NFL First Round Mock Draft 1.0 – Bears Select Caleb Williams

Now that Justin Fields has been traded and with a contingent of Bears decision-makers at the USC Pro Day, it’s time for our first 2024 mock draft. By the way, I do not project any trades here, as is my MO for first mocks historically. That said, I believe the Bears are equally apt to trade up as down.

The return that the Cardinals got last year to move down to the No. 12 pick — which included the No. 33 overall pick in the 2023 draft’s second round as well as first-round and third-round selections in the 2024 draft, was seen as a major win for first-year Arizona general manager Monti Ossenfort. The Texans were able to pair C.J. Stroud with Will Anderson Jr., however, and went to the playoffs a year after finishing with the second-worst record in the league. Chicago has the assets to move up from No. 9 if it wants to.

There will be at least 2-3 first round trades, but, as I said, we’re not speculating on any player/pick movement in this mock.

  1. BearsQB Caleb Williams (USC): Sure, the Bears could trade down but they won’t. Ryan Poles has just four picks, but this is the weakest Day 3 class in a decade. Besides, Chicago has nine picks in next year’s draft, including a first and two seconds. The Bears stay put and take Williams, the consensus favorite. It’s also going to be a lot of fun watching the young man complete passes to weapons that include D.J. Moore, Keenan Allen, Cole Kmet, and D’Andre Swift.
  2. CommandersQB Drake Maye (North Carolina): After unsuccessfully trying to trade up, Washington selects Maye, who some say could be the best QB in this draft. The Commanders could move out of the second spot if someone offers them the Godfather haul the Bears were seeking, but new ownership wants to get “their guy” at quarterback to ignite a passionate fanbase.
  3. PatriotsQB Jayden Daniels (LSU): If the top two selections transpire as expected, then the 2023 Heisman Trophy winner will be the top-ranked quarterback remaining on the board. The Patriots have to work to do this offseason, and it must begin by drafting a talented quarterback worth building around. Daniels is a dual-threat quarterback who has the talent to step in and start immediately.
  4. CardinalsWR Marvin Harrison Jr. (Ohio State): If there is one generational player in this draft, it’s MHJ. In any other draft, he’d go number one, but three quarterback-needy teams are on the clock before Arizona. The Cardinals also get a franchise-altering playmaker to pair with Kyler Murray.
  5. ChargersWR Rome Odunze (Washington): Bears fans will be saddened by this pick and rightfully so. Odunze is usually ranked third of the top three wide receivers, but I believe his height and downfield speed give him an edge over Nabers. He also runs pristine routes and has a high football IQ. Justin Herbert is going to love throwing to this kid.
  6. GiantsQB J.J. McCarthy (Michigan): I think the Vikings will try to trade up to get McCarthy, but the Chargers won’t slide back unless they believe Nabers will be available at No. 11. If Minnesota is willing to send Nos. 11 and 23 to Los Angeles then they’ll get McCarthy. No player has more helium than McCarthy right now and he still has a chance to be a top-three pick. I believe the Giants have targeted McCarthy all along.
  7. TitansOT Joe Alt (Notre Dame): If Alt slides to number nine he’ll be a Bear, but he will not. The Titans need to protect Will Levis, so this pick makes as much sense as any of the top three. Alt is an impressive athlete for his size and moves like a tight end, but he’s a mauler as a blocker.
  8. FalconsCB Quinyon Mitchell (Toledo): Every draft has a “reach pick” and this will be perceived as such, but it’s a smart selection. Mitchell is an explosive defensive back and a ballhawk to boot. Falcons fans will bemoan passing on Turner, Bowers, and possibly Nabers, but this is a quality pick.
  9. BearsEDGE Dallas Turner (Alabama): The Bears will have a plethora of options here. Turner, Bowers, and Nabers will all be available and I’d bet Poles would also consider trading down, BUT WE’RE NOT DOING TRADES IN THIS MOCK. With that in mind, Turner fills Chicago’s second-biggest need, so he’s the pick. Adding a pro-ready EDGE will put the Bears’ defense among the NFL’s elite.
  10. JetsTE Brock Bowers (Georgia): Bowers reminds folks of George Kittle and Sam LaPorta and will be the No. 1 target of QB Aaron Rodgers. That combination will be scary. Rodgers once made Robert Tonyan look like an elite tight end, so imagine what he’ll do with Bowers.
  11. VikingsCB Terrion Arnold (Alabama): Arnold is big, fast, physical, and explosive, so if Minnesota cannot trade up to grab a quarterback they’ll pick the 6-0, 195-lb. corner. Arnold is great in man or zone coverage and will immediately improve the Vikings’ defense.
  12. BroncosWR Malik Nabers (LSU): No team needs a quarterback more than Denver but they don’t have the assets to move up. Trading down to draft Penix Jr. is a better option, but for this mock, the Broncos select the best available player to fill a need, and that’s Nabers. He’s the complete package, but he’s also a little on the small side, which means this will be a great value pick or a bit of a bust if Nabers cannot put up elite numbers. Who will throw the ball to him? Jarrett Stidham or Ben DiNucci. Yikes. Maybe Sean Payton can talk Drew Brees out of retirement.
  13. RaidersOT Olumiyiwa Fashanu (Penn State): Las Vegas also needs a quarterback and they do have the assets to move up to the top three. I suspect they will effort to do just that. In the meantime, Fashanu is the pick to protect one of Aidan O’Connell, Gardner Minshew, or Anthony Brown. I’m still shocked the Raiders didn’t pursue Fields a little harder.
