2024 NFL draft: Fantasy football analysis of Round 1

As the 2024 NFL draft plays out, our ESPN Fantasy Football trio of Liz Loza, Matt Bowen and Mike Clay will provide analysis of each skill position player selected in the first three rounds, as well as a first look at their projections for their rookie season.

Will top quarterbacks Caleb Williams, Jayden Daniels and Drake Maye make noise in their maiden voyage through the league like C.J. Stroud did last season? Will Marvin Harrison Jr. make the biggest impression of this deep wide receiver class, or will Malik Nabers or Rome Odunze put up better numbers in Year 1? Could Brock Bowers match the impact Sam LaPorta had last season?

Check back throughout the first two nights of the NFL draft to see what Liz, Matt and Mike think of this year’s rookie class. There’s no better time than now to start thinking about the 2024 fantasy football season.

Round 1

Mike Clay’s 2024 projection: 324 of 497, 3,391 yards, 20 TD, 13 INT;
62 carries, 312 yards, 3 TD (15 games)

A natural creator with the ability to produce difference-making plays, Williams has the dual-threat traits to log viable fantasy numbers as a rookie. Keeping him on schedule as a pocket thrower will be a priority in Chicago, but with a proven pair of veteran pass-catchers (DJ Moore and Keenan Allen) and dynamic rookie Rome Odunze (taken ninth overall), Williams has the highest ceiling of any quarterback in 2024 class. He should be drafted as a high-end QB2, providing immediate returns in superflex formats. — Bowen

Mike Clay’s 2024 projection: 320 of 515, 3,447 yards, 15 TD, 14 INT;
106 carries, 578 yards, 5 TD (15 games)

Not dissimilar in playing style to Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray, Daniels’ throwing traits are a keen fit for Kliff Kingsbury’s offense. Expect the Commanders’ new offensive coordinator to employ plenty of spread passing elements, which should help the 23-year-old’s transition to the pros. With Terry McLaurin and Jahan Dotson leading the receiving corps as well as a solid run game available to establish a rhythm, Daniels slides into a sneaky-productive situation. Add in his elite rushing instincts, and the rookie could potentially thrive as a QB2 in superflex formats as early as Year 1. — Loza

Mike Clay’s 2024 projection: 325 of 511, 3,361 yards, 16 TD, 13 INT;
66 carries, 330 yards, 2 TD (15 games)

With a 6-foot-4, 223-pound frame, Maye has the physical tools to create fantasy production in his rookie season. He’s a high-velocity thrower who can attack all three levels of the field, and he has the ability to post rushing totals on designed carries and scramble attempts. The Patriots signed veteran quarterback Jacoby Brissett this offseason, so a camp battle looms this summer. If Maye wins the starting job, however, he brings value to superflex formats as an upside QB2. — Bowen

Mike Clay’s 2024 projection: 82 receptions, 1,115 yards, 5 TD (15 games)

A polished playmaker with a Hall of Fame father, Harrison is arguably the most pro-ready player in this year’s draft class, regardless of position. Kyler Murray might not be the most consistent passer in the NFL, but he has proven capable of supporting a top-15 fantasy producer at the position (DeAndre Hopkins was a top-15 WR in fantasy points per game in all three of his seasons as a Cardinal). Harrison should easily emerge as Murray’s primary option, likely flirting with double-digit targets on a weekly basis and making him a priority rookie in redraft and dynasty formats. — Loza

Mike Clay’s 2024 projection: 75 receptions, 982 yards, 5 TD (15 games)

Nabers is an explosive receiver. He can stretch defenses vertically from slot or boundary alignments, with the physical catch-and-run traits to create in open grass. In New York under Brian Daboll, Nabers will be schemed as a three-level, big-play target. The Giants will need to see a higher level of play from quarterback Daniel Jones this season, but there’s no question about Nabers’ ability to elevate the pass game. He’s should be drafted as a WR3, with the potential to produce lower-end WR2 numbers as a rookie. — Bowen

Mike Clay’s 2024 projection: 42 of 65, 451 yards, 4 TD, 2 INT; 6 carries, 21 yards, 0 TD (2 starts)

Penix is a rhythm pocket passer who is accurate at the second and third levels of the field. He can also drive the ball with velocity. Just check out the tape from the Sugar Bowl win over Texas. He was dialed in. Penix is a strong fit for an Atlanta offense that features more play-action elements. He has the pocket mobility to reset his throwing window or attack the edges on bootlegs. With the Falcons signing veteran Kirk Cousins this offseason, however, Penix’s fantasy value is limited to dynasty formats only. — Bowen

Mike Clay’s 2024 projection: 55 receptions, 739 yards, 4 TD (15 games)

