2023 Fantasy Football Busts - BOLD PREDICTIONS

Jul 9th 2023

Hayden Winks

After writing 32 of these free NFL team previews and releasing my 2023 fantasy football rankings, it's time to become a certified hater. It's important to remember that this bust column is deeply personal. These players may have harmed me physically in a bar or yelled at my wife. This isn't about the analytics, or film, or just an elevated ADP that I can't get behind. This is personal.

We can fade these players on Underdog Fantasy where we have $15M up for grabs in Best Ball Mania IV, plus another $3.5M in "Weekly Winners" which is our hybrid between best ball and DFS. I'll match your first deposit up to $100 if you sign up with promo code 'UNDERBLOG' or by clicking this link.

2023 Fantasy Football Busts

These are based on half PPR scoring geared for Underdog Fantasy, and I'm being very price sensitive. It's entirely possible that these players are NOT busts based on other site's rankings. Read the notes if you like nuance, though nobody remembers how to read of course.

Before we get to the players, there's a big takeaway from doing this research: breakout age is completely baked in on Underdog Fantasy. No longer are the days of just sorting by 2nd year players, and printing. No longer are the days of never drafting a 30-33 year old, and printing. Almost every drafter wants the young guys now, so it's time to get a little uncomfortable with some fades.

1. Stefon Diggs (7th overall in ADP)

I'm NOT projecting a full collapse here by any means, but this is a rich price tag on half PPR Underdog. Diggs has finished as the 51st and 12th overall player in fantasy points over replacement per game over the last two seasons, with the Bills ranking top-10 in passing yards and passing touchdowns in each of those seasons. He scored 2.9 more TDs than his usage would indicate, too, so some slight negative regression is expected. ... In Diggs' age-30 season and year 9 in the NFL, he's facing slightly better target competition with 1st-round rookie Dalton Kincaid in the mix, but more importantly, there are some signs that the Bills want to play with more physicality (aka run the ball more). Perhaps that's why Diggs is tilting in early practice. I can see a fringe WR1/2 season from Diggs with a handful of minor things working against him.

2. Bijan Robinson (10th overall in ADP)

A 98th percentile RB prospect in my model, this is NOT B-Rob slander on his own game. This is some slander on the potential role he's going to have in this very unique Falcons offense. Coach Arthur Smith has an elite ground game that mixes personnel groupings in fantastic ways. That's also made us frustrated with the volume for fellow studs Kyle Pitts and Drake London. ... It sounds like the Falcons want to move Robinson all around the formation, allowing him to run routes from the slot. That sounds good, but I can also see consistent, efficient pure rusher Tyler Allgeier handling a bigger rushing workload than you want. In fact, I could see some wacky personnel groupings near the goal line that result in Robinson running in motion while thiccccc Allgeier has an open lane for a TD. Keep in mind that Cordarrelle Patterson (4.8 YPC in 2022) is still in the RB room, and this QB group is probably bottom-5 in the NFL. We need Robinson to handle all the work to be a Round 1 player. I'd rather just draft Nick Chubb or Saquon Barkley.

3. CeeDee Lamb (11th overall in ADP)

He's coming off his best year (2.4 yards per route run) after playing with more physicality. Lamb was the WR8 and 19th overall player in fantasy points over replacement per game, while seeing 2.0 more targets per game without Amari Cooper. This year's target competition is slightly stronger with Brandin Cooks and a hopefully healthier Michael Gallup, but the real problem could be play calling. ... The Cowboys have been 2nd, 1st, and 2nd in neutral offensive pace over the last three years under ex-OC Kellen Moore, while Mike McCarthy's last three seasons as play caller in GB, his offenses ranked 20th, 25th, and 19th. Throw in the Cowboys' No. 1 red zone TD rate from last year that helped Lamb score 2.4 more TDs than his usage would indicate, and there are just too many minor red flags for a Round 1 pick on Underdog.

4. Jaylen Waddle (16th overall in ADP)

Even certified ballers are bound to regress. That's Waddle, after going from 7.3 to 11.3 yards per target last year. As a comparison, Hall of Fame speedster Tyreek Hill's career YPT is 9.5. The Dolphins will likely not hit on the cylinders they were hitting on in 2022, which easily could slide Waddle's TDs closer to his 4.4 expected scores. In fact, Waddle's +3.6 TDs over expectation were the 5th-highest at the position. While running very pure in all categories, he was the WR11 per game on WR27 fantasy usage. ... If the Dolphins' late-season issues when defenses started playing up on these speedy receivers to take away some RPO looks continue, then Tua Tagovailoa's weaknesses (arm strength and pocket playmaking) could appear more than they did last year.

