5 NFL Players Who Will Breakout in 2024

by Alexander Regan · Fantasy Football

Over every NFL offseason, one of my main goals is to find potential breakout players. In 2023, I predicted Trent McDuffie and George Pickens to break out. And for the 2024 NFL Season, here are five NFL players that will BREAKOUT in the 2024 NFL Season.

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1. Anthony Richardson: QB Colts

After being drafted by the Colts with the No. 4 overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, it was uncertain whether Richardson would start right away. Despite having elite rushing ability and a historic combine, Richardson was raw as a passer. But with a stellar training camp, Richardson became the opening-day starter. And in his first three games, no rookie QB excelled more, as he threw three passing TDs and scored four rushing TDs to just one interception. Unfortunately, Richardson broke his right shoulder in Week 4 against the Titans after landing awkwardly, putting an end to his rookie campaign. Despite Richardson’s injury, the Colts finished 9-8 and barely missed the playoffs. With QB Gardner Minshew and HC Shane Steichen, the Colts also finished as the No. 11 scoring offense with 23.3 points per game.

If Richardson can fully recover from his shoulder surgery, and play a full season, he will have a breakout year. The Colts have already proved they will be an elite rushing offense. In 2023, they were No. 10 in total rushing yards (2,059). The Colts also have a great offensive line. The unit was ranked No.6 in PFF pass-blocking (71.7) and No.7 in PFF run-blocking (68.2) in 2023. And with Jonathan Taylor, Michael Pittman Jr, Josh Downs, and Adonai Mitchell (2024 second rounder), the Colts have a great skill position group. Shane Steichen has also proven he can mold rushing-style QBs into passing threats with Jalen Hurts as the Eagles OC in 2022. With a full season, I wouldn’t be surprised if Richardson clears 10 rushing TDs and potentially leads the Colts to their first playoff berth since 2020.

2. Khalil Shakir: WR Bills

Khalil Shakir had a great sophomore campaign as the Bills WR3 in 2023. On the surface, Shakir only caught 39 passes for 611 yards and scored two TDs in 17 games. But in fact, advanced statistics told the full story of his excellent season. In 2023, Shakir led all WRs with a 133.6 passer rating when targeted according to PFF. He also had the most yards per target at 13.6 yards. Additionally, according to PlayerProfiler, Shakir had the No.1 production premium of +21.1. Also, Shakir caught a TD in both playoff games, increasing his momentum into this season.

The biggest move over the Bills offseason was trading away Stefon Diggs to the Texans. Gabe Davis also signed a 3-year deal with the Jaguars this offseason, alleviating the WR1 and WR2 role for the Bills. The Bills have a prolific passing offense under Josh Allen, who has thrown 4000 yards every year since 2020. With the Bills passing volume, someone will step up as their WR1. Many point to Keon Coleman, the Bills’ 2024 second-round pick, as Diggs’s heir. But in reality, he shouldn’t stand to take the bulk of the targets. As a low-volume, low-separation WR who thrives at the catch point, Coleman should act as a deep threat and a red-zone option. Even as a slot WR, Shakir should be the WR1 of the Bills’ offense. He can mimic Diggs’s role as a checkdown or explosive option and is perfectly set up for a 1,000+ yard season with the Bills in 2024.

3. Devon Achane: RB Dolphins

As arguably the most explosive player in the league, rookie Devon Achane was one of the best RBs in 2023. In 11 games with the Dolphins, Achane rushed for 800 yards (No. 26) and 8 TDs on only 103 carries (7.8 yards per carry). He also caught 27 passes for 197 yards with three receiving TDs. But in reality, Achane was PFF’s highest-graded RB in the NFL, with a grade of 92.4. And the number of stats that Achane led was staggering. He was No. 1 among qualified RBs in these stats:

  • PFF rushing grade (93.1)
  • Yards per carry (7.8)
  • Yards per touch (7.7)
  • EPA (+25.6) – expected points added
  • Yards after contact per attempt (4.94)
  • Breakaway run percentage (53.4) – percent of attempts ran over 15+ yards
  • Production premium (+27.1)
  • Elusive rating (142.3)

Achane ended his 2023 season averaging 90 yards and a TD per game in his rookie season. And in 2024, Dolphins HC Mike McDaniel has already stated he expects Achane to have a larger role in the offense. With a full season as the Dolphins RB1, the sky’s the limit for his potential production.  The only problem is if Mostert and rookie Jaylen Wright eat into his opportunity. But If he manages to get 160+ carries, Achane could rush for 1100+ yards with 10 TDs and potentially make a pro-bowl spot in the AFC. Achane could enter his name as a consensus top 10 RB next year.

4. Christian Gonzalez: CB Patriots

Christian Gonzalez was an absolute steal when the Patriots selected him No. 17 overall in the 2023 NFL Draft. It was so much of a steal, that I gave the pick an A+, and ranked it as the best pick of the 1st round. And Gonzalez did not disappoint to start the 2023 season. In four games, he allowed 157 yards, 0 TDs, and a passer rating of 67.5, and caught an interception. Through Weeks 1-3, he was even PFFs No. 8 highest-graded coverage CB, with a grade of 83.4. Unfortunately, his season ended after tearing his labrum and dislocating his shoulder in a loss vs the Cowboys in Week 4. 

Gonzalez seemingly thrives in high-leverage matchups. At Oregon, he consistently traveled with opponents WR1’s and shut them down. And in 2023, his 6 receptions for 71 yards vs A.J. Brown was his worst game of the season. But he didn’t allow over 50 yards in his matchup with both Garrett Wilson and Tyreek Hill. And before leaving the game early against the Cowboys, he only allowed one reception to Michael Gallup. The only question for Gonzalez entering 2024 will be his health coming back from shoulder surgery. The Patriots won’t be a playoff team, but they have a solid pass defense. They allowed the No. 11 least passing yards per game (208.4) in 2023, and Gonzalez should only improve their defense. I believe Gonzalez has pro-bowl-level talent, and in a full season, should play at the level of a top-15 CB.

5. Cam Jurgens: C Eagles

For Eagles and football fans alike, it was a sad day when Jason Kelce retired this offseason. His was a true Hall-of-Fame career, and Kelce will be looked at as an all-time great. But the Eagles have been preparing for this day. They drafted All-American center Landon Dickerson from Alabama in the second round of the 2021 NFL Draft. They then drafted Cam Jurgens, center from Nebraska, in the second round of the 2022 NFL Draft. In 2023, the Eagle’s offensive line was PFFs No. 1 pass-blocking unit (77.0 grade), and the No. 3 highest-graded run-blocking unit (74.9 grade)

As Landon Dickerson is already a pro-bowl LG (who signed a 4-year extension), the Eagles will likely move Cam Jurgens to center for the 2024 season. In 2023, Jurgens played the majority of his season at RG. And in 11 games (missed six due to forearm injury) Jurgens allowed 0 sacks, two QB hits, and 22 pressures according to PFF. But in 2024, Jurgens is now moving back to his natural position. In 2021 at Nebraska, he allowed 0 sacks and 13 pressures in 792 snaps at center. Without Kelce, the Eagles’ offensive line won’t be as dominant, and Jurgens is unlikely to replicate Kelce’s efficiency with the tush-push. But if Jurgens can manage to re-produce just 75-percent of Kelce’s production, the Eagles offensive line unit should continue to function at a high level. 

For more from PlayerProfiler, check out the following article – Best Handcuff RBs | Handcuff Running Back Rankings for 2024 (playerprofiler.com)