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NFL Draft Notebook, Part 1: How quickly will rookie QBs and WRs make a fantasy football impact?

In Sports
April 30, 2024

In the first of a two-part series, Dalton Del Don reveals his fantasy football expectations for members of the 2024 NFL Draft class, with today’s focus on the quarterbacks and receivers.

Williams is the real deal and has the tools to be a fantasy star, including rushing for 21 touchdowns over 26 games at USC. The Bears have a middling offensive line, but few rookie quarterbacks have entered with a setup better than throwing to DJ Moore, Keenan Allen (who ranked first in open score last year), Rome Odunze and some competent tight ends. The Bears could have an elite defense, and Chicago is an environment that’s produced zero 4,000-yard passers in franchise history, but there’s far more in Williams’ favor than against. A division also featuring the Vikings, Lions and Packers should result in a bunch of high-scoring games.

Williams is the top pick in Superflex Dynasty drafts and should be considered at minimum a top-12 fantasy QB as a rookie.

*Deep breath* Daniels will turn 24 years old during his rookie season, didn’t break out until his sixth season in college (when he had two WRs who went top-25 in the NFL Draft), has a horrible pressure/sack rate and scrambles a ton while weighing 210 pounds on a 6-foot-4 frame and playing like Johnny Knoxville. There’s a good chance Washington ultimately regrets taking Daniels over Drake Maye, but he’s capable of being a top-15 fantasy QB as a rookie (if he can stay healthy). Daniels has no questions surrounding his rushing ability, as he’s the best scrambler to ever enter the NFL. Daniels averaged more than 60 rushing yards with 34 touchdowns during his collegiate career, and he’ll benefit from alpha WR Terry McLaurin (who continues to have his fantasy value limited by shaky QB play).

Daniels is the clear No. 2 rookie QB given his running (and Maye’s landing spot) and should be drafted as a borderline top-15 fantasy QB.

Maye is a five-star recruit who owns the best big-time throw rate over the last two QB classes, and he can run, so he has long-term fantasy upside. Maye had a rough supporting cast compared to the other QB prospects entering the draft, and he’ll continue to fight uphill in New England. The Patriots addressed wide receiver with second- and fourth-round picks, but this remains a tough environment for Maye to be fantasy-relevant outside of Superflex leagues as a rookie. He may even sit behind Jacoby Brissett to open the year.

Maye has long-term fantasy value, but he would’ve been a lot more interesting in 2024 if he landed in Minnesota.

McCarthy enters the league a bit unknown having never thrown 325 passes in a season, but a lack of college volume isn’t necessarily a red flag. McCarthy benefitted from always leading while playing at Michigan, and he’ll enter the NFL in a favorable fantasy situation as well. Justin Jefferson is likely the best wide receiver in the league, while Year 2 Jordan Addison and (eventually) T.J. Hockenson are strong secondary options. The Vikings play indoors, and Kevin O’Connell’s offense allowed Nick Mullens to average 370 passing yards (9.8 YPA!) with six touchdown passes over three starts last season. Sam Darnold could open the year as Minnesota’s starter, but McCarthy is the favorite to quickly take over after the team traded up for him.

The Vikings have a high pass rate and should be among the leaders in attempts once again, so McCarthy (with the help of Jefferson) could provide Kirk Cousins-type fantasy value as a rookie.

Penix suffered four season-ending injuries in college and is older than Trey Lance, so it surprised everyone when the Falcons drafted him with the eighth pick after signing Kirk Cousins to an expensive contract. While the process deserves questioning, worse decisions have been made than loading up at the most important position (by far) in the sport (Cousins will soon turn 36 and is coming off a torn Achilles).

Whether or not the draft pick was ludicrous, the Penix selection was great news for the fantasy values of Drake London, Kyle Pitts and Darnell Mooney. No target competition joined Atlanta until late in the draft, while Penix provides depth at quarterback should something happen to Cousins, so the surprise first-rounder was doubly helpful for Falcons pass-catchers.

London is the No. 7 WR on my board entering 2024.

