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Players To Avoid Include Josh Allen, Austin Ekeler, Cooper Kupp, and George Kittle



As the NFL season approaches, millions of people are turning their attention to fantasy football. We at PFN have been researching more than 350 players, trying to identify which ones are overrated, underrated, and priced right. Here are predictions for some top fantasy football busts in 2023 based on current ADPs generated from FantasyPros.

2023 Fantasy Football Busts

Every year at every position, there are busts. Last season, Justin Herbert was the preseason QB3. He finished as the overall QB11 across 17 games. While that’s only an eight-spot difference, in fantasy drafts, that’s like investing a third-round pick on someone who produces seventh-round value.

Of course, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Those who drafted consensus No. 1 pick Jonathan Taylor felt the pain. Deebo Samuel didn’t come close to warranting his near-elite projections.

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Sometimes it’s about injuries. Other times it’s simply about regression. And occasionally, players struggle on both counts.

Regardless of the reasons, there are ways to calculate which players are higher-probability bust candidates. With that in mind, here are some of the riskiest fantasy investments — guys who realistically could bust relative to their ADP.

Josh Allen, QB, Buffalo Bills

Many signs point to Josh Allen running less in 2023. Head coach Sean McDermott understands that Allen is taking too many hits when he runs downfield. Even last year, McDermott expressed hope that Allen would run less. Allen gets it, acknowledging that after taking the most hits of his career during these past two campaigns, he “can’t continue” to play that physically.

Will his rushing prowess grind to a halt? Of course not. But the additions of RB Damien Harris and TE Dalton Kincaid speak volumes about Buffalo’s 2023 plans. Last year, Allen led all quarterbacks in red-zone rushing attempts, accounting for 30% of Buffalo’s carries inside the opposing 20. Buffalo RBs were near the league’s bottom in carries.

There will be adjustments. The biggest question is how much these adjustments will lower Allen’s ceiling. A case could be made that he’ll make up for it through the air. But I don’t see that happening. With nearly 30% of his 2022 fantasy production coming on the ground, regression is coming.

I believe it will result in at least an 18% decline in fantasy points per game, which could effectively push him outside the top five. Given how early fantasy managers are drafting him (frequently in the second round), he’s headed toward bust status.

Austin Ekeler, RB, Los Angeles Chargers

Hopefully, at least some of these predictions will appear to be head-scratchers. If they were obvious, then the market wouldn’t be so bullish about their 2023 prospects.

To me, Austin Ekeler seems like a clear-as-day bust candidate. Yes, the preseason RB2 is playing for a long-term contract. But let’s not overstate the significance of this motivation. While Ekeler is one of the best running backs of this current decade — and while he might be the best undrafted running back in NFL history — he has almost nowhere to go but down.

The 28-year-old earned a career-high 326 touches last season, including the playoffs. He enjoyed two monster games against the Browns and Rams. He compiled only 655 rushing yards in his other 16 contests, accounting for 3.4 yards per carry.

His broken-tackle rate on rushing attempts plummeted to one per 40.8 carries. His previous career-worst mark was one per 15.8 the year before. And while his yards before contact were a career-high 2.6 per carry, his yards after contact were a career-worst 1.9.

Whether because of the physical demands of increased annual workloads or receiver injuries that enabled defenders to stack the box more, or any other realistic factor, the facts are clear: Despite an incredible 2022 fantasy campaign, Ekeler took a step back.

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This offseason, the Chargers finally found a high-ceiling wideout (Quentin Johnston) to pair with Keenan Allen and Mike Williams. We might expect the improving Joshua Kelley to play a more active role in the backfield, keeping Ekeler fresher for a potential postseason run.

As a result, Ekeler is a longshot to hit 250+ touches. And after averaging a whopping 19 touchdowns in each of the last two years — accounting for 32% of his fantasy production — he’s a risky bet to hit 10 this season. Nine of his last 11 scores have come from the 3-yard line or closer. Expect others to get more involved near the goal line, limiting the number of hits Ekeler has to take during the regular season.

Cooper Kupp (10) warms up before the game against the Buffalo Bills at SoFi Stadium.

