Fantasy Football Busts 2023: Players To Avoid Include Davante Adams, Deebo Samuel, Travis Kelce, and More

A fantasy football championship can be decided by who you draft in the early rounds. Our staff lists several busts that you should consider avoiding in 2023.

There’s a strong correlation between wanting to rip your hair out in frustration and missing on one of your first picks in fantasy football because that player failed to meet expectations.

As much as we love these players and think that they’re incredibly talented, for one reason or another, some will simply fail to meet the hype surrounding them and it’s incredibly important to identify these players ahead of time…and to stay away!

At Pro Football Network, we do the research so that you can walk into your draft confident that you’re going to assemble the best team you possibly can. With that in mind, here are our expert picks for players to avoid in your drafts this year.

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2023 Fantasy Football Busts

Before we dive in, it’s important to define the terms for what is (or isn’t) a bust. For the purposes of this article, we’re looking at options inside of the top 60 in ADP, which means players that are inside the top five rounds in 12-team leagues.

This list has evolved and adapted as the offseason has moved along, but it’s time to finalize our selections for top players to avoid heading into 2023!

Kenneth Walker III, RB, Seattle Seahawks

Are we sure Kenneth Walker III is that good? He averaged 15.8 ppg last season after taking over for an injured Rashaad Penny. But it’s at least slightly concerning that he was probably going to be a backup all season if Penny didn’t get hurt. Walker saw just a 7.2% target share, so he doesn’t catch passes.

That’s rookie Zach Charbonnet’s path to getting on the field. Additionally, with second-round draft capital, Charbonnet has the skill set to be a three-down back. He can eat into Walker’s carries and goal-line work while taking all of the receiving work, relegating Walker to a significantly reduced rule that, while relevant in fantasy, isn’t anywhere near what it will cost to draft him.

– Jason Katz, Fantasy Football Analyst

Jason laid out a great case for KW3 being overdrafted, and I’m on board — fully. The Seahawks ranked 30th in average time of possession last season and were able to thrive (ninth in PPG) thanks to an outlier season from a quarterback that we had all dismissed.

The offense is likely to take a step back as a whole, and as Jason said, the Seahawks didn’t exactly display confidence in Walker with their drafting of Charbonnet in the second round. If you’re drafting Walker in the early fourth round (12-team leagues), that means you are leaving stable production in the likes of Keenan Allen, T.J. Hockenson, or Joe Mixon off of your roster, and that’s an opportunity cost that I simply cannot support. You can’t make me!

– Kyle Soppe, Fantasy Football Analyst

Jahmyr Gibbs, RB, Detroit Lions

Trying to derail a popular hype train in the fantasy community is a risky business. I’ll start with a quick disclaimer: I’m a huge advocate of Jahmyr Gibbs in dynasty formats. However, I’m pumping the brakes a bit with his third-round price tag in redraft formats.

My concerns aren’t tied to Gibbs’ talents as a pass catcher or dynamic playmaking ability. It more focuses on the impact of David Montgomery for early-down and short-yardage work. Jamaal Williams led the league in red-zone carries (57) and carries inside the 5-yard line (28) last season.

Gibbs wasn’t featured in goal-to-go situations in college, and Montgomery has proven more than capable of being effective in a similar role to that of Williams in this offense last season.

Throw in some pass protection concerns I have for Gibbs heading into the NFL, and I’m thinking Gibbs’ current ADP is a bit too aggressive when compared to other options with a clearer path to touches to start the season.

– Derek Tate, Fantasy Football Analyst

Davante Adams, WR, Las Vegas Raiders

Adams has been a stalwart at the top of fantasy rankings for years due to his significant opportunity. Since the 2021 season, Adams has been targeted 10.6 times per game on average, which is the second-highest mark of 69 qualified WRs.

Even with switching from Aaron Rodgers to Derek Carr last year, Adams actually saw the highest target total of his NFL career and remained a top-five WR for fantasy purposes!

fantasy football busts

However, 2023 now looks a lot different for the veteran WR heading into his 10th NFL season, as he will arguably be playing with the worst QB of his entire NFL career. Jimmy Garoppolo has proven that he can get the job done in the past, but that was with Kyle Shanahan calling the plays.

