Full first round computer simulation from ESPN

Full first round computer simulation from ESPN

The 2024 NFL draft is this week, and teams have finalized their draft boards ahead of what’s expected to be an intriguing first round on draft weekend.

We’ve been sharing our weekly mock drafts throughout this pre-draft process, where we’ve tried to pin down realistic scenarios. But everyone’s thought process when it comes into assembling mocks is different, which makes it exciting with any given week. So we decided to introduce a twist.

In this exercise, we let the computer do the selecting in the first round — and there were both expected and surprising results. We used ESPN Analytics mock draft simulator, which included multiple trades and plenty of surprising picks.

Here were the first round results:

Nov 18, 2023; Los Angeles, California, USA; USC Trojans quarterback Caleb Williams (13) scrambles during the second quarter against the UCLA Bruins at United Airlines Field at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Jason Parkhurst-USA TODAY Sports

ESPN breakdown: “Williams’ improvisational skills and ability to extend plays are considered the best many scouts have seen in years. He finished his collegiate career with 120 total touchdowns and a long list of “How did he do that?” plays to go along with 14 interceptions. Williams will need to improve his decision-making when leaving the pocket (33 career fumbles) and clean up his accuracy when going deep.”

Nov 25, 2023; Raleigh, North Carolina, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels quarterback Drake Maye (10) throws a pass against the North Carolina State Wolfpack during the first half at Carter-Finley Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

ESPN breakdown: “Maye will likely be off the board well before this pick rolls around. His physical profile in the pocket is among the best of the QBs in this class. His arm strength is not a question — he threw 62 touchdown passes over the past two seasons — but his accuracy has drifted at times, especially this past season. Maye doesn’t always decode where the openings are in coverages and will have to find the line between bold and bad, but his biggest supporters see Justin Herbert-level potential.”

Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy warms up before the national championship game at NRG Stadium in Houston on Monday, Jan. 8, 2024.

ESPN breakdown: “McCarthy is not the high-volume passer other prospects on the board are — he had 27 career games with 15 or fewer completions — but his ability in an NFL-style scheme and his decisiveness are worthy of a long look. He doesn’t always move through progressions as smoothly as others and has had a long delivery at times, but when he sees it, he drives the ball with accuracy. He will need time on the learning curve, so he might not become what he could be if he’s rushed into starting.”

Nov 18, 2023; Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA; Heisman Trophy candidate LSU Tigers quarterback Jayden Daniels (5) warms up before their game against the Georgia State Panthers at Tiger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Dobbins-USA TODAY Sports

ESPN breakdown: “Daniels threw 40 TD passes and four interceptions in his 2023 Heisman Trophy-winning season, averaging a FBS-high 11.7 yards per attempt. He also rushed for 1,184 yards and 10 TDs last season. Daniels’ slight frame might concern some teams, especially since he doesn’t shy away from contact. But he plays with awareness, possesses high-end decision-making skills and maintains consistent accuracy all over the field. Some NFL personnel executives have Daniels graded as high as Williams.”

Oct 7, 2023; Ohio Stadium, Ohio, USA;
Ohio State Buckeyes wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. (18) catches the ball during their game against the Maryland Terrapins on Saturday, Oct. 7, 2023.

ESPN breakdown: “Harrison is the first two-time All-American wide receiver in Ohio State history and first two-time unanimous All-America wide receiver in the Big Ten in almost three decades. He has elite route construction and high-end play speed, and he can catch the ball any place on the field.”

Malik Nabers 8 as the LSU Tigers take on Texas A&M in Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, November 25, 2023.

ESPN breakdown: “Nabers led the SEC in receptions for two consecutive seasons. While some will quibble with the details in his routes, his explosiveness (42-inch vertical jump at pro day), speed and toughness far outweigh anything else. His 34 receptions of 20-plus yards in 2023 led the country.”

Dec 2, 2023; Atlanta, GA, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide linebacker Dallas Turner (15) celebrates after a sack in the second quarter against the Georgia Bulldogs in the SEC Championship at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

ESPN breakdown: “Turner is not as polished a pass-rusher as former teammate Will Anderson Jr. was heading into last year’s draft, but Turner’s strength is at the top of the scale, and he recorded a wide receiver-level 40-yard dash time and a 40½-inch vertical jump at the combine. He finished his career at Alabama with 23.5 sacks (11 in 2023) and 33.5 tackles for loss.”

