NFL Draft News & Analysis

Fantasy Football: Wide receiver rankings for the 2024 NFL Draft

2TATCA2 Washington wide receiver Rome Odunze (1) runs a route during an NCAA college football game for the Pac-12 Conference championship against Oregon, Friday, Dec. 1, 2023, in Las Vegas. The Huskies won 34-31 to win the Pac-12 football championship. (Aaron M. Sprecher via AP)

• The top three are locked in: There isn’t much question about the first three as all are potential top-10 picks, but outside of that, it gets more interesting.

• Red flags for potential first-round wide receivers push them down: Between Brian Thomas Jr., Xavier Worthy, and Adonai Mitchell, there are significant question marks about their potential fantasy viability.

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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 IDP fantasy rankings for this year’s class.

These dynasty rookie rankings will take into account each player’s college career, production profiles, projected draft capital and 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 wide receiver class:

1. Marvin Harrison Jr., Ohio State

Harrison is a natural at the position who dominated across the board regardless of receiving metrics and has earned the right to be considered one of the best prospects for his position in recent years. As a true alpha wide receiver, Harrison’s 98th percentile ranking in my model (talked about here) compares him to Ja’Marr Chase, DeVonta Smith, Tee Higgins, CeeDee Lamb and Jaylen Waddle. There are no glaring weaknesses in his production that are likely to translate to him being unproductive in the NFL, and any concerns are immediately erased when looking at his production as a whole.

Metric Value Rank Among WR Prospects Since 2019
Yards per route run 2.98 93rd percentile
Receiving grade 91.3 94th percentile
Receiving grade lined up wide 89.5 97th percentile
Receiving grade lined up in the slot 89.9 94th percentile
Explosive play rate 45.8% 94th percentile
Receiving grade versus single coverage 94.5 98th percentile
1st downs/touchdowns per route run 0.17 98th percentile

Even when looking at this data with more context, Harrison Jr. still stands tall above everyone else in this year’s class. His YPRR over expectations when adjusting for personnel (+1.52) was the best in this class. He also posted top-five career YPRR totals in this class when breaking it down by situation (highlighted here), including versus single coverage, zone, press coverage, in the red zone, on deep passes and on late downs. Everything Harrison does, he does extremely well and should be an immediate fantasy asset regardless of landing spot.

2. Malik Nabers, LSU

Coming in very close as the second-ranked rookie wide receiver, Nabers is more than likely going to get drafted within the top 10 this year, and rightfully so, as his career receiving metrics are comparable to Harrison and often appears right next to him when it comes to a lot of the key categories. He comes in as a 95th-percentile prospect in my model alongside Jaxon Smith-Njigba and Garrett Wilson. His career 2.83 yards per route run is second only to Harrison, as his 91.2 career PFF receiving grade. When it came to the deeper dive numbers like personnel-adjusted yards per route run and yards per target over expectations, Nabers dominated there as well, much like Harrison.

Helping Nabers cause is that he is arguably the best receiver in this class with the ball in his hands. His 0.31 missed tackles forced per reception is not just the best mark in this year’s class but ranks among the 99th percentile of wide receiver prospects since 2019 in that regard as he’s unlocked the ability to turn so many opportunities into big-time plays, which is a great bonus asset to have for fantasy purposes. Nabers is set to get great draft capital with a landing spot that is only going to help him deliver as a fantasy-worthy starter in Year 1 with elite long-term potential.

3. Rome Odunze, Washington

The top three wide receivers in this class just continue to ease the minds of fantasy managers set to spend a high rookie pick in drafts this year as Odunze comes in as another potential top-10 pick who can contribute right away in the NFL. While he is the consensus No. 3 receiver in the class, he should be considered far more than just any ordinary consolation prize for those who don’t get Harrison or Nabers. Odunze boasts a strong production profile, which includes 2.50 career yards per route run that ranks 71st percentile among prospects since 2019. However when adjusting for personnel (highlighted here), his number ranked slightly higher as he was put in less favorable positions competing for targets with two other draft-worthy wide receivers in this class in Ja’Lynn Polk and Jalen McMillan.

Odunze also stood out against single coverage, earning a 4.17 career yards per route run (78th percentile) and 92.1 receiving grade (89th percentile), which is going to be key for a primary outside wide receiver. Odunze is primed for a strong NFL career with legitimate WR1 potential both for fantasy and on his NFL team, so dynasty managers should be very excited about snagging him regardless of his landing spot. 

