Getty Images

Every year, we are introduced to new NFL stars. Kyren Williams and Puka Nacua of the Los Angeles Rams took the football world by storm in 2023, while Montez Sweat led two different teams in sacks. The Dallas Cowboys introduced us to a couple of stars as well, in cornerback DaRon Bland, who recorded the most pick sixes in a single season in NFL history, and Pro Bowl kicker Brandon Aubrey. Which players will take their games to new levels in 2024? 

Below, we will discuss one player from each AFC team who is relatively under the radar right now, but has star potential. 

Baltimore Ravens

Let's start off with a hot take. There aren't many "under the radar" players on the Ravens, but one is the man who is replacing Patrick Queen at linebacker. We saw how Queen fared playing alongside Roquan Smith. Why can't Trenton Simpson stand out as well?

The third-round pick out of Clemson recorded just 13 combined tackles and one sack in 15 games played with zero starts in 2023, but in the regular-season finale, where he got to play a season-high 26 defensive snaps, Simpson recorded seven combined tackles, his one sack and two tackles for loss. 

Additionally, CBS Sports NFL Draft expert Chris Trapasso was high on Simpson throughout the draft process:

"Trenton Simpson, who's an off-ball linebacker but was like the No. 1 off-ball linebacker recruit a couple years ago. From the little film that I've watched of him of that Clemson defense, kind of has some Micah Parsons-esque ability that they use him as a blitzer and edge rusher a lot," Trapasso said. "He's long but very chiseled already early in his college career. Trenton Simpson is a name to keep an eye on."

Buffalo Bills

The Bills picked up the fifth-year option on Greg Rousseau's contract this offseason -- keeping the former first-round pick in Buffalo for the next two years. In 2023, he recorded five sacks, a career-high 12 tackles for loss and a career-high 18 QB hits. The 24-year-old Rousseau has recorded 17 sacks in 46 career games, and could be primed for his best season yet.

Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals pass defense stunk in 2023, but that wasn't Cam Taylor-Britt's fault. In his second NFL season, the former second-round pick recorded 50 combined tackles, and tied for the team lead in passes defensed with 11, and interceptions with four in just 12 games played. If Taylor-Britt can remain healthy in 2024, he could be key to a Bengals postseason run. 

Cleveland Browns

If Grant Delpit can stay on the field, he's in for a career year in 2024. The former LSU Tiger recorded 80 combined tackles, a career-high 1.5 sacks, three passes defensed and one interception in 13 games played this past season before his campaign was cut short due to a groin issue. He's a fun piece to watch in Jim Schwartz's scheme, and Cleveland has already financially committed to him

Denver Broncos

Marvin Mims
DEN • WR • #19
REC YDs377
View Profile

Marvin Mims is a player Broncos fans want to see more of in 2024. In Week 2 against the Washington Commanders, he reached 20+ mph on three of his four first-half touches, becoming just the third player to do so in a half since 2018, per Next Gen Stats. Mims gained +70 receiving yards over expected on two receptions, and added +31 punt return yards over expected on his one return in that first half as well. Mims caught five passes for 186 total yards and one touchdown in Weeks 2-3, but ended the season with just 377 receiving yards and one touchdown on 22 catches. Why wasn't he used more? I'm not sure. 

Courtland Sutton is worried about his contract, Jerry Jeudy was traded away and Denver has a new quarterback. Maybe 2024 is the year for Mims. 

Houston Texans

Christian Harris certainly stood out to Texans fans in 2023, but he's not a household name. In his second NFL season, Harris recorded 101 combined tackles, two sacks and seven passes defensed. In the wild-card round vs. Cleveland, he made eight tackles, recorded one sack and had a pick six as well. It's fair to say DeMeco Ryans has been great for his development, and Harris may be poised for stardom. 

Indianapolis Colts

Here's an interesting name. The former third-round pick out of Virginia missed the entire 2023 season due to injury, but caught 25 passes for 312 yards and three touchdowns as a rookie in 2022. Jelani Woods could be Anthony Richardson's security blanket in 2024. Shane Steichen saw how tight ends can make life easy on quarterbacks during his time with the Philadelphia Eagles, so the former 6-foot-7 all-state basketball player could be utilized as a unique weapon in Indy. 

Jacksonville Jaguars

The rookie out of Oklahoma started all 17 games for the Jaguars in 2023. Anton Harrison didn't necessarily rack up Pro Bowl votes, but he adapted and got better as the year went on. All of Harrison's allowed sacks came during the first eight games of the season, while he surrendered zero sacks in his final nine games, per PFF (H/T Expect a big second-year jump for Harrison.

Kansas City Chiefs

This would have been my answer for the Chiefs last year as well, but Nick Bolton missed more than half the 2023 season with a dislocated wrist. So, he will continue to fly under the radar for football fans outside of Kansas City, but I'm expecting a huge campaign with Bolton in a contract year. 

