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12 Early Fantasy Football Busts (2023)

12 Early Fantasy Football Busts (2023)

It’s only May, but it’s never too early to start talking about fantasy football busts. Finding out which players may heavily underperform expectations takes far more than just comparing their final ranking last year with their current ADP or consensus rank. That’s because injuries and changes to a player’s role or situation can have huge impacts on every player’s season-long output or final ranking. Injury-prone players or athletes who start the season hurt are always a massive risk, especially in the early rounds. Plus, changes like the loss of a reliable quarterback or the potential for a younger player to steal a veteran’s job are risks to account for when evaluating every skill player across the football landscape. Inconsistent, boom-or-bust athletes who produced the majority of their fantasy points in a few games are another trap that ensnares plenty of fantasy managers each year.

Our featured pundits know exactly what to look for when identifying potential busts. So to help you begin your research, they’ve each listed an RB and WR they think have the biggest odds of falling short of expectations. Read on below to see who you may want to think twice about selecting and why.

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Early Fantasy Football Busts

What RB in our consensus top 24 should fantasy managers fear the most as a bust candidate?

Dalvin Cook (RB – MIN)
“Dalvin Cook looks like a RB in decline. His 15.5 carries per game last year were his fewest since 2018. His 2.3 catches per game were a career low. And Cook ranked 41st among 48 qualifiers in NFL Next Gen Stats’ Rush Yards Over Expected Per Attempt. Whether he’s playing in Minnesota or elsewhere this season, Cook is a stay-away in fantasy drafts for me.”
Jared Smola (Draft Sharks)

“We may have finally seen the end of Dalvin Cook’s elite status among fantasy RBs in 2022. The Vikings star RB finished dead last among all ball carries in rushing EPA and rushes for zero or negative yardage. Cook ended the season as the RB8 overall and RB10 in points per game despite earning the league’s 4th-highest opportunity share (78%). With Minnesota re-investing in the running back position with Alexander Mattison, we could see Cook traded/released. That creates a risky situation for fantasy managers. I am afraid if he isn’t getting the volume on a new offense, he will not be able to meet expectations.”
Andrew Erickson (FantasyPros)

Travis Etienne (RB – JAC)
“Travis Etienne will be one of the biggest busts of 2023 if he continues to be drafted as a locked-in top-15 back in fantasy. We can’t ignore the team drafting Tank Bigsby in the third round, especially with how badly Etienne struggled in the red zone last season. In 2022, among 65 qualifying running backs ranked 57th in red zone touchdown conversion rate. If you believe his pass game role this year can offset Bigsby’s incoming touchdown vulturing, his 7.8% target share (31st) last season should be an extra large sippy cup of cold water. If Etienne is regulated to an in-between-the-20s early down grinder job, you’ll wish you avoided him and drafted Bigsby later.”
Derek Brown (FantasyPros)

Dameon Pierce (RB – HOU)
“Dameon Pierce is a real risk for me. He wasn’t particularly good in his rookie season, averaging 4.3 YPC, he’s not a real receiving option and the Texans have a new and improved passing attack led by a pocket passer who won’t open up running lanes with the fear of his legs. Devin Singletary‘s signing also can’t be under-estimated. $3 million isn’t backup money so you’d expect he’ll be somewhat involved in some sort of committee. I’m fading Pierce unless he falls well below the true gun starters.”
Ben Wasley (The Fantasy First Down)

Josh Jacobs (RB – LV)
“Josh Jacobs is a MUST-avoid in 2023, as he heads into a far different situation in 2023 than he did in 2022. Derek Carr might not be the best QB in the NFL, but he stretches the field and gets his team into scoring position, something Jimmy G does not do. Jimmy G is not a good quarterback, nor will he likely stay healthy. With one of the worst defenses in the entire NFL, coupled with the trading away of Darren Waller, mixed with the addition of Jimmy G as QB solution, the Raiders will be lucky to win six games. And, Jacobs will see stacked boxes all season long, with little rushing duties even needed in the 3rd and 4th quarters. Avoid Jacobs! Tony Pollard (RB8), Breece Hall (RB11) and Jahmyr Gibbs (RB17) are just three of MANY RBs I’d rather own than Jacobs in 2023.”
Smitty (TheFantasyFootballShow)

Bijan Robinson (RB – ATL)
“Bijan Robinson is my top RB bust candidate of 2023. No way would I take a 1st round pick on this unproven rookie. He plays for a team that has very few offensive weapons, especially at QB. I see defenses forcing Atlanta to pass by stuffing the box. This will frustrate Robinson and his fantasy managers.”
Jeff Boggis (Fantasy Football Empire)

