One of the top fantasy football draft weekends is right around the corner. That means it’s time for you to make some decisions regarding which players are worth an investment.
[2023’s All-Breakout Fantasy Team]
Every player will have their cost in fantasy football drafts. That doesn’t mean they’ll always return value for your fantasy rosters, however. Here are six players with bust potential based on their current ADPs.
The upside of Deshaun Watson as a fantasy quarterback has been firmly established, as he posted three consecutive top-five finishes across the 2018-2020 NFL seasons. However, he struggled both on the field and as a fantasy producer after a 700-day absence from the sport.
In his return, Watson averaged just 15.1 fantasy points per game, performing as a top-12 quarterback in just two of his six games. Among quarterbacks with at least 200 dropbacks, Watson ranked 30th with a 79.1 passer rating, 32nd with a 1.7% big-time throw rate per PFF, 28th with 6.5 yards per attempt and 28th with a 1.4 touchdown-to-interception ratio.
If Watson was, in fact, knocking the rust off in the 2022 season, then he could pose a value at his current ADP of QB11. However, given that high-end ADP following a disastrous 2022, paired with the fact that a Kevin Stefanski-led offense has yet to rank top-20 in passing volume, I’m out.
There’s something odd happening in Baltimore, folks, and it has me worried that we are headed for just another season of disappointment when it comes to running back J.K. Dobbins. Though Dobbins has been incredibly efficient in his time on the field, his health has been a true limiting factor in the fantasy production fantasy managers have actually seen on the aforementioned field.
Now, entering the fourth and final year of his rookie deal, Dobbins entered the preseason on the PUP list for the second consecutive season while dealing with a knee injury. The team announced Monday they activated him, but his injury history remains concerning, having played just eight games in the last two seasons with complications stemming from the torn ACL suffered in the 2021 preseason.
Despite averaging 5.86 yards per attempt dating back to his rookie season (second among RBs in that span), he’s not necessarily been a superstar for fantasy football. Dobbins has averaged just 10.3 fantasy points per game across his career, having had just two total fantasy finishes ahead of RB10 to his name since being drafted.
More incredible, perhaps, is the fact that Dobbins has never finished inside the top five for a given week since drafted in 2020. He’s played just eight games over the last two seasons and is already starting this year off with an injury. Fantasy managers buying into Dobbins at his current ADP of RB17 are gluttons for punishment.
After the Seahawks drafted Zach Charbonnet, I was quick to back veteran Kenneth Walker III with the belief there was room enough for both to see work. However, as training camp dwindles down and the preseason heats up, I can’t help but have some concern this workload split may be too much to overcome at his current ADP of RB18.
Walker’s home-run hitting ability is among the best in the league, with his 4.38 40-yard dash ranking in the 95th percentile for RBs. It’s what differentiates him from Charbonnet in a big way. While Charbonnet is more of a grinder with the ability to force missed tackles and play through contact, Walker’s speed allows him to avoid it altogether.
However, as Walker continues to miss time in training camp with a groin injury, Charbonnet continues to earn reps with the first team.
Charbonnet was selected 53rd overall in the 2023 NFL Draft, just one year after Walker was selected 41st overall in 2022 — a negligible difference in draft capital — and boasts a diverse skill set that includes productivity as a receiver, which Walker has historically lacked. Charbonnet’s 4.2 yards after contact per attempt ranked 14th among FBS running backs with 26 total carries of 15+ yards, showing plenty of explosion despite the fact he’s not quite the athlete that Walker is.
The more time that Walker misses, the more concerned I grow that Charbonnet could shake up this workload more significantly than initially projected coming out of the NFL Draft.
The Bengals receiving duo of Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins ranks among the best in the NFL. Regardless of their effectiveness, however, it’s still worrisome to see Higgins with an ADP of WR14 given his standing as the team’s clear-cut WR2 and unknowns surrounding a calf injury for QB Joe Burrow.
Over the past two seasons, Higgins has finished just over 23% of his games performing as a top-12 WR (26th among wide receivers). In 2022 specifically, Higgins posted just four total WR1 finishes, with two of them coming while Chase was out of the lineup with a hip injury. Over the past two seasons, Higgins has averaged 7.3 targets per game, tied for 38th among receivers, but his efficiency has kept him at the top of the league in terms of total receiving yards. A 14.8% red zone target share in comparison to Chase (25.4%) could continue to limit his overall upside as well, despite the high-end draft capital.
DK Metcalf, WR, Seattle Seahawks
I promise I’m not just here to spend this entire article pounding on the Seahawks — others are most optimistic.
I am here, however, to discuss players whom I do not think will finish highly enough for fantasy in 2023 in comparison to their ADP. Though DK Metcalf finds himself among the elites in terms of upside, athleticism and skill set, a plethora of weapons for the Seahawks leave me concerned that he might not outperform his ADP, which is in the mid 30s on Yahoo.
In addition to another year of veteran WR Tyler Lockett, the team also drafted Jaxon Smith-Njigba, widely regarded as the 2023 NFL Draft class’ top receiving prospect, with the 20th overall pick. They then went on to draft the aforementioned Charbonnet, a productive receiving back at UCLA, creating more competition for targets than ever in Seattle’s offense.
Despite being considered such a favorable fantasy draft pick for his upside, Metcalf has finished just 6% of games as a top-five fantasy receiver and 24% of games as a top-12 receiver since 2020. For context, Lockett finished as a top-five receiver in 14.58% of games and 29.17% of games as a WR1 — and he’s being drafted two-to-three rounds later.
Metcalf is coming off career lows in yards per reception (11.6), yards after the catch per reception (2.6), average depth of target (12.1) and passer rating when targeted (89.9) for his lowest fantasy production since his rookie season despite a career-high 139 targets. Pass.
To be clear, this is not an indictment on George Kittle, his abilities as a tight end or what’s expected from the 49ers offense as a whole. I do have concerns, however, that projected touchdown regression and lack of consistency as a fantasy producer could make his current ADP of TE4 (43rd overall) a trap.
Kittle’s been one of the most high-upside tight ends in the league for fantasy, having had seven games of 20 or more fantasy points since the 2021 season — the third most among all tight ends. However, with that upside comes a lower floor than would be considered ideal for a top-flight fantasy tight end, with six games of five or fewer fantasy points over the last two seasons.
That’s one more than Mark Andrews and Travis Kelce have had in that span combined.
Further exacerbating concerns for his volatility is Kittle’s declining target volume and likely touchdown regression in the 2022 season. Last season, Kittle averaged just 5.73 targets per game — his lowest total since his rookie season in 2017. Despite that low target volume, he was incredibly efficient, scoring a career-high 11 touchdowns; that’s very likely due to regress moving forward.
In his first five seasons, Kittle averaged 16.75 receptions per touchdown compared to the uber-efficient 5.45 he posted in 2022. Buyers beware!