2024 NFL Draft: Fantasy football fits we love — and some we're questioning

In every piece of my content over the last few months, I tried to prepare Chargers and fantasy fans for the inevitability of the team passing on a wide receiver and taking a tackle at No. 5 instead. It was always the way Jim Harbaugh was going to build this thing.

The Chargers' draft strategy was not just a spontaneous choice. It was a well-thought-out plan. Part of the reason it made sense to take Joe Alt at the top of the draft was because you can find quality wide receivers on Day 2 but not as many strong tackle options. The Chargers proved that theory correct by trading up to secure Ladd McConkey at the top of Round 2.

McConkey immediately steps in for the Chargers and is already the best separator on the roster. Quentin Johnston had a Jalen Reagor-esque rookie season, struggling immensely to beat outside coverage. Josh Palmer is a solid receiver but doesn’t make his bones as a route runner. That’s McConkey’s bread and butter. He’s a pro-ready technician with inside/outside versatility that this team badly needs. Justin Herbert will learn to love this guy right away.

Given some of the landing spots for two of the Big Three receivers in Round 1 — quarterback questions for Malik Nabers and target competition for Rome Odunze — there’s a chance that McConkey is the third or fourth-most productive wideout from this class in Year 1. He combines the skills, quarterback pairing and projectable volume to leapfrog other guys drafted ahead of him.

I’m frankly stunned that New England received any blowback to the way it attacked the receiver position in this draft.

Perhaps some thought that taking Ja’Lynn Polk at the fifth pick of the second round was a reach but not on my board. That was his range. Polk is an ultra-reliable wideout with great hands and a knack for winning against zone coverage over the middle. Drake Maye didn’t have anyone who fit either description at UNC last year so he will gravitate to Polk early on. Polk should be the Day 1 flanker receiver for the Patriots and rotate slot snaps with DeMario Douglas.

Javon Baker was a home-run selection at the top of Round 4. Baker could have gone near Polk on Day 2 and based on my rankings, it would have been justifiable.

Baker is a downfield maven who wins in tight coverage and flashes high-end route running as an X-receiver. He may not make as much of an early impact but could develop nicely behind Kendrick Bourne at that position as a rookie. But don’t be shocked if you see him make some impact plays as a vertical option and eventually push for more playing time as the year progresses.

The Patriots badly needed to get wide receiver right to help out their new rookie quarterback and exorcise some of their own draft demons at this position. For the first time in a while, I feel good about where the Patriots are heading at receiver.

The Panthers were quietly one of the neediest teams at the running back position, despite Chuba Hubbard giving them acceptable play last year following Miles Sanders’ flop as the starter.

Dave Canales has consistently emphasized his commitment to the running game whenever speaking to the public:

You don’t put that level of importance on building a rushing attack and then shoot for “acceptable” at your RB1 spot.

Enter Jonathon Brooks, who will shoot far beyond that territory if he hits.

Brooks, fresh off an ACL tear, won’t be 100% to start the season but could be a terror by year’s end, much like Breece Hall was last year the further he got from his knee injury. The Panthers' lack of juice on offense will keep some of the fantasy enthusiasm for Books at bay, but he’s a strong option late in Round 1 of dynasty rookie drafts and someone who makes sense in certain redraft builds.

Unfortunately, the unavoidable realities of the NFL are injuries and chaos. With that in mind, Trey Benson’s landing spot is not nearly as bad as it seems at first glance.

The Cardinals were quietly seventh in rushing EPA and 12th in rushing success rate last year. This offense was well-coached and set up to deploy a strong rushing attack.

James Conner was the primary beneficiary there but only played 13 games. If he misses more time, Benson would be a huge upgrade over some of the guys who backed him up in 2023 — to the point that, if he gets on the field and shines in this underrated ecosystem, he may be a difficult guy to send back to the sideline.

At the very least, Benson can do more with less from a touches perspective. I won’t be shocked if he’s getting a high level of workload by the end of the season and becomes a fantasy starter down the stretch.

I’m much higher than consensus on the Colts' receiver room but I'd certainly acknowledge that they needed more from the vertical X-receiver position before the draft. AD Mitchell is the perfect option to groom for that role.

Mitchell fell slightly in the draft because some teams dinged him for interviews and culture concerns. Chris Ballard went to bat defending Mitchell in the wake of those allegations.

On the field, he’s the exact type of receiver the Colts needed. Mitchell is a pure boundary receiver who thrives when asked to win as a vertical ball-winner or route runner in isolated situations. Michael Pittman Jr. is the volume-hog flanker receiver who can win in the short and intermediate areas. Josh Downs is a play-making slot receiver who thrives in the same sectors.

