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Do Not Draft List for 2023 Fantasy Football

There’s a saying in fantasy football that you can’t win your league during the draft, but you can certainly lose it. One bad pick may not tank your season, but a series of bad picks will. So, I’m putting together a “Do Not Draft” List to help you avoid any errors when you’re on the clock.

The “Do Not Draft” List isn’t as harsh as it sounds. Just about every player is worth drafting. The key is when to select them for your roster. My list goes round by round identifying players who I believe are not worth drafting in the specified round whether that’s where they’re generally taken or managers have been seen reaching for them.

For this exercise, I’ll be choosing players for the Do Not Draft List with a 1QB, half-point (0.5) Points Per Reception format in mind. I’ll go through 10 rounds and discuss 10 players. Let someone else draft the players below in each of these rounds.

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The 2023 Fantasy Football Do Not Draft List

Round One: Derrick Henry, RB, Tennessee Titans

Derrick Henry is going to be running behind the most unproven offensive line of his career. Tennessee’s starting right tackle, Nicholas Petit-Frere, is suspended for the first six games. He and center, Aaron Brewer, are the only two linemen who played 90% or more snaps as starters for the Titans last season. Joining the line are left tackle, Andre Dillard, who is a former first-round pick that couldn’t make it with the Philadelphia Eagles, as well as rookie left guard, Peter Skoronski.

Henry’s fantasy value has been and will continue to be sustained by volume. He’s 29 years old with 2,046 career touches. Tennessee drafted Tajae Spears out of Tulane in the 2023 NFL Draft. In his final collegiate season, he rushed 229 times for 1,581 yards and 19 touchdowns. He’s also looked good in the preseason thus far.

I foresee more single-digit performances than usual from Henry. If he doesn’t score a touchdown, he doesn’t have the receiving upside to make him worth a top pick. When it comes to making a first-round selection, I need someone I can build my team around. Derrick Henry is not that guy anymore landing him on my Do Not Draft List.

Round Two: Jonathan Taylor, RB, Indianapolis Colts

Depending on your draft strategy, you may be looking to draft a running back in the second round after selecting a wide receiver in the first. That’s going to be more common than ever in 2023. However, if Jonathan Taylor is the best running back available, do not draft him and pivot to higher-upside wide receivers instead.

It goes without saying that the Taylor contract holdout is a headache. Colts owner, Jim Irsay, has publicly made it clear he is not interested in giving Taylor a contract extension prior to this season. Additionally, Taylor has stepped away from camp, then returned, but is now away again for an excused personal reason. With a new head coach and a rookie quarterback in 2023, missing training camp reps is not ideal, especially for a second-round fantasy pick.

Jonathan Taylor is only one season removed from scoring the most total points (360.6) among all running backs. However, his new quarterback, rookie Anthony Richardson, is going to steal rushing attempts from Taylor, if and when he plays. Richardson has already been named the Week 1 starter for the Colts. His 6’4″, 255-pound frame moves with 4.4 [40-yard dash] speed. He rushed 161 times for 1,116 yards and 12 touchdowns in 22 games at the University of Florida. As a result, Taylor’s ceiling is likely capped. I’m only drafting him if we know he’s playing in Week 1 and falls to the third or fourth round.

Round Three: Mark Andrews, TE, Baltimore Ravens

Mark Andrews is the only tight end to dethrone Travis Kelce as the TE1 in fantasy football in the last five seasons. There is no denying the connection he has with quarterback Lamar Jackson. However, given the trajectory of the Baltimore Ravens in 2023, Andrews makes my Do Not Draft list given his third round average draft position.

Since Lamar Jackson’s 2019 MVP season, Mark Andrews has led the Ravens in targets in three of the last four seasons. Over those four seasons, he’s averaged 116.5 targets per season. Ahead of the 2023 season, Andrews will have the most competition for targets yet. The Ravens brought in Odell Beckham Jr. in free agency while adding first-round rookie Zay Flowers into the mix, as well.

With new offensive coordinator, Todd Monken, Baltimore should have a faster-paced, pass-heavy offense. There’s still plenty to love about Andrews for fantasy football. He is all but a guarantee to finish as a top-five tight end. I’m just not willing to spend one of my top three picks on him as he could finish third in targets on his own team. If so, he would be close to TE5 than TE1 this season.

Round Four: Joe Burrow, QB, Cincinnati Bengals

I’m not waiting to draft a quarterback for the 2023 fantasy football season. That doesn’t mean I’m using one of my first four picks on Joe Burrow, though. While he is on my Do Not Draft List, Burrow is still a top target of mine at the position if the price is right. Over the last two fantasy football seasons, Burrow has QB9 and QB4 finishes on a points-per-game basis.

The holdup for me is the calf injury Burrow suffered earlier in training camp. With close to three weeks before the Bengals’ first regular season game, Burrow is missing in action on the practice field. Luckily the Bengals’ offense is just about the same as it’s been for the last two seasons. Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins are still the top targets in Cincinnati.

There’s no telling as of now that Joe Burrow is going to take the field in Week 1. He could even be out the entire month of September. Let’s hope he’s back sooner, but do not draft him this high without any sort of update. Instead, it’s worth waiting a round or two to grab Lamar Jackson, Justin Herbert, or even Justin Fields.

