Some bust candidates we know, some we don’t. Even the term “bust” is relative — it doesn’t always equate to a do-not-draft player and can even be someone to avoid at ADP versus an outright flop. But don’t worry — fantasy football analyst Dalton Del Don is here to do the hard work for you. He sifted through every NFL roster heading into the 2023 season to key on big-name players with serious question marks and others who are being over-drafted, and explains why they might not meet expectations in 2023.
[One sleeper to consider drafting from all 32 NFL teams]
Arizona Cardinals: Kyler Murray
Murray remains without a timetable to return from January ACL surgery. The Cardinals are underdogs in every 2023 game, are the favorites to land the No. 1 pick in the 2024 draft, and Caleb Williams looks like a truly special QB prospect. With a new regime in Arizona with zero ties to Murray, the team may not rush his return (and the new OC is likely to run a much slower pace).
Murray is also highly unlikely to run like he did before, at least in the short-term, and he struggled mightily as a passer last season (6.1 YPA!) before suffering the serious injury. He’s also had big splits with and without DeAndre Hopkins on the field throughout his career, and D-Hop is now in Tennessee (Arizona has one of the weakest offensive supporting rosters in the league).
Atlanta Falcons: Tyler Allgeier
If I’m high on Drake London, Bijan Robinson and Kyle Pitts, it’s hard to feature a Falcons player who fits here. Allgeier performed surprisingly well as a rookie, and he should remain involved in 2023. But the Falcons spent a top draft pick on elite prospect Robinson, who goes in the first round of fantasy drafts. Meanwhile, Allgeier still goes as a top-45 RB. Allgeier is unlikely to carry much standalone value in most fantasy leagues unless an injury strikes one of the league’s youngest, freshest backs.
Baltimore Ravens: Mark Andrews
Andrews is better described as “overvalued” than “bust” in this context. He’ll remain productive in a new-look Baltimore offense that’s sure to pass more in 2023, but Andrews will also see far more competition for targets. Odell Beckham Jr. joins exciting rookie first-rounder Zay Flowers along with emerging breakout candidate Rashod Bateman in a suddenly strong WR group. Isaiah Likely figures to see increased playing time as well.
Moreover, the opportunity cost of drafting a tight end in the early rounds is too great, given their production compared to RB/WR and the many late-round TE fliers available late this year.
Buffalo Bills: Dalton Kincaid
Kincaid is being drafted as a borderline top-12 fantasy tight end, which is a tough ask for any rookie at the position. While there’re plans to use Kincaid in the slot, Dawson Knox remains on Buffalo’s roster (he has an 80%+ snap share each of the last two seasons and just signed a big contract extension). The Bills ran an NFL-low 3.7% of their plays in 12-personel last year.
The 2023 rookie tight end class is different than usual; it’s likely a couple emerge with fantasy value this season. But realize it’s easily the toughest position to produce right away, with just two rookie tight ends reaching 600 receiving yards over the last decade (and only three over the past 20 years). Just two of 451 (0.5%) rookie tight ends (drafted Round Two or later) have finished top-12 in fantasy points per game.
Carolina Panthers: Miles Sanders
Sanders is coming off a career-best season and will be leaving a Philadelphia team that was fast-paced, had arguably the league’s best offensive line and gave him the fourth-most red-zone carries last year. While there’s hope he’s more active as a receiver now in Carolina, Sanders ranks last in yards per target and catch rate among all qualified running backs since 2020. He also ranked dead last in PFF’s receiving grade last season among 60 RBs with 20+ targets. He hasn’t recorded a receiving touchdown since 2019.
Yet, Sanders is somehow getting drafted higher than ever despite suffering a huge downgrade in offensive environments.
Chicago Bears: DJ Moore
Moore is a very good NFL receiver but ranked 28th in expected fantasy points per game last season, just ahead of Brandin Cooks and Jakobi Meyers. He’s been the WR34 and WR28 (per game) in 0.5 PPR leagues the last two seasons. Poor quarterback play can certainly be blamed on Moore never producing WR1 fantasy stats, but he’ll be dealing with the same (if not a worse) situation in Chicago.
