2024 Rookie Faceoff: Brian Thomas Jr v Ladd McConkey

Rookie wide receivers are a 50/50 proposition when trying to evaluate them for fantasy football. In this edition of the 2024 Rookie Faceoff, we compare the second-tier wide receivers in the class, Brian Thomas Jr vs. Ladd McConkey. To see where they both fall in our rankings, check out our Rookie Rankings Page. Also, check out the 2024 NFL Draft coverage to stay up-to-date. For the sake of this faceoff, we will be comparing the prospects in seven categories. Size, speed, route running, hands, college production, and college dominator rating as well as draft capital and landing spot.

This faceoff features two wide receiver prospects battling out of the second tier of receivers. The winner will likely be WR5 in the 2024 rookie draft class behind the top three studs and the presumed leader of tier two, Xavier Worthy. Thomas Jr and McConkey possess very different skills and are going to have to be productive in entirely different ways despite being in the same range. Neither figures to gain enough momentum to make a run at the top tier of receivers but are still solid options. Let’s see which one will stake their claim to the WR5 spot.

Meet Brian Thomas Jr

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Brian Thomas Jr is part of the second tier of rookie wide receivers but still secured first-round draft capital. He is an excellent blend of size and speed but lacks overall refinement in his route running and skills. He produced only one year of good numbers in college which is concerning and has scared off many fantasy managers. Thomas Jr profiles to be a prototypical X-receiver, but he will need to work on his overall game to not become a one-trick pony. He posted solid measurables at the 2024 NFL Scouting Combine with a Vertical Jump of 38.5 (84th-percentile), a Broad Jump of 126″ (81st-percentile), and a 10-yard Split time of 1.50-second (89th-percentile)

Meet Ladd McConkey

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Ladd McConkey is a big slot receiver out of the University of Georgia who, in three years of college failed to post a single season of elite production. In addition to posting only average numbers, he tested in the average range at the 2024 NFL Scouting Combine. He posted a Vertical Jump of 36′ (57th percentile), a Broad Jump of 124″ (70th percentile), and a 10-yard Split time of 1.52 seconds (80th percentile). He is an all-around average prospect who seems to have gotten steamed up the draft boards due to fantasy managers and their need to hype up every potential slot receiver as the next Cooper Kupp.

Player Comparables

The two most relevant player comparisons are easy for Thomas Jr and McConkey and neither is particularly encouraging for players who will be going in the first round of rookie drafts. Thomas Jr’s profile has him closest to Green Bay Packers wide receiver Christian Watson in overall size and the way he produces, while McConkey is closest to Las Vegas Raiders receiver Hunter Renfrow. Neither rookie had a massive breakout in their rookie season, so it remains to be seen which one will be better in the long term. For now, let’s take a look at the 2024 versions of them to see if one stands out more than the other.

Size Comparison

As I said before, McConkey projects to be a slot receiver, while Thomas Jr projects as an X-receiver so it’s no surprise that the size difference is a massive win for Thomas Jr. Brian Thomas Jr. weighed it at 6’3″ and 209lbs, while Lad McConkey checked in at only 6’0″ and 186 lbs.

Despite this being the most glaring difference between the two receivers, it is also the least important as they both project to play a role suited to their sizes, and therefore, size cannot be factored in too heavily except to say that it gives Thomas Jr more options.

Winner: Brian Thomas Jr. (1-0)

Speed Comparison

As far as speed goes, Brian Thomas Jr ran a 4.33-second 40-yard Dash at the 2024 NFL Scouting Combine, while Ladd McConkey ran a 4.39-second 40-yard Dash. Both receivers boast impressive speed, to say the least, and are among the fastest in the class, but ultimately, Thomas Jr gets a small nod as far as speed goes.

Thomas Jr’s speed gives him an elite downfield presence, while McConkey as a slot receiver may not need the high-end speed that Thomas Jr will need. A narrow victory for Brian Thomas Jr, but a victory regardless.

