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Lance Zierlein 2024 NFL mock draft 3.0: Giants trade up for QB Drake Maye; WR Ladd McConkey to Chiefs

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As we move closer to the actual NFL draft, I try to lock in my mock process by venturing into each general manager's headspace and hypothesizing what the thinking could be relative to draft capital, needs and the board in general. One of the best ways to get a feel for how a team might proceed is to scour its draft history for potential clues on which positions the organization prioritizes and the kinds of players that thrive in the building. Sometimes that information is right in front of your face. 

In my third simulation of the initial 32 picks, I decided to be more aggressive with the trade market, projecting four first-round deals. That still pales in comparison to the early action in the last two drafts, which saw six (2023) and nine (2022) trades on the event's opening day.

At this point, anything other than the Bears taking Williams with this selection would be a shock.

Kliff Kingsbury helped Johnny Manziel win the 2012 Heisman Trophy as offensive coordinator at Texas A&M and handpicked 2018 Heisman winner Kyler Murray as head coach of the Cardinals. I see the Commanders giving their new OC another dual-threat quarterback in Daniels, who just so happened to hoist the Heisman this past December.

PROJECTED TRADE WITH NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

In this three-spot move up the board, the Giants probably have to pay more than the standard trade chart would indicate, since the supply side of the quarterback position is dwindling but the demand remains high. Brian Daboll fostered Josh Allen's raw talents in Buffalo and could have a chance to do the same with this toolsy but inconsistent North Carolina product.

PROJECTED TRADE WITH ARIZONA CARDINALS

In the wake of the Giants vaulting into the No. 3 spot for a quarterback, the Vikings are still able to move up for a signal-caller of their own by giving the Cardinals Pick Nos. 11 and 23. McCarthy should pair nicely with Kevin O'Connell in Minnesota.

If the first four picks are not spent on quarterbacks, this could be a trade-out spot for the Chargers. But if the draft plays out like it did in this exercise, Los Angeles' decision could come down to an offensive tackle vs. one of the top three receivers. Harbaugh saw this Ohio State star up close during his Michigan tenure and trusts his eyes here.

PROJECTED TRADE WITH NEW YORK GIANTS

The Patriots are willing to pass on the quarterback position with the third pick in order to add more draft capital for their rebuild. After moving down, they grab the wideout with the highest ceiling in the draft.

Tennessee might have to choose between WR Rome Odunze and an offensive tackle here. While this deep receiver class promises plenty of enticing talent beyond Round 1, the ballyhooed OT crop will be picked over on the draft's opening night. Alt is one of the safest picks available.

Pass rusher or pass catcher? This could be the decision at hand for Atlanta, with Verse, Dallas Turner and Rome Odunze on the board. I'm planting a flag for Verse, who has the explosiveness and power that Raheem Morris is likely to covet.

Every time I put together a mock draft for the Bears, I keep coming away with Caleb Williams and an ultra-talented wideout. In this case, they sit tight with the ninth pick and land a terrific ball-winner with untapped potential as a route-runner.

The Jets addressed their offensive line issues in free agency and are currently set up to consider the best player available at about three different positions. Bowers is a good athlete with great run-after-catch value, which would allow Aaron Rodgers to get rid of the ball quickly.

PROJECTED TRADE WITH MINNESOTA VIKINGS

After trading down from No. 4 in exchange for a pair of first-round picks from the Vikings, the Cardinals are still able to grab immediate pass-rush help off the edge in the form of the freaky-athletic Turner.

The Broncos don't own a second-round pick, so they might have interest in moving back and adding more draft currency. If not, Mitchell has the athletic and cover traits to start early opposite Pro Bowl CB Pat Surtain II.

Latham is a powerhouse with solid technique, good size and the ability to start right away at right tackle. Al Davis would have loved him.

The Saints could be choosing between offensive tackle and pass rusher in this spot. 2022 first-rounder Trevor Penning hasn't proven he has a handle on the starting left tackle role, so the Saints opt for the Penn State pass protector.

Figuring out the Colts is a challenge in terms of which position they will address here. What we do know is that this Indy regime covets traits and trench warriors. Murphy's undersized, but the DT might be too talented for Chris Ballard to pass on.

PROJECTED TRADE WITH SEATTLE SEAHAWKS

After initially trading out of No. 4, Arizona uses the draft capital GM Monti Ossenfort has been collecting to move back up from No. 23 to this slot in order to grab LSU's other high-ceiling speedster. Thomas led the FBS with 17 touchdown receptions last season.

C.J. Stroud and the Texans put AFC South defenses on notice last season. Arnold is an in-your-face coverage talent with high football character and the competitive fire Jacksonville coaches will love.

The talented Fautanu offers the versatility to compete with free-agent addition Trent Brown for the right tackle spot or immediately start at left guard, if that is what the Bengals require of him. Either way, he upgrades Cincy's pass protection.

The Rams really need to find an edge rusher to complement 2023 third-round hit Byron Young. This pick could come down to Latu vs. Chop Robinson. If everything checks out medically for Latu, it will be hard to pass on his game-ready rush talent.

Pittsburgh adds a pass-protecting technician at right tackle, allowing 2023 first-rounder Broderick Jones to kick over to the left side and giving the Steelers a promising, young bookend set.

With Jaelan Phillips and Bradley Chubb both rehabbing from season-ending injuries, it won't surprise me if the Dolphins grab a veteran edge rusher in free agency and draft Robinson. Raw but ridiculously explosive, this Penn State product has immense upside with more tutelage.

Wiggins is quite slender at 173 pounds, but he possesses blazing speed and smooth footwork to mirror and match routes outside. Clearly, corner is a big area of need in Philadelphia.

PROJECTED TRADE; PICK ACQUIRED FROM MINNESOTA VIKINGS THROUGH ARIZONA CARDINALS

Fans often moan when their GM moves down, but Seahawks fans are used to it. John Schneider's trade from No. 16 back to 23 pays off, as Seattle still lands the best true interior lineman in this class.

The Cowboys choose to grab the talented but inexperienced tackle out of Oklahoma. Despite still being pretty new to the OT position, Guyton's plus athleticism should allow him to step in and compete for a starting job on Day 1.

Green Bay has a hole in the back end next to blockbuster free-agent addition Xavier McKinney, so why not add the best safety in this year's draft? Nubin has good size and is highly instinctive.

PROJECTED TRADE WITH TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

With Washington currently holding two picks in the second round and three in the third, it would make perfect sense for the Commanders to jump back into the first round and grab any offensive tackle who slips a little, bolstering the protection for the quarterback selected at No. 2 overall.

Finishing off an active first round, the Cardinals take a steady cornerback with good size and athleticism.

The departure of Gabe Davis stings less after the Bills add a faster vertical threat with a higher floor.

DeJean is a unique addition for the Lions, possessing the size, speed and toughness to compete for a starting spot as either a cornerback or a safety.

This is a tough spot to project, based upon how the board sits in this simulation. The Ravens could look to move out of Round 1, but if they stick and pick, Morgan offers starting-tackle potential on either side.

Robinson has the potential to play as an early-down base end before reducing inside on throwing downs, thus allowing the newly acquired Leonard Floyd to get after the quarterback as a designated pass rusher.

The Chiefs snag an inside/outside receiver who is one of the most polished, game-ready targets in this class.

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