5. Jonathan Taylor (17th overall in ADP)

He was the RB16 and 32nd overall player last year while dealing with a brutal offense and ankle sprain, which he's still recovering from post surgery. Taylor's issue this year is the offensive structure with a dual-threat rookie QB at the helm. The 2022 Eagles (a much better version of this Colts team) was only 18th in RB fantasy usage despite leading the NFL in rushing TDs because they ranked 31st in RB receptions and Hurts stole rushing TDs with sneaks. The 2022 Bears (probably a fairer team comparison to this Colts team) were 30th in RB fantasy usage and were last in RB receptions. I also view this OL as league average at best.

6. Chris Olave (19th overall in ADP)

Another absolute stud in real life. His 2.4 yards per route run put him in a rare rookie class, and he did so running real routes at the intermediate and deep levels. Olave can beat press on the perimeter, leaving him with a Calvin Ridley like profile. Even with playing like a total stud, Olave was only the WR34 in fantasy points over replacement per game in this odd offense that gave him just 3.7 expected TDs based on his usage. ... In theory, Carr is an upgrade for Olave because Carr has been more willing to throw deep. In practice, there's not many balls to go around (26th in pass attempts) because of a way-too-conservative play caller and a very odd red zone offense that features some wild cat runs.

7. Christian Watson (38th overall in ADP)

In a ridiculous rookie season, he had +2.6 TDs above expectation as a receiver, then ripped off 46- and 15-yard rushing TDs. Watson also caught an unsustainable 75% of his contested catches. Natural regression is coming for him, even if he's going to be an explosive player long term (which is a fact). Watson had just one (1) game with 6+ receptions, yet was the WR21 in fantasy points over replacement per game thanks to his long scores. ... Then there's the QB difference. The Rodgers to Love drop equates to about 5% completions over expected and 7% in success rate, if you're using Rodgers' 2022 numbers and Love's career numbers. Beyond that, it's possible Watson's game is particularly hurt given his deep 14.3 average depth of target, where Rodgers is a Mount Rushmore deep-ball thrower all time. It bothers me that Love didn't bet on himself in this contract year, too. What's up with that???

8. Jahmyr Gibbs (39th overall in ADP)

My entire profile on Gibbs is here. In short, he'll be quite involved in the pass game (even D'Andre Swift was the RB21 per game last year), but in half PPR best ball, his value is diminished because of a lack of projected TDs. 112 of his 151 Alabama carries were off-tackle or to the complete outside, compared to just 4 carries inside the 5-yard line and 10 carries with 2-or-fewer yards to go. There is approximately zero power to his game and he maxed out at 192 touches in college, only averaging 12.6 carries per game as a junior. The other petite fantasy RB outliers, like Christian McCaffrey, were workhorses in college. Our Underdog Fantasy projections agree, only setting his rushing higher/lower at 580.5 yards.

9. Aaron Jones (54th overall in ADP)

Last year, Jones still had plenty of juice on tape. He finished as the RB13 in fantasy while handling a career-high 59 receptions. That's where his bread is buttered nowadays, and I'm nervous the Packers will finish below 13th in neutral pass rate with the QB change. Jones needs his receptions because AJ Dillon out-touched him inside the 5-yard line, 10-2. If Green Bay transitions into a balanced offense, Jones loses out in particular. Throw in the age difference (28 vs. 25 years old), and we have a RB dead zone profile. Jones had to take a paycut to remain on the roster.

10. J.K Dobbins (57th overall in ADP)

In his five (5) games after his Week 6 multi-ligament-knee-tear setback, Dobbins averaged 6.6 yards on his 70 carries, but he didn't look right with his long speed. It's possible he's not the same, and the Ravens have other options to give the ball to (especially if Dobbins continues with this mini holdout surrounding his contract). Lamar Jackson is a legend. Gus Edwards is healthy. The new OC wants to throw more. ... While extremely efficient, the Ravens' RB usage with Lamar has been overrated. There's no reason to throw to the RBs when Lamar can just run it himself, and at the goal line, there's a lot of mesh-point QB runs. In fact, Baltimore was 31st in expected fantasy points to their RBs last season.

