The 6 Biggest Fantasy Football Steals of the 2024 NFL Draft

Apr 29, 2024
The 6 Biggest Fantasy Steals of the 2024 NFL Draft

The NFL Draft has come and gone, with some incredibly intriguing storylines, not least of which are the numerous rookie quarterbacks expected to take meaningful snaps in the 2024 season. A massive run of offensive pieces took out most of the first half of the first round, and the options that weren’t drafted in the first 15 selections inevitably fell down the board as teams eventually shifted their attention to the defensive side of the ball.

Below, we’ll explore some rookie options that, despite potentially having lower draft capital, have landed in spots that are likely to keep them firmly on the fantasy radar.

Jonathon Brooks, RB, Carolina Panthers

NFL Draft Slot: Round 2, Pick 14 (46)

It would seem that the NFL has come around to the fact that first-round selections are simply too much capital to sink into the running back position. Or maybe this draft class is more weak than we’re used to. Maybe a little bit of both. Having the fifth-year option on a position that has the shortest shelf life in the league is probably not the greatest proposition, and we saw the Carolina Panthers sneak back into the first round to bolster their offense, but they did so for a wide receiver (Xavier Legette), believing their running back could still be there in the second round.

The Panthers jumped up a few spots to grab Jonathon Brooks, who is far more talented than any options they currently have on their roster, though he is recovering from a torn ACL suffered back in November. The team had more glaring needs elsewhere, but it’s hard to argue the landing spot, considering his eventual ascension as the team’s RB1, even if we have to wait a few weeks into the season to get there.

Brooks was ultra-productive in his one year as a starter, after minimal playing time in his first two years at Texas, due entirely to sharing backfields with Bijan Robinson and Roschon Johnson. When given his opportunity, Brooks peeled off eight straight games with at least 98 yards on the ground, averaging 128.75 per game between Weeks 3-11.

Pre-NFL Draft Underdog ADP: RB31 (106.8)

This good-to-great landing spot will likely see his ADP shoot up, but the ACL does bother me for immediate returns. Taking him as an RB2 feels a little iffy to me, but I’d be more than happy to grab him here in this range if he stays there.

Troy Franklin, WR, Denver Broncos

NFL Draft Slot: Round 4, Pick 2 (102)

One of the biggest 2024 Draft-Day fallers, there’s a good chance that NFL teams were turned off by Troy Franklin’s lanky weigh-ins during the testing cycle. Though Franklin had a great 4.41 40-yard dash and 39” vertical, he measured 176 pounds at 6’1”, a weight that landed him in the 13th percentile. This didn’t seem to be a problem for the diminutive 165-pound Xavier Worthy, but when you run the fastest 40 in NFL Combine history, teams tend to give you a pass.

Ignoring the size for a moment, Franklin consistently produced over his final two years at Oregon, accruing 2,274 receiving yards and averaging an outlandish 17.1 yards per reception in 2023. He was also a favorite of Bo Nix in the red zone, catching 23 touchdowns over the last two seasons, trailing only Marvin Harrison Jr. in all of college football.

Franklin has the route-running expertise and long speed to threaten defenses deep, making him a great candidate to see the field more often than we would expect from a fourth-round selection. There are also the added positives of a possible Courtland Sutton move and the very enticing aspect of playing with his former college teammate from Day 1.

Pre-NFL Draft Underdog ADP: WR57 (124.5)

The WR57 valuation feels right about where we should be considering Franklin at this point. He is likely to have some issues with the pro level right away, including larger DBs pressing him at the line of scrimmage, but there is a good chance we will see some blow-up games as well. A headache in redraft leagues, he profiles as a classic “better in best ball” option for his rookie season.

Adonai Mitchell, WR, Indianapolis Colts

NFL Draft Slot: Round 2, Pick 20 (52)

The Colts desperately needed to exit this Draft with someone resembling a No. 2 option in this offense, and they did just that with Adonai Mitchell. Alec Pierce and Josh Downs have proven to be perfectly fine role players, but with a litany of middle-of-the-road tight ends, neither pass-catching group has done enough to move the needle behind Michael Pittman Jr. Mitchell offers quarterback Anthony Richardson an additional weapon who can win at the catch-point and should sneak into 2WR sets sooner rather than later.

