6 NFL players (and one coach) in need of a fantasy football reputation reboot in 2024

Matt Harmon examines which players (and coach) are in need of a fantasy football brand refresh this season.

The complete ambivalence the fantasy community holds toward a receiver who has a beefy career résumé, including a top-five season and being top-20 in targets and top-15 in catches at the position just last season, is a bit puzzling.

Prior to his 2021 late-season ACL tear, I thought Chris Godwin was knocking on the door to be considered as clear top-12 receiver in the league. At the very least, he was in the tier right below those players. The last couple of seasons have been mired by a slow comeback and other injuries amid offensive turnover. Still, he remains a clearly useful and productive player.

To put this all in a much simpler way: If Godwin caught six to seven touchdown passes last season instead of two how would we feel about him?

I get it, he didn’t score those touchdowns. But we know touchdowns are fickle beasts and if Godwin holds the same opportunity this season as he did last, there’s a chance mere variance pushes him into the end zone a few more times. There’s no reason to assume his volume is going to decrease, in fact, he could be in line for more looks as he moves back into his natural position under a new offensive coordinator.

Godwin is a good player who has delivered in the past. When you take a closer look at his play last season, it was a quality campaign. He’ll remain the WR2 in the offense behind Mike Evans, but there’s more than enough room in this passing offense for both to eat.

Lawrence was the most popular “making the leap” candidate at quarterback last season and while he was not bad, there certainly wasn’t a jump forward. The Jaguars passing game felt like it was litigated and re-litigated so often last season, and most of it is not worth rehashing once more. It’s best to look forward.

With that eye to the horizon, I’m not sure if we can argue the situation around Lawrence is dramatically better, if at all this season. Calvin Ridley moved on despite the Jaguars fighting tooth and nail to keep him — that should tell you about how he actually played last season beyond the fantasy results — and the team swapped in Gabe Davis and rookie Brian Thomas Jr. Davis is who he is but there’s a chance Thomas is the vertical receiver this offense has lacked in recent years. However, I think he’s a slightly developmental prospect who may need to be eased into a larger role in the NFL.

The bigger issue for me was the coaching and offensive design last season. Doug Pederson retained offensive coordinator Press Taylor and is unwilling to retake the play-calling duties. That could provide another hindrance for this unit.

Overall, I believe Lawrence is a quality quarterback, and the positional evaluators I trust strongly accept that. He’s good enough just to have a dynamic season at any point. But there are enough concerns around the Jaguars offense that prevent me from going all-in. Lawrence should exist in a large ADP range of players who could finish anywhere between QB7 to 16 and I wouldn’t be shocked.

Not long ago, Taylor was viewed as the consensus top pick overall in 2022 fantasy football drafts, coming off a strong 2021 campaign. A lot has happened with both Taylor and the Colts since. Injuries and a sinking offensive ecosystem with Matt Ryan at quarterback thwarted his 2022 season. More maladies and a contract dispute got in the way of his rebound campaign but he still turned in solid, but only solid production ranking 12th in points per game at the running back position.

Early best-ball drafters are seemingly willing to let the past lie with Taylor as he goes off the board well ahead of that 12th-place finish as the RB5 overall.

Taylor is perhaps in the best position of any player on this list to juice his reputation back up in 2024. He’s the clear lead back for what should be an ascending offense with a play-caller who should have our utmost respect. Still, I have some minor concerns about the fantasy ceiling/floor for a running back tethered to Anthony Richardson.

The uniquely skilled Richardson will siphon some goal-line carries, although I think the Colts will be looking to be less cavalier with his rushing after last season's injuries. The biggest issue for fantasy may be the pass-catching work. The Colts already have a tight target tree between Michael Pittman, Josh Downs and rookie Adonai Mitchell. It’s hard to carve out a big receiving workload for Taylor, especially when backs tethered to mobile quarterbacks rarely produce high reception totals.

