Rookie Sleepers | Hidden Nuggets in the 2024 NFL Draft with John Laub

by John Laub · Featured
Rookie Draft

PlayerProfiler is home to award winning dynasty rankings and tools. Our Dynasty Deluxe package includes complete Dynasty Rankings, Rookie Rankings, Trade Analyzer, Draft Planner, Mock Drafts, and more. Check it out. Now, here are John Laub’s breakdown of late-round targets available in 2024 dynasty rookie drafts. 

Uncovering Hidden Nuggets in Rookie Dynasty Drafts

In fantasy football, the term sleeper is overused. The industry has grown so large that countless fantasy fanatics and websites provide rankings and mock draft results of the top players and selections. I have also provided 35 player scouting reports in previous PlayerProfiler articles. After a decade grading rookies and eight seasons managing dynasty teams, I prefer “hidden nuggets” – players available after the 36th pick in rookie drafts.

While most dynasty managers focus on the top-24 players, it has become evident that every pick in a dynasty draft matters. Last year, a fantasy owner may have selected WR Quentin Johnston in the first round. If the same manager grabbed Tank Dell and/or Puka Nacua in the third or fourth round, the astute dynasty owner more than compensated for their first round decision.

In order to assist readers navigating the later rounds of dynasty drafts, below I profile six rookies who are hidden nuggets in the fourth and fifth rounds according to current ADP. Do not reach for these future fantasy contributors. Allow the value to fall and be ready to grab each one when the price is right.

Spencer Rattler | QB, South Carolina

Prospect Resume

In 2017, football fanatics first glimpsed Spencer Rattler on QB1: Beyond the Lights on Netflix. Regrettably, Rattler came across as a spoiled and entitled recruit with character concerns. In fairness, how many 17-year-old high school students would shine on a reality TV show? Character concerns should be discarded after he was selected as team captain and co-winner of the Steve Wadiak Team MVP at South Carolina last year.

In the Class of 2019, Spencer was a five-star recruit from Arizona and the consensus No. 1 quarterback. He earned the Elite 11 QB Competition MVP and was invited to the All-American Bowl. In 2019, he enrolled at Oklahoma under coach Lincoln Riley, but played in only three games. Spencer took over behind center for the Sooners the next season. After the campaign closed, he was named freshman All-American and First Team All-Big 12, passing for 3,031 yards and 28 touchdowns. In 2021, the redshirt sophomore played poorly and was eventually benched for Caleb Williams in the Texas game. He competed in nine contests and passed for only 1,483 yards and 11 scores.

After the demotion, Rattler transferred to South Carolina and has been productive for the Gamecocks over the past two campaigns. He logged 6,212 passing yards and posted a 37:20 TD-INT ratio. During his career, he rushed for 410 yards and 16 scores. Spencer impressed observers at the Senior Bowl, displaying elite arm strength and leadership skills.

Key Career Statistics

Games Played: 45

Passing Efficiency: 152.2

Completion Percentage: 68.5

Yards Per Attempt: 8.2

TD:INT Ratio: 77:32

Rushing Equity: 10-percent

Escapability Grade: B-

Film Breakdown and Skills

At 6-1 and 217-pounds, Rattler profiles as a gunslinger with eye-popping velocity on his fastball. He has a quick release and can fire the ball to all three levels of the field with accuracy. A good anticipatory thrower, the four-year starter has the chutzpah to place the ball in tight windows, challenging defensive backs. With good athleticism, he avoids pass rushers to find an open receivers. On the run, the former Gamecocks signal caller keeps his eyes downfield and throws well on the move. With a quick release, he owns a few top-notch tools that teams covet in their quarterback.

At times, Spencer plays “hero ball” and gets into trouble forcing passes and throwing interceptions. Far too often, he makes poor decisions and does not work through progressions well. He must improve his pocket presence, as he bails too quickly at times. Spencer also relies on raw arm strength and throws off his back foot under duress. With many teams in need of a quarterback, do not be surprised if Rattler comes off the board on Day 2 of the Draft.

