30 Players Going Way Earlier (Or Later) Than They Finished Last Year

Jun 20th 2024

Hayden Winks

2024 fantasy football average draft position (ADP) or my personal 2024 fantasy football rankings aren't supposed to be the same as where each player finished last season because we're projecting forward. But sometimes, the offseason gets so deep and twisted that narratives and spin zones takeover to the point that we're completely throwing out what happened in football games the year prior. Today, I'm looking at the 30 players who are being drafted nowhere near where they finished in 2023 fantasy football (using Fantasy Points Over Replacement Per Game), just to make sure we haven't completely lost our minds on Underdog Fantasy.

... And as it turns out, we have.

Players Going Way Earlier In 2024

  • RB Bijan Robinson (ADP: 7th vs. 2023: 39th) ... There are reasons for the bullish ADP. Bijan isn't a rookie, he doesn't have Arthur Smith at OC, and the Falcons are projected for the 13th most points this year after finishing 26th last year. That brings him to the early Round 2 discussion at the very least. To close the gap all the way into his 1st-round ADP, he'll have to see a higher rate of the goal line carries (2 last year) from Tyler Allgeier (4 last year) and have Kirk Cousins live up to this Falcons hype while coming off a torn achilles. I'm breaking ties in Breece Hall's favor as my RB2 overall because he's shown more spike weeks throughout his young career, and if you'd rather draft the semi-elite WR1s instead to save your RB roster spots for the "values" later on, then that's justifiable.

  • WR Garrett Wilson (ADP: 11th vs. 2023: 91st) ... Because of the awful Jets QB play, Wilson has finished as the 55th and 91st overall players in fantasy points over replacement per game so far. Wilson is dynamic after the catch and at creating separation right at the release, so he's a fringe "elite WR" on tape if he can prove to be a little more physical. To be a 1st-round value, Wilson needs Aaron Rodgers to cooperate. That's off-field and on-field after returning from a serious injury, especially because Rodgers' offenses have been slow-paced. New York's elite defense won't help the offensive scoring environment either. There is a needle to thread here. Wilson just might be so good that he can pull it off.

  • WR Drake London (ADP: 14th vs. 2023: 98th) ... I won't repeat the same points as I laid out with Bijan Robinson above. Just wanted to note London has finished 98th and 114th overall in fantasy points over replacement per game. He's way better than that on tape, mostly as a throwback ball winner who can also bend on breaking routes. We'll see if the marginally increased target competition (Bijan year two, Pitts being healthy, Darnell Mooney) prevents him from being an early Round 2 selection.

  • WR Chris Olave (ADP: 17th vs. 2023: 58th) ... The Saints finished 9th in scoring last year. They're projected to finish 25th in 2024. That's not good, even if they have a new offensive coordinator who'll likely use play-action and pre-snap motion at semi-modern levels. Olave is a speed demon who can create separation, but he's not a fully flushed out receiver after the catch or with physicality in my opinion. That could be the difference between being a volatile WR2 like he's been to date (he was 78th overall in fantasy points per game in 2022, too) and being worth a mid-2nd round selection like he is in ADP.

  • WR DeVonta Smith (ADP: 27th vs. 2023: 48th) ... The touchdowns and deep targets were amazing last year, helping Smith out in his overall ranking. But he does not get the volume of a classic 3rd-round receiver. Smith finished as the WR37 in expected half PPR points based on his usage, so him running hot only meant being the WR19 per game. With regression likely working against him in 2024, Smith is unfortunately a fade for me at an elevated cost compared to last year's totals. He finished 38th overall in 2022 when the Eagles had one of the best offenses in the NFL.

  • WR Michael Pittman (ADP: 33rd vs. 2023: 42nd) ... Perhaps this is hot takey, but Pittman having Gardner Minshew instead of Anthony Richardson last season was probably good for his production. They relied on a ton of RPOs, helping Pittman see wild first-read target numbers. Pittman was the WR12 in expected points per game, something I don't see sticking with year two Josh Downs and 2nd-round AD Mitchell around. Even with all that volume, Pittman didn't have many spike weeks because he's not a speedster and isn't the vocal point in the red zone. Things aligned very well last year and he finished after his current 33rd overall ADP.

