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The Biggest Fantasy Football Busts of 2023 + Week 13 Start/Sits

Start, Sit & Busts

by Seth Woolcock

“Start, Sit & Seth” is the original column of In-Between Media, bridging feel-good lifestyle advice with redraft fantasy football analysis. Consistently following Seth Woolcock’s journey as a young creator, this series is now in its sixth season. Join him in this edition as he shares an anecdote from his adolescent years, the biggest fantasy football busts of 2023 and his start/sit selections for Week 13.

Fresh off the bus with peach fuzz on my cheeks, the feeling of being the new kid in a small town hadn’t warned off quite yet.

In fact, my ego was so inflated I was throwing my own 17th birthday party: a bonfire at the old coal tipple between Curwensville and Grampian, Pa. 

My friends from back home had traveled to make the occasion. It was 2015. We were still drinking Hamm’s Special Light ($13.99 for a good time) and listening to Florida Georgia Line back then.

Everything was going according to plan. The pallets were burning, smoke rolling and what felt like at least a good hundred people from as far from two towns over were gathered in our momentary underage heaven.

It couldn’t have been much after 11:30 p.m. that night when a very angry parent appeared on the other side of the fire from me, cussing out her son for giving his younger brother a blue can.

“Cops are coming,” she shouted as my 120-pound frame approached them, trying to defuse the situation. 

“Hootie hoo,” I yelled back to the boys.

They knew what that meant. We loaded the coolers in the back of my Ford Escape in a matter of seconds. I tossed the keys to a sober friend, and we piled in – all 10 of us, with two standing up, hanging off the back.

Miraculously, no one got hurt, and somehow, we managed to dodge the blue.

Playing With Fire

I wish I could tell readers and hopefully my future kids – if they’re ever flipping through my columns – that the tipple was the last time we had a party busted.

It wasn’t. 

Whether it was a year later, sneaking the keg out the back way of Greymont, or scattering at Pizza Village away from the horseback police during syllabus week my freshmen year of college, underage partying was always a game of cat and mouse.

There were more close calls than can be counted. But the thing about taking risks like that is that luck eventually catches up to you.

I guess it checks out that I turned fantasy football – a game with risk around every corner – into my career.

Oddly enough, I’ve become one of the more risk-averse analysts and managers as I’ve aged, specifically in the early rounds of drafts. 

Still, even opting for floor instead of ceiling early on wasn’t enough to dodge some of the season’s biggest busts. 

Though there are still a few weeks left in the fantasy football regular season, we’ve had more than enough time to identify the screaming misses of the year. So before we get to this week’s start/sits, enjoy my picks for the biggest fantasy football busts of 2023 for each of the first six rounds.

The Biggest Fantasy Football Busts of 2023

Round No. 1: Davante Adams (WR, Las Vegas Raiders)

There were red flags taking Davante Adams in the late-first or early second-round of drafts this season. He will turn 31 before the season’s end. His college quarterback Derek Carr had moved to New Orleans, leaving Adams to deal with the dysfunction of the Raiders’ organization and now-fired head coach Josh McDaniels alone. If that wasn’t enough, Adams’ offputting comments about incoming QB Jimmy Garoppolo should’ve been. 

Sure, Adams had a vintage 42.2-Points Per Reception (PPR) point performance in Week 3. Yet, he’s had four single-digit performances since Week 5 and has been the WR45 on a points-per-game basis in that span. Adams’ mid-season struggles amidst the Raiders once again hitting the reset button makes him the biggest bust of the first round, removing injury.

Round No. 2: Cooper Kupp (WR, Los Angeles Rams)

By August, many fantasy football managers tried to take advantage of the discount on Cooper Kupp after it was revealed he would start the season on the Injured Reserve (IR). If the veteran could’ve produced just 75% of last season’s clip of 22.4 PPR points per game, he would’ve still been worth the investment.

Unfortunately, Kupp’s production was more than cut in half, as he’s averaging 10.6 PPR points per game. Most of which came in his first two weeks back, as he has failed to reach even seven PPR points over his past five contests. The 2021 Offensive Player of the Year (OPOY) has been active but just doesn’t look like himself. He’s a bust because fantasy managers have to continue to start him weekly because of the premium they paid on draft day.

