Fantasy Football Draft Fades: Players to consider avoiding in 2024

Dalton Del Don runs through players and strategies he'll be avoiding in 2024 fantasy football drafts.

Early Quarterbacks

It’s not so much my concerns about the top fantasy quarterbacks going off the board — although Jalen Hurts took a major step back passing without Shane Steichen, and the possible retirement of Jason Kelce could affect the Brotherly Shove; Josh Allen now leads one of the league’s most run-heavy offenses; Patrick Mahomes lacks rushing upside and just scored fewer fantasy points than Jared Goff (when counting Week 18) — but I’ll be fading the position early in drafts thanks to its substantial depth.

While early ADP suggests Hurts, Allen and Mahomes will go in the first three rounds, Anthony Richardson, who led the league by a mile in fantasy points per dropback last year, wasn’t being drafted as a top-10 fantasy QB.

Brock Purdy just had the fourth-best adjusted net yards/attempt season in NFL history while leading the league in yards per attempt (9.6), yards per dropback (8.8), yards per completion (13.9), expected points added per dropback (0.26), composite EPA + CPOE (0.204) and QBR (72.7). Purdy can run and had the third-most passing touchdowns in 2023 despite resting in Week 18, but his early ADP has HIM outside the top-12 fantasy quarterbacks.

Matthew Stafford got 8.4 YPA, averaged 296.0 passing yards and threw 17 touchdowns over his final seven games (playoffs included) and could get a healthy Cooper Kupp to go with emerging star Puka Nacua while playing home games indoors next season. The Rams got the most yards per play in the NFL when healthy in 2023, yet Stafford’s early ADP has him outside the top-15 fantasy QBs (Round 8).

Kirk Cousins averaged the sixth-most fantasy points per game among quarterbacks last year and will get a healthier Justin Jefferson to go with year-two Jordan Addison. Cousins, assuming he returns to Minnesota, plays indoors for an offense with one of the league’s highest pass rates over expectation, yet his ADP sits barely inside the top-20 fantasy QBs (Round 10).

Baker Mayfield, who finished top 10 at the position last year, isn’t being drafted as a top-25 fantasy QB (Round 14). And we haven’t discussed a returning Aaron Rodgers or an extremely exciting rookie QB class that could be the top three picks in the draft.

I’m fading quarterbacks in at least the first five rounds of 2024 fantasy drafts thanks to the historical depth at the position.

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Stefon Diggs, WR, Buffalo Bills

After averaging 103.3 receiving yards and scoring five touchdowns over the first six games, Diggs averaged just 48.9 and scored three TDs over the final 13 (including the playoffs). He averaged an almost unfathomable 41.0 receiving yards and scored zero touchdowns over the last seven games, punctuated by a brutal drop in the AFC Championship.

It’s possible Diggs was dealing with a hidden injury — his snaps decreased over a three-game stretch — and his schedule wasn’t easy. But that historical drop in production is worrisome for a wide receiver on the wrong side of 30. Khalil Shakir had more receiving yards over Buffalo’s last 10 games despite seeing 43 fewer targets.

Moreover, the Bills ranked first in rush rate and last in pass rate after Joe Brady took over as the offensive coordinator, and Diggs’ early ADP still has him as a mid-second round fantasy pick. Draft DJ Moore or Rashee Rice instead.

Cooper Kupp, WR, Los Angeles Rams

Kupp has missed 13 games over the last two seasons and will soon turn 31 years old. His production also dropped considerably after a hot start in 2023, when he finished as the No. 27 wide receiver in fantasy points per game.

Just as concerning as Kupp’s age and injury history is the emergence of Puka Nacua, who saw more targets over 12 games together last year. A healthy Kupp can remain plenty productive even with Nacua, but there’s downside as a third-round fantasy pick in 2024. Draft Tank Dell or Nico Collins instead.

Aging Running Backs

Fading Derrick Henry is hardly going to be a contrarian take, but his ADP is unlikely to fall far enough. The Big Dog seems destined to leave Tennessee, and his landing spot will obviously affect his fantasy outlook. But history isn’t kind to backs who are 30-plus years old with 2,000-plus touches, and it’s usually best to avoid spending a fourth/fifth-round pick on a player on the downside of his career. Target Tyjae Spears instead.

Austin Ekeler had the biggest difference between actual fantasy points and expected fantasy points among running backs this season, and he’ll turn 29 in May. An early ankle injury hampered his production, but Ekeler has 10 fumbles over the last two years (after committing zero over his first five years in the league) and enters 2024 with plenty of uncertainty as a free agent. That’s a lot of risk for a back whose early ADP remains in the late second round.

Alvin Kamara is a candidate to be released by New Orleans, hasn’t played a full season since his rookie year in 2017 and will turn 29 years old over the summer. Kamara’s early ADP is higher than Anthony Richardson’s, so just wait and grab Kendre Miller (much) later instead.

James Conner averaged the most fantasy points per game (22.6) among all backs over the last six weeks of the season but missed another four games earlier in the year. He’s never played a full season and has missed multiple contests during every campaign but one. Conner wasn’t a top-25 fantasy RB in ppg over Weeks 1-13, will turn 29 years old during the offseason, and the Cardinals will likely bring in running back competition.

Raheem Mostert scored more touchdowns (21) last season than he totaled (19) over his previous seven seasons in the league combined. He reached 200 carries and 1,000 rushing yards for the first time in his career in 2023. Mostert remains one of the biggest injury risks in the league, will soon turn 32 years old and will have to compete for touches against a much younger running back who just posted the highest rushing DVOA mark ever.

Maybe Mostert continues to defy the aging curve, but he’s also due for regression after scoring 10 more touchdowns than expected in 2023. That said, Mostert in Round 10 could be considered safer than De’Von Achane in Round 2, but just realize there’s real risk Mostert could be a wasted pick given his age and injury history.

Trevor Lawrence, QB, Jacksonville Jaguars

Lawrence is not the prince we were promised. He won’t cost you too early of a pick in 2024, but I’m no longer expecting a leap. He undoubtedly suffered some bad luck with drops and near touchdowns last season, but Lawrence also experienced plenty of inaccuracy issues.

He’s among the league’s worst quarterbacks when taken off his first read, and while there remains plenty of time for growth and improvement, it’s bad news Jacksonville decided to bring back OC Press Taylor (the same could be said about GM Trent Baalke). Stafford, Cousins, Rodgers and the rookies can be drafted rounds later.