Cooper Kupp, WR, Los Angeles Rams

I wrote last summer that Cooper Kupp was overvalued, thanks to a higher-than-normal injury risk and troubling reports of tendinitis for Matthew Stafford.

Still, I didn’t expect him to come close to leading all WRs in fantasy points per game. And that’s why he’s still among the elite, with a WR4 ADP that suggests he’ll pick up where he left off before getting hurt last year.

But consider that he’ll turn 30 this month. He’s endured two season-ending injuries in his last five campaigns. Stafford is clearly a post-prime quarterback who cannot realistically recapture the magic of 2021.

Kupp thrived last year because Stafford was good enough and because the all-world receiver had virtually no competition. L.A. probably isn’t a playoff-caliber team. They’ll want to see what they have in rookie Puka Nacua and former second-round pick Tutu Atwell. And with Van Jefferson entering the final year of his rookie contract, assuredly the Rams are eyeing whether to re-sign him.

The Rams are likely playing more for 2024 and 2025 than for 2023. If they plan to keep Kupp for the duration of his extensive contract, then there will be no good reason to overwork him late in the season. Similarly, injuries that he might have played through in 2021 could sideline him this year.

It’s a strange season for the Rams. Kupp is easily their best offensive asset. At the same time, if they find themselves with a 3-8 record in November, they’ll be hard-pressed to keep putting inordinate weight on a wideout who’s owned more than $65 million after this season and who carries a dead-cap hit of $36.6 million in 2024 … when they’ll probably need Kupp to step up more as this franchise makes another push for legitimacy.

George Kittle, TE, San Francisco 49ers

I drafted George Kittle in my league last summer, buying low on his preseason injury news. At his best, he can be the No. 2 fantasy TE — as he proved last year.

But there are too many warning signs to ignore. Entering his age-30 campaign, and with an injury history that puts his realistic over/under for games played at around 14.5, Kittle needs a lot of things to break right to hit his TE4 ADP.

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Consider that he averaged 8.5 targets per game in 2018. In each successive year, his target average has shifted to 7.6 (2019), 7.9 (2020), 6.7 (2021), and a career-low 5.7 last season.

There’s no doubt that Kittle is still one of the Niners’ best weapons. But he frequently took a backseat. Christian McCaffrey, Deebo Samuel, and Brandon Aiyuk remain offensive anchors. Jauan Jennings isn’t going anywhere, and the young Danny Gray could take another step forward.

Then there’s rookie TE Cameron Latu. Apparently, San Francisco wasn’t satisfied with Ross Dwelley as the backup. Latu battled injuries at Alabama, which seemingly impacted his draft stock. But the Niners thought highly enough of him to snag the TE in the third round.

Notably, six of Kittle’s 11 scores last season came in the four games Samuel missed. A highly inexperienced QB leaned on his most experienced pass catcher, and it worked.

That’s not easily replicable in 2023. As the No. 4 or No. 5 offensive option, his ceiling is too low to rank him in the top five. Whether because of injuries or regression or both, Kittle probably won’t finish in the top eight.

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Players To Target Include Alexander Mattison, Jordan Addison, Adam Thielen, and Others




Kirk Cousins has been nothing short of royalty this season. He is the focal point of the Week 4 Minnesota Vikings fantasy football preview, while the passing game is the driving force behind what I’m interested in regarding the Carolina Panthers’ fantasy outlook.

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Minnesota Vikings at Carolina Panthers

  • Spread: Vikings -3.5
  • Total: 45
  • Vikings implied points: 24.3
  • Panthers implied points: 20.8


Kirk Cousins: Fantasy’s top-ranked quarterback through three weeks is on an absolute tear, and it doesn’t look that crazy; he’s simply maximizing the tools at his disposal. In the Week 3 loss, half of his targets went to Justin Jefferson or T.J. Hockenson — that’s just smart football.

With Jordan Addison or K.J. Osborn turning in a splash play every week, the weapons on this roster, combined with the defensive limitations, put Cousins in a fantasy-friendly position more often than not.

I don’t think the Carolina Panthers (425 yards allowed to the Seattle Seahawks last week) are what slows this offense down, though I do have my concerns about the Carolina offense pushing Minnesota the way the Los Angeles Chargers did last week.

