NFL Draft Four Verts: Most fun trade-up scenarios involve Vikings and Jaguars, while Broncos should trade down

It's draft week! We made it! Months worth of rumors, smokescreens, real trades and signings have led us to the crown jewel of the NFL's offseason calendar. There’s a lot to cover, but in typical NFL fashion, quarterbacks are the launching point of the 2024 NFL Draft. When things kick off Thursday, one NFC North team will land USC quarterback Caleb Williams, while another will look to grab a big-time prospect of its own.

If there was a match made in heaven for the upcoming draft, it might be pairing the Vikings with North Carolina quarterback Drake Maye. Not only does Maye have an immense level of talent for the Vikings to develop, but he would also be joining a team that already has skill players he can lean on at the start of his career. Justin Jefferson, Jordan Addison, T.J. Hockenson and a few solid investments on the offensive line represent a better spot than most rookies find themselves in.

The implications for the NFC North would be fascinating. It’s a foregone conclusion that the Bears will be drafting Caleb Williams with the first pick in the draft. That’s been decided for a couple months, putting him in direct competition with Jordan Love as a young up-and-comer in the NFC North. Throwing Maye into the mix would create a trio of quarterbacks in the same division who all have otherworldly potential to become NFL superstars. Love showed what he can be during his first year as a starter, leading the Packers to the playoffs with an explosion in the second half of the season. He’d be ahead of Williams and Maye due to NFL experience, but all three of those quarterbacks have similar physical traits to grow into decade-long starters.

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - MARCH 2: Caleb Williams #QB14 of Southern California greets Drake Maye #QB04 of North Carolina during the NFL scouting combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on March 2, 2024 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Kara Durrette/Getty Images)
Seeing Caleb Williams face Drake Maye twice a season would be delightful for NFL fans. (Photo by Kara Durrette/Getty Images)

Then there are the Lions, who have Jared Goff and a roster capable of going on a Super Bowl run. The excitement of those three quarterbacks combined with the totality of the Lions would create a dynamic in the NFC North that has short-term intrigue with long-term hopes of a three-way quarterback duel between Maye, Williams and Love.

Of course, this is getting ahead of ourselves because Maye and Williams have yet to take a snap in the NFL. Even though they’re highly touted prospects and have a chance to become something great, there’s always a chance that any draft prospect doesn’t work out in the NFL.

But imagining a world where Maye and Williams struggle isn’t fun. A three-headed monster of talented young quarterbacks on some of the oldest and most storied franchises in the NFL is good for the league. It’ll be fun if those guys end up playing against each other until their 30s as well. Electric playmaking is hard to come by at quarterback and the NFC North could have three sticks of dynamite in-division. It’s a future NFL fans should be praying for.

As the 2024 NFL Draft gets closer, teams will have their annual pre-draft news conferences where they give glimpses into their draft plans. That includes the Broncos, another major player in the first round of this year’s draft. The Broncos have a massive need at quarterback and head coach Sean Payton mentioned that during the Broncos’ news conference prior to the draft.

“Do we have to draft a quarterback? You would say, ‘Man, it sure looks like we have to draft a quarterback.’ And yet, it has to be the right fit and the right one," Payton said. "If we had the tip sheets as to who everyone else was taking, it would be easier to answer that question. That’s the puzzle here.”

There’s no guarantee that the Broncos will pull the trigger on a trade up for a quarterback, but they’re entertaining the idea of trading up. Walking into the season with Jarrett Stidham and newly acquired Zach Wilson as the top quarterback options is a tough pill to swallow and the Broncos are currently facing a season without much cause of optimism. Taking a quarterback would alleviate some of the tension regarding the upcoming Broncos season, but they also might have to accept the fact that they’re not in the best position to go get their guy.

Here's the top 10 of Charles McDonald and Nate Tice's final 2024 NFL mock draft. (Taylar Sievert/Yahoo Sports)
Here's the top 10 of Charles McDonald and Nate Tice's final 2024 NFL mock draft. (Taylar Sievert/Yahoo Sports)

It’s been stated a million times by now, but the Broncos have spent a lot of assets to be in their current position. They sent two first-round picks for Russell Wilson, who is now a Pittsburgh Steeler. They also sent a first- and a second-round pick to the Saints for Payton, the new face of the Broncos’ rebuild. The Payton trade leaves them without their second-round pick for this year, giving the Broncos just two picks in the top-100 of this draft (picks 12 and 76). In order for the Broncos to get up in the draft, they would again have to reach into the future for draft capital.

Look at this roster. This team needs help in several spots — not just quarterback. The defense needs an infusion of talent and the Broncos need to bolster their depth at the skill positions. This is a team that should consider trading down from pick No. 12 to accumulate a couple more quality draft selections.

If the Broncos are going to be a team that’s rebuilding, they should just rebuild! Get a couple more dice rolls in the top-100 of the draft.

This is already a thin roster in terms of notable talent. In the wake of taking on the largest dead cap figure in NFL history ($85 million!) following Wilson's release, the Broncos should probably take it easy and try to populate the roster with quality players. This is a long-term rebuild, blowing more first-rounders is not the path the Broncos should take.

