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Fantasy Football Values: Players With Disappointing Numbers Worth Reconsidering In 2023

J.K. Dobbins - Fantasy Football Rankings, NFL Injury News, DFS Lineup Picks

When the time comes around to gear up for fantasy football season, one of the most celebrated pastimes is enthusiasts firing off takes about who will show out and who won't. To back up those hot takes, many use player performances from the previous season.

While that is a critical piece of the puzzle, exclusively sticking to them can cause people to turn a blind eye to the context behind those performances. If you become married to the end-of-season result and dismiss context, there is a decent chance that you’re going to miss out on a lot of solid fantasy contributors.

Those who dismissed the context behind players' stat lines from 2021 would’ve missed out on a stud like Saquon Barkley who was written off by some as a dud due to being ineffective after injury. When looking at players for the upcoming 2023 season, I want to provide a few names that may be unfairly devalued due to weak 2022 seasons that burned many. With that being said, here are five players with misleading statistical totals that could wind up becoming fantasy values next season.

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Fantasy Players to Reconsider in 2023

Najee Harris, Pittsburgh Steelers

Najee Harris had an odd 2022 season. After displaying a strong rookie year where he closed out as the RB4 overall, many had him pegged as a candidate to produce at that level again. Unfortunately, those expectations didn’t pan out as the second-year back was the RB15 overall and the RB22 in PPG.

Those numbers aren’t super disappointing, but his first-round price tag during draft season puts his performance in a worse light. Even with his mediocre season-long output, his stats need to be viewed as a tale of two halves.

What many seem to forget is that Harris suffered a Lisfranc sprain in his left foot during training camp. While I’m no doctor, the consensus on the injury is that it can be played through, but it inhibits foot stability. The second-year back didn’t miss any time, but the sprain was clearly hampering his performance during Pittsburgh’s first eight games. During that stretch, he ranked RB28 overall and RB32 in PPG while averaging just 3.3 yards per attempt.

However, after their Week 9 bye, Harris’ effectiveness seemed to turn the corner as he was the RB4 overall and RB7 in PPG while his yards per attempt increased to 4.1 during Weeks 10-18.

With the injury behind him, Harris showed that he still has the chops to be one of the better fantasy backs in the game. Due to his presence in one of the few offenses that still favors a workhorse running back, he could wind up being a solid value by the time draft season rolls around.

Russell Wilson, Denver Broncos

Hold on, put your torches and pitchforks away. To put it plainly, Russell Wilson stunk last season. As one of the most hyped-up quarterback acquisitions in recent memory, the former Super Bowl champion couldn’t have fallen flatter on his face during his opening season with the Denver Broncos.

After being regarded as a top-10 fantasy quarterback in the preseason, Wilson closed out the year as the QB16 overall and QB19 in PPG. From what fans were expecting, this was a disaster, but there could be some light at the end of the tunnel.

While Russ was terrible, he can’t receive all the blame. Former head coach Nathaniel Hackett was clearly in over his head and had no real offense drawn up to maximize the skills of his quarterback. In the 13 games with Hackett, Wilson was dreadful as the QB19 overall and the QB25 in PPG. 

Once the current New York Jets assistant was unceremoniously relieved of his duties after a Christmas Day humiliation at the hands of the Los Angeles Rams, Russ seemed to return to form in his final two games.

Albeit a small sample size, Wilson ranked as the QB1 overall and the QB2 in PPG during the final two weeks of the season. Even though his season was terrible, his performances without Hackett may show that the star quarterback is still there.

Also, with a great offensive mind in Sean Payton taking the reins as head coach, Wilson’s trajectory as a Bronco could move upward. While many are down on him, Russ is looking like a cheap, low-risk option that could pan out in a big way in 2023.

Kyle Pitts, Atlanta Falcons

Entering the season as a popular breakout pick at tight end, Kyle Pitts had an unfortunate sophomore slump that resulted in him being the most recognizable fantasy bust of 2022. After being priced as the consensus TE3 during draft season, the rookie standout just couldn’t get things rolling as he finished the year TE33 overall and TE22 in PPG.

