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The Early Bird Gets The Worm: Players Primed To Breakout In The 2024 NFL Season

These five players may not be at the top of their game now, but they will be expected to be much better in 2024 or maybe even great.

Bryce Young

I always liked Bryce Young even in college (might have disliked him if he beat UGA in the National Championship in 2021). He has always been a spectacular player. Despite his height his ability to make big play after big play was always mesmerizing. I hated that after Alabama he went to the Carolina Panthers, another one of my rival teams, but I still think that he will be a great player in the NFL (although I would prefer him not to be).

In the last few weeks of the 2023 season, Bryce Young was definitely starting to figure things out. In the last 6 weeks of the season, he only had 2 interceptions, and had games where he posted passer ratings of 110.0 and 93.6 respectively. He had 3 games with over 60% completion percentage, 1 with 75%, and 1 game with 300+ passing yards. Now I know many will be thinking "What about Cj Stroud, the 2nd overall pick, who blows those stats out of the water?"

Yes, Cj had much better numbers, but he also had a better situation, and it isn't close. Young had 1 total solid weapon in Adam Thielen, and it is a 33-year-old wide receiver out of his prime. The rest of Young's supporting cast consisted of: DJ Chark (not good), Johnathon Mingo (not good), and Terrace Marshall JR (not good). Still Bryce Young would manage to make plays like this.

This is a dot against a solid secondary to a UDFA rookie wide receiver. I will be honest and admit that plays like this were few and far between, but I saw enough to see that the latent talent in Bryce is still there, just being wasted away by being surrounded by absolutely abysmal talent. I haven't even mentioned Bryce's horrific offensive line yet.

Both guards are absolutely manhandled .5 seconds into the snap. Bryce keeps his cool (amazing for a rookie) and rolls out to his right. He still manages to keep his eyes downfield, and somehow doesn't take a sack. Elite pocket manipulation, a great trait to have in today's NFL.

If you watched the week 15 Panthers Falcons game, Bryce's numbers might not pop out the stat sheet, but he played a great game. In a rainy day in Charlotte, the rookie Quarterback kept his composure, made multiple plays with his legs (another one of his strengths is his ability to extend plays with his mobility), and timely throws in the clutch. Just 2 weeks after this game he put up 300 yards and 2 touchdowns against the Packers. I truly think he is figuring it out and primed for a breakout.

Now let's talk about Carolina's offseason acquisitions. Firstly, they added Dave Canales as head coach. He previously served as the offensive coordinator for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Under him, Baker Mayfield had a career resurgence posting 4000+ yards, 28 touchdowns, 10 interceptions, and a 64% completion percentage. That is career-high in yards, touchdowns, and completion percentage, and the 2nd lowest interception rate that Baker has posted in seasons where he plays every game.

They also added Diontae Johnson from the Steelers. Johnson is a sneaky underrated route runner who will add a lot to this offense that frankly lacks almost everything. A wide receiver who can actually gain separation will help Bryce Young, as it is much easier to hit an open receiver than it is to squeeze passes into tight windows (especially with Bryce who can barely see over the LOS due to his short stature).

Lastly, they added Xavier Legette a jump ball speed demon. Legette draws comparisons to DK Metcalf; a physical wide receiver who is aggressive at the catch point but does not have a very refined route tree. However, this is also helpful to Bryce. A young quarterback's best friend is a wide receiver he can throw it up to and trust to come down with the ball. Legette may not be the best route runner but fades to Legette in the endzone will help Bryce out tremendously.

Bryce still does not have a bonafide wide receiver one (while ironically Stroud has 3), but he has 3 solid wide receivers and a good offensive-minded head coach. He was figuring it out to end last season, and with all the additions in the offseason, I think he is primed to break out next year. He will post at least 20 touchdowns (nearly double his 2023 total) and closer to 4000 yards (he had 2.8k in 2023).

Will Levis

There were rumors and whisperings of Will Levis going as high as second overall last year. While I did not buy into this hype, nor did I think it was warranted (Stroud was by far the better prospect) I do like his traits. Levis is a strong-arm gunslinger, with a ton of physical tools and possesses a high motor in which he refuses to give up on the play.

Now the play above is a bad decision by Will Levis but look at him put his body on the line trying to make a tackle to prevent the pick-six. Levis does not give up on plays.

Levis finished his rookie season with just 8 touchdowns and 4 interceptions in 9 games. Disappointing numbers to say the least, but if you watch the tape there is a lot to be excited about.

Take a look at his first start against the Atlanta Falcons (I hate that it always happens to my team). Levis had 4 touchdowns, 238 yards, 66% completion percentage, and a 130.5 passer rating. And it's not like Levis was completing slants for touchdowns, 3 of those passes were 30+ air yards (albeit the first one was an offensive pass interference)

Take a look at this throw. The ability to feel pressure in the pocket was one of Levis' big concerns entering the NFL. Well on this play he rolls to his right, sees the defenders closing in and throws it cross body for a 33-yard touchdown pass. Literally beautiful execution. Titans fan should be excited for him.

Legitimate dot from Levis to Deandre Hopkins here.

Levis is by definition a gunslinger, he has nailed the deep ball in the NFL. Where he needs to develop, is realizing it is okay to take what the defense gives you and settle for the short passes underneath. He struggles on his intermediate and short passes, but again he only had 9 games with a bad offensive line and only one real wide receiver threat.

This offseason the Titans added a plethora of new weapons. Their new offense now looks like:

They also added a big body Left Tackle in JC Latham out of Alabama.