  • WR Zay Flowers (ADP: 35th vs. 2023: 74th) ... If you're drafting Flowers in Round 3 to set up a Lamar Jackson in Round 4 and Mark Andrews in Round 5 stack in best ball tournament, then you can ignore. But I do want to mention that Flowers' half PPR points per game dropped from 13.2 without Mark Andrews to 8.2 with him. And now the Ravens have Derrick Henry in the red zone. And the Ravens are projected for 2.4 fewer points per game according to the betting markets. On tape, Flowers has a ton of juice, but he missed his assignment at times and doesn't have the size to be a traditional top target, especially in the red zone. He was the WR28 in red zone targets as a rookie.

  • TE Trey McBride (ADP: 46th vs. 2023: 111th) ... His 2023 finish was low because McBride wasn't a full-time player until about Week 8 after the Zach Ertz trade and approximately when Kyler Murray returned. From then on, he averaged 11.7 half PPR points per game. That would've put him behind Travis Kelce and Mark Andrews, and right next to Sam LaPorta and T.J. Hockenson if extrapolated throughout the entire season. That's in-line with his current ADP, though that's not accounting for Marvin Harrison Jr. entering the target tree. When McBride broke out, his primary target competition was Michael Wilson, Greg Dortch, and Rondale Moore. He seems more like a Round 5 option after the RB1s and elite QBs are gone.

  • TE Dalton Kincaid (ADP: 52nd vs. 2023: 149th) ... After a slow start to his rookie campaign, Kincaid averaged 8.9 half PPR points from Week 7 through the NFL Playoffs, which would've made him the TE10 per game last year. There are much bigger expectations now, without Stefon Diggs and Gabe Davis. Kincaid is a zero wasted movement zone beater with enough speed to win on deep crossing routes versus man coverage, so there's reason to believe he leads the Bills in targets as a sophomore. That's a big leap to make for anyone, even a former 1st-rounder. Like McBride, he profiles as a target after the RB1s and elite QBs are dried up. In fact, I like him more than McBride because of a clearer path to "elite TE" status (which is worth being drafted in the top-3ish rounds to me).

  • WR Terry McLaurin (ADP: 51st vs. 2023: 88th) ... He's a very good player, but at some point McLaurin is who he is in fantasy. He's been stuck between 900-1200 yards each season and hasn't been a red zone target to make up the difference. Will that change with Jayden Daniels as a rookie? The betting markets don't think so with the Commanders projected for the 26th-most points in 2024. McLaurin has been the 88th and 65th overall player in fantasy points over expected per game. Now he's 29 years old.

  • QB C.J. Stroud (ADP: 59th vs. 2023: 90th) ... He had the highest-scoring fantasy game from a QB last year, but the entire course of the season held him back in total fantasy points over replacement per game (90th overall). Things look way juicier after trading for Stefon Diggs, getting his offensive line healthy, and seeing optimistic injury updates from Tank Dell at OTAs. It's nerve-racking to draft pocket QBs in Round 5/6 in the era of dual-threats, but all of his pass-catchers are off the board by the 40th overall pick. This ADP seems mostly justified, as long as you've drafted Nico Collins or Dell earlier.

  • TE Kyle Pitts (ADP: 62nd vs. 2023: 165th) ... If you're grinding the tape, you know Pitts' knee injury was really preventing him after the catch and at the top of his routes. Hopefully we get positive training camp reports that his MCL-plus injury is in better shape. The scoring environment looks 50% better in 2024 if his health can cooperate. I don't mind his ADP in Round 6/7.

  • WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba (ADP: 76th vs. 2023: 166th) ... It was a largely disappointing rookie year, but it didn't help that the Seahawks OL was banged up and bad, leading the team to rank dead last in total plays. JSN gets an OC upgrade, one specifically that will increase the Hawks' downfield shots and overall pass attempts. To fully breakout, JSN will need DK Metcalf or Tyler Lockett to be less involved and/or JSN needs to just showcase an upside trait that he didn't have as a rookie. His athleticism is forgettable. His best path to making up the difference is with his ball-tracking and no-wasted-movement ability against zone.

  • WR Jameson Williams (ADP: 83rd vs. 2023: 193rd) ... Finishing 278th and 193rd overall in fantasy points over replacement per game was not the start we were looking for, but the Lions' actions this offseason suggest they've seen more from Jamo. He's now penciled into 2-WR sets after being used as a low-volume deep threat. There was very little on his tape to suggest he'll be anything more than a deep threat and hitch route runner versus zone, but Detroit is 2nd in projected points this year and there's very little behind Amon-Ra St. Brown in the receiver room. I just think there are more proven options in this tier with very similar player profiles.

