-footed Fashanu could nevertheless be a foundational piece for this unit. One of the most promising pass-protecting prospects in some time, the 6-6, 320-pound blocker can take over for impending free agent Trent Brown at left tackle and provide better comfort for Mac Jones – or the quarterback’s eventual replacement.

6. Los Angeles Rams – Dallas Turner, OLB, Alabama

Los Angeles invested three draft choices in its edge rush this year, with third-round pick Byron Young flashing some promise while leading all rookies with five sacks. It’s going to take a premium investment, however, to properly retool a front seven that is overly reliant on Aaron Donald. Turner has stepped up for the Crimson Tide after Will Anderson Jr.’s departure, notching seven sacks while consistently creating pressure.

7. Green Bay Packers – Joe Alt, OT, Notre Dame

More unfamiliar territory for another storied franchise here, as the Packers’ last top-10 draft pick was B.J. Raji in 2009. Something has to give this offseason for left tackle David Bakhtiari, who will miss the remainder of the season with a cartilage issue in his knee and is set for an untenable $40.5 million cap hit in 2024. Regardless of whether the 32-year-old two-time All-Pro returns, the 6-8, 322-pound Alt is the kind of composed blocker who would help solidify this front for years to come.

8. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Keon Coleman, WR, Florida State

Could Tampa Bay be headed for a split with its all-time leading receiver? Mike Evans didn’t receive the contract extension he sought, and the 30-year-old could be in high demand if he doesn’t receive the franchise tag. Should he depart, the 6-4, 215-pound Coleman could step in as an explosive target to pair with Chris Godwin.

9. Denver Broncos – Chop Robinson, DE, Penn State

Denver’s defense has pulled up from its early-season nosedive, but the edge rush will need more than Nik Bonitto and Jonathan Cooper after ditching Bradley Chubb and Randy Gregory in the past year. While Robinson’s considerable physical tools have yet to coalesce into consistent production, pass rushers with his elite traits don’t tend to last beyond the middle of the first round at the latest.

10. Tennessee Titans – Kool-Aid McKinstry, CB, Alabama

At some point, general manager Ran Carthon will have to account for the previous regime’s misses on multiple early-round cornerback picks. The 6-1, 195-pound McKinstry brings the composed coverage skills that would help give Tennessee an answer for the young quarterbacks it will have to face in the division for years to come.

11. Atlanta Falcons – Jared Verse, DE, Florida State

There’s only so much first-year defensive coordinator Ryan Nielsen can do with a middling collection of talent, especially with Atlanta’s underwhelming edge rush. Though Verse hasn’t matched the splashy output of last season’s campaign with the Seminoles, the 6-4, 260-pounder would still provide an immediate jolt to this group.

12. Washington Commanders – J.C. Latham, OT, Alabama

No matter how encouraged Washington might be with Sam Howell’s half-season as a starter, his league-worst 44 sacks have surely been met with winces. That problem might be at least somewhat baked into his playing style, but the Commanders’ offensive line has also had its fair share of lapses. Regardless, bringing on the imposing Latham would mark a step in the right direction.

13. Indianapolis Colts – Rome Odunze, WR, Washington

With Anthony Richardson’s development being Indianapolis’ foremost concern for the foreseeable future, GM Chris Ballard would be wise to equip his young signal-caller with another outside threat – especially if the team doesn’t pony up to re-sign Michael Pittman Jr. this offseason. Odunze has many of the features of a classic Ballard pick: well-built (6-3, 215 pounds), crafty and able to win contested catches to make life easier for his quarterback.

14. Las Vegas Raiders – Nate Wiggins, CB, Clemson

Whatever regime takes over for Josh McDaniels and Dave Ziegler could address almost any defensive position here and likely end up with a substantial upgrade. Cornerback, however, looks like a particular sore spot, and the 6-2, 185-pound Wiggins has the sticky coverage skills to elevate the secondary.

15. Cardinals (from Houston Texans) – Laiatu Latu, DE, UCLA

While the payoff for moving back in a deal with the Texans likely won’t be the top-five pick many expected, this is still a fine opportunity for Arizona to address its woefully undermanned defense. Latu has consistently mowed down all opponents in the last year and a half, with his 11 sacks in 2023 ranking second among all Power Five players. Though he will face extensive scrutiny after having to medically retire at Washington due to a neck injury, the 6-5, 265-pounder provides the kind of consistent force off the edge that Jonathan Gannon would no doubt covet.

16. New York Jets – Amarius Mims, OT, Georgia

Both Duane Brown and Mekhi Becton are poised to be free agents, and running things back with the current protection plan doesn’t seem viable for a team that remains all in with Aaron Rodgers in 2024. Mims is far from an established entity after an ankle surgery interrupted his first year as a full-time starter, but there’s no denying the upper-echelon potential of the 6-7, 330-pound offensive tackle.

17. Los Angeles Chargers – Cooper DeJean, CB, Iowa

No team has been scorched by the pass quite so consistently and badly as the Bolts, who allowed a league-worst 7.8 yards per attempt before getting a reprieve Monday night against the Zach Wilson-led Jets. DeJean’s excellent versatility and athleticism figure to make him a natural fit for Brandon Staley’s scheme.

18. Buffalo Bills – Jer’Zhan Newton, DT, Illinois

The hole in the middle of Buffalo’s defense has been glaring after the loss of defensive tackle DaQuan Jones, who turns 32 in December and will be a free agent as he comes off a season-ending torn pectoral muscle. When it comes to creating havoc from the interior, few college defenders can match the résumé of Newton, who has a proven track record of not only throwing off offenses but also finishing plays in the backfield.

