2024 NFL Mock Draft and Best Bets

JJ McCarthy is not the top name on the marquee to promote the NFL draft, yet he’s one of four quarterbacks who are locks to be picked in the first round on April 25. Much about McCarthy is a mystery, which makes him a key to mock drafts and an important figure in two of the most popular prop bets in the draft.

Finding the right spot and team for McCarthy is the biggest challenge of this mock draft, which is not something I’m doing for entertainment purposes only. For those who bet on the draft, working through the exercise of a mock first round has more of a purpose. Analyzing team needs and predicting how the puzzle pieces might fit help form a plan of attack for proposition wagers.


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If you believe the hype about McCarthy’s rising draft stock, you could envision the former Michigan quarterback going as high as No. 3 overall to the New England Patriots. Multiple teams are attracted to McCarthy, according to media reports and rumors, and his name is likely to be called no later than the sixth pick — if you believe the hype.

“I don’t know if that’s real,” said VSiN host Michael Lombardi, a former NFL executive. “Would I pick JJ McCarthy with the third pick in the draft? No. But I wouldn’t have picked Anthony Richardson (fourth) last year.”

Three quarterbacks went in the top four last year, when Carolina used the top pick on Bryce Young before Houston went with CJ Stroud at No. 2 and Indianapolis surprisingly took Richardson No. 4. The pre-draft buzz and sharp money had the Colts targeting another quarterback, Will Levis, who slipped all the way to Tennessee with the second pick of the second round.

McCarthy will not fall that far. He is believed to be coveted by at least two teams (Minnesota at No. 11 and Denver at No. 12) that could attempt to trade up. There is also buzz about the Patriots, who pick third, and the New York Giants at No. 6. Of course, New England enjoyed some success with a quarterback who was considered a game manager at Michigan, but Tom Brady was a sixth-round pick in 2000 and not a top-six pick.

In late March, Red Rock sportsbook director Chuck Esposito posted a prop on McCarthy’s draft position, but he took the prop down after a week because Under 6.5 drew only one-sided action.

“All the bets were coming in one direction,” Esposito said. “McCarthy seems like a perfect quarterback for the Patriots. I’m on the fence and not sure if he’s going in the top six or not.”

When a draft is loaded with quarterback prospects, the betting action surges. The hottest debate is about the number of quarterbacks drafted in the first round. Esposito opened the prop at 4.5 Under -160 and soon flipped the favorite to Over -240. Circa Sports currently offers the prop at 4.5 Over -175. Aside from McCarthy, the other first-round locks are USC’s Caleb Williams, LSU’s Jayden Daniels and North Carolina’s Drake Maye, with all four expected to go in the top 10.

Washington’s Michael Penix Jr. and Oregon’s Bo Nix are potential first-rounders, though it would not be too surprising if both slip to the second round. ESPN analyst Mike Tannenbaum, a former NFL executive, and Joel Klatt of Fox Sports each have predicted six quarterbacks will be picked in the first round.

“If Penix is still there in the late 20s, somebody is going to be tempted to trade into the first round to get him,” Lombardi said.

According to a source close to the Raiders, Las Vegas coach Antonio Pierce is desperately lobbying to trade up for Daniels in the No. 2 spot. Pierce knows he must win soon to keep his job and needs a dynamic quarterback. The price to move up from No. 13 would be steep, and new Raiders general manager Tom Telesco is resisting.

I hate to create chaos in my mock drafts by forecasting trades, so I’m sticking with Daniels to the Washington Commanders in the second spot.

In 2022, NFLmockdraftdatabase.com tracked and scored 1,375 mock drafts published by media outlets, and my mock for VSIN.com ranked No. 3 with 25.7% accuracy based on players picked in correct spots and by specific teams. I hit on a majority of the top 10 picks and a few others in the first round. Last year, my mock was not as accurate, and it scored outside the top 100.

This is my first and only mock draft for 2024, followed by my best bets for the props posted at Circa Sports and DraftKings:

Matt Youmans’ NFL Mock Draft 1.0

1. Bears: Caleb Williams, QB, USC
Chicago general manager Ryan Poles gets credit for swindling Carolina in last year’s deal for the top pick and is rolling with Williams, who also would have been No. 1 overall a year ago. Williams shows flashes of Patrick Mahomes’ flair in his playmaking ability, and he definitely will be a good pro and probably a Pro Bowler at some point. Still, his play was subpar in a few games last season, including USC’s loss at Notre Dame, and he’s 6-foot-1 and three inches shorter than Daniels, who’s my top-rated quarterback. I would trade down to No. 2 and take Daniels, but a mock is meant to predict what the teams will do and not what I would do.

2. Commanders: Jayden Daniels, QB, LSU
Daniels started his career at Arizona State, where Antonio Pierce was an assistant coach. He became a polished product after spending two years with LSU coach Brian Kelly. Daniels totaled 78 touchdowns (57 passing, 21 rushing) and only seven interceptions for the Tigers. Kliff Kingsbury, Washington’s new offensive coordinator, has reportedly targeted Daniels as the best quarterback in this draft. I agree with Kingsbury. It’s unlikely this pick gets traded.

