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

The difference between enjoying your fantasy football season and wanting to pull your hair out is decided on who you draft in the early rounds. While we all love talking about the sleepers and breakout options later on in the draft, it’s important to be critical of who you select with your premium picks.

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 will adapt and evolve as ADP changes, so make sure to check back in frequently.

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

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!

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

D.J. 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

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 draft Hall as a top-12 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.

If you’re a believer in Hall bouncing back this season 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, he can be acquired for much cheaper than a top-12 RB price tag.

– Kyle Yates, Fantasy Football Director

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.

– Jason Katz, Fantasy Football Analyst

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