The 2023 Draft Season is over. Who is ready to fire up their crystal ball and project the first round of the 2024 drafts for College Fantasy Football?
You are going to disagree with a lot of what you are about to read. Good! You should. Week 1 hasn’t even kicked off, and yet here we are, prognosticating about 2024. This mock will identify the 12 players that I think are most likely to be taken in the first round of a standard CFF redraft league. Some of it will be based on historical patterns and trends, but much of it will be projection. Inevitably, coaches will leave, and players will transfer. In the end, this is essentially an exercise in futility, but I’m going to give it the ole college try.
Let’s set some ground rules. For the sake of argument, we are going to assume most draft-eligible players with early NFL potential will be omitted. As much as I would love to see NIL keep Caleb, Drake, Marvin, and Malachi in college, it wouldn’t be very realistic, nor interesting, to include them. There is a list of less obvious omissions at the end of this article.
The last three seasons (2021-2023) were taken into account to determine any first-round draft patterns/trends. Here are some findings:
G5 players taken: 3.33/year with a low of 2
Quarterbacks taken: 4.3 per year
Running Backs taken: 4.7 per year
Wide Receivers taken: 3.0 per year
The most interesting trend is that every player taken over the last two seasons was proven, bonafide CFF assets. Caleb Williams started half of his freshman season in 2021, and that was the closest thing to an unproven player being taken in round one of 2022. There were three relatively unproven players taken in round one of 2021 in Kayshon Boutte, DJ Uiagalelei, and Dustin Crum. It is fair to say that the strange, shortened season of Covid-2020 may have impacted the 2021 draft and led to more projections than usual.
Either way, it is becoming increasingly important to minimize risk early in drafts. The saying “You can’t win a draft in round one, but you can certainly lose it” applies here. Very little projection should be needed this early in the draft, and this mock will attempt to take into account that assumption. However, it will be challenging, given how many key players in A+ systems move on after 2023.
Without further ado, here are the 12 most likely players to be drafted in the first round of 2024 CFF Drafts (In no particular order)
Quinshon Judkins, RB – Ole Miss
Let’s grab the low-hanging fruit first. Judkins is consensus RB1 for 2023, a first-round pick in every draft, and a guarantee to return for 2024. Injury or some unforeseen situation where another Ole Miss RB makes this room more of an RBBC are pretty much the only scenarios that prevent Judkins from being another first-round selection.
Damien Martinez, RB – Oregon State
Similar to Judkins, Martinez is a proven option that could build on a strong freshman season. Martinez is already going in the first few rounds of drafts, and he’s in a program that has a strong track record with RB production, so his value should be fairly insulated. If he takes another step forward, then he could certainly be in consideration for round one draft capital. However, there is some uncertainty surrounding this program heading into 2024 when it comes to conference realignment.
Ja’Quinden Jackson, RB – Utah
Even though Jackson is draft-eligible, I chose to keep him as an option, given his inexperience at the RB position. He enters 2023 as the clear RB1 for the Utes and could be the next big-time producing RB under OC Andy Ludwig. The sky is the limit if Jackson can develop as a pass catcher. A transition to the Big 12 means schedule difficulty should be fairly similar to 2023.
Preston Stone, QB – SMU
Stone will finally get his chance to be the guy in Dallas. Rhett Lashlee has produced great seasons from Tanner Mordecai, Tyler Van Dyke, and Shane Buechele, but Stone’s ability with his legs makes his ceiling higher than Lashlee’s previous QBs. Stone also has a strong receiver room to throw to. Like Martinez, though, some uncertainty exists as to what conference SMU will be in next year.
Ashton Jeanty, RB – Boise State
After a strong freshman season, Jeanty would have been a top ten RB taken in 2023 drafts had George Holani not returned for a fifth season. OC Bush Hamdan has shown he can support two RBs, so Jeanty should see an increase in the 170 touches he had in 2022. Two years of strong production should make Jeanty a strong candidate to be an early-round pick in 2024 without Holani to split the carries. The biggest concern here is QB Taylen Green, who is also a first-round candidate, potentially stealing the show.
Matthew Golden, WR – Houston
Golden was one of the most productive true freshmen in 2022, with a 38-584-7 stat line. He is in line to start and be the lead option to replace CFF star Tank Dell. Dana Holgorsen recently said that “if anyone is going to be ‘that guy’ for us, it is going to be Matthew Golden.” Talent, system, and opportunity are all lining up for Golden to be a top-three WR option in 2024, which comfortably places him in round one.
Tetairoa McMillan, WR – Arizona
Similar to Golden, Tet already has a productive season on his resume and is set to build on that in 2023, with Dorian Singer and his 1,100 yards moving on. QB Jayden de Laura could also return for 2024, making Tet an even safer early selection. Staff and teammates have raved about how he has looked heading into 2023.
Nico Iamaleava, QB – Tennessee
Assuming Bazooka Joe hangs on to the job all year, this one is a projection. Even still, it is a safe projection given the marriage of talent and system. It isn’t often we get a 5-star talent in the veer-n-shoot, but recruiting (and NIL) have blessed us with this opportunity. This offense is fast and fun, and Nico is a perfect fit to run it. High floor meets high ceiling.
Behren Morton, QB – Texas Tech
One of two scenarios likely play out. Either Tyler Shough has an amazing season and moves on to the NFL, leaving Morton in charge of the Zach Kittley offense, or Shough gets replaced by Morton due to performance or injury. Both scenarios result in Morton potentially being a high draft pick next offseason if this offense takes the steps we are expecting it to take in year two under this staff.
Marquez Cooper, RB – Ball State
The biggest question here isn’t about Cooper’s ability or production history. He’s incredibly proven and reliable, with MULTIPLE seasons of over 250 touches, 1,300 yards, and 11 TDs. He entered a new program after transferring from Kent State. This is generally a concern, but Mike Neu has an RB volume pig history with Caleb Huntley and Carson Steele. The main concern is if Cooper will return for a fifth season. I decided to include him, knowing the NFL usually isn’t too interested in 5’6″ guys from the MAC.
Jahmal Banks, WR – Wake Forest
AT Perry in 2022 and Jaquarii Roberson in 2021 both went right on the cusp of round one. Banks and his 42-636-9 stat line, while backing up Perry last year, was potentially just the tip of his talent iceberg. He is in line for a big 2023, especially with the unfortunate injury for Donny Greene. The slow mesh scheme consistently creates explosive play opportunities for WRs.
Carnell Tate, WR – Ohio State
Three Buckeye receivers have gone in the first round of the last two drafts. Not to mention Olave and Wilson were taken within the first handful of rounds of 2021. Tate was a star of both spring and fall camps. Marvin Harrison Jr. had high praise for Tate as he recently said, “Carnell is already ahead of where I was going into my second season.” If OSU were to miss the playoffs, we could see a JSN or MHJ type of ascension from Tate (or Brandon Innis or Noah Rogers) with a monster bowl game should Harrison and Egbuka sit out.
Below is a list of less obvious omissions that certainly could find themselves in Round 1 should they decide to unexpectedly return. These guys don’t have a lot of NFL draft buzz and certainly could return, but the assumption is that if they play well enough in 2023 to be considered a 2024 CFF first-round pick, then they likely wouldn’t return.