The Buffalo Bills jettisoned a lot of veteran talent from the roster in the 2024 NFL offseason. There’s no tanking in Western New York this season, though, as Josh Allen and company still expect to be a playoff team. That means there will have to be underrated 2024 Bills sleepers who have to break out, and Khalil Shakir and Gregory Rousseau are two to watch.

WR Khalil Shakir

There are two reasons why Khalil Shakir could be one of the underrated 2024 Bills sleepers to break out this season. One is Bills specific and the other is a little more general.

Taking these reasons in reverse order, the general reason that Shakir could break out this season is that he is a third-year wide receiver. The 2022 NFL Draft fifth-round pick has spent two seasons in the league, and traditionally, many wideouts break out in their third campaign.

Some of the most famous third-year WR breakouts include Keyshawn Johnson, Terrell Owens, Roddy White, Cooper Kupp, and Deebo Samuel, among others.

The point is, it often takes pass-catchers a few seasons to get used to the NFL game, but when the good ones finally do, their numbers blow up. So,  Shakir is at the perfect spot in his career to have a big season.

A more Bills-specific reason that Shakir could have eye-opening statistics this season is that there should be plenty of opportunity for new Buffalo WRs to emerge with veteran stalwarts Stefon Diggs and Gabriel Davis now gone.

In 2023, Diggs and Davis combined to catch nearly half of Allen’s 385 completions. That means there are now around 150 or more balls to go around in 2024, even if you figure in an increase for running back James Cook and tight end Dalton Kincaid.

Shakir is an excellent possession receiver and should find a specific role in the slot with rookie Keon Coleman and veterans like Chase Claypool, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, and Mack Hollins all being outside WRs.

Free-agent signing Curtis Samuel also plays mostly in the slot, but at 28 (in August), we know what he is as a player, and that’s a decent wideout without the upside that Shakir has.

DE Gregory Rousseau

Buffalo Bills defensive end Greg Rousseau (50) gestures during the first half against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Highmark Stadium.
Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

The other one of the potential 2024 Bills breakout sleepers is defensive end Gregory Rousseau. The 2021 first-round pick is not an unknown by any means after starting 46 games in his first three seasons, but he is one to watch in terms of making the leap to elite defender in the coming campaign.

Rousseau is a mountain of a man at 6-foot-6, 266 pounds, and heading into his third season, he is already one of the most well-rounded DEs in the league. Pro Football Focus graded him 13th-best overall among edge defenders and 11th against the run.

His biggest issue is finishing on the pass rush. Rousseau has never had a double-digit sack season, and last year his sack total dropped from 8.0 to 5.0. That is why PFF ranks him 28th in the league for pass rush among the edge players.

With last season’s Bills sack leader Leonard Floyd now gone and Von Miller another year older (35), Buffalo needs to get more sacks from Rousseau and A.J. Epenesa. This is Rousseau’s opportunity to take that next step from an excellent but underrated DE to one of the true game-wreckers in the NFL.

The former Miami Hurricane has the talent to make a leap, and now that he’s figured out how to become an elite run defender, doubling or even tripling his sack total from last season is the last frontier for the still-young end who just turned 24 in April.