Fantasy Football: Breakout candidates at quarterback for 2024

2T1595F Indianapolis Colts quarterback Anthony Richardson (5) looks downfield from the pocket during an NFL football game against the Tennessee Titans, Sunday, Oct. 8, 2023, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Zach Bolinger)

Anthony Richardson as the obvious choice: Expected to deliver QB1 fantasy production in 2024, what does Richardson need to do to get there in Year 2.

Picking between Will Levis and Bryce Young: Both have a shot, but only one gets the nod for a true breakout season in 2024.

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Estimated reading time: 9 minutes

Each season, there are players who take their game to another level while greatly improving their fantasy production along the way. This can be a difficult task at quarterback with fewer options across the league that fit the criteria, but for the 2024 season, there are two, specifically, who stand out.

A few qualifiers before diving into this year’s candidates

  • Quarterbacks must not have exceeded 250 fantasy points – finished as a QB1/high-end QB2 in any previous season.
  • A significant jump in overall fantasy finish or fantasy points per game is expected, not just an incremental improvement.
  • No rookies. Let’s make things more challenging than that. A list of rookies that will make a fantasy impact in Year 1 can be found here.
Here are a list of players over the past decade who fit the above criteria before delivering their breakout season:
Player (Breakout Season) Pre-breakout Year Fantasy Points Pre-breakout Year Fantasy PPG Breakout Year Fantasy Points Breakout Year Fantasy PPG
Jordan Love (2023) 11.7 2.9 312.0 19.4
Geno Smith (2022) 57.3 13.8 322.9 18.5
Daniel Jones (2022) 171.9 15.9 295.5 18.4
Trevor Lawrence (2022) 222.0 12.7 315.6 17.9
Jalen Hurts (2021) 115.3 7.6 319.2 21.4
Jared Goff (2017) 64.9 8.6 268.3 17.5
Carson Wentz (2017) 228.0 13.9 286.7 21.6
Kirk Cousins (2015) 101.4 16.2 306.3 18.8

Anthony Richardson, Indianapolis Colts

Easily one of the most obvious choices across all positions, currently being drafted as QB6, Richardson flashed high-end fantasy potential in Year 1 on a very small sample size due to injury. That high-end fantasy production as a rookie came almost entirely from his rushing ability, accounting for 52.4% of his total fantasy points – the most among any player at the position. Richardson averaged 5.8 runs per game last season with a %7.1% scramble rate on fewer than 100 total dropbacks and 200 total snaps. He also delivered four rushing touchdowns in his limited appearances last season, taking 57% of the goal-to-go carries when he was on the field.

Richardson's prime comparison among past breakout quarterbacks is Jalen Hurts in 2021, who also only had a small four-game sample in the season leading into his breakout year. In those four games as a starter to close out his rookie season, Hurts averaged a 17% run rate, which was slightly more than Richardson's 13.3% through his four appearances. Hurts and Richardson also share the same key coach, Shane Steichen, mentoring them to become NFL starters. Both players were considered projects as passers coming out of college, and considering Steichen’s success developing Hurts, there is plenty of hope that he can do the same with Richardson across a full season.

Maintaining his elite rushing production

Richardson’s 13.3% run rate last season ranked among the elite rushing quarterbacks at the position, including Hurts (13.7%), Lamar Jackson (13.5%) and Justin Fields (14.5%). This is Richardson’s greatest asset in becoming a breakout quarterback in 2024 and delivering on that QB6 ADP. There isn’t much question that running will continue to be a large part of Richardson’s game, and if he can stay healthy doing so, he’ll have no trouble climbing into that 20-plus fantasy points per game territory like the rest of the elite fantasy quarterbacks.

Improvement as a passer

The area where Richardson could stand to improve the most, which was expected coming out of college, is as a passer. Among the qualifying breakout quarterbacks since 2014, Richardson’s sub-60.0 passing grade from this past season joins Trevor Lawrence, Jalen Hurts and Jared Goff. For all three players, new and improved coaching staffs played a major role in their improvement, as Lawrence and Goff got new head coaches while Hurts received a new offensive coordinator, who is Richardson’s current head coach, Shane Steichen.

Richardson has a strong arsenal to rely on in the passing game, including No. 1 wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr., who commanded a career-high 150 targets in 2023 and will be hungry for more in 2024. Along with the continued improvement of second-year wide receiver Josh Downs and an exciting new weapon coming out of the draft in Adonai Mitchell, there are pieces in place for Richardson to utilize, helping bring up his passing production. His 144.3 passing yards per game last season was the lowest mark in the league last year among starters, but his wide receivers should help because they aren’t one of the most barren rooms in the league anymore.

He must stay healthy!

Richardson is expected to be fully healthy after undergoing his season-ending shoulder surgery last season. He began throwing again in February and is apparently back to being a “full go” in training camp, which is exactly the news fantasy managers need. Richardson does have to maintain that health throughout the season, however, as his tendency to take big hits in college carried over into the NFL. Hopefully, he’ll use that Year 1 as a lesson learned and be much less reckless this coming season. 

