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Highest 10 Breakout Candidates for the 2024 NFL Season: Under the Radar and Ready to Erupt

8 min read

The NFL is a league of constant turnover. Stars fade, rookies rise, and under-the-radar talents blossom into household names. Identifying these breakout candidates is a thrilling exercise for fans and analysts alike, offering glimpses into the future of the league. Here, we delve into 10 players poised for a breakout season in 2024, ready to take the NFL by storm.

1. Anthony Richardson, QB, Indianapolis Colts

The Colts took a gamble on raw athleticism by drafting Anthony Richardson in the 2nd round of the 2023 draft. While Matt Ryan remains the unquestioned starter, Richardson impressed in limited action last season, showcasing his electrifying running ability and a developing arm. With a strong offseason under his belt and the potential for Ryan to regress at 38, Richardson could see his role expand significantly.

Why He’ll Breakout: Richardson’s dual-threat skillset is tailor-made for the modern NFL. He possesses elite escapability and scrambling ability, extending plays and keeping defenses off-balance. With improved accuracy and decision-making, he can become a legitimate threat as a passer, especially in the short-to-intermediate range. The Colts’ offensive line boasts Quenton Nelson, a perennial All-Pro, providing Richardson with time to develop as a passer.

Potential Roadblocks: Richardson’s biggest hurdle is experience. He started only one season in college and will require significant refinement in his reads, footwork, and pocket presence. Additionally, the Colts might prioritize ball security early on, limiting his opportunities to showcase his full offensive arsenal.

2. Breece Hall, RB, New York Jets

The Jets surprised many by selecting Breece Hall with the 10th overall pick in 2023. However, Hall quickly silenced doubters with a dynamic rookie season. He displayed a blend of power, agility, and receiving prowess, exceeding expectations as a pass-catcher. With a full offseason to improve his understanding of the Jets’ offensive scheme, Hall is primed for a massive year in 2024.

Why He’ll Breakout: Hall’s receiving skills are his X-factor; he caught over 50 passes in college and has the route-running ability to create mismatches against linebackers. The Jets’ offensive coordinator, Nathaniel Hackett, thrives with versatile backs who can contribute in the passing game. Additionally, the departure of Tevin Coleman opens the door for Hall to become the unquestioned lead back in New York.

Potential Roadblocks: The Jets’ offensive line remains a work in progress. If they struggle to create running lanes, Hall’s effectiveness might be hindered. Additionally, the Jets boast a crowded receiving corps, potentially limiting Hall’s targets out of the backfield.

3. Chris Olave, WR, New Orleans Saints

Chris Olave’s rookie season with the Saints was solid but not spectacular. However, with Michael Thomas’ future uncertain due to injury concerns, Olave is poised to become Jameis Winston’s go-to target in 2024. Olave possesses elite route-running skills and a knack for finding the soft spots in coverage.

Why He’ll Breakout: Olave’s route-running is a thing of beauty. He creates separation with crisp cuts, understands leverage concepts perfectly, and consistently finds himself open. With increased targets and Winston’s aggressive passing style, Olave has the opportunity to put up monster-receiving numbers.

Potential Roadblocks: Winston’s tendency for turnovers remains a concern. If he struggles with ball security, it could limit Olave’s opportunities. Additionally, the emergence of rookie tight end Cade Otton could eat into Olave’s target share, especially in the red zone.

4. Micah Parsons (Edge Rusher), Dallas Cowboys

Micah Parsons took the NFL by storm in 2023, winning Defensive Rookie of the Year honors. However, he primarily played a hybrid linebacker role due to the presence of Randy Gregory. With Gregory’s departure in free agency, Parsons is expected to transition to a full-time edge rusher role in 2024.

Why He’ll Breakout: Parsons’ explosiveness and athleticism are already elite. He possesses a devastating first step and the ability to bend the edge with remarkable fluidity. Moving to a full-time edge rusher role allows him to focus solely on getting after the quarterback, potentially leading to a significant increase in his sack production.

Potential Roadblocks: Going from lining up in space to setting the edge against offensive tackles is a significant adjustment. Parsons will need to develop his pass-rushing technique and learn to counter different blocking schemes. Additionally, the loss of Gregory weakens the Cowboys’ overall pass rush, potentially drawing more double-teams Parsons’ way and making his transition more challenging.

5. Garrett Wilson, WR, New York Jets

The arrival of Zach Wilson instantly transformed the Jets’ offense in 2023. However, injuries limited his impact on his college teammate, Garrett Wilson. With a full season of working together under their belts, Wilson and Wilson could become one of the league’s most exciting young duos.


Why He’ll Breakout: Garrett Wilson possesses a rare combination of size, speed, and athleticism. He can out-muscle defenders for jump balls, separate with his blazing speed, and make acrobatic catches in traffic. With Zach Wilson’s gunslinger mentality, Garrett Wilson could become a nightmare matchup for opposing secondaries.

Potential Roadblocks: As mentioned earlier, the Jets’ offensive line has its issues. If they struggle to protect Zach Wilson, it could limit the number of clean throws Garrett Wilson sees. Additionally, the Jets’ receiving corps is more crowded than it was in 2023, with the continued development of Elijah Moore potentially eating into Wilson’s targets.

