The Fantasy Football Today Draft-A-Thon couldn't have been a bigger success last week, and I want to thank everyone who made that possible – from our coworkers behind the scenes to our friends from around the Fantasy Football industry to, of course, all of you who tuned in and contributed. We raised over $10,000 for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital on the stream, bringing our total amount raised to over $120,000, which is simply a staggering number.
We'll get to the Fantasy analysis shortly, but I just wanted to take a moment to reflect on that. We started the Draft-A-Thon six years ago, and it has grown every year into a massive event for us, and it's all for a great cause. And we couldn't do it without our incredible readers, listeners, and viewers. So, truly, I just want to say thank you for all of your support. It means so much to us over here.
All right, now, let's get to it. We've got less than a week until the start of the 2023 NFL season, and contrary to what you might think if you follow a bunch of Fantasy Football analysts on Twitter, the majority of drafts haven't even taken place yet. While those of us sickos playing in 15-plus leagues have been drafting since February, most of you will be drafting over the next six days.
Which is probably smart. You won't be drafting Jonathan Taylor in the second round like some of us. You know about injuries to Terry McLaurin and Jerry Jeudy. You know Kyler Murray won't be playing for at least the first four weeks of the season, although you still don't know who Marquise Brown and the rest of the Cardinals will be catching passes from, which might be a good reason to just avoid that offense.
What we're talking about today is which players to avoid, obviously -- one last look at who we're avoiding in our drafts.
Before we get to that though, here are my latest rankings for the 2023 season for those of you drafting today:
Deshaun Watson, QB, Browns (77.3 ADP in CBS Fantasy leagues)
I'm having such a hard time with Watson, who was legitimately one of the best quarterbacks in Fantasy before his most recent six games. But the thing is, that's a lot longer ago than just "his most recent six games" makes it sound, because he didn't play at all in 2021 and missed most of 2022 while suspended. So, we're talking about going back to 2020 as the last time Watson played at a high level, and there just isn't much track record for a player coming back from that kind of layoff and returning to a superstar level. Reports out of Browns camp haven't been exactly glowing, despite the fact that they are seemingly catering the offense to Watson's preferences, which is a little worrying. Watson's running always gives him a chance to be a very good Fantasy option, but I just can't get on board with taking him as QB9, inside the top-80 picks, when guys like Tua Tagovailoa and Anthony Richardson (among others) are typically going 20-plus picks later.
Jonathan Taylor, RB, Colts (28.9)
Throw this ADP out the window, because we know Taylor is going to be going much, much later than this – I've got him ranked 75th in my updated top-200 rankings, and even that might be too aggressive, because there are multiple outcomes where Taylor disappoints. The most obvious one is that he just never plays – that the relationship between he and the Colts simply can't be fixed and he ends up sitting out more or less the entire season. But you also have to consider the possibility that Taylor really just isn't healthy, that his presence on the PUP list isn't just because of his contract demands, but that something actually went wrong in his recovery from ankle surgery and he isn't able to play. I think that's less likely to be the hurdle, but we have to at least consider it now. If I play in a league with IR spots I can stash him in,, but there's a real chance he gives us nothing this season. I didn't think that would be the case even 48 hours ago.
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Najee Harris, RB, Steelers (35.1)
The hype around Jaylen Warren has grown so quickly that the contrarian in me kind of wants to become a Najee Harris guy. And there are times when I can see it – he fell to the sixth round in a draft we did Wednesday afternoon, which is just a ridiculous value even if you're not in on him. But, where he typically goes, I just can't get excited about him. I don't think Jaylen Warren is just coming for his job, but he's going to have a role, and Harris just hasn't shown the kind of big-play ability or efficiency to overcome any kind of loss of touches. It feels like this could be an Ezekiel Elliott/Tony Pollard situation, where Harris still gets enough touches to be a decent starting option, but not enough – especially in the passing game – to be anything more than that. That isn't worth a third-round pick.
Christian Watson, WR, Packers (47.5)
I don't really dislike Watson at this price, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't concerned about him. There's obvious upside here, as he showed explosive playmaking abilities as a rookie, along strong per-route target metrics. However, this preseason, he ran 36 routes and was targeted just six times on them; rookie tight end Luke Musgrave was targeted eight times on his 37 routes, while Romeo Doubs was targeted four times on just 19 routes. Watson could still be a very good Fantasy option without an alpha's target share, but if they're spreading the ball around more now that low-target guys like Allen Lazard and Randall Cobb are out of the picture, it puts a lot of pressure on Watson to consistently hit on big plays. He may do that, but it's a tougher bet to make with Jordan Love at QB than Aaron Rodgers.
