2024 Fantasy Football Bold Predictions (With Data)

6 days ago

Hayden Winks

You miss 100% of the shots you don't take.

1. The Cowboys Have The Highest Advance Rate

"Advance rate" is the percentage of best ball teams that finish 1st or 2nd in the regular season (Weeks 1-14). It's a decent measure of who were the best picks at ADP. The Dallas Cowboys are exactly that.

CeeDee Lamb is my 1.01 after completely lapping the field in targets and finishing as the WR1 in man coverage composite score. He's the safest player in fantasy as he enters his prime in a very pass-heavy offense. Behind him, there's a massive gap until their 2nd player in ADP. It's actually shocking how big the gap is compared to the other teams projected for top-10 points this year (see below). The odds that there is fantasy value to be had behind Lamb are high.

Jake Ferguson isn't viewed as what you guys call "elite TE" (the most generous title on the planet), but I think he can be. He was 2nd in missed tackles forced, 6th in yards after catch per reception, 7th in targets, 8th in yards, and 9th in receptions last year, but Ferg Daddy scored -3.8 TDs over expected based on bad luck. We can call that "bad luck" because he immediately scored 3 TDs in the NFL Playoffs loss to the Packers. We didn't get fantasy points for those, dangit.

Dak Prescott projects similarly to CJ Stroud individually, yet his ADP is multiple rounds below because there are fewer stacking options before him. That's a spot to exploit with coach Mike McCarthy showcasing his modern approach. The Cowboys are quietly analytics based nowadays: 2nd in 4th-down aggressiveness, 3rd in neutral pass rate, and 3rd in plays per game. There aren't many regression concerns for Prescott either. He finished 51st overall in fantasy points over replacement per game last year because of elite volume and high-end play.

The ancillary pieces are solid, too. Brandin Cooks was the WR35 in man coverage composite score last year and had +21% fantasy points over expected, leading to an 85th overall finish in fantasy points over replacement per game. He goes much later than that right now, even though his contingent upside if Lamb were to miss time is as good as any WR in fantasy. Perhaps the biggest room for value comes in the RB room, as the Cowboys RB1 goes behind almost 30 other team's RB1s. Ezekiel Elliott is a potential slight win at RB38 given his goal-line and pass-protection experience, while the explosive Rico Dowdle offers a remarkable ceiling if he dusts Zeke and his $1M guaranteed contract. Dowdle is a massive target of min while he sits at RB43. As a reminder, the Cowboys were 7th in RB usage as a team last year. We've drafted Dak's RB1 and RB2 highly every single year. Until now.

2. The Falcons Have The Lowest Advance Rate

Based on pre-season projections, there is a disadvantage for the people drafting in the back-half of the draft in 2024. That's where you'll find Bijan Robinson and Drake London right now. The Falcons should be light year's better with upgrades at QB and potentially at play caller, but I believe there are better options around their ADPs. First, I like Breece Hall over Bijan straight up. We've seen Hall be a truly elite RB1 multiple times in way worse environments than he has in 2024, yet Bijan goes ahead of him. There's still a chance Bijan doesn't get a large majority of his team's goal line attempts with the more powerful Tyler Allgeier around. That has me a bit nervous at his 7th overall cost after seeing Bijan handle 18% of the Falcons' inside the 5-yard line carries last year.

London begins the tier of unproven WR2s being priced as low-end WR1s. We're projecting a massive jump in his stats, as he goes from league-low WR usage to somewhere closer to average. Being projected for the 13th-most points based on upcoming point spreads is a total turnaround, but other WRs do still have it better. We're dealing with a first-time NFL play-caller at OC with a defensive-minded HC and a 36-year-old achilles survivor QB, who no longer has the best WR in the NFL to drag up his efficiency. There are ways where this increased pass volume gets a bit over hyped, and even if the environment isn't overhyped, I do wonder if London's real life talent is closer to WR10-15 than the more explosive top-10 tier. I'm also unwilling to copy/paste his per-route numbers from 2023 -- 22% targets per route is solid, not elite by the way -- when we expect Kyle Pitts to be healthier and have Darnell Mooney upgrading Mack Hollins and Van Jefferson as the WR2.