Taylor will have a good season if he’s healthy. I don’t doubt that. However, how you view his level of success will likely come down to your expectations if he has a strong year and still falls closer to his 2023 per-game output.

It’s easy to forget that Daniel Jones enjoyed a top-eight fantasy quarterback season in 2022 and was a consensus QB1 in drafts last season. Early drafters have indeed decided to toss that memory from their minds, as Jones is the 30th quarterback off the board in early best-ball drafts.

The pessimism is completely understandable; the Giants offense was nothing short of a disaster when Jones was under center.

There’s plenty working against Jones this season. Beyond questions about his own ceiling as a starter, he carries major injury red flags and as such, the team’s commitment to him as the full-season starter could waver at any moment if they want to get free of future injury guarantees in his contract. Jones could befall the same fate of Derek Carr and Russell Wilson the last two seasons.

And yet, the environment around Jones should be better this season. New York added Malik Nabers, who is the type of receiver who can separate and create explosive plays on his own via layup targets. Jones has never had a receiver like that. The biggest issue for the offense to start last season was the simply unbearable pass protection. With Andrew Thomas healthy and some solid players added to the mix, the Giants should have better options up front.

Jones’ ability as a rusher in a healthy offensive environment makes him someone worth discussing in fantasy circles. Yet, he doesn’t have a tremendously high ceiling and presents a frightening floor. This one could go either way but current ADP suggests it is only possible it goes downhill.

It’s been back-to-back frustrating campaigns for anyone rostering Diontae Johnson in fantasy football. He famously didn’t score a touchdown in 2022 and last season he missed a chunk of time with injuries and offered middle production when available.

However, if you look under the hood, his 2023 season was actually one of the more efficient campaigns of his career.

Johnson was traded to the Panthers this offseason and walks into a wide open target tree. We’re not sure if Bryce Young can play at an above average level behind center but it’s also fair to note he didn’t have anything close to this type of separator during his rookie season. If Young is even an acceptable quarterback, Johnson could well outkick his modest ADP this season.

Most to none of this is his fault — Williams suffered a devastating and complex injury in 2022 — but I’d be hard-pressed to think of a running back who so quickly went from a guy who inspired “Free This Player” campaigns on social media to someone everyone wants to draft around.

Williams was painfully inefficient as a rusher and receiver last season but we should have known that was coming. His comeback from a multi-ligament tear was never going to be a quick turnaround. Is it possible that we could see a better version of Williams in 2024? The fantasy community seems to have no imagination for such a universe.

Even if Williams is healthy and back closer to his exciting play as a rookie, there are committee concerns and overall ecosystem worries in Denver. Still, none of the other backs on the roster profile as the same type of early-down tempo runner that Williams can be at his best. He has a chance to refurbish his résumé if he’s healthy and the Broncos offense is better in the post-Russell Wilson era.

My only coach on the list! A few years ago, Kliff Kingsbury was regarded as one of the more fascinating young offensive coaches in football. Now, his hiring by Washington as the OC was met with something between ambivalence and ire.

If you watched the Cardinals offense the last two seasons of his tenure, you get it. Arizona’s attack quickly grew stale in the passing game and many of the concepts never stressed defenses out down the field. If ever Kingsbury did build some momentum on offense, the league quickly caught up and those Cardinals teams would fizzle as the season wore on.

Kingsbury has a great opportunity to regain his reputation in Washington if he can construct a strong attack around quarterback Jayden Daniels. Kingsbury designed some quality run games in Arizona, and Daniels’ ability as a rusher is ready-made for instant fantasy success. The rookie passer will have a ready-made WR1 in Terry McLaurin, who has been desperate to be maximized with production commensurate to his talent for years. Players like Austin Ekeler and Jahan Dotson are on this roster who also need to refurbish their résumés after down seasons which may have been due to factors beyond their control.

If Kingsbury can bring this all together, he’ll be viewed in a much different light one year from now. Should the offensive line issues and Kingsbury’s own lack of evolution get in the way, he’ll be stuck in this area of public apathy where he currently resides.