Dylan Laube | RB, New Hampshire

Prospect Resume

Whenever a prospect competes at the FCS level, I am reluctant to place him among the top-12 at the running back position. In the past decade, only five players have been selected from the FCS—Pierre Strong (South Dakota State), Chase Edmonds (Fordham), Tarik Cohen (North Carolina A&T), Alex Armah (West Georgia) and David Johnson (Northern Iowa). Only Johnson has made a significant fantasy impact. Will Dylan Laube overcome long odds to impact fantasy rosters?

As a redshirt freshman in 2019, Laube led the team in all-purpose yards with 137.2 yards per game. In 2022, he finished the season as the national leader in all-purpose yards per game with 194.3. He also posted his best rushing totals with 245 carries for 1,205 yards and 15 touchdowns. In 2023, he once again paced the nation in all-purpose yards with 2,095 (209.5 ypg). He rambled for 749 rushing yards and nine touchdowns while catching 68 passes for 699 yards and seven scores.

Laube is from Long Island, New York and played football and Lacrosse in high school. As a senior, he led his team to a 12-0 record and the school’s first Class III Championship, producing a record 47 touchdowns and rushing for a school record 2,680 yards. In the championship game, he scampered for 227 yards and a team record six touchdowns. His career stats include 101 touchdowns on 687 carries and 6,495 rushing yards. Laube also caught 64 passes for 1,234 yards and another 14 scores. On kick and punt returns, he added four touchdowns during his career.

Key Career Statistics

Yards per Carry: 5.0

Receptions: 171

Yards from Scrimmage: 4,564

Scrimmage Yards Dominator: 34-percent

Film Breakdown and Skills

At 5-10 and 206-pounds, Laube is a versatile ball carrier who likely becomes a third-down back at the next level. He is arguably the top-rated pass catcher among runners (171 career catches) in the Class of 2024. With soft hands, he runs good routes and can be deployed in the slot. Laube presents a mismatch against linebackers and is sturdy as a pass protector. He is explosive in run-and-catch opportunities and challenges secondaries vertically.

On the ground, Laube is a zone-scheme runner with patience, burst and slipperiness. He scampers with a low center of gravity and makes tacklers whiff in space. An aggressive competitor, Laube keeps legs churning and gains additional yards after contact. The former Wildcats playmaker profiles as an immediate special teams contributor, who will get opportunities in the passing game as a professional.

Blake Watson | RB, Memphis

Prospect Resume

While the diehard college football fans watch Old Dominion, the casual ones have no idea about the Monarchs and their depth chart, let alone their pro prospects. Blake Watson logged a 1,000-yard season at Old Dominion in 2021, earning honorable mention C-USA, but remained relatively unknown. In 2022, he rushed for 921 yards, averaging 5.7 yards on 159 totes. As a Monarch, Watson registered 60 receptions for 448 yards and three scores in three seasons.

After the 2022 campaign, Watson transferred to Memphis and increased his draft stock significantly. In his only season as a Tiger, he earned First Team All-AAC after rushing for 1,152 yards. He also recorded 53 catches for 480 yards and 17 total touchdowns. Since the season concluded, he earned the Hula Bowl Offensive MVP and chronicled an impressive performance at the East-West Shrine Bowl. For his college career, Watson snatched 113 passes for 928 yards and six scores. A two-star recruit in high school, he had 106 receptions for 1,885 yards and 25 scores, and earned All-American honors in track and field.

Key Career Statistics

Yards Per Carry: 5.6

Receptions: 113

Yards from Scrimmage: 4,224

Scrimmage Yards Dominator: 27-percent

Film Breakdown and Skills

At 5-9 and 195 pounds, Watson popped in my RB model that illuminated some of his abilities on the gridiron. He has a BMI of 28.8—just below the 30 benchmark. He also recorded a 27-percent scrimmage yards dominator at Memphis and sprinted for 33 runs over 10-plus yards. At his Pro Day, he ran a 4.39 in the 40-yard dash and averaged 3.74 yards after contact according to PFF. Watson has the speed, agility and strength to be an effective playmaker in the NFL.

An overlooked prospect, Watson possesses first-class speed, ankle-breaking elusiveness and dynamic pass-catching abilities. He has a brisk burst and very good lateral agility to avoid defenders. With fantastic feet, he slips and slides with patience behind the line of scrimmage and bounces runs outside when necessary.