What will things look like now in this Raiders situation that is certainly a downgrade from the roster talent of San Francisco? Add in the fact that Garoppolo has a lengthy and extensive injury history, and we could easily see Adams catching passes from Brian Hoyer for a good chunk of the season.

Add in the other pass catchers that were brought in this offseason, and there’s a ton of risk surrounding Adams and his fantasy stock heading into this season. He’s one of the best wideouts in the entire league, but will that talent supersede all of the other factors working against him? Do you need to take that risk in the first two rounds of your fantasy football draft?

– Kyle Yates, Fantasy Football Director

Christian Watson, WR, Green Bay Packers

I want to believe in this kid, I really do, but I don’t understand how fantasy managers are comfortable locking him in as a weekly starter. What he did last season was proof of concept that he can play at this level, and that’s great, but does it really tell us anything about this season?

He’s now going to be identified as the clear top option by opposing defenses and is playing with an unknown under center in an offense that has spent capital at the running back position and has a strong defense.

His average touchdown reception was 29 yards (seventh-highest among players with at least five touchdown catches), which is a number I expect to dip along with his yards per catch and target-earning ability with Jordan Love taking over this offense. It’s not you, Christian, it’s the situation … a situation that simply will result in me having zero shares of you at the price that the market is setting.

– Kyle Soppe, Fantasy Football Analyst

DJ Moore, WR, Chicago Bears

Perhaps I am overemphasizing the situation here, but I just don’t understand D.J. Moore’s fourth-round ADP. Even with a massive target share exceeding 25%, the Bears just don’t throw enough to support quality fantasy receivers.

Even with a projected increase in passing volume, I can’t see how Moore finishes any higher than a fantasy WR3. The talent is there, but this offense would have to radically change for Moore to turn it into fantasy production.

– Jason Katz, Fantasy Football Analyst

Dameon Pierce, RB, Houston Texans

I understand that “those stats happened, so they count” argument, but indulge me for a minute. Last season, if you remove an RB-heavy script against a vulnerable Chargers defense and basically a four-corners, bleed-the-clock plan against the far superior Eagles, what was Dameon Pierce besides an average back on an awful team?

Exclude those games and his 17-game pace (and good luck counting on 17 games from any running back these days) was 277 carries for 1,034 yards and five touchdowns with 37 catches for 243 yards and one score.

In all, we are talking roughly 75 yards and a pair of receptions per game with a touchdown every 2-3 games. Is that much different than the 65 yards and 1.4 catches per game (with seven scores in 16 games) that Jeff Wilson Jr. gave you last season?

My point here isn’t that Pierce is a bad back, he’s just in a brutal spot where volume is his only pathway to upside on this pitiful offense … a pathway that becomes a bit murky with the signing of Devin Singletary to a one-year deal in March. When I’m navigating a draft, I want players with either an elite floor or ceiling, and I’m just not sure Pierce has either in Year 2.

– Kyle Soppe, Fantasy Football Analyst

Deshaun Watson, QB, Cleveland Browns

To be clear, I’m not saying Deshaun Watson will definitely be a bust. But he’s certainly a bust risk. Watson isn’t quite being priced as if he’s Houston Texans Watson, but he’s being priced closer to that than the guy we saw last season who completed 58.2% of his passes and averaged a paltry 15.1 ppg.

After nearly two years away from football, it’s entirely possible that Watson just isn’t good anymore, and I’m not sure his ADP is taking that enough into account.

– Jason Katz, Fantasy Football Analyst

Calvin Ridley, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars

We haven’t seen Ridley on a football field since Oct. 24, 2021! After Atlanta’s victory over Miami on this date, Ridley went on to not play the rest of the 2021 season with the Falcons, and then he received a year-long suspension from the NFL for gambling.

While he’s on an ascending offense, fantasy managers are putting a lot of faith in a now 28-year-old WR that hasn’t played professional football in nearly two years! As Ridley is routinely going off the board as a top-20 wideout in fantasy football drafts, he’s an incredibly risky selection.

