2023 Value Traps

Every offseason as we hit the dog days of summer, fantasy experts everywhere dig deep to find the players they think will be sleepers for the upcoming season. Some of these sleepers are incoming rookies, some are veterans on new teams, while others are simply backups who’ve been thrust into a larger role. These situations are always coin-flips and are risky when the player’s ADP gets out of control. Let’s look at a few players that have moved up significantly in ADP since the last offseason to determine if they are bonafide fantasy assets or 2023 value traps.

Some of these players are still holding value at the present time, while others have already seen a dip in their stock due to a change in their situation. Let these five players serve as a cautionary tale for now and the future to illustrate why you shouldn’t be buying into these types of “situational sleepers” during the offseason, too much can change before week one to completely tank their value.

2023 Value Trap #1- Alexander Mattison, RB (MIN)

Dalvin Cook is a thing of the past and the dawn of Alexander Mattison has arrived in Minnesota. Many fantasy analysts are expecting big things from Mattison. citing his production in the six games he started without Cook in the lineup.

With the exception of his first game against Atlanta, Mattison managed to rush for at least 90 yards in each game, so it’s easy to see why fantasy managers are buying in on the new Vikings lead-back.

Mattison has never been an efficient runner and has always volume his way to fantasy relevance when thrust into the starting role.

It’s the situation that concerns me most. In his past games as a starter, many were spot starts where the Vikings lost Cook on short notice and had no one else to turn to, thus leaving Mattison with the backfield all to himself. That is not going to be the situation in 2023. The Vikings are aware that they will be without Cook and will certainly be using the likes of Ty Chandler and DeWayne McBride to complement Mattison. Expect Mattison to still be the lead back in Minnesota, but he will not receive enough volume to be able to produce at a rate that will justify his current ADP of RB22 and 54th overall, according to Fantasy Pros 1QB ADP.

Avoid Mattison at his current ADP, instead draft running backs like Cam Akers, JK Dobbins and Miles Sanders at a similar cost. You will thank me in the end.

2023 Value Trap #2- Treylon Burks, WR (TEN)

Here we see our first play who didn’t even survive training camp before seeing a major hit to his value. All offseason the dumb beat has gotten louder surrounding Treylon Burks for no other reason than the lack of target competition. These situations rarely play out as we anticipate, NFL teams simply don’t go into the season without bringing anyone in to compete.

Treylon Burks was a popular addition to sleeper lists all across fantasy football, steaming his ADP all the way up as high as WR26 and 65th overall at one point. While everyone was drafting and trading for Burks, I did the opposite. I sold high on Burks and operated under the assumption that Tennessee would bring in a free-agent veteran before camp to muddy the waters, and sure enough that’s what they did.

Last week, the Titans came to terms with free agent wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, and the market for Burks crashed. In the week since the signing of Hopkins, Burks has dropped to WR36 and 84th overall.

Burks struggled to stay on the field for much of his rookie season. As you can see, even when he was on the field, he failed to produce anything that would warrant a top-60 overall pick. He topped five catches only once and recorded more than 100 yards only once as well. This limited production occurred despite the fact that he had little more competition for targets than the aging Robert Woods.

Hopefully, you didn’t buy in on the hype surrounding Burks’ potential 2023 breakout and have not been hugely impacted by his collapse in value, but if you didn’t you should let him serve as an example of why you don’t overpay for situational sleepers early in the offseason. Something always changes.

2023 Value Trap #3- Tony Pollard, RB (DAL)

Another career backup similar to Alexander Mattison, the 26-year-old Pollard will finally get his chance to emerge from the shadow of Ezekiel Elliott, probably.

Pollard had an impressive 2022 season as the 1A in the Cowboys backfield duo. There were several games where he even managed to have the entire backfield to himself due to Elliott’s frequent injury struggles.

The concerning part is that while he put up explosive numbers, it was largely the result of hyper-efficiency as a result of him being fresh from a limited workload. One thing always remains true in football. The more a running back carries the ball, the less efficient they will be with those carries. He simply cannot continue to put up such outlandishly efficient numbers when his workload increases.

Factor in a serious leg injury that ended his 2022 season and Pollard is a longshot to return on his current RB9 pricetag. He is going off the board with pick 22 and that is too expensive.

The Cowboys indicated last season and continue to indicate this season, that they don’t believe Pollard will hold up physically to a bell-cow workload and they are expected to add one of the many veteran free agent running backs, possibly even Ezekiel Elliott on a cheaper deal.

Don’t buy the hype on Pollard. He is already 26 and nearing the age apex for running backs making him a prime sell-high dynasty candidate at his current value. As far as redraft leagues are concerned, there is simply no chance he returns on his second-round ADP.

2023 Value Trap #4- Kadarius Toney, WR (KC)

As I write this paragraph about Kadarius Toney, the inevitable may have already happened. There are reports coming out of Chiefs training camp today that indicate he missed practice with a lower leg injury and could miss significant time. This development will be one to monitor, but it’s par for the course as far as Toney goes.

In the two years, Kadarius Toney has been in the NFL, he has played in 19 games and missed 15 games. In those combined 34 games as a pro, he has one game with over 100 yards receiving, not exactly a smash hit for a player drafted in the first round only two years ago.

Toney has the talent without a doubt. It’s always been his health that is the issue. One boom game in a two-year career is not enough to justify his current ADP of 88th overall.

Toney is going in a draft range with Jahan Dotson, Jaxon Smith-Njigba and Jordan Addison, all three are significantly more likely to hit than Toney. As much as I like his potential, it’s simply not worth it to bet against his lengthy injury history.

2023 Value Trap #5- Isiah Pacheco, RB (KC)

Pacheco is another back that was a surprising hit as a rookie. Former first-round pick Clyde Edwards-Helaire entered the season as the definitive starter for the Chiefs, but due to performance and injuries, he was quickly relegated to a backup role behind the 7th-round rookie Pacheco.

Pacheco played in seven games last season without Edwards-Helaire and posted modest but consistent numbers. He was able to score touchdowns at a solid clip, which can be alarming given the regression he could be in store for.

The problem here is buying a day-three running back in his sophomore season. As good as Pacheco was and as bad as Edwards-Helaire has been, it’s still unlikely that the Chiefs don’t give Edwards-Helaire another chance to win this job back. Even if he weren’t to be named the week one starter, he and Jerick McKinnon still figure to be a factor in this backfield.

Pacheco is going off the board with pick 73 overall, as RB28 and that’s just not a price I’m willing to pay, given his battles with injury to this point in training camp.

2023 Value Trap Conclusion

The moral of today’s story is that whether due to a perceived lack of competition or expected change in role, do not overpay during the offseason for these highly touted “sleeper” type players. In most cases, the situation will change dramatically before week one rolls around and the chances of them returning value on their lofty ADP is rarely a good bet to make.

Instead of overpaying for these trending players, look for players like Chris Godwin and Tyler Lockett who have been left for dead by drafters. In the end, they are a much safer option and come at a lower price point. Need help to decide which players will be the best values for 2023? Check out our rankings over at King Fantasy Sports.

Image Credit: Tim Heitman – USA TODAY Sports