No, I don’t think Cousins throws for over 6,000 yards and 50 touchdowns like his September pace would suggest, but I do think he is a top-10 option until something changes.

Andy Dalton: With Bryce Young sidelined last week, the Panthers elected to open up the playbook — and guess what? It worked. Well, sort of. They held a halftime lead as a 4.5-point underdog in Seattle and flirted with 400 yards of total offense when all was said and done.

Sure, they lost by 10 points, but it certainly wasn’t the fault of the offense, and it’s not crazy to think something similar could happen again this week. Dalton had 20 more completions than the Panthers had rushing attempts, something that simply was never going to happen with how this offense was operating with Young at the helm.

We will get to what this offense could look like when Young returns when the time comes, but with Dalton penciled in, it’s clear that this coaching staff is comfortable airing it out. I find it unlikely that he will repeat his QB7 finish from Week 3, but a top-15 effort is very possible and a great find for Superflex managers or DFS risk-takers.

Running Backs

Alexander Mattison: He’s still seeing north of 80% of the RB work in Minnesota, and until I see that change with my own two eyes, Mattison will be ranked as an RB2 for me. He set season highs in carries (20), catches (five), targets (seven), and scrimmage yards (125) last weekend in the crazy loss to the Chargers, flashing a usage level that only a handful of backs can claim.

His productive day could have been even better if not for a dropped red zone pass that could have turned into a touchdown with one missed tackle. The addition of Cam Akers looks like a depth move more than one of true competition to me.

That’s my view from a distance, given the draft capital spent and the limited success of Akers in Week 1 with the Los Angeles Rams (22 carries for 29 yards).

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Could I be wrong? Of course. It wouldn’t be the first time and certainly wouldn’t be the last, but until I have a tangible reason to fear Akers, I refuse to do so. In a spot like this or in the Week 4 Cheat Sheet.

Cam Akers: Follow the money. It may be cliche, but in a world where we often have to react to how a team uses a player to inform us what they think of him, the cost associated with acquiring a player is as good a sign of what the team anticipates that player to offer as anything.

Akers was acquired from the Rams last week, along with a 2027 seventh-round pick for a 2026 sixth-rounder. At that cost, the Vikings are not committed to making Akers work. They identified an underpriced asset and took a shot. Akers should be on the field and get some work in his Vikings debut, but he’s nothing more than roster depth until proven otherwise.

Miles Sanders: Carolina’s feature back has seen both his touch count and his yards per carry decline each week this season, obviously ominous trends. While those numbers are moving in the wrong direction, he is still the clear-cut option in this backfield and on a 68-catch pace.

He’s no different than a guy like James Conner: limited per-touch upside in a bad offense but a secure role that carries a reasonable floor. I’m not telling you Sanders will win you this week or a title this season, but I’d be surprised if he let you down in such a way that neither was possible. He’s right back in that RB16-20 range for me this week.

Wide Receivers

Justin Jefferson: What do you want me to say about this guy? Even in a week where he barely catches half of his targets, he turned around and gave you 24.4 half-PPR fantasy points, highlighted by a 52-yard touchdown where he showed route-running expertise in dismantling the Chargers’ zone coverage.

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With 117 yards this week, he will bump his career per-game average to 100 yards. How crazy is that? For most receivers, 100 yards is a benchmark that deserves recognition. For Jefferson, it’s just another day at the office.

Jordan Addison: Was Week 3 a turning point? I’m not making an overly aggressive ranking move yet, but it is possible that in two months, we look back and circle Week 3 as the beginning of a serious run.

Yes, Addison scored in each of the first two weeks and didn’t in Week 3, but he finally out-earned K.J. Osborn in a significant way (eight targets to three), potentially signaling the earning of a role. We will see if the WR2 role is truly his moving forward (a role I have a top-25 spot in my WR ranks reserved for should an option emerge). I have him ranked as a low-end WR3 this week and am ready to move him up should we get reports of a role upgrade.

K.J. Osborn: His 36-yard touchdown featured a perfectly timed dive to the pylon, but it was his only reception of Week 3 (three targets). We’ve seen a secondary Viking receiver haul in a 30+-yard touchdown in all three games this season, and as long as Osborn’s name is in that mix, he deserves to be rostered.

