Every year I create my Don't Wanna Draft list. And nearly every year I say "this is the hardest story to write because I don't want to root against anyone and I want everybody to have a great season and blah blah blah."
The truth? I LOVE writing this story. I LOVE making this list. I LOVE building the case against players and giving you something to think about.
I HATE it when I'm wrong.
My Christian McCaffrey, who I couldn't buy into as a possible 1.01 given his recent injury history and the Panthers seemingly not ready to give him a ton of work. The call was great through the first three weeks of the season, but once the Panthers put him on the trade block and force-fed him touches like Homer Simpson in Satan's donut shop he was off to the races.was
I also had Patrick Mahomes and Joe Burrow on the list last year, but they were there because solely of their ADPs, not because I thought they'd have bad seasons. Amon-Ra St. Brown was a bad, bad call. Amari Cooper was an honorable mention as a gaffe.
But how's about a pat on the back? The good bust calls were Cam Akers (was an eyesore until Week 13), J.K. Dobbins (two games over 14 PPR points all year), Diontae Johnson (zero touchdowns!), Clyde Edwards-Helaire (I didn't even mention Isiah Pacheco in the argument lol) and Cordarrelle Patterson (lay-up). And I can't take credit for Javonte Williams, who was awesome in Week 1 before literally bottoming out, but if you read what I said and didn't take him, you dodged a bullet.
So I have two goals with this year's Don't Wanna Draft list: Get more of them right, and get the FIRST one right.
All I ask of you is to consider my arguments. If you'd like you could share how you feel on
The 2023 Don't Wanna Draft List is listed in order of their CBS Sports full-PPR ADP as of August 30, 2023 -- with one exception for Jonathan Taylor.
Lamar Jackson (QB4, 31.1)
Quarterbacks in general are pushed up in ADP, but I believe this one is the most egregious. Jackson smashed for the first three weeks of last season (40.7 Fantasy points per game) before dialing it way back (18.3 Fantasy points per game) until he got hurt in Week 13. Changing offensive scheme and tailoring the offense to his strengths as a passer makes sense, but certain metrics scare me. For instance, in Jackson's past two seasons combined (24 games) he's completed just 50.5% of his red-zone throws (below league average), scored a 24.3% TD rate in the red zone (sounds amazing but is slightly above league average), owns a 2.9% red-zone interception rate (fifth-highest) and a 19.4% off-target rate in the red zone (third highest). And get this -- in the same timeframe he's scored five rushing touchdowns total. If we're to believe he will throw a little more and run a little less, then the scheme Jackson's moving to this year better be foolproof and he and his receivers have to stay available for 17 games. It's too much risk for a quarterback who hasn't averaged 25 points per game since 2019.
I'd take him: sixth QB off the board and at 45th overall.
I'd rather have: Joe Burrow, Justin Fields
Rhamondre Stevenson (RB13, 33.4)
Sure, let's trust a Patriots running back with a top-30 pick. What's the worst that could happen?! Welp, based on last year, 12.5 PPR points per game could happen. That's what Stevenson averaged in eight games when Damien Harris saw at least 10 touches. In those games Stevenson saw 37 targets (4.6 per game) and caught 31 of them (3.9 per game). Guess what? Fantasy managers absolutely have to bank on those numbers repeating in order for Stevenson to come through because his touchdown production is very much an open question. Stevenson had ONE touchdown in those eight games with Harris, TWO touchdowns in ANY game Harris participated in and ZERO touchdowns against the entire AFC East. Stevenson had 12 carries inside the 5-yard line last year and scored twice. Zeke? Nineteen such carries and nine touchdowns last year, plus he succeeded on 77.2% of his short runs on third down last year, which was good. And even if Elliott missed a few games, the Patriots might not be a team that spends a lot of time near the end zone anyway. This offensive line isn't great, and the playcalling could be better but so too are Mac Jones' options in the passing game. I can't tie myself to this offense with a top-30 pick.
Najee Harris (RB15, 35.1)
Is it ever going to happen for Harris? As a ballyhooed rookie he averaged a very good 16.8 PPR points per game thanks to Ben Roethlisberger's old-arm shortcomings. An injury marred the first half of his second season but he did come through for 15.2 PPR points per game in his final eight (right around the time his playcaller said he was "back to full strength"). At no point in his two seasons has Harris flashed explosiveness (below a 6% explosive rush rate) or been a dynamo as a receiver (below 6.3 yards per catch in 2021 and 2022). He is the very definition of a volume back, which means his numbers are in big trouble is the volume vanishes. I don't think Harris devolves to dust, but Jaylen Warren has earned plaudits for his work this offseason. He's much more of an explosive runner and may be more capable as a receiver. If Warren eats into Harris' touches, and if this offense leans into Kenny Pickett, who by all accounts has had a sensational camp, then Harris will have to stay healthy and be a touchdown monster beyond what he was late last year to even come close to this ADP. Aim for Harris in Round 5, not early Round 3.
I'd take him: 58th overall.
I'd rather have: Aaron Jones, Travis Etienne, Dameon Pierce, Jahmyr Gibbs, Rhamondre Stevenson in PPR
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Jonathan Taylor (RB15, 48.1 in 21 NFC ADP drafts in the one day after going on PUP)
We know for sure Taylor will be out for nearly 30% of the Fantasy Football regular season because he's on the PUP list. If by some miracle the Colts take him off PUP and make him eligible to play the full maximum of 13 games, he'd warrant a pick in the late Round 4/early Round 5 range.
