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6 NFL Backups Who Could Be Household Names by the End of 2024 Season

Brad Gagnon

Looking to build on a sophomore season in which he blew up with a league-best 95.3 rushing yards per game and 15 touchdowns in 12 outings, Kyren Williams is giving Los Angeles Rams fans and fantasy football managers their first scare of the 2024 NFL season.

The 23-year-old running back has what head coach Sean McVay described as a "foot issue" that could cost him much of the team's offseason work.

That development has us thinking about a particularly intriguing rookie backup in L.A., along with other high-potential players who currently appear to be backups but could wind up at the top of positional depth charts in the 2024 season.

Here's a rundown, starting with our focal point.

Los Angeles Rams RB Blake Corum

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Why he's a backup: Williams was quite simply one of the most productive offensive players in the NFL in 2023.

Why it might not stay that way: Foot issues can easily linger among running backs, and Williams has suffered a number of injuries two years into his pro career.

Why he can flourish: Bleacher Report NFL scout Derrik Klassen called Blake Corum an "exceptionally refined runner" after the two-time first-team All-Big Ten Michigan product scored 59 touchdowns during his college career. He's ready to make a difference now.

Pittsburgh Steelers RB Jaylen Warren

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Why he's a backup: Najee Harris is a veteran with the bigger name and the first-round pedigree. He had 106 more carries than Jaylen Warren in 2023.

Why it might not stay that way: The team didn't exercise Harris' fifth-year option, which could be an indication he'll be allowed to walk after the 2024 campaign. With that strong potential outcome in place, the staff will want to get plenty of looks at Warren.

Why he can flourish: The undrafted Oklahoma State product has averaged 5.1 yards per carry in his first two seasons (5.3 in 2023 alone), and he's a tremendous asset in the passing game already. He flashed signs of greatness midway through the 2023 campaign and that battering-ram approach could pave the way for him to become a standout in no time.

New Orleans Saints RB Kendre Miller

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Why he's a backup: Alvin Kamara and Jamaal Williams get the (relatively) big bucks and continue to take priority for a team that likes to believe it can still contend.

Why it might not stay that way: The Saints might soon realize that's not the case, and it's possible they start going away from Kamara (who isn't the player he used to be) and Williams (who averaged a terrible 2.9 yards per carry in 2023).

Why he can flourish: Kendre Miller averaged 6.7 yards per carry in college but saw his rookie season mostly destroyed by injuries. However, he still looked strong in short doses before shining with limited support in the season finale. The TCU product possesses the size and speed to become something special, and that could happen soon.

Green Bay Packers WR Dontayvion Wicks

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Why he's a backup: Christian Watson, Romeo Doubs and Jayden Reed are similar ages and were drafted higher. On a per-game basis, they were much more heavily targeted than Dontayvion Wicks in 2023.

Why it might not stay that way: None of those guys has done enough to earn a heavy grip on an every-down, go-to role. I could easily see Wicks stealing Doubs' job outside.

Why he can flourish: Wicks was the only guy in that group to catch at least 67 percent of the passes on which he was targeted while averaging more than 14.0 yards per reception. He roasted his teammates in terms of yards per target. He also came on late as a rookie, with 187 yards and three touchdowns in his final three 2023 regular-season games.

Washington Commanders TE Ben Sinnott

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Why he's a backup: Veteran Zach Ertz has earned respect after such a strong career, and the Commanders need that experience for young elements such as Ben Sinnott and quarterback Jayden Daniels to develop at their own pace.

Why it might not stay that way: Ertz likely doesn't have much left in him. The 33-year-old hasn't been much of a factor since he was with the Eagles and Cardinals, and with Logan Thomas gone, there aren't many other good options on the tight end depth chart.

Why he can flourish: Sinnott put up 676 yards in 12 games last year at Kansas State, and he's got the speed and positional versatility to be a factor in a multitude of ways right off the bat in Washington.

Tennessee Titans QB Mason Rudolph

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Why he's a backup: Will Levis did enough as a rookie in 2023 to earn the Week 1 starting role in 2024.

Why it might not stay that way: Levis started hot with 130-plus passer ratings in two of his first four games, but he completed fewer than 60 percent of his passes in his final five starts and posted a sub-80 rating. He likely won't be able to keep the starting role long if that continues into 2024.

Why he can flourish: Mason Rudolph might not have done much overall during his six years in Pittsburgh, but the talent is there and he's still only 28 years of age. What's more, he's coming off a short stretch with the Steelers in which he was pretty impressive in 2023. The odds might still not be in his favor, but wilder things happen in this league every year.


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