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3 First Round Draft Pick Bust Candidates (2023 Fantasy Football)

3 First Round Draft Pick Bust Candidates (2023 Fantasy Football)

Players are drafted in the first round for a reason. They are perceived as the best bets to lead your fantasy team to glory. However, not all first-round picks are the same. All tend to have “high ceilings,” but some have lower “floors” than others and are thus more likely to bust.

Draft Wizard

First Round ADP Players Most Likely to Bust

It’s not easy to predict. Who would have guessed at this time last year that Jonathan Taylor would be RB25 (half-point PPR) on a points-per-game basis? That said, below are three players with a current ADP in the top ten of half-point PPR leagues who appear to have a lower floor than their first-round counterparts. Hint: it may be safer to draft a wide receiver in the first round this year.

Christian McCaffrey (RB – SF)

CMC is trending as the first RB off the board this year and the second overall pick, thanks to his rebound in 2022. After suiting up for a combined ten games from 2020-2021, McCaffrey played 17 games last season for the Panthers and Niners. The result was predictable. He was the second-best RB in the league, averaging 18.5 points per game. When healthy, CMC is still one of the best fantasy players on the planet.

But therein lies the rub. McCaffrey is now 27 and is coming off a season in which he had 329 touches, the fourth-highest in the NFL. The mileage on his body is high, and a second-straight injury-free season seems unlikely. Niners HC Kyle Shanahan knows this and may opt to pace CMC’s usage. This will be easier if Elijah Mitchell can stay on the field. Mitchell is an excellent back, and Shanahan is not afraid to use him. In the six games (including playoffs) that he was active after the McCaffrey trade, Mitchell carried the ball 62 times.

Even if Mitchell stays healthy this season, McCaffrey will be a productive fantasy RB if he can avoid injury. However, if you select him early in your draft, you’ll be keeping your fingers crossed all season.

Dynasty Rookie Draft Kit

Austin Ekeler (RB – LAC)

Ekeler has been the best fantasy RB over the past two seasons combined. He scored 18 TDs in 2022 and 20 in 2021. This is an amazing accomplishment for any player, much less a 5’9″ 200-pound RB who was not drafted. It also screams regression. If Ekeler scored a more typical 12 TDs last season, he would have been RB7 instead of RB1. That’s still good, but beyond the TDs, there are some other red flags to consider.

The first is obvious. Ekeler is 28 years old and has 587 touches over the past two seasons. Second, much of his value in 2022 was tied to receptions. Ekeler’s 107 receptions last season were 22 more than #2 on the list – McCaffrey, who hauled in 85. He was especially active in the passing game during the first half of the season when Keenan Allen was sidelined. When Allen was out from Week 2 – Week 10, Ekeler averaged 9.6 targets per game. From Week 11 through Week 18, he averaged 5.8. Thus, it’s safe to conclude that his usage in the passing game will likely drop in 2023 unless injuries force Justin Herbert to look his way again more often than expected.

The passing game is critical to Ekeler’s fantasy value, as he only rushed for 915 yards last season, 17th in the NFL. Joshua Kelley, who is coming off his best season as a pro, and Isaiah Spiller, whom the Chargers drafted in the fourth round last year, could start to cut into his carries. Ekeler should remain a solid RB in 2023, especially in PPR leagues, but there are many reasons why he may drop from the elite tier.

Bijan Robinson (RB – LAC)

Bijan Robinson comes into the NFL with well-deserved hype. He shot all the way up to 8th on the draft board and looks the part of a three-down workhorse back at 215 pounds. He may match the enormous expectations that have him trending as the eighth overall fantasy draft pick and third RB, or he may not. The problem is, he’s a rookie, and we don’t know how he’ll handle the NFL and, more importantly, how Atlanta will handle his workload.

Landing in Atlanta could be good or bad for Robinson’s fantasy value. On the positive front, no team rushed the ball more than the Falcons last season. Their league-leading 559 attempts were 33 more than the Ravens. HC Arthur Smith loves to run, and the team did so effectively despite a subpar passing attack. This segues nicely to the bad news. The Falcons ran the ball effectively last season without Robinson, and their two leading rushers from last year are still with the team.

Tyler Allgeier had an excellent rookie season. The fifth-round draft pick out of BYU rushed for over 1,000 yards and averaged 4.9 YPC. His broken tackle % and YAC (yards after contact) were among the best in the league. Smith would be foolish to reduce him to a mere backup. Allgeier didn’t do much in the passing game with only 17 receptions, but that is where the Swiss-Army-Knife veteran Cordarelle Patterson comes in. Patterson is a converted wide receiver and had 52 receptions in 2021. He’ll also cut into Bijan’s snaps as long as he remains with the team.

Talent rises to the top, so Robinson could blow the competition away and justify his position as RB3. But given that we have yet to see how things will play out with Atlanta’s backfield, it’s risky to invest your first-round draft pick on him.

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