NFL Dynasty Watch: Biggest Winners from the 2024 NFL Draft

NFL Dynasty Watch: Biggest Winners from the 2024 NFL Draft

This article is part of our Dynasty Strategy series.

We made it through my least favorite part of the calendar from an NFL standpoint, finally getting our big reward in the form of the 2024 NFL Draft (though some Falcons fans might argue it was actually a punishment). In terms of value shifts for dynasty leagues, the draft is the most important event of the year, ahead of even the first week of free agency and Week 1 of the actual football season.

With so much happening, I decided to do a two-part Rising/Falling article, with the first focusing on players that became more valuable over the weekend and the second focusing on guys that lost value. Here you'll find the gainers, sorted by position. It's a mix of rookies and veterans, with shifts in value being relative to expectations right before the draft in April, i.e., we're not comparing to perceptions/values from the end of last season or even the beginning of this offseason.


QBs Gardner Minshew & Aidan O'Connell

Out of the six teams clearly lacking a franchise quarterback, only the Raiders didn't draft one in the first round. They instead ended up with TE Brock Bowers, the leading receiver three years running for UGA teams loaded with future NFL players at the skill positions (including Day 2 talents like Ladd McConkey, Darnell Washington, Adonai Mitchell, Jermaine Burton and James Cook). This sets up a job battle between Minshew and O'Connell, with the winner benefitting from talented duos at both wide receiver (Davante Adams, Jakobi Meyers) and tight end (Bowers, Michael Mayer). 

New offensive coordinator Luke Getsy is less promising, but Minshew should nonetheless be a passable second starter for superflex and two-QB leagues if he wins the job. I'm less certain about O'Connell, whose competent rookie season might be interpreted by some as a sign of theoretical upside. It's less impressive once you consider he played a ton in college (1,238 pass attempts) without ever producing big stats, was 25 years old his entire rookie season and gave the Raiders nothing on the ground apart from kneel-downs and QB sneaks (17 rush att. for 11 yards and one TD). O'Connell didn't scramble even once last year, while Minshew did so 20 times (admittedly much less often than in his Jacksonville days).


QB J.J. McCarthy

This is either the best or second-best outcome to get immediate playing time — only Denver might've been better — and almost certainly the top realistic landing spot for McCarthy in terms of surrounding talent. Justin Jefferson is the headliner, of course, but it's nearly as important to have a coach/playcaller (Kevin O'Connell) who is both highly competent and favors the pass. Jordan Addison and T.J. Hockenson (ACL) are icing on the cake, both under team control through 2027 after combining for 1,871 yards and 15 TDs last year.

None of it ultimately matters if McCarthy simply isn't good, but his excellent situation lifts the fantasy upside associated with positive career outcomes, which is what we care about most for dynasty leagues. I'm still not quite sure how to rank the rookie QBs after Caleb Williams, considering Drake Maye was my second-favorite prospect but doesn't have Jayden Daniels' potential to pile up rushing stats or McCarthy's excellent team context. 

My ultimate answer will probably be a boring/frustrating one — that it depends on league settings and roster composition. It's difficult to choose Maye over Daniels and McCarthy for a roster that's generally playoff-caliber and badly in need of a second/third starting QB, whereas the decision is trickier if you're rebuilding anyway and can wait out New England's rebuild. (Keep in mind that I'm high on Maye and low on Daniels relative to consensus, i.e., I think Washington screwed up... yet again).


QB Brock Purdy

While I can't say I liked the Ricky Pearsall pick, it does seem good for Purdy that the Niners used first- and fourth-round selections on wide receivers, later adding Jacob Cowing at No. 135 overall. That they did so without trading Deebo Samuel or Brandon Aiyuk is especially good news, though they could still ship one of them out before Week 1 (and probably won't have both in 2025). For now, Purdy has a loaded receiving corps, and the Niners have a solid replacement plan in place for losing Samuel/Aiyuk. 


Running Back

RB Ezekiel Elliott

Elliott and the Cowboys reportedly are getting remarried after a divorce that never should've been. The one-year sojourn to New England put Zeke in a hopeless offense, but he at least proved he can still block, catch passes and handle large workloads, which would've made him a good fit with a pass-heavy Dallas outfit that got a disappointing season from Tony Pollard

Now Pollard is gone, replaced by Elliott and Royce Freeman as competition for holdovers Rico Dowdle, Deuce Vaughn and Malik Davis. Elliott was never particularly explosive and at this point may be outright slow by NFL RB standards, but his combination of pass-game skills and football IQ should nonetheless lead to a lot of playing time in an offense that just added first- and third-round picks along the line.


