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2024 NFL Draft - Potential Busts In First-Round Fantasy Football Rookie Drafts

Caleb Williams - Fantasy Football Rankings, College FB, NFL Rookies, Draft Sleepers

The fantasy football offseason is an interesting time for dynasty players. With the combine behind us and the NFL Draft just ahead, we have collected nearly every bit of information we need aside from landing spots. This year's class brings in a new wave of gifted athletes primed to impact the NFL and our fantasy squads off the rip.

If you're insane like I am, you've completed a few rookie drafts already. Normal people might have theirs on the horizon, pending the NFL Draft. If you're the latter, I need to say something you don't want to hear- some of these guys will bust. It's an inconvenient truth, but an inevitable one at that. Not all these players will be hits -- it's just a fact. We've seen it play out repeatedly in the NFL and fantasy. N'Keal Harry, anyone? Even worse, sometimes the players are great, but their situation makes them a bust if you sink a high enough pick into them.

So, if you haven't drafted your rookies yet -- you're in luck! Below will outline a few players to steer clear of in the first round of your rookie drafts. It's worth mentioning that these players might turn out as fine contributors for both the NFL and fantasy. With this in mind, we're not looking for a flex option or back-end WR2 in the first round.

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2024 First-Round Rookies To Avoid

J.J. McCarthy, Michigan

J.J. McCarthy wasn't tasked with doing too much during his tenure as a starter under Jim Harbaugh. He didn't exceed 332 passing attempts or 22 touchdowns, as Michigan ran the ball 60.57% of the time. That was good for 117 out of 133 teams in pass rate. Yikes.

McCarthy is currently being taken ninth in Superflex rookie drafts according to FFPC ADP, and I've seen him go as high as sixth. I understand that quarterback can be scarce in this format, but this feels like a reach. At the back end of the first round, we're typically looking for upside. McCarthy projects as more of an average NFL starter, and maybe that's his ceiling. On a surface level, his 2023 completion percentage is encouraging (72.3%). If we dig deeper, we find some concerning data.

After watching his tape, McCarthy leaves the ball behind his receiver more than you like to see. I'm not sure if it's because of the windup in his delivery, but his ball placement can falter at times. Derrik Klassen of Reception Perception charted McCarthy's throws in 2023, and the sample is far from inspiring.

Green is good, and McCarthy was near-perfect when throwing behind the line of scrimmage. The further we go, the scarier it gets. If green is good, red is not -- and there's more of it. McCarthy was actually pretty decent when attempting throws of 10-20 yards to the right side of the field. I suspect that his success there is due to his scrambling ability. If that's the case, McCarthy's heat chart is deeply concerning. He was just OK when throwing downfield. We just saw the 2023 rookie phenom C.J. Stroud carve defenses up in the intermediate game -- an area McCarthy is severely lacking.

Xavier Worthy, Texas

One pick after McCarthy in ADP is Xavier Worthy, a speedster out of Texas. Perhaps calling him a speedster is a bit of an undersell if we consider that he set the record at the combine for the fastest 40-yard dash in history -- a blazing fast 4.21 seconds.

While there is no question that Worthy can flat-out run, I'll be running the other way in rookie drafts. Jameson Williams marked the last time I'll get burned by a burner. I took him over Garrett Wilson in some spots a few years ago -- you can imagine I want that one back. This analysis is clearly not a question of talent but more so passing on this player archetype...especially at this spot in the draft.

It'd be nice to hit on the next Tyreek Hill, but Hill is a 1/1 type of player, and that is the best-case scenario for Worthy. If he does not become a high-volume receiver -- which I doubt he will -- we could be looking at a big-play role-player, and that's not the type of asset I'm betting on in fantasy, especially in round one. Particularly because his former Longhorn teammate Adonai Mitchell was a far superior route runner against man and press -- and he's still on the board.

A few receivers are going after Worthy in ADP that I prefer over him in a vacuum and project to be higher target gainers. He's also one of the more slight receivers in this class, weighing 165 pounds. His weight isn't a problem if he's outrunning everyone before he catches the ball, but it does put a damper on his yards after contact. Worthy isn't one to break through arm tackles, and he also didn't excel in contested catch situations. He had such an instance on 14.9% of his targets and came away with just 18.2% of those.

In recent mock drafts, I've seen Worthy go to the Bills. Admittedly, it will be difficult for me to hold this stance if that is the case -- the prospect of Josh Allen as his quarterback would force me to reconsider. At this time, I'd be willing to take a shot on Worthy in the middle of the second round of rookie drafts, but he won't fall that far.

Troy Franklin, Oregon

Troy Franklin is a better route runner than Xavier Worthy and had a better 2023 season as far as statistics go. Franklin compiled 81 catches for 1,383 yards and 14 touchdowns, leading the Ducks in the latter two categories. Akin to Worthy, speed is Franklin's superpower. He may not be as fast, but currently, no one is. I like Franklin quite a bit more than Worthy, but there are still some warts in his profile.

Franklin lined up primarily as an X receiver at Oregon. 85.2% of his snaps came outside, and 79.9% were on the line. If Franklin's new coaching staff pigeonholes him in this role, it would spell trouble for him. Franklin has good height at 6-foot-2, but at his weight (176 pounds) and with his below-average strength, he will struggle with physical corners. When tasked with press coverage, Franklin had poor marks per Reception Perception. His 58.5% success rate against the press is in the 26th percentile, and that's over a large sample -- nearly 30% of his routes.

His skill set projects him to be more of an option at the flanker spot, and Franklin could do some real damage from there on post routes- one which he runs exceptionally well. He was better on contested catches than Xavier Worthy but still came away with just a 42.9% success rate. He needs to be much higher at this metric for his game to evolve into a reliable big-play option.

Franklin will eventually be a productive NFL player and someone we can expect some spike weeks from in fantasy. I would be more inclined to spend a first-rounder on him in a Best Ball league, but his route running needs to improve overall so he can become a high target earner as a secondary option on an NFL squad.

Caleb Williams, USC

This one hurts. To be clear -- I do not believe Caleb Williams will be an outright bust. I do think that the hype has gotten out of control, though. Williams has been a much-touted prospect for a while now and the consensus first pick off the board in the NFL and rookie Superflex drafts. We've seen some wild misses on quarterbacks in past drafts and even some great ones that we're still displeased with.

Let's take the 2021 draft class as an example. Trevor Lawrence was in the exact same position that Williams is in now. Lawrence went with the first pick in the NFL Draft, and in turn, the same in rookie drafts. It's fair to say that Trevor Lawrence has not been a bust. But if you used your rookie 1.01 to seal the deal, you're far from happy at this point in his career.

In the same year (2021), two other quarterbacks got drafted in rookie drafts over Ja'Marr Chase -- Justin Fields and Trey Lance. Lawrence has been the best of that bunch by far, and you would need to add to Trevor Lawrence to acquire Chase in a trade. Lawrence was graded by the NFL as a perennial All-Pro in his prospect profile, earning a grade of 7.40. Williams, on the other hand, is a few tiers down at 6.74.

The Chicago Bears have set Williams up for success, mitigating the rookie's transition to the pros with perhaps one of the most impressive arsenals of weapons in the NFL. Call me crazy, but I'm happy to take Marvin Harrison Jr., Malik Nabers, and Rome Odunze over him in drafts. No, I'm not that low on Williams -- I'm just incredibly high on the three wideouts.

In recent years, the NFL has done a much better job getting the receivers right, and I'm more willing to view them as a sure bet. Caleb Williams will have at least a solid career as an NFL starter, but if he comes out and throws 3,000 yards and 20 TDs in year one, we'll wish we had one of those receivers.



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