3. Patriots: Drake Maye, QB, North Carolina
New England could trade down — Minnesota is one team looking to move into the top five — or go with Daniels or JJ McCarthy here. The Patriots have numerous needs on offense, so this is not an ideal situation for a rookie quarterback, but the best bet is they opt to go with Maye, who’s 6-4 and 225 pounds. He’s bigger and sturdier than Williams and Daniels and looks the part of a franchise quarterback. Maye played poorly late last season, when the Tar Heels lost four of their final six games, so that’s a concern.

4. Cardinals: Marvin Harrison Jr., WR, Ohio State
At 6-3 and 210 pounds, Harrison has the size, skills and pedigree to immediately step in as Arizona’s No. 1 wideout. The Cardinals are sticking with quarterback Kyler Murray, who needs weapons, so this pick should be obvious.

5. Chargers: Joe Alt, OT, Notre Dame
Jim Harbaugh made Michigan into a powerhouse by building a dominant offensive line, so expect the Chargers’ new coach to stick to his formula. Yes, the Chargers want wide receivers, but they can address that need in the second round. Alt (6-9, 320 pounds) started 33 games in college and allowed a total of two sacks in his last two seasons for the Fighting Irish. Alt is such a stud that I would not trade this pick, though Harbaugh could be tempted if the Vikings call to trade up to get McCarthy.

6. Giants: Rome Odunze, WR, Washington
This pick could be McCarthy, if he’s still on the board, or the LSU speed receiver, who I have going next. The Vikings’ desperation to trade into the top five makes all of this tricky. It does not make a lot of sense for the Giants to ditch Daniel Jones, who got a monster contract last year, and move on to McCarthy, who’s not necessarily an upgrade. New York needs playmakers, and the 6-3 Odunze is a good fit for the offense.

7. Titans: Malik Nabers, WR, LSU
If Alt is available, Tennessee should take him to anchor its offensive line. It’s more likely Alt is unavailable and the Titans take either Odunze or Nabers, who’s faster than Odunze but three inches shorter and not as physical. Again, if the Vikings have not yet traded up and McCarthy is still on the board, watch for a possible trade in this spot.

8. Falcons: Dallas Turner, Edge, Alabama
Atlanta has addressed its offense in recent drafts and added veteran quarterback Kirk Cousins, so this pick must be defense. The Falcons’ primary need is a pass rusher, and Turner, who led the SEC with 11 sacks, is the top edge rusher in the class. Not to sound like a broken record, but this pick could be up for sale, and the Vikings don’t want to get jumped over by the Broncos in the chase for a quarterback, specifically McCarthy.

9. Bears: Byron Murphy, DT, Texas
After acquiring Keenan Allen in a mid-March trade with the Chargers, Chicago does not need a wide receiver at this stage of the draft. This pick should be a defensive or offensive lineman. I have been torn between Murphy, who is drawing comparisons to Aaron Donald, and Penn State offensive tackle Olumuyiwa Fashanu. Bears coach Matt Eberflus can probably talk Poles into going with the 300-pound run-stopper on the defensive front.

10. Jets: Taliese Fuaga, OT, Oregon State
Many mock drafters see the Jets going for Georgia tight end Brock Bowers, who’s obviously tempting, but building the offensive line and protecting quarterback Aaron Rodgers should be a higher priority. Fuaga (6-6, 325 pounds) can play tackle and guard. It would not be surprising if Jets general manager Joe Douglas trades down from this spot.

11. Vikings: JJ McCarthy, QB, Michigan
Minnesota, which also has the 23rd pick, will be attempting to trade up for Maye or McCarthy, who’s a fit for coach Kevin O’Connell’s offense. While he might not excite everyone, McCarthy would be a solid pick in this spot. It’s a reach to take him in the top five. McCarthy went 27-1 as the Wolverines’ starting quarterback, passed for 44 touchdowns with nine interceptions the past two seasons, has running ability and displays strong leadership.

12. Broncos: Brock Bowers, TE, Georgia
It’s obvious Denver coach Sean Payton needs a quarterback, but he might not have what it requires to trade up and jump the Vikings. Payton could find creative ways to use Bowers in his offense, so he takes the best player available here. The Broncos can get their quarterback — most likely Oregon’s Bo Nix — in the late first round or early second.

13. Raiders: Terrion Arnold, CB, Alabama
It’s unrealistic to expect the Raiders to trade up for Daniels. It’s more realistic that they get their quarterback — most likely Washington’s Michael Penix — later in this round or in the second round. Look for Las Vegas to go offensive line or cornerback. Arnold is arguably the draft’s top corner and is reported to be favored by coach Antonio Pierce.