We’ve seen good things from him in the past, but this is also a brand new situation for him where he has to build up chemistry with Trevor Lawrence and be the clear target leader over Christian Kirk, Zay Jones, Evan Engram, and more to return value on his current ADP.

Is it worth that risk?

– Kyle Yates, Fantasy Football Director

Deebo Samuel, WR, San Francisco 49ers

What is black and white and red all over?

An Excel spreadsheet after Deebo Samuel’s efficiency beat the hell out of it, that’s what. Over the past two seasons, Samuel ranks 50th among WRs with at least 20 games played (as in, yes, 49 receivers rank ahead of him) in routes run per game, and yet, the man is a top-10 receiver in all formats over that stretch. Crazy.

He’s been able to produce fantasy points by way of his elite target-earning abilities (25.5% of his routes have yielded a target) and simply being unstoppable on the ground (Alvin Kamara and Aaron Jones have one more combined rushing score than Samuel since the beginning of 2021). That’s great and all, but when does it stop?

I can’t tell you for sure that the answer is 2023, but with an iffy quarterback situation, a touch machine at running back, a playmaking tight end, and a WR2 that we all expect to level up a step (if not two) this season, consider me skeptical.

Right now, his ADP slots him ahead of a receiver whose floor I find more intriguing in Keenan Allen and a receiver whose ceiling I’m in love with in Calvin Ridley. Samuel is a fine player, his résumé just has holes that I am uncomfortable looking past in the first few rounds of the draft, and that seems to put me in the minority.

– Kyle Soppe, Fantasy Football Analyst

Deebo Samuel is arguably the best pure playmaker with the ball in his hands in the entire league, but his floor as a pure pass catcher has me a bit lower on Deebo than most.

Through his first four seasons in the NFL, Deebo has led his own team in targets and finished with more than 100 targets in a season only once in his career. Throw in the fact that Christian McCaffrey, George Kittle, and Brandon Aiyuk are all going to be very involved in this passing game, and Deebo may be a bit too TD-dependent to spend your third/fourth-round draft pick on.

– Derek Tate, Fantasy Football Analyst

Did you know that Deebo has ended the season as a top-24 WR just once in his NFL career up to this point? Two years ago, Samuel was a dominant fantasy force, but outside of that instance — where he had unworldly efficiency — he’s been a relatively mediocre fantasy option that’s missed a ton of time due to injuries.

In fact, last season — on a per-game basis — Samuel was actually outproduced by his own teammate in San Francisco, Brandon Aiyuk. However, fantasy managers seem intent on drafting Samuel as a rock-solid fantasy asset that is going to be a consistent producer week after week, which simply isn’t the case.

There should be no reason that Samuel is going ahead of Aiyuk in fantasy drafts, which means that you should probably let Deebo slide by you in the third or fourth round and scoop up his teammate two or three rounds later.

– Kyle Yates, Fantasy Football Director

DeVonta Smith, WR, Philadelphia Eagles

This one is purely based on my projections because I really do like DeVonta Smith as a talent. But when I crunched the numbers, with D’Andre Swift in town and a healthy Dallas Goedert, no matter how much I tried, Smith projected out on the WR2/3 border. I do think he’ll find a way to be better than that, but given his cost, 15 ppg seems like his absolute ceiling in 2023.

– Jason Katz, Fantasy Football Analyst

Breece Hall, RB, New York Jets

Hall’s an incredible NFL running back. He exploded onto the scene in his rookie campaign and was truly one of the best players at his position before his injury.

Unfortunately, Hall’s coming off of an injury that isn’t exactly favorable to running backs historically. A torn ACL is very difficult for players to come back from and immediately produce at a high level, which is what fantasy managers are expecting when they select Hall as a top-20 RB off the board.

J.K. Dobbins is a perfect recent case study for why fantasy managers shouldn’t buy the risk of spending a premium selection on Hall this year. While he may be ready to be on the field for Week 1, there’s no guarantee that he’s going to see a substantial workload or be at full recovery from his injury right away, especially now that Dalvin Cook is in town.

If you’re a believer in Hall bouncing back this season and taking over the backfield again toward the latter half of the year, it might be a smart strategy to let someone else draft him and deal with the down weeks while his fantasy stock slides.