Spears and Pollard are mediocre running backs but are quality threats out of the backfield. I mentioned earlier that Levis struggles with his intermediate passing, having both Pollard and Spears as safety nets for easy checkdowns should help the young quarterback immensely. Both are better receiving backs than Derrick Henry.

Calvin Ridley is one of the best route runners in the entire NFL. 2 years ago Davante Adams listed Ridley as one of the top 5 wide receivers in the NFL, highlighting his route-running prowess. A great route runner who can create separation will be a great help for a quarterback who struggles with accuracy. Not only that, but Ridley is a great deep threat, and we've already established that Levis is a great gunslinger.

While Ridley did struggle last year, he thrives when he is a wide-receiver 2 and that is exactly what he will be in Tennessee. He is a great complement to Dhop and should aid Levis in his year 2 development.

Tyler Boyd is a very high-quality wide receiver 3 who is known for his contested catching prowess. All Levis will have to do is throw it up to him and let Boyd do the rest. In seasons where he is healthy, Boyd has never had under 600 yards...

The Titans are stacked with weaponry all over the board, I expect Levis to take a significant leap. Let's say 20+ touchdowns and 10-11 interceptions.

Anthony Richardson

Anthony Richardson was seen as probably the most raw prospect in the entire draft last year. He was taken 3rd overall by the Indianapolis Colts. He was/is touted as an elite athlete (his RAS score was through the roof) with a cannon of an arm, elite pocket presence, and had qualms about his accuracy.

In just 4 games he had 577 yards (144 ypg), 3 touchdowns, and 1 interception. Once again, the tape speaks better than the numbers. I would argue that Richardson showed flashes of being an elite quarterback in the NFL in just 4 games.

Barely flicks his wrist here and delivers a DOT right over the primary defender. He feels the pressure coming off his backside and does not flinch or hesitate like most rookie quarterbacks would in this situation.

The way he played against the Rams was one of the best QB performances of the 2023 season. He led a 23-point comeback and took the Rams to OT. The throws he was making were ridiculous, and the way he was manipulating the pocket was masterful. Extending plays, making throws on the run, and running all over an Aaron Donald lead defense as a ROOKIE is ridiculous. In this game Richardson became the youngest quarterback to have multiple passing and rushing touchdowns IN THE SAME GAME.

Just ridiculous what he was doing this game

Now let's talk about his weaponry. The Colts drafted Adonai Mitchell with the 52nd pick in the NFL draft. Personally, he was my wr4-5 so the fact that he fell that far already made him a steal. His ceiling is sky high, and I think it is higher than any wide receiver in this class not named Marvin Harrison JR. Mitchell can do anything on the football field, a great route runner, possesses elite explosiveness, great hands, the only real concern is that he takes plays off sometimes.

Now you are adding this guy to a wide receiver core that already consists of Michael Pittman Jr and Josh Downs. Pittman has some of the best hands in the ENTIRE NFL, has a ridiculous catch radius, and is probably one of the most underrated wide receivers in the NFL. Downs is an elite deep threat who possesses otherworldly speed. I think the addition of Mitchell makes this the best wide receiver trio in the NFL (yes, I know Houston is debatably better).

Not to mention they have an elite running back in the backfield in Johnathon Taylor. While Taylor may not be as good as he was in 2021, he still had 700+ yards, 7 tds, and 4.4 ypc while splitting carries last year. He is still a threat to run all over a team, and if teams stack the box, Anthony Richardson can make them pay, not to mention he has the ability to beat teams with his legs.

I will be shocked if Anthony Richardson stays healthy and does not light up the NFL next year. In fact, he is also my dark horse candidate to win MVP.

Khalil Shakir

Khalil Shakir is probably the most underrated wide receiver in the entire NFL barring maybe Curtis Samuel (who ironically is now his teammate). In the final 7 games of the season (excluding playoffs) he had 48 more yards than Stefon Diggs. He also had 2 games with 100+ yards in that timeframe as opposed to Diggs' 0.

In the biggest game of the season, he out-gained and out-scored Diggs, making one of the best catches of the season against an elite cornerback in Ladarius Sneed.

Just a beautiful throw and catch by Allen and Shakir. Get used to seeing a lot more of that next year.

Shakir also lead the NFL in EPA (or expected points added) per target. Meaning he was a very good deep threat in the NFL.

Not only that but he led the entire NFL in catch% with 86.7%.

He was nearly 7% higher than the second-best wide receiver.

Now with Diggs out of Buffalo expect Shakir's target share to go up, and his numbers to significantly improve. I know Buffalo added Keon Coleman, and although I like Coleman, I don't think he will immediately be bonafide wr1. Shakir's numbers should still improve.

Kyler Murray

Now technically speaking Kyler Murray has already broken out. He was an MVP candidate in 2021 had 37 total touchdowns and took the Cardinals to the playoffs. The last 2 years he has been injured and people forget how good he is/was. With the addition of Marvin Harrison JR I once again expect Kyler Murray to be talked about as one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL.

MHJr is undoubtedly the best wide receiver prospect in this year's draft and (hot take) I genuinely think he is the best prospect since Julio Jones in 2011. He can literally do anything on the football field and put-up elite numbers with a terrible quarterback at Ohio State.

In season's that he's been healthy Kyler has never had less than 20 touchdowns. Now he is getting an elite wide receiver in MHJ, something that he has not had in his career. Dhop was great but I would argue past his prime by the time he was playing with Kyler.

Not much else to say except Kyler is a top 3 scrambling quarterback in the NFL (behind Lamar and Josh Allen) and I would argue that he has a better arm/accuracy than Lamar. He will put up elite numbers this year if he stays healthy.


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