Fantasy News & Analysis

Fantasy Football: 2024 pre-draft rookie sleepers

2W905W5 December 22, 2023: UCF wide receiver Javon Baker (1) looks to evade Georgia Tech defensive back LaMiles Brooks (1) during first half of Union Home Mortgage Gasparilla Bowl at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, FL. Romeo T Guzman/Cal Sport Media(Credit Image: © Romeo Guzman/Cal Sport Media) (Cal Sport Media via AP Images)

Javon Baker is a personal favorite: With much to love from his time as a starter at UCF, Baker’s recent body of work makes him an intriguing prospect.

Tyrone Tracy’s small sample size is exciting: The former wide receiver turned running back offers a lot of high-upside potential at the NFL level.

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NFL draft week is finally here and after going through all of my pre-draft rankings, I found six players that I’m particularly hopeful for in fantasy football terms. These are a few players that I’m a bit higher on than some and can see a path to fantasy relevance early in their NFL careers.

WR Javon Baker, UCF

Baker comes in ranked as my pre-draft WR9 for this year’s rookie class, as I believe his talent and production will be worthy of much better draft capital than he’s currently projected. One area in particular where Baker particularly stood out is that he thrived against single coverage during his college career, posting an elite 93.6 PFF receiving grade (96th percentile) and 5.07 yards per route run (94th percentile). 

After two seasons at Alabama, failing to crack the starting lineup, his transfer to UCF helped him see a significant increase in playing time and build on his success in a small sample size at Alabama. His 3.21 yards per route run in 2023 is a strong mark, ranking 77th percentile among prospects since 2019. That final season led to 2.53 career yards per route run (74th percentile), which is the seventh-best mark in this class. Amongst a deep wide receiver class, Baker is someone who has the skills to emerge among the third and fourth tier of prospects.

WR Jamari Thrash, Louisville

Thrash isn’t considered a high-end athlete coming out of college, even though he ran a decent 4.46-second 40-yard dash. He also likely doesn’t have overly impressive size or measurables to get in the conversation as a Day 2 pick, but there are some intriguing metrics to support him as a potential sleeper in this year’s class.

Thrash was primarily an outside wide receiver during his time at Georgia State and his final college season at Louisville, and he performed really well in that role, earning 2.52 yards per route run when aligned wide (78th percentile since 2019) and an 82.9 PFF receiving grade from that alignment (83rd percentile). His ability to win against single coverage was a big reason for those higher efficiency totals, as he earned a 92.1 PFF receiving grade (90th percentile) and 4.47 yards per route run against single coverage for his career. Ultimately, size and athleticism concerns are going to push him down draft boards, but he’s developed a nice skillset to potentially push for a starting spot down the road in the NFL, wherever he lands.

RB Kimani Vidal, Troy

Vidal is set to become a late-round pick in this year’s NFL draft, but after posting back-to-back seasons with rushing grades in the 90s and performing well athletically during the pre-draft process, there’s a case for Vidal as a deep sleeper in this running back class.

Vidal does not lack experience as a starter, as he's handled more carries (780) than any other back in this year’s class, which of course, resulted in the most production among FBS backs in this class as well. Even with the heavy workload, it’s a promising sign from Vidal that he was able to earn high marks in terms of his efficiency metrics such as PFF grades, as well as his missed tackles forced per attempt (80th percentile).

Kimani Vidal’s career rushing marks and ranks:
Metric Value Rank among RB prospects since 2018
Rushing grade 94.3 90th percentile
Best single-season rushing grade 93.2 94th percentile
Rushing grade versus an eight-man box 85.5 92nd percentile
Missed tackles forced per attempt 0.29 80th percentile

RB Tyrone Tracy, Purdue

Tracy is a former wide receiver turned running back after transferring from Iowa to Purdue, so he has limited experience as a true running back. However, on the smaller sample size of when he’s run the ball, he’s proven to be one of the most explosive and elusive backs in this year’s class. Tracy’s 23.1% explosive run rate is the best in this year’s class and 97th percentile among all prospects since 2018 just behind Javonte Williams (23.3%) and ahead of Rhamondre Stevenson (23.0%). 

Tracy is also tied with the best running backs in the PFF college era in missed tackles forced per attempt (0.39), albeit on a smaller sample size (148 career carries) so he doesn’t quite have the sustained success as Javonte Williams, Bijan Robinson and Trey Benson, who all have over 300 career carries. Tracy should be considered a project player once he gets into the NFL, but he has the receiving ability and explosive playmaking that makes him a high-upside player worth taking a shot on in fantasy rookie drafts.

RB Isaac Guerendo, Louisville

Guerendo dealt with a number of injuries and was unable to earn a full-time role during his time at Wisconsin from 2019-2022 but transferred to Louisville for his final year and delivered a late-breakout season. Guerendo posted a 90.3 PFF rushing grade to go along with 810 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns. He also has a wide receiver background coming out of high school and added 234 receiving yards on 24 targets for an 84.1 receiving grade in 2023. Guerendo is an attractive prospect because of his ideal size and speed coming into the NFL, as he ran a 4.33-second 40-yard dash at the combine at 221 pounds.

Guerendo’s career numbers are based on a smaller sample size due to the injuries and not playing a full season until last year so his production profile isn’t overly impressive. His career 89.3 PFF rushing grade is just 55th percentile since 2018, though his 2023 PFF grade (90.3) ranks among the 74th percentile. This sleeper status is fully banking on Guerendo’s size and speed combo translating to a much better NFL career than college, as he’ll likely be a Day 3 pick who will have to earn a role in a starting lineup.

TE Jaheim Bell, Florida State

Bell’s 2.31 career yards per route run ranks among the 89th percentile of all tight end prospects since 2018 while his 3.67 yards per route run in 2021 is the best single-season mark among all tight end prospects who ran at least 100 routes in a season (an admittedly, slightly lower threshold) over that span. While Bell did regress in yards per route run over the next two seasons, he still delivered enough to keep him in that higher range for his career, and doing so as one of the best with the ball in his hands. Bell’s career 6.90-yard average depth of target is low, but his ability to create after the catch speaks to both South Carolina and Florida State just wanting to get the ball in his hands, as he delivered a 97th percentile yards after catch per reception (9.24). Bell comes in ranked as TE3 for me prior to the draft and his opportunity as a potential Day 3 pick is going to be key for this all to come to fruition in the NFL.


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