Sep 9, 2023; Raleigh, North Carolina, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish tackle Joe Alt (76) during the first half at Carter-Finley Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

ESPN breakdown: “Alt is a two-time All-American that is a pro-ready, big-framed tackle with high-end movement skills and recovery ability. He is simply difficult to get around, even for the most talented rushers. And when he does get into trouble, his strength allows him to clean up almost any difficulties.”

Nov 11, 2023; Seattle, Washington, USA; Washington Huskies wide receiver Rome Odunze (1) celebrates scoring a touchdown against the Utah Utes during the second half at Alaska Airlines Field at Husky Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

ESPN breakdown: “Odunze led the FBS with 1,640 receiving yards in 2023, averaging a staggering 17.8 yards per catch. He scored 21 total TDs (20 receiving, one rushing) over his past 27 games and displays rare body control that gives him the ability to win contested catches more than any other receiver in this draft. His 32 receptions of at least 20 yards were second in the FBS only to Nabers.”

Georgia tight end Brock Bowers (19) scores a touchdown during the second half of a NCAA college football game against Ole Miss in Athens, Ga., on Saturday, Nov. 11, 2023. Georgia won 52-17.

ESPN breakdown: “Bowers was the first back-to-back Mackey Award winner and fits every part of an NFL passing game. He has elite hands, body control and separation in his routes. Bowers scored 26 TDs and averaged 14.5 yards per catch over his three collegiate seasons at Georgia. He lined up all over the formation in the Bulldogs’ high-powered attack and also averaged 10.2 yards per carry on 19 career rushing attempts.”

EVANSTON, ILLINOIS – SEPTEMBER 30: Olumuyiwa Fashanu #74 of the Penn State Nittany Lions in action against the Northwestern Wildcats during the second half at Ryan Field on September 30, 2023 in Evanston, Illinois. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

ESPN breakdown: “Penn State coaches graded Fashanu as not having allowed a sack in his 29 career games — more than 700 pass-blocking snaps. He could physically overwhelm most defenders he faced each week, but there is work to do to smooth out his footwork. His size, ability to recover to save plays and willingness to put in the work give him a chance to be a quality left tackle.”

Oct 14, 2023; Tallahassee, Florida, USA; Florida State Seminoles defensive end Jared Verse (5) against the Syracuse Orange during the first half at Doak S. Campbell Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Melina Myers-USA TODAY Sports

ESPN breakdown: “After transferring from Albany (where he arrived as a tight end), Verse had 18 sacks and 29.5 tackles for loss in 25 games for the Seminoles. He is the full package of relentlessness and savvy and a walk-in starter who will catch on quickly, especially against more physical NFL offensive tackles.”

Dec 2, 2023; Detroit, MI, USA; Toledo Rockets cornerback Quinyon Mitchell (27) breaks up a pass intended for Miami (OH) Redhawks wide receiver Gage Larvadain (10) in the third quarter at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Lon Horwedel-USA TODAY Sports

ESPN breakdown: “Mitchell was easily the most aggressive cornerback at the Senior Bowl as he enthusiastically challenged receivers at the line. He has everything defensive coordinators want: size, speed, physicality, composure and assertive tackling. He had a four-interception game in 2022 and returned two of those for touchdowns as he led the Mid-American Conference in passes defended in 2022 and 2023, with 19 and 18, respectively.”

Sep 4, 2021; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide offensive lineman JC Latham (65) blocks against the Miami Hurricanes at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

ESPN breakdown: “There are rough edges in his footwork at times, especially if he isn’t fine-tuned in his sets in pass protection, but he scatters defenders when he gets it right. Latham’s strength and dominances makes for a powerful punch against the rush. Crimson Tide coaches had him for 41 knockdown blocks in 13 games.”

Oct 28, 2023; Tucson, Arizona, USA; Oregon State Beavers offensive lineman Taliese Fuaga #75 walks off the field against the Arizona Wildcats at Arizona Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Zachary BonDurant-USA TODAY Sports

ESPN breakdown: “Fuaga started 25 games at right tackle over the past two seasons. Many offensive line coaches see him as technically proficient in pass protection and run blocking, but he has some rough edges that need smoothing. While some might think about moving him to guard, his pass-protection skills deserve a longer look at tackle. He’s smooth out of his stance into his sets and skillful with his hands as he mirrors the rushers.”

Nov 18, 2023; Ames, Iowa, USA; Texas Longhorns defensive lineman Byron Murphy II (90) celebrates sacking the Iowa State Cyclones quarterback during the game at Jack Trice Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Aaron E. Martinez-USA TODAY Sports

ESPN breakdown: “Murphy is an interior rusher who consistently wins on the first step and disrupts things at the point of attack. He had 8.5 tackles for loss and five sacks and routinely bottled things up inside. Murphy will be coveted by teams because he projects as a three-down player who can line up in a variety of spots across the defensive front. He also scored a receiving and a rushing touchdown this past season.”