  • WR Khalil Shakir (ADP: 109th vs. 2023: 178th) ... He's never been a 2-WR set player, nor has shown the ability to beat man coverage from the perimeter. If Shakir is stuck in the slot again, then his upside is capped. And that's before getting to the Bills' 2-TE usage and Curtis Samuel's experience in the slot. Shakir made a few splash plays after the catch and on Josh Allen scrambles, but we're a ways away from seeing him be a go-to option. This price tag hasn't made sense to me, even on Josh Allen teams.

  • RB Chase Brown (ADP: 120th vs. 2023: 184th) ... He played more snaps on special teams (160) than he did on offense (83) last year, and when he was on offense, Brown was a screen merchant. There's not evidence that the Bengals view him as anything more than a pass-catching weapon and core special teamer. This isn't the profile of an RB37 in ADP, especially after looking at his success rate on carries. I understand how valuable the Bengals' RB room is in fantasy, but I'm on team Zack Moss. Heavily.

Players Going Way Later In 2024

  • RB Kyren Williams (ADP: 28th vs. 2023: 2nd) ... The history of Day 3 RBs coming off an elite season is pretty mid, and it wasn't a good sign that Sean McVay immediately took a 3rd-round RB in Blake Corum as his direct backup. The downside risk is obvious, which is why his ADP has fallen 3 rounds from last year's finish, but the upside case is in tact. Isn't that the point of these best ball tournaments? To find the 2nd overall player in fantasy points over replacement per game? I'll buy the dip in best ball. The debate becomes a bit riskier in PPR and in re-draft leagues.

  • WR Keenan Allen (ADP: 53rd vs. 2023: 7th) ... He's still a really good player (WR16 in man coverage composite score), but the Bears plan for him is likely to keep him in the slot while allowing DJ Moore to be the downfield threat and Rome Odunze to be the red zone option. It's asking a lot of Caleb Williams to keep all 3 as top-36 WR options this year, so a huge drop from last year's finish is definitely appropriate. I'm not going out of my way to draft him in Round 5.

  • RB Rachaad White (ADP: 60th vs. 2023: 24th) ... White rode a bounce back season from Baker Mayfield and a breakout season from OC Dave Canales to a fringe RB1 season, but the community is not expecting a repeat. Nor should they. White didn't have any competition for touches behind him (maybe Bucky Irving can do that this year) and the odds the new offensive staff is as good as it was last year are low. Now, we've really dropped him from last year's finish, especially after the Bucs addressed their awful OL in the draft this year. While not a total priority because Tampa is 22nd in projected points, White is a solid Round 6 option.

  • RB Joe Mixon (ADP: 61st vs. 2023: 35th) ... His overall ADP is down multiple rounds from his 2023 finish, but Mixon's RB ranking is generally the same as a fringe RB1. The Texans are 9th in projected points and committed to Mixon beyond just 2024. I view him as a buy in Round 6, while hoping his efficiency bounces back in an under-center based rushing offense. Cincy's OL has been problematic for years. There's a chance Houston's is good.

  • RB Kenneth Walker (ADP: 65th vs. 2023: 36th) ... He was 27th overall fantasy points over replacement per game as a rookie, then followed that up with a 36th overall finish last year with Zach Charbonnet playing on some passing downs. Walker has the skills to break off long TDs, but he's limited with receptions and the Seahawks' are working away from a run-based offense with OC Ryan Grubb. As much as I love Walker on tape, his fantasy upside seems more capped than other RBs in this general range. I like Seattle through the pass game or Charbs when the opportunity cost is much lower.

  • RB Alvin Kamara (ADP: 72nd vs. 2023: 15th) ... There wasn't a bigger PPR scam than Kamara last year after he served his suspension. The Saints offense was cooked, as was Kamara as a rusher. His efficiency was at a career low, which makes this salary holdout interesting right now. Kendre Miller threatens, so does this horrific New Orleans offensive line. I'd be worried that his usage is at risk in a contract year.

