NFL Draft News & Analysis

Fantasy Football: Best wide receiver landing spots, including the Buffalo Bills and Los Angeles Chargers

2WBC939 Buffalo Bills interim offensive coordinator Joe Brady stands the field before an NFL football game against the Miami Dolphins, Sunday, Jan. 7, 2024, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/Doug Murray)

Buffalo Bills: Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator Joe Brady utilizes a fantasy-friendly offensive pace, creating a high-volume opportunity for an incoming rookie wide receiver.

Los Angeles Chargers: The Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver corps possesses minimal in-house pass-catching competition.

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Rookie NFL players need the perfect blend of talent and situational fit to produce a high-end fantasy football season in Year 1. The article identifies and explains the ideal landing spots for the 2024 NFL draft’s rookie wide receiver class. 

Buffalo Bills

The Buffalo Bills have yet to replace former No. 1 wide receiver Stefon Diggs and downfield wide receiver Gabe Davis, who both landed on new teams in 2024. Diggs and Davis’ respective 79.0 PFF receiving grade and 68.7 PFF receiving grade rank and tie for 24th and 52nd among 64 NFL wide receivers with at least 65 targets in 2023. A rookie No. 1 wide receiver selected on Day 1 or Day 2 of the 2024 NFL draft would be immediately points-per-reception-viable (PPR) thanks to the available No. 1 wide receiver role, an exceptionally fast offensive pace, an elite quarterback and a reliable offensive line. 

Buffalo’s pass-catching corps is woefully short-staffed, comprised of short-area, undersized pass-catchers. Journeyman wide receiver Curtis Samuel (5-foot-11, 195 pounds, 7.1-yard average depth of target (aDot)), wide receiver Khalil Shakir (6-foot, 190 pounds, 7.4-yard aDot), tight end Dalton Kincaid (6-foot-3, 240 pounds, 7.0-yard aDot) and running back James Cook (5-foot-11, 190 pounds, 1.8-yard aDot) astonishingly all produced sub-7.5-yard average depth of targets last year. 

Buffalo fired offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey in Week 11, shifting from an eighth-ranked 64.5% passing rate to a 54.1% passing rate under interim offensive coordinator Joe Brady, who was promoted to the official offensive coordinator this offseason. Brady’s second-ranked 6.9 offensive-plays-per-drive pace offsets passing-volume-related concerns for fantasy purposes though.

Among 32 NFL quarterbacks with at least 150 dropbacks from Week 11-on, Buffalo quarterback Josh Allen’s 80.3 PFF passing grade ranks ninth and his 7.0% big-time-throw rate ranks second. 

The passing game’s prospects are reinforced by an offensive line that retained four-of-five 2023 starters while elevating capable backup guard David Edwards, whose 68.0 PFF pass-blocking grade ranks fourth among Buffalo offensive linemen with at least 190 offensive snaps. 

Any wide receiver capable of playing in the intermediate-to-deep field depths, who Buffalo chooses to draft in Rounds 1-3, will assume a fantasy-friendly featured role.

Los Angeles Chargers

The Los Angeles Chargers appear in both the “Best running back landing spots in the 2024 NFL Draft and the “Best tight end landing spots in the 2024 NFL Draft due to new head coach Jim Harbaugh’s offensive personnel teardown. Harbaugh’s house-cleaning factors most strongly at the wide receiver position, where former No. 3 wide receiver Joshua Palmer now sits atop the pecking order. Palmer’s 2023 career-high 1.71 YPRR (yards per route run) is middling by most standards, as is reflected in his 67.6 PFF receiving grade, which ranks 58th among 74 NFL wide receivers with at least 60 targets. A wide receiver prospect drafted with Los Angeles’ No. 5 or No. 37 overall picks should relegate Palmer to the No. 2 wide receiver role.

Harbaugh ran Michigan’s 2023 offense with a 44.4% passing rate, second-lowest among Power Five teams, yet still totaled 361 passing attempts (tying for 50th) thanks to the team’s 5.6 offensive plays per drive rate, tying for 36th. The team featured three capable pass catchers who totaled 62-to-67 targets apiece, resulting in target shares ranging from 17.2%-to-18.6%. Harbaugh’s Los Angeles roster is too talent-deficient to distribute targets in the same capacity so surpassing the 18.6% mark is a hurdalable feat for a first- or second-round prospect. 

