It happens every year, the dreaded bust picks. Sometimes they are easy to spot, while most of the time they are hard to predict. Busting on an early pick can sink a fantasy manager’s season and even a middle-round bust can create a hole for managers to dig out of.
While it’s hard to predict what may happen, we’re here to help you navigate through some risky players we see. The players below are extremely talented at their position but are also players that I think are being drafted at their absolute ceiling. In the end, they may do more harm than good to your team compared to others you could have drafted in their place.
Fantasy football wide receiver busts 2023
CeeDee Lamb (DAL)
- ADP 16.8
- My rank: WR10
Don’t get me wrong, I think CeeDee Lamb is one of the most talented wide receivers in the game. His size, speed and contested catch ability add up to what should make as one of the most elite offensive players every week. I have loved Lamb so far in his NFL career, just as much as I loved former Cowboy great Dez Bryant (I must have a thing for Cowboys who wear #88).
What I don’t love is his head coach and offensive play-caller, which happen to be the same person. In order for Mike McCarthy to make himself look good for Jerry Jones, he simply put the blame on his offensive coordinator, Kellen Moore. Not only was Moore doing his job, but he was doing it great. Cowboys ended the season 4th in points per game and 11th in yards per game.
While all this is true, McCarthy states that they were scoring too quickly. I understand you want to give your defense some rest, but you can’t win games if you don’t score points. With McCarthy now calling the shots, he made it clear what he wants to do by stating “I want to run the damn ball”. This is giving me nightmares of some old-school run-the-ball down-your-throat football. This style of play usually hurts, as you may have guessed, the wide receivers.
I know I know; they only have Tony Pollard and there’s no way he can stay healthy all season with that kind of workload. While his durability is still yet to be tested as a workhorse, I still expect Dallas to eventually add some running back help via the remaining free agents available to help complement Pollard.
Last year Dallas finished 9th in team rushing play percentage at 47.30%. Not far above them were Tennessee and Carolina. It would just be a shame to have Dallas in the same range as them. On top of that, Dallas still has Brandin Cooks (whom this staff traded for), Michael Gallup, and breakout candidate Jake Ferguson as their other top pass catchers. Cooks will be hungry coming from a putrid Houston offense and Gallup is due to finally have his breakout season.
Instead of Lamb, in the second round, I am looking for guys who have the potential to outperform their ADP and be looked at as a first-round pick the following year. Unfortunately, I just don’t think Lamb has that potential this year. A perfect example of this in 2022 was Tyreek Hill. Much of the fantasy community was concerned about his change of quarterback and team, but Hill is just a different breed of wide receiver and proved all the doubters wrong.
DK Metcalf (ADP 29.6, WR12)
- ADP 29.6
- My rank: WR16
The Seahawks offense is certainly set up to build off their success from last season. After going 9-8 with the resurgence of Geno Smith, this team will likely push for another Wildcard spot in the playoffs. San Francisco will be tough to beat, so I don’t expect the Seahawks to be in a foot race with them for the division. With great teams come star wide receivers. Currently coming in at WR12 off the board, I just don’t think that DK Metcalf has the opportunity to reach that level.
Ending the season at WR19 last year, Metcalf had his ups and downs in terms of consistency. While playing in every game he only racked up two games over 100 yards, 6 touchdowns, and was held under 60 yards in over 50% of his games played. Take a look at some of his metrics during his 17-game span:
- 8.3 targets per game
- 24.6% of the target share
- 5.3 catches for 61.65 yards per game.
The 24.6% target share is solid, but what he did with that is less than impressive. Not exactly what I’m looking for this early in the draft. Expect these numbers to go down as the Seahawks invested day 1 and 2 draft capital on the stud wide receiver Jackson Smith-Njigba and running back Zach Charbonnet. Smith-Njigba was projected as the #1 receiver off the board while Charbonnet was looked at as one of the best running back pass-catchers in the draft. Smith-Njigba has been catching everyone’s eye in camp and his former OSU teammate, Garrett Wilson, has also taken notice (see below).
Let’s not forget that Tyler Lockett is still there soaking up targets to help move the chains. With this added talent, I just don’t see how Metcalf can pay dividends being selected as the WR12 in drafts this year. His inconsistency in fantasy production will give you more headaches than celebrations. Let others jump on this land mine this year.
DJ Moore (ADP 63.8, WR22)
- ADP 63.8
- My rank: WR28
In one of the biggest trades of the 2023 offseason, the Carolina Panthers sent DJ Moore over to the Chicago Bears along with a haul of picks for the 2023 number one overall pick. It was a win-win for both teams. Carolina gets their franchise quarterback for the future and Chicago gets to invest in their franchise quarterback, Justin Fields, and surround him with talent. On paper, it looks like an immediate win for Moore as well, but I think this payout might have to be put on hold for him.
So far, the story Moore’s story has been similar to Terry McLaurin’s — a wide receiver with elite talent but very inconsistent quarterback play. Luckily for McLaurin, he’ll be entering year two with Sam Howell giving him a full offseason to get on the same page. Unfortunately for Moore, this will not be the case.
Fields rushed for a league-leading 1,143 yards at the quarterback position last season. Only four times in the NFL has a quarterback been able to do surpass 1,000 rushing yards. Let’s take a look at the other times this has happened along with the leading wide receiver for that team:
- 2006: Michael Vick (1,039 yards) – Alge Crumpler (56 catches for 780 yards)
- 2019: Lamar Jackson (1,206 yards) – Marquise Brown (46 catches for 584 yards)
- 2020: Lamar Jackson (1,005 yards) – Marquise Brown (58 catches for 769 yards)
- 2022: Justin Fields (1,143 yards) – Darnell Mooney (40 catches for 493 yards)
As you can see, high-rushing quarterbacks don’t exactly lead to high-production wide receivers. At best, their top receiver might crack the top 40 at the position. The likelihood of Fields reaching over 1,000 rushing yards again this season isn’t high, but he will still put the ball down and run plenty of times this season.
While I think Fields is certainly on the rise to become a top-tier quarterback for fantasy, I just think he may be another year away from making the step to becoming an elite passer. Fields certainly has the athletic ability similar to Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen, but this year may just be another stepping stone season for Fields.
The Chicago front office is well aware that the Bears are still a few years away from contending if everything goes to plan. This will incline them to continue their run-heavy scheme to protect Fields and help him get more acclimated to the NFL game. In 2022, the Bears had the highest run play percentage of any team at 56.19% of their offensive snaps. While the addition of Moore is a huge upgrade for Fields, it appears it may be net zero for Moore. Unless Fields can surprise us all in his passing game, we may be waiting until 2024 before we can get that career season from Moore we have all been waiting for.
On the plus side, Moore’s only competition for targets includes Chase Claypool, Darnell Mooney, Cole Kmet, and Robert Tonyan. He certainly has the alpha role on the team solidified without playing a snap for them yet. I’m excited to watch this team grow this year, but I’m staying clear of any fantasy weapons on the team outside of Justin Fields. Let’s be honest here, running quarterbacks are a goldmine for fantasy.
Who I’m taking instead: Terry McLaurin and Miles Sanders