The issue with Mitchell as a prospect is his relatively poor production profile, which may be one reason he dropped so far after being considered a fringe first-round option. Mitchell never reached 850 yards receiving through three years at Georgia and Texas, topping out at 55 receptions in 2023. This was a solid pick for the Colts and gives Richardson another much-needed option in what we hope is his first full season in the NFL.

It’s just fair to wonder exactly what kind of upside Mitchell provides as a fantasy asset.

Pre-NFL Draft Underdog ADP: WR45 (87.2)

This ADP feels like a bit much and was likely the reaction to rumors that the Buffalo Bills were targeting him in the first round, which would have been a much better landing spot. Nevertheless, he helps to boost the floor for quarterback Anthony Richardson and should be in consideration when his ADP (presumably) drops to WR6 range.

Jermaine Burton, WR, Cincinnati Bengals

NFL Draft Slot: Round 3, Pick 16 (80)

Due to character issues and some questions about how he will adapt to life as a professional, Jermaine Burton likely slid about a full round later than he would have if that weren’t part of the equation. Burton had solid production at two big-time schools (Georgia and Alabama) despite sharing the field with numerous NFL-caliber pass-catchers throughout his college career.

He can be used as an immediate deep threat, as evidenced by his monstrous 20.2 aDOT in his final season. Among all drafted wide receivers in this class, Burton ranked second in target share that traveled 20+ yards down the field (36.8%), trailing only Pittsburgh’s Bub Means. He should fill in as a more explosive Tyler Boyd and is earmarked as the WR3 behind Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins from the get-go.

Pre-NFL Draft Underdog ADP: WR78 (185.6)

Over the last three seasons, Boyd has operated as the Bengals WR3 and has finished as fantasy’s WR37, WR43, and WR64 in half-PPR points per game. There is plenty of meat left on the bone behind Chase and Higgins if Joe Burrow is healthy for a full season. Burton is definitely going to shoot way past this current ADP, and he should be prioritized as a late-round dart on teams with Burrow already rostered.

Theo Johnson, TE, New York Giants

NFL Draft Slot: Round 4, Pick 7 (107)

Maybe the biggest gulf between evaluator projections and where NFL teams actually selected the players came at the tight end position. Consensus TE2s were going as the TE7, and vice versa. This means that even though Theo Johnson came off the board as the fifth TE, it doesn’t necessarily mean he hasn’t found a home that could make him the most productive option in this draft class (behind Brock Bowers, obviously).

There’s an argument to be made for either Ja’Tavion Sanders (Panthers) or Ben Sinnott (Commanders) ahead of him, but if Darren Waller does end up retiring, Johnson could make a fantasy splash right off the bat. Johnson is ready-made to usurp the underneath role on an offense that still desperately needs someone to step up.

Pre-NFL Draft Underdog ADP: TE38 (238.3)

Johnson is, understandably, going undrafted at this point, despite an NFL Combine showing that landed him at a 9.93 RAS after running a 4.57 40-yard dash at 6’6”, 259 pounds. I may be blinded by recent rookie TE performances in Year 1, but taking him as your TE3 in best ball drafts —particularly in cases where you’ve drafted Daniel Jones— feels like a low-risk, moderate-reward move in the last round.

Spencer Rattler, QB, New Orleans Saints

NFL Draft Slot: Round 5, Pick 15 (150)

I may have had to stretch for this one, but I wanted to target at least one quarterback, and with six of them going in the first 12 selections, it’s hard to call any of them a “steal.” Spencer Rattler may have had what you would call a tumultuous college career, but that is what made him fall to the fifth round of the Draft, not necessarily his arm talent.

Rattler was in the Heisman conversation early in his career but eventually lost his job to Caleb Williams and spent his final two seasons at South Carolina, throwing for 6,100+ yards and adding 590 more on the ground. Falling to the fifth round was a steep drop, but with so many teams addressing the position so early, the Saints did well to save him from falling even further.

While Rattler is a nice bet to make in SuperFlex Dynasty leagues, he can be safely ignored (for now) in redraft.

Pre-NFL Draft Underdog ADP: QB41 (240.0)

Rattler is of no interest to us in best ball leagues for the time being, but he is an intriguing name to keep in mind if Carr continues to have issues with his throwing shoulder.

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