Watson shines on the perimeter and is a natural pass catcher. With a lean frame, he has limited power and there are pass blocking concerns on film. Late in dynasty drafts, I am always willing to acquire a potential pass-catching runner who can help on special teams and be a third-down playmaker: Watson fulfills the criteria that I look for in an undervalued ball carrier.

Malik Washington | WR, Virginia

Prospect Resume

In my humble opinion, playing college fantasy football is one of the best ways to become familiar with the upcoming Draft Class and uncover hidden gems among the prospects. In 2023, Malik Washington popped during the first month of the season, and I plucked him off the waiver wire in four leagues, helping me win two redraft championships. Washington established single-season school records with 110 receptions and 1,426 yards as well as scoring nine times. He broke Jamison Crowder‘s record in the ACC for catches in a season and accumulated 10 100-yard receiving games. As a first-year member of the Cavaliers, he was named one of five team captains.

In 2019, Washington enrolled at Northwestern and played four seasons as a Wildcat. Over the first two campaigns on campus, he saw limited opportunities with only 11 catches for 76 yards. In his third year at Northwestern, he broke out with 44 receptions for 578 yards and two scores. In 2022, he logged 65 catches for 694 yards and a touchdown and was named Third Team All-Big 10. He was also a three-time Academic All-Big 10 and 2021-22 Big 10 Distinguished Scholar before transferring to Virginia.

In high school, Washington was a three-star recruit and the No. 54 athlete nationally. As a senior, he accumulated 793 receiving yards and five touchdowns, as well as 287 rushing yards and nine scores. He was named team MVP and Regional Player of the Year, and also lettered four times in track. In 2017, he won State and National Championships in the 4×100-meter relay.

Key Career Statistics

Receptions: 230

Yards per Reception: 12.1

2023 Season

Catch Percentage: 77-percent

Team Aerial Dominator: 47-percent

Film Breakdown and Skills

While I was smitten with Washington’s fantasy production and game study last fall, his late-breakout age concerned me. Nonetheless, plugging the numbers into my WR model, his production profile highlighted potential NFL success: He logged a 77-percent catch rate, a 47-percent Aerial Dominator and a 91.1 PFF Grade, second-best among all college receivers last year. I moved him up just outside of my top-12 WR prospects. He did not get an invite to the Senior Bowl, but the former Cavaliers playmaker stood above all the position competitors at the Shrine Bowl.

At 5-8 and 192-pounds, Washington is a well-built athlete with a sturdy frame and plays with a rare toughness in the middle of the field. Lightning quick, he easily gains separation off the line of scrimmage and smoothly gets in and out of breaks. With natural and soft hands, he provides his quarterback with a reliable pass catcher to help move the chains. He is a glider who runs very good routes and escapes from tacklers after the catch. He projects as a slot/inside receiver in the NFL, which will cap his ceiling as a fantasy producer. At current dynasty rookie ADP, I will select Washington in nearly all my drafts in the fourth round.

Luke McCaffrey | WR, Rice

Prospect Resume

It is surprising that a competitor with a father (Ed McCaffrey) who earned three Super Bowl rings, and a brother (Christian McCaffrey), who is the best running back in the NFL, has garnered so little coverage this spring. Luke McCaffrey is clearly not the top-level prospect Christian is, but he is worthy of being selected on Day 3 as a long-term project. At the Combine, McCaffrey elucidated high-end athletic skills. In the 40-yard dash, he logged a 4.46, posting a 10-yard split of 1.52 for fifth-best among receivers, finished the 3-cone drill in 6.70, which was second-best in the group, and a position-best 4.02 in the 20-yard shuttle.

Coming out of high school, McCaffrey was a highly-rated, dual-threat signal caller and selected Nebraska over other major programs in the country. He redshirted for the Cornhuskers in his first year, and in 2020, played in seven of eight games. He started two at quarterback, passing for 313 yards, rushing for 132 yards and totaling four touchdowns.

In 2021, McCaffrey transferred to Rice and played quarterback in 2021 before converting to wide receiver for the 2022 campaign. In his first year at a new position, he snagged 58 passes for 723 yards and six scores. He was named team captain in 2023 and earned First Team All-AAC with 68 catches for 963 yards and a career-high 12 touchdowns. He captured the George Martin Award as the team MVP in each of the past two seasons. Last year, he lined up in the slot for the majority of the time (over 70-percent); nevertheless, he could develop as a Z-receiver with improved technique and experience. Do not overlook the former Rice playmaker late in dynasty drafts.