At that point, you can swoop in at the trade deadline in your fantasy league and acquire him for cheap before an eventual uptick happens. Or it simply may not be meant to be in 2023, and Hall will play a rotational role for the entire season.

– Kyle Yates, Fantasy Football Director

I’m not picking on Breece Hall because he is coming off of a season-ending knee injury — I’m not exactly high on Javante Williams, either. The difference between the two is their ADP. Currently, Hall is coming off the board at 26 overall (RB10), which is 51 spots (more than four full rounds) ahead of Williams. This is expected to drop, though, with Dalvin Cook signing.

Do I believe Hall has RB1 upside? Yes. Am I willing to gamble my second or third pick on that outcome? Absolutely not. Look no further than J.K. Dobbins from last season for the risk that comes with that type of gamble on draft day.

Is it encouraging that Hall is returning to practice? Yes. Is it equally concerning the team went out and signed RB Dalvin Cook? Yes. It is not that this backfield won’t be productive, it just feels a bit uncertain to invest high draft capital in at the current moment.

– Derek Tate, Fantasy Football Analyst

Travis Kelce, TE, Kansas City Chiefs

Shots. Fired. OK, so let me explain before you take to social media to flame me. We are defining “bust” as a player that will fail to return value based on where he is being drafted, not a player that will be exiled from the league by Thanksgiving.

Kelce is a great player — the greatest fantasy tight end ever, in my humble opinion — but by taking him in the middle of the first round, a full 25+ picks ahead of anyone else at the position, you’re asking for trouble.

In PPR leagues, he was 100+ fantasy points better than any other TE, and that’s amazing … it’s also in the past. You reap exactly of those rewards this season, but that is basically what you’d need to justify his current ADP.

Not only is some regression in order (if for no other reason than it is hard to repeat a career year at the age of 34), but more importantly, the top of the position is in a better spot now than they spent parts of in last season.

Mark Andrews was without Lamar Jackson for five games last season (he had missed a total of seven games in his first four seasons), and T.J. Hockenson didn’t start realizing his fantasy potential until dealt to Minnesota midseason. You need a repeat season from all three of them to have Kelce justify his current price tag, and that’s a three-leg parlay that I’m not willing to place.

– Kyle Soppe, Fantasy Football Analyst

Jonathan Taylor, RB, Indianapolis Colts

Last season, Jonathan Taylor became one of the biggest fantasy busts of all time. Yet, his 2023 price is essentially giving him a total mulligan. Has his situation really improved?

Sure, Matt Ryan was completely cooked, but is playing with a rookie QB going to help? Taylor saw a respectable 10.8% target share last season and dominated goal-line carries. It’s very likely that the mobile Anthony Richardson causes that target share to collapse, as well as take touchdowns for himself, lowering Taylor’s overall ceiling.

I’m confident Taylor will be better than the 13.3 ppg he averaged last season, but a return to 21.9 ppg from 2021 is probably not happening. He may end up in the 15-16 ppg range, which will certainly qualify him as a bust relative to ADP.

And all of this doesn’t even take into account the added risk of him not coming back off of the PUP to play football due to a combination of his lingering ankle injury and his falling out with the Colts. He would have to fall to a bench stash option for me to consider drafting him.

– Jason Katz, Fantasy Football Analyst

Taylor is an exceptional talent who has a legitimate RB1 ceiling, but the concerns are definitely valid when assessing his range of outcomes.

The first concern is obviously that Taylor has been placed on the PUP list to begin the season after Indianapolis did not grant his trade request. Will he even come back to play football here in 2023?

The next concern is trying to pinpoint exactly what to expect from this Colts offense in 2023. Rookie quarterback Anthony Richardson is an intriguing prospect, and new head coach Shane Steichen should help with his transition to the NFL with a similar template to that of Jalen Hurts. But Richardson is still likely to experience some real growing pains in his rookie season.

The combination of these concerns makes Taylor a talented bell-cow RB that has a potential lingering issue that may not even be a top-10 option due to the offense that he’s playing in when he does return off of the PUP. Invest in JT this season at your own risk.

