May 25, 2024

Five NFL players in best position to make a splash in Year 2

Houston’s C.J. Stroud and Will Anderson, Seattle’s Devon Witherspoon and Detroit’s Jahmyr Gibbs and Sam LaPorta were just a few 2023 rookies who had an immediate impact in their first year.

While several other first-year players served in limited roles or saw their playing time increase toward the end of the season, there are plenty of others from the 2023 rookie class who are primed to make more significant contributions in their second year. Here are a few players to watch out for in 2024.

Anthony Richardson, QB, Indianapolis Colts

Limited to just four games last season, Richardson showed flashes of why the Colts took him fourth overall during his brief run as the team’s starting QB, accounting for 713 yards (577 passing, 136 rushing) and seven total touchdowns (four rushing, three passing). He had successful surgery to repair the AC joint in his right shoulder, and he’s expected to be fully healthy heading into training camp.

The Colts added a few more weapons for him in second-round receiver Adonai Mitchell and fifth-round receiver Anthony Gould, in addition to bolstering his protection with third-round tackle Matt Goncalves and fourth-round center Tanor Bortolini. Indy also re-signed Michael Pittman Jr. to a three-year, $70 million contract, and he, Mitchell and 2023 third-rounder Josh Downs should make one heck of a WR trio. That coupled with having running back Jonathan Taylor for a full season, Richardson has no excuse not to have a big year in 2024.

Will Levis, QB, Tennessee Titans

It could be argued that no team did more to help their quarterback this offseason than the Titans. They signed running back Tony Pollard, receivers Calvin Ridley and Tyler Boyd, center Lloyd Cushenberry and guard Saahdiq Charles, and they drafted tackle JC Latham to protect his blind side.

Boyd gives Levis a true weapon out of the slot — something Tennessee has been missing for some time — and he has two bona fide playmakers out wide with Ridley and DeAndre Hopkins. Pollard can also be a weapon as a receiver out of the backfield, and Chig Okonkwo has another year of experience under his belt. The Titans passing offense can potentially be a top-10 unit next season.

Quentin Johnston, WR, Los Angeles Chargers

With Keenan Allen and Mike Williams out of the picture, the door opens for Johnston to set himself apart as the Chargers’ top wideout. He had the fourth-most targets on the team last season as a rookie, and the three players who had more (Allen, Austin Ekeler and Gerald Everett) are all on other teams.

Joshua Palmer and 2024 second-rounder Ladd McConkey figure to play a big role in Jim Harbaugh’s new offensive system, but expect to see Justin Herbert target Johnston quite a bit. If Johnston sees 100-plus targets, especially if Herbert has more time to throw than he did last year, there’s no reason why 1,000 yards isn’t doable.

Dalton Kincaid, TE, Buffalo Bills

Like Johnston’s situation, Kincaid could see a surge in his production with Stefon Diggs and Gabriel Davis no longer in the mix. Dalton’s rookie season was solid (73 receptions, 91 targets, 673 yards, two touchdowns) but the door is open for him to become what Travis Kelce is to the Kansas City Chiefs.

Aside from veteran Curtis Samuel, the Bills WR room, which features 2024 second-rounder Keon Coleman, 24-year-old Khalil Shakir and 25-year-old Chase Claypool, is young and relatively inexperienced. While quarterback Josh Allen develops a rapport with his new targets, Kincaid could emerge as his go-to option. He should flirt with close to 1,000 yards and could be a double-digit touchdown scorer.

Joey Porter Jr., CB, Pittsburgh Steelers

There’s no Patrick Peterson, Levi Wallace or Chandon Sullivan, leaving Porter Jr. and Donte Jackson, who was acquired in the Diontae Johnson trade, as the most experienced members of Pittsburgh’s cornerback group.

Porter Jr. had a heck of a showing as a rookie, surrendering just one touchdown on 27 receptions across 565 coverage snaps and allowing a completion percentage of just 47.4, per Pro Football Focus. As the Steelers’ new No. 1 CB, Porter Jr. will have the opportunity to make a name for himself shadowing some of the top wideouts in the AFC North, including Baltimore’s Zay Flowers, Cleveland’s Amari Cooper and Cincinnati’s Ja’Marr Chase.