The one area they were missing is where Mitchell operates at his best.

Jermaine Burton has first-round wide receiver film. He did not have a clean character report coming out of Alabama. Honestly, I was surprised he went as high as Round 3.

The Bengals took the chance on Burton and hope to fill a critical need at the wide receiver position. They let Tyler Boyd walk and have an opening inside from the jump. In the long term, Cincinnati must consider replacing Tee Higgins outside. That’s where I think Burton should fit.

Burton wins as an outside receiver, both as a high-level separator against man coverage and in tight coverage situations. That sounds like the perfect option to groom in the Bengals offense. Joe Burrow loves to push the ball down the field to his trusted options and doesn’t mind testing contested situations. If Burton can earn and keep that trust on and off the field, he has the ability and landing spot to outproduce a ton of guys drafted ahead of him.

Adding both Jaylen Wright at running back and Malik Washington at wide receiver was just so classic Miami.

You can quibble with the value the Dolphins gave up to acquire Wright and be concerned about the developmental curve he faces going to the league. However, he should get the space he needs to thrive in this offense and push through wide-open lanes. He may not make a big Year 1 impact but could be the long-term replacement for Raheem Mostert.

Washington was one of “my guys” in the draft and was a steal in Round 6. He is a perfect fit for this scheme as a pre-snap motion option who can play out of the slot and win after the catch. He won’t be a fantasy option right now with Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle in place but I bet he pops up for some big moments if and when he earns playing time.

Keon Coleman has issues separating against press and man coverage. That is just an unavoidable reality when you watch his film. However, he has clear strengths. He diagnoses zone coverage well, works leverage and has strong, confident hands working in the middle of the field. There are uses for a player like this but I’m not sure Buffalo is the best spot to see it.

It concerns me that Brandon Beane said Coleman would be the X-receiver on this offense when I think he’s best deployed as a big slot or, at least, a motion-based flanker in the pros. I get it; the Bills have a plethora of slot receivers and interior options, but that doesn’t make Coleman's projection easier.

Typically, if you throw this type of receiver out in that X role, they become a low-percentage target who wins in tight coverage exclusively. Of course, Josh Allen is the right quarterback to test those windows and rifle the ball into small holes for Coleman.

Overall, I think Coleman should be a quality pro and help out the Bills as an over-the-middle receiver. I’m less certain that the Bills just solved their need for a true WR1 to replace Stefon Diggs. Maybe that’s not what they’re looking for, and instead, they are planning to have four guys compete to finish anywhere between 80 and 100 yards. Right now, I think they have that type of pass-catcher corps.

Josh Jacobs’ new contract is a fluffed-up year-to-year deal. Taking Marshawn Lloyd in Round 3 seems to confirm that the Packers aren’t fully committed to him as a multi-year feature back.

Lloyd is an explosive rusher who runs with balance. He would provide the same run game scheme versatility that Jacobs would at his best. The problem is, if Jacobs is running well and performing at his peak potential, Lloyd will rarely see the field.

I had a lot of interest in Jacobs as a fantasy pick this season because I’m overall high on this offense. And despite his fumbling issues, I think Lloyd is an interesting prospect. The fact that they’re on the same offense has me ready to question everything and believe anything about how this plays out.

Ultimately, I think Roman Wilson will slide into the dreaded “good for real football, meh for fantasy” bucket. He fits stylistically with the Steelers. He blocks and can thrive on some of the over routes Arthur Smith dials up on play-action.

I just have a hard time seeing a speed slot receiver who doesn’t consistently separate underneath being a high target earner. A different type of wideout may have caused Pittsburgh to open up the passing game. For now, I’m still expecting them to push to lead the NFL in rush attempts.

Malachi Corley is a good football player and wins with the ball in his hands. On the gadget receiver spectrum, he’s further along than some of the failed pursuits made in this archetype of receiver — aka, chasing Deebo Samuel. However, he is still a specific type of receiver who needs the right deployment. That makes me nervous when we’re tasking Nate Hackett to oversee that role development.

To me, the Jets needed another perimeter receiver to join the rotation and potentially start if Mike Williams misses time. Corley doesn’t profile as that guy.

Straight up, I just thought there were better receivers available at the end of the third round than Luke McCaffrey. The Rice product projects as a quality short-area slot receiver who can provide a layup target. Depending on your view of the current players on the depth chart, you may assert they needed a little more than that.

I am quite bullish on Terry McLaurin as a No. 1 wideout and think Jahan Dotson is much better than his production indicates. So I’m not too worried if a rookie receiver doesn’t make a big dent in the Commanders’ passing game rotation.