Round No. 3: Tee Higgins (WR, Cincinnati Bengals)

Even removing the four games lost to injury, Tee Higgins remains the biggest fantasy football bust of round three. The former Clemson Tiger likely got managers off to a rocky start, scoring a donut in Week 1 on eight targets. We were reminded of the ceiling in Week 2 when he scoured 28.9 PPR points, yet he would go on to troll managers, scoring just 12 fantasy points over his next three games.

Targeting teams’ WR2s like Higgins, DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle at the top of drafts didn’t work out very well this season, causing managers to overlook alpha receivers like Keenan Allen. Set to be an Unrestricted Free Agent (UDFA) after the season, it’ll be interesting to see if Higgins takes the bag and a lead role elsewhere or tries to run it back with the Bengals on a team-friendly discount.

Round No. 4: Dameon Pierce (RB, Houston Texans)

Just one year after being a draft day value, Dameon Pierce takes the title of biggest fantasy football bust of the fourth round. The former Florida Gator paces as the PPR RB20 as a rookie, posting double-digit fantasy points in nine of 11 games after Week 3 last season.

He’s come halting back to earth, seeing a 42.2% decrease in weekly fantasy production. After missing three straight games, it appears that Pierce has now lost his job. Devin Singletary has come alive of late, setting career-highs in the Bobby Slowik offense, leaving Pierce with just an 18% snap share in Week 12. The fourth-round fantasy pick is now droppable in 12-team leagues.

Round No. 5: Miles Sanders (RB, Carolina Panthers)

Between Chris Godwin, Trevor Lawrence and James Conner, there is no shortage of disappointments in the fifth round of drafts. However, there is no bigger fantasy football bust than Miles Sanders

The Penn State product was exposed this season while not running behind the Philadelphia offensive line, posting a career-low 3.1 Yards Per Carry (YPC). His longest play of the season has been 15 yards. While the situation in Carolina hasn’t been great, Sanders is also drastically underperforming, evidenced by his -29.2 expected points added, 135th among RBs.

After a solid start to this season, it’s been seven straight performances of fewer than 10 PPR points, including 1.2 points scored in Week 5 and a donut in Week 8.

Round No. 6: Dalvin Cook (RB, New York Jets)

Hopes were high that Dalvin Cook could be the thunder to Breece Hall’s lightning. After 16 touches in Week 1 and 8.9 PPR points scored, managers had hopes. However, Cook went on to score under five PPR points in nine of his next 10 contests. This left the 28-year-old as nothing more than a not-so-happy handcuff, averaging just three PPR points per game.

Risk Management

Hopefully, just like me growing up since my rebel days of dodging the law, you can learn from your mistakes if you drafted any of the above fantasy football busts. Now, let’s get back to making the most of what remains of this season.

Alright, and here we go.

Fantasy football CTA

The following Week 13 start/sit selections are based on stats, trends and film research, reflecting value in PPR Redraft Leagues.

Quarterback I’d Start in Week 13:

Sam Howell (Washington):  As I discussed on a recent guest appearance on South Harmon Fantasy Football‘s “4D Chess Dynasty Football Podcast,” Sam Howell‘s future outlook is complicated. However, we’re living in the now, and Sam Howell has high-end QB1 upside in Week 13.

He’s already been a QB1 in five straight games and seven of his last eight. Now, Miami, the No. 1 yardage (420.5 total yards per game) and No. 2 scoring (30.8 points per game) offense, comes to town.

Against the Commanders’ defense that allows the most points per game (29.2) and the fourth-most yards per game (377.7), Miami could go nuclear once more. The 49.5 game total – the highest on the Week 13 slate – highlights that. This is the perfect game environment that’ll make Howell throw 45+ times. Fire him up and let the good garbage times roll.

Quarterback I’d Sit in Week 13:

Kyler Murray (Arizona):  It’s tough to get away from Kyler Murray in a week where there are six teams on bye. However, his fantasy production has been better than he’s actually playing. Like how Joshua Dobbs was coming into last week when I named him as my QB sit, Murray has been propped up by rushing TDs, scoring one in all three of his starts.