Sep 23, 2023; Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide defensive back Terrion Arnold (3) carries the ball after an interception against the Mississippi Rebels during the second half of a football game at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports

ESPN breakdown: “If you talk to NFL secondary coaches, there are few safer bets than Crimson Tide defensive backs. Their technique is routinely at the top of the scale. Add in the ability/work ethic it takes to simply start for Alabama, and you have a player NFL defenses covet. Arnold has smooth footwork, always competes to win the play and finds the ball. He had five interceptions and 17 pass breakups in 2023.”

Nov 25, 2023; Columbia, South Carolina, USA; Clemson Tigers cornerback Nate Wiggins (2) smiles after breaking up a pass to South Carolina wide receiver Nyck Harbor (8) during the fourth quarter at Williams-Brice Stadium. Clemson won 16-7. Mandatory Credit: Ken Ruinard-USA TODAY Sports

ESPN breakdown: “Wiggins is one of the fastest players in the draft and smooth in coverage. He plays with the confidence of a player who knows he has a top gear to make up space when needed. He moves easily with receivers and is hard for them to shake. Wiggins returned two of his three career interceptions for touchdowns and forced two fumbles this past season with chase-down plays. However, some defensive coordinators will say he needs to be a far more willing participant in run support.”

Oct 14, 2023; Seattle, Washington, USA; Oregon Ducks offensive lineman Jackson Powers-Johnson (58) celebrates after the Ducks scored a touchdown against the Washington Huskies during the second half at Alaska Airlines Field at Husky Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

ESPN breakdown: “He made a start on the defensive line, as well as both guard spots, as a freshman, and he won the Rimington Award this past season as the nation’s best center. He fared well early in the week at the Senior Bowl until a hamstring injury forced him out of practices. He plays with toughness, awareness and makes interior rushers pay the price — exactly what the NFL wants in a long-term solution at center.”

Nov 11, 2023; Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA; Duke Blue Devils offensive lineman Graham Barton (62) before the game at Kenan Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

ESPN breakdown: “While Barton did not do the bench press at the combine or his pro day as he dealt with a left shoulder injury, he still projects as the top center in this draft. With 34 starts at left tackle over the past three seasons at Duke (he started five games at center as a freshman), Barton is a safe bet with quality technique in a high-effort, physical approach. He simply wins snap after snap in pass protection and the run game.”

Brian Thomas Jr 11 runs the ball as the LSU Tigers take on Texas A&M in Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, November 25, 2023.

ESPN breakdown: “When you lead your team, as well as the nation, with 17 touchdown catches and Nabers is your teammate, you’ve done something. Thomas averaged 17.3 yards per catch last season and is a player with everything he needs to consistently win the ball in the NFL. His routes aren’t as polished as some coaches would like but, if he puts in the work, Thomas is a WR1 waiting to happen.”

Jan 9, 2023; Inglewood, CA, USA; Georgia Bulldogs offensive lineman Amarius Mims (65) against the TCU Horned Frogs during the CFP national championship game at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

ESPN breakdown: “Mims has an abbreviated résumé compared to other tackles on the board — playing seven games with six starts in his career with the Bulldogs — but his combination of size and ability is rare (arm span of 86¾ inches gave him the biggest reach at the combine). He had surgery to repair an ankle injury in 2023 and returned to play the last three games of the regular season. A bit of a projection at this point, but he has the potential to play either tackle spot, and his work against some of the SEC’s best on the edge showed proficiency worthy of a Day 1 pick.”

Nov 25, 2023; Tempe, Arizona, USA; Arizona Wildcats offensive lineman Jordan Morgan (77) against the Arizona State Sun Devils during the Territorial Cup at Mountain America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

ESPN breakdown: “Morgan produced high-quality work this past season after a right ACL tear with three games remaining in 2022. He plays with sound footwork and rare flexibility in his lower body. He’ll need to play with a bit more power as a pro and clean up his hand placements, but he projects as a starting left tackle.”

Dec 29, 2023; Arlington, TX, USA; Missouri Tigers defensive lineman Darius Robinson (6) reacts during the first quarter against the Ohio State Buckeyes at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

ESPN breakdown: “Robinson is a work in progress because he played in an edge role in the Tigers’ defense more this past season than he had previously — 14 of his 21 career sacks came in 2023. He plays with power, has the reach to frustrate opposing tackles, is reliable in how he sets the edge and has versatility across the defensive front.”