Kyle Pitts is very interesting to me at his cost because he can beat ADP even if the environment is league average. That's the nature of the low bar needed at fantasy TE. I just need to see if he's truly healthy in training camp after watching him be unable to turn on his wounded knee all last season. Pitts' downfield skill set was severely hurt by the Falcons' awful QB play. That should be better even if Kirk isn't quite himself.

With an established play caller, a strong pass-blocking OL, Justin Jefferson, T.J. Hockenson, and Jordan Addison, Kirk Cousins has finished 93rd and 98th overall in fantasy points over replacement per game over the last two seasons. There's such a low ceiling for someone with such obvious injury risks and a capable QB2 to turn to. Cousins isn't an overwhelming athlete, so he in particular puts a lot of core and leg strength into his throws. Doing so with a bummed lower half makes me particularly worried for how capable he is throwing to the sideline and outside of structure. A 10% decrease in his arm talent would be a big deal because there wasn't a lot of wiggle room in his play style.

3. A.J. Brown Is A Top-3 WR

CeeDee Lamb looks like the clear WR1 overall heading into the season because the Cowboys are 8th in projected points this year after leading the NFL in scoring last year. Dallas also was 3rd in neutral pass rate and 2nd in 4th-down aggressiveness. There are 6 other WRs in the mix for locked-in Round 1 status: Justin Jefferson, Tyreek Hill, Ja'Marr Chase, Amon-Ra St. Brown, Puka Nacua, and A.J. Brown. In terms of straight-up talent, Brown is only behind JJ and Tyreek. Those two at least have QB or age concerns compared to Brown ... But the real reason for optimism for Brown this year is regression. The Eagles' play-calling last year was awful, especially late in the year when Jalen Hurts was relentlessly blitzed. Here were Hurts' numbers over his last three years:

  • Play action per season: 111, 133, then 81!!!

  • RPO passes per season: 95, 122, then 89!!!

  • Blitzes faced per season: 124, 172, then 185!!!

  • Throwaways per season: 22, 23, then 35!!!

That's a lot of wasted plays and 3-and-outs for the Eagles to flip with a new offensive coordinator, and we should get better health from Hurts. Part of his injury was felt in the pass game, particularly to Brown. 88% of DeVonta Smith's downfield targets were graded as "catchable" per Sports Info Solutions (WR5), but that was just 54% for AJB (64th out of 81 qualifiers). That's the difference between Browns' +33% fantasy points over expected in 2022 versus his +20% finish last year. Both are good. One was elite. This feels like the absolute peak of Brown's fantasy career. I don't want to miss out. He's teased us with glimpses before.

4. Jaylen Waddle Out-Scores Marvin Harrison Jr. & Chris Olave

Bad luck ruined Waddle's per-game numbers, but the underlying per-route metrics were great. Despite having to deal with Tyreek Hill's NFL-high 35% targets per route rate, Waddle set career highs in yards per route (2.5, WR9) and targets per route (26%, WR13). In his 9 healthiest games, he averaged 81 yards per game, which is another sign that he was a low-end WR1 in disguise last year. Now he heads into the absolute prime of his career (same with Tua) with a top-6 fantasy WR ceiling if 30-year-old Tyreek Hill were to miss time.

I'm not convinced the Cardinals will pass (or score) enough to warrant a fantasy WR1 season. From Week 10 on with Kyler Murray back, Arizona was 25th in neutral pass rate. Of course, adding Marvin Harrison Jr. will incentivize them to pass more than that, but the Cardinals were very effective running the ball with a coaching staff that came from the balanced-natured Browns organization. Harrison Jr. can be a total outlier rookie and still not pay off his 13th overall ADP on Underdog Fantasy. Our Pick'em Lobby has the rookie at 1,075 yards.

Chris Olave is in a tough spot, too, and I can argue Olave's game has generally peaked because he lacks the size and YAC toughness to ascend into that super star range. It's partly why he's only scored 4 and 5 touchdowns in his first two seasons. The Saints aren't helping him out structurally either. His speed could be more deadly with more motion stemming from new OC Klint Kubiak, but the Saints have the worst OT duo in the NFL. Perhaps by far. They have a rookie who I projected as a guard, and 1st-round bust Trevor Penning starting opposite. This is part of the reason why the Saints are projected for even fewer points in 2024 than they scored last year when Olave was the WR24 on WR16 usage. He trailed Waddle in both targets and yards per route.