While I expect Murray to be running on Sunday, it’s more in the for-his-life variety. T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith lead the Steelers’ defense, which has been a bottom-six matchup for opposing signal callers, both on the season and over the last month. With Pittsburgh dealing with a 55% chance of precipitation Sunday, look for Murray to turn in his first disappointing performance of the season.

Running Backs I’d Start in Week 13:

Najee Harris & Jaylen Warren (Pittsburgh):  Staying in the Steel City, we’re starting both Pittsburgh running backs this week. Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren have been the PPR RB14 and RB4, respectively, over the past month. The offense is peaking at the right time, totaling more than 400 yards in its first game without offensive coordinator Matt Canada, something they hadn’t done once in his 45-game tenure.

Now the backs get the nuts matchup, the Cardinals, who allow the second-most fantasy points to the position for the full season, past month and two weeks. In fact, it’s been three straight weeks that the Cardinals have surrendered at least a 100-yard rusher and a score to opposing backs. The Pittsburgh duo could be in line to follow what the Rams’ backs did last week, combining for 52.1 PPR points.

Running Back I’d Sit in Week 13:

Joe Mixon (Cincinnati):  I thought that with Joe Burrow out for the rest of the season, RB Joe Mixon would see more volume but have worse efficiency. It turns out I was wrong. He’s seeing both less volume and worse efficiency. Last week, the Bengals ran just 41 plays, resulting in Mixon carrying the ball eight times for 16 yards. Luckily, his receiving work bailed him out, getting him to eight PPR points.

Bengals head coach Zac Taylor also spoke this week about getting rookie RB Chase Brown involved, potentially taking further touches away from Mixon:

Their Week 13 matchup is far from fantasy-friendly, with Jacksonville limiting RBs to the third-least amount of fantasy points over the past two weeks. Mixon is no longer matchup-proof. Despite projections, I think Mixon is more likely than not to reach double-digit PPR points.

Receiver I’d Start in Week 13:

Josh Downs (Indianapolis):  Though it didn’t accumulate to a huge performance, Josh Downs saw 13 targets last week. With Jonathan Taylor likely sidelined due to a thumb injury, head coach Shane Steichen will likely need to lean on his rookie playmaker.

Averaging 6.6 targets per game and a 65.8% catch rate, I like Downs to take advantage of the Titans out of the slot this week. Tennessee has been a top-six matchup for opposing WRs this season and recently traded away two-time Pro Bowl safety Kevin Byard to Philadelphia, further weakening this secondary. With their offense also ranking bottom-six in the NFL in scoring (16.6 points per game) and yardage (284 total yards per game), I don’t expect them to be able to play keep away from Gardner Minshew and company for very long. I’m firing up Downs as a PPR FLEX play with WR2 upside.

Receiver I’d Sit in Week 13:

Chris Godwin (Tampa Bay):  It’s somewhat of an anomaly, but the worst team in football, the Panthers, somehow have a stellar pass defense. Carolina has been a bottom-five matchup for both QBs and their WR corps throughout the entire season and the past two weeks. Now they tie up with the Buccaneers in a divisional battle, marked with a 37.0 point total, the second lowest on the week.

Mike Evans is the PPR WR9 on a points-per-game basis, and you’ll continue to fire him up despite the matchup. Chris Godwin, on the other hand, has been a near-bust, pacing as the WR44 on a points-per-game basis. After failing to reach double digits in his past four games, I don’t expect Godwin to get there this week.

If you have a feel-good story that you would like to share for an opportunity to be featured in an upcoming edition of “Start, Sit & Seth,” please reach out.

And for more fantasy football and uplifting content, especially start/sit advice, you can find me on Twitter @Between_SethFF.

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1 comment

How To Build a Fantasy Sports Startup + Week 17 Start/Sits (2023) December 29, 2023 - 12:34 pm

[…] championship with Tee Higgins on your team, congrats! I wrote the fourth-year receiver off as the biggest bust of the third round a few weeks ago. He took that personally, as he’s put up back-to-back PPR […]

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