– Derek Tate, Fantasy Football Analyst

Terry McLaurin, WR, Washington Commanders

This is nothing personal against the individual talent, I love McLaurin’s game, but there are a lot of moving parts to this Commanders offense heading into 2023. For starters, we have absolutely no idea what we are going to get from second-year QB Sam Howell under center.

Second, Jahan Dotson is a really exciting young WR prospect in his own right and is arguably the best competition, or biggest threat, to McLaurin’s target share of his entire career.

Despite playing in a below-average offense, the biggest part of McLaurin’s draft-day value over the past four seasons is his commanding target volume.

Could McLaurin’s target share drop substantially if Dotson has a breakout season and Curtis Samuel still retains a sizable role in this offense? It feels like it is certainly in the range of outcomes.

In fact, has it already started to happen? McLaurin’s total targets have decreased each of the last three seasons. Right now, he’s going off the board in the fourth/fifth-round range at WR20 overall. That is a bit too expensive for me, considering the other options available to you at that point in the draft.

Additionally, McLaurin’s recent toe injury that could linger into the start of the season makes him an even riskier investment.

– Derek Tate, Fantasy Football Analyst

Rhamondre Stevenson, RB, New England Patriots

Stevenson was a fantasy darling last season due to his draft cost compared with his production. He emerged as one of the best fantasy assets at the RB position and truly helped carry multiple rosters to a championship last year.

However, it is worth noting that Stevenson was never supposed to have that role for the 2023 season. The Patriots had James White in line to take over the pass-catching role, while Damien Harris was projected to have a significant role coming off of a 15-touchdown campaign in 2021.

White ended up retiring prior to the 2022 season due to a nagging injury, and Harris appeared in only nine games as he dealt with his own ailments. This meant that Stevenson was handed the keys to the backfield, and he certainly made the most of his opportunity.

However, Bill Belichick has historically favored a committee approach with his backfield, and we saw that philosophy play out with Ezekiel Elliott signing a one-year deal after Week 1 of the preseason.

Stevenson’s ADP will take a hit because of it, but there may be some fantasy managers that look to hold out hope that he can still be a top-12 RB for fantasy purposes this season.

With Zeke likely to take over first and second-down work in this offense — plus the goal-line work, too — Stevenson’s going to have to remain heavily involved in the passing game for him to meet those expectations.

It’s been a motto of mine in fantasy football for years to simply avoid the New England backfield. It came back to bite me last year, but I might be right back on board with that train of thought again in 2023.

– Kyle Yates, Fantasy Football Director

George Kittle, TE, San Francisco 49ers

Did you know that as we head into the final week before the start of the 2023 NFL regular season, Kittle is still working off to the side in practices?

Yes, a top-5 TE off the board in Consensus ADP has an injury that has completely flown under the radar of the majority of fantasy managers and is not being talked about enough!

On top of that, Kittle is in a low volume passing attack that has some of those most dynamic playmakers around him to compete with those targets. He’s an incredibly gifted athlete that can easily take a screen pass 50+ yards to the house, but is that what you want to rely on as a early round selection in drafts?

There are safer options at the TE position that come with as much upside as Kittle and you don’t have to spend a premium pick to get them onto your roster.

Cooper Kupp, WR, Los Angeles Rams

There are different types of players to avoid…there are players that you want to avoid because their ADP simply doesn’t make sense and you have them ranked significantly lower, while there are other players who you simply just do not have supreme confidence in.

Kupp falls into the latter category for me. He’s supremely talented. He’ll be an absolute monster for fantasy football when he’s out there and on the field. However, after the news that he has now suffered a minor setback with his hamstring injury, it’s very difficult to completely buy in for this season, especially considering his ADP.

Fantasy managers have to spend a first or second round pick to get him onto their rosters this season. For a WR that’s now 30 years old, soft tissue injuries don’t just disappear overnight. There’s a legitimate possibility that the Rams let Kupp sit for multiple weeks to begin the year so he’s able to avoid any future setbacks.

You need your first round pick to be available for you for the entire year to really push for your fantasy championship. I’m not entirely confident that Kupp’s playing all 17 games in 2023.

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