NFL draft bold predictions: What surprises could be in store for first round?

NFL draft bold predictions: What surprises could be in store for first round?


The only guarantee in any given NFL draft is the element of surprise.

No matter how predictable the first round might seem in any year, something unexpected always manages to turn the first round on its head. That dynamic is sure to play out again Thursday in Detroit, as this year’s event looks primed for a few twists. But what exactly might shake up Day 1? We took our best guesses with less than 24 hours remaining until things start with the Chicago Bears being put on the clock for the No. 1 pick.

Here are five of our bold predictions for the 2024 NFL draft.

Eight trades on Day 1

This might sound unreasonable, especially to those who spent time painstakingly crafting their mock drafts according to the current order. But recall that there were six swaps in the first round just last year and nine in 2022. In the end, this might be a conservative estimation. It seems like a solid bet that there will be at least one deal centered on a quarterback and maybe a couple more, depending on who’s willing to budge. Beyond that, there’s a good equilibrium between win-now teams and those needing to take more of a long-term view toward their roster building. And there are several teams that could follow the Arizona Cardinals’ example last year of moving down only to jump back up again. – Michael Middlehurst-Schwartz

Laiatu Latu is first defensive player selected

Don’t be shocked if UCLA’s Laiatu Latu is the first defender off the board. Yes, the neck injury that led to his temporary medical retirement at the University of Washington four years ago is doubtless going to scare some teams away – though Latu said at this year’s scouting combine that he’d gotten a clean bill of healthy medically. But it only takes one team to go all in on a guy who’s almost certainly this draft’s most polished and productive pass rusher after the 2023 Pac-12’s final defensive player of the year collected 35 tackles for loss, 23½ sacks, five forced fumbles and a pair of interceptions over the past two seasons for the Bruins. Latu should be an immediate impact player as a rookie next season. – Nate Davis

The Bears will use their second first-round pick to give Caleb Williams a stud receiver

What better way for the Chicago Bears to welcome their new franchise quarterback to the fold than by drafting one of the top-rated receivers to provide him with a running mate/weapon to grow with? The Bears, with the ninth pick in the first round, wouldn’t be blamed if they played it safe and selected an edge rusher. But surely they have the capital to move up in the draft. And hey, after witnessing the manner in which the Houston Texans obtained an extra premium pick last year and snagged Will Anderson to complement C.J. Stroud, anything’s possible. In this case, the Bears – who already have receiving studs in DJ Moore and recently-acquired star Keenan Allen – could be tempted by the prospect of creating a three-headed monster for Caleb Williams by adding, say, LSU’s Malik Nabers or Washington’s Roman Odunze. And if the Cardinals are shopping the fourth pick, why not go for broke and try for Marvin Harrison? That’s Bears GM Ryan Poles on Line 1. – Jarrett Bell

Raiders draft Michael Penix Jr. as record-tying six QBs selected in first round

The Raiders are enamored with reigning Heisman Trophy winner Jayden Daniels. Raiders coach Antonio Pierce helped recruit Daniels to Arizona State before the quarterback transferred to LSU. But Daniels will be off the board when Las Vegas selects at No. 13. The Raiders will turn their attention to Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr., a not-so-bad consolation prize, as he’s arguably the best thrower of the football in the 2024 draft class. Penix will be among six quarterbacks taken in the first round of this year’s draft, joining Caleb Williams, Daniels, Drake Maye, J.J. McCarthy and Bo Nix, matching a record for most quarterbacks picked in the first round in the common draft era. – Tyler Dragon

No defensive player taken until No. 13 overall 

Remember Mario Williams? What a far cry we are from defensive ends going No. 1 in the draft. Sure, there isn’t that one standout defender in this class (a la Will Anderson from last year), and the best defensive player might be someone who was forced to medically retire from the game in football.

There are the top three (four?) quarterbacks who will go at the top. There are the three top receivers who should go within the top 10. Then there is the loaded tackle class to consider. Mix in a few more linemen, another quarterback, maybe another receiver, and suddenly … we are out of the top 10 with no defensive players yet selected. Presuming the Vikings eventually find a trade partner at No. 11, perhaps the team trading back (or up) could take a defender. I find it hard to believe that Sean Payton and the Denver Broncos would go defense 12th. That leaves the Las Vegas Raiders and first-year head coach Antonio Pierce on the clock with their choice of a defender. 

They say defense wins championships. It rarely wins the post-draft news conference, though. And the teams making these choices this early in the draft are usually in that position because of poor performance on the offensive side of the ball. – Chris Bumbaca

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