A lot has been made of the star power on offense in this draft class — and for good reason. There are several quarterbacks, wide receivers and offensive linemen who project to be long-term NFL starters, and those players will be all over the first round. The defensive prospects in this year’s draft class have been slept on, but there are still quality players to be found.

That extends to the defensive tackle class, which hasn't been celebrated as other position groups, but still has a few players who have star potential. This year’s crop of interior defensive linemen has just about every type of player that NFL defenses are looking for. Here’s a quick overview of guys who should have a productive role in the pros.

One-gap penetrators: Byron Murphy II (Texas), Jer’Zhan Newton (Illinois), Michael Hall Jr. (Ohio State)

Murphy and Newton will likely be the first two defensive tackles selected in the draft while Hall has a chance to go high due to his otherworldly athleticism. All three are classic one-gap penetrators who can get up the field in a hurry and make plays in the backfield. Any defense that feels like it needs to add an athletic three-technique shouldn’t look much further than these three players.

CHAMPAIGN, IL - NOVEMBER 11: Illinois DT Jer'Zhan Newton (4) during a college football game between the Indiana Hoosiers and Illinois Fighting Illini on November 11, 2023 at Memorial Stadium in Bloomington, IN. (Photo by James Black/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Illinois DT Jer'Zhan Newton has a chance to be the top defensive tackle drafted this year in a pretty good class at his position. (Photo by James Black/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Inside-outside 'tweeners': Brandon Dorlus (Oregon), Darius Robinson (Missouri), Kris Jenkins (Michigan)

These guys can hold up well against the run on the interior and have enough flexibility to be an option as an edge rusher in heavier fronts. Dorlus is the best of the bunch this year when it comes to the inside/outside archetype, but Robinson and Jenkins have fans in the NFL as well.

Boom-or-bust types: Leonard Taylor (Miami), Maason Smith (LSU), Braden Fiske (Florida State)

Taylor, Smith and Fiske all have the physical ability to make it in the NFL, but all have lower floors to varying degrees. With their inherent physical gifts, all three of them will likely be coveted draft prospects, but their landing spot will go a long way in how well they actualize their potential.

The Behemoth: T’Vondre Sweat (Texas)

You’ll be hard pressed to find any player as big as Sweat in the draft. He’s a classic nose tackle who has a little bit of pass rush ability, a rarity for a 366-pound player. Pass rushing isn’t going to be Sweat’s calling card in the NFL, but any amount of pass rush juice while shutting down the run consistently is a win.

Underloved gem: Mekhi Wingo (LSU)

Wingo doesn’t have the prototypical size that NFL talent evaluators love at defensive tackle, but he’s a talented, disruptive presence who projects well to three-technique. He played all over the defensive line for LSU, showcasing the versatility to help him latch onto an NFL team. Wingo just turned 21 years old and has a lot of upside.

The Jaguars could’ve had their cake and eaten it too, but they had to drag their feet on an extension for star edge rusher Josh Allen. They were forced to use the franchise tag on Allen, paving the way for Calvin Ridley to end up on the rival Tennessee Titans — and creating a big hole at wide receiver on their roster. As the Jaguars look to sign quarterback Trevor Lawrence on a long-term deal, they also need to get serious about finding a new No. 1 receiver for him. Christian Kirk and Gabe Davis are quality players, but neither of them are viewed as top-flight wideouts.

With the 17th pick, that task might be difficult. Marvin Harrison Jr., Rome Odunze and Malik Nabers, the consensus top three wide receivers in the draft, are projected to be long gone before the Jaguars get on the clock. With the Jaguars being in decent enough shape on defense, they make sense as a team that can spend the assets to pair Lawrence with a top receiver in the draft.

Like every trade, the biggest factor that determines whether a trade will happen or not is price. Moving from pick 17 into the top 10 to get a receiver will be expensive for sure, but not an impossible feat to pull off. If they’re willing to part with their first-round pick for 2025, they probably have the strongest case to move up of any team drafting in the teens not named the Vikings or Raiders.

The Jaguars have already decided that Lawrence is going to be their quarterback for the long term and have opened up negotiations with him on a deal. The supporting cast is decent, but the Jaguars don’t have a top dog who can take games over — and they have the opportunity to pair Lawrence with one. Moving into the top three or four picks to acquire Harrison seems like a tough task. The latter half of the top-10 is probably more feasible.

This is probably the last big move the Jaguars can make prior to the start of the season. Losing Ridley was a big loss that they need to find a replacement for ASAP. Even though he was inconsistent in his return to football, he was easily the best option the Jaguars had at wide receiver. Their offense is set to take a major step back without him. Head coach Doug Pederson and general manager Trent Baalke need to make the playoffs to solidify their job security. Grabbing Odunze or Nabers is a great way to keep the ceiling on their offense high as they get ready for an extension with Lawrence.

Shaky decision making and general inaction got the Jaguars to this point, but the past is the past. Now is the time to rectify those mistakes and secure a future for Trevor Lawrence and Jacksonville's offense.