Christian Kirk, WR, Jaguars (69.0)
Kirk finished as WR12 last season, but that kind of overstates how good he was, seeing as he was 20th in per-game scoring. That's just ahead of Michael Pittman, who is rightly buried down at 102.7 in ADP. Pittman has a likely QB downgrade to deal with, but Kirk is also likely looking at a target decline after the addition of Calvin Ridley. Now, this could be a situation where a rising tide lifts all boats and Kirk remains a must-start Fantasy option even when his target volume declines, but I just don't see a ton of upside in his profile. As a WR3, he's okay, but I strongly prefer him as my WR4 if I'm going to take him; he's WR25 in ADP and WR39 in my rankings. The bottom probably isn't falling out anytime soon, but I don't think there's enough of a discount baked into his price at this point.
George Pickens, WR, Steelers (74.8)
Pickens is young and talented, so I certainly don't want to write off the possibility that he might just take a big step forward in Year 2. But I'm not a believer in Kenny Pickett's ability to elevate this offense, and Pickens didn't show much ability as a rookie to win on much of anything but go routes. If I'm wrong about Pickett, I may end up being wrong about Pickens too, but this feels like a situation where Pickens is being drafted for the ability to make highlight plays, rather than his potential to be a consistently impactful receiver. He's going ahead of Diontae Johnson, who I'd rather have straight up, but he's also going ahead of the likes of Tyler Lockett, Mike Evans, and Mike Williams, all of whom have proven they can be the kind of player we're hoping Pickens can develop into.
George Kittle, TE, 49ers (50.7)
If we're just talking about football players, I might only take Travis Kelce ahead of Kittle at the tight end position, and even that is a might. Kittle is one of the few tight ends with the ability to take the top off the defense or take a short pass to the house on any given play, and there will always be the potential for huge games when that's the case. But we saw Kittle play eight full games with Brock Purdy, and he topped 37 yards in just three of them. You might not have noticed because Kittle scored seven touchdowns in those eight games, but his overall usage and production left a whole lot to be desired. Because of how many stars the 49ers have, Kittle is going to have games where he is a focal point and absolutely feasts, and that upside will be enough to make him a must-start tight end for Fantasy. But there will be plenty of weeks where the game plan doesn't shine on him, and that's where you'll regret drafting him as the No. 3 tight end, which is where he's going in CBS leagues. I'd rather have T.J. Hockenson, Darren Waller, Dallas Goedert, or Kyle Pitts.
Jamey Eisenberg's Busts
Patrick Mahomes, QB, Chiefs
This is likely the most controversial one because Mahomes is my No. 1 ranked quarterback this season. And we're talking about a one-quarterback league here because in a Superflex or two-quarterback league we know Mahomes should be the No. 1 overall pick. But in this format, I'm out if you have to draft Mahomes in the first round, and the earliest I would select him is the back end of Round 2. That's closer to where you can find Josh Allen (No. 20 overall) and Jalen Hurts (No. 21 overall), and I don't think there should be that much separation between the three top quarterbacks. Along with that, I'm expecting some big seasons from guys like Lamar Jackson (No. 34 overall), Justin Herbert (No. 40 overall) and Justin Fields (No. 53 overall), and those guys offer better value. I understand Mahomes is safe and beyond proven, but I still don't want to draft him in Round 1 in a one-quarterback league.
Davante Adams, WR, Raiders
Adams is an amazing talent, and he should be able to remain successful this season to a high degree. But his age, along with the situation in Las Vegas, might be too much to keep him at an elite status. Jimmy Garoppolo should be a downgrade for Adams compared to Derek Carr, and reports in training camp indicate Garoppolo is having trouble throwing down the field. Adams is also 30 now, and receivers at his age haven't fared well of late. In the past 10 years, only 17 receivers at 30 or older have averaged at least 15.0 PPR points per game. And only three over that span – Brandon Marshall in 2015 at age 31 (21.2 PPR points per game), Jordy Nelson in 2016 at 31 (19.0) and Antonio Brown in 2018 at 30 (21.6) – produced at the level Adams did in 2022 at 19.4 PPR points per game. I don't mind drafting Adams in Round 2, but I will pass on him at No. 14 overall. I'd rather have Garrett Wilson, who is going one spot later, as well as several running backs ahead of Adams.
Breece Hall, RB, Jets
Hall falling into Round 4 is actually OK. But the ADP we're using here has pushed down running backs, and the reason I don't love Hall in this spot is he's the No. 14 running back off the board. That's too high for me, especially with Dalvin Cook joining the Jets. Hall still has to prove he's healthy, and the history of running backs coming back from a torn ACL in the first year isn't good. At some point this season, Hall could once again prove dominant like we saw in his rookie campaign, but I'm not drafting him as a top-15 running back this year.