Winner: Brian Thomas Jr. (2-0)

Route Running

This is perhaps the tightest category of the battle. Both players win in different ways and both excel at the way they win. Thomas Jr is superior to McConkey on deep routes and it’s not particularly close. His size and speed allow him to be excellent on contested catches and make him a true force downfield.

McConkey on the other hand, is a far superior route runner in both the short and intermediate areas of the field. It’s no surprise that McConkey excels in this area of the field as he is best suited in a slot receiver role. Again, both receivers win differently, so they possess different strengths, but in the closest category so far, the narrow win goes to Ladd McConkey.

Winner: Ladd McConkey (1-2)


This is the first category on the board where both receivers graded out below what I had hoped for. Brian Thomas Jr received a higher evaluation on his hands than McConkey from me, not only does he possess a similar level of reliability as McCOnkey, but he does so on considerably deeper targets.

It’s easy for McConkey to have a higher catch rate than that of Thomas Jr due to him operating in the shorter areas of the field, but it can’t be understated the boost that Thomas Jr got from the accuracy of Jayden Daniels.

Ultimately, both receivers lacked in the hands department, but the win goes to Brian Thomas Jr in a slight victory despite deeper targets.

Winner: Brian Thomas Jr. (3-1)

College Production

As far as production goes, the winner here is Brian Thomas Jr and it’s not even close. Thomas Jr had only one season of solid production but that season saw him put up 68 receptions for 1,177 receiving yards and 17 touchdowns.

McConkey on the other hand failed to put up an elite season in three years with Georgia with his best season being 58 catches for 762 receiving yards and seven touchdowns.

Neither player had a standout season of production that you would expect from a first-round rookie pick, but out of these two Thomas Jr was easily the more productive receiver.

Winner: Brian Thomas Jr. (4-1)

College Dominator

A category that has nothing to debate and simply comes down to a specific number, we see Thomas Jr with a college dominator rating of 32.7%, while McConkey put up a 17.8.

We see here just how dominant Brian Thomas Jr was in his one elite season despite sharing the field with Malik Nabers. He was truly a target hog in a dominant offense. McConkey on the other hand had a dominator rating of only 17.8%, a rating you would expect of an elite tight end, not an elite receiver.

This is yet another dominant win for Brian Thomas Jr who was easily the more productive and dominant receiver during his time in college.

Winner: Brian Thomas Jr (5-1)

Landing Spot & Draft Capital

The draft capital is fairly cut and dry even though these two receivers were selected only 11 picks apart. The difference between a receiver drafted at the end of the first round and one selected at the beginning of the second round is night and day. So for that reason and his potential fifth-year team option, Thomas Jr will get the win here.

The landing spots were too close to call. Brian Thomas Jr finds himself on a Jacksonville team in desperate need of an X-receiver, while Ladd McConkey finds himself on a Chargers squad in need of any receiver. I would give McConkey the nod here for the landing spot, but it’s not enough to overcome the first-round draft capital.

So, once again, we will close it out with a Brian Thomas jr win.

Winner: Brian Thomas Jr (6-1)

And the Winner is…

To no one’s surprise, the winner of this fight for wide receiver supremacy is Brian Thomas Jr. This was always going to be a tough battle for McConkey who is objectively inferior to Thomas Jr in every way.

The only hope McConkey has in outproducing him is if he can carve out a role as one of the league’s elite slot receivers. In the end, the chances of Thomas Jr being fantasy-relevant as a potential X-receiver are far greater than the chances of McConkey being fantasy-relevant as a potential slot receiver.

Even with the NFL shifting to a league of smaller offensive weapons, the big, strong receivers are still the ones with the highest ceiling and Brian Thomas Jr wins this one on that basis alone.

If you would like to learn more about Sanders and Sinnott, check out our 2024 Rookie Sneak Peek videos of both players on The Fantasy Football Universe Podcast.

Brian Thomas Jr LSU
Ladd McConkey Georgia
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