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Who Will Be the Best Rookie Quarterback in 2024 Fantasy Football?

I can't remember an NFL Draft class that promised to be this much fun for fantasy football in a long time. Most mock drafts have something like three quarterbacks and three wide receivers (not to mention a tight end) going within the first 10 picks of the draft alone.

Depending on how things shake out, as many as five or six quarterbacks will be off the board in Round 1, meaning plenty of new starters taking Week 1 snaps. That can also mean some huge fantasy football value.

A rookie will always be a boom-or-bust option. But if you're not locking up a Lamar Jackson, Josh Allen or Patrick Mahomes type, that "boom" is exactly what you'll be searching for. The question remains, however: Which rookie quarterback is the one to target?

It's Not Caleb Williams

Caleb Williams is obviously the top real-world prospect, but that doesn't mean he's going to be the top rookie passer for fantasy managers.

The Chicago Bears are definitely one of the best real-world landing spots we've seen for a first-overall quarterback in a long time, but they haven't exactly designed a quarterback's dream offense. DJ Moore and Keenan Allen make for a good-not-great duo of top pass-catchers, and with just a solid tight end in Cole Kmet and no real WR3, the only way this spot gets really interesting is if something wild like Malik Nabers falling to No. 9 happens.

To boot, the Bears were one of the NFL's slowest-paced offenses last season (29.7 seconds per play per TeamRankings) despite spending plenty of time playing from behind. Overpaying D'Andre Swift isn't a good sign that they plan to change that.

Of course, there's the whole Justin Fields factor to consider. He was a highly productive fantasy quarterback in this offense. But while Williams has impressive mobility and is a clear playmaker, he still hasn't proven that he can do what Fields can with his legs. Fields averaged 47.9 rushing yards per game in his final collegiate season, while Williams averaged 11.8.

Being a hyped up prospect and first-round pick is going to leave Williams going overdrafted.

It's Not Michael Penix or Bo Nix

OK, here's the low-hanging fruit. For however much you like Michael Penix or Bo Nix as prospects (and there's lots of reason to like them a lot), they're unlikely to be stepping in as surefire Week 1 starters anywhere. And if they do start in Week 1, it's going to be after a training camp battle.

And even if that all goes their way, do you really want a rookie quarterback who's starting for the Denver Broncos?

Either could have big upside when they do take over a starting job, but with Mel Kiper mocking them both in the second round, that upside could take a while to shine through.

It's Not J.J. McCarthy

This one also feels like low-hanging fruit to me, but there are plenty of J.J McCarthy believers out there so maybe this isn't a take that everyone's going to agree with.

There was definitely a lot to like about McCarthy's efficiency in 2023, with 9.8 adjusted passing yards per attempt and an 87.3 passing grade from Pro Football Focus, but neither of those are "wow" numbers.

Few rookies can come out and one-dimensionally sling it right from the jump, and there's nothing about McCarthy that makes him look like a unique, special prospect from that perspective. And when he only contributed 13.5 rushing yards as a senior, nobody is expecting him to step up and post big rushing numbers in the pros.

There are also all those reports linking him to the New York Giants. That's not something you like to see, even if you think he's a sure thing to beat out Daniel Jones for Week 1.

Drake Maye vs. Jayden Daniels

You can't go too far wrong with Drake Maye or Jayden Daniels. Honestly the same is true of Williams, but as I mentioned above his draft cost is going to hurt his fantasy appeal.

There are huge "if"s to consider for both guys, and I'm not out here trying to tell you either is a lock to be a great NFL quarterback. But both of them have massive upside if everything does click. And that's what you're looking for in a late-round quarterback. If they're clearly not pro-ready, you can just drop them and probably find a fine low-end starting quarterback on the waiver wire. But the "if they hit" scenario means you could get a potential top-end producer without having to spend much in your fantasy draft.

Neither one is going to an ideal fantasy landing spot. Daniels is -210 on FanDuel Sportsbook to go No. 2 overall, and Maye is -150 to go No. 3. In all likelihood that means Daniels is a Washington Commander and Maye is a New England Patriot. Edge: Daniels.

Terry McLaurin, Jahan Dotson and Austin Ekeler at least provide some weapons for an incoming quarterback. And the signing of Ekeler, who has more receptions (282) and receiving yards (2,208) than any other running back since 2020, suggests that this team plans to throw the ball.

The same can't be said for a group of Kendrick Bourne, K.J. Osborn and Rhamondre Stevenson.

The other factor is rushing upside. Maye has underrated wheels, but Daniels is one of the best scrambling prospects we've seen in a while.

This is often the key to a rookie quarterback putting up big fantasy production. Just look at Anthony Richardson finishing as QB4 in Week 1 and QB2 in Week 4 when he played his only full games last year. Just look at Lamar Jackson getting "great for fantasy football but not as a real quarterback" thrown at him as an insult for years.

Daniels' 92.4 rushing grade is the second highest PFF has ever given a college quarterback, and he has the production to match the grade. You also won't find many people who don't think the eye test lines up with those numbers either.

The Commanders rarely do a whole lot right, but they seem to be putting together an offense designed to spread things, throw the ball and make use of Daniels' rushing ability. They even added Marcus Mariota as the veteran presumed backup to mentor Daniels.

He may not turn in flashy numbers or look like an elite passer in Year 1, but that's the fun thing about fantasy football: it really doesn't matter all that much how good he is from a real-world perspective. Throwing with high volume and contributing big numbers on the ground will give him the chance to be a high-end fantasy producer regardless.

If you're willing to roll the dice on a rookie quarterback in your 2024 fantasy football draft, Jayden Daniels is your guy.