19. New Orleans Saints – Patrick Paul, OT, Houston

After rolling the dice on a project left tackle in 2022 first-round pick Trevor Penning, the Saints might be inclined to look for a safer alternative, especially as they stubbornly focus on competing in the short term. That could point them toward Paul, who might lack high-end measurables for the position but is nevertheless one of this class’ most stable pass protectors.

20. Minnesota Vikings – J.T. Tuimoloau, DE, Ohio State

Put the QB question aside for now, as Minnesota shouldn’t stretch for an option in a class that as of now lacks a clear No. 3 passer. With Danielle Hunter, Marcus Davenport and D.J. Wonnum all on expiring deals, it’s likely that the cap-conscious Vikings will be in store for some type of shift in its edge rusher rotation. Even though he’s still raw and inconsistent, Tuimoloau fits the bill of the disruptive defender that GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah gravitates toward, and his presence would help allow Brian Flores to maintain the level of aggression that has helped revitalize the defense

21. Dallas Cowboys – Jordan Morgan, OT, Arizona

With Tyron Smith missing significant time for the fourth consecutive season, the future of Dallas’ offensive line remains an uncertainty. Morgan is a refined blocker who would afford the Cowboys ample flexibility with Tyler Smith, who is playing at a Pro Bowl level after the team decided to keep him at left guard.

22. Pittsburgh Steelers – Kalen King, CB, Penn State

Time for a Nittany Lions reunion in the secondary? One year after taking Joey Porter Jr. with the first pick of the second round, Pittsburgh can continue a vital reconfiguration on the back end by bringing on King, a hypercompetitive cornerback who can handle the rigors of man coverage.

23. Texans (from Cleveland Browns) – Emeka Egbuka, WR, Ohio State

Houston’s offense has already surpassed expectations, with Nico Collins and rookie Tank Dell providing major assists in C.J. Stroud’s impressive adaptation to the pros. Still, hard to imagine a better source of comfort for the standout quarterback than his former Buckeyes teammate Egbuka, a savvy route-runner who should consistently move the chains even if he doesn’t generate many explosive plays.

24. Cincinnati Bengals – Malik Nabers, WR, LSU

It’s too early to game out how Cincinnati will deal with Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd potentially hitting the open market in March. There’s no question, however, that it would be fun to see a full LSU passing attack with the electric Nabers, who leads the Football Bowl Subdivision with 1,152 receiving yards, joining former Tigers Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase.

25. Seattle Seahawks – Troy Fautanu, G, Washington

Fautanu has been a steady left tackle for the Huskies, but his 6-4, 317-pound build likely means he’s ticketed for a move inside at the next level. Looking to the local product would make plenty of sense for the Seahawks, whose two starting guards are both on the final year of their contracts.

26. San Francisco 49ers – Denzel Burke, CB, Ohio State

A three-game skid has underscored the vulnerability of San Francisco’s secondary. At 6-1 and 190 pounds with readily evident playmaking ability, Burke is an ascendant talent as he continues to refine his game.

27. Miami Dolphins – Tyler Guyton, OT, Oklahoma

Miami’s offensive front has admirably scraped its way along this season despite several injury setbacks. Still, there’s little question that the group could stand for a personnel upgrade, especially with Austin Jackson’s future unclear after the team turned down his fifth-year option. A one-time H-back at TCU, the 6-7, 328-pound Guyton offers a tantalizing package of physical traits for an NFL coaching staff to mold.

28. Jacksonville Jaguars – Bralen Trice, DE, Washington

Jacksonville ranks 30th in sacks with 16, and the Jaguars were one of several teams that inquired before the NFL trade deadline about Panthers edge rusher Brian Burns before being shut down, according to ESPN. If Josh Allen heads elsewhere after a career year, this position becomes a glaring issue for an aspiring contender. A wrecking ball at 6-4 and 273 pounds, Trice can consistently collapse pockets and create pressure even when he’s not finishing plays in the passing game.

29. Detroit Lions – Landon Jackson, DE, Arkansas

A midseason reality check served up in the Ravens’ dismantling of the Lions highlighted the urgency for Detroit to continue building out its defense. One of the top priorities should be finding a proper complementary edge rusher to put opposite Aidan Hutchinson. The 6-7, 281-pound Jackson would check off plenty of boxes for GM Brad Holmes and coach Dan Campbell, as he combines stout run-stuffing ability with a burgeoning pass-rush skill set after recording 3 ½ sacks against Alabama.

30. Baltimore Ravens – Leonard Taylor III, DT, Miami (Fla.)

A horde of key defenders for Baltimore are set to hit free agency after this season, and cap concerns will likely prompt some shifts to more unproven players. GM Eric DeCosta likely doesn’t need to be swayed to invest in his defensive front, and Taylor’s pass-rushing prowess from the interior would help defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald maintain a deep and diverse group of disruptors.

31. Kansas City Chiefs – Troy Franklin, WR, Oregon

Time to cut the cuteness in Kansas City, as a receiving corps that was cobbled together has revealed itself to be inadequate for Patrick Mahomes. The 6-3, 187-pound Franklin would alter the complexion of the offense with his deep speed and knack for winning jump balls, though he’ll have to fill out his frame to hold up against NFL defensive backs.

32. Philadelphia Eagles – Kamari Lassiter, CB, Georgia

It’s only sort of a joke to have Howie Roseman land another Georgia defender. Both Darius Slay and James Bradberry are on the wrong side of 30, and Lassiter is a well-rounded option who looks ready to contribute right away.

This post appeared first on USA TODAY

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