Ladd McConkey 2024 Fantasy Outlook and Dynasty Value: Justin Herbert’s New WR1?

Ladd McConkey has a chance to make an immediate impact in LA.

Heading into last month’s draft, Ladd McConkey was considered a late first-round or early second-round pick after a lucrative career at Georgia. His ultimate landing spot fell right into that projection, as he was selected with the second pick of the second round by the receiver-needy Los Angeles Chargers.

McConkey played in just eight of Georgia’s 14 games in his final collegiate season due to back and ankle injuries but still managed a respectable 30 catches for 478 yards and two touchdowns.

His 2022 season was where he shone brightest, finishing second on the team to Brock Bowers in both receptions (58) and yards (762) and tying Bowers for the team lead with seven touchdowns as Georgia won their second straight National Championship.

McConkey now finds himself on a Chargers roster that was depleted at the wide receiver position this offseason, with Keenan Allen being traded to the Bears and Mike Williams joining the Jets. And with Austin Ekeler in Washington and Gerald Everett joining Allen in Chicago, four of Justin Herbert’s favorite receiving options, representing over 54% of LA’s receiving production from 2023, are off the roster.

Change is in the air in Los Angeles, with a new coaching staff, new GM, and a completely retooled offense around Herbert. Can Ladd McConkey carve out an immediate 2024 fantasy football role with dynasty upside in this new-look offensive attack?

SCHEME FIT: CAN ANY RECEIVER THRIVE IN A GREG ROMAN-LED OFFENSE?

In addition to major roster changes, the Chargers have undergone a complete coaching staff and front office overhaul heading into 2024.

New GM Joe Hortiz comes over after over 25 years in Baltimore, signing less than a week after the team had lured Jim Harbaugh away from Michigan and back into the NFL to be their head coach.

Harbaugh brought in a slew of new coaching hires, but none more critical than Greg Roman, who will serve as offensive coordinator after six years on the Ravens staff, including four as OC.

Roman is notorious for operating run-first offenses and has done so successfully in his previous roles, most notably with the early-2010s 49ers and, most recently, Baltimore.

Early in free agency, the Chargers made it clear that they would conform to Roman’s tendencies and not vice versa. They replaced Ekeler at running back with Gus Edwards and JK Dobbins, both former Ravens, and also signed blocking tight end Will Dissly and center Bradley Bozeman, who had a career year on Roman’s Baltimore squad in 2019.

To his credit, Roman appears focused on how a strong ground game can assist his passing attack, saying, “Can you imagine Justin Herbert with a great running game?“… We don’t know, but I can imagine what it might look like. So that’s kind of the vision.” Regardless, a run-first offensive mentality is certain to lead to a reduction in Herbert’s numbers, as well as those of his primary pass catchers — including McConkey.

THE CASE FOR LADD MCCONKEY AS WR1

2024 Fantasy Football Rookie WR WINNERS: Marvin Harrison, Keon Coleman, Ladd McConkey, Xavier Worthy

With so much turnover in the Chargers offensive personnel, only a few real producers from 2023 remain: Joshua Palmer, who finished second on the team with 581 yards last year despite playing only 11 games; Quentin Johnston, who caught 38 passes for 431 yards in a disappointing rookie season; and Donald Parham, Jr., who caught four touchdowns but projects to serve as the team’s TE3 behind the newly-acquired duo of Dissly and Hayden Hurst.

LA also recently signed DJ Chark to a one-year deal, but the former Pro Bowler hasn’t recorded more than 35 receptions in a season since 2020, so it remains to be seen how much of an impact he’ll make. Regardless, he’s the only guy in the Chargers receiver room with more than three years’ experience in the NFL, so he should serve as a mentor of sorts to McConkey, Johnston, and others.

Generally, a second round receiver isn’t going to join an NFL roster and immediately assume WR1 duties. But the Chargers are a unique case, full of new faces all around the offense and devoid of virtually any experienced receiving talent.

McConkey is a smaller receiver at 6’0″ and 186 pounds, but his sub-4.4 speed, crisp route-running, and above-average hands could make him a favorite target of Herbert’s in no time. And from reports out of Chargers camp, it appears this connection is already starting to take shape.

If training camp trends continue and McConkey carves out a consistent slot role with the first-team offense, he could be an absolute weapon in PPR formats, giving Herbert the steady slot target he’s been lacking so far in his career.

I’ll be keeping a close eye on how defenses adjust if McConkey gets off to a hot start. If they start to take notice and move top corners over to shadow him, will he continue to produce? Or is his production dependent on defenses focusing their resources on other wideouts? If the latter is true, McConkey could be in trouble, as Joshua Palmer and Quentin Johnston aren’t exactly keeping defensive coordinators up at night.

While matchups and a run-first offense will determine McConkey’s overall value, his health may be the primary thing to watch. He appears to be at 100% now, but a lingering back injury like the one he dealt with last season is no joke.

As a smaller guy, he’ll need to avoid taking big hits that take him off the field — especially if he assumes a slot role and spends most of his time between the numbers as we expect, even though he spent the majority of his time (75%) on the outside at Georgia.

LADD MCCONKEY 2024 FANTASY OUTLOOK AND DYNASTY VALUE

While playing in a Greg Roman offense is never a particularly great thing for a receiver’s value, McConkey is in a good spot to overcome this roadblock en route to fantasy relevance. Even with limited opportunities in a run-first attack, his talent, coupled with a great quarterback and lack of receiving competition, could be huge for his rookie year value.

The Wolf believes in this as well and is very high on McConkey. In fact, McConkey represents The Wolf’s largest positive discrepancy (37 spots) versus the experts’ consensus of any player in football in his 2024 Fantasy Football Rankings & Top 200 Big Board.

For dynasty leagues, McConkey is our WR5 on the Dynasty Rookie Rankings — ahead of four wideouts drafted before him. With a great chance to perform immediately as a rookie, McConkey could become a productive option for Justin Herbert for years to come. And especially with Herbert under contract through at least 2028, this could prove to be a very lucrative connection for both the Chargers and your dynasty roster.

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