RBs Najee Harris & Jaylen Warren

The Steelers already had five offensive linemen with significant NFL starting experience on their roster, including 2023 14th overall pick Broderick Jones at right tackle and former Eagle Isaac Seumalo at left guard. They then added Washington OT Troy Fautanu with the 20th overall pick Thursday night and WVU C Zach Frazier at No. 51 on Friday. We know OC Arthur Smith wants to run the ball a ton, and now he has both depth and high-end talent on the offensive line, along with an impressive backfield duo and two mobile QBs. Pittsburgh's pair of deep threats on the perimeter — George Pickens and 84th overall pick Roman Wilson — can make defenses think twice about stacking the box even if QB play is a potential weakness.


RBs Chase Brown & Zack Moss

RBs Aaron Jones & Ty Chandler

RBs Isiah Pacheco & Clyde Edwards-Helaire

RB Joe Mixon & Dameon Pierce

RBs Travis Etienne & Tank Bigsby

RBs Zamir White & Alexander Mattison

RBs Gus Edwards & J.K. Dobbins

Devin Singletary & Eric Gray

The Bengals, Vikings and Chiefs didn't draft any running backs, period. The Texans settled for a sixth-rounder (Jawhar Jordan) who didn't do much in college until he was 23 years old and may have been chosen with kick returns in mind. The Jaguars took a running back in the fifth round, Keilan Robinson, but that also looks like a special teams pick given that he had 82 carries and 39 kick returns in his college career. 

The Raiders' new back, Dylan Laube, looks somewhat more interesting for fantasy given his big-time numbers in college, including a ton of receptions. Still, Vegas seemed like a strong candidate to draft a RB early and instead went with a small-school guy in the sixth round (208th overall). That's a win for White and Mattison, though perhaps a loss for Ameer Abdullah given that Laube caught 68 passes at New Hampshire last year.

Meanwhile, Chargers sixth-round pick Kimani Vidal is much more interesting than any of the aforementioned guys, but it still feels like a win for Edwards and Dobbins that the Chargers waited so long to add backfield help. They apparently want to run a lot, yet are counting on a pair of discount free agents — one coming back from a torn Achilles — and a rookie sixth-round pick to make that happen. It might work, to be fair, especially after they took OT Joe Alt instead of a wide receiver with the fifth overall pick (another win for Edwards/Dobbins). FWIW, it's really just Edwards (and Vidal) I'm interested in here, as the track record for RBs coming back from Achilles tears is absolutely brutal.

Last but not least, the Giants waited until the fifth round to draft a running back and at that point took Tyrone Tracy, a converted WR who is already 24 years old and didn't get much playing time in the backfield until last season. Tracy is a decent athlete but not a great one (4.48 40 at 209 pounds), so it feels like a zero-upside pick where they're just hoping he can be a return guy or third-down back. That's good news for Singletary's workload projection and also good news for Gray's odds of winning the second spot on the depth chart.


Wide Receiver

WR Xavier Worthy / WR Ladd McConkey / Keon Coleman

These wide receivers all landed with teams that need help at the position and already have top quarterbacks. I like Worthy and McConkey more than Coleman because they're faster and had better per-route production, but all three offer some degree of potential to become fantasy WR1s by 2025-26. While Coleman disappointed in 2023 at FSU and again at the combine this February, he had better numbers than Jayden Reed in 2022 as a 19-year-old sophomore at MSU.

Of the three, Worthy was by far the most productive collegiate player, albeit with a lot of schemed catches on screens to boost his numbers. I'd be more concerned about that if he hadn't just landed with screen-aficionado Andy Reid, who nearly got Rashee Rice to 1,000 yards last year without any downfield work. Worthy can find success in Kansas City on a diet consisting mainly of screens and go balls, even if his lack of size/strength ends up causing him problems on other routes. 

He'll need to do more than that to become a  true standout, but it's nonetheless nice that there's a scenario in which many of the concerns/fears turn out to be accurate and yet he still manages to offer a degree of fantasy value (WR3?) rather than being a complete bust. For that reason, I don't necessarily view Worthy as more of a ceiling pick than a floor pick, though many will peg him as such given the record-setting 40 time and thin frame (5-11, 165). One of his new teammates, Marquise Brown, is among the many examples of a so-called boom/bust pick that actually landed squarely in the middle.


