2024 NFL Draft: Fantasy Football Round 1 Recap

The first day of the NFL draft promises to be fun for fantasy purposes.

With that, we will not beat around the bush.

Let’s walk through the fantasy-centric selections and trades from the opening night of the 2024 NFL Draft.

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Bears Make it Official, Select Caleb Williams

No surprises out of the box.

After the Bears officially moved on from Justin Fields earlier this offseason, the selection of Caleb Williams was all but etched in stone.

He exits college with a 97th percentile score in career passing production in my prospect model for all quarterbacks going back to 2000.

For his career, Williams ranks in the 92nd percentile in yards per pass attempt (9.2 Y/A). He averaged over 9.0 yards per pass attempt in all three seasons at college.

He is in the 96th percentile in touchdown to interception ratio (6.6:1) and in the 85th percentile in completion percentage (66.9%).

Known for his ad-libbing and ability to play outside of structure, Williams has drawn comparisons to Patrick Mahomes as a ceiling outcome.

No quarterback in this draft class had more pass attempts outside of the pocket in 2023 than Williams did (88) per Sports Info Solutions.

On those plays outside of the pocket, he averaged 9.4 Y/A (third in the class) with a 12.5% touchdown rate (also third).

He was sacked on just 4.3% of his dropbacks outside of the pocket (third-best in the class) despite having the most dropbacks on the move.

Inside of the pocket, Williams averaged 9.4 Y/A, third in this class.

He also comes with an 88th-percentile career mark in rushing production.

I do not believe Williams will be a rusher to the degree of the top-flight runners in the NFL.

I believe he will be more touchdown-dependent in that regard than an outright scrambler, but he can be used in the read-option game as well as near the goal line.

Paired with his passing profile, Williams could be in the bucket of what we had in early-career Deshaun Watson from a fantasy-lens as an apex outcome.

Williams rushed for 27 touchdowns in college.

With the NFL using their quarterbacks more than ever near the end zone on the ground, Williams led this draft class with seven of his 11 rushing touchdowns in 2023 coming inside of the five-yard line.

Despite being pressured on 36.7% of his red zone dropbacks in 2023, he did not throw a red zone interception. His 79.2% on-target throw rate in the red zone was the best in this draft class.

On third and fourth down passes, Wiliams still led this class with 9.6 Y/A and did not throw an interception despite being pressured on 42.6% of those dropbacks (third highest).

Going to Chicago, Williams is in a more favorable position than many previous quarterbacks selected at No. 1 overall given how Chicago landed the top pick after trading out a year ago.

Williams will be starting his career throwing to D.J. Moore and Keenan Allen.

You can make a strong case that this is the best WR1-WR2 duo that a quarterback selected at No. 1 overall has had as a rookie since Carson Palmer worked with both Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh in their primes.

Palmer also sat his entire rookie season before working with those two.

I did a larger breakdown of the synergy that both Moore and Allen can have together in this new offense.

Chicago has a new play-caller in Shane Waldron to go along with Cole Kmet, D’Andre Swift, and Gerald Everett. Chicago could also still add another playmaker at pick No. 9.

They also currently have the third-easiest projected schedule for this upcoming season.

From a Dynasty perspective, Williams vaults right into mid-QB1 contention.

I do question if we will get enough rushing for Williams to consistently threaten the top scorers at the position every year, but you can make a strong case that he has more overall upside as a combo-fantasy option than what we had in C.J. Stroud a year ago as a prospect.

He should be the No. 1 pick in SuperFlex formats

From a 2024 season-long stance, we should not expect Williams to replicate what Stroud provided out of the box for gamers, but it is hard to push back on his current QB12 pricing in early ADP.

I have him right in that strike zone at QB14 in overall points in early projections, and I tend to be a conservative projector.

Top Golf Be Damned, Commanders Take Jayden Daniels

I believe there is an absolute case to make for Daniels being the QB1 in this class, especially when looking at things through a fantasy lens.

While Caleb Williams is going to add a rushing component to his game, Daniels will be built around it.

Daniels rushed for 60.1 yards per game over his collegiate career with 34 touchdowns, registering a 96th-percentile career rushing score on my end.