Tony Pollard (RB – DAL)
“Tony Pollard has an ECR of RB8 and is routinely being taken in the mid-to-late second round of best-ball drafts. That’s too steep a price for a running back who hasn’t had a 200-carry season or a 40-catch season. Pollard has been gloriously efficient as a runner (5.1 yards per carry for his career), but that was with Ezekiel Elliott as a backfield partner. Think of it like a starting pitcher in baseball vs. a relief pitcher. The starter has to pace himself because he might have to throw 90-100 pitches, while the reliever can cut it loose on every pitch because he’ll probably be asked to throw only 15-20 pitches. That’s not to say Pollard can’t effectively make the switch from reliever to starter, but it’s probably unwise to expect Pollard to maintain his uber-efficient numbers with a more substantial workload. Also, we can’t discount the possibility that the Cowboys sign a veteran to help handle the backfield load — Leonard Fournette, Kareem Hunt, or perhaps even Zeke Elliott.”
Pat Fitzmaurice (FantasyPros)

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What WR in our consensus top 24 should fantasy managers fear the most as a bust candidate?

D.J. Moore (WR – CHI)
“I love D.J. Moore. But I love productive fantasy players more. And Moore will struggle to produce as a top-20 fantasy WR in Chicago. Last year’s Bears finished with just 377 pass attempts — 38 fewer than any other team. Bears WRs ranked 30th in total PPR points. Yes, the Bears will throw more in 2023. But they’d need to throw A LOT more to support Moore’s current consensus ranking.”
Jared Smola (Draft Sharks)

Deebo Samuel (WR – SF)
“Deebo Samuel’s high-leverage role in the San Francisco offense has been vaporized. He’s been regulated to low aDOT empty volume on a run-heavy offense. Without deep targets or a bevy of red zone work to help Samuel’s scoring, he’ll be an overdrafted WR3 this year. There’s no way I’m drafting him as a top-20 receiver in 2023. Bust. Bust. Bust.”
Derek Brown (FantasyPros)

Deebo Samuel is a massive fade for me. WR17 is way too high for a guy competing with the league’s best running back, an elite tight end and another very good wide receiver in Brandon Aiyuk. Week 6 was the last time he had even 60 receiving yards (though he did have one boom playoff game) and he only gets a few carries a game when CMC and Elijah Mitchell are both healthy. He’s also just quietly rather injury prone and tends to cop a lot more contact than the average receiver due to his role. At some stage we need to recognise that 2021 Deebo isn’t coming back.”
Ben Wasley (The Fantasy First Down)

DeAndre Hopkins (WR – ARI)
“DeAndre Hopkins played five games without a fully healthy Kyler Murray last season, and he averaged a meager 10 fantasy points per game – a major falloff from his splits with Murray at 17.9 points per game. Without Murray, Hopkins led all WRs in fantasy points scored under expectation with zero top-12 finishes (two top-15). His horrible quarterback play was “highlighted” with a disastrous 1-catch performance on 10 targets in Week 16. Considering Hopkins’ age at 31 and major question marks regarding Murray’s status coming off a season-ending knee injury, I am terrified of drafting Hopkins as a fantasy WR2. Per the FantasyPros Strength of Schedule tool, the Cardinals also are tied with the Las Vegas Raiders with the worst schedule for fantasy WRs this season.”
Andrew Erickson (FantasyPros)

Jerry Jeudy (WR – DEN)
“Jerry Jeudy is going way too high in early fantasy football drafts and mock drafts. In my view, Russell Wilson is a question mark until he proves otherwise, and this wide receiver room is very cloudy walking into the 2023 season. During the off-season, tons of “Jeudy and/or Sutton could get traded” rumors surfaced, and even if overblown, there are serious question marks surrounding both Jeudy and Sutton and their 2023 roles; many close to the situation are whispering things like, “Mavin Mims is Sean Payton’s guy.” I’m not saying Jeudy can’t surprise, but his ADP right now is WR24! Give me Christian Watson (WR25), Jahan Dotson (WR37), George Pickens (WR36), and many more, over Jeudy in 2023. Easily.”
Smitty (TheFantasyFootballShow)

Drake London (WR – ATL)
“Drake London is my top WR bust candidate of 2023. Not to pick on the Atlanta Falcons, but this is not a high-powered offense. And most of the receptions will be going to TE Kyle Pitts. Last season, Drake London did not even finish in the top 40 Wide Receiver rankings. I don’t see how he will ascend to a top 25 Wide Receiver in this offense and with Desmond Ridder (QB30) leading this anemic offense.”
Jeff Boggis (Fantasy Football Empire)

Davante Adams (WR – LV)
“As supremely talented as Davante Adams is, I want no part of him at his current cost. Adams turns 31 in December. We’ve seen great receivers such as Julio Jones and A.J. Green tumble over the age cliff at roughly the same age. After playing with Aaron Rodgers for the first eight years of his career, then playing with former college teammate Derek Carr last year, Adams will now be playing with Jimmy Garoppolo, who isn’t an aggressive downfield thrower. Adams is reportedly unhappy about the overall direction of the Raiders’ offense. Adams is far too good to completely collapse, but I worry that his investors aren’t going to be pleased with their return on investment this year.”
Pat Fitzmaurice (FantasyPros)

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