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Fantasy Football Breakouts 2024

By Matt Schauf | Updated on Mon, 15 Apr 2024 . 3:59 PM EDT
Drake London could be one of this year's biggest fantasy football breakouts. He leads our list of six players.

These 6 Guys Carry Season-Changing Potential

Drafting Rachaad White worked out pretty well last year … right?

You were able to grab our favorite 2023 breakout candidate in Round 6 – maybe even later. And if you did, you landed a guy who finished eighth among non-PPR RBs; fourth in PPR.

That’s the kind of pick that wins fantasy championships.

Ready to get a jump on the fantasy football breakouts for 2024?

 

Breakout QB: Anthony Richardson

The Colts QB got just two healthy games in 2023. He finished each of those weeks fourth among fantasy QBs.

That’s not a total shock. We knew this guy sported an otherworldly size-speed combo (6’4, 244 pounds and a 4.43-second 40 time). And we knew he turned that into 1,116 yards and 12 TDs rushing in college.

Sure enough, Richardson ran for four scores as a rookie despite appearing in only four games. He’s the closest thing to Cam Newton that we’ve seen – maybe ever.

The passing? We’ll see. And maybe you see some risk in that unknown.

Anthony Richardson looks like Cam Newton 2.0

But that rushing ability gives Richardson the higher ceiling – and a nice floor.

Newton’s eight years as Carolina’s starter included just one season in which he finished lower than eighth in points per game. He finished five of those seasons among the top 4 in total points.

Newton completed just 59.7% of his passes over that span, while averaging a mere 22.8 TD passes per season.

Richardson isn’t Newton. But he’s very similar.

Colts Offense on the Rise

HC Shane Steichen’s first season found Indy climbing from 31st in yards per play to 14th, and from last in the league in offensive DVOA to 13th.

That came with Gardner Minshew behind center almost the whole way – not the fourth-overall pick that Steichen helped select and then planned around. Among 39 QBs with at least 200 dropbacks, Minshew ranked just 31st in Pro Football Focus passing grade.

There’s room for growth in Year 2 of the scheme, and with the gifted young QB back in control.

Richardson’s upside as both a rusher and deep-ball thrower has him seventh in our early QB rankings.

TIP

You can afford to take a risk-reward starter at QB, because it's easy to draft a backup. Most leagues will even find streaming options available on waivers during the season.

 

Breakout RB: Zamir White

White opened best ball draft season looking like a risky pick. That has evolved through a pair of free-agent moves that boosted his outlook.

First, Josh Jacobs left to sign a multi-year contract with the Packers. And then the Raiders added former Vikings RB Alexander Mattison.

Mattison averaged less than 4 yards per carry each of the past three years and fell below 6.5 yards per catch the past two years. His advanced metrics declined as well in his first starting turn.

White Can Build on Strong Finish

The Raiders turned interim HC Antonio Pierce into the full-time guy this offseason. He told us last season that he wants his team to run the ball. And Pierce backed that up by giving his lead RB 20+ carries in six of nine games after taking over.

That came despite only a slight bump in rushing rate …

McDaniels 2023 Raiders Pierce
8 Games 9
3-5 W-L 5-4
58 Plays/Gm 60.7
61.3%Pass%57.3%
38.7%Rush%42.7%

Pierce and staff also showed us they’re willing to let White lead. He averaged 21 carries and 24.3 opportunities over the final four weeks last season. That included 20+ carries in each of the final three games.

What Could Stop Him?

That might be the biggest factor working in White’s favor right now. Mattison’s a non-threatening addition, and there’s not much left on the open market. (Ezekiel Elliott? Clyde Edwards-Helaire?)

The incoming rookie class also looks unimpressive. NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah has no RBs among his Top 50 prospects. The Consensus Big Board on Mock Draft Database ranks no RB higher than 59th and just three inside the top 80.

I’d bet on Vegas adding a RB during the draft. But a Day 2 back would be no lock to challenge White’s 2024 lead. And a Day 3 RB would arrive unlikely to damage the incumbent.

White Brings a Top-12 Ceiling at Low Cost

White ranked ninth among RBs in fantasy points across formats over his four weeks as starter last year. He did so despite just 1 TD over that span – plus a tie for just 22nd among RBs in receptions (9).

That’s far too small a sample from which to call him a potential RB1 this year. But you don’t have to bet on that.

Despite a two-round jump in Underdog Fantasy ADP since Jacobs left, White still ranks just 32nd among RBs.

(Find trendlines for all drafted players on our best ball ADP page.)

 

Breakout WR: Rashee Rice

This second-year wideout won’t be sneaky. You’ll have to pay up to get him. Rice is already going in Round 2 of Underdog Fantasy drafts. And it’s tough to see him falling much.

But it’s also easy to understand why drafters are excited. Rice produced efficiently early in the season and appeared to need more playing time.

Then he got that and vaulted his production.

Rice Already Leads Tyreek Hill in One Key Area

Through Week 11, Rice reached 60% snap share just twice. From Week 12 on, he never dipped below 64%. From that week through the end of the regular season, he ranked 10th among WRs in target share.