The 2023 regular-season San Francisco 49ers profile similarly to Harbaugh’s Michigan squad, ranking 32nd in passing rate (54.8%) and 16th in offensive plays per drive (6.0) but the higher-volume NFL environment yielded 491 passing attempts despite ranking 32nd among NFL teams. A 20.0% target share would be a low-end outcome in this scenario but would still yield 98-plus targets for the theoretical rookie. Something closer to 23.0% and 112-plus targets is easily attainable, leading to a top 36 positional finish.

For reference, Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Rashee Rice (86.1 PFF receiving grade), Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Zay Flowers (75.2 PFF receiving grade), Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Jordan Addison (69.7 PFF receiving grade) and Green Bay Packers Jayden Reed (74.4 PFF receiving grade) all produced top-36 PPR results in their 2023 rookie seasons, playing alongside talented veteran pass catchers. Their respective quarterbacks all graded within 3.0 points of Los Angeles quarterback Justin Herbert’s 10th-ranked (among 30 NFL quarterbacks with at least 300 dropbacks) 83.1 PFF passing grade.

Los Angeles’ is an ideal landing spot for a talented prospect capable of handling a featured role.

New England Patriots

The New England Patriots will assuredly draft a talented quarterback with the No. 3 overall pick in the draft, but the front office is also armed with the second round’s second pick (No. 34) and the third round’s fourth pick (No. 68) while also desperately needing a true alpha wide receiver on the perimeter to complement slot receiver Demario Douglas, whose 72.8 PFF slot-receiving grade ranks 18th among 34 NFL slot receivers with at least 35 targets when lined up in the slot pre-snap. The incoming rookie wide receiver enters a unique situation, offering fantasy managers a potential contrarian option that gives them leverage over the field. New England’s expected personnel groupings, in-house competition, offensive line and talented rookie quarterback create a fantasy-friendly environment.

New England brought in Alex Van Pelt (offensive coordinator) and Ben McAdoo (senior offensive assistant) to run the post-Bill Belichick offense, likely signaling an impending high-volume offense that relies on three-wide receiver sets (11 personnel). Van Pelt pivoted to frequent 11 personnel usage in his final season as the Cleveland Browns offensive coordinator last year, averaging 4.4 11 personnel snaps per drive, the 10th-most among NFL teams. 

McAdoo made his name as an 11 personnel pioneer in 2015 (offensive coordinator) and 2016 (head coach) with the New York Giants

McAdoo and Van Pelt’s relevant 11 personnel data among NFL teams:
NFL-Team 11 Personnel Snaps Alex Van Pelt: Passing – Offense Ben McAdoo: Passing – Offense
2023 611 (No. 5) – 955 (No. 3) N/A
2016 N/A 670 (No. 1) – 1,021 (No. 1)
2015 N/A 625 (No. 1) – 889 (No. 1)

McAdoo’s 2016 and 2015 snap totals rank first and second, respectively, in the two seasons combined. 

NFL wide receivers who own a role in two-wide receiver sets are ideal for fantasy football because the role solidifies their full-time status while providing softer target competition. Drafting young players stuck in three-wide receiver-based offenses can be dicey as it is far more difficult to earn targets against fellow wide receivers, rather than tight ends and running backs. New England’s expected 11 personnel reliance allows for quick on-field access, giving the youngster an opportunity to outplay the team’s league-worst wide receiver corps. 

Among 81 NFL wide receivers with at least 55 targets in 2023, New England did not have a wide receiver who fell within the top 50 positional target earners and only Douglas (76 targets) landed inside the top 75.

The unit also failed to produce a wide receiver who earned even a 59.0 PFF run-blocking grade, grading out as the NFL’s eighth-worst run-blocking wide receiver corps with a 42.0 PFF run-blocking grade. Even if the team utilizes two-wide receiver sets more frequently than expected, the rookie has a clear path to a full-time role. 

New England’s offensive line returns three-of-four starters while elevating backup tackle Conor McDermott to a starting role. His 65.9 PFF pass-blocking grade ranks third among New England offensive linemen with at least 220 offensive snaps. The line’s continuity will make life easier on the incoming signal caller. 

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