NFL Draft News & Analysis

Fantasy Football: Quarterback rankings for the 2024 NFL Draft

2T6RW32 LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels (5) celebrates after a touchdown against Florida during the second half of an NCAA college football game in Baton Rouge, La., Saturday, Nov. 11, 2023. (AP Photo/Derick Hingle)

• The rookie fantasy football and NFL draft QB1 is Caleb Williams: The USC star quarterback is heading to a great spot to build on his elite playmaking ability.

See who follows Williams in a tight top-three for this year’s class: Jayden Daniels and Drake Maye have claims at the second (first?) spot among this year’s rookie fantasy quarterbacks.

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The NFL draft is right around the corner and with so much draft content available, it’s time to finally solidify some pre-draft fantasy rankings for this year’s class.

Starting with the quarterbacks, these dynasty rookie rankings will take into account each player’s college career, production profile, projected draft capital as well as personal bias for what I think about these players after watching their tape while combining everything else to sort them out.

Check out some of the other fantasy-related work on this year’s quarterback class:

1. Caleb Williams, USC

The odds-on favorite to go first overall in this year’s draft is also the top fantasy quarterback option. Williams brings high-end playmaking ability with his arm and his legs, averaging 29.5 fantasy points per game for his college career with 8.5 points per game coming as a result of his rushing ability alone. 

Williams' scrambling ability is going to be a crucial asset behind a rebuilding, yet improving, offensive line in Chicago. While Williams owns the longest career average time-to-throw (3.27 seconds) among all quarterback prospects since 2017, which has led to a below-average 6.6% career sack rate, he’s at least done a nice job of not allowing that to result in a high turnover-worthy play rate (2.5%), providing a necessary balance to his high-end passing ability.

The future Chicago Bear owns a 91.4 career PFF passing grade coming out of college that ranks among the 88th percentile of quarterback prospects since 2017. His 6.5% big-time throw rate (84th percentile) and ability to extend plays by scrambling out of the pocket have been significant keys to success and should be translatable to the NFL with Keenan Allen and D.J. Moore to rely on for big plays. In addition to having a strong pass-catching running back like D’Andre Swift and a reliable tight end like Cole Kmet to present themselves as QB-friendly targets for their rookie quarterback, Chicago becomes an ideal landing spot for the young rookie quarterback, further helping his case to be a legitimate fantasy asset as soon as he enters the league.

2. Jayden Daniels, LSU

There is a very understandable argument to have Daniels as the top-ranked fantasy quarterback for this rookie class due to his rushing talent alone. Daniels averaged 10.9 rushing fantasy points per game across 55 college appearances from his time at Arizona State to his Heisman-winning season in 2023 at LSU. Over the past two years with the Tigers, Daniels averaged 13.8 fantasy points via his rushing ability alone, which would be the second-highest mark among all quarterback prospects since 2017, behind only Lamar Jackson (20.5).

Helping Daniels’ case as a future star and weekly fantasy starter is that he has a great arm, can make NFL throws and does an excellent job at limiting the turnover-worthy plays. Daniels’ 1.6% career turnover-worthy-play rate is the best mark among all quarterback prospects since 2017. The biggest area that he needs to clean up, much like Williams, is his high 7.2% career sack rate, which becomes a concerning number when taking into account the low success rate of quarterbacks who fall into that high sack rate bucket in the NFL. Among 18 quarterback prospects who had a career sack rate of 7.0% or worse since 2017, only Lamar Jackson has proven to be a legitimate NFL starting quarterback so far.

Daniels is unlikely to land in an offense as well set up for success as Williams in Chicago — outside of being drafted by the Minnesota Vikings — but that elite rushing ability should certainly help. After all, Daniels ranks among the 95th percentile of quarterback prospects in missed tackles forced per attempt (0.31) and 96th percentile in yards after contact per attempt (4.05), which is a very exciting combination for fantasy when also considering his 258 career scrambles (100th percentile) over his college career.

3. Drake Maye, North Carolina

The most impressive thing about Maye is that as a two-year starter at North Carolina, he put together one of the more encouraging collections of passing metrics for a quarterback prospect in recent years. This includes an 8.2% big-time-throw rate (97th percentile) and a 2.1% turnover-worthy-play rate (95th percentile) while dominating the PFF stable metrics over these past two years despite a lesser supporting cast than Williams and Daniels.

While his passing ability is promising, Maye isn’t lacking as a rushing threat either, averaging 8.4 rushing fantasy points per game for his career, which is nearly identical to Williams (8.5). His 8.3 rush attempts per game rank behind only Daniels in this year’s class, and he delivered encouraging rushing metrics when doing so, ranking 74th percentile in missed tackles forced per attempt (0.20) and 88th percentile in yards after contact per attempt (3.54). 

