RB Fantasy Football Busts 2023: Players To Avoid Include Breece Hall, Ken Walker III, and Others!

As we drive closer to the start of the 2023 season, we take a look at a few highly selected running backs to be cautious about in your fantasy football drafts.

Quite often, the downfall of fantasy football championship hopes comes from a highly drafted player not performing for your team. Draft picks from the middle and late rounds that play exceptionally well can lift you to a championship, but the players you select early in your draft need to perform for your team to have a shot at the crown.

We see this season after season. A player gets injured, your second-round pick underperforms dramatically, or the expectations are too high for a player you take with one of your early selections. We then talk about these players as fantasy busts and curse their name for the rest of the season.

“I would have been great if ‘X’ had performed! I drafted him 11th overall!”

Before you get into your drafts, let’s take a look at a few highly drafted running backs who have some question marks around them. All of these players may be backs you want to pass on early and go with a safer option for your team.

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RB Fantasy Football Busts for 2023

Before we begin, we should define what we mean by a bust. When a player that is in the early hundreds in rankings has a bad year, that isn’t really a bust because the expectations aren’t nearly as high.

What we are looking for are players who are being considered in the top-20 running back choices going into the year. These would all be players filling an RB slot on your team, not a Flex option.

These players that could potentially bust may fall out of these high rankings for a number of reasons — contract disputes, injuries or injury history, competition in the backfield, or new offensive game plans can all play a factor.

Fantasy football is never a perfect science, but the players we discuss below all certainly have some question marks around their 2023 season. Let’s dig into each of them and why you should be cautious when selecting these running backs.

Breece Hall, RB, New York Jets

After having an exceptional start to his career, Breece Hall and the New York Jets were dealt with the blow of the rookie back tearing his ACL in Week 7 of the 2022 season. Hall was putting up exceptional numbers in his first few games, and many are optimistic he can return to form in 2023.

However, Hall was just recently activated off the Jets’ PUP list. It has taken him a good deal of time to return from the ACL injury. Additionally, even when running backs return from this injury and play in games, it typically takes time for them to fully be themselves again.

On top of all of this, New York just added Dalvin Cook to their backfield. While Cook is not the same running back we saw finishing as a top-five player in his early career, the signing shows that the Jets are all-in this year.

With the Aaron Rodgers trade, New York is looking to compete now. The team will likely rely on Cook as they slowly bring Hall back to health.

I love Hall’s talent and his outlook long term, but his current situation has me cautious about taking him at his current ADP. Hall is currently still being drafted as the RB13 and 33 overall in non-Superflex leagues. There are many safer RB options being selected around this spot. Jahmyr Gibbs, Joe Mixon, and Aaron Jones are the next three backs off the board, and all have a much clearer path to success in 2023.

For now, I think it’s best suited for owners to avoid Hall unless he starts falling into the fourth round of your drafts. His situation is just too murky to trust him with a high selection.

Ken Walker III, RB, Seattle Seahawks

Another running back with a great start in his rookie year, Ken Walker III at least is not recovering from a major injury as he heads into his sophomore season. But, just like Hall, the second-year back will be dealing with more competition in his backfield this season.

While Walker had a good showing for the Seahawks last season, Seattle still decided to invest a second-round pick in the 2023 draft at running back. They selected former Michigan Wolverine and UCLA Bruin Zach Charbonnet, who was the third RB prospect selected in the 2023 NFL Draft.

RB Fantasy Football Busts 2023: Players To Avoid Include Breece Hall, Ken Walker III, and Others!

Walker is still being selected as RB17 and 44 overall in drafts, according to ADP, but the situation in Seattle is very unclear. Historically, the team has played backs on more of a hot-hand case since Pete Carroll became their head coach in 2010.

While you think you may have the top guy in Seattle going into a year, it isn’t always the guy that starts every game for the team. Just ask fantasy managers of Rashaad Penny, Chris Carson, DeeJay Dallas, Mike Davis, and Thomas Rawls. All of these backs started multiple games for the Seahawks in the last six seasons.

I believe Walker is still set to be the top guy in Seattle, but with solid competition behind him, it’s hard to feel comfortable about his starting spot. If Charbonnet gets some carries early and looks good in the offense, we could see the two backs splitting or Charbonnet taking over a bigger portion of the touches. The competition is just a bit too talented to feel confident that Walker is a top-20 guy.

J.K. Dobbins, RB, Baltimore Ravens

Since joining the league in 2020, J.K. Dobbins has been one of the most efficient backs in the league. He has a career 5.9 yards per attempt in the games he has played for the Ravens.

But the catch is that, while efficient, Dobbins hasn’t seen a whole lot of action. He’s missed 27 of Baltimore’s 50 games since he was brought in by the team. With injury issues throughout his career, many have been hoping Dobbins will be able to return for a full season in 2023.

But Dobbins was not fully active for camp this year either. He was on the PUP list while in contract disputes with the team and didn’t see his first practice until Aug. 14. Additionally, the Ravens brought in a new offensive coordinator, Todd Monken, who will look to have more balance in the rushing and passing attacks in Baltimore.

With a long injury history, contract disputes, a new offensive system, and a mobile QB in Lamar Jackson (who will cut into the rushing yards and rushing touchdowns as well), it’s difficult for me to want to draft Dobbins at his current RB20 ADP.

A back who has continuously had issues and not been available for his fantasy teams is reason enough for me to avoid him early in my drafts. You just can’t afford to have a bust with one of your top picks when building up your team.

Alexander Mattison, RB, Minnesota Vikings

As mentioned earlier, Cook has moved on from Minnesota to the Big Apple with the Jets. This leaves behind a starting role with the Vikings that Alexander Mattison is set to fill in 2023.

Mattison is inexperienced as being the lead man in the offense, with only six starts in his four years in Minnesota. He was not inefficient in those starts but was not a world-beater either. Mattison averaged 4.08 yards per attempt in those six starts. While a small sample size, it’s lower in comparison to the 4.7 average Cook had in his career with the Vikings.

My main concern with Mattison is the uncertainty that he will be Minnesota’s lead guy all year. The RB room doesn’t have much top competition, with Kene Nwangwu, Ty Chandler, and rookie DeWayne McBride being the top competition. However, we’ve never seen Mattison carry a full workload, and we can’t be certain that Minnesota won’t go with a committee approach.

Mattison’s current ADP is not horrible. He’s being drafted as the RB21 and 60th overall in standard leagues. But if I’m drafting in a redraft league, I’m a bit too skeptical that Mattison is going to get enough production this season.

As far as risks, Mattison is probably one of your better options. However, wide receivers like Christian Kirk, Brandon Aiyuk, Diontae Johnson, and Tyler Lockett are getting drafted behind Mattison. I’d feel more confident with taking a WR from that list and then taking a running back like Cam Akers, James Conner, or David Montgomery with my next pick.

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