5. The Rams Are Top 5 In Scoring

The betting markets have their implied points at 12th overall, but this offense has all the pieces in place to be a borderline elite unit. Sean McVay's offenses have been 7th, 27th, and 8th in scoring with Matthew Stafford, who still looked fantastic last year after an iffy offseason with rehab. Stafford and McVay have molded this skill group to be balanced, yet consistent. They could run duo with even more success after securing a 1,000 pounds of interior offensive line talent, plus have Kyren Williams insurance with Kyren Clone Blake Corum. And their pass game could look fully formed if Cooper Kupp can be healthier. Kupp's offseason has gone smoothly so far, at least enough to where his personally training has pushed Puka Nacua's face into a puke-filled trash can. Stafford has downfield threats in Nacua, Demarcus Robinson, and seam-stretcher Colby Parkinson, but if Kupp is himself again.... whew. As a reminder, they were 2nd in EPA per play when Stafford and Kyren were on the field together. I'm loading up with as many of them as I can.

6. Isiah Pacheco Is Top 12 In Advance Rate

Because most only use last year's regular season numbers without accounting for the NFL Playoffs, the community has underestimated what Pacheco did late in his sophomore season. He played 8 games from Week 12 on. He averaged 17.6 half PPR points on 18.0 expected half PPR points. Both would've been RB3 overall if extrapolated across the entire season. Pacheco took over more passing downs without Jerick McKinnon, who is likely retiring now. It's just him and Clyde Edwards-Helaire on the Chiefs' depth chart. He should have a tasty workload in half PPR.

On top of that, the players in this tier worry me. The WR3s are being priced up multiple rounds right now in ways that I don't think make sense based on the projections. WR31 Terry McLaurin and WR32 Hollywood Brown go right next to him. I don't mind Patrick Mahomes or Mark Andrews at the Round 4/5 turn, but Trey McBride and Dalton Kincaid are major usage projections in this tier. Pacheco (and Jacobs shortly after) are my favorite picks in this range, especially on those CeeDee Lamb teams from the 1.02 spot.

7. Josh Jacobs Is Top 12 In Advance Rate

The market is completely against me on Jacobs, who has fallen multiple rounds since drafts have started. The consensus opinion is Jacobs can't be a bellcow because coach Matt LaFleur and Jacobs isn't efficient enough to make up the difference. LaFleur never used Aaron Jones as a bellcow, so why would he now?

Well, Jacobs is noticeably bigger (5'10/223) than Jones (5'8/208) and has averaged 20+ touches per game in 4-of-5 seasons. Even if LaFleur will use rookie Marshawn Lloyd in a change-up role, the odds of Jacobs touching the ball more than Jones ever did are reasonable, especially with the Shanahan tree using more duo and under center runs than before (see Kyren Williams in 2023). That's exactly what Jacobs is good at. The 2023 Jacobs efficiency was tragically bad (he had -15% fantasy points over expected) and severely lowers his 2024 floor, but Jacobs was a +20% fantasy points over expected player in 2022 on the league's biggest workload. The efficiency ceiling is there, especially when he's going from an offense that was 23rd in scoring last year to an offense that's 10th in projected points in 2024. We just saw David Montgomery go from a disaster with the Bears to being a semi league-winner on the Lions. It's part of the reason why the "RBs Don't Matter Crowd" is partially right. RBs are reliant on the environment around him. That's good news for Jacobs.

8. Brian Thomas Jr. Matches Zay Flowers

The LSU rookie was a game-breaking downfield threat with the size profile to also shred in the red zone and on 3rd-and-medium situations, and he flashed some YAC ability on his hitch routes on tape, which aren't even YAC friendly. In general, Thomas looks like an NFL WR1 to me, and the Jaguars don't have one of those locked-and-loaded right now. Christian Kirk is underrated, but he's best as a vertical slot option with some designed touches, while Thomas could be an upgrade over what Calvin Ridley was supposed to do for Trevor Lawrence last season. T-Law has some physical limitations that likely keep him out of the top-5 conversation, but he was held back from a top-10 year because of his OL's collapse, dropped passes from his receivers, and an unlucky amount of defensive pass interferences called. They have a little more upside than given credit for because people are getting tired of the promised Lawrence breakout.

