Fantasy Football 2023 Non-Bounceback Candidates
FTN's Dan Fornek looks at a handful of players who disappointed this past season who aren't likely to bounce back in 2023 for fantasy football.
Feb 22, 2023, 8:10 AM EST
On Monday, I released an article for FTNFantasy looking at the players who can have a bounceback season in 2023. Unfortunately, for all the players that can rebound, there are plenty of players who will continue on a downward trend.
Whether it’s due to age or injury, there comes a certain point where the players we know in fantasy start to decline. Being able to identify those situations with well-known players early can be the difference between winning a fantasy championship and playing in the consolation bracket. Check out the players who aren’t likely to rebound in 2023 below.
Kyler Murray, Arizona Cardinals
It is difficult to consider Kyler Murray a disappointment if you look purely at his game-by-game scoring (18.8 fantasy PPG, QB7). However, a late-season ACL tear ended Murray’s season early and brought the start of his 2023 season into question. That doesn’t bode well for his ability to “bounce back” next season and assert himself as a top fantasy option again.
The most obvious concern is the potential reluctance Murray will have rushing next year on a surgically repaired knee. Murray has at least 400 rushing yards and three touchdowns in each of his four seasons in the NFL. Additionally, he’s averaged over 5.0 yards per carry in three of four seasons. Considering how much rushing production helps with fantasy points at the quarterback position, any dip in Murray’s effectiveness on the ground has a real chance to kneecap his fantasy value.
Unfortunately, Murray wasn’t exactly lighting the world on fire as a passer either. Before his injury, the fourth-year quarterback was on pace to have his second-worst completion percentage (66.4%) and approach his career-high in interceptions (on pace for 11 in a full season). Additionally, Murray was posting a career-worst touchdown rate (3.6%) and adjusted yards per attempt (6.0).
None of this even takes into account the likelihood he loses his WR1 (DeAndre Hopkins) via trade and the team’s hiring of a defensive-minded head coach. All of those reasons (and the likelihood he doesn’t start the season healthy) make Murray a player to avoid in 2023 drafts.
AJ Dillon, Green Bay Packers
There was plenty of preseason hype that AJ Dillon would start taking over the Packers backfield before the 2022 season. Unfortunately for fantasy managers, that hype did not come to fruition. Dillon and Aaron Jones wound up in a nearly 50/50 timeshare. The third-year running back had just 186 carries for 770 yards and 28 receptions (on 43 targets) for 206 yards. Thankfully, Dillon was able to salvage an RB26 finish in PPR leagues with seven rushing touchdowns.
The situation in Green Bay isn’t likely to be much better next season either. The receiving corps is still uncertain and could use a talent infusion. The offensive line will be another year older (but hopefully healthier). Nobody knows if Aaron Rodgers, Jordan Love or someone else will be under center. Plus, the team just restructured Jones this offseason, meaning this will once again be a split backfield.
At best, Dillon seems poised to return to the same situation he was in last season. At worst, he’s in the same backfield rotation with a worse quarterback.
Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys
Ezekiel Elliott finished another fantasy season as a top-24 PPR running back, averaging 12.4 fantasy points per game. The veteran running back had the first season in his career with under 4.0 yards per carry (3.8) and fewer than 38 targets (23). Most of his fantasy value came from his 12 rushing touchdowns. For the first time in his career, Elliott was outproduced by running mate Tony Pollard.
The Cowboys have already expressed an interest in bringing Pollard back on the franchise tag, and they are cash-strapped going into the 2023 offseason. That means a hard conversation with Elliott about his $16 million cap hit for the upcoming season. If Zeke restructures, then he will once again be splitting time with Pollard again next season. If he gets cut, then he could find himself in a worse offense.
Regardless of the outcome, Zeke is more of an early-down grinder with touchdown upside at this point in his career.
Gabe Davis, Buffalo Bills
Gabe Davis seemingly had everything fall into place before the 2022 season. He was the unquestioned WR2 in Buffalo’s offense. He was coming off a massive playoff game where he scored four touchdowns. That, plus being tethered to one of the best young quarterbacks in the game, elevated Davis as high as the fourth round in fantasy drafts.
Unfortunately, Davis didn’t deliver on the promise fantasy managers saw from him.
Yes, Davis did set career highs in targets (93), receptions (48) and receiving yards (836) while tying his career high in touchdowns (7). However, he was the definition of a boom-or-bust player, and he busted far too often. Davis wound up finishing as the WR36 in PPR scoring with just 11.4 points per week. This season likely confirmed that Davis can have a solid role in the NFL but may never produce at the necessary levels to be a fantasy lineup staple.
This offseason will show what the team thinks about Davis as well: Will they give him one more year to grow into the WR2 role or will Buffalo try to upgrade and continue to use Davis as a field stretcher? Regardless, it will be hard to trust Davis as more than a backend WR2 with a big weekly upside.
Deebo Samuel, San Francisco 49ers
Deebo Samuel’s playmaking ability and versatility were on full display during the 2021 season, ultimately pushing him into the early second round of 2022 fantasy drafts. Unfortunately, Samuel failed to capture that same lightning in the bottle as the team chose to utilize him more as a perimeter weapon than in the backfield.
There aren’t any reasons to believe the team will employ Samuel any differently in 2023 than they did in 2022. The team will (hopefully) have a healthy Trey Lance in the run game to complement Christian McCaffrey and Elijah Mitchell. Samuel could have some positive regression in the touchdown department, but it seems likely that Samuel will once again finish much closer to his WR38 finish in 20222 than his WR3 finish in 2021.
Kyle Pitts, Atlanta Falcons
Nobody will deny that Kyle Pitts is an athletic unicorn at the tight end position. However, that has not translated into the massive promise that we have been looking for at tight end in fantasy. Pitts played in just 10 games in 2022, catching 28 of 59 passes for 356 yards and two touchdowns. Pitts is trapped on a low-volume passing offense with questionable quarterback play and it is giving him a hard ceiling in fantasy.
It is hard to imagine a situation where Pitts really bounces back in the 2023 season. Atlanta has an ambiguous quarterback situation with either an average Desmond Ridder or whatever upgrade they can get in free agency or the draft. The Falcons will likely remain a run-first offense once again, leaving Pitts competing with Drake London for a meager target share. Pitts should be fully recovered from the MCL tear that ended his season, but otherwise, it’s hard to imagine him breaking through like most of us expected before last year.