Ranking Chicago Bears with Best Chances for Breakout Seasons (2024)

Most rookies enter the NFL expecting big immediate splashes only to find disappointment.

It's definitely a league where a player needs to earn their spurs at most positions before they're capable of excelling. For intance, Pepsi sponsors an NFL rookie of the year award in conjunction with

As such, the majority of players fall into the category in Years 2 and 3 of hoping for breakout years.

It took both cornerback Jaylon Johnson and tight end Cole Kmet into their third seasons before this happened, Johnson finally getting his passer rating against when targeted below 100 while making his first career interception and Kmet with a career-high seven touchdown receptions and 72.7% catch/target percentage. Then both went on to even bigger things in Year 4 while they earned their second contracts

The Bears have several potential candidates for big steps of this kind, including one who is being tabbed by one website as one of the best bets for this season to break out.

Here are the most likely Bears beakout candidates, including a real favorite for Year 2.

1. CB Tyrique Stevenson

In writing about the league's top breakout candidates, Marcus Mosher of The33rdteam.com places the 2023 second-round pick from Miami among four defensive players who are the NFL's most likely defensive breakout candidates this season.

"While he had his fair share of rough moments, he created several significant plays," Mosher wrote. "Stevenson recorded four interceptions, 16 pass deflections and two forced fumbles. He was the playmaker the Bears hoped they would get when they selected him 56th overall in the 2023 NFL Draft."

With numbers like those, Stevenson might appear to have had his "breakout" year as a rookie. However, Stevenson allowed four touchdown passes. The only cornerback burned for more was James Bradbury of the Eagles with 11.

The reason there is hope for Stevenson making the next big step is he allowed only two of those nine TDs in the final seven games of the season. Four times in those seven games he had a passer rating against of 42.4 or lower. He allowed only 53% completions then (26 of 49) after giving up 71% completions in the first 10 games.

So the trend is definitely favoring Stevenson's progress to the point where it's easy to believe he'll take this next big step up. His momentum was already building at season's end.

Mosher calls the task a bit easier for Stevenson because of Johnson's presence.

"Stevenson won't be tasked with covering No. 1 receivers often, meaning he'll see a lot of 1-on-1 coverage on the other side," Mosher wrote.


(🎥 @ChicagoBears)

— PFF (@PFF) May 30, 2024

2. QB Caleb Williams

It's rare for quarterbacks to have smashing seasons as rookies the way C.J. Stroud did. Only five rookie QBs have ever hit the 4,000-yard barrier and as good as Stroud was, he didn't do it. Could Williams? Despite numerous reasons to expect otherwise, there are good reasons to think he can. Part of the reason is the offensive system. Geno Smith threw for 4,282 in his first season under offensive coordinator Shane Waldron and didn't have three wide receivers at the level Williams will this season. They didn't have Jaxon Smith-Njigba in Seattle in 2022 when Smith broke 4,000 yards in his first full year as Seahawks starter. Then again, Smith had a head start and knew the league already because he was 31 years old. He had started 34 NFL games when he did it and had a head start in the Waldron offense, as well, because he started three games in 2021 as Russell Wilson's replacement. Chris Simms ranks Williams higher against the other QBs in the league than any he has ever graded a rookie at No. 20 while Pro Football Focus calls him the 19th best QB without even playing a down. Of course he can be a strong candidate for breakout player as a mere rookie. He's already the favorite for rookie of the year.

I truly think Kyler Gordon and Jaquan Brisker could be pro bowlers this year.#DaBears pic.twitter.com/HaAIB6jQo4

— Harrison Graham (@HGrahamNFL) May 29, 2024

3. CB Kyler Gordon

It's Year 3 for Gordon and the thing the Bears' slot cornerback has done best besides imitate your "friendly neighborhood" Marvel superhero is make plays on the football. He has five interceptions in his first two seasons and his recognition as a budding star might have occurred already if not for injuries. With three missed games in Year 1 and four straight last year in Weeks 2-5, it's simply been a matter of getting on the field and staying there for Gordon. Playing a difficult position to handle, Gordon already lowered his passer rating against last year to 93.9, which is low for a slot cornerback. His three interceptions last season made it apparent he can make plays on the ball. Continued good health seems his launch point.