  • RB David Montgomery (ADP: 75th vs. 2023: 19th) ... Wasn't it weird that Montgomery's efficiency numbers skyrocketed the second he left the Bears and went to the run-dominant Lions? Remember that when other RBs go from bad to good teams. Anyways, Montgomery rode his goal-line role to an RB1 finish despite Jahmyr Gibbs earning more touches as the season goes. In terms of median finish, maybe this Round 7/8 ADP makes sense. In terms of contingent-based upside, this is an egregious price again. D-Mont would be 2nd or 3rd round value. Perhaps even earlier.

  • RB James Conner (ADP: 95th vs. 2023: 30th) ... For what seems like the 10th straight year, Conner is going way after his last year's finish. He only ranked as the RB1 overall in yards after contact per carry in a mid offense in 2023, leading to a 30th overall finish in fantasy points over replacement per game. He was 25th overall in 2022. Sheesh! Conner faces legit competition from 3rd-year lightning back Trey Benson, but the Arizona offense looks to be solid with a promising coaching staff, Kyler Murray, and two passing options. I'd be surprised if Benson stole goal line work from Conner, even late in the season. He's a solid RB2 or RB3 in builds.

  • RB Raheem Mostert (ADP: 97th vs. 2023: 6th) ... For the first time in human history, a player with 21 TDs in the year prior is going in the 9th round. Mostert is 32 years old and faces the role emergence of De'Von Achane, but anyone arguing against his upside case is big middle bellcurve energy. He's as boom-bust as it gets, making more optimistic in best ball tournaments rather than re-draft. Mostert was 84th in scoring in 2022 if that datapoint matters at all.

  • RB Gus Edwards (ADP: 117th vs. 2023: 52nd) ... It happened in another offense, but we literally just watched Edwards grind his way to a smash finish at cost. The Chargers signed him to a 2-year, $6.5M to be their primary goal-line option in a likely balanced offense projected for the 20th-most points on the year (which feels low to me). Edwards will be attempting to hold off Kimani Vidal in training camp, once he's back from injury. Half PPR best ball is Gus Bus's best format, so I'll mix him in if I still need another RB.

  • RB Austin Ekeler (ADP: 125th vs. 2023: 45th) ... We'll find out if it was his high-ankle sprain or father time that caused his tape and efficiency to take a dive in 2023. The Commanders aren't a fantasy-friendly environment, especially with Jayden Daniels' scramble rate, so Ekeler's upside seems capped. The downgraded ADP is fair to me. I don't draft him much because Brian Robinson Jr. is an underrated fine starter.

  • WR Adam Thielen (ADP: 159th vs. 2023: 55th) ... Last year isn't happening again. The Panthers don't even want it to happen again, which is why Diontae Johnson and Xavier Legette were added. Thielen was surprisingly good against man coverage last year (WR14 in composite score), but he's a year older and never provided the yards after catch to really move the chains. Expect Carolina to remain balanced or even run heavy with the new coaching staff, especially if Bryce Young continues to struggle. All that said, he was good enough last year to still be a target inside the top-150 picks depending on your draft build. He's likely their primary slot option and a 2-WR set starter.

  • QB Daniel Jones (ADP: 203rd vs. 2022: 94th) ... I feel really good about targeting DJ right now. It's my favorite way to get exposure to Malik Nabers and buying the dip on coach Brian Daboll, who seems average to good as a play-caller. Jones was the 94th overall player in 2022 without any top targets and a bad OL. Things look much better in both areas, so it really comes down to health and playing time. Drew Lock is not good, nor has been good in camp per the Giants beat. If Jones is bad, then he was a bad last round pick. If he's good, then he's not going to get benched for a QB2 that doesn't have a starter future. I like to pretend my players are doing well while I draft, so Jones is an obvious back-door stack. It helps that this next guy is available in Round 18, too:

  • WR Darius Slayton (ADP: 207th vs. 2023: 137th) ... It didn't happen until late, but Slayton went on a downfield run in 2023, leading to multiple top-20 WR finishes on a weekly basis. He did the same thing in 2022 when Daniel Jones was healthy. Slayton was 136th overall then. There are more playing time concerns now with Jalin Hyatt, Wan'Dale Robinson, and Nabers in the mix, but Slayton can play X-receiver in ways that the trio listed above isn't normally suited for. His $7.75M contract suggests he'll be in many 2-WR sets. That's hard to find this late.