7investing CEO Simon Erickson shares his mock draft outlook of what NFL fans should expect this April.
January 21, 2024
Most of you who are reading this know me as a stock picker. I am a professional investor, 7investing is a stock picking service, and I spend most of my time thinking about stock market opportunities.
But it’s perhaps less-known that I’m also a lifelong fan of NFL football (Go Saints!)
Like investing, football is a game of numbers and of strategy. Decisions matter, and the good teams are always thinking about their long-term future.
And aside from the Super Bowl, no part of the sport is more exciting for me than the annual NFL draft.
This is when teams get to pick the players that best-match their specific needs. Like buying a solid dividend-paying stock as the foundation of a portfolio or buying a high-flying growth stock that could have 10x upside, a good draft pick can vastly improve a needy team’s entire trajectory.
Sometimes teams get lucky and draft phenomenal players late in the draft. Many will remember that San Francisco picked its starting quarterback Brock Purdy as the very final player selected (#262 overall) in the seventh round of last year’s draft.
Yet that is the exception, not the rule. Most of the top talent will be chosen in the first 15 picks. A good pick here could bring a franchise to the Super Bowl. A terrible pick could disgruntle fans and serve as the brunt of bar jokes for eternity.
After spending a fair amount of time sizing up this year’s draft prospects, I’ve noticed this class is chock-full of talented quarterbacks, receivers, and offensive linemen. But it’s also rather light on defensive talent. I’ve put together my very own Mock Draft, and these are my expectations of the five 15 players who will be be chosen.
And just to make things even more fun and interesting, I’ll commit to make a $50 charitable donation for each selection where I’ve accurately matched the pick and team on Draft Day (if you have a charity you would like to recommend, please email it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org).
So without further ado, here are my expectations for the first 15 selections of the 2024 NFL Draft.
Caleb Williams – QB, USC
USC • JR • 6’1″ / 215 LBS
Let’s not overthink it. Williams is the right fit at the right position for the right team at the right time.
This goes beyond even him as a player. The Bears’ current QB Justin Fields is now three years into his rookie contract, but he’s struggled in his short tenure due to a shaky offensive line and a lack of decent receivers to throw to. So even though Fields has 4.4 speed and is physically gifted, he hasn’t had an opportunity to shine in this organization.
There have been signs of improvement during this past year. The Bears used a top-10 pick to bring in Darnell Wright at right tackle, as well as trading for DJ Moore in their epic deal with the Panthers.
Yet I also believe Fields has a ceiling on his upside. He doesn’t have great downfield vision and he tends to rely on his legs when the pocket collapses. He played 13 games in 2023 (missing four due to a thumb injury) and only threw for more than 250 yards in three of them.
Williams represents an opportunity for the Bears to hit the reset button and bring in a franchise QB they can build around. He has the arm strength and the patience in the pocket to create big plays. That’s exactly the spark the Bears need, as the catalyst they need for their dormant and unexciting offense.
Meanwhile, I expect the Bears will also trade Fields to the Falcons in the offseason. This will reunite him with Ryan Pace, who’s currently a Falcons executive and was the former Bears GM who originally drafted Fields in the first round back in 2021.
And one final caveat: the Bears must also choose a WR with the ninth pick of this year’s draft. Williams’ arm strength and talent will be wasted unless he has a more capable receiving core – outside of just DJ Moore – to throw the ball to.
Jayden Daniels – QB, LSU
LSU • SR • 6’4″ / 210 LBS
Whether Caleb will be the top pick is the first thing on everyone’s mind. But the second question will be who will go #2.
It’s generally accepted that both the Commanders and the Patriots need a new quarterback. So this pick comes down to whether Jayden Daniels or Drake Maye will be a better fit for the Commanders’ program.
In my opinion, Washington will be drawn to Daniels’ greater potential upside. Maye is the better pocket passer, but Jayden is a more gifted athlete with superior rushing ability. He wisely stuck around for his senior year at LSU, and this rewarded him with the Heisman Trophy and a generous improvement to his draft capital.