WR Ja'Lynn Polk

Polk at No. 37 was one of my least favorite picks of Day 2, but the earlier-than-expected selection is a data point in his favor all the same. He'll catch passes from Drake Maye in a New England offense that otherwise has Demario Douglas, Kendrick Bourne (ACL), K.J. Osborn and JuJu Smith-Schuster at wide receiver. Polk didn't put up big numbers until his final collegiate season and then ran a 4.52 40-yard dash, but there is some stuff to like apart from the draft capital, including his strong 2023 at Washington and solid build (6-1, 203). He's known for his reliable hands and contested catches more so than athleticism and separation, which could make him a decent fit alongside a small, twitchy receiver like Douglas.


WR Jermaine Burton

Burton seemed to be everyone's favorite sleeper prospect that wasn't actually a sleeper. He never saw more than 63 targets in four seasons between Georgia and Alabama, but everything else in the profile was promising, starting with his 27-404-3 receiving line in 2020 as a true freshman on a 'Dawgs team with George Pickens. Burton improved his yardage and TD totals with each passing season, making the most of limited route volume and consistently putting up strong numbers per-route and per-target. He also showed well at the combine, with a slightly disappointing 4.45 40 offset by his 38.5-inch vertical and 133-inch broad jump (third best among WRs).

It was enough for Burton to become a Day 2 pick, going 80th overall to Cincinnati where he'll team up with Joe Burrow and may eventually replace Tee Higgins. While the Bengals seem intent on keeping Higgins under the franchise tag this year, it's still unclear if he'll sign with the team long term. In terms of the short-term outlook, Burton figures to compete with Trenton Irwin and 2023 sixth-round pick Andrei Iosivas for the No. 3 job in a three-wide-heavy offense.


WR Jameson Williams

Detroit's lack of free-agent additions and draft picks can be interpreted as a minor vote of confidence in Williams, though we already knew he'd get another chance to be the No. 2 receiver, so mostly his fate comes down to whether or not he's a baller (TBD). The WR depth chart behind him in Detroit holds Kalif Raymond, Donvan Peoples-Jones, Antoine Green and Tre'Quan Smith — basically a slew of No. 4/5 receivers. If Williams pans out, we could be looking at a narrow target distribution where he, ARSB, Sam LaPorta and Jahmyr Gibbs account for nearly all of Detroit's passes.


Tight End       

TE Ben Sinnott

I'm somewhat skeptical of Jayden Daniels and highly skeptical of Washington's front office, but this is still a pretty clear win for Sinnott, who typically was mocked as a third-round pick. He instead went 53rd overall, landing in an offense where 33-year-old Zach Ertz will be his main competition for snaps and the WR depth behind Terry McLaurin looks weak. 

This pick may have been slightly surprising, but I wouldn't call it a reach; Sinnott had 1,123 yards and 10 TDs over his final two seasons at Kansas State and then lit up the combine at 6-4, 250. While his strange gait and varied role as a TE/H-back/fullback have been the subject of much discussion, I'm not sure it matters in light of his 4.68 40-yard dash and TE-leading combine marks in the vertical jump (40 inches), broad jump (126 in.) and cone drill (6.82). Those numbers in combination with his size suggest he can fit just fine in a normal TE role in the NFL.


TE Juwan Johnson

The Saints waited until the fifth round to draft a wide receiver, Bub Means, and didn't take any tight ends at all. Johnson, Chris Olave, Rashid Shaheed and Alvin Kamara should dominate the targets this season, with 2023 sixth-round pick A.T. Perry perhaps being a wild card. Anyway, I thought the Saints would do more to bring in pass-catching depth this offseason; they instead prioritized O-line additions and keeping their veteran defense together.


TE Will Dissly / Hayden Hurst / Donald Parham

TE Jelani Woods / Will Mallory / Kylen Granson

These guys are all fringe assets even in deeper leagues. If you were on the fence about cutting them, you might now decide to keep them after the Colts and Chargers opted against drafting any tight ends. Both teams seem fine with the quantity over quality approach, with Woods being the only guy above who might have the physical traits to be a difference-maker. Woods was promising as a rookie third-round pick in 2022 but then missed all of 2023 with hamstring injuries.

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Jerry Donabedian
Jerry was a 2018 finalist for the FSWA's Player Notes Writer of the Year and DFS Writer of the Year awards. A Baltimore native, Jerry roots for the Ravens and watches "The Wire" in his spare time.
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