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3 Fantasy Football Draft Breakout & Bounceback Candidates (2024)

3 Fantasy Football Draft Breakout & Bounceback Candidates (2024)

For every Kyren Williams — a player that comes out of nowhere to be a league winner — there’s Tony Pollard, a player who was supposed win leagues but failed to do so. For players in that latter category, there’s hope in the form of next season. Below are examples of players ready to forget about 2023 who could lead your fantasy team in 2024.

2024 Dynasty Fantasy Football Guide

2024 Breakouts and Bouncebacks 

Bryce Young (QB – CAR) 

To say Bryce Young had a rough start to his career would be an understatement. The 2023 top overall pick played in 16 games his rookie season — more than either CJ Stroud or Anthony Richardson — yet, Young’s stat line was atrocious. He threw for just 2,877 yards — good for just 20th in the league — and just 11 touchdowns — ranking him 28th among all quarterbacks. The Panthers also finished with the worst record in the league but don’t have the top pick thanks to the trade that landed them Young.

Young’s season seems worse when you compare it to the second overall pick and Offensive Rookie of the Year, CJ Stroud. All Stroud did was throw for over 4,000 yards and 23 touchdowns while leading the Texans to their first division title in four years. There aren’t many examples of a bigger contrast between the two top picks, especially this immediately.

Where is the hope for Young? It starts with coaching. Carolina hired former Bucs offensive coordinator Dave Canales as their head coach with the specific goal of fixing Young. Canales’ resume, while short, is impressive when it comes to getting the most out of a quarterback. Last year in Tampa, Canales coached Baker Mayfield to the best statistical season of his career, throwing for 4,044 yards and 28 touchdowns and his first Pro Bowl selection. Canales’ previous job was as the quarterbacks coach in Seattle, where he also squeezed the most out of Geno Smith as Smith threw for over 4,000 yards and 30 touchdowns himself and earned his first Pro Bowl selection.

Of course, both of Canales’ previous stops had top-flight receiving options, while Carolina currently has an aging Adam Theilen and a washed DJ Chark. They have some, not a lot, of cap space and getting a receiver will be a top priority. If they’re able to sign one, there’s no reason Young can’t improve upon his rocky start.

Tony Pollard (RB – DAL)

2023 was supposed to be a full-blown breakout year for Tony Pollard. After gradually seeing more touches over the course of his four-year career, the Cowboys made him the feature back after letting longtime veteran Ezekiel Elliott go. Pollard was then taken very highly in fantasy drafts based on his productive career up to that point in just a fraction of the touches.

But it wasn’t meant to be. In a career-high 252 rushing attempts, he barely topped 1,000 yards. Despite totaling a career-high 55 receptions, he averaged a career-low 5.7 yards per reception. The decline in his efficiency could probably be traced to months earlier in the Cowboys’ playoff exit the previous season. He broke his leg in the divisional round against the 49ers and never seemed to fully recover. Yes, he did manage to start the season healthy and play in all 17 games but something was off. Pollard admitted as much and claimed he didn’t feel 100% until Week 11.

So why the optimism about Pollard heading into 2024? Whether its coincidence or causation, Pollard was Pro Football Focus’ (PFF) top-ranked running back from Week 11 on. It didn’t necessarily show on the stat line but the fact that Pollard ran well in the last half of the season and will be fully healthy this offseason and heading into the regular season are both positive signs.

Where that is in 2024 is to be determined. Pollard is an unrestricted free agent, and teams will be (rightly) cautious about bringing on Pollard. But it could also mean an opportunity for Pollard to land in a better situation if his price tag is lower than it would have been. Whether it’s back in Dallas, where he can build on the latter part of the 2023 season, or in a new, run-heavy environment like Philadelphia or Baltimore, Pollard should again be one of the higher-scoring fantasy running backs.

Christian Watson (WR – GB)

No player better represents a potential ‘breakout’ and ‘bounceback’ than Christian Watson. The 2022 second-round pick was taken at the end of the Aaron Rodgers era and not only caught Rodgers’ last completion as a Packer but was also the intended receiver on his last throw, which turned into an interception. Despite that fun fact, Watson looked like the next great Packers receiver who could be the bridge between Rodgers and Jordan Love. In the last eight games of his rookie season in 2022, he notched three 100-yard receiving games and scored seven times.

But in what turned into a theme for Watson’s career, injuries prevented him from a full season. That trend started before his rookie season even started when he needed a minor procedure on his knee that kept him out most of the offseason. He was healthy for a matter of weeks before pulling a hamstring that plagued him for most of the first half of the 2022 season. Then came the breakout described above before pulling his hamstring again before the 2023 season. The hamstring plagued him most of the season, appearing in only nine regular season games before popping up briefly in the playoffs with a single reception in each of the Packers’ two postseason games.

Year three will be a pivotal year for Watson. He’s flashed the potential of being a big-play receiver, averaging 15 yards per reception for his career and scoring 12 times in just 23 games. But those 23 games represent just 2/3 of the possible games played. If he can stay healthy — a big if — he can be a very productive fantasy receiver on an offense that appears to have a superstar at quarterback and a coaching staff that is one of the more fantasy-friendly ones around.

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