The 2024 best ball season is underway, and thus, my writing juices have been sparked. One of my favorite things to discuss, and something I had a lot of success with in 2023, was the WRs I took late in drafts. Guys like Brenden Rice (45/791/12), Kobe Hudson (44/900/8), Ja’Lynn Polk (69/1,159/9), and Tahj Washington (59/1,062/8) were all guys I drafted in the mid to late 20s of best balls last season. They ended up being worth far more than the price to nab them. Let’s take a look at three guys who I believe can produce similar numbers as those already named in 2024. 

Da’Quan Felton, Virginia Tech

You don’t think of Virginia Tech and think of “great WR fantasy production,” but I do think Felton is worthy of a late pick in best-ball leagues. After two successful seasons at Norfolk State, Felton came to Blacksburg and averaged nearly 18 yards per catch (38 receptions for 667 yards) and found the end zone eight times in 13 games. His 2023 season was filled with stud or dud-type performances, as he generated 18+ fantasy points in six games. His 6’5″, 207-lb. frame has been used quite well in three collegiate seasons, with 17 total TDs between both Virginia schools.

The Hokies have a soft schedule and also return an incredible amount of production (fourth most returning production per CFB Winning Edge’s Returning Production Database), so this offense should be humming quite well with a full season of Kyron Drones under center. I’m excited about what Drones and Felton can do together with another year under their belt and the likely lack of monsoon games (Purdue/Tulane) where they can do damage. In those two games, the rain caused Felton to have zero receptions on eight targets. 

Courtesy of Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Look to Felton in the best ball formats for the time being, as there’s nothing about Brent Pry/Tyler Bowen that pushes great WR production on a consistent basis. But, as we saw last season, there’s certainly boom potential from the Drones/Felton combo at random times throughout the season.

Xavier Townsend, UCF

Townsend is a third year player for Gus and the Golden Knights and one that has been used early on in his collegiate career quite nicely. He had 23 receptions and three carries in his debut season for UCF, capped off by a seven-reception game against Duke in the Military Bowl. While the production was limited (34 yards on nine touches), the fact he saw usage with Javon Baker and Kobe Hudson both active had me intrigued at the time. 

In 2023, Townsend was the clear WR3, as seen by his 255 routes run in 11 games. The next closest WR besides the obvious starting WRs were Jarrad Baker (72) and Trent Whittemore (67). Baker departs, leaving the competition in the WR room quite thin. In fact, the only returning WRs to run routes in 2023 are Kobe Hudson (384), Whittemore (67), and Chauncey Magwood (35). All other routes run were by RBs or TEs.

Going into 2024, there is a clear path to Townsend becoming the WR2, a role that has produced 44/900/8, 56/796/5, and 38/565/11 in recent years. The only potential issue I could see here is that Baker is 6’1″ and 208 lbs., while Townsend is on the smaller end (5’11″, 185). Can he fill right into that outside WR role? He did record 81 of his 255 snaps out wide in 2023, so there’s reason to trust that Gus will figure out a way to get his talent on the field regardless of size. 

Pat Bryant, Illinois

The Fighting Illini have 132 targets to replace out of their WR1 as Isaiah Williams has moved onto the NFL. Not only has Williams moved on, but so has Casey Washington and his 76 targets. Illinois didn’t bring in anyone to directly take over for the loss of Williams/Washington, so I think Pat Bryant is more than worth looking at later in best ball drafts. 

Courtesy of 247Sports

Bryant secured 63 targets, third best on the team, to go along with seven TDs, which led the way for Illinois in 2023. He has some nice size to him (6’3″, 200) and gets another year under his belt with Luke Altmyer under center yet again for the Fighting Illini. Some chemistry here helps because Bryant does not have the same size as target hog Isaiah Williams (5’10″, 185). Nor did he fill the same role as Williams did last season (Williams’s 83% slot snap rate compared to Bryant’s 20% slot snap rate). So often, roles in offense and similar sizes/play styles matter when replacing target hogs, but who else could play this large role for them? No other WR on the roster saw more than 15 targets last season than Bryant. No transfers have been brought in either. 

I can’t imagine Bryant sees any sort of relevant ADP here as the offseason continues to progress, making him a great buy super late type player in best ball formats this season.

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