A simple look at a box score or a study of fantasy categories doesn't always tell the whole story of how a player is performing. Dalton Del Don attempts to identify misleading numbers that are worth a closer look.
Yes ... The Numbers Do Lie.
Joe Burrow’s season stats are a lie
Burrow showed signs he was recovering from his calf injury before the team’s bye but still hadn’t reached 7.0 YPA in any game all season. But he looked like a completely different player in Week 8, showing good mobility while ripping apart San Francisco for 8.8 YPA and three scores. Burrow completed a career-high 19 straight passes at one point, finishing with the highest completion percentage ever against San Francisco. The 49ers entered allowing the second-fewest YPA (5.6) in the league.
Burrow took just one fewer snap under center (14) than he did over Weeks 1-6 combined, a sign his calf is feeling much better. The quarterback crossed over Nick Bosa and nearly leads the NFL in red-zone attempts over the last month despite Cincinnati having a bye. It certainly helps having one of the best wide receivers in football and a now healthy Tee Higgins.