The Bears produced an NFL-low 15.4 catchable targets per game last year! Put differently, a 15% target share with the Chargers was worth more than a 30% target share in Chicago. Justin Fields is a fantasy monster thanks to his running and has a real chance of finishing as the QB1 this year, but his passing (in)ability might have Moore pining for the days of Sam Darnold.
Cincinnati Bengals: Joe Mixon
Mixon had the second-most expected fantasy points among RBs last season, and there’s hope he sees more targets in 2023. But Mixon showed major signs of decline last season when he was toward the bottom of the league in efficiency despite leading the league in facing light boxes. Samaje Perine out-snapped Mixon 43-23 in the AFC championship game, and Chris Evans appears to be the team’s new passing-down back. A suspension also remains a (remote) possibility.
I’d draft J.K. Dobbins over Mixon, and he’s available rounds later.
Cleveland Browns: Deshaun Watson
In 2020, Watson led the NFL by a wide margin with 8.9 YPA on a poorly coached Houston team that didn’t have DeAndre Hopkins. While significant missed time figured to hurt Watson, he was a completely different player after returning last season, getting badly outplayed by Jacoby Brissett.
Watson averaged the same EPA/dropback as Zach Wilson.
Wind contributed to some of his woeful inaccuracy last year, but Cleveland weather will remain an issue moving forward. Watson is still just 28 years old and will likely be better in 2023 after a full offseason with the Browns (and with the addition of Elijah Moore), but he’ll need to dramatically improve to be worth drafting as a top-10 QB. The early returns haven’t exactly been encouraging either.
Dallas Cowboys: Brandin Cooks
Cooks has perennially commanded targets, but his competition increased dramatically after joining Dallas. Ceedee Lamb developed into a true alpha last year, and Michael Gallup reportedly looks like his old self after playing through numerous injuries in 2022. Jalen Tolbert has also impressed. Cooks turns 30 soon, and while his floor is fine, he’s going to struggle to match his usual target numbers in Dallas (the Texans even attempted more passes than the Cowboys last season).
Denver Broncos: Javonte Williams
By all accounts, Williams has made a remarkable recovery from knee surgery; he’s 10 months removed from tearing his ACL, LCL and PLC. But multi-ligament knee injuries are especially concerning. At best, Williams’ workload will be managed, with Samaje Perine taking over third downs.
Williams continues to wear a knee brace, and a setback remains a real concern. Yet, Williams has a higher Yahoo ADP than James Cook.
Detroit Lions: Jameson Williams
Williams continued to struggle with drops this summer before suffering yet another injury that sidelined him for most of the preseason. Not only will he lose valuable learning time, but Williams may also have problems getting treatment while he’s suspended for the first six games of the season. His coach is also apparently down on him.
Williams still has a ton of long-term upside, but he remains raw and is guaranteed to miss 43% of the fantasy regular season.
Green Bay Packers: Christian Watson
Watson was highly impressive during a dominant rookie campaign (after a rough start!) that included the second-highest Passer Rating when targeted. But there are some red flags for a player going in the top 50 picks on some platforms (79.8 on Yahoo). Watson has incoming TD regression and has never recorded 1,000 receiving yards during any season throughout his football career (and he’s older than Justin Jefferson).
He also battled multiple injuries as a rookie, but Green Bay’s switch at quarterback is most worrisome of all. Aaron Rodgers didn’t have his best season last year, but Watson goes from an inner circle Hall of Famer to a QB with one career start. Meanwhile, Love has reportedly favored Romeo Doubs during the offseason — just like he did last summer. The Packers added rookie WR Jayden Reed in Round 2, and the switch in QBs brings a real question as to target preference compared to 2022 (as well as efficiency).
This one will probably come back to bite me, though.
Houston Texans: Dalton Schultz
Schultz goes from an extremely fast-paced Cowboys offense that averaged the fourth-most points per game last season to a Texans unit projected to score among the fewest points in the league this year. Schultz is an underwhelming athlete who benefitted greatly from playing in Dallas. He’ll now go to a team with a first-time coach and a rookie QB with questions.
Targets appear available, but Nico Collins is an emerging alpha, while Tank Dell and John Metchie III have impressed. Volume (and scoring) will be very different playing in Houston.
Indianapolis Colts: Michael Pittman Jr.