Key Career Statistics

Receptions: 131

Yards per Reception: 13.2

2023 Season

Catch Percentage: 57-percent

Team Aerial Dominator: 30-percent

Film Breakdown and Skills

At 6-2 and 198-pounds, McCaffrey is a football aristocrat. He is a precise route runner with a ball carrier’s skills once the ball is in his hands. With a quarterback’s football IQ, the former Owl understands route concepts and dissects the defensive scheme to get open. He does not fear the middle of the hash marks and absorbs big hits in order to move the chains. With natural hands and fleet feet, McCaffrey creates separation at the top of the stem and fights (and wins) with the ball in the air. He also employs his lanky frame to shield off defenders.

A raw receiver, McCaffrey does not have the pass-catching abilities of his father yet. He needs more experience and opportunities to hone his skills. With only two years running routes and learning the position, the 23-year old must gain an understanding of how to defeat press coverage more effectively and manufacture more separation vertically. He also allows the pass to reach his body too often. McCaffrey owns the raw skills and football acumen to succeed as a professional. He needs time to master the nuances of the game at the next level.

Jalen McMillan | WR, Washington

Prospect Resume

Recency bias is real in fantasy sports, and the dynasty community appears to have forgotten about Jalen McMillan. Entering the 2023 campaign, the Huskies playmaker was in the same prospect tier as his teammate Rome Odunze. In 2022, McMillian caught 79 passes for 1,098 yards and scored nine touchdowns. In school history, the yards were the seventh-most and the receptions were the fourth-best in a single season. He was named First Team All-Pac-12 (Pro Football Network).

Last year, McMillan suffered an injury in the third game of the campaign, missing four games: California, Arizona, Arizona State and Stanford. Afterwards, he never appeared 100-percent healthy the remainder of the crusade. In last year’s opener, McMillan enjoyed a dynamic debut over Boise State, registering eight catches for 95 yards and two touchdowns while also rushing for a 19-yard score and completing a 13-yard pass. When finally healthy, he had nine catches for 131 yards in the Pac-12 Championship Game and five receptions for 58 yards and a touchdown versus Texas in the CFP Semifinals.

As a high school recruit, McMillan was a four-star prospect, the No. 38 overall recruit and the No. 8 receiver in the country. In 50 games, he recorded 260 catches for over 5,000 yards and 54 touchdowns. He lettered in football all four seasons and twice in baseball. He also participated in Junior Olympic track and field prior to starting high school, and as a high school junior, he made it to state prelims in the 100- and 200-meters.

Key Career Stats

Receptions: 164

Yards per Reception: 13.1

2023 Season

Catch Percentage: 71-percent

Team Aerial Dominator: 23-percent

Film Breakdown and Skills

At 6-1 and 197-pounds, McMillan is a smooth and agile athlete who is a distinctive playmaker. At Washington, he was predominately employed as an inside receiver (92.7-percent slot in 2022) and is a very good route runner. A fluid mover, he swiftly accelerates off the line of scrimmage and can stack defenders vertically (13.2 aDOT in 2022)—he scored two touchdowns over 75 yards in 2022. A long strider, the fourth-year wideout tracks the ball well and wins with body control and big and strong hands. He also has good vision and lateral agility to glide through traffic, starting and stopping well in order to elude tacklers. In 2022, he totaled 391 yards after catch (37.6-percent) and averaged 5.5 yards per reception.

McMillan has a lean body, spindly legs and lacks upper body strength. Usually, he lined up against an opponent’s weaker cornerback and benefited from a well-orchestrated scheme by coach Kalen DeBoer. Despite his limitations, McMillian will flourish in an offensive system that places him inside—as a big slot receiver—the formation against smaller defensive backs. At his current ADP, McMillan is one of the better players to target in the fourth round.

Read John Laub’s breakdown of the top tight end prospects in the 2024 Draft Class here: 2024 Rookie Tight End Rankings (Top 5) | NFL Draft 2024 – The Scholars Series with John Laub