NFL Analysis


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

Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Drake London
Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Drake London (5) reacts after a catch against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the second half at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Several NFL receivers took huge leaps in 2023, including CeeDee Lamb, Brandon Aiyuk and Nico Collins. All three were productive receivers previously but leveled up their games last year.

So, who are some young receivers who could finally reach their ceilings? Here are four potential breakout receivers ahead of the 2024 season:

Potential Breakout Wide Receivers

Drake London, Atlanta Falcons

It is strange to call a former No. 8 overall selection a potential breakout candidate, but here we are. Drake London has had two solid seasons, catching 141 passes for 1,771 yards and six touchdowns. But he has yet to live up to the status of a top-10 pick, and a lot of that isn't his fault. 

London has played with Marcus Mariota, Desmond Ridder and Taylor Heincke during the last two seasons. None of those three quarterbacks will be Week 1 starters in 2024, and each was benched at least once during the Arthur Smith era in Atlanta.

The Atlanta Falcons have an entirely new regime and a new quarterback in Kirk Cousins. The switch from Smith to Zac Robinson should do wonders for London, as the Falcons were one of the league's run-heaviest teams in natural game scripts last season.

Now, London has an offensive coordinator who wants to throw the ball and a quarterback known for his efficiency. 

But London is at the top of this list because he is set to see a ridiculous number of targets this season from Cousins. Here are the leading target-getters for the Vikings from 2018-2022:

The Vikings' No. 1 receiver averaged 144 targets a year in those five seasons. If you go back to Cousins' days with the Commanders, players like Jameson Crowder, DeSean Jackson, Jordan Reed and Pierre Garçon all had years with at least 100 targets. 

We didn’t include the 2023 season on this list because Cousins only started eight games. It is worth noting that three Vikings recorded at least 100 targets last season (T.J. Hockenson, Jordan Addison and Justin Jefferson). Cousins typically locks onto a receiver or two and funnels all his passing attempts to the top weapon. That is excellent news for London, who had just three games during the 2023 season with double-digit targets.

If London stays healthy, it wouldn’t be surprising if he averaged nine targets a game, putting him around 150 targets for a 17-game season. London was productive with subpar quarterback play, and now he is paired with one of the league's most efficient passers.

London is 6-foot-4 and can create separation with his route running. Now, he is about to see the most targets in his career. It won’t be a shock to see him lead the NFL in catches and yards this season. That is the type of ceiling he has going into Year 3. 

Buffalo Bills wide receiver Khalil Shakir
Buffalo Bills WR Khalil Shakir (10) catches a touchdown against Kansas City Chiefs cornerback L'Jarius Sneed (not pictured). (Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)

Khalil Shakir, Buffalo Bills 

The Buffalo Bills have one of the NFL's most fascinating wide receiver rooms heading into the 2024 season. They have several quality players, including a highly drafted rookie in Keon Coleman. But with Stefon Diggs gone, there isn’t a No. 1 receiver who can replace him.

However, one player who will take on a bigger role will be Khalil Shakir, a third-year receiver from Boise State. Shakir caught just 10 passes as a rookie, playing mostly as the Bills' No. 4 receiver. In Year 2, he took a leap to 39 receptions for 611 yards. 

It's encouraging to see how well Shakir performed once Joe Brady ran the offense. During the season's final nine games (including two playoff games), Shakir totaled 448 yards and scored three touchdowns. While those numbers aren’t eye-popping, averaging nearly 50 yards per game while playing with Diggs and Gabe Davis is impressive.

Both players are gone, and Shakir is expected to have an increased role.

For Shakir to take off in 2024, he will need to play more snaps away from the slot. According to TruMedia, Shakir ran 257 of his 332 routes (77.4 percent) from the slot last season. The addition of Curtis Samuel, who also plays in the slot, means the Bills need someone else who can win on the outside.

If you just look at the measurables, the 6-foot, 190-pound Shakir compares favorably to Diggs. Diggs has been an outside receiver who can win against press coverage for most of his career. Shakir hasn’t shown that ability yet, but the Bills don't have a choice but to play him on the outside.

He is dynamic with the ball in his hands and has done a fantastic job creating separation from the slot — now it’s time for his game to evolve. If he can take the next step and become an inside-outside threat, the Bills shouldn’t have any problem replacing Diggs' production.

New York Giants wide receiver Wan'Dale Robinson
New York Giants WR Wan'Dale Robinson (17) is pushed out of bounds by Philadelphia Eagles safety Kevin Byard (31). (Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports)

Wan’Dale Robinson, New York Giants

Wan'Dale Robinson is unlike the other three receivers on this list. He is more of a “gadget” player than an actual wide receiver. However, rookie Malik Nabers gives the New York Giants a No. 1 receiver, so Robinson can return to being a dynamic slot receiver.

Coming out of Kentucky, Robinson was viewed as one of the draft's most explosive players but not a complete receiver. After suffering a torn ACL as a rookie, it took a while for Robinson to find his role in the offense. He missed the first two weeks of the 2023 season recovering from his knee injury and totaled 229 yards through Week 10.

However, during the final seven games, Robinson started to look like himself. He created chunk plays despite playing with Tyrod Taylor and Tommy DeVito at quarterback.

Robinson racked up 383 yards in those seven games, including a few big-time carries. The Giants didn’t win much last year, but in the games they did, it was usually because Robinson created explosive plays. That’ll need to happen again in 2024 if the Giants want to improve.

Robinson is only 23, and being more than 18 months removed from his ACL injury should bode well for his future. The quarterback situation is still less than ideal, but he is such a threat with the ball in his hands that coach Brian Daboll should find ways to get the ball to him.

Adding Nabers should give Robinson more opportunities in the middle of the field, which could be bad news for opposing defenses.

Denver Broncos wide receiver Marvin Mims
Denver Broncos WR Marvin Mims Jr. (19) returns a kickoff against the Buffalo Bills at Highmark Stadium. (Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports)

Marvin Mims, Denver Broncos

It was shocking that Marvin Mims didn't produce more as a rookie. Mims was the first draft pick of the Sean Payton era, and he couldn't stop gushing about him post-draft. Once the season started, Mims was relegated to a reserve role for the Denver Broncos. He played behind Courtland Sutton and Jerry Jeudy, and his role on the offense varied weekly.

Mims got off to a scorching start, racking up 255 yards and two touchdowns (one on a kick return). However, from Week 5 on, Mims saw just 21 targets and recorded only 135 receiving yards. Many reasons could explain why his usage went down as the season progressed, but Payton admitted the coaching staff did a poor job of getting him involved.

The good news is that Mims should have a much more stable role this season, with Jeudy off to the Cleveland Browns. Sutton remains on the roster, but his name has been floated in trade rumors for months now, so it's not guaranteed he will be on the team for the entire 2024 season. Mims is locked into a starting role, and his snaps shouldn't vary weekly like last year. 

One reason to be optimistic about Mims is how good he is with the ball in his hands. Last year, according to TruMedia, Mims averaged 7.1 yards per reception.

That was fourth-best in the NFL, behind only Deebo Samuel, Rashee Rice and Nico Collins. Mims was a second-round pick in 2023 because of his YAC ability, which has already translated to the NFL.

Denver's quarterback situation remains questionable, but Mims appears to be a good fit with Bo Nix. If the Broncos get average play from Nix this season, Mims has a chance to be a 1,000-yard receiver in Payton's offense.

It wouldn't be a shock if he was Denver's No. 1 receiver by the end of the season. After an up-and-down rookie season, now is the time to buy all of the Mims stock before it goes to the moon.