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6 NFL Players Primed To Make an All-Pro Leap in 2024

Alex Kay

Each year the NFL world witnesses several players raising their game to new heights.

While most of these talents were already well known and regarded around the league for the contributions they've made early in their careers, they become the class of their respective positions by taking necessary steps such as putting in extra work in training camp, adding new skills to their repertoire or capitalizing on an improved roster surrounding them.

There's plenty of room for new players to follow this path and make an All-Pro leap of their own in 2024. With the retirement of several well-established superstars such as Aaron Donald and Jason Kelce, there are spots openly available for the next generation to step up and take..

With that in mind, here's a look at six players primed to make their initial appearance on the All-Pro first team next season

QB Brock Purdy, San Francisco 49ers

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Brocky Purdy has experienced a meteoric rise from being the Mr. Irrelevant selection of the 2022 draft to becoming an MVP finalist in just his first full season as a starter. At the age of 24, the rising San Francisco 49ers star is already a Pro Bowler and experienced playoff signal-caller who is only scratching the surface of his potential.

Purdy should soon take another leap towards greatness. While his rapid development had some luck involved since he was fortunate enough to land with an elite team and injuries helped him ascend the depth chart, it was sheer talent that allowed him to put a stranglehold on the job once he secured it.

After winning his first five regular season starts and two playoff games as a rookie, it took a serious injury in that year's NFC Championship Game to slow Purdy. San Francisco's brass clearly saw enough by then to commit to him and proved that by trading away Trey Lance, ending any chance of a quarterback controversy in the Bay Area.

Purdy healed in time for the 2023 campaign and took advantage of the clear path towards superstardom. His stellar campaign now has him set up to be San Francisco's top signal-caller for years to come.

While Purdy's chances of earning an MVP award in 2023 were derailed with some uncharacteristic turnovers and middling play late in the year, he still completed 69.4 percent of his throws for 4,280 yards and 31 touchdowns. His output dipped with the competition ratcheting up in the playoffs, but Purdy still led his side back from a huge deficit in the NFC Championship Game and went all the way to overtime in the Super Bowl before coming up just short of his first Lombardi Trophy.

That likely won't be the last glimpse of Purdy on the league's biggest stage. With San Francisco returning most of the key talent from last year's squad and augmenting it with several key free-agent and draft acquisitions, the Niners' quarterback will be better than ever in 2024 following his first healthy offseason as the team's QB1.

WR George Pickens, Pittsburgh Steelers

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Despite playing in one of the league's most inept offenses for the entirety of his two-year career, George Pickens has still managed to put up some respectable numbers while positioning himself to soon emerge as one of the NFL's next great wideouts.

The 23-year-old put himself on the map as a rookie when he caught 52 passes for 801 yards and four scores and further elevated his game during a 63-catch, 1,140-yard, five-touchdown sophomore campaign in 2023.

Pickens accomplished these impressive numbers while working within the constraints of former offensive coordinator Matt Canada's scheme, a limited system primarily orchestrated by quarterback Kenny Pickett, who failed to develop into the franchise signal-caller the Steelers were hoping he'd become.

With Arthur Smith taking over as Pittsburgh's offensive coordinator and nine-time Pro Bowl quarterback Russell Wilson ready to revitalize his career with the club, it should come as little surprise if and when Pickens makes a herculean leap in Year 3.

There's no shortage of motivation for Pickens to improve his game. He's already publicly griped about being denied a Pro Bowl invite during his rookie year and again came up short of that stated goal despite the increase in production last season.

According to Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the wideout admitted he hasn't even been sleeping some nights while thinking about football. He also stated that he has plenty of untapped potential, a ceiling that Wilson should be able to help him reach in 2024:

When asked by Mackey to put a percentage on the talent he's shown so far in the NFL, Pickens responded: "I'd probably say 80%. I can only go off of how the quarterback plays. I can thrive more...The yardage showed it. I should have made the Pro Bowl."

If the already ultra-talented wideout gets 20 percent better this season, opposing defenses are going to have a hard time stopping Pickens. He's already set for a noticeable increase in production with Diontae Johnson out of the picture, but Pickens will become a legitimate All-Pro superstar should he raise his game while garnering more targets.

TE Jake Ferguson, Dallas Cowboys

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The Dallas Cowboys proved they made the right decision in letting incumbent No. 1 tight end Dalton Schultz walk in free agency last year. The replacement, Jake Ferguson, not only matched his predecessor's impressive contributions, but surpassed them in his first year as a starter.

Ferguson, a fourth-round pick in the 2022 draft, quickly became an impact talent at a position that can often take multiple seasons to meaningfully contribute at after being drafted. While he had just 19 catches for 174 yards and two scores as a rookie working behind Schultz, he stepped into the spotlight in 2023 and finished the year with 761 yards and five scores on 71 receptions.

That output helped earn Ferguson his first Pro Bowl nod—something Schultz never accomplished—and there appears to be plenty more accolades in his future. In an interview with ESPN's Todd Archer, the 25-year-old admitted his game is far from complete and spoke about his plans to improve this offseason.

