ARIZONA STATE FOOTBALL

Mel Kiper Jr.’s 1st NFL mock draft has pair of 1st-rounders with Arizona ties

Jan 23, 2024, 4:15 PM

Arizona State quarterback Jayden Daniels throws a pass against Washington during the first half of ...

Arizona State quarterback Jayden Daniels throws a pass against Washington during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 13, 2021, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr.’s first mock draft of the offseason has former Arizona State quarterback Jayden Daniels and Arizona offensive tackle Jordan Morgan going in the first round of the 2024 NFL Draft.

Three quarterbacks taken with the first three picks seems to be the most popular prediction so far for this year’s draft.

It’s no different for Kiper Jr., who predicts that Daniels will be picked second overall to the Washington Commanders right after USC’s Caleb Williams is selected by the Chicago Bears.

The New England Patriots round out the trio of QBs with North Carolina’s Drake Maye.

Daniels, the 2024 Heisman Trophy winner, played three seasons in Tempe under former head coach Herm Edwards before transferring to LSU in 2022. He played two seasons in Baton Rouge before declaring for this year’s draft.

Daniels played with 2020 first-round pick Brandon Aiyuk, who is currently preparing for the NFC Championship game as a member of the San Francisco 49ers.

Kiper writes:

The Commanders have a much more straightforward decision than the Bears. Sam Howell, who led the league in interceptions in 2023, is not the guy. They have to take a quarterback in a draft that has a clear top tier of three signal-callers: Williams, Daniels and Drake Maye (North Carolina). There’s a drop-off in the class after that. With Washington getting an opportunity to take the No. 2 quarterback here, why did I go with Daniels?

The reigning Heisman Trophy winner improved so much in 2023, throwing 40 touchdown passes to just four interceptions while going up against a tough SEC schedule. The bottom line is it’s tight between Daniels and Maye on my board, but Daniels would be a tremendous fit for a Washington roster that has some young playmakers on offense. Maye’s inconsistency at the end of the season is enough for me to put Daniels at No. 2. The reality, though, is the Commanders just hired their new general manager and still don’t have a coach, so there’s a lot to figure out about which direction they go.

Morgan, who hails from Marana, Arizona, is a high commodity for any team looking for an offensive tackle. Kiper Jr. has the Dallas Cowboys selecting him with the 24th pick. Morgan is projected to be a top-50 pick in most mock drafts.

The Cowboys could be looking for a replacement for left tackle Tyron Smith, who is a free agent this offseason. Former all-pro right guard Zack Martin is 33 and is on the last year of his contract going into next season.

Morgan started 35 games for the Wildcats and was named to the All-Pac-12 first team this past season. Kiper writes:

The NFL’s other franchise in Texas had the opposite rookie class as the Texans, as the Cowboys got very little from their first-year players (unless you include first-team All-Pro kicker Brandon Aubrey, who played in the USFL) Morgan is one of my favorite pass-protectors in this class. I love the way he moves his feet and handles twists and stunts. He started 35 games at left tackle in college, which would make him a perfect fit to replace Tyron Smith.

With the Cardinals projected to look elsewhere in their draft process, it doesn’t look like these two will make an appearance back in Arizona except as an opponent. However, their impact on their respective schools won’t be forgotten.

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Mel Kiper Jr.’s 1st NFL mock draft has pair of 1st-rounders with Arizona ties