In about five months, the NFL draft season will be in full swing. You’ll hear about combine scores, big-game performances, leadership, and toughness. What you’ll hear less of? Wrong place, wrong time.
Getting drafted into a poor fit, due to roster issues or clubhouse culture, can destroy the confidence of any player. The 2023 season is living proof; while C.J. Stroud has thrived in Houston, Bryce Young’s coach has already been fired. Is Young as bad as social media might have you believe? I don’t think so; we’re not even a year removed from seeing him light it up at Alabama.
A crowded roster fit for a rookie can destroy fantasy teams as well; think about what kind of role Jaxon Smith-Njigba or De’Von Achane could have on another offense. With that in mind, let’s find the perfect fantasy match for quarterbacks and skill position players to teams that can realistically acquire them in the draft.
QB Caleb Williams, USC: Arizona Cardinals
Admittedly, I don’t think the Cardinals should actually draft Caleb Williams. Kyler Murray is still very good, and Arizona would be better served filling a bigger position of need or trading back to grab more assets. However, if Murray is replaced in the same fashion as Josh Rosen, it would be fantasy gold for Williams.
Just look at the other teams in the current top five of the draft. Most of them are bad, cold-weather teams that have serious issues on the offensive line, at wide receiver, or both. Putting Williams in a dome with weapons like Marquise Brown, James Conner, and Trey McBride would leave him in a similar situation to Stroud this year, and fantasy points would surely follow.
WR Marvin Harrison Jr., Ohio State: Tennessee Titans
The Cardinals should use their pick on Marvin Harrison Jr., if available. The best wide receiver prospect in years, MHJ combines elite route-running with impressive acrobatics on contested catches. This guy will be a star, and whoever snags him will make their quarterback a very happy man.
That happy QB could be Will Levis. Last year’s second-round pick, the former Kentucky Wildcat has been a bright spot in an otherwise forgettable season for the Titans, showcasing massive arm strength and some toughness as well. Tennessee’s offense hasn’t been the same since they shipped A.J. Brown to the Eagles. Picking or trading up to get Marvin Harrison Jr. could make things right again in Nashville.
QB Drake Maye, North Carolina: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The “other” quarterback of the 2024 draft class is pretty good in his own right. Drake Maye is a favorite amongst NFL scouts; he possesses size (6’ 4″), speed (nine rushing touchdowns) and a cannon of an arm. He does have some work to do as far as making NFL-caliber reads, but that’s nothing a coaching staff can’t fix.
You know what else helps a rookie quarterback? Great wide receivers. Although there’s been plenty of buzz that this could be Mike Evans’ last year in Tampa, it’s hard not to think one of him or Chris Godwin will still be a Buc next year. Combine that with warm weather, a solid offensive line and a pass-catching back in Rachaad White, and Maye will be in a position to succeed right out of the gate.
TE Brock Bowers, Georgia: New York Giants
Somehow, Tommy DeVito has reeled off two straight wins, making a push for Williams or Maye unlikely for the Giants given they already have four wins. I don’t think New York will view the rest of the draft’s passers as a significant upgrade over Daniel Jones, but it’s clear the offense needs to improve.
Brock Bowers isn’t really a tight end, but that doesn’t matter. He can essentially act as a big slot receiver, and anything Daniel Bellinger or an injury-prone Darren Waller can provide would be a bonus. Jones has shown he can be a league-average quarterback, and Bowers would immediately be the top dog in New York. A top-five pick would be a bit of a reach (it doesn’t work out for tight ends), but a Big Blue trade-back for Brock could make for an interesting fantasy fit.
QB Jayden Daniels, LSU: Atlanta Falcons
Daniels will be a name to watch all spring, as his Heisman-worthy campaign is sure to send him flying up mock drafts. For now, it’s anyone’s guess as to where he lands, but somewhere in the middle of the first feels reasonable. The Falcons, in spite of Arthur Smith’s confusing personnel decisions, are near the top of the NFC South. They’ve done so in spite of Desmond Ridder, who has struggled for most of the year as the team’s starting quarterback.
The idea of a dual-threat to pair with Bijan Robinson is enticing; it would be nearly impossible to commit to either player on a read option. Pair that with a line filled with talented run-blockers, and Smith can grind down his opponents even further in 2024. It’s worth noting that the LSU superstar isn’t just a rusher, as he’s thrown for 40 touchdowns in the SEC. If anyone can unlock the massive potential of Kyle Pitts and Drake London, it’s Daniels.
WR Malik Nabers, LSU: New York Jets
Quarterback should be a real option for the Jets, as Aaron Rodgers will turn 40 this coming week. Still, Gang Green should have real Super Bowl hopes, and that demands going all-in. Garrett Wilson is amazing, but offseason acquisition Allen Lazard is already a healthy scratch. New York will likely make a push for Davante Adams in the offseason, but why not go after someone younger and cheaper?
LSU’s Malik Nabers is the latest member of Wide Receiver U, more in the vein of an Odell Beckham Jr. than a Ja’Marr Chase due to his after-the-catch explosiveness. That should appeal heavily to the Jets, who have struggled to find big plays all season. A three-headed monster of Nabers, Wilson, and Breece Hall could support the Jets for the immediate future and post-Rodgers, elevating this offense from dreck to fantasy gold.