Pitfall Players Who Will Sink Your Fantasy Squad This Season 2023

By Gary Davenport
Gary Davenport

Pitfall Players Who Will Sink Your Fantasy Squad This Season
By Gary Davenport

In some respects, fantasy football drafters are like Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Drafters are attempting to navigate the ancient temple that is draft day and secure the treasures that are valuable fantasy assets-all without setting off a trap that will pump them full of poison darts or get them squished by the giant boulder of disappointment that is a player who fails to meet expectations.

Most drafts generally contain fewer snakes. At least I hope so.

There's a saying in fantasy football-"You can't win your league on draft day, but you can lose it." Spend an early or even mid-round pick on a player who falls flat, and the season can quickly spiral out of control. A summer of preparation and excitement can rapidly become an autumn of despair.

Each of the players listed here is that tile on the floor of the temple that you don't want to step on-the one that sends the darts whizzing through the room. Not all will necessarily "bust." But at the very least, these players are being drafted far closer to their fantasy ceiling than the floor.

And drafting players at their ceiling won't get you the golden idol that is a fantasy championship.

ADP data courtesy of Fantasy Pros.

Dak Prescott, QB, Dallas Cowboys (ADP: QB10, 84th Overall)

Two years ago, Dak Prescott threw for over 4,400 yards and 37 touchdowns in Kellen Moore's offense on the way to a QB6 finish in fantasy points. Last year was a different story-a league leading 15 picks in 12 games and down numbers across the board. Now, with Moore gone and Mike McCarthy calling the plays, Dennis Sosic of Fantasy Six Pack doubts that a rebound is coming in 2023.

"The uncertainty of the path of this Cowboys offense makes me nervous," he said. "Prescott is an above-average quarterback but might be slightly stifled by the play-calling. Fantasy managers are clamoring for the breakout of running back Tony Pollard, and in this new Cowboys offense, it is a good bet that we will witness it this season. Unfortunately, it will result in Prescott taking a back seat."

The addition of Brandin Cooks is a boost to the Dallas wideout corps, but McCarthy has already made it clear the Cowboys want to run the ball more this year. Brian Schottenheimer's hiring as offensive coordinator doesn't inspire a ton of confidence either. Prescott is a solid NFL quarterback, but his days of being anything more than a low-end fantasy QB1 could be just about over.


Najee Harris, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers (ADP: RB10, 28th Overall)

The good news with Harris is that in both of his professional seasons, the former first-round pick has surpassed 1,000 yards on the ground and finished as a top-15 fantasy option. But those fantasy finishes were born a lot more from volume than from efficiency, and Gilberto Manzano of Sports Illustrated believes this is the year that catches up to Harris.

"Many are pointing the finger at the Steelers' poor run blocking for Harris's disappointing 2022 season, but it's concerning that Harris has averaged under four yards per carry in each of his first two seasons, with a career average of 3.9," he said. "He's a physical runner who can also contribute in the passing game, but plenty needs to go right for Harris to make an impact. Also, are we convinced that second-year quarterback Kenny Pickett will provide enough balance to keep opposing defenses guessing? That's not a given based on Pickett's subpar rookie season. As for the offensive line, the Steelers added guard Isaac Seumalo, but that might not be enough with a shaky right side and a rookie left tackle in Broderick Jones."

It doesn't help matters any that reserve running back Jaylen Warren is a good receiver in his own right who has looked exponentially more explosive than Harris in preseason action. If Warren starts to see more touches in games that count and Harris' volume takes a hit, his fantasy value will follow-and it's getting easier and easier to see that happening.


Kenneth Walker, RB, Seattle Seahawks (ADP: RB17, 45th Overall)

It wasn't that long ago that Walker appeared to be headed toward fantasy superstardom after topping 1,000 yards on the ground as a rookie and finishing as a top-20 fantasy option. But then the Seahawks used a second-round pick on UCLA's Zach Charbonnet, and as Matt Jones wrote for 4For4, the arrival of backfield competition isn't the only thing working against Walker this season.

"There are so many things going against selecting Walker this season, despite his stellar rookie year," he said. "We also haven't mentioned the structural penalties that you incur by taking a fourth-round running back that doesn't even catch passes. You have to assume that he can overcome the historical hit rates that are going against him. Then, assume that the second-round back they just drafted won't factor in. Then, you have to say that Geno Smith will be able to sustain his comeback story from last season. After all that, you still have to project double-digit touchdowns to make up for his lack of pass-catching upside."

So, we have a young running back who is a non-factor in the passing game. He now has to contend with a back in Charbonnet who is both a far superior receiver and a better pass protector. The entire Seattle offense is a candidate to regress this year. And Walker is already nursing a groin injury as Week 1 nears. Other than that though, everything is fine.


Davante Adams, WR, Las Vegas Raiders (ADP: WR7, 12th overall)

I have beaten this drum so hard this summer that my arm is going to fall off before Week 1, but I'll say this again-using a first-round pick on Walker this season is begging to get a dart in the neck. Yes, he led the league in touchdown catches last year. Yes, he was third in PPR points among receivers. But it's a bad idea-and I'm not alone in thinking so.

"Adams is 30 now, and receivers at his age haven't fared well of late," Jamey Eisenberg of CBS Sports said. "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."

It's not just a matter of age. Last year, Adams was sixth in yards per catch among wideouts with 50 or more receptions, largely because Derek Carr was fourth in the league in Intended Air Yards Per Attempt. Carr is in New Orleans now, and his replacement (Jimmy Garoppolo) was 25th in the league in that same stat last season in San Francisco. There are already reports out of Vegas that Garoppolo is struggling to throw the ball down the field accurately.


Deebo Samuel, WR, San Francisco 49ers (ADP: WR17, 38th Overall)

There's a saying in fantasy football-"chasing ghosts." It's one of the easiest pitfalls that fantasy managers can fall into. They pay for things that have already happened instead of what will happen-and then wonder why things don't work out as planned. As Jonathan Lange wrote for Pro Football Network, that's what's happening with Deebo Samuel in 2023.

"It appears that the people propping up Deebo Samuel's ADP are living in 2021 and choosing to ignore what happened in 2022 to the superstar WR," he said. "In 2021, Samuel's fantasy production was through the roof, as he averaged 18 yards per reception and actually had more rushing touchdowns than receiving ones. Last year was a different story as he struggled mightily to produce and even had some lingering hamstring and quad injuries that sapped him of his energy."

The injuries were frankly the least of Samuel's problems. Once the 49ers obtained Christian McCaffrey, Samuel's role as a rusher plummeted. His yards per catch fell by almost 38 percent and his yards per target fell by over 42 percent. Samuel went from do-it-all offensive weapon to dump-off target-and there's little reason to believe that's suddenly going to reverse in 2023.


Mark Andrews, TE, Baltimore Ravens (ADP: TE2, 27th Overall)

Two years ago, Andrews did what at the team seemed unthinkable-he caught 107 passes, topped 1,300 receiving yards and beat out Travis Kelce of the Kansas City Chiefs for the title of highest-scoring fantasy tight end. But that was then, and this is now-and as Tyler Loechner of FTN wrote, the situation around Andrews is much more different now than it was then.

"Pressing "draft" on his name at the moment is a little bit unnerving," he said. "The good news is that Baltimore brought back Lamar Jackson and appears to be going much more pass-happy by hiring Todd Monken as their new offensive coordinator. The bad news (for Andrews) is that he's no longer the only show in town. Rashod Bateman returns in 2023. The Ravens spent a first-round pick on Zay Flowers. They also added Odell Beckham. It may not be elite, but that's a lot better than the "Mark Andrews, Devin Duvernay and Carl Your Neighbor" corps the Ravens have rolled with the last few years. To be clear, Andrews will be a fine fantasy player in 2023. But he's being drafted as if he's still the only target hog in Baltimore. He's not."

Outside that massive season in 2021, Andrews has never caught 75 passes in a season. He has never had 900 receiving yards in a season. He has just one year with 10 touchdowns. And last year he actually finished the season third in PPR points behind Kelce and T.J. Hockenson of the Minnesota Vikings. Andrews isn't a bad player. He'll likely be a top-five tight end. But fantasy managers can obtain a similar (if not better) fantasy ceiling with Hockenson over a full round later.

Gary Davenport is a Contributing Author and Associate Editor at Football Diehards. Follow Gary on Twitter at @IDPSharks.