I do think Addison wins this role, but I acknowledge that it is still a competition. Osborn is on the outside looking in at my top 45 at the position as I am reading more into the low usage from last week than the singular big play.

Adam Thielen: The veteran receiver has posted consecutive top-20 finishes and has hauled in 80% of his passes this season. The veteran is a proven touchdown maker, so if we get to blend efficiency and volume with that profile, we might be onto something. Assuming Dalton is under center, and thus the entire playbook is available, Thielen makes for a decent Flex play in PPR formats.

If you’ve made it this far, first of all, thank you. Thank you to the editors for the patience it takes to get to this point and to you, the reader, for listening to me ramble about fake football in a long form. I’ll reward you the only way I know how to: with a quirky stat!

Since 2019, one of every 6.9 Thielen catches has resulted in a TD. Let’s put some context on that. We are talking about the same rate as Randy Moss’ first five seasons and better than Calvin Johnson’s first five (7.5). Thank you again for your loyalty in reading this piece: now take that nugget to your Week 4 watch party and be the star of the event!

DJ Chark Jr.: Big receivers who see targets in bulk are a reasonable roll of the dice in a pinch, and the 6’3” Chark seeing 11 targets last week certainly has me interested.

The opportunity is more likely than not to dry up when Young returns, but if you’re chasing upside without any concern for downside (DFS GPP, an undermanned team in a survivor format, etc.), you could do worse (career: 14.5 yards per catch).

Jonathan Mingo: A concussion limited him to just 18 routes last week, and if you’re playing in an ultra-deep league, Terrace Marshall Jr. was the fill-in option. Neither is worth a look in most leagues, but if you want a cheap piece of this game for DFS, there’s your depth chart update.

Tight Ends

T.J. Hockenson: The fact that he averages 7.8 yards per catch isn’t great for his ceiling, but are you chasing a ceiling? No. No, you’re not. You want him to be consistent and to give you an edge on 90% of your league at the tight end position.

He’s doing just that. He is currently pacing for 130 receptions, and while I don’t think he gets there, the fact that you can lock him in for 10 points per game is unbelievably valuable at the tight end position.

Hayden Hurst: From a process standpoint, Hurst deserves a mention. He doesn’t carry much upside, but considering that he ran a route on 81.3% of his snaps in Week 3, he’s on my list of punt TE plays for Week 4.

Should You Start Jordan Addison or Garrett Wilson?

It was Osborn with the score last week, but as mentioned above, it was Addison filling the WR2 role in a significant way. That has me optimistic about his outlook for both this week and moving forward.

I can’t say that about Wilson and a Jets offense that is stuck in the mud. He is always going to carry elite, one-play upside, though this team is clearly having a hard time capitalizing on it. If I can bet against the Jets’ offense, I will, and getting to do so with the league’s leading passer makes this an easy call.

Should You Start Adam Thielen or Rashid Shaheed?

Benching Thielen for Shaheed after two different Week 3 performances may sound crazy, but that’s fantasy. Last week is in the past, and for this week, Shaheed takes on a poor pass defense with an aggressive quarterback.

Meanwhile, Thielen’s offense could go back into a shell with Bryce Young back under center.

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Why Did AD Mitchell Transfer? Explaining the WR’s Decision To Leave Georgia for Texas




Adonai (AD) Mitchell is one of the most explosive playmakers in college football. The junior wide receiver plays for the Texas Longhorns in the Big 12 Conference. He transferred from Georgia in 2022, where he was a contributor for two seasons. Mitchell is known best for catching four touchdowns in four College Football Playoff games for the Bulldogs.

But why did the future NFL Draft prospect transfer? And what was his reasoning behind his decision?

Why AD Mitchell Transfer From Georgia

Mitchell started 12 out of 15 games for the Bulldogs in 2021, catching touchdowns in both the playoff semifinal and championship games, and helped the team win their first title since 1980.

Although sidelined by an ankle injury for most of the 2022 season, Mitchell returned in time for the playoffs and caught touchdowns in both games, helping Georgia win back-to-back titles.