A former track standout with a 6-foot-3 and 212-pound frame, Odunze has the size and speed to win on the outside at the next level. Utilizing route savvy and a catch radius in the 97th percentile, the Washington product figures to round out the Bears’ receiving corps, working opposite DJ Moore and as a complement to Keenan Allen in the slot. Given the crowded WR room and the presence of a rookie QB, Odunze is likely to start slow but could flirt with 60 grabs by the close of his first pro campaign. — Loza

Mike Clay’s 2024 projection: 327 of 516, 3,535 yards, 19 TD, 13 INT; 45 carries, 197 yards, 2 TD (14 starts)

McCarthy fits in Kevin O’Connell’s offense as a ball distributor who can produce off defined, play-action throws. McCarthy possesses high-end pocket movement to work in tight quarters and has the ability to make second-reaction throws, He can create for himself as a runner or thrower. With the Vikings signing veteran Sam Darnold this offseason, McCarthy will have to earn that No. 1 job in camp. If he is the starter this season, McCarthy has lower-end QB2 value in deeper, superflex formats. — Bowen

Mike Clay’s 2024 projection: 307 of 486, 3,076 yards, 16 TD, 15 INT; 47 carries, 154 yards, 1 TD (14 starts)

Nix broke out after transferring from Auburn to Oregon. As a Duck, he demonstrated stunning improvisational instincts, often delivering off platform. His playing style is exciting, but the pace of the NFL could lead to questionable decision-making, particularly when throwing deep, an area in which Nix struggled in college. He has a real shot of winning the starting gig in Denver, and his ability to extend plays with his legs could pad fantasy stats, but he’s likely no more than a streaming option in 2QB and superflex leagues heading into 2024. — Loza



Fantasy projections for the 2024 rookie NFL QBs

Check out Mike Clay’s fantasy projections for Caleb Williams, Jayden Daniels, Drake Maye, Michael Penix Jr., J.J. McCarthy, and Bo Nix.

Mike Clay’s 2024 projection: 56 receptions, 651 yards, 4 TD (15 games)

Bowers is the unquestioned top tight end prospect in the 2024 class. He has the route-running traits to uncover versus safeties and linebackers and the ability to stretch the seams. Plus, he’s a skilled and rugged mover after the catch. While the Raiders drafted TE Michael Mayer in the second round last year, Bowers is the Raiders tight end you want to roster in fantasy. He’ll be a fringe TE1 as a rookie with the ability to produce breakout games. — Bowen

Mike Clay’s 2024 projection: 57 receptions, 756 yards, 4 TD (15 games)

Thomas thrived as a consistent downfield playmaker at LSU and led the FBS with 17 receiving TDs in 2023. Thomas uses his speed (4.33-second 40-yard dash) and length (6-foot-3) to shine as a fluid route runner with an incredible catch radius (98th percentile). His arrival in Jacksonville signals a departure for Zay Jones. Assuming Thomas replaces Jones as the Jaguars’ primary vertical threat, the rookie could post boom weeks for fantasy managers, particularly as a flex option. — Loza

Mike Clay’s 2024 projection: 44 receptions, 582 yards, 5 TD (15 games)

An electric mover with ridiculous 4.21 speed, Worthy can stretch defenses vertically or run away from coverage on crossers and over routes. And in Andy Reid’s heavily schemed pass game, Worthy can operate as a multilevel target for quarterback Patrick Mahomes. The Chiefs have some depth at wide receiver now, and tight end Travis Kelce remains Mahomes’ top target. However, given Worthy’s speed and big-play chops, he should be drafted as a WR3, with potentially more upside in non-PPR formats. — Bowen

Mike Clay’s 2024 projection: 32 receptions, 430 yards, 3 TD (15 games)

Pearsall is a favorite among metrics mavens, presenting with elite testing numbers that include burst and agility scores above the 95th percentile. Pearsall gives off Christian Kirk vibes, likely best deployed in the slot but with the route savvy, strength and catch radius to successfully work all levels of the field. With Brandon Aiyuk rumors swirling, Pearsall could find himself in a starting role sooner rather than later. He’s a wonderful fit for Kyle Shanahan’s offense and is worth a flier for upside-seeking fantasy managers. — Loza

Mike Clay’s 2024 projection: 48 receptions, 633 yards, 3 TD (15 games)

Legette plays with speed (4.39-second 40-yard dash) and power. He’s unafraid in traffic, using an impressive blend of balance and body control to regularly win in contested situations. The 23-year-old will join Diontae Johnson and Adam Thielen, likely working opposite Johnson on the outside. He’s a solid catch-and-run target for second-year quarterback Bryce Young, but given volume restrictions and questions about Young’s development, Legette presents as an unlikely starter for fantasy managers. — Loza

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