Zay Flowers is a flashy young player with some potential limitations to his overall game. He left plays on the field while not being on the same page with Lamar, then only finished as the WR52 in man coverage composite score. There is only so much passing production to go around this run-heavy offense (23rd in total WR Usage), so we have to nitpick the details here. Flowers broke out after his Post Bye Rookie Bump, but that also coincided with Mark Andrews' absence. Flowers didn't score a TD with Andrews on the field (now we have Derrick Henry to worry about) and their usage shares a similar story; From Week 2-10 last year (9 games), Andrews averaged 12.2 half PPR points per game on 10.1 expected half PPR points. Flowers was down at 8.2 on 8.6 expected points. Anything near those numbers in 2024 would be a disaster in Round 3 of Underdog Fantasy drafts.

9. Diontae Johnson Is This Year's Michael Pittman

There is a capped ceiling here, as there was with Pittman's last year, based on his total skillset and the team's scoring potential, but Johnson can rack up underneath targets in a hurry. That's the goal with Bryce Young, who has underwhelming arm strength and needs to be a distributor before their OL gets beaten. Johnson is at his best in this type of offense because he's a monster at creating separation at the line of scrimmage. The numbers back that up. He was in the 92nd percentile targets per route against man coverage, then was in the 97th percentile in first downs per catchable target against man coverage. Drafting DJ is betting against 34-year-old Adam Thielen and in-development rookie Xavier Legette.

10. Zack Moss Is This Year's David Montgomery

By that, I mean a mid-round RB in a likely committee that plays on such a good team that he scores double digit TDs and finishes as a weekly upside RB2. Moss isn't an elite talent, but he's a quality rusher, especially out of shotgun, with the size profile to run away from Chase Brown in touches. Brown was too indecisive and puny as a between-tackles rusher on tape, and only has hype because of his straight-line speed and screen-game scores. Moss can lose passing-down snaps to him and still be top-10 in rushing TDs if the Bengals' No. 7 projected-points offense plays out. Joe Mixon led the NFL in inside the 10-yard line carries last year (38) despite losing Joe Burrow for half of the season. Hopefully the Bengals hit on RT Amarius Mims, who is a total monster and potential needle mover if he lives up to his size-speed traits.

11. Curtis Samuel Out-Scores Jayden Reed & Jordan Addison

Curtis Samuel is underrated. We don't view him as a fantasy asset because his QBs have been Sam Howell (81st in EPA/dropback since 2017), Carson Wentz (35th), Taylor Heinicke (59th), Teddy Bridgewater (29th), Kyle Allen (65th), and Cam Newton (47th). Now he gets prime Josh Allen (8th) with a completely barren WR room. Samuel was the WR30 in targets per route with Terry McLaurin and Jahan Dotson last year, a signal that he could dominate targets against rookie Keon Coleman and Khalil Shakir (WR91 in TPRR). Bills OC Joe Brady is also familiar with Samuel from their time together in Carolina. Brady led Samuel to career highs in rush attempts as a key manufactured touch player in a time where motion wasn't taking the league by storm. Samuel can both be the best schemed-up WR and man-beating WR in an offense projected for the 5th-most points in the NFL. Let's ride.

Jayden Reed and Jordan Addison are solid players heading into their second seasons, but they have playing time and target competition concerns. Reed was a half-time player during the Packers' NFL Playoffs run once Christian Watson returned, and Addison's best games of 2023 came with Kirk Cousins (ATL) and without Justin Jefferson (the best WR in the NFL). These two also ran pure with touchdowns over expected despite being tiny players. I don't see that repeating.