In 2023, he rushed for 1,134 yards and 10 scores.

Daniels could have a rookie-season impact on the Robert Griffin spectrum in his range of outcomes, which is fitting given his landing spot.

If Daniels ends up as an above-the-board passer in the NFL, then his ceiling is in contention to be the QB1 in overall scoring in a given season.

The difference the 2023 Heisman winner has compared to someone such as Anthony Richardson from a year ago is that his passing resume is so much stronger. He takes less projection in outright flatlining.

As a 19-year-old freshman at Arizona State, Daniels averaged 8.7 yards per pass attempt while throwing 17 touchdowns to just two interceptions.

He is coming off a season in which he just put up video game output, throwing for 11.7 Y/A with 40 touchdowns to just four interceptions through the air to go along with those gaudy rushing stats we highlighted.

From a final-season perspective, Daniels was in the 99th percentile in yards per pass attempt, 96th percentile in TD-to-INT rate, and 96th percentile in completion rate.

Those rates propelled him to career marks in the 86th percentile in yards per attempt, 91st percentile in TD-to-INT rate, and 80th percentile in completion rate.

Daniels threw for a class-high 11.2 Y/A on throws that did not come with play action or an RPO.

He had a 73.9% on-target throw rate against the blitz, which was second in the class. He was blitzed on 39.2% of his dropbacks, the fourth-highest rate in the class.

On throws 10 yards or further downfield, Daniels sported a class-high 68.3% on-target throw rate with an insane 23.8% touchdown rate on those passes. On 122 passes 10-plus yards downfield last season, Daniels threw 29 touchdowns with just one interception.

The question surrounding his enormous 2023 season is how much he was aided by the surrounding scheme and talent paired with his overall collegiate experience of playing in 55 collegiate games.

Daniels had his best season turning 23 years old in season while playing attached to two first-round wide receivers.

You can make the chicken or the egg case for those wideouts being attached to Daniels, but I have a ton of confidence that Malik Nabers is the real thing.

Just 16.2% of Daniels’ pass attempts in 2023 came against top-25 defenses. Willams was at 35.4%.

When I look at Daniels from a top-down lens, I see a lot of similarities with Justin Fields exiting Ohio State.

Fields was a player who had superb passing efficiency in college that he was unable to match once removed from playing in prestige conditions.

Even with his faults as a passer, Fields lives as a fantasy QB1 through his front-end rushing output. He pushes to be the QB1 in any given week in which the passing output goes along for the ride.

But his shortcomings as a passer also prevent him from carrying premier stability in getting there weekly.

Like Fields, Daniels has struggled in the quick game and taking sacks when sped up.

Daniels took a sack on 22.0% of his pressures in 2023. Fields took a sack on 21.2% of his pressures exiting Ohio State.

Since entering the NFL, no quarterback has been sacked on a higher rate of pressures than Fields has (28.3%).

While Daniels is an elite rusher, he also was sacked on a class-high 18.8% of the time outside of the pocket.

Despite having a monster 2023 season in the efficiency department, Daniels was second to last in this draft class in on-target rate (60.5%) in the red zone with a 6.1% sack rate (ninth) in that area of the field.

That is not a complete negative, especially from an immediate fantasy stance. But it could impact his second contract in a way that it did Fields, which is why I will be slightly more cautious on Daniels from a dynasty stance versus being bullish on his current ADP of QB18 in early 2024 drafts.

Working with Kliff Kingsbury as a rookie in 2019, Kyler Murray was the QB8 in overall scoring and the QB12 in points per game.

You can make a case that Daniels provides a higher floor of rushing.

Murray ran 93 times for 544 yards and four touchdowns as a rookie.

As a passer, Murray was throwing to 36-year-old Larry Fitzgerald as his lead wideout.

Washington has more initially on the table for Daniels to distribute passes to, with Terry McLaurin, and Jahan Dotson as wideouts, and having veteran safety valves in Austin Ekeler and Zach Ertz.