Washington also already has Sam Howell on their roster, who was Maye’s predecessor at UNC. I don’t think the Commanders are interested in having two Tar Heels on their QB depth chart. Maye is the safer pick, but I see them going with Jayden Daniels here.
Drake Maye – QB, UNC
NORTH CAROLINA • SOPH • 6’4″ / 230 LBS
Belichick is out and Jerod Mayo is in as the new Pats head coach. The team is pretty light on offensive firepower, which could limit Drake Maye’s rocket arm and upside potential.
But this pick is an investment in the Patriots’ future. They gradually begin to piece together an offense that could make them a contender again in the uber-competitive AFC East.
Joe Alt – OT, Notre Dame
NOTRE DAME • JR • 6’7″ / 322 LBS
Offensive linemen don’t get any better than this. In three years at Notre Dame, Alt allowed only four sacks and was second among linemen when it came to allowing the fewest QB pressures.
His dad was an All-Pro tackle who played twelve years for the Chiefs. He’s reportedly a mentor in the locker room to younger linemen.
On top of all of that, this dude is 6’8” and 320 pounds. And at only 21 years old, he could still bulk up even more.
The Cardinals will almost certainly be tempted to select Marvin Harrison Jr here – who is considered by many to be the best prospect of the entire draft. But with their former tackle DJ Humphries suffering a late-season ACL tear in January, the Cards should prioritize the stability of Alt over the upside potential of Harrison.
Marvin Harrison Jr – WR, OSU
OHIO STATE • JR • 6’4″ / 205 LBS
The Chargers are thrilled to get MHJ here at number five. Justin Herbert is a top-tier QB who needs elite receivers to throw to. Yet the Chargers are overpaying their current wideouts, with Keenan Allen chewing up $34 million in salary cap space and Mike Williams adding another $32 million. These two also aren’t getting any younger, at 31 and 29 years old (respectively).
LA had a rough year plagued with injuries and close-game losses. But this is still a high-performance offense. Harrison will fit in perfectly.
Malik Nabers – WR, LSU
LSU • JR • 6’0″ / 200 LBS
The Giants haven’t had a WR finish a season with more than 1,000 yards since Odell Beckham Jr in 2018. This leads them back again to LSU (which was OBJ’s alma mater as well) to find their franchise receiver in Malik Nabers.
Nabers has explosive speed and could be the missing piece that this offense needs to finally get things clicking. The Giants’ offensive line should be better than they are. Andrew Thomas and Evan Neal were both Top 10 draft picks, yet the team gave up a league-worst 85 sacks last year. Incredibly, that was 20 more than the second-worst team, the Commanders, who gave up 65.
Saquan Barkley is a rare talent at running back. And Danny Dimes needs a deep-ball threat that would spread out defensive secondaries.
I have hope for the Giants next year. They’re a better team than their record shows. Nabers might be the WR1 they’ve been looking for.
Olu Fashanu – OT, Penn State
PENN STATE • JR • 6’6″ / 317 LBS
This pick for the Titans must be an offensive tackle. Will Levis has potential, but he needs time to develop and to learn how to read NFL defenses.
That means he’ll need protection. The Titans moved their first-round pick last year, Peter Skoronski, from tackle to guard. That means there’s an open position at tackle, who will be tasked to keep AFC rushers like Houston’s Will Anderson and Jacksonville’s Josh Allen from repeatedly sending Levis to the turf.
Derrick Henry will almost certainly be leaving this offseason in free agency. The Titans capitalize on the opportunity to draft Olu to protect their new franchise QB and their next new wave of running backs.
Jared Verse – EDGE, Florida State
FLORIDA STATE • JR • 6’4″ / 260 LBS
I expect the Falcons will make a deal in the offseason to acquire Justin Fields from the Bears. They’ll likely send over their 2024 second-round pick to do so, and it will address their need of replacing Desmond Ridder at QB. The Falcons have a much better offensive line than the Bears and more receiving options. So Fields is also quite thrilled by this trade.