Jason Witten, the gold standard for a Cowboys tight end, believes Ferguson is a worthy heir to his throne and believes he'll continue to develop further in 2024 (per Archer):

"I think he can do it all," Witten said, "He's a willing blocker. He can bend. ... Looks like he's smart. He's got great chemistry with Dak. Good charisma. He can run. He understands separation. So I think now seeing himself do it, here's where the growth comes."

If Ferguson rounds out his game and becomes an even bigger part of Dallas' offensive plans this coming season, he'll be right in the mix for All-Pro honors.

OT Jordan Mailata, Philadelphia Eagles

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The Philadelphia Eagles have been reaping the rewards of the NFL's International Pathway Program. The club took a chance on former Australian rugby player Jordan Mailata, who came up through the program, late in the 2018 draft and rapidly molded his raw, inexperienced talent into one of the league's top left tackles.

Mailata had the unteachable size and athleticism to dominate at that position, but it took tutelage from the club's coaching staff to turn the 6'8", 365-pounder into a premium NFL player. Now that he's entering his seventh campaign—and fifth as a starter—Mailata looks ready to make a leap into the top-tier of his profession.

Despite signing a four-year, $64 million contract in 2021 and re-upping on a pricy three-year, $66 million extension back in April, Mailata has yet to earn any Pro Bowl or All-Pro distinctions. Pro Football Focus has taken note of his contributions, however, as the site has consistently dished out stellar grades to the Sydney native.

Mailata earned a strong PFF grade of 84.1 in 2023 after he gave up just three sacks across 1,147 offensive snaps. He was named to PFF's second-team All-Pro squad at the left tackle position, trailing only a generational star in Trent Williams. It was the second time in the last three years that Mailata finished as a runner-up to Williams and he will have an opportunity to finally surpass Williams in 2024.

Although he now has plenty of reps under his belt, Mailata is only 27 years old and still honing his craft after getting such a late start playing football. The Philadelphia standout is on the cusp of finally putting it all together and will become a fixture on the All-Pro team once he does.

Edge Maxx Crosby, Las Vegas Raiders

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Maxx Crosby has established himself as a true force on the edge, but he's still lacking the hardware to prove he's the premiere talent at his premium position.

While he's garnered three consecutive Pro Bowl nods and made the second All-Pro team in two of the last three years, he's yet to make a first-team leap. Expect that to change in 2024 as Crosby prepares to take his game to the next level.

During an appearance on the The NFL Report with Steve Wyche, Brian Baldinger, and James Palmer, Crosby said he's made major strides this offseason:

"I pride myself on being the best in every category, and I know I'm getting close to that every single day, So, it's been an incredible offseason, I feel great, my knee is feeling great, my hand as well. So, yeah, I've got the best team around me."

Opposing quarterbacks should fear an even more dangerous Crosby, as he's been consistently contributing since placing second in the Defensive Rookie of the Year race back in 2019. The Eastern Michigan product has tallied 52 sacks—including a career-best 14.5 last year—and 202 pressures. He's also established himself as a true three-down defensive end who has logged a considerable 4,746 defensive snaps since entering the league.

The Raiders clearly expect more from Crosby in 2024 too as the club raised his pay to be more commensurate with his contributions. According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, the pass rusher had an additional $6 million tacked onto the four-year, $95 million contract extension he signed in 2022 without any years being added to the deal.

With more financial security and a strong offseason under his belt, Crosby will be in the running to lead the league in sacks and finally break through as a first-team All-Pro superstar.

DB Jaylon Johnson, Chicago Bears

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The Chicago Bears made plenty of headlines this offseason for their marquee draft selections and free-agent signings, but the long-term extension they hammered out with a homegrown talent was arguably one of their most impactful moves.

By locking down rising star corner Jaylon Johnson through the 2027 season, the Bears shored up the cornerback position for the foreseeable future Johnson had a career year, earning his first Pro Bowl nod and securing second-team All-Pro honors to prove it.

Although he's been a fixture in the starting lineup since the club selected him in the second round of the 2020 draft, Johnson elevated his game to another level. He secured a career-high four interceptions—including one returned for a touchdown—and only allowed a personal-best completion rate of 55.2 percent while giving up just two touchdowns across the 58 targets he faced in 2023.

Johnson scored a phenomenal 90.8 Pro Football Focus grade and landed a spot on the site's first-team All-Pro squad. PFF noted that he allowed a mere 195 yards on plays in which he was the primary coverage defender—the fewest of any corner to log at least 250 coverage snaps this past season.

Chicago rewarded Johnson by giving him a four-year, $76 million contract just days after hitting the cornerback with the franchise tag.

Only 25 years old and barely scratching the surface of his immense potential, Johnson will play a critical role over the next few years for a Bears squad seeking to exit its rebuild and become a contender. If Johnson develops into a regular on the All-Pro first team—a real possibility based on his rare mix of proven production and vast potential—Chicago will be a nightmare matchup for opposing quarterbacks.


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