Oct 28, 2023; Lawrence, Kansas, USA; Oklahoma Sooners offensive lineman Tyler Guyton (60) at the line of scrimmage against the Kansas Jayhawks during the game at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

ESPN breakdown: “Guyton could easily go in the middle of the first round (the Sooners used him as an H back from time to time early in his career) and many evaluators say he has the ability to be an NFL starter at either right or left tackle. His issue initially will be he plays too upright and while he has the footwork and recovery skills to limit problems against collegiate rushers, it could give him some bumps in the developmental road.”

Dec 1, 2023; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Washington Huskies offensive lineman Troy Fautanu (55) celebrates after the Huskies scored against the Oregon Ducks during the first quarter at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

ESPN breakdown: “Fautanu started 29 games at left tackle and two at left guard in his career with the Huskies. Some see a move to guard because of the raw physicality in his game and what some personnel evaluators see as difficulties against bigger pass-rushers. But offensive line coaches really like his attitude, aptitude and rugged demeanor.”

Penn State defensive end Chop Robinson (44) celebrates after sacking Massachusetts quarterback Taisun Phommachanh in the first half of a NCAA football game Saturday, Oct. 14, 2023, in State College, Pa. The Nittany Lions won, 63-0.

ESPN breakdown: “Any player who weighs more than 250 pounds and runs the 40-yard dash in under 4.5 seconds is going to attract attention. Robinson is just beginning to find himself as a player, so he has room to grow. His game is raw — his season high for sacks was 5.5 in 2022 — but his flexibility, speed to the corner and physicality give away the top-tier rusher in there.”

Nov 6, 2021; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini defensive lineman Jer’Zhan Newton (94) reacts to a missed stop in the third quarter at Huntington Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

ESPN breakdown: “One of the best interior pass-rushers on the board with 22.5 tackles for loss and 13 sacks over the past two seasons combined. He had more than 100 pressures over those two seasons, and personnel executives say that is the most of any interior linemen in this draft. He had surgery in January to repair a fracture in his foot, so he did not participate in workouts at the combine or Illinois’ pro day.”

Sep 10, 2022; Austin, Texas, USA; Texas Longhorns wide receiver Xavier Worthy (8) catches a pass and lands out of bounds in the end zone against the Alabama Crimson Tide during the first half at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports

ESPN breakdown: “Worthy set the combine’s 40-yard dash record in Lucas Oil Stadium in March. Not only is he the fastest-timed player in this year’s draft, but he’s also one of the best punt returners, averaging 14.5 career yards per return at Texas. Worthy is undersized and he’ll need to be part of an offense that creates space to get him the ball, but once he has it, he will close the deal. Worthy had 26 receiving TDs in 39 career games for the Longhorns.”

Dec 31, 2022; New Orleans, LA, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide defensive back Kool-Aid McKinstry (1) reacts after a defensive play against the Kansas State Wildcats during the second half in the 2022 Sugar Bowl at Caesars Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Wevers-USA TODAY Sports

ESPN breakdown: “While McKinstry had a Jones fracture (a fracture of the fifth metatarsal) in his right foot that prohibited him from participating at the combine, he did run at his pro day March 20 and had surgery to repair the fracture two days later. Teams believe he will be ready to participate at some point in training camp. McKinstry rarely makes assignment errors and plays with composure, and his technique and savvy make him a good fit in a variety of defenses. He is also one of the better punt returners in the draft.”

Dec 30, 2023; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Georgia Bulldogs wide receiver Ladd McConkey (84) makes a catch and runs for touchdown against the Florida State Seminoles during the first half in the 2023 Orange Bowl at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

ESPN breakdown: “McConkey was limited this past season with knee, ankle and back injuries as he finished with 30 receptions and two touchdowns over nine games. He has the top-end speed to run away from corners, and his route running makes him difficult to cover since he can explode out of a well-camouflaged break at any time.”

Texas Longhorns wide receiver Adonai Mitchell (5) catches the ball for an first down against Kansas State Wildcats cornerback Jacob Parrish (10) in the. First quarter of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, November. 4, 2023, in Austin, Texas.

ESPN breakdown: “Talk to scouts about Mitchell and it won’t take long for the Alabama game to come up. He had three catches for 78 yards and two touchdowns against a secondary laden with NFL-worthy talent. His challenge will be to play like that each week given he wasn’t always consistent catching the ball or winning in tight quarters, even against smaller defenders.”

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