Dave Richard's Busts
Lamar Jackson, QB, Ravens
Quarterbacks in general are pushed up in ADP, but I believe this one is the most egregious. Jackson smashed for the first three weeks of last season (40.7 Fantasy points per game) before dialing it way back (18.3 Fantasy points per game) until he got hurt in Week 13. Changing offensive scheme and tailoring the offense to his strengths as a passer makes sense, but certain metrics scare me. For instance, in Jackson's past two seasons combined (24 games) he's completed just 50.5% of his red-zone throws (below league average), scored a 24.3% TD rate in the red zone (sounds amazing but is slightly above league average), owns a 2.9% red-zone interception rate (fifth-highest) and a 19.4% off-target rate in the red zone (third highest). And get this – in the same time frame he's scored five rushing touchdowns total. If we're to believe he will throw a little more and run a little less, then the scheme Jackson's moving to this year better be foolproof and he and his receivers have to stay available for 17 games. It's too much risk for a quarterback who hasn't averaged 25 points per game since 2019.
Sure, let's trust a Patriots running back with a top-30 pick. What's the worst that could happen?! Welp, based on last year, 12.5 PPR points per game could happen. That's what Stevenson averaged in eight games when Damien Harris saw at least 10 touches. In those games Stevenson saw 37 targets (4.6 per game) and caught 31 of them (3.9 per game). Guess what? Fantasy managers absolutely have to bank on those numbers repeating in order for Stevenson to come through because his touchdown production is very much an open question. Stevenson had ONE touchdown in those eight games with Harris, TWO touchdowns in ANY game Harris participated in and ZERO touchdowns against the entire AFC East. Stevenson had 12 carries inside the 5-yard line last year and scored twice. Zeke? Nineteen such carries and nine touchdowns last year, plus he succeeded on 77.2% of his short runs on third down last year, which was good. And even if Elliott missed a few games, the Patriots might not be a team that spends a lot of time near the end zone anyway. This offensive line isn't great, and the playcalling could be better but so too are Mac Jones' options in the passing game. I can't tie myself to this offense with a top-30 pick.
Marquise Brown, WR, Cardinals
Yes, it's nice to have the No. 1 target on an NFL team. No, it's not as nice when the No. 1 target is seeing passes from Josh Dobbs and/or Clayton Tune to begin the season. With no certainty in Kyler Murray's return, I fear a bunch of inaccurate throws in Brown's future. I also think defenses will know better than to let Brown run freely downfield. Besides, the Cardinals have enough receivers to keep things diverse on offense -- Rondale Moore is a great short-area target, Greg Dortch looked good in the preseason, rookie Michael Wilson has nice size, and tight ends Trey McBride and Zach Ertz will command some looks. If you want Brown to have a big year, you better hope he's moved as part of the Cardinals' Fire Sale of 2023.
Heath Cummings' Busts
Amari Cooper, WR, Browns
By overall CBS ADP, it is hard to call any WR a bust. They are all going later than they are on other sites. So I'm just looking at where guys are being drafted at WR. Cooper is being drafted as WR17 ahead of DeAndre Hopkins, D.J. Moore, Christian Watson, Keenan Allen, Terry McLaurin, Christian Kirk, and Drake London. I would rather have all of those guys. Elijah Moore is supposed to take more targets than any other receiver in Cleveland did last year and Kevin Stefanski has never run a pass-heavy offense. I'm not sure there's enough volume for Cooper to justify his cost, especially with recent reports about Deshaun Watson's struggles in camp.
Derrick Henry, RB, Titans
Listen, nobody wants to do this. But when there is a 29-year-old running back with 1,877 career touches being drafted in the first round, we don't have a choice. The Titans offensive line may be the worst in the NFL, and it is hard to know what to expect from Ryan Tannehill. If Tannehill is OK, it may be that the acquisition of DeAndre Hopkins means the Titans will throw more. The truth is, Henry has bucked just about every trend we know for running backs. But there is too much age and injury risk to draft him in Round 1. We are more comfortable with him at the two-three turn.
Darren Waller, TE, Giants
I believe Waller should be the No. 1 target in New York, but I am concerned about just about everything else. He turns 31 in September, he has missed 14 games the past two years, his new quarterback has only topped 15 pass touchdowns once in his career, and Waller himself has only scored more than three touchdowns once. The past two seasons the No. 1 target earner on the Giants has seen 76 targets. If things go well for them, they'll be a low-volume pass offense again, so I'm not sure there is huge upside even when Waller is healthy.