Anthony Richardson’s QB ranks in 2023:
Metric Value QB Rank
Fantasy points per dropback 0.73 QB1
Fantasy points per game 17.9 QB15
Runs per game 5.8 QB6
Scramble rate 7.1% QB8
Passing yards per game 144.3 QB29

Will Levis, Tennessee Titans

Levis, much like Richardson, did not get a full season under his belt as a rookie, though at least it wasn’t due to injury. As a second-round pick, Levis spent the first half of last season hacking up starter Ryan Tannehill before circumstances led to a change. Levis took over in Week 8. Things started great for Levis, as he delivered four passing touchdowns in his first NFL start, but that ultimately ended up accounting for 50% of his entire passing touchdown total through all nine of his starts the rest of the year.

Brian Callahan takes over as Titans head coach and will hopefully help with one of the biggest issues that seemed to hurt Levis last year — a heavy reliance on low-percentage throws. Levis’ 11.1-yard average depth of target last season was the highest in the NFL, and quite a bit higher than what coaches were having Tannehill do when he was a starter (8.4). For Levis and the new coaching staff, the focus has to be on higher-percentage completions in order for him to properly develop after his 57 20-plus-yard throws were the 14th most in the league, tied with C.J. Stroud, who played six more games and had nearly twice as many dropbacks.

Helping matters for Levis this season will be his improved receiving corps, adding Calvin Ridley and Tyler Boyd to join DeAndre Hopkins, which moved the Titans from ranking 30th in PFF’s receiving corps ranks in 2023, to 12th heading into 2024

Improvement as a passer

Levis doesn’t necessarily have the rushing upside to rely on, so the large majority of his fantasy production is going to have to come from him staying in the pocket and putting up passing yards and touchdown passes. A new offensive-minded head coach in Brian Callahan will play a big part in that development, and he should create a focus around more high-completion passes for Levis to make this season. As highlighted earlier, Levis’ reliance on the deep ball sunk his accuracy and production quite a bit to the point where if the play called for him to throw at least 10 yards downfield, he was launching it 23 yards on average — the second-highest ADoT on throws with a minimum of 10-plus yards downfield. As a result, his overall 69.1% adjusted completion rate ranked 42nd among 45 qualifying quarterbacks.

Outside of coaching, relying on his new arsenal of passing weapons in Hopkins, Ridley and Boyd are going to play a big part in allowing Levis to produce and find more success as a passer. Each of these players offers a versatile skillset that gets them open in different areas of the field and provides easier targets for Levis to throw to, especially when compared to when he only really had Hopkins last season. A strong receiving corps has been key for any of the non-rushing breakout quarterbacks of the past decade. Only Trevor Lawrence’s 2022 unit earned a sub-75.0 receiving grade (71.0). Levis has what hould be considered as one of the best receiving units among those past breakouts if everyone stays healthy, which can only help his potential in 2024.


The Titans ranked 27th in touchdown drive percentage (16.2%) between Weeks 8-17 when Levis was a starter last season, which was even down from their 17.1% touchdown drive percentage (22nd) when he wasn’t the starter. An improved offense should make a significant difference because Brian Callahan’s offensive-minded approach will help make the most out of the offensive weapons, perhaps more so than what the team was under Mike Vrabel in years past.

The offensive line was also slightly upgraded from last season, after it was one of the biggest weaknesses on the team, allowing the highest knockdown rate (sacks plus hits) in the league (24.8%) and ranking among the six worst teams in sacks allowed (64), pass-blocking grade (53.4) and success rate (33.4%). Not being under constant pressure — Levis spent 44.5% of his dropbacks (third-most) — will also help lead to longer drives and more success at the end of those drives.


Bryce Young, Carolina Panthers

Improvement in Year 2 should be expected for the 2023 first-overall pick, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it will qualify as a true breakout in terms of fantasy production. Young, similarly to Levis, is coming off an inefficient, unproductive rookie season. However, Levis’ circumstances still rank a fair bit better than Young with the receiving corps, specifically, but also he has shown more from a fantasy perspective last season than Young did across 15 games.

Young has a couple things going in his favor for improvement this season, including adding Diontae Johnson as his top receiver while also having arguably a better offensive line than Levis in Tennessee. The other thing that could help Young is less of a reliance on the pass after the Panthers ranked 10th in the league in pass rate (63.6%) last season, and among every past decade breakout that got a new head coach, they all saw a significant decrease in pass rate the following year, which could be a key for development and take less of the burden away from Young.

Past decade breakout QBs who got new coaches for their breakout season:
Player, Seasons Previous year pass rate Breakout year pass rate
Daniel Jones, 2021-2022 64.5% (8th) 59.4% (18th)
Trevor Lawrence, 2021-2022 65.7% (5th) 61.1% (16th)
Jalen Hurts, 2020-2021 67.1% (3rd) 55.2% (30th)
Jared Goff, 2016-2017 63.2% (12th) 56.5% (29th)
Bryce Young, 2023-2024 63.6% (10th) ?

Ultimately, Young’s 2023 was more discouraging as a whole than we’d hope where there just wasn’t enough actual data and numbers to encourage the significant improvement needed, even if some improvements are expected. Levis was found to be more deserving of the nod as a breakout candidate heading into 2024.

Levis versus Young heading into 2024:
Metric Bryce Young (CAR) Will Levis (TEN)
PFF receiving corps ranking 29 12
2023 fantasy points per dropback 0.28 0.38
2023 fantasy points per game 10.9 12.4
2023 passing yards per game 179.8 200.9
2023 passing grade  52.6 61.6
2023 NFL passer rating 73.7 84.2
2023 pressure-to-sack conversion rate 24.5% 21.5%

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