In 2022, Bolton racked up 180 combined tackles (second among all players), two sacks and three passes defensed to go along with two interceptions. He could have won Super Bowl MVP in the win over the Eagles, as he recorded nine combined tackles and a fumble recovery he took back for a touchdown.

Las Vegas Raiders

Trevon Moehrig had his best NFL season under Antonio Pierce, recording 83 combined tackles, his first two career sacks, eight passes defensed and three interceptions. Career numbers all across the board. The Raiders could have a top-10 defense in 2024, and Moehrig patrolling the secondary will be a reason why. Moehrig's NFL career has been somewhat of a rollercoaster so far, but I imagine his best playing days are ahead. 

Los Angeles Chargers

Derwin James headlines L.A.'s safeties, but Alohi Gilman is pretty good, too. In fact, PFF ranked Gilman as the No. 18 safety entering 2024. I bet you wouldn't have guessed that. Gilman had a career year in 2023 despite missing three games, as he recorded a career-high 73 combined tackles, 10 passes defensed, three forced fumbles and two interceptions. His 89.2 PFF coverage grade in 2023 ranked fifth among all safeties. The Chargers locked Gilman down with a two-year extension worth $11 million. That may be a steal. 

Miami Dolphins

De'Von Achane
MIA • RB • #28
View Profile

The Dolphins were a tough team for this exercise, but running back De'Von Achane appears to have legitimate star potential. The rookie rushed for 800 yards and eight touchdowns on 103 rushing attempts, and caught 27 passes for 197 yards and scored three more touchdowns through the air. He accomplished all of this in just 11 games played. In his second NFL game, Achane rushed for 203 yards and scored four total touchdowns! From Weeks 3-5, he crossed 100 rushing yards each time before a knee injury placed him on injured reserve. Like many of the players discussed in this piece, health is going to be important for Achane moving forward. 

The Dolphins have an epic running back room with Raheem Mostert, the rookie Jaylen Wright and Jeff Wilson Jr., but Achane could be the one who stands above the rest. His 72.7 rushing yards per game ranked fifth in the NFL, and he averaged one touchdown per contest. 

New England Patriots

As a rookie, Keion White recorded 26 combined tackles, one sack and three passes defensed. With Jerod Mayo now in charge, he's ready to take that next step forward. In fact, Mayo has already spoken about being impressed by last year's second-round pick. 

"Yeah, look, his versatility, he's always been a strong guy, but I would say he is even stronger now and he is doing a good job," Mayo told reporters. "He is here each and every day, and in the meeting rooms, he is actually kind of talking and leading those conversations, which I think is important. And we always talk about that Year 2 jump, that's the biggest jump you're going to have."

New York Jets

I don't like to use rookies in these pieces, but Malachi Corley is certainly a sleeper. Known as the "YAC King" after leading the FBS in yards after catch over the last three years, Corley was dubbed by Aaron Rodgers as his "favorite receiver in the draft." While Corley appears to be this elusive spark plug, Garrett Wilson also described him as a "bowling ball." He's someone to keep an eye on -- especially since he may have Rodgers' blessing. 

Pittsburgh Steelers

Pat Freiermuth
PIT • TE • #88
REC YDs308
View Profile

Pat Freiermuth caught seven touchdowns in his rookie season, crossed 700 yards receiving the next year, but then came 2023. He missed five games due to a hamstring injury, and caught 32 passes for 308 yards and two touchdowns -- all career-low numbers. Freiermuth has said that Arthur Smith's new offense is "very exciting" for tight ends, and he may be onto something. Under Smith, Kyle Pitts became just the second rookie tight end in NFL history to cross 1,000 receiving yards, and the first rookie tight end to make the Pro Bowl in almost two decades. Smith also found success using Atlanta's TE2 in Jonnu Smith, who caught 50 passes for a career-high 582 yards and three touchdowns last season. Pitts and Smith both finished inside the top 15 in receiving yards among tight ends in 2023, and top 18 in targets. No other NFL team had two tight ends rank that high in either statistical category.

Tennessee Titans

Tyjae Spears
TEN • RB • #2
View Profile

I was nervous when it was reported right after he was drafted that Tyjae Spears was missing an ACL and already had arthritis, but he quickly won over coaches, teammates and fans alike in one season with the Titans. The Tulane kid rushed for 453 yards and two touchdowns on 100 rushing attempts, and caught 52 passes for 385 yards and one score through the air. People don't realize that Spears' 838 scrimmage yards ranked No. 10 among all rookies. 

Spears is a dual-threat weapon, and while Tony Pollard was brought in this offseason, head coach Brian Callahan has made it clear the second-year back is going to have a role in this offense.