Round Five: Christian Watson, WR, Green Bay Packers

Are we absolutely sure that Christian Watson is the WR1 on the Green Bay Packers offense? There is no denying this young receiver’s upside. He’s 6’4″, 205 pounds with 4.3 [40-yard dash] speed. There aren’t many other pass catchers in the league with that combination of size and speed. However, Watson’s average draft position is extremely inflated after a Week 10 to Week 13 run as the WR3 last season.

In that four-game run, Watson scored seven touchdowns. He didn’t score a single touchdown in any game outside of that stretch. He did draw 6.37 targets per game from Weeks 10 through 18, but that was with Aaron Rodgers as his quarterback. Jordan Love is finally set to be the full-season starter.

I’m not telling you to fade Watson completely. Rather, I’m telling you do not draft him in the fifth round. At this point in the draft, Watson would be most team’s WR3 or perhaps WR2 depending on roster build. There’s too much uncertainty in Green Bay for me to expect a solid return on investment. Watson will battle Aaron Jones, Romeo Doubs, and rookies Jayden Reed, Luke Musgrave for targets. I would rather be wrong than right on Watson at this point in any draft.

Round Six: Kyle Pitts, TE, Atlanta Falcons

Kyle Pitts is now a sixth-round pick after going as high as the third round in drafts this time last year. Given just how awful his 2022 season was, “do not draft Kyle Pitts” might be underlined and circled on some managers’ draft sheets.

I still think Pitts can succeed in 2023. After adding Bijan Robinson with the eighth overall pick, the Falcons’ third-straight offensive skill position player in a row, he should help open up the offense in a big way. If defenses are keyed in on Bijan, as well as wide receiver Drake London, it’s possible Pitts draws a lot of one-on-one man coverage. If that’s the case, anyone covering Pitts is generally a mismatch.

The counterargument here is that Bijan Robinson draws targets away from Pitts. That’s more likely than not. Additionally, we can’t be sure Desmond Ridder is that much better than Marcus Mariota to elevate this offense to be a fantasy football goldmine. New York Giants tight end, Darren Waller, has a similar ADP to Pitts. Draft him instead. Waller has a legitimate shot to lead the Giants in targets this season.

Round Seven: George Pickens, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers

Speaking of similar ADP, George Pickens and teammate Diontae Johnson are coming off the board around the same time. That, and that alone, lands Pickens on my Do Not Draft List as I would much prefer Diontae Johnson to Pickens this season. Johnson is the seventh-most targeted wide receiver and eighth-most targeted player from last season.

While Pickens drew six or more targets in eight games last season, his 84 targets accounts for just a 15.3% target share. That’s a long way from Johnson’s 26.8% share. Diontae Johnson failed to score a touchdown last season. Had he scored even just three or four, this isn’t even a conversation. However, since it is, chase the volume and invest your seventh-round pick in Johnson over Pickens if you’re deciding between the two.

Round Eight: Rashaad Penny, RB, Philadelphia Eagles

Do not draft Rashaad Penny this high with expectations of him running with the Eagles. I’ve admittedly been drawn into the potential, as well, but it’s still unclear if Penny even makes the team. His contract suggests he gets cut with just $600,000 in guaranteed money.

As of now, it seems that D’Andre Swift and perhaps Kenneth Gainwell are ahead of Penny on the depth chart. The entire backfield presents a fantasy football headache. Given the questionable injury history of both Swift and Penny, by default, Gainwell is the best draft value later on. Less risk with a potentially high reward. If you want rushing upside on one of the best offenses in football, it’s best to just invest in Jalen Hurts with a third-round pick if he’s available.

Round Nine: Michael Thomas, WR, New Orleans Saints

This one should go without saying. Michael Thomas has a ninth-round ADP but should be at the top of my Do Not Draft list. He’s played just 10 games over the last three years. That’s 40 games missed out of a possible 50 since the 2020 season.

I’m just not confident in Thomas’ ability to finish the season. If you end up lighter on wide receivers from the earlier rounds, then Thomas jumps off the page a late-round target. He has three straight 104+ reception seasons, but we’re three years removed since the most recent one. I prefer the upside of Gabe Davis, or even Brandin Cooks, on better offenses this season.

Round Ten: De’Von Achane, RB, Miami Dolphins

Rookie running backs can be an exciting investment for fantasy football. The 2023 Draft Class is full of upside plays at the position. However, spending a top-10 pick on De’Von Achane feels like a pick that could burn a hole in your bench for most of the season.

The Dolphins’ 23.3 rush attempts per game last season ranked 31st across the league. Assuming they do run more in 2023, Achane will still be battling Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson for touches, especially carries. He does present receiving upside, but even then, Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle will draw most of the targets.

There’s a chance Achane pops as a rookie. I’m just not willing to wait to see when that is, if at all, this season. Do not draft De’Von Achane, but wait and see if he becomes available on the waiver wire if whoever does cuts him early on in the season.

For more great rankings and analysis, make sure to check out our 2023 Fantasy Football Draft Kit!

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