NFL News & Analysis

Fantasy Football 2024: Four late-round WRs who could lead their team in targets

2T1595B Tennessee Titans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins (10) looks to the sidelines during an NFL football game against the Indianapolis Colts, Sunday, Oct. 8, 2023, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Zach Bolinger)

• All eyes are on Buffalo Bills rookie Keon Coleman, but the real value in fantasy football leagues could lie elsewhere: Khalil Shakir‘s role increased in the second half of the 2023 season, and he has the potential to build on that chemistry with Josh Allen moving forward.

DeAndre Hopkins is the Tennessee Titans’ forgotten child: Despite the signing of WR Calvin Ridley in free agency, Hopkins still projects as the Titans' WR1.

• Check out PFF's fantasy football rankings: PFF’s fantasy football rankings include ranks from our experts, projections and our strength of schedule metric.

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

Every NFL season, some players seemingly appear out of nowhere to see the type of volume that carries fantasy teams into the playoffs.

Here’s a way-too-early look at four wide receivers with an average draft position (ADP) in Round 6 or later who have the potential to lead their team in targets during the 2024 season. 

Note: ADP comes courtesy of FantasyPros.

DeAndre Hopkins, Tennessee Titans

May ADP: Rounds 6-7, WR40

The Tennessee Titans significantly overhauled their offense this offseason, adding wide receivers Calvin Ridley and Tyler Boyd to help fill a wide receiver room that was largely barren outside of DeAndre Hopkins.

Fantasy managers are undoubtedly cooling on Hopkins as he heads into his age-32 season, but his speed data from 2023 does give some reason to believe he’s still got something in the tank, which could make him a big-time value to lead the Titans in targets this year.

Despite his age, Hopkins had a solid 2023 campaign, totaling 1,057 yards and seven touchdowns. His 0.29 fantasy points per snap finished 16th among wide receivers, even though he found himself playing with the ghost of Ryan Tannehill and rookie Will Levis at quarterback.

He didn’t appear to lose any of his speed at the age of 31, either. According to NFL Next Gen Stats, Hopkins averaged a top speed of 12.05 m.p.h. on routes throughout the 2023 season, exceeding his average top speed of 10.84 m.p.h. with the Arizona Cardinals and 10.41 m.p.h. with the Houston Texans.

Expect Levis, whose 22.4% deep target rate led all quarterbacks in his rookie season, to look for Hopkins early and often in 2024. After all, age is just a number.

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Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Seattle Seahawks

May ADP: Rounds 8-9, WR45

The Seattle Seahawks selected Jaxon Smith-Njigba with the 20th overall pick of the 2023 NFL Draft, making the Ohio State product the first wide receiver off the board.

Things didn’t get off to a blazing start, however, with his 63-628-4 stat line paling in comparison to other standout rookie receivers such as Puka Nacua, Rashee Rice, Jordan Addison and Tank Dell, among others.

While Smith-Njigba’s 83.3% open target rate ranked 17th among 96 qualifying wideouts, his 6.4-yard average depth of target wasn’t overly conducive to high upside, with his efforts earning just a 63.9 receiving grade (88th at the position). The broken wrist he suffered in the preseason surely didn’t help matters, either. Though he was cleared to play by Week 1, he did miss several weeks of valuable preseason and practice reps leading up to live action — crucial ones for a rookie making the transition to the NFL.

Though his rookie stat line won’t woo potential fantasy managers, there’s no doubt there will be plenty of opportunity for an increased role in the 2024 season. Veteran Tyler Lockett will turn 31 this season, which should have the Seahawks looking to evaluate their future.

Lockett’s overall efficiency has declined over the past few seasons, with decreases in yards after the catch per reception, yards per route run and yards per reception in each of his last two seasons.

Stat 2021 2022 2023
Yards/Rec. 16.1 11.9 11.3
Yards after catch/Rec. 3.81 3.11 2.80
Yards/Route run 2.35 1.89 1.61
Comp. % 70.9% 76.9% 67.5%
Passer rating when targeted 122.4 108.6 90.2

D.K. Metcalf’s presence in Seattle might not be a given this year, either. Coming out of the 2024 NFL Draft, the Steelers made a call about Metcalf and “weren’t turned down outright,” with any possible deal bound to come after June 1. A pre-June 1 trade would have saved the Seahawks just $4 million against the cap in 2024, while a post-June 1 trade would save them $17 million.

Regardless, there’s a lot of room for the former OSU prospect who managed to outperform standouts Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson in the 2021 season.

Jaxon Smith-Njigba: Percentile ranks in the stable metrics of wide receiver play (2021).

Khalil Shakir, Buffalo Bills

May ADP: Rounds 10-11, WR55

After the Bills traded Stefon Diggs to Houston this offseason, everyone’s attention has been on Bills rookie wide receiver Keon Coleman as a candidate to lead the Buffalo Bills in targets. However, third-year receiver Khalil Shakir could pose the greatest value based on his current projection as a pick at around the 10th round in fantasy football leagues this offseason.

In the second half of the 2023 campaign, Shakir's role in the offense grew significantly, and he played 60% or more of offensive snaps in 10 of 12 of the final games in the season. Though his playing time didn’t yield a high level of consistency — he produced 50 or more receiving yards in four of those outings, though he did have two 100-plus-yard yard games — he undoubtedly maximized his efficiency.

Though Shakir’s average depth of target was quite low at just 7.4 yards, he took full advantage of (almost) every opportunity thrown his way, reeling in 87.5% of his 56 targets, the highest catch rate among all receivers with 50 or more targets. He led that cohort with a 141.5 passer rating when targeted, averaging 7.0 yards after the catch per reception (t-4th) and recording a 2% drop rate (t-3rd lowest).

Down the stretch, that proven reliability earned him the trust of Josh Allen in critical situations, which should earn him the starting slot role moving forward. Don’t be surprised if Shakir plays a similar role to the one Cole Beasley did in his final season, with a 1,000-receiving-yard, six-touchdown campaign well within the realm of possibilities.

Joshua Palmer, Los Angeles Chargers

May ADP: Rounds 11-12, WR59

Between losing Keenan Allen, Austin Ekeler, Mike Williams and Gerald Everett, the L.A. Chargers suffered a mass exodus of Justin Herbert’s primary receiving options this offseason.

Those four combined for 54.9% of the team’s targets over the past two seasons, so there’s a lot of opportunity up for grabs heading into 2024. Most have their eyes on rookie wideout Ladd McConkey to step into the WR1 role out of the gate, but it’s veteran Joshua Palmer who could prove to be the sneakier value in fantasy football leagues based on his already established rapport with Herbert.

Palmer is coming off a year in which he put up career highs in receiving grade (67.6), yards per route run (1.71) and yards after the catch per reception (5.0). Though his efficiency might leave something to be desired in comparison to other top targets around the league, his familiarity with Herbert and available target share leaves a 100-plus-target year well within the realm of possibility.

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