11. Michael Pittman (65th overall in ADP)

Players attached to rookie QBs are usually very bad fantasy picks. That very well could be even worse with a mobile rookie QB like Anthony Richardson, who only started one season at Florida. Pittman was the WR33 per game last year as the 75th overall player in fantasy points over replacement per game. He's being drafted ahead of that finish this year.

12. Mike Evans (67th overall in ADP)

Evans and Chris Godwin no longer have the elite upside now that this defensive minded head coach is taking control back from Tom Brady, who was 1st in pass attempts by a wide margin in 2021 and 2022. Evans will be 30 years old and in year 10 when WRs really decline. Last year, Evans had his lowest PFF grade of his career and a lower-than-normal 1.7 yards per route run. The good news is this is mostly priced in on Underdog Fantasy (ADP: WR35), though I wish he'd be traded to a contender rather than renegotiate with the Bucs.

13. D'Andre Swift (78th overall in ADP)

The Eagles were 31st in RB receptions last year, and Swift's high-value touches disproportionately come from receptions, not red zone work. To pay off this ADP the Eagles have to change their offense to accommodate Swift's strengths (unlikely) or Swift has to inherit the Miles Sanders role near the goal line (maybe). Rashaad Penny is bigger, more explosive, and better in short yardage. Both Penny ($1M) and Swift (2025 Day 3 pick) are without major capital commitment, so this is a let the best man win competition. Give me Penny for this valuable early-down role. Swift also has to compete with feisty Kenny Gainwell for the passing down role.

14. Darren Waller (81st overall in ADP)

Darren Waller's 75.0 PFF grade last year was much lower than his baseline, and he didn't force a single missed tackle last year. I'm worried about him being washed up after some injuries as he goes into his age-31 season. My takeaway from this podcast about decline with age is to not fade older players if they're playing well, but to be completely out when there's the first sign of decline.

15. Zay Flowers (90th overall in ADP)

From my Ravens team preview: "There's uncertainty with the WR pecking order. Odell Beckham's (5'11/198) $15M is as meaningful of an investment for this year as the 1st round selection of Zay Flowers (5'10/172). Then there's Rashod Bateman. Lamar called Bateman his "WR1", and of the three, I'm most bullish on him. He has the size (6'2/210) to play in 1- and 2-WR sets, and he has a career 1.5 yards per route run. Bateman needs to get more physical, but he has big play ability. Beckham is hard to trust as a 31-year-old with two torn ACLs, though his 1.6 yards per route run in his final season matches Bateman's. In fact, I think Bateman and Beckham have a lot of overlap in their skillset. Flowers may be the odd man out, at least early on. His size is a risk. He could be typecasted as a gadget type of slot as a rookie, while Bateman and Beckham win on the perimeter. The Ravens were dead last in 3-WR sets last year, partly because of their old offensive coordinator but also because they have really good TEs and use a FB. Flowers will need to straight up outplay Beckham or Bateman to be a fantasy asset."

16. Courtland Sutton (95th overall in ADP)

Courtland Sutton has been the 111th and 125th overall players the last two years. On tape, I don't think he's fully recovered from his 2020 ACL tear. His yards after the catch per reception was 4.5 yards pre-injury to just 2.3 yards since, resulting in a mediocre 1.5 yards per route run. There's some risk of Tim Patrick ($11M cap hit) and/or 2nd-round rookie Marvin Mims rotating in. Sutton, who has no connection to Payton, has been in trade talks all offseason. The fact that those talks seem to be one-way calls is not a great sign.

17. Evan Engram (97th overall in ADP)

In a better role for his athletic skillset, Engram ran hot on TE13 fantasy usage per game. He had an outlier 6.8 yards after the catch thanks to beautifully designed plays underneath, but that's hard to hold year-over-year, especially with two new additions on offense. Calvin Ridley is a legit alpha receiver who could easily cut into Engram's targets, and the Jaguars just drafted a 2nd-round blocking TE this offseason while Engram waits to sign his franchise tag.