Here’s where Tyreek Hill ranked at the position in target share over his four years with Patrick Mahomes:

  • 2018: 11th
  • 2019: 19th
  • 2020: 22nd
  • 2021: 16th

Rice’s role stayed strong through the playoffs as well. From Week 12 through the postseason, he averaged 8.9 targets, 6.9 receptions, 78.0 yards, and 0.4 TDs per game. His 17.1 PPR points per game over that time would have ranked ninth at the position for the year.

Rice Ranks High for 2024

The second-year Chief’s WR12 Underdog Fantasy ADP is aggressive. But he sits even two spots higher in our PPR WR rankings.

 

Breakout WR: Drake London

London tried to break out as a rookie in 2022. The guy ranked sixth among all wideouts in target share.

But playing for the run-heavy Falcons with limited QB Marcus Mariota capped his production. London …

  • Tied for just 22nd among WRs in targets
  • Tied for 26th in receptions
  • Ranked 28th in yards
  • And checked in 47th in PPR points per game.

Then it got even worse in 2023.

London Will Benefit from Arthur Smith’s Departure

Mariota wasn’t great, but London actually saw his rate of “catchable” targets fall in Year 2, from 70.9% to 66.4%. That change doesn’t equate to a lot of passes, but it’s a well-below-average rate and signals the poor quality of quarterbacking.

London also dipped to 28th among WRs in target share and finished outside the top 40 in fantasy scoring for the second straight year.

We don’t yet know who will throw passes in 2024. But we know the architect of the past two infuriating Falcons offenses is gone. We know the new staff brings a strong Sean McVay influence.

And we know that McVay has done pretty well and featuring players who deserve it.

WR Coach Highlights London

Speaking to the press for the first time since he got hired, Falcons WRs coach Ike Hilliard singled out London as a player he’s excited to work with.

Hilliard said he wants London to “dictate the coverage, make it easier for the quarterback to see what’s going on, command the ball when you get 1-on-1 attention, make plays, and be a legitimate factor on a week-to-week basis.”

Sounds like the position coach wants to challenge a potential star to reach for that ceiling. We want to be in on that pursuit.

London’s spot in our WR rankings sits well ahead of his early ADP.

Get ALL of our top picks -- plus MORE -- as a DS Insider

 

Breakout WR: Jayden Reed

Didn’t Reed already break out? … you might be thinking.

And sure, he ranked top-25 among WRs across fantasy formats as a second-round rookie. But that’s exactly what makes him a breakout candidate still in Year 2.

Packers held Jayden Reed Back in 2023

Reed played a significant role right away, but he also remained limited.

He ranked just third among Packers WRs in snap share across games played. Reed’s 56.1% trailed pretty significantly behind Romeo Doubs (77.1%) and Christian Watson (77%).

Reed’s 424 total routes ranked just 61st among all WRs, behind players such as Rashid Shaheed, Cooper Kupp (in five fewer games), and Robert Woods.

But Reed Won with Efficiency

The rookie led the team, however, in yards per route run and targets per route. Among 84 WRs who drew 50+ targets, he ranked a well-above-average 25th in YPRR. 

And among 105 WRs with 250+ routes, Reed’s 22.9% rate of targets per rate checked in 23rd. The next Packers wideout was Dontayvion Wicks at No. 43, and he played even less than Reed.

Green Bay also handed Reed the ball 11 times, the first time a Packers WR has reached double-digit carries since HC Matt LaFleur arrived in 2019.

Expect Reed to Get More Time

Will Reed’s role grow in 2024? We can’t know that yet. Perhaps Green Bay keeps Doubs ahead of Reed in playing time, and a healthier Watson stays ahead as well.

But Reed arrived as an impressive prospect who delivered quickly at each of his college stops and then delivered quickly in the NFL.

He certainly profiles as a guy who should command more playing time in his second season.

The crowded corps in Green Bay limits Reed’s projection, but his ceiling resides way above his spot in our WR rankings.

 

Breakout Tight End: Michael Mayer

Mayer did nothing exciting in his debut season. He finished just fourth in targets, receptions, and receiving yards on a weak Raiders offense. No advanced metric lights the path to a 2024 breakout.

So why’s he here?

Do you remember … just a year ago … when we were wary of a hyped-up rookie TE class because rookie TEs never deliver?

Well, just because Sam LaPorta lit it up, Dalton Kincaid proved helpful, and Tucker Kraft had a few good weeks doesn’t mean you should ignore the 2023 rookies who didn’t deliver.

Don’t Forget Mayer’s Prospect Profile

Mayer hit the NFL one spot behind LaPorta, as the 35th overall pick last year. That followed a college career in which he:

  1. Tied for the team lead in targets and catches as a true freshman.
  2. Took over the receiving lead in Year 2.
  3. Accounted for 30%+ of Notre Dame’s targets, catches, yards, and TDs in his final year.

He was the only FBS TE to reach 800 receiving yards in both 2021 and 2022.

Raiders Could Use a QB Upgrade

It certainly wouldn’t hurt Mayer if Vegas upgrades on QB Aidan O’Connell this offseason. I’m not saying the 2023 rookie can’t develop into a good NFL QB. But he hasn’t showed anything to this point that should excite you.

We’ll see what these Raiders do at the most important position. Standing pat might lower the ceiling for Mayer. But it would also suppress his draft price.

As it stands, you can stash the second-year TE as your backup and see what happens. That leaves almost no downside.

 

Why Should You Trust Our Picks?

Anyone can throw out a bunch of names and call them fantasy football breakouts.

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