1 of 5 | Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp (L) should still be selected, but I wouldn't take him until the second round of fantasy football drafts. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo
MIAMI, Aug. 29 (UPI) -- Cooper Kupp, Saquon Barkley and Dak Prescott are among 11 players you should avoid -- at their average draft positions -- this year in fantasy football. The NFL stars enter the 2023 campaign in uncertain situations, including tough expected schedules and inconsistent supporting casts.
Kupp, an All-Pro two seasons ago, remains one of the best pass catchers in the NFL and could still provide a lot of value for fantasy football teams, but I would avoid taking him early on, based on the aforementioned criteria.
He is currently the No. 4 wide receiver selected in drafts, taken behind only Justin Jefferson, Ja'Marr Chase and Tyreek Hill. I would consider selecting those wide receivers, as well as several running backs, ahead of the Los Angeles Rams playmaker.
My annual Top 200 and individual rankings for quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers and tight ends also are available for your preparation. These rankings will be updated for injuries and other developments. My 11 players to avoid are sorted according to their average draft positions.
Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp is outside of the Top 14 in my Top 200 fantasy football rankings. File Photo by Steve Nesius/UPI
Kupp returned from a hamstring injury hiatus last week at Rams training camp and remains a stellar pass catching option in Sean McVay's offense. The 2021 Offensive Player of the Year totaled 75 catches for 812 yards and six scores in 2022 before he missed the final eight games of the season because of an ankle injury.
Despite his history of individual success, I prefer drafting wide receivers from offenses I expect to be dominant, led by premier quarterbacks. I don't project the Rams to possess either of those traits in 2023. Kupp also should see many tough matchups.
The Rams' schedule includes seven games against teams that ranked inside the Top 10 for allowing the fewest fantasy points to wide receivers last season. The Rams get just two matchups against teams that ranked inside the Top 10 for the most fantasy points allowed to the position.
Kupp's early- to mid-first-round average draft position, paired with recent injuries and the expectation of quarterback Matthew Stafford declining again in 2023 lead me to want to avoid this playmaker in the first round.
The Rams also enter the 2023 campaign with what is expected to be one of the worst offensive lines in the league, especially from an exterior pass-blocking standpoint, which doesn't help their outlook.
I would avoid selecting New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley in the Top 10 of fantasy football drafts. File Photo by Jon SooHoo/UPI
Barkley erupted for a career-high 1,312 rushing yards in 16 starts last season for the New York Giants. The two-time Pro Bowl selection also scored 11 times in 2022.
Barkley is being selected within the Top 10 picks of many fantasy drafts, but I would avoid picking him that high.
Like the Rams, the Giants' offensive line is expected to be among the worst in the league. The Giants' schedule also features eight matchups against teams that ranked inside the Top 10 for fewest points allowed to running backs.
They will get just three games against teams that allowed the most points to the position. Barkley, who struggled to stay health for several seasons before his stellar 2022 campaign, received a career-high 295 carries last season.
He is entering a contract year and should be used a ton again in 2023. That high-usage rate could lead to an injury, and the Giants' lack of other playmakers, paired with a brutal schedule, likely limits his upside.
Dallas Cowboys wide receiver CeeDee Lamb (L) could be hampered by a tough schedule this season. File Photo by Ian Halperin/UPI
Lamb is going in the first or second round of many fantasy football drafts. The Dallas Cowboys playmaker is the No. 24 player in my Top 200 rankings. I would target Lamb as a high-end WR2 if you choose to draft a different wide receiver with your first- or second-round pick.
Lamb totaled 1,359 yards and nine scores on 107 catches last season, but I don't expect him to approach those statistics in 2023. The addition of Brandin Cooks, paired with a tough schedule and my low expectations for this offense overall, could lead to disappointment if you pick Lamb and expect him to carry your team.
The Cowboys schedule features six games against teams that ranked inside the Top 10 for the fewest points allowed to wide receivers. They will face just two teams that allowed the most points to the position, including just one over the first 10 weeks of the season.
As of this writing, Taylor remains a member of the Indianapolis Colts. The disgruntled running back went No. 1 overall in many fantasy football drafts in 2022. He went on to be one of the biggest fantasy football busts in recent memory.
Taylor is still being picked in the early second round of many drafts this preseason.
Hopefully your draft occurs after the Colts decide whether to trade their star running back. If not, I would stay away from Taylor, who could end up in an unfavorable situation -- or sit out -- in 2023.
If he stays on the Colts, he should again be productive, but is set for a tough schedule. The Colts have two matchups within the first three weeks against teams that ranked inside the Top 10 for the most fantasy points allowed to running backs in 2022. The Colts only get one more of those matchups through the remaining 10 weeks of the fantasy football season.
The Colts' schedule also features six games against teams that allowed the fewest points to the position last season, including three such matchups over their final five games.
As previously mentioned, I don't think highly of the Cowboys offense entering this season, outside of running back Tony Pollard.
Prescott led the NFL with 15 interceptions last season, despite being limited to 12 starts. Pollard's cemented role and the presence of Cooks and Lamb as pass-catching playmakers should lead to production for Prescott in some weeks, but I expect too much inconsistency to keep him in your lineup as a high-end QB1.
Prescott is being picked before Aaron Rodgers, Tua Tagovailoa, Russell Wilson, Deshaun Watson and Kirk Cousins in many drafts, but I disagree with that.
The Cowboys schedule features just two matchups against teams that allowed the most points to quarterbacks last season, including just one such game over the first 10 weeks. I would keep Prescott off my quarterback target list.
Buffalo Bills running back James Cook
should only be selected for depth or as a streaming play in fantasy football drafts. File Photo by Mark Black/UPI
Cook is an exciting player and could be productive some weeks this season, but picking the right time to plug him in as a starter will prove to be a challenge for fantasy football team owners. The Bills' backfield is a bit crowded and new addition Damien Harris could be a factor in the red zone, taking valuable touches away from Cook.
Quarterback Josh Allen's running ability, paired with other talented weapons in the Bills' offense, also may limit Cook's opportunities.
The Bills' schedule features six games against teams that ranked inside the Top 10 for allowing the fewest points to running backs last season. The Bills only get one easy fantasy football friendly match for running backs within the first five weeks of the season.
Cook carries a seventh-round cost in drafts for 10-team leagues. I wouldn't depend on him for anything other than bye week level or streaming production, in good matchups.
The Philadelphia Eagles have one of the toughest schedules for fantasy football running backs, with a league-high nine games against teams that allowed the fewest points to the position in 2022.
The Eagles' schedule features just one fantasy football friendly matchup for running backs.
A crowded backfield, paired with quarterback Jalen Hurts' rushing ability in the red zone, the tough schedule and Swift's inconsistency through the first three years of his career should lead you to consider better options in your draft.
Odell Beckham Jr.
Beckham remains one of the most exciting players to watch in the NFL, but I wouldn't depend on his performances for your fantasy team in 2023. The Baltimore Ravens added the veteran playmaker this off-season, along with rookie Zay Flowers.
Tight end Mark Andrews is expected to remain quarterback Lamar Jackson's top target in Baltimore. Flowers' expected emergence and the Ravens' traditional reliance on the running game could limit opportunities for Beckham.
The Ravens' schedule also includes seven games against teams that ranked inside the Top 10 for fewest points allowed to wide receivers in 2022. Ravens receivers get just two easy matchups, based on that criteria.
Beckham shouldn't be drafted for anything other than bench depth in leagues that require starting three wide receivers.
Seattle Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith
(7) is not a viable fantasy football starter for me in 2023. File Photo by Terry Schmitt/UPI
Geno Smith, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Matthew Stafford