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Just how wild can the 2024 NFL Draft get?

Jayden Daniels throwing the ball, in a photo from when he played for LSU Quarterback draft prospect Jayden Daniels is currently project to go at the No. 2 or No. 3 pick in the upcoming NFL draft. Quarterback Drake Maye will likely get drafted immediately after Daniels. Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

As the 2024 NFL draft looms ever-nearer, analysts across the league are scrambling to build the perfect mock draft. And, as it stands, there isn’t much consensus on what the “perfect mock draft” actually looks like — excluding the clear No. 1 overall pick: quarterback Caleb Williams. 

The next four picks have stirred up the most pre-draft disagreements, as this year’s draft class is home to a plethora of top-level, franchising-defining talent. Funnily enough, though, a lot of this top-level talent — players that most draft boards rank in the top five of available players — are expected to fall out of the top five draft picks. This is due, in part, to a heightened number of teams in need of a franchise quarterback. 

The No. 1 pick lock, USC’s Caleb Williams, is expected to go to the Bears. At the No. 2 pick stands the Washington Commanders, and the New England Patriots are sitting just behind them at the No. 3 pick. Both teams are in desperate need of a franchise quarterback and are expected to draft one with their early first-round pick. 

The next two top-ranked quarterbacks available this year are North Carolina’s Drake Maye, ranked by Pro Football Focus as the third best available player in this year’s draft, and LSU’s Jayden Daniels, ranked by PFF as the 21st best available player in this year’s draft. Despite only one of these quarterbacks being ranked in the top 10 of available players, the quarterback needy Commanders and Patriots are expected to take these two players in most mock drafts. After all, the NFL draft is about filling needs (like the need for a franchise quarterback) first and building depth later. 

As it stands, there isn’t much consensus on which quarterback the Commanders will pick. However, there is a common belief that if they choose Maye at No. 2, the Patriots will take Daniels at No. 3. And if the Commanders take Daniels at No. 2, the Patriots will take Maye at No. 3. 

PFF and just about every other player-ranking system out there ranks wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. as the second-best available player in this year’s draft. The 6-foot-4 receiver is currently expected to go at the No. 4 pick, though, after the top three available quarterbacks — Williams, Maye and Daniels — are taken by the Bears, Commanders and Patriots. 

I’m here to present a more strategic scenario. Let’s say the Bears take Williams and the Commanders take Maye. Now, the Patriots are on the clock with Daniels and Harrison still on the board. The Patriots had, by far, the worst receiver room in the NFL in 2023. Demario Douglas, a 2023 sixth-round rookie receiver, led the room with just over 500 receiving yards. Beyond the quarterback position, the Patriots desperately need a new wide receiver. And what’s a franchise quarterback without a No. 1 receiver to throw to? 

I’m predicting that the Patriots will shake up the draft board and take Harrison with the No. 3 pick. With a wide receiver under their belt, the team only has one gaping hole to fill: the quarterback position. Reports recently surfaced saying that the Patriots’ de-facto general manager Eliot Wolf has “fallen in love” with Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy, the fourth ranked quarterback available in the 2024 NFL draft. 

After the Patriots take Harrsion Jr. at the No. 3 spot, leaving Daniels on the board, I’m predicting that the Minnesota Vikings will trade up to the No. 4 spot — by sending their No. 11, No. 23, a 2025 first-round and a 2025 second-round pick to the Arizona Cardinals — to snag Daniels and secure a franchise quarterback. 

Then, at the No. 5 pick, the Los Angeles Chargers will take wide receiver Malik Nabers. The New York Giants will likely  trade the No. 6 pick away, but they could settle for wide receiver Rome Odunze. At the No. 7 and No. 8 pick, the Tennessee Titans and Atlanta Falcons will take lineman Joe Alt and edge rusher Dallas Turner. 

The Patriots will then trade up to the No. 9 pick (currently held by the Chicago Bears). In order to get there, the Patriots will likely need to send at least two second-round picks, a third round pick and a 2025 first round pick to Chicago. At the No. 9 pick, the Patriots will take J.J. McCarthy. By doing so, the Patriots will walk away from the first round of the 2024 NFL draft with a developmental franchise quarterback and a generational wide receiver, filling two positions of dire need. 

While predictions are predictions and the true outcome of the 2024 NFL draft is anyone’s guess, this strategy presents a uniquely fruitful situation for New England that might just shake things up later this April. 

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