14. Saints: Olumuyiwa Fashanu, OT, Penn State
A few attractive offensive tackle options will be available to the Saints in this spot. If he’s not picked by the Jets or Raiders and is still on the board, Fashanu (6-6, 315 pounds) is the best fit. He allowed no sacks in 365 pass-blocking snaps last season for the Nittany Lions. 

15. Colts: Quinyon Mitchell, CB, Toledo
If Arnold is not the top corner in the class, it’s Mitchell, who ran a 4.33-second 40-yard dash at the combine. The Colts are full of surprises and could go several ways with this pick, but Mitchell makes the most sense.

16. Seahawks: Troy Fautanu, OT, Washington
17. Jaguars: Brian Thomas Jr., WR, LSU
18. Bengals: JC Latham, OT, Alabama
19. Rams: Laiatu Latu, Edge, UCLA
20. Steelers: Graham Barton, C, Duke
21. Dolphins: Chop Robinson, Edge, Penn State
22. Eagles: Cooper DeJean, CB, Iowa
23. Vikings: Darius Robinson, Edge, Missouri
24. Cowboys: Jackson Powers-Johnson, C, Oregon
25. Packers: Amarius Mims, OT, Georgia
26. Buccaneers: Jared Verse, DE, Florida State
27. Cardinals: Tyler Guyton, OT, Oklahoma
28. Bills: Adonai Mitchell, WR, Texas
29. Raiders (trade from Lions): Michael Penix Jr., QB, Washington
30. Ravens: Kool-Aid McKinstry, CB, Alabama
31. 49ers: Ladd McConkey, WR, Georgia
32. Chiefs: Xavier Worthy, WR, Texas

Best Bets

(Lines from Circa Sports and DraftKings)

First player drafted: Jayden Daniels (-320) over Drake Maye
Circa opened this price at -290, and it’s going higher for good reason. Daniels is arguably the best quarterback in this draft, and his production over the past two seasons was far more impressive than Maye’s body of work. ESPN’s Adam Schefter has reported the Commanders are targeting Daniels with the No. 2 pick, and Schefter has reliable sources in Washington.

Quarterbacks drafted in the first round: Over 4.5 (-170)
This is the square play and only a half-unit wager that is sure to be a sweat. It’s not going to be surprising if Bo Nix and Michael Penix Jr. each slip to the second round. But the Broncos (Nix) and Raiders (Penix) are desperate for a quarterback and could trade into the end of the first round. This feels a lot like 2018, when the Ravens traded up for the 32nd pick of the first round to get Lamar Jackson and put the QB prop Over 4.5.

Team to draft JJ McCarthy: Vikings (+125)
The former Michigan quarterback could go as high as No. 3 or as low as No. 12. Minnesota wants to trade up for either Maye or McCarthy. I’ll take McCarthy at plus-money instead of  playing his draft position Under 5.5 (-150), which is a risky bet on a trade. The Patriots and Giants are the other likely options for McCarthy.

No. 5 overall pick: Joe Alt (+475)
The trade offers will be coming, but if Chargers coach Jim Harbaugh stays put at No. 5, how can he turn down Alt? Harbaugh’s core belief is building a dominant offensive line and power running attack. The 6-9, 320-pound Alt, a unanimous pick as the top lineman in the draft, allowed a total of two sacks in his last two seasons at Notre Dame.

Brock Bowers draft position Over 11.5 (-155)
In my mock, Bowers is going to the Broncos at No. 12 in a best-player-available scenario. The only fit for Bowers in the top 10 would be the Jets, who need to go offensive line instead, and the betting market has moved away from Bowers to the Jets.

Quinyon Mitchell draft position Over 13.5 (-125)
Some mock drafters are slotting the Toledo cornerback to the Raiders at No. 13. Las Vegas coach Antonio Pierce prefers another corner, Terrion Arnold from Alabama. Circa has the best price on this prop, with DraftKings much higher at -205. It’s doubtful Arnold will go before the 15th pick.

Jared Verse draft position Over 15.5 (-175)
While the Florida State edge rusher is a strong prospect, most of the teams in the hunt for a pass rusher are picking after the 15th spot. Circa opened this number at 14.5 and has moved to 16.5. DraftKings has the best number available.

Position of Jets’ first draft pick: Offensive lineman (+120)
In a draft deep with outstanding offensive linemen, the Jets’ top priority needs to be building the line and protecting quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

Position of Bears’ second draft pick: Offensive lineman (+900)
While many fans and media pundits are calling for a wide receiver to help Caleb Williams, it’s important to remember the Bears traded with the Chargers for Keenan Allen in March. Plenty of wideouts will be there in the second and third rounds. Chicago could go defensive line with its second pick at No. 9, but there’s value in taking 9/1 odds on an offensive lineman.

Will Jaguars’ first pick be an offensive player? Yes (+185)
Jacksonville needs a cornerback, which is the favored position on the prop market. The Jaguars also need to address offensive tackle and wide receiver, and those two positions will have the best players available at the 17th pick.