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Early 2024 Fantasy Football Breakouts: Running Backs

Tyjae Spears - Fantasy Football Rankings, Draft Sleepers, Waiver Wire Pickups

The 2024 fantasy football season is still months away. Yet, it’s never too early to start preparing for your fantasy drafts. Every year, fantasy players want to pick players who will outperform their average draft position (ADP) and avoid players who will bust.

However, finding sleepers and breakout players is critical to winning your fantasy football league. Finding these surprise performers can be the difference between coming home with the championship or finishing in third place.

Much will change over the next several months, meaning players’ fantasy value could drastically improve or decline before the start of training camp. However, I have six potential running back candidates that fantasy players will want to consider drafting in 2024.

Editor's Note: Our incredible team of writers won two writing awards and received 12 award nominations by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. A big congrats to our very own Byron Lindeque (Golf) and Jordan McAbee (NASCAR) for both winning Writer Of The Year awards! Be sure to follow RotoBaller's analysis and advice all year long, and win more. Win More With RotoBaller!

 

De'Von Achane, Miami Dolphins

Achane might have had one of the wildest rookie seasons in NFL history. The former Texas A&M star ended the year as the RB24, totaling fewer half-point PPR fantasy points than Gus Edwards and Najee Harris. However, he was the RB4 on a points-per-game basis, averaging 16.1 fantasy points per contest, finishing only behind Christian McCaffrey, Kyren Williams, and Raheem Mostert.

More importantly, Achane averaged 19.4 fantasy points per game in the nine contests with more than two touches. So, how can the former Texas A&M star be a potential breakout candidate in 2024? By becoming more consistent on a per-game basis. Over 27.5% of his fantasy points for the year came in the 50-point blowout win over the Denver Broncos. While he was impressive as a rookie, Achane can be even better next year.

 

Tyjae Spears, Tennessee Titans

Many NFL Draft nerds loved Spears heading into the 2023 NFL Draft. The former Tulane star had over 1,500 rushing yards and 19 touchdowns in his final college season. Unfortunately, a wet blanket got thrown on his fantasy value after getting drafted by the Titans in the third round. While Spears never got the chance to display his full potential with Derrick Henry on the roster, the explosive running back flashed star potential.

Tennessee hasn’t ruled out the veteran running back returning in 2024. However, this seems unlikely, given the team’s current rebuilding project. Spears will likely have a lead role, if not a featured one, next season. He ranked 10th in yards after contact per rushing attempt (2.92) among running backs with at least 100 rushing attempts (per Fantasy Points Data). If the Titans can improve their offensive line in the offseason, Spears could have a massive sophomore-year breakout.

 

Zamir White, Las Vegas Raiders

The Raiders have a decision to make in their backfield this offseason. Josh Jacobs is a free agent next month after playing the 2023 season on the franchise tag. While the veteran was outstanding two years ago, he struggled last season. Jacobs saw his yards per rushing attempt drop from 4.9 in 2022 to 3.5 last year. More importantly, Las Vegas’ offense didn’t miss a beat when the former Alabama star missed the final month with a quad injury.

Despite barely seeing the field as a rookie, White was productive to end last season. The former Georgia star was the RB8 over the four weeks as the starter, averaging 14.1 half-point PPR fantasy points per game. He finished fourth in yards after contact per attempt (3.06) among running backs with at least 30 rushing attempts during those four weeks. If White is the starter for Las Vegas in 2024, he will be a top-15 running back, with Antonio Pierce running the show.

 

Roschon Johnson, Chicago Bears

Many called Johnson a sleeper candidate heading into the 2023 season. The Bears’ backfield lacked a clear-cut featured guy. Khalil Herbert and D'Onta Foreman have been solid players in their careers but have never been a featured running back on a productive offense. Unfortunately, things went sideways in Chicago for fantasy players. Johnson was the worst fantasy running back in the backfield, ending his rookie season as the RB49, averaging only 5.7 half-point PPR fantasy points per game.

While the former Longhorn had a disappointing rookie year, it wasn’t for the lack of talent. Johnson never earned enough consistent touches under former offensive coordinator Luke Getsy. However, he averaged 10.1 fantasy points per game in the five contests with double-digit touches. Furthermore, the rookie was the team’s most productive running back after the catch in the passing game. With Foreman unlikely to return next year, Johnson could have a post-hype breakout season.

 

Chase Brown, Cincinnati Bengals

There were a few big-name rookie running backs last year. Yet, several other rookie runners deserved more attention than they got in 2023. Brown is one of those running backs. He ended his rookie season as the RB63, averaging 3.9 half-point PPR fantasy points per game. However, the former Illinois star didn’t have a role on offense until Week 13. From that week through the end of the regular season, Brown averaged 8.8 touches per game.

More importantly, he was the RB35 over those six weeks, averaging 7.3 fantasy points per game despite having double-digit rushing attempts in only one contest. Meanwhile, the Bengals could move on from Joe Mixon this offseason, creating a larger role on offense for the young running back. Some will argue that Brown can’t handle the physical runs like Mixon. However, the rookie had a better broken tackle rate than the veteran in 2023.

 

Keaton Mitchell, Baltimore Ravens

Baltimore’s backfield has lacked a superstar for years. Unfortunately, the injury bug nearly destroyed the team’s running back unit. J.K. Dobbins suffered a torn Achilles in Week 1. While Gus Edwards and Justice Hill had productive seasons, Mitchell was the most impressive player in the Ravens’ backfield. The undrafted free-agent running back only played in eight contests but averaged 8.4 yards per rushing attempt and 8.2 half-point PPR fantasy points per game.

Mitchell finished first in yards per rushing attempt among running backs with at least 45 attempts. The explosive rookie was the RB24 over his final six contests last year, averaging 10.7 fantasy points per game. Dobbins and Edwards are free agents this offseason and might not return. While Baltimore could add a veteran like Derrick Henry in free agency, don’t be surprised if Mitchell picks up where his rookie year ended.



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