Maye also has the best career average depth of target of the three (10.7 yards), the best air yard percentage (61.9%), and the best catchable pass rate on throws 10-plus yards (66.2%) and 20-plus yards (60.8%) downfield. Maye’s landing spot in the draft is far from solidified at this point, so it’s unclear how much faith we should have in his supporting cast in the NFL, but he’s proven that he can elevate above those circumstances to a higher level already in his career and should still be considered a legitimate dynasty quarterback asset regardless of his landing spot.

4. J.J. McCarthy, Michigan

While the gap starts to expand a bit after the first three quarterbacks listed, McCarthy is still expected to be a potential top-10 pick in the NFL draft and has been a common trade-up target in mock drafts for the Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings offer some excellent passing weapons for a rookie quarterback to take advantage of, making that destination one of the ideal spots for any of this year’s prospects, but it isn’t a guarantee that he gets there so for now, he’ll have to earn this No. 4 ranking with good old fashioned college production and perceived potential.

One of the areas where McCarthy really surprised when digging into the data was his accuracy on deep throws. Coming out of Michigan’s run-heavy offense, he wasn’t asked to throw a ton during his two years as a starter, as his 795 dropbacks are one of the lowest numbers in this year’s class. However, when he did throw, he was at least accurate, ranking among the 99th percentile of prospects since 2017 in overall catchable pass rate (76.3%) and 96th percentile both in catchable pass rate when throwing 10-plus yards downfield (66.7%) and 20-plus yards downfield (58.9%). 

He doesn't have much rushing upside, which keeps him well outside the top-three fantasy quarterback options, but there is a path to fantasy relevance if he lands in an ideal offense like Minnesota, where he could be throwing to Justin Jefferson, Jordan Addison and T.J. Hockenson on a regular basis.

5. Minnesota Vikings: QB J.J. McCarthy, Michigan

5. Bo Nix, Oregon

Nix’s potential draft capital ranges wildly depending on who you ask, but there’s at least a good chance he lands on an offense in need of a starting quarterback, or at the very least, a winnable starting quarterback camp battle. And this isn’t to say that Nix’s fantasy value hinges on his Year 1 status as a starter, but it certainly helps where he’ll go in 1-QB fantasy rookie drafts.

There’s quite a bit to like from Nix after he transferred to Oregon in 2022, where he greatly improved his game after a rougher start to his career for three years at Auburn. Nix was able to improve his career PFF passing grade to a respectable 85.1 (59th percentile since 2017) after he was sitting at just 71.1 prior to his transfer.

Nix’s fantasy upside isn’t all that enticing however, as one of the biggest reasons for that great improvement came at the cost of big-play potential, where his career average depth of target dropped to just 8.1 yards (fifth percentile) and his big-time-throw rate to just 4.3% (13th percentile). Putting him at fifth on this list comes with the expectation that he’ll have some long-term value as a quarterback who could stick around and continue to be a starter in the NFL, which gives him a slight advantage over the rest of the group for dynasty purposes, where there is less confidence in that being the case for the later names on the list.

6. Michael Penix Jr., Washington

Penix has been getting some buzz as a potential first-rounder in this year’s class, though it’s far from a guarantee, which makes it harder to invest too heavily in him as a fantasy option right now. One of the issues for Penix is that he doesn’t offer much rushing upside, averaging just 3.1 rush attempts per game and 35 scrambles across six years of his college career. 

Helping Penix’s case is that he can throw the ball downfield with a strong arm that allowed him to put up a 10.4-yard career average depth of target (73rd percentile), a 6.3% big-time-throw rate (75th percentile) and deliver a 57.1% air yards percentage (76th percentile). He did this while managing the best sack rate (1.8%) among all quarterback prospects since 2017 and a 96th percentile turnover-worthy-play rate (2.1%), which are definitely positives for his chances to be a first-round pick.

However, there are overall accuracy issues combined with just being a work-in-progress prospect with little to no rushing upside, keeping him from being a strong fantasy consideration at this point.

7. Jordan Travis, Florida State

8. Spencer Rattler, South Carolina

Getting well clear of the first round with these final two names as honorable mentions more than anything else. Travis gets the edge over Rattler prior to landing spots because he was the clear leader in PFF’s stable metrics categories while also offering more rushing upside. Rattler’s projected draft capital (likely Day 2) keeps it close, but his overall profile just isn’t strong enough to put him over Travis for now while draft capital and landing spots are not yet solidified.

Travis versus Rattler (career numbers):
Metric Jordan Travis Spencer Rattler
Passing grade 84.7 86.1
ADoT 10.4 8.3
Big-time-throw rate 6.1% 4.8%
Turnover-worthy-play rate 2.8% 3.3%
Sack rate 6.2% 6.6%
Rush attempts/game 7.3 4.5
Rushing fantasy points/game 8.9 4.1
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