Looking at current costs in 2024 drafts, I would take a swing on the ceiling outcome for Daniels before settling for pass-only options such as Jared Goff and Matthew Stafford, who can be arbitraged with other passers or a QB platoon if Daniels is a failed draft pick early in the season.

Patriots Stay Put, Select Drake Maye

Maye is 6-foot-4 and 223 pounds attached to a howitzer.

He can also move.

You will see a few Josh Allen comparisons thrown his way, but I see Maye more on the Jordan Love spectrum in the NFL.

Maye is a cleaner prospect than Love was, but he is more of a wild card for fantasy output than the first two quarterbacks selected.

Maye exits college in the 85th percentile in career touchdown-to-interception rate (3.9:1) but sits in the 73rd percentile in career yards per pass attempt (8.4 Y/A) and 71st percentile in completion rate (64.9%).

What drags down Maye compared to the first two passers is that his final season was not nearly as strong.

From a final-year perspective, Maye was only in the 62nd percentile in yards per attempt (8.5 Y/A), the 45th percentile in completion rate (63.0%), and the 41st percentile in touchdown-to-interception rate (2.7:1).

Maye’s 66.5% on-target rate in 2023 ranked ahead of Devin Leary (66.4%) in this draft class.

Maye only posted an on-target rate of 69.8% from a clean pocket, which was also the second-lowest rate in this class.

He was also dead last in on-target rate (65.1%) from inside of the pocket.

Maye was hurt by his desire to push the rock down the field.

No quarterback in this class averaged more air yards per throw than Maye in 2023 (10.7 yards).

On those passes, his 49.4% on-target rate was also the second-lowest rate in this class.

Those wonky rates are why I use the Love comparison.

There are a lot of NFL and Dynasty teams that would like a redo on taking a chance on Love at this point, so there is still upside on the table here Maye.

Maye will turn just 22 years old this August and only has 26 career starts under his resume.

Those starts did not come attached to Lincoln Riley or the team LSU put on the field last year for the players we have covered so far.

In his two seasons starting at North Carolina, Maye also rushed for 1,209 yards and 16 touchdowns.

What I do believe will be different from Maye in the NFL versus Caleb Williams is the designed runs called for each.

41.4% of Maye’s rushes in 2023 were outright scrambles, which was more than Jayden Daniels (40.7%) and Williams (33.3%).

That number will likely decrease in the NFL while the other two quarterbacks get their number called more on designed runs.

Someone such as Love had more runway than Maye will be given in the NFL based on expected draft capital, and this landing spot in New England does take some initial work compared to the first two landing spots in this class.

This is a team that has major needs at left tackle on the offensive line and at wide receiver, the two best friends for a quarterback.

We will see what the Patriots do over the remainder of the draft, but this is an offense that needs to invest in weapons and protection for Maye.

We are in what seems like a never-ending cycle of New England chasing their tail at the wide receiver position.

This team once again received basement-level production from their receivers in 2023.

New England wideouts combined to catch 175 passes (25th) for 1,909 yards (29th), and just five touchdowns (31st).

Only Carolina wide receivers averaged fewer yards per reception (10.3 yards) than New England receivers (10.9).

New England has not had a 1,000-yard receiver since Julian Edelman in 2019, which is also the last time any of their wideouts have even reached 900 yards receiving in a season.

This unit badly needs a field stretcher, especially now that they are adding a passer who inherently wants to be aggressive downfield.

In Dynasty, Maye is in a QB2 zone that can flirt with QB1 output when this offense adds more around him, below the options of a similar archetype that we have already seen hit such QB1 seasons in Trevor Lawrence and Love.

From a 2024 redraft stance, the current New England offense does not provide a ton of confidence in having Maye as more than a QB2 flier.

To compound immediate concerns, the Patriots also have our second-hardest projected schedule for 2024.

Cardinals Get Much-Needed Receiver Help, Select Marvin Harrison Jr.

Coming from premier NFL bloodlines at the position, Harrison Jr. posted back-to-back monster seasons at Ohio State, going for 1,295 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2022 and then coming back for 1,237 yards and 15 touchdowns this past season when he was the Biletnikoff Award Winner and a Heisman finalist.

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