NFL Analysis


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2024 NFL Predictions: Who Will Be This Year’s Breakout Quarterbacks?

Tennessee Titans quarterback Will Levis
Tennessee Titans quarterback Will Levis (8) under center motions against the Houston Texans in the second quarter at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports

There was no shortage of breakout quarterbacks from the 2023 season. The biggest was Jordan Love, who finally got his shot as a starter and nearly took the Green Bay Packers to the NFC Championship Game.

Love overcame a slow start to catch fire while leading the Packers to a 6-3 record down the stretch and a wild-card victory at Dallas. Most didn't expect that impact in Year 1 as a starter. But Love wasn’t the only quarterback who broke out during the 2023 season.

Baker Mayfield, Gardner Minshew, and Joe Flacco all had much better seasons than expected, which surprised many around the league. Who are the possible breakout candidates heading into the 2024 season? 

Here are three passers to watch closely.

Will Levis, QB, Tennessee Titans

Will Levis' career couldn't have started any better. In his first career start, he threw for 238 yards and four touchdowns, beating the Atlanta Falcons, 28-23. He finished the game with a passer rating of 130.5, and everything pointed up. 

However, the rest of his season was tough. In his next eight starts, Levis threw just four touchdowns, completing only 57.5 percent of his passes. His efficiency took a major hit, and the Titans won just two more games with him under center.

The good news is the Tennessee Titans set up Levis for a solid sophomore season after making several positive changes during the offseason. The biggest was the new coaching staff, with Brian Callahan in charge.

The former Bengals offensive coordinator convinced his dad, Bill, to leave the Browns and join the Titans. That move should greatly help Levis, as Bill Callahan is widely known as the NFL's best offensive line coach.

The Titans also added offensive line talent, drafting JC Latham (Alabama) with the No. 7 overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft. They also signed center Lloyd Cushberry to strengthen the middle of the pocket. The offensive line is still a work in progress, but there is no doubt that this group will be better in 2024 under Callahan's watch.

It’s also worth mentioning that the Titans signed Calvin Ridley to a monster deal this offseason, giving Levis another proven weapon. Ridley, along with DeAndre Hopkins, Tyler Boyd and Treylon Burks, makes for a pretty impressive wide receiver room heading into the year.

Levis has a much better supporting cast and a new head coach and play-caller who should give him every opportunity to succeed. If he can become more consistent and refine his footwork, there is no telling what the ceiling might be for Levis in Tennessee.

Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Aidan O'Connell
Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Aidan O'Connell (4) passes the ball in the first half against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium. (Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports)

Aidan O’Connell, QB, Las Vegas Raiders

Aidan O'Connell didn't have the typical rookie season for a Day 3 pick. Usually, a Day 3 pick at quarterback benefits from being the third quarterback on the roster and operating as the scout team quarterback during practice. That allows him time to get up to the speed of the NFL and learn the playbook.

But that didn't happen for O'Connell. He was thrust into the starting lineup in Week 4 after Jimmy Garoppolo suffered a concussion.

In O’Connell’s first start, he was sacked seven times and looked overwhelmed against the Los Angeles Chargers. He went back to the bench in Week 5, saw action again in Week 7 after a Brian Hoyer injury, and then sat again in Week 8. And then things got wild. 

After the embarrassing loss to the Detroit Lions on Monday Night Football in Week 8, the Las Vegas Raiders fired Josh McDaniels and offensive coordinator Mick Lombardi. The new interim head coach, Antonio Pierce, benched Garoppolo for the remainder of the season and inserted O'Connell as the starting quarterback. Not only did O'Connell have to adjust to being a full-time starter, but he lost his head coach (the play-caller) and the offensive coordinator. 

The good news is that O’Connell handled himself well down the stretch. The Raiders went 5-4 in their final nine games with wins against the Kansas City Chiefs, Chargers, Denver Broncos, New York Giants and New York Jets. His passing numbers were impressive for a rookie, throwing 11 touchdowns to just five interceptions (86.1 passer rating). 

Heading O’Connell’s second season, there is still some uncertainty about who will be the starting quarterback in Las Vegas. But things are set up well for O’Connell to have a breakout season. The Raiders added TE Brock Bowers to their offense in the draft, giving them another dynamic weapon. They've also improved the offensive line, selecting Jackson Powers-Johnson (Oregon) and signing Andrus Peat post-draft.

If O’Connell wins the Raiders' starting job, he’ll have plenty of targets in the passing game and a young, improving offensive line. No one expects him to be the next C.J. Stroud or Love, but O’Connell could be a viable starting NFL quarterback. If that’s the case, the Raiders could wind up being a sneaky, fun team in the AFC this season.

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Drew Lock
Seattle Seahawks quarterback Drew Lock (2) during the game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. (Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports)

Drew Lock, QB, New York Giants

It's far from assured that Drew Lock will be the starting quarterback in New York this season, just like O'Connell. However, it sure seems like the New York Giants will give him every opportunity to win the job.

Lock signed a one-year deal with the Giants for less than $5 million guaranteed. That is in line with what most NFL backups make, but it was an interesting signing by New York because Daniel Jones is recovering from a torn ACL and a neck injury. Before he tore his ACL, Jones struggled mightily during the 2023 season and took a big step backward. Going into Year 2 of his new deal, it’s not a "lock” that he will open the year as the Giants' starting quarterback.

You can make a strong case that Lock is the better fit in Brian Daboll’s offense, especially after the selection of WR Malik Nabers this year. Lock performed well last season for the Seattle Seahawks when called upon to start, completing nearly 69 percent of his passes for 7.45 yards per attempt. He led a winning drive against the Eagles on Monday Night Football and threw several gorgeous passes to keep Seattle alive in that contest.

Lock is only 27 and seems like a much more mature player than he was in Denver. With Jones likely to miss all OTAs, mini-camp and potentially training camp, Lock will have plenty of chances to play with the first team.

Even average quarterback play would make a difference for the Giants, and Lock could give them that this season. Seeing him play like the 2023 version of Gardner Minshew or 2022 Geno Smith wouldn't be a shock. He is a very talented quarterback with athleticism, and he lands in an offense that finally has the right weapons.