4. Troy Franklin, Oregon

I know, he’s skinny and the gauntlet drill at the combine gave people “the ick”, but hear me out, because I adore Troy Franklin and I only keep finding more reasons to have him within my top-five wide receivers in this year’s draft. While he has a slighter frame, it has yet to prove a hindrance to him for his college career, even posting 2.45 yards per route run versus press coverage in his career — a better mark than Odunze (2.34) and Nabers (2.23). Franklin also dominated against single coverage in his career, earning 5.10 yards per route run which is not only the best in this class, but it’s fourth-best among qualifying prospects since 2019. 

Franklin offers the ability to be a consistent threat in the deep and intermediate areas of the field as he gets open at an incredibly high rate. His 45% open target rate on throws 10-plus yards downfield ranks among the 92nd percentile of prospects since 2019. There’s more to love than to hate with Franklin and I have little concerns about his ability to translate into an NFL-caliber wide receiver and fantasy asset.

5. Ladd McConkey, Georgia

McConkey rounds out the top five for me, though it was close between him and No. 6 on this list, McConkey’s play style and eventual usage in the NFL should translate to more reliable fantasy production early in his career. As a smaller wide receiver, he’ll likely spend a lot more time in the slot in the NFL than he did in college (30% of routes) and should have no problem in this relatively newer role. His work against zone coverage is a good indicator for this — as he’ll face a lot more zone than man coverage out of the slot. He's earned 2.79 yards per route run versus zone, which is the fourth-best mark in this year’s class. He was also more productive from a yards-per-route run perspective for his career working out of the slot with 2.84 versus 2.37 when lined up wide.

McConkey is going to push for first-round draft capital and that could ultimately be what ends up being the tie-breaker for him and the next name on the list, but pre-draft, I keep coming back to McConkey’s ability to make the most of his opportunities while competing for targets against an elite Brock Bowers in that Georgia offense. He’s unlikely to be a WR1 in an NFL offense, but he’s proven that he can earn targets and produce regardless, and that should allow him to find his way into fantasy starting lineups on a regular basis.

6. Brian Thomas Jr., LSU

Thomas is the one player who I go back and forth on more than anyone else in this class because the athletic and physical tools are clearly there to the point NFL teams are going to fall in love with him, spend some hefty draft capital and make him a key part of their offense. On the other hand, there isn’t a ton of evidence that his game will translate to being a reliable fantasy wide receiver, assuming he finds himself in the similar deep-threat role that he played for LSU. That could very well be his function in the NFL because there isn’t a lot of data that supports him as anything other than a vertical threat, though it also shouldn’t mean he can’t develop into a more diverse role, since that is just what LSU asked him to do.

The big question that dynasty managers will need to answer will be whether he was used almost exclusively as a vertical threat because LSU didn’t feel he could offer more than that or was it because that was just how their offense operates? Either way, the sample size is small and unimpressive for the most part (highlighted in the chart below), but there is an optimistic part of me that sees the upside and can envision him being an NFL star. It just becomes significantly less likely when compared to other wide receiver prospects who offered similar late breakout production in recent years. This post from Fantasy Points’ Scott Barrett highlighting that concern perfectly.

Brian Thomas' career numbers and ranks among wide receiver prospects since 2019:
Metric Value Rank
Receiving grade 71.5 21st percentile
Yards per route run 1.95 28th percentile
Targets per route run 0.18 11th percentile
1st downs/touchdowns per route run 0.11 37th percentile
Receiving grade versus single coverage 75.5 30th percentile

7. Jermaine Burton, Alabama

Burton is arguably one of the top deep threats in this year’s class, evidenced by 51% of his total career receiving yardage coming on throws 20-plus yards downfield, which is the most among any prospect in this class. Burton has excelled in this role, even leading this year’s class in yards per target over expectation, which takes the average depth of each individual target into account in order to measure how much a receiver was able to deliver over expectations versus their peers (highlighted here).

While Burton hasn’t posted a 1,000-yard season in college, he was still Alabama’s leader in receiving yardage in each of the past two seasons and even led Georgia’s wide receivers in that regard when he was there in 2021 over  Ladd McConkey and Adonai Mitchell. There are a number of encouraging metrics for Burton, including a 43.2% career explosive play rate (85th percentile) and a 41% open target rate on 10-plus ADoT throws (83rd percentile). However, there are off-field concerns that need to be factored into evaluations as it seems he’ll have some maturing to do in the NFL in order to stay on the field. Based on his talent alone, he’s worth taking a shot on in this range of rookie drafts for higher upside potential.

