Fantasy News & Analysis

Fantasy Football 2024: Late-round rookies in the best position to produce in Year 1

2T8CNBB Gilbert, Arizona, USA. 18th Nov, 2023. Troy Franklin (11) and Bo Nix (10) celebrate after a touchdown in the 3rd quarter at Mountain America Stadium. The Arizona State Sundevils hosted the Oregon Ducks (Credit Image: © Steven Davis/ZUMA Press Wire) EDITORIAL USAGE ONLY! Not for Commercial USAGE!

Denver Broncos pair their rookie quarterback with his top receiver from college: Troy Franklin was a surprising slide in this year’s draft, but landing with his college quarterback on a wide-open depth chart could work to his advantage for a standout rookie season.

Two McCaffreys in the league are better than one: The bloodlines are rich, and Luke McCaffrey steps into a Washington Commanders offense with potential as a Day 1 starter in the slot.

• 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: 7 minutes

With 2024 dynasty rookie drafts in full swing, almost everyone is looking for the “next Puka Nacua.” While this class may not offer a product in that exact mold (a fifth-round prospect who finishes as a top-seven receiver in Year 1), there are still plenty of solid pairings of prospects and landing spots that could lend themselves to immediate fantasy value.

Here are five late-round rookie values with the potential to produce in Year 1.

RB Tyrone Tracy Jr., New York Giants

Tracy was one of the most fascinating running back prospects of the 2024 draft class. After five seasons at wide receiver (four with Iowa, one with Purdue), he transitioned to play more of a hybrid running back/receiver role as a sixth-year senior. Boy, howdy, did he knock it out of the park.

In his final season, Tracy totaled 716 rushing yards and eight touchdowns on 113 carries, averaging 6.3 yards per carry. His 40% missed forced tackle rate ranked third among FBS running backs who ran the ball at least 100 times, while his 4.44 yards after contact per attempt also ranked in the top four.

Tracy is a natural athlete, and his background as a receiver leaves a little something extra to love, even if he lacks refinement in terms of his vision as a rusher and in pass protection.

Generally speaking, Tracy is one of the biggest wild cards at the position in this class, but there’s undoubtedly a ton of untapped potential and room for growth that could lend itself to upside far beyond his status as a fifth-round draft pick.

Heading into the 2024 season, he’ll compete for touches with the likes of Devin Singletary, Eric Gray and Gary Brightwell for a role in the absence of Saquon Barkley, who accounted for 62.5% of the Giants' rush attempts dating back to 2018.

Click here for Tyrone Tracy Jr.'s 2024 NFL Draft profile!

RB Kimani Vidal, Los Angeles Chargers

Vidal wasn’t necessarily a “big name” to watch coming out of the 2024 NFL Draft, but his record of success in a workhorse role coming out of college and new landing spot with the L.A. Chargers is certainly intriguing.

Vidal finished his 2023 campaign with 1,661 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns on 295 carries, earning him a 92.5 PFF rushing grade that tied for fourth among FBS running backs.

Though he’s undersized, coming in at just under 5-foot-8, Vidal’s got a thick frame with plenty to offer in terms of power, contact balance and explosive playmaking ability. He ranked second in the FBS with 94 missed forced tackles while leading the group with 47 runs of 10 or more yards. 

Vidal emerges with a lot of “wear and tear,” having tallied 781 carries over his four seasons with Troy, but with that comes experience that shows up in a big way in terms of pass protection. Consider the state of the Chargers' depth chart: Gus Edwards (coming off career lows in PFF rushing grade, yards per attempt and yards after contact per attempt, among others) and J.K. Dobbins (coming off a ruptured Achilles that ended his 2023 season and 234 total carries to his name over the course of his rookie contract) are their top options in what projects to be a run-heavy scheme under offensive coordinator Greg Roman. Why not Vidal?

WR Troy Franklin, Denver Broncos

Oregon receiver Troy Franklin was one of the draft's most surprising “falls,” sliding all the way to Pick 102 in Round 4 before being scooped up by the Denver Broncos.

Despite the slide, Franklin couldn’t have asked for a better landing spot, both in terms of opportunity and the pairing with his college quarterback, Bo Nix, who the Broncos took 12th overall.

Franklin led Oregon’s offense in total receiving yards in each of the last two seasons, culminating in a 2023 campaign in which he caught 81 passes for 1,383 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns, averaging a career-high 17.1 yards per reception. 

Though Franklin’s not the most nuanced route runner in this draft class — likely a big reason for his fall into Round 4 — he boasts an ideal combination of length and speed that could lend itself to a role as an immediate starter along the outside. Weighing in at just 176 pounds (despite his long frame at just under 6-foot-2), he leaves plenty to be desired in terms of play strength, which shows up on tape. His small hands don’t help the matter at just 8 ¾ inches, but he’s got plenty of time to grow into his frame, having just turned 21 this February.

Following the trade of former first-round wideout Jerry Jeudy and amid a holdout from veteran Courtland Sutton, don’t be surprised if Franklin has an opportunity to earn a significant snap share with his play through rookie minicamp and OTAs. That opportunity, paired with the established chemistry between Franklin and Nix, makes him an easy projection for a surprisingly productive rookie campaign.

WR Luke McCaffrey, Washington Commanders

The Commanders selected Rice wide receiver Luke McCaffrey — yes, the brother of superstar running back Christian McCaffrey — with the 100th pick in the 2024 NFL Draft.

After playing the first three of his five collegiate seasons as a quarterback (two with Nebraska, one at Rice), McCaffrey made the switch to wide receiver in 2022 and never looked back, playing primarily out of the slot. 

True to his bloodlines, McCaffrey is a natural athlete with 4.4 speed despite a lengthier frame at just under 6-foot-2. Most impressive, perhaps, is his ability as a route runner, which feels well above what you might expect in terms of timing, especially considering his late transition to the wide receiver position in college. He’s got sure hands and posted a 61.5% contested catch percentage that ranked eighth out of 229 qualifying receivers over the past two seasons, just another skill to endear him to his new quarterback.

Curtis Samuel, the Commanders’ primary slot receiver over the past two seasons, signed with the Buffalo Bills in free agency. His absence will create an immediate opportunity for McCaffrey to carve out a role as the team’s new starting slot receiver, with veterans Terry McLaurin and Jahan Dotson as primary options along the perimeter.

Rookie quarterback Jayden Daniels earned a 92.8 PFF passing grade when targeting slot receivers this past season, the fifth-highest among FBS quarterbacks (min. 25 dropbacks targeting the slot).

TE Ja'Tavion Sanders, Carolina Panthers

This offseason, the Carolina Panthers made a concerted effort to surround second-year quarterback Bryce Young with a suitable group of pass-catchers.

The selection of Texas TE Ja’Tavion Sanders in the fourth round was just a cherry on top of the cake as a huge value at the position. Sanders produced 600-plus receiving yards in each of his final two seasons, earning an 83.3 PFF receiving grade since 2022 that ranks fourth among tight ends, behind Brock Bowers, Michael Mayer and Maryland’s Corey Dyches (min. 100 targets). 

However, an area of weakness for Sanders has been his lack of consistency as a blocker, as he put up 61.5 and 59.7 run-blocking and pass-blocking grades in 2023, respectively.

Though that may scare off some fantasy managers hoping for an every-down skill set, that could lend itself to a higher route participation rate, which is a huge plus for his upside as a receiver.

At just under 6-foot-4 and 245 pounds and big 10⅛-inch hands, Sanders projects as a big-bodied receiving option over the middle in a depth chart without any true standouts behind new Panthers receiver Diontae Johnson.


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