12. 3 or 4 RBs Through Round 8 Has A 20% Advance Rate

This is the year where the Underdog Fantasy market has swung too far in the favor of WRs, enough to the point where I'm no longer locking in 4 WRs through Round 7, which has been my "Golden Rule of Best Ball". To me, the problem isn't having 8 WRs in the 1st round. That's totally correct. It's that the WR3s (and sometimes the WR4s) are going ahead of the low-end RB1s and elite QB1s in half PPR. Our Underdog Fantasy teams are allowed to start 3 RBs and 3 WRs every week, and I'm building a far higher percentage of my teams with that in mind given the RBs are down 1-2 rounds across the board this year. To me, this is partially recency bias after the top RBs in 2023 were late round picks (Kyren Williams, Raheem Mostert, De'Von Achane, etc), but that was a sample size of one and has not been the case in other best ball seasons. My favorite and most common builds in 2024 are somewhere around a 1-3-3-1 start where I can get potential RB1 bellcows on the best teams in the NFL at discounted prices, rather than hoping my fringe starter RB can luck into a bigger workload with injury or efficiency. It makes me nervous that very few of the best ball analysts are following suit... But welcome to peer vs. peer games.

13. Late Round Rookie WRs Hits: Ja'Lynn Polk & Jermaine Burton

There are two types of late-round rookie WR breakouts: bad target competition forces targets or strong offense can drive random spike weeks. Here is the case for each:

The 2nd-rounder should pace the Patriots in snaps and targets as a rookie because he has a do-everything profile with inside-outside versatility. Polk ran a lot of downfield routes in the Huskies' aerial offense (13.8 aDOT) but has flashed the dirty work profile of a classic snap-eating receiver. In fact, Josh Norris comped him to Robert Woods in the video below. It's exactly what the Patriots needed in year one of their offensive rebuild: a high-floor prospect to give Drake Maye a reliable option behind a bad OL. Polk is the latest an NFL team's top WR or TE is drafted in best. It's not close either (31st: Broncos at 91st overall).

With better maturity, Burton likely goes top-40 overall and the Bengals' support staff and locker room are a nice match to keep him on track. He's a solid deep threat receiver in terms of speed, ball-tracking, and hands. There were also times where his breaking routes and physicality in yards after catch situations had me dreaming of an underrated full-route tree upside. At the Combine, Burton had 95th percentile leaping ability. Deep balls in isolated coverage could pop up from time-to-time if Joe Burrow is healthy. If Ja'Marr Chase or Tee Higgins miss time, we can take Burton seriously.

14. The Browns Are Top 8 In Pass Attempts

Cleveland low-key has an analytics-based front office headed by an Ivy League computer nerd (complementary), and all of their moves in recent offseasons have been about stopping the pass on defense and setting up the pass on offense. They notably traded for Deshaun Watson, but don't overlook the trade for Amari Cooper, Jerry Jeudy, and Elijah Moore, nor the Day 2 draft capital of Cedric Tillman and David Moore as WR depth. In 2023, we finally saw the Browns convert into a pass-first offense, particularly after All Pro RB Nick Chubb went down with a very serious injury that could easily limit his 2024 snaps and effectiveness. From Week 8 on, the Browns were 1st in neutral pass rate and were better because of it. Sure, that was largely with Joe Flacco, but I think the Chubb injury and these acquisitions in general point towards this trend being sticky. If so, there's a lot of fantasy upside. The Browns were also 1st in plays per game and 4th in pass block win rate. All we need is for Deshaun Watson to loosely bounce back from his unwatchable (and self-inflicted) 2022 and 2023 seasons. I'm in on Amari Cooper, David Njoku, Jerry Jeudy, and Watson in best ball.

Bonus. Junior Colson Wins DROY (+4500)

Please line shop with the awards market, but this one checks a lot of boxes. Most Defensive Rookie Of The Year winners are early draft picks because media members aren't grinding the damn tape. That also means it's difficult for secondary players to win, leaving this primarily to stat-padding EDGEs and LBs. In a down defensive draft, there are only so many options. Colson has some of the best playing time odds of the consensus top options, and if the Chargers are any good, then the media will love to point to the Harbaugh/Michigan pipeline with Colson. He can be a tackle accumulator behind a relatively weak defensive interior.