5 NFL Fantasy Players who Could Have a Breakout Year

NFL training camps open next month and it’s the perfect time for fantasy managers to plan their draft. Here are five players who could have a breakout year in 2024.   

5 NFL Players Who Could Have a Breakout Year

In fantasy, it isn’t just how well an individual plays. NFL athletes can be held back by factors that limit their potential. For example, an individual’s fantasy performance might be restricted by the team’s play-calling or his position on the depth chart.  Free agency signings provide NFL veterans with an opportunity that could result in a breakout season. A fresh start with a different team, a new coaching staff and an increased workload could make all the difference.

A Different Team, A New Opportunity to Excel

San Francisco 49ers running back (in a white and gold jersey) runs down the sideline evading a Kansas City Chiefs defender (in the red jersey) during Super Bowl LVIII in Las Vegas on Feb. 11, 2024.
Feb 11, 2024; Paradise, Nevada, USA; San Francisco 49ers running back Christian McCaffrey (23) runs with the ball against Kansas City Chiefs safety Mike Edwards (21) during overtime of Super Bowl LVIII at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Christian McCaffrey is a perfect example of a player who flourished in a new team setting. McCaffrey had an incredible 2019 season with the Carolina Panthers, recording 1,000 rushing yards and 1,000 receiving yards in the same year. However, McCaffrey’s remaining years with the Panthers were beset by one injury after another that kept him off the field.  

After he was traded to the 49ers in October of 2022, McCaffrey’s performance accelerated and reached another level. During his second week with the team, in a game against the Los Angeles Rams, McCaffrey exploded for three touchdowns, one rushing, one receiving and one passing. McCaffrey was named to the 2022 Pro Bowl with 1,139 yards on 244 carries and eight rushing touchdowns. His talent as a receiver added another 741 yards on 85 receptions with five touchdowns.  

McCaffrey’s ascendance to the top of the NFL’s performance rankings continued in 2023. Topping his statistics from the previous year, McCaffrey recorded 1,459 rushing yards with more total touchdowns (21) than any other player in the league, earning him the undisputed title of “Offensive Player of the Year.”  

A fresh start in Atlanta

New Atlanta Falcons quarterback Kirk Cousins (In red and white jersey, black helmet, black pants) throws during the Falcons OTA on June 3, 2024 in Atlanta.
Jun 3, 2024; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons quarterback Kirk Cousins (18) shown in action on the field during Falcons OTA at the Falcons Training facility. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Who else could benefit from their free agency signing? Kirk Cousins signed a $180 million four-year contract with the Atlanta Falcons. The agreement was a huge sign of confidence for the former Minnesota Vikings veteran, making him one of the highest-paid quarterbacks in the NFL. However, the subsequent first-round draft pick of rookie Michael Penix Jr. could indicate a slight case of buyer’s remorse.

In addition to a talented second-year running back in Bijan Robinson, Cousins inherits a supporting cast of receivers, including Drake London and Darnell Mooney, newly acquired from the Chicago Bears, along with tight end Kyle Pitts. Just as Cousins was able to elevate T.J. Hockenson’s performance when he was traded to the Vikings, the hope is that he will have a similar impact on Pitts and London.     

The king continues his Reign in Baltimore

Derrick Henry is another NFL veteran who could benefit from his free agency signing.  The former Tennessee Titan standout has been given new life with the Baltimore Ravens. Last year, during the Titans’ losing season, coach Mike Vrabel underutilized his best asset. Henry is a workhorse, logging more carries in 2023 (280) than any other player with 1,167 yards and 12 touchdowns. However, compared to past seasons, 2023 was far from Henry’s best. In 2020, Henry rushed for over 2,000 yards on 378 carries and had 1,538 yards on 349 carries in 2022.

After signing a two-year $16 million contract with the Ravens and getting the respect he craves, “King Henry” looks primed to reclaim his former throne. On his way to attaining 10,000 career rushing yards with 9,502, Henry provides a terrific backfield accompaniment to Lamar Jackson, one of the league’s top rushing quarterbacks. 

An exciting rookie season

Another running back poised to have a breakout season is Miami’s talented second-year running back, De’Von Achane.  The talented rookie lit up the scoreboard, scoring four touchdowns in week three against the Denver Broncos. Even while splitting touches with fellow Dolphins running back, Raheem Mostert, Achane maintained an average of 17.3 points per game. Achane can be regarded as a high-value scoring machine if he stays healthy this season.      

Time to prove his worth

Third-year Detroit Lions wide receiver Jameson Williams is another player poised to have a breakout year. Williams is coming off two disappointing years where injuries and off-field issues limited his weekly eligibility. The Lions coaching staff has been more than patient with the talented young receiver following his gambling suspension. 

After clearing eligibility, Williams displayed great promise in the few games he has been active. The number two receiver behind Aman-Ra St. Brown, Williams could become an explosive scoring threat downfield when he gets open.  

A shining star on a dismal offense 

New York Jets wide receiver Garrett Wilson is another player who could dominate this season’s fantasy scoreboards. Despite the Jets quarterback issues, the third-year player has put together impressive back-to-back 1,000-yard receiving seasons. Now, with a presumably healthy Aaron Rodgers back under center, Wilson will be his number-one target and is a legitimate scoring threat for the team.  

Why choose a free agent over a rookie 

Free agent veterans have the NFL experience and skillset to make an immediate impact. They are signed to fill an immediate roster gap. As tempting as it is to select Caleb Williams or one of the other top-rated draft picks for your Fantasy league, remember that even the most talented rookies will have a learning curve. Rookies are best left to the later draft rounds and stashed on the bench until they have consistently proven themselves.  

Main Image: © Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

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