6. Dalton Kincaid, TE, Buffalo Bills

The Bills addressed their need for a dynamic tight end by selecting Dalton Kincaid in the 2nd round of the 2023 draft. While Dawson Knox remains the starter, Kincaid impressed with his route-running and receiving ability during his limited snaps in 2023. With the Bills letting go of wide receiver Gabe Davis in free agency, Kincaid could see a significant increase in his role this season.

Why He’ll Breakout: Kincaid boasts excellent hands and a knack for finding open space in the middle of the field. He excels in underneath routes, creating a reliable target for Josh Allen on short-yardage situations and third downs. With Stefon Diggs and a potentially increased role for Kincaid, the Bills’ passing attack could become even more potent.

Potential Roadblocks: Knox remains entrenched as the starter, limiting Kincaid’s snaps early on. Additionally, the Bills boast a deep receiving corps with Isaiah McKenzie and rookie Jalen Tolbert potentially vying for targets.

7. De’Vone Achane, RB, Miami Dolphins

The Dolphins surprised many by using a high pick on a running back in the 2023 draft. De’Vone Achane quickly justified their faith, showcasing his explosiveness and versatility as a runner and receiver. With a full offseason to learn the playbook and potentially a larger role in the offense, Achane could become a key weapon for the Dolphins.

Why He’ll Breakout: Achane is a home-run threat every time he touches the ball. He possesses lightning-fast speed and impressive elusiveness in the open field. The Dolphins’ offensive scheme emphasizes getting the ball in space, which perfectly suits Achane’s skillset.

Potential Roadblocks: The Dolphins already boast a talented running back in Myles Gaskin. While Achane could carve out a niche role, earning the starting job might be a challenge. Additionally, the offensive line remains a question mark, potentially hindering Achane’s effectiveness as a runner.

8. Khalil Shakir, WR, Buffalo Bills

The Bills addressed their receiving corps depth by selecting Khalil Shakir in the 3rd round of the 2023 draft. Shakir impressed with his route-running savvy and reliable hands during his rookie season. With the Bills potentially looking to replace some of the production lost with the departure of Gabe Davis, Shakir could see a significant increase in snaps in 2024.

Why He’ll Breakout: Shakir runs crisp routes, understands leverage concepts well, and consistently finds himself open. He thrives in underneath routes and can be a reliable possession receiver for Josh Allen. With an increased role in the offense, Shakir could become a valuable weapon for the Bills.

Potential Roadblocks: The Bills boast a deep receiving corps with Stefon Diggs and Isaiah McKenzie, potentially limiting Shakir’s target share. Additionally, rookie tight end Dalton Kincaid could also eat into Shakir’s snaps, especially in two-tight end sets.

9. Jameson Williams, WR, Detroit Lions

The Detroit Lions used the 12th overall pick on Jameson Williams in the 2023 draft, a gamble on his immense potential despite a torn ACL suffered in his final college game. If Williams recovers fully, he could become a game-changer for the Lions’ offense.

Why He’ll Breakout: Williams possesses elite speed and route-running ability. He can stretch the field vertically and create separation with his explosiveness. With a healthy Jared Goff under center, Williams has the potential to become a true deep threat for the Lions.


Potential Roadblocks:

Williams’ biggest hurdle is his recovery from the ACL tear. ACL injuries can take time to fully heal, and regaining his pre-injury explosiveness could be a challenge. Additionally, even if he’s healthy, he’ll need to adjust to the NFL game speed and develop chemistry with Goff. The Lions’ offensive line also remains a work in progress, potentially hindering Goff’s ability to get him the ball downfield.

10. Desmond Ridder, QB, Atlanta Falcons

The Falcons opted for Desmond Ridder in the 1st round of the 2023 draft, a move signalling their intention to move on from Marcus Mariota eventually. While Mariota remains the starter for now, Ridder impressed with his athleticism and developing passing skills during his limited playing time in 2023. With a strong offseason under his belt and a potential coaching change looming, Ridder could be thrust into the starting role sooner rather than later.

Why He’ll Breakout: Ridder possesses a strong arm and excellent mobility. He can extend plays with his legs and create scoring opportunities outside the pocket. The Falcons’ new offensive coordinator, Arthur Smith, thrives with mobile quarterbacks who can utilize play-action effectively.

Potential Roadblocks: Ridder’s biggest challenge is inexperience. He started only one season in college and will need significant refinement in his reads, pocket presence, and decision-making. Additionally, the Falcons’ offensive line lacks consistent talent, potentially limiting his ability to showcase his full skillset.

These ten players represent a diverse group of talents on the cusp of superstardom. Whether it’s a dynamic rookie wide receiver, a versatile running back, or a young quarterback ready to take the reins, these NFL breakout candidates have the potential to light up the NFL in 2024. Keep an eye on them throughout the season, as they could be the difference between a playoff contender and a pretender.

Disclaimer: This article is based on analysis, player projections, and past performance. Injuries, coaching decisions, and unforeseen circumstances can significantly alter a player’s trajectory. However, these ten players possess the talent and opportunity to become household names in the upcoming NFL season.