4. WR Rome Odunze

Odunze was named the best pick of the draft by ESPN's Matt Miller and was sixth overall on Field Yates' ESPN draft board. As one of the top three receivers drafted in a strong class for wide receivers, Odunze should have Bears fans expecting he'll make an immediate impact rather than hoping for it. There is one catch making this less likely, however. With DJ Moore and Keenan Allen and two good tight end targets available, getting enough passes to make an impact might challenge Odunze in Year 1. While he could learn from both Allen and Moore, he'll also be deprived of targets by them.

Daniel Jeremiah had Rome Odunze ranked as the 3rdOverall Prospect (2nd WR) in the Draft had it.

1. Caleb Williams
3.Rome Odunze

Mel Kiper had Rome as the 4thOverall Prospect(2nd WR) as Kiper had it:
1. C William
2. Jayden Daniels
3. MHJ
4.Romehttps://t.co/Z8jXEmhu0d pic.twitter.com/8ScfLaWOvd

— BEARS WON THE DRAFT - BY ALOT (@kratosthefourth) May 27, 2024

5. G Teven Jenkins

After Jenkins has been graded among the top 15 guards in the NFL two straight years by Pro Football Focus, you'd think he would already be established. You'd also think he would have started more than 24 games by now going into his contract year but he hasn't. Jenkins has averaged less than half an NFL season for0 starts in three years and before he can be said to have had a breakout year, he's going to need to start more than his personal high of 11 games in a season.

6. T Darnell Wright

As a rookie, wright was graded higher by Pro Football Focus than any other tackle drafted in 2023. While he gave up seven sacks and committed 11 penalties, Wright also showed the trend is up. Only two of those sacks allowed came in his final 10 games and he did all of this while suffering from a shoulder injury painful enough that he easily could have been sidelined. Still, it wasn't perfect as PFF tracked him at 51 pressures allowed and 41 hurries. Wright's next step up is consistency of assignment both pass blocking and run blocking.

But he already has already shown he can be one thing linemen must be and that's durable. He missed no games last year.

7. S Jaquan Brisker

The Bears safety could be in more of a position to make plays on the ball this year if the two safeties are used interchangeably, as veteran Kevin Byard hinted. So far Brisker has played in the box more than is ideal and he also has had concussions to show for it. Brisker has allowed 10 TD passes in two seasons, according to Sportradar. His passer rating against ballooned last year from 98.6 as a rookie to 110.6, but his completion percentage allowed hasn't been abnormally high (56.3% and 61.7%). He has just allowed too many big plays or touchdowns and needs to eliminate them. If he does, it's possible an altered role with more play back deeper in the secondary could help.

The Chicago Bears land on @ColinCowherd's list of most likely new playoff teams in 2024:

"They won 7 games. They can't win 9 with a transformative college QB?" pic.twitter.com/WkHBMHksRt

— Herd w/Colin Cowherd (@TheHerd) May 30, 2024

8. DT Gervon Dexter

The Bears would love to see him on a list like this, except a little higher. In actuality, it's bending backward to put him on the list because he was simply not good during most of his rookie year. Dexter did build momentum after Montez Sweat arrived on the scene, as he made 11 of his 17 pressures and the 2 1/2 sacks then. However, ranking 118th against the run of 130 defensive tackles, according to Pro Football Focus, left real questions about whether he can even reach the level Justin Jones played at last year at 3-technique, let alone advance the defensive line with his play.

9. RB Roschon Johnson

It's not that Johnson is incapable of a breakout year in his second season but with D'Andre Swift and Khalil Herbert ahead of him there could be little chance for him to make a statement. Johnson will get spot play. His pass blocking makes him an asset, as does his receiving ability. He is easily their most powerful runner. But blending all those skills together doesn't put him ahead of either Swift or Herbert and it might take an injury for Johnson to prove he's an impact player.

This #Bears defense is very good but can you imagine if Gervon Dexter makes a leap in his play from year 1 to year 2? 👀 The monsters of the midway would be that much tougher to play against. He’s a player I’m going to be watching closely this year.


— Sky Kruse (@KruseSports_) May 25, 2024

10. DE Dominique Robinson

The chance for snow this July and August appears greater based on what Robinson has done to date, and now it's Year 3. His chance of being a breakout player will be enhanced greatly if he is even able to make the team. Then he can go from there.

Twitter: BearDigest@BearsOnMaven

Ranking Chicago Bears with Best Chances for Breakout Seasons (2024)
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