  14. SaintsOT JC Latham (Alabama): The Saints have a ton of draft ammo and will engage in plenty of trade talks. Latham is a mauling lineman who will protect Derek Carr. He also checks all the boxes to be a dominating NFL tackle.
  15. ColtsOT Taliese Fuaga (Oregon State): We have a run on offensive linemen! Maybe I’m just getting lazy. Who knows? This offensive line class is deep and will offer teams in the middle of the draft a chance to create said run. Fuaga is a punishing blocker, so the Colts get a good one.
  16. SeahawksEDGE Jared Verse (Florida State): Some mocks have Verse going to the Bears at No. 9. He’s not a top-10 pick, but I’m not Poles, either. Verse is a reliable and disruptive pass rusher, but is he a three-down player? I don’t think he is, though he’s a good pick for Seattle, who needs an impact pass rusher.
  17. JaguarsCB Cooper DeJean (Iowa): Is DeJean a reach at No. 17? Possibly, but he’s a tenacious perimeter defender who’s underrated among his peers. He’s also a quick-twitch ballhawk with the size and length to play safety. His versatility alone makes him a standout pick for Jacksonville and he fills a pressing need. The Jags need a wide receiver, too, but this draft is deep with pass catchers, so they can address that position later.
  18. BengalsOT Troy Fautanu (Washington): Did I mention this is a tackle-heavy draft? As many as 10 offensive linemen could go in the first round. Unfortunately, the Bears may have to punt on linemen in the draft once again. Like the Bears, the Bengals constantly need quality offensive linemen. Fautanu is quick, agile, and athletic, and gives Joe Burrow a tackle he can depend on. He also gets to be the understudy to Trent Brown and Orlando Brown Jr.
  19. RamsDT Byron Murphy II (Texas): Murphy is the three-technique head coach Matt Eberflus has dreamed of, but the Bears need someone on the edge a little more. If he does fall this far, Murphy instantly becomes the best value pick in the draft. He’ll never replace Aaron Donald – nobody can – but Murphy is a good one, too.
  20. SteelersOT Amarius Mims (Georgia): Another pick, another tackle. Yawn. The Steelers have a short-term answer at quarterback in Fields and Russell Wilson. Mims is the guy they need to protect both passers.
  21. DolphinsC/IOL Jackson Powers-Johnson (Oregon): He’s the best center in the draft, he fills a void, and he’ll make Tua Tagovailoa a very happy QB on draft day.
  22. EaglesWR Brian Thomas Jr. (LSU): The best-kept secret of this draft class is quickly gaining notoriety as a game-changer. The Eagles have much bigger needs, but won’t pass on Thomas Jr. He’ll be the third option and another vertical threat in Philadelphia’s passing game behind A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith. That will delight QB Jalen Hurts.
  23. VikingsQB Michael Penix Jr. (Washington): The Vikings get their quarterback, though it’s a substantial reach. Bo Nix is an option here, too. Somebody has to get the ball to Justin Jefferson now that Kirk Cousins is in Atlanta. Sam Darnold is simply not that guy.
  24. CowboysOT Graham Barton (Duke): The Cowboys will take an offensive tackle because they need one. They’ll be on the outside looking in if they hope to fill the position in later rounds. Barton is a good fit for Dallas and a day-one starter with All-Pro potential.
  25. PackersCB Kool-Aid McKinstry (Alabama): The Packers love Alabama products like Wisconsinites love beer and cheese. Despite the original name, McKinstry is all business on the football field. He’s quick enough to cover top receivers and is a solid fit for Green Bay’s defensive scheme. Mel Kiper Jr. will attach the word “value” to McKinstry at least five times on draft day.
  26. BuccaneersCB Nate Wiggins (Clemson): Tampa Bay has one draft priority, and that’s finding a stud defensive prospect. Priority met. Wiggins is as NFL-ready as any player in this draft class.
  27. CardinalsDT Jer’Zhan Newton (Illinois): The Cardinals get a steal here. Newton is a relentless interior defender with annual All-Pro potential.
  28. BillsWR Adonai Mitchell (Texas): Buffalo has a glaring need at WR3, and Mitchell will be a perfect complement to Josh Allen. Mitchell will join Stefon Diggs and Curtis Samuel in the Bills’ receiver room and is an immediate upgrade over Khalil Shakir.
  29. LionsEDGE Chop Robinson (Penn State): Putting Robinson opposite Aidan Hutchinson is unfair to the rest of the league. The Lions were a competent edge away from beating the 49ers in the NFL Championship game, and Robinson fills that need. Good front offices find great players this late in the draft. Don’t look now, but the NFC North is close to becoming a dominant division. That said, they may have to pivot to cornerback. Cameron Sutton is wanted in Florida on a domestic violence charge.
  30. RavensOT Tyler Guyton (Oklahoma): Guyton gives Baltimore a plug-and-play tackle with a high upside.
  31. 49ersOT Jordan Morgan (Arizona): The physically gifted tackle is a perfect fit for Brock Purdy in San Francisco’s offense.
  32. ChiefsWR Troy Franklin (Oregon): It’s a reach pick according to analysts, but Patrick Mahomes is going to make this kid a star. He won’t be considered a reach once he’s collecting hardware with the rest of his teammates. Franklin is tall and fast and has tremendous upper body strength, and Mahomes won’t often miss a target that big and quick.
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