NFL Analysis


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NFL Free Agents Who Could Break Out On New Teams

Seattle Seahawks tight end Noah Fant celebrates catching a pass vs. Cleveland Browns.
Seattle Seahawks tight end Noah Fant (87) celebrates after getting a first down against the Cleveland Browns during the second half at Lumen Field. Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

Sometimes, a change of scenery is needed, or at least helpful. We’re looking at that today for players who could have a breakout with a new team in free agency.

The players listed range from all over our top 100 free agents list, with varying levels of success in the NFL to date. These players could have a little more to give than they showed with their previous team, and new or better surroundings could help unlock that potential.

>> READ MORE: Top 100 Free Agent Rankings

5 Free Agency Breakout Candidates

Noah Fant, Tight End

Top 100 Ranking: 52nd

Noah Fant will be this year’s bet for a second-contract tight end breakout. We’ve seen a few young tight ends get off to hot starts for their career, but historically, it takes tight ends a few years to hit their stride.

2020 was the closest Fant had to a true breakout season. His 1.64 yards per route run ranked eighth at the position, and he was targeted on 22.7 percent of his routes. That production came while catching passes from Drew Lock, Jeff Driskel and Brett Rypien.

However, Fant’s production and involvement have decreased since then. He had a 17.4 percent target share in 2020 and repeated that in 2021. 

But after his trade to Seattle, Fant had an 11.4 percent target share in 2022 and just a 7.3 percent target share in 2023 despite playing in 17 games.

While he wasn’t getting the ball as often, his success rate on those targets has increased in the past three seasons, with a career-high 58.1 percent success rate in 2023.

Fant can take some of that success and move to an offense where he won’t be the clear fourth option, at best, behind three good wide receivers — DK Metcalf, Tyler Lockett and Jaxon Smith-Njigba — like in 2023.

Even as a No. 2 or 3 option, Fant could use his athleticism and refined route running to be an asset to a new offense.

Bills wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders holds on to a pass behind Washington's Kamren Curl for a 5-yard touchdown. (Jamie Germano USA TODAY Sports)

Kamren Curl, Saftey

Top 100 Ranking: 21st

Kamren Curl is one of the league’s most underrated players as a former seventh-round pick and could become an immense value in a potentially saturated safety market. 

Curl played all over the secondary with the Washington Commanders but often cleaned up plays when the second level did not come through. He has the instincts to be around the ball at all times, but on a better defense, those plays could be more impactful.

In 2023, Curl was 34th in tackles — seventh among defensive backs — but those came 7.68 yards down the field on average, per TruMedia. He came from more depth while playing more than 50 percent of his snaps as a deep safety for the first time in his career. 

Curl needed to play an outsized role in stopping plays that others couldn’t, so he was forced to be more reactive than proactive in his movements.

We’d probably have a better view of him if his resume had more ball production. He has just three interceptions (all in his rookie year) and 14 passes defended in his career. Still, when Curl is in the position to make those plays, he can make them from all over the field. 

His pass breakups came from several spots — driving down from deep, in man coverage from the slot and sitting in zone from the box.

Place Curl in a more well-rounded secondary or behind better linebackers, and those splash plays could increase to go with those instincts that have already made him a force on the field.

Tennessee Titans cornerback Kristian Fulton (26) and linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair (2) celebrate breaking up a pass during the third quarter at Raymond James Stadium. (Denny Simmons-The Tennessean)

Kristian Fulton, Cornerback

Top 100 Ranking: N/A

Kristian Fulton is a former second-round pick of the Tennessee Titans who had a standout second season. However, injuries have kept him from playing up to his full potential; he has not played more than 13 games in any season.

During the 2021 season, Fulton had 14 passes defended and ranked 20th in adjusted yards allowed per coverage snap. However, he has not come close to those heights since.

In 2023, Fulton ranked 133rd in adjusted yards allowed per coverage snap among 150 qualified cornerbacks and was taken off the field at times due to poor performance. He was better than average at deterring targets on a per-snap basis; his targets per coverage snap ranked 51st.

But when he lost in coverage, he gave up big plays. Fulton then finished the season on injured reserve because of a hamstring injury.

Those injury concerns are something to monitor, but if Fulton goes to a team with a top medical staff — such as the Rams or Vikings — it could get some of his soft tissue injuries under control. 

The disappointing start to his career will allow his next team to get him on a low-risk deal, and the 26-year-old still has upside with a history of good play on his resume. 

Myles Bryant (27) celebrates after intercepting the ball against the Indianapolis Colts during an International Series game at Deutsche Bank Park. (Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports)

Myles Bryant, Defensive Back

Top 100 Ranking: 76th

Myles Bryant was a 2020 undrafted free agent out of Washington. His height (5-foot-9) and long speed (4.62 40-yard dash) kept him from being drafted. But Bryant had top-end agility, which has helped him settle into a more significant role in the New England Patriots' defense.

During the past four seasons, Bryant’s playing time has gone from 151 snaps to 394, 664 and 816 in 2023. He started his career with more snaps at safety, as a single-high safety and in the box, but has played more slot corner during the past three seasons. 

This past season, he spent 83 percent of his snaps at cornerback and 63.5 percent in the slot. 

In 2023, Bryant was eighth in yards allowed per coverage snap from the slot among corners, with at least 300 snaps there. He also had a career-high seven passes defended and seven tackles for loss.

His ability to hang with slot receivers and be a force in the box provides versatility that could be an asset for any defense that likes to move players around and change up pre-snap looks. 

Jordyn Brooks (56) reacts after sacking Los Angeles Rams quarterback John Wolford (13) during the second half at SoFi Stadium. (Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports)

Jordyn Brooks, Linebacker

Top 100 Ranking: 68th

Jordyn Brooks has already established himself as one of the league’s better off-ball linebackers. After tearing his ACL in Week 17 of the 2022 season, he bounced back to start the 2023 season on time, starting in Week 1 less than eight months after the injury. 

Another year removed from the injury, Brooks could rebound even more to be the centerpiece of a defense.

One of the concerns with Brooks is his coverage can be hit or miss. This past season, he ranked 91st among linebackers in yards allowed per coverage snap. In 2022, Brooks was 52nd in yards per coverage snap but was 84th in 2021. 

He had slightly more on his plate with Bobby Wagner next to him in 2023. Wagner served more as a cannon downhill and less of the all-around, plus-coverage linebacker he was at his peak.

Brooks can clearly diagnose the play in front of him and has been a force going downhill. While he did not have as many raw tackles in 2023 as in 2021 and 2022, he was more successful in the rate of tackles that produced a positive play for the defense at 60.4 percent. 

Plus, his average tackle was much closer to the line of scrimmage — 4.45 as opposed to more than six yards in the previous two seasons.

Brooks’ breakout could take one of two paths. 

One, he’s paired with a successful coverage linebacker, which allows him to play more downhill. Two, he can play in a defensive back-heavy scheme, allowing him to patrol a smaller range of middle-of-the-field coverage while taking a more significant responsibility in the run game.