8. Roman Wilson, Michigan

Wilson is a smaller slot receiver out of Michigan projected to go in the second round of this year’s draft and has steadily improved each season, culminating in an 84.5 PFF receiving grade and a strong 2.68 yards per route run. He led the Wolverines in receiving yards (789) and touchdowns (12) as a late-breakout player, so like with Thomas, some concerns emerge for his potential to be a hit for fantasy purposes.

On the plus side, Wilson has delivered slightly more encouraging receiving metrics than some of his peers in this range, including a 2.33 career yards per route run (73rd percentile for this class). Wilson also did a great job separating downfield with a 43% open target rate on 10-plus yard throws. He has 4.39 speed and will have a shot to earn a productive slot role in the NFL which keeps him within this top-10 range pre-draft. 

9. Javon Baker, UCF

Baker qualifies more as a sleeper in this year’s class as he could potentially be drafted on Day 3, making this ranking a bit controversial, but he truly stood out in terms of his analytics profile as a player who is likely more deserving of third-round draft capital at worst. His 2.53 career yards per route run ranks among the 74th percentile of prospects since 2019, his 44.4% explosive play rate ranked among the 90th percentile, and he dominated against single coverage. His 93.6 PFF receiving grade versus single coverage ranked among the 96th percentile and his 5.07 yards per route run is among the 94th percentile. 

Baker does have 15 drops (7.7% drop rate) over his college career which is a concerning number, though an unstable metric not worth focusing on too much here, but could at least pose an issue for playing time if he becomes unreliable in that way in the NFL.

10. Xavier Worthy, Texas

Rounding out the top 10 was a really difficult and close call for me as there are concerns for each of these players (ranked 9-11) heading into the NFL draft. For Baker, draft capital and inconsistencies in his game are going to push him down rookie draft boards. For both Worthy and Mitchell, there are a number of holes in their overall production profiles that cause concerns when translating to successful fantasy assets. 

Worthy just gets the edge over Adonai Mitchell as his speed and athleticism have at least led to an elite breakout age (18.4) and out-producing Mitchell in college. Worthy has red flags, which include a really poor showing in the yards per target over expectations model (highlighted here), but his profile as a whole just gives less concern than with Mitchell. A number of other tie-breakers that I considered are listed in the chart below.

Baker versus Mitchell versus Worthy career numbers for the ranking tie-breakers:
Metric Javon Baker Adonai Mitchell Xavier Worthy
YPRR 2.53 1.68 2.21
Receiving Grade 82.3 73.0 80.0
Wide YPRR 2.46 1.82 2.24
Slot YPRR 2.85 0.76 2.12
Explosive play rate 44.4% 40.9% 35.7%
Receiving grade vs single coverage 93.6 89.2 84.7
YPRR versus single coverage 5.07 3.18 3.21
Targets per route run 0.24 0.19 0.27
1DTD per route run 0.12 0.11 0.11
Best season receiving yards/game 80.5 (2023) 58.7 (2023) 81.6 (2021)

11. Adonai Mitchell, Texas

I was only going to have write-ups for the first 10 players ranked but I feel like this one needs explaining since Mitchell is going to get a lot of love as a potential first-round wide receiver. Unfortunately, after going back and forth on it, I just can’t get behind him inside the top 10, as his production profile coming out of college offers little to no encouragement at all. He sits just 13th percentile among prospects since 2019 in career yards per route run (1.68), and even his best season in YPRR this past year at Texas when he posted a 1.72 would be just third percentile among prospect’s best seasons (min. 100 routes) over that span.

A major concern is that there hasn’t been a first-round wide receiver drafted who posted a career yards per route run total below 2.00 since 2016, and this year there is potentially two in Mitchell and Thomas (1.95). Also factoring in that among 54 wide receiver prospects with sub-2.00 career YPRR figures out of college since 2019, only Terry McLaurin (1.57), Hunter Renfrow (1.51) and D.K. Metcalf (1.84) have emerged as top-30 PPR wide receivers in a season. This creates an unbearably low 5.5% success rate for fantasy purposes, and while it’s not impossible that one emerges, he would need to be a significant outlier at this point. A lot of the other red flags are highlighted in the chart above in Worthy’s blurb. 

Honorable mentions

12. Brenden Rice, USC

13. Jamari Thrash, Louisville

14. Ricky Pearsall, Florida

15. Jalen McMillan, Washington

16. Ja’Lynn Polk, Washington

17. Johnny Wilson, FSU

18. Xavier Legette, South Carolina

19. Keon Coleman, FSU

20. Devontez Walker, North Carolina

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