Pitts’ season was dreadful, that much is for certain. But the offense he found himself trapped in couldn’t have been less conducive to fantasy success. The Atlanta Falcons were one of the least receiver-friendly offenses in 2022 as they had the highest run rate in the league at 32.88 attempts per game while ranking 31st in pass rate at 24.41 attempts per game.

To make matters worse, the passes that were thrown were some of the lowest quality the league had to offer as Marcus Mariota had a 23.5% deep ball completion percentage (33rd in NFL) and a 65% true completion percentage (31st in NFL). In nearly every meaningful passing statistic during 2022, you could bet that Mariota would usually be located somewhere in the bottom half.

Unfortunately for Pitts, he suffered a season-ending MCL sprain in Week 11 and never got to be part of the offense once Mariota was benched. However, during the time he was out, the pass attempts increased along with them being more on target while rookie Desmond Ridder handled the starting job.

While the third-round quarterback wasn’t super impressive, he still showed much more promise than Marcus Mariota, and there could be a possibility for growth with a year under his belt.

With Pitts never having the privilege of not playing with Mariota, he could be a real weapon that his second-year quarterback can latch onto. He provides a consistent mismatch in the receiving game with his build and freak athleticism. To avoid him for a poor season that was clearly out of his control would be foolish.

Michael Pittman Jr., Indianapolis Colts

Much like the rest of this list, Michael Pittman was another player with a hype train heading into 2022 that never panned out. Despite being drafted around studs like Tyreek Hill and A.J. Brown, the former USC Trojan closed out his third season as the WR23 overall and WR29 in PPG. It was a disappointing season from a receiver that showed plenty of promise in 2021, but he can’t shoulder all the blame. 

The Colts were an offense with no real passing threat during 2022. The offseason trade for Matt Ryan proved to be a massive flop as he clearly showed his age on the field. Also, the two characters that replaced Ryan at different points of the season, Sam Ehlinger and Nick Foles, were some of the worst options in football. With none of these passers being able to push the ball downfield, Pittman’s stats took a hit while his ADOT fell to 6.9 yards (8.4 yards in 2021).

Not to mention, the coaching was constantly in flux due to Frank Reich being replaced by a textbook nepotism hire in Jeff Saturday, who had no business being a head coach at the professional level.

With those factors in play, it would’ve been a miracle if Pittman showed out amongst all the dysfunction in Indianapolis. As a big-bodied X-receiver, he excels as a downfield threat. But when your quarterback has a noodle arm and play calling is in shambles, a receiver like him will not have a good time.

There could be sunlight on the horizon for the talented fourth-year receiver as the Colts are considered a suitor for a new quarterback. Whether through the draft or trade (Lamar Jackson), Pittman has a shot at vaulting back to solid production in short order.

J.K. Dobbins, Baltimore Ravens

Coming off a catastrophic knee injury, J.K. Dobbins had an uphill battle to return to relevancy in 2022. In the 2021 preseason, the former Buckeye tore his ACL, LCL, meniscus, and hamstring. Can’t get much worse than that. Historically, running backs tend to struggle in their first year back from ACL tears, so it wasn’t surprising that Dobbins finished as RB52 overall and RB30 in PPG.

When the 24-year-old made his return to the field, there were plenty of people that questioned if he was returning too early. The questions were warranted as he was inefficient and then had to go through ACL surgery rehab after Week 6, which caused him to miss seven weeks. However, when he came back, we saw a resurgence.

When Dobbins returned to play in Weeks 14-17, he led the league in rushing yards during that stretch. With incredible efficiency, he gained 397 yards on seven yards per carry. 

This trend of running backs looking like a shell of themselves after their ACL injuries is nothing new. But what Dobbins showed at the end of the season, in addition to what we’ve seen in recent history, has me high on him as a value in 2023.

The status of Lamar Jackson with Baltimore still looms, but Dobbins’ track record along with the chart above makes me confident in taking a shot on him at price next season.

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