Nix had high accuracy marks thanks to throwing close to the line of scrimmage, and he’s generally viewed as a big stretch as a top-12 pick in the NFL Draft. But he’s loved by Sean Payton, who helped a seemingly washed Russell Wilson become a top-15 fantasy QB (per game) last year (top-10 in fantasy points per dropback). Still, Nix is unlikely to be fantasy-relevant outside of Superflex leagues, even if his draft capital makes him the favorite to start immediately.

Harrison Jr. put up such a strong college resume he was able to opt out of the NFL combine and still be the first WR taken in an extremely strong draft class. Harrison joins a perfect fantasy situation in Arizona where he’ll play indoors and dominate targets in an offense that ranked top-10 in EPA/play and yards per play over the second half of last season. With Marquise Brown gone, second-year tight end Trey McBride is Harrison’s biggest competition for targets, so the rookie should see 150+ right away. Kyler Murray improved over the second half further removed from knee surgery last season, so Harrison’s set up for immediate success in a division that should produce plenty of points throughout 2024.

Harrison is going to shatter the record for earliest rookie receiver drafted this year and is a top-10 WR on my board.

Nabers recorded one of the best ever yards per team pass attempt marks during an age-20 season last year, as he had an argument to be the top wide receiver drafted. However, it may (or may not) be worth noting that 60% of his yardage last season came from the slot, while 9 of his 14 touchdowns were on slot fades alone. Nabers joins a shaky Giants’ offense with questions at quarterback and offensive line, but he could see 140+ targets right away with little competition on the roster (especially with Saquon Barkley gone and Darren Waller possibly retiring).

Nabers should be the second rookie receiver off the board and drafted as a borderline top-25 fantasy WR in 2024.

Odunze finds himself with similar target competition and the same offensive coordinator as Jaxon Smith-Njigba did as a rookie, but that shouldn’t stop you from drafting him. It’s possible JSN isn’t good (* more below), while Odunze is an elite separator with the best contested-catch rate ever in college. Sharing targets with DJ Moore and Keenan Allen isn’t ideal, but Caleb Williams could be a star right away. Allen is 32 years old and has missed an average of 5.5 games over the last two seasons, and an injury would quickly boost Odunze’s value even more. The Bears didn’t use many three-WR sets last season, but that should change dramatically in what’s hopefully a condensed target tree in 2024.

Odunze enters as the No. 3 rookie wideout and should be drafted as a top-36 fantasy WR.

* Smith-Njigba ranked 95th in average depth of target and had a lower EPA per route, EPA per target and EPA per reception than Quentin Johnston last season. With the benefit of hindsight, it’s possible JSN was overhyped (guilty!) thanks to playing with CJ Stroud and a record-setting bowl game that featured no Garrett Wilson or Chris Olave while facing a running back trying to play corner.

[2024 Fantasy Draft Rankings: QBs | RBs | WRs | TEs | D/ST | Kickers]

Worthy is clearly intriguing as the fastest rookie receiver who’s joining Patrick Mahomes in Kansas City. He dealt with incredibly inaccurate QB play in college, where he earned targets at a much higher rate than teammate Adonai Mitchell. Worthy is Tank Dell’s weight but three inches taller. With Rashee Rice (who could still prove to be a draft-day value) facing a potential suspension, and Marquise Brown often injured, Worthy should be a fantasy difference-maker as a rookie in Kansas City.

Worthy has an argument to be drafted as the rookie WR4 ahead of Brian Thomas Jr. and Ladd McConkey (who also landed in a favorable situation).

Pearsall is an elite athlete who suffered through numerous QBs and OCs throughout his collegiate career. Slick Rick had one of the lowest drop rates in college football and the second-highest success rate versus man in this draft class, according to Reception Perception. The 49ers lost the Super Bowl in part because of Deebo Samuel’s struggles versus man coverage, but Pearsall is unlikely to become a starter in San Francisco until 2025 at the earliest. Still, there’s fantasy upside here should Samuel or Brandon Aiyuk suffer an injury.

Note: Part 2 will come later this week

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