18. Alvin Kamara (102nd overall in ADP)

He faces a 4-6 game suspension, and I saw signs of decline on tape last year (career lows in yards after contact per carry and breakaway run rate). Both are good reasons for why the Saints added two legit RB to split touches. The 28-year-old will be the passing-down back when on the field, but he could be subbed out at the goal line for Gyration King Jamaal Williams, who was the goal line vulture of the century last year. The Saints gave Twerk God $8M guaranteed this offseason (that's a lot), then drafted rookie Kendre Miller in Round 3. Miller actually reminds me of Williams, as both a goal line option and potential pass-game contributor. Miller's pre-draft profile was that of a quality fantasy sleeper, but it's very hard to make the math work for this committee. The Saints were 28th in expected fantasy points to their RBs last year, while playing behind maybe the most overrated OL in the league. If I had to pick one RB to draft from NO, it'd be the Twerk God. Have some fun.

19. Allen Lazard (110th overall in ADP)

In a much better role than this, Lazard was the WR42 per game. I view Garrett Wilson as a legit target hog in ways Christian Watson wasn't in this slow-paced, balanced offense. Lazard certainly secured the bag because of his relationship with Aaron Rodgers, but the Jets also paid Mecole Hardman and Randall Cobb this offseason, while more importantly retaining Corey Davis' $11M non-guaranteed contract. If Davis remains on the team, then there could be a weird WR rotation behind Wilson.

20. Devon Achane (118th overall in ADP)

I'd put the Dolphins near the very top for Dalvin Cook's services, which makes this blurb impossible to write. But here we go. Jeff Wilson (1-year, $3M) and Raheem Mostert (1-year, $3M) are attempting to hold off 3rd-round rookie Devon Achane (video). This is simultaneously the fastest, yet smallest RB rooms in the NFL. On brand for Miami. Coach McDaniels regretted not running the ball more late in the year once defenses adapted, so I'm expecting slightly more RB fantasy usage here after a lowly 27th-ranked finish in the metric last year, but I don't see a bellcow profile in this offense, so a relatively even split is probable. Here's how touches per game were divvied up from Week 9 on, with Wilson (RB33) slightly leading Mostert (RB35) in fantasy points over replacement per game:

21. Romeo Doubs (120th overall in ADP)

The Packers were 22nd in 3-WR set snaps last year, so the battle for 2-WR set snaps alongside Watson is extra important to this offense. 2nd-round rookie Jayden Reed has more draft capital than 2022 4th-rounder Doubs, but Doubs has a do-everything profile while Reed may be boxed into a slot only role after OTA reporting. Slot-only players in bad offenses don't matter in half PPR, so it's important that Reed (50% wide snaps in college) can beat Doubs out straight up. This No. 2 receiver role led to WR70 production last year with Aaron Rodgers, so I'm not optimistic on either with Jordan Love.

22. Darnell Mooney (126th overall in ADP)

The Bears only had three (3) games from their WRs with 5+ fantasy points over replacement for the entire 2022 season. That's shocking, especially beacuse Mooney only accounted for one (1) of them, with Velus Jones and Dante Pettis accounting for the others. Mooney was the WR76 in fantasy points over replacement, yet he goes as the WR57 this year despite adding true No. 1 receiver D.J. Moore this offseason and upside No. 3 receiver Chase Claypool at the trade deadline halfway through last year. I simply don't see how the math works out here at all, even with the assumption that Justin Fields is going to take a 3rd-year leap. I'd much rather stack Fields with Round 18 Claypool.

23. Jerick McKinnon (127th overall in ADP)

He is 31 years old and playing on a $1M guaranteed contract. He doesn't run the ball often, nor well (2.1 yards after contact per carry), leaving him in a check down-only role. He ran hot with 10 TDs on 8.7 expected scores because of goal line trickery that feels unstable. Even with them, McKinnon was just the RB37 per game last year on his career-worst PFF grade. My favorite Chiefs RB pick at cost is Clyde Edwards-Helaire ... by far.

24. Irv Smith (152nd overall in ADP)

This is best ball correlation going too far. Smith signed a 1-year, $1.7M contract and has literally never been a fantasy asset despite some nice setups. Hayden Hurst was the 214th overall player in this offense last season, and he signed a 3-year, $21.5M contract this offseason. The NFL is telling us that Smith (6'2/242) is a role player with injury concerns. Expect blocking-type Drew Sample to split snaps.