3 Breakout Running Backs to Target in 2024 Fantasy Football Drafts

breakout running backs in 2024 fantasy football
Which ball carriers are set up to ascend into the upper class of fantasy RBs?

Like any positional group, a handful of running backs are bonafide fantasy football studs. In 2024, this group includes Christian McCaffrey, Breece Hall, and Bijan Robinson, among others.

Drafting a player from this crop of elite ball carriers is thrilling as a fantasy manager. If all goes according to plan, you’ll be locked in for 15-20 fantasy points per game. Unfortunately, everyone in your league also wants Christian McCaffrey or Breece Hall on their team. They have been pegged as can’t-miss fantasy all-stars and are tough to land in drafts.

The real edge can be found in identifying breakout running backs or other players your league-mates overlook. Leagues are won by pinpointing players who break out to dramatically exceed expectations. Last season, Rachaad WhiteKyren Williams, and James Cook highlighted the group of breakout running backs.

White and Cook emerged from the RB dead zone to deliver RB1 seasons. Along with his teammate Puka Nacua, Williams was a league-winning waiver wire pickup.

Three breakout running backs are clear candidates to emerge into the upper tier of 2024 fantasy football. Let’s dive in.

ZAMIR WHITE, RB LAS VEGAS RAIDERS (CONSENSUS ADP: RB24)

Drafting Zamir White is not the easiest bet to make, given that the jury is still out on whether or not he is actually talented. During his four-game stretch (Weeks 15-18) as the starter, White looked good. However, extrapolating a small sample size has gotten drafters into trouble before (*cough* Cam Akers *cough*).

Ultimately, talent is nice to have in a fantasy running back but is oddly not the key factor in determining their success. Volume is king.

If anyone in the middle rounds of drafts is in line to see a massive workload, it’s Zamir White. In those four games as the Raiders’ RB1, White averaged 17.1 weighted opportunities per game (WOPG). Across a full season, White would have ranked fifth in this metric.

Given head coach Antonio Pierce’s player usage tendencies, White could once again face a colossal workload.

White monopolizing the Las Vegas backfield will require him to keep Alexander Mattison, Ameer Abdullah, and Dylan Laube off the field. This is by no means an impossible task, given the talent of each of these backs.

White will be given every opportunity to prove he can handle bell-cow work. He could easily be a top-ten RB in WOPG if reasonably effective in this role. An enormous workload would set up White for a breakout season in 2024.

JAVONTE WILLIAMS, RB DENVER BRONCOS (CONSENSUS ADP: RB30)

This year marks year four of Javonte Williams‘ NFL career. To this point, his production has been anything but steady. After a promising rookie season, Williams was the running back breakout candidate heading into the 2022 season. Drafters were all over the emerging talent, drafting him as the RB13.

Williams’ potential was never realized as an ACL tear ended his season in Week 4. His return from injury in 2023 wasn’t pretty. He finished as the per-game RB31 and didn’t exactly look good on the field.

However, players returning from a multi-ligament tear (Williams tore his ACL and LCL) are rarely effective in their first year back from injury. Returning to a player’s baseline performance and effectiveness typically takes two years. Broncos head coach Sean Payton recognizes this as well.

Williams is now two seasons removed from his injury and, when healthy, is clearly the most talented back in Denver. Due to perceived competition in Denver and his troubling season last year, his price is firmly in RB3 territory.

No matter how exciting Jaleel McLaughlin is or how you feel about Audric Estime, a healthy Williams offers a skillset that Denver’s other running backs lack.

When he can be drafted as a bench asset, betting on a return to form is easy with Williams.

JONATHON BROOKS, RB CAROLINA PANTHERS (CONSENSUS ADP: RB27)

Despite an ACL tear in November, the Carolina Panthers selected Jonathon Brooks in Round 2 of the NFL Draft as the RB1 of the 2024 draft class. Brooks offers a unique set of circumstances that will play a role in his path to fantasy success.

First, he must recover from an ACL tear. Unlike Javonte Williams, Brooks suffered a single-ligament tear. Given the nature of the injury and his age (21 on July 21st), Brooks could return to form this season.

Yet, if Brooks can’t get reps during training camp and the preseason, the coaching staff may feel comfortable easing him in during the first few of the season. At this point, it seems that Brooks will miss some of training camp.

Once up to speed, it’s wheels up for Brooks. When healthy, he’s by far the most talented back in Carolina. Miles Sanders fell flat on his face early in the year, and Chuba Hubbard proved to be rather pedestrian as a starter last season.

Carolina’s new HC, Dave Canales, is willing to use a bell-cow back. As the Tampa Bay OC last season, Canales gave Rachaad White the second most touches of any RB.

As mentioned in the tweet, White’s massive workload may have simply been due to the lack of a quality second option. But if anyone in Carolina’s backfield will emerge to dominate touches, it’s Brooks.

The only thing that may hold Brooks back is health. At cost, this seems to be a fine bet, considering his talent and upside.

These are the three breakout running backs that we are targeting in 2024 fantasy football drafts. Who are you eyeing?

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