You could make the argument that he'd be worthy of the same draft value if he were traded anywhere -- Miami, Green Bay, Philly, you name it -- and played the full maximum of 13 games.
But even if the PUP was no longer a hinderance beginning in Week 5, why would Taylor come back and play without a new deal? Because he's a sweetheart? No.
Per the current Collective Bargaining Agreement between the NFL and its players, all Taylor would need for this season to count toward his impending free agency is six games as a member of the active roster or IR -- and those wouldn't come until Week 13, theoretically (he'd have to report Week 10 and then be subject to a two-game suspension if the Colts wanted to go that route). In that situation he wouldn't be worth anything more than a Round 8 or 9 pick because he'd clog an IR spot (or bench spot if you don't have IR spots) for 12 weeks.
But then there's the Doomsday scenario where the Colts keep Taylor on the PUP list all year, forcing his contract to toll and keeping him from becoming a free agent. More significantly for Fantasy, he would not play a single game. This is a possibility.
Because I think it's more likely that Taylor plays six games or less this year, I moved him closer to that Round 8/9 range in my rankings. If you think he'll come back and play sooner, take the Round 5 risk that I won't take.
I'd take him: after 90th overall regardless of format
I'd rather have: Jaylen Warren, Dalvin Cook, Zach Charbonnet
Kenneth Walker (RB19, 48.8)
If you read even just a couple of headlines, you'd have already known that literally nothing went Walker's way this offseason. The draft? Not only did Seattle take one running back with good versatility, they drafted another a day later, not to mention adding the consensus top wide receiver prospect in Round 1. Training camp? Walker hurt his groin on the second day and missed three weeks while the first aforementioned rookie, Zach Charbonnet, picked up some nice plays in preseason games and led to Pete Carroll declaring "He's explosive. He's consistent. He's really smart. You can totally count on the guy." That's not good for Walker, who no one's really expecting to lose out on carries this year -- the 18.6 per game he averaged in 11 starts last season is on the high side, but 15-17 seem reasonable. It's the work in the passing game, which he rarely got in 2022 (1.9 receptions per game in 11 starts), and at the goal line that crater his upside. As a rookie Walker scored twice on 10 carries inside the 5, the second-lowest success rate of any running back in Seattle since 2010. Charbonnet, meanwhile, had a 50% success rate over 18 carries inside the 5 at UCLA last season. To sniff even top-15 numbers for RBs, Walker would have to bump Charbonnet from the goal-line role in an offense that feels destined to pass even more than it did in 2022.
George Kittle (TE3, 50.6)
Did Kittle score a career-high 11 touchdowns last year? Facts. Did he also put up a five-year low in receptions and receiving yards per game? Facts. And speaking of facts, did you know that six of his 11 scores came in four games without Deebo Samuel active? I can keep going -- how's about in his last five games where all the skill-position players who matter for San Francisco played, including their first two playoff games, Kittle averaged 4.2 targets per game, 42.2 receiving yards per game and scored twice (both against Arizona in Week 18). Everyone loves George Kittle, but the soon-to-be 30-year-old figures to be a touchdown-dependent tight end given the other explosive elements in the 49ers offense, including quite obviously Christian McCaffrey. By the way, Kittle's previous career-high in TDs? Six.
Darren Waller (TE5, 57.8)
I don't have that much of a problem with Waller as the fifth tight end off the board, I just wouldn't pay a Round 5 pick for him. Or even early- to mid-Round 6. Look, I get the excitement over Waller going to the Giants and being a matchup nightmare for opponents. But he's their only legit one, which means defenses can key in on him, especially inside the 10-yard line, where he's scored exactly three touchdowns over his past two seasons (20 games). The Panthers literally did exactly this in their second preseason game after somehow forgetting he existed on several plays. I don't see the spread-the-ball-around Giants overloading Waller with targets like the Raiders did in 2020, and I have a tough time trusting the almost 31-year-old to stay on the field after injuries sidelined him for at least six games in each of the past two seasons. Tight ends with an expectation between 10-11 PPR points per game shouldn't get taken before 65th overall.
I'd take him: After 70th overall regardless of format (except TE-premium).
I'd rather have: T.J. Hockenson, Kyle Pitts.
Marquise Brown (WR32, 80.6)
Yes, it's nice to have the No. 1 target on an NFL team. No, it's not as nice when the No. 1 target is seeing passes from Josh Dobbs and/or Clayton Tune to begin the season. With no certainty in Kyler Murray's return, I fear a bunch of inaccurate throws in Brown's future. I also think defenses will know better than to let Brown run freely downfield. Besides, the Cardinals have enough receivers to keep things diverse on offense -- Rondale Moore is a great short-area target, Greg Dortch looked good in the preseason, rookie Michael Wilson has nice size, and tight ends Trey McBride and Zach Ertz will command some looks. If you want Brown to have a big year, you better hope he's moved as part of the Cardinals' Fire Sale of 2023.
Russell Wilson (QB18, 136.9)
Are folks really grabbing Wilson over Derek Carr, Matthew Stafford and Jordan Love? Why?! Wilson has yet to show his passing traits have returned -- he seemed as jittery as ever in the pocket through two preseason games with a handful of terrible throws and misreads to match. I'm scared the best days are gone for Russ.
I'd take Wilson: 22nd QB off the board.
I'd rather have: Derek Carr, Jordan Love, Kyler Murray if I have IR spots.