That gives Atlanta some wiggle room at #8, freeing them up to select the best player available. TruMedia reports that the Falcons had the lowest team pressure rate last season at only 9.9%. I think they’ll use the 8th pick to take the first defensive player off the board, which will be an EDGE rusher.
They have a few different options here. The choice is between Florida State’s Jared Verse, Alabama’s Dallas Turner, or UCLA’s Laiatu Latu. The Falcons will likely be turned off by Latu’s lingering neck injury, taking him out of the running.
Verse is being touted as the most powerful pass rusher of the group, who could immediately put some heat on the NFC South’s strong lineup of QBs.
Rome Odunze – WR, Washington
WASHINGTON • JR • 6’3″ / 215 LBS
Anyone who watched this year’s College Football Championship saw how talented Odunze is as a receiver. He’s big, he’s fast, and he comes down with the ball no matter where you throw it to him.
This is exactly the weapon the Bears want to arm their new QB Caleb Williams with. With DJ Moore lining up wide and Odunze in the slot, the Bears suddenly have some impressive offensive firepower.
JC Latham – OT, Alabama
ALABAMA • JR • 6’6″ / 360 LBS
The Jets will only have a window of a year or two to capitalize on Aaron Rodgers being able to lead them to a Super Bowl. So which player will offer the most immediate value to get them there?
The easy answer would be a WR. To complement Garrett Wilson as another downfield threat for Rodgers to throw 50 yard TDs to.
But with Harrison, Nabers, and Odunze all being picked in the top 9, I think it would be a stretch for the Jets to also draft a WR here. And while Georgia’s TE Brock Bowers is tempting, they need to address a glaring need on the offensive line.
Mekhi Becton was their only good lineman last year, and he’s now an unrestricted free agent as his four-year rookie contract is now over and done. There’s no way the Jets can afford (both literally and figuratively) to have Rodgers suffer another season-ending injury in 2024.
They should choose the 6’6”, 360 pound JC Latham to immediately fill the need at left tackle. Becton was similarly a massive human being, and the Jets need a big-bodied presence to protect ARod’s blind side.
Laiatu Latu – EDGE, UCLA
UCLA • SR • 6’5″ / 265 LBS
Like the Falcons, the Vikings also need a better pass rush. They take a chance on Latu, who was pretty much unstoppable at UCLA this past year.
Michael Penix – QB, Washington
WASHINGTON • SR • 6’3″ / 213 LBS
Penix has an incredible ability to throw accurately to anywhere on the field. He can shoot holes in a defense and find open receivers all across the gridiron.
That catches the attention of the Broncos. It’s time for them to move on from Russell Wilson, and their very capable receiving duo of Jerry Jeudy and Courtland Sutton are thirsty for a QB to feed them touchdowns. Penix can be that guy.
Kool-Aid McKinstry – CB, Alabama
ALABAMA • JR • 6’1″ / 195 LBS
The Raiders go with speed in the secondary here, fulfilling the need to cover the deep-ball threats posed by Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert in the air-it-out AFC West.
The Kool-Aid man is a physical, press corner who can challenge receivers at the line and then keep up with them down the field.
Brock Bowers – TE, Georgia
GEORGIA • JR • 6’4″ / 240 LBS
Michael Thomas is done for, and opposing defenses have quickly figured out that Chris Olave is the Saints last remaining receiving option. QB David Carr is now being referred to as the “check-down princess”, dropping the ball off to Alvin Kamara for easy 5-yard gains rather than looking further downfield.
Bowers could give my beloved Saints an additional option, helping to improve their third-down conversion rates and finally giving the team the solid TE they’ve been lacking for years.
Dallas Turner – EDGE, Alabama
ALABAMA • JR • 6’4″ / 252 LBS
The Colts are a decently well-rounded team, with their young-but-athletic QB Anthony Richardson, their talented-but-disgruntled RB Jonathan Taylor, and their I-can-catch-anything WR Michael Pittman. They have the right piece in place to make a run for a Wild Card playoff spot in 2024.
So I think that turns their attention to improving their defense in this draft. Turner is the best available player on the board, and they’re thrilled to grab him with the 15th pick.
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