Fantasy Football Rookies To Beware of in 2024 Drafts

May 23, 2024; Lake Forest, IL, USA; Chicago Bears wide receiver Rome Odunze (15) warms up during organized team activities at Halas Hall Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports
May 23, 2024; Lake Forest, IL, USA; Chicago Bears wide receiver Rome Odunze (15) warms up during organized team activities at Halas Hall Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports / Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

Can you feel it, folks?

We’re inching closer to fantasy football draft season! Over the last few years, managers who’ve put a greater emphasis on rookies have been rewarded with breakout stars and draft bargains like C.J. Stroud, Najee Harris, Ken Walker, Ja’Marr Chase and Garrett Wilson. Of course, a big part of that success is picking the right rooks and avoiding the busts.

Also, the reality of this fantasy situation is that there are far more disappointments than rookies who actually blow up in the stat sheets. The main reasons for many first-year player failures are due to struggling with the learning curve from college to the pros, landing on a team with a crowded depth chart or unexpected time missed due to injuries.

To avoid picking some potential busts from this year’s draft class, here’s a list of rookies who could fail to meet expectations, both on the field and in fantasy land, in Year 1.

Rome Odunze, WR, Chicago Bears: Odunze was the ninth overall pick in the NFL draft, but he’ll have to contend with both DJ Moore and Keenan Allen for targets, not to mention tight ends Cole Kmet and Gerald Everett. It’s the perfect example of opportunity being more important than talent, so Odunze will be more of a late middle-round pick as a No. 3 wideout.

MarShawn Lloyd, RB, Green Bay Packers: Lloyd is in the same situation as the other backs on this list … he won’t be more than a late-round re-draft pick, and there’s no guarantee he’ll be even second on his team’s depth chart. With Josh Jacobs the unquestioned starter in Green Bay’s backfield, Lloyd would have to pass AJ Dillon to be an attractive re-draft pick.

Ricky Pearsall, WR, San Francisco 49ers: I’m excited about Pearsall’s long-term prospects in the offense of coach Kyle Shanahan, but I’m not sure how he can produce as a rookie. After all, he’ll be behind Brandon Aiyuk, Deebo Samuel and George Kittle in the target pecking order. The Florida product is a much more attractive option in dynasty formats than re-drafts.

Adonai Mitchell, WR, Indianapolis Colts: Mitchell might have been a fantasy sleeper as a rookie had he been drafted by the Bills or Chargers, but consistent targets will be tough to come by in a crowded Colts wide receiver room. With Michael Pittman Jr. the established alpha and Josh Downs and Alec Pierce also in the mix, AD is worth a late flier at best.

Jaylen Wright, RB, Miami Dolphins: Wright is an explosive back who could jump onto the fantasy radar if Raheem Mostert or De’Vone Achane misses time this season. Otherwise, it’s hard to see him as more than the third-best running back in Miami. He does have a brighter long-term outlook when you consider Mostert’s age, but Wright could struggle in Year 1.

Malachi Corle
WKU's Malachi Corley runs in for a touchdown against UTEP on Nov. 4, 2023 at the Sun Bowl. / Alberto Silva Fernandez/ El Paso Times /

Malachi Corley, WR, New York Jets: Corley was a nice addition for the Jets passing game, but he has little chance to be more than their No. 3 wideout behind Garrett Wilson and Mike Williams. Heck, he might not even see significantly more targets than Allen Lazard, who has a great rapport with Aaron Rodgers. Unless injuries occur, Corley’s ceiling is very limited.

Michael Penix Jr., QB, Atlanta Falcons: This one is obvious, as Penix Jr. will open this season (and his career) as a backup in Atlanta. I still can’t figure out why the Falcons picked him so high after signing Kirk Cousins! Anyway, Penix Jr. has no re-draft value unless Cousins has a setback in his return from a torn Achilles. In fantasy, he’s mostly a dynasty pick.

Will Shipley, RB, Philadelphia Eagles: The Eagles signed fantasy superstar Saquan Barkley and have a solid backup in Kenneth Gainwell on the depth chart, so Shipley will be third on the Eagles’ depth chart at best. His dynasty value is limited too, making Shipley mostly a pass in drafts.


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Michael Fabiano

MICHAEL FABIANO

Michael Fabiano is an award-winning fantasy football analyst on Sports Illustrated and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA) Hall of Fame. Formerly of CBS Sports, NFL Network and SirusXM, Michael was the first fantasy analyst to appear on one of the four major TV networks. His work can now be found on SI, Westwood One Radio and the Bleav Podcast Network.