Pittman is emerging as one of the best NFL receivers, but his fantasy value will suffer during Anthony Richardson’s rookie season. Pittman will likely benefit as the first-read on an RPO-heavy offense, but the volume and offensive environment will hurt. Richardson enters with fewer than 400 career college pass attempts, so he’s as raw as a passer can be. Only one rookie QB has supported a top-12 fantasy WR over the last decade. With AR and Jonathan Taylor (if not traded) also dominating at the goal line, Pittman is going to be a much better player for the Colts than he is for fantasy managers this year.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Christian Kirk
With Calvin Ridley now Jacksonville’s clear alpha receiver, Kirk has only played in 11 personnel during the preseason. While Kirk did plenty of damage out of the slot last season, it’s a concerning development if Zay Jones continues to play in two-WR sets into the regular season. Kirk would still have fantasy value, but the change would certainly limit his ceiling.
Kansas City Chiefs: Kadarius Toney
Toney is a terrible route-runner who’s seen five-plus targets in fewer than a third of his career games. He played just eight snaps in the Super Bowl (while healthy), and the oft-injured wideout might begin the season on IR after undergoing knee surgery. Moreover, Skyy Moore, Rashee Rice and Justyn Ross have all emerged as WR alternatives in Kansas City.
Las Vegas Raiders: Josh Jacobs
The emergence of Aidan O’Connell admittedly eases some concerns about when/if Jimmy Garoppolo suffers an injury on a Raiders offense that has downside.
Los Angeles Chargers: Mike Williams
Williams can look like an elite receiver at times, but he has a chronic back issue and new competition in first-round rookie Quentin Johnston. Williams should benefit from new OC Kellen Moore, but he’s reached 50 receptions just one season in his five-year career and could easily fall behind Johnson over the second half of 2023.
Nonetheless, Williams is curiously being drafted ahead of Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Jahan Dotson and George Pickens.
Los Angeles Rams: Cam Akers
Akers went from nearly being released to taking over as LA’s workhorse down the stretch last season. But Kyren Williams has emerged this preseason, with some speculating a timeshare in the Rams’ backfield. Los Angeles has one of the league’s worst offensive lines, and the team could easily tank in 2023 should Matthew Stafford and/or Cooper Kupp suffer more injuries.
Akers is being drafted around Dameon Pierce and J.K. Dobbins — two backs I much prefer.
Miami Dolphins: Raheem Mostert
Mostert will see a big jump in ADP with Jeff Wilson Jr. going on IR and Jonathan Taylor not being traded to Miami. But he’s still a 31-year-old who has dealt with a ton of injuries and just set a career-high with 181 carries. Rookie De’Von Achane is dealing with a minor shoulder injury and will require patience, but he’s Miami’s running back with the most fantasy upside this season.
Minnesota Vikings: TJ Hockenson
Overvalued works better here than “bust,” as Hockenson admittedly looks intriguing at first glance after absolutely dominating targets with the Vikings last season. But the problem is Hockenson was entirely unproductive with those targets (Minnesota’s run game also struggled after the trade), and first-round rookie Jordan Addison is a big upgrade over last year’s version of Adam Thielen. And again, the payoff for drafting a tight end in the early/mid rounds is simply not big enough to pass on players such as Lamar Jackson, Justin Fields, Kenneth Walker, Breece Hall and many WRs.
New England Patriots: JuJu Smith-Schuster
Smith-Schuster saw 100+ targets as KC’s slot receiver last season from the greatest QB of all time and still finished outside the top 36 fantasy receivers (points per game). New England’s offense will be improved this season, but it’s a cold-weather team that will rotate its receivers — DeVante Parker quietly averaged the second-most yards per target in the league last year and has looked like New England’s WR1 during the preseason. It’s a rough switch for an already unproductive player.
New Orleans Saints: Alvin Kamara
Kamara showed decline last season when he continued to see decreased targets. He’s also 28 years old and guaranteed to miss 22% of the fantasy regular season thanks to a suspension. Sean Payton and Drew Brees aren’t around, while Jamaal Williams and Kendre Miller provide more competition for touches. The Saints have a highly favorable schedule, but the rookie Miller could pose a real problem for those who draft Kamara.
New York Giants: Wide Receivers
Daniel Jones will benefit greatly from the additions of Darren Waller and much-improved receivers. But the crowded WR group could easily prove a headache, as Isaiah Hodgins, Darius Slayton, Parris Campbell, Wan’Dale Robinson, Sterling Shepard and Jalin Hyatt will all command targets (behind Waller). It’s a better recipe for the Giants than fantasy managers.
New York Jets: Dalvin Cook
Cook could be better after shoulder surgery, but he averaged a career-low 2.3 catches and ranked 35th out of 37 qualified backs in rush yards over expectation last season. He’s also 28 years old, has off-field issues and will be learning a new offense after he’s cleared to practice.
Of course, Cook’s biggest obstacle to fantasy value this season is Breece Hall, who averaged 97.2 yards from scrimmage on just 14.1 touches per game while playing with an awful QB situation last year. Hall also led all backs in explosive run rate and somehow in air yards too while playing just 6.5 games as a rookie. Hall is an exceptional athlete who’s looked good during his recovery.
Philadelphia Eagles: Dallas Goedert
Goedert’s target rate crashed to 14th among tight ends last season with DeVonta Smith and AJ Brown the clear top options now in Philadelphia. Goedert is also rarely used in the red zone (he’s averaged just three targets inside the 10 over the last three years) and has a lowly 3.5-touchdown over/under.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Najee Harris
While a foot injury can partially be blamed, Harris undoubtedly struggled last season. Planned or not, Jaylen Warren has turned this Steeler backfield into a full-blown committee during the preseason. Warren outplayed Harris as a rookie last year (he admittedly benefitted situationally), and he’s looked even better this preseason. Warren took a 60+ yarder to the house recently, while Harris managed one carry that reached 20 yards last year!
The Steelers might have a running back situation.
San Francisco 49ers: George Kittle
Kittle misses games every year and is due for touchdown regression. He scored on 12.8% of his targets last season, which was nearly triple his prior career rate (4.3%). Kittle also saw a lowly 13.7% target share when San Francisco’s pass catchers were healthy last season, and 2023 is the year Brandon Aiyuk emerges as the 49ers’ alpha receiver.
Seattle Seahawks: Zach Charbonnet
Charbonnet has real fantasy upside in a Seattle offense that could be great in 2023. But the bet here is Kenneth Walker remains the team’s lead back assuming health. The rookie will likely take over on passing downs, but Walker is a beast who saw 100% of the Seahawks’ carries inside the five last season. Walker was admittedly boom-or-bust (you be the judge of his “bust” carries), but coach Pete Carroll leans on his veterans (Rashaad Penny played ahead of Walker until he was injured last year).
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Rachaad White
White is seeing plenty of fantasy love as the Buccaneers’ likely new workhorse thanks to little RB competition in Tampa Bay. But expectations should be held in check. White is a late third-round pick who’s never reached 200 carries dating back to college and was one of the worst runners in the league as a rookie, finishing dead last in rush yards over expectations. He was also outplayed by dusty Leonard Fournette in the passing game and benefitted greatly from Tom Brady checkdowns.
The Buccaneers are going from providing the most catchable targets in the league last season to Baker Mayfield. He also targets running backs, but Mayfield’s EPA/dropback (-0.12) and CPOE (-7%) were both worse than Zach Wilson’s last season; a downgrade doesn’t get any more dramatic than going from the GOAT to Mayfield. Tampa Bay scored the second-fewest points in the NFC last season and is expected to be one of the worst teams in the NFL in 2023.
White’s sell-high window in dynasty leagues is now.
Tennessee Titans: Treylon Burks
While news could’ve been worse, Burks is still dealing with an LCL injury that could require some time to fully recover. Burks admittedly had to learn a new position as a rookie, but he remains a raw route-runner who needs snaps to continue to develop. Moreover, Burks will be behind newcomer DeAndre Hopkins on the target pecking order after he returns.
Washington Commanders: Antonio Gibson
Gibson has experienced some fantasy steam this summer, as many expect a bigger workload in 2023. But Brian Robinson outplayed him last season despite being nowhere close to full strength after getting shot. Over the final eight games last season, Robinson was on pace for 330+ touches and 1,400+ yards from scrimmage. Now much healthier, Robinson is built for a big workload and is a more than capable receiver. Robinson over Gibson in 2023.