Shortly after winning the championship game against TCU, Mitchell transferred schools with his two-year-old daughter, Icylinn, in mind.

In less than a fortnight, he declared his plans to go to Texas. While he could have remained in Athens and basked in the applause as a Bulldog, he returned to Texas due to family reasons. Mitchell had spent most of his high school football career in Missouri City, Texas — close to Houston — until he relocated to Tennessee before his final year.

He closed the 900-mile distance to reunite with his family and join the explosive Longhorns offense. Being a draft-eligible junior made it an important decision.

Mitchell’s transfer announcement on social media included a photo of himself with Icylinn in his lap. She was holding a football, and both were dressed in Longhorns gear.

Now, instead of just FaceTime calls with his daughter, Mitchell can jump in the car for a two-hour drive for visits, which Norman Mitchell said happened often during the offseason.

“That’s honestly been the best part,” Mitchell said when asked about coming home to family. “When I was away, you know, I didn’t get that. I didn’t get that time with my mom. I didn’t get that time with my family and, most of all, my daughter.”

Mitchell joined a Texas team that was already well-stocked with receivers. His coaches were aware of his abilities, and Mitchell quickly sparked excitement among fans with an impressive one-handed catch during the spring game. He quickly brought that same energy on the field, racking up 78 yards and two touchdowns against Alabama in Week 2.

“He’s been in the fire, has been in the big games with big plays,” Texas coach Steve Sarkisian said. “He brings instant credibility and backs it up.”

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Standing 6’4″ with blazing speed, Mitchell is a legitimate home-run threat. But he is also a precise route-runner, able to line up inside and outside and attack both in the vertical passing and quick games.

Mitchell is incredibly gifted, and he’s made his way into our 2024 NFL Draft big board as a top-100 talent. He could make his way into the first round due to his unique blend of size and speed.

Ian Valentino is a Fantasy and Betting Analyst for Pro Football Network. You can read all of Ian’s work here and follow him on Twitter: @NFLFilmStudy.

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What We Know About the Colorado Safety




Colorado Buffaloes safety Shilo Sanders, son of head coach Deion Sanders, has been dealing with an unknown, undisclosed injury that has left his status up in the air against USC in Week 5. Will Sanders play this week, and if not, when will he return to action?

Shilo Sanders Injury Update

Sanders has been downgraded to doubtful to play against the eighth-ranked USC Trojans on Saturday, per Pete Thamel of ESPN. Sanders didn’t practice this week after being taken to the emergency room following last week’s loss against Oregon. The senior safety told Well Off Media he was urinating blood due to a kidney injury.

“I can’t say I didn’t play hard. I’m peeing blood right now,” Sanders said after getting off the plane. “I made a tackle, and I landed on my kidney or something. I got to go to the ER to get checked.”

Sanders was marked as questionable to play throughout the week, but on Saturday, it was revealed that he was not expected to play. Rodrick Ward is expected to start in his place.

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Colorado already was at a major talent disadvantage in this game. Star receiver and cornerback Travis Hunter is out with his own lacerated kidney, and USC is one of the most powerful offenses in the nation. Losing Sanders further complicates things for a team that ranks 111th in passing defense.

Sanders has racked up 26 tackles, one interception, and one forced fumble in 2023. Previously an unheralded defender, the 6’0″, 195-pounder began his career at South Carolina before transferring to Jackson State when his father took the head coaching job. Sanders followed his father and his brother, Shedeur Sanders, to Colorado.

Shilo has emerged as a potential 2024 NFL Draft prospect in his own right. He has another year of eligibility, so there’s no guarantee he’ll come out this year.

We’ll continue to update this article as new information emerges.

Ian Valentino is a Fantasy and Betting Analyst for Pro Football Network. You can read all of Ian’s work here and follow him on Twitter: @NFLFilmStudy.

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List to the PFN Scouting Podcast! Click the embedded player below to listen, or you can find the PFN Scouting Podcast on iTunes, Spotify, and all major podcast platforms.  Be sure to subscribe and leave us a five-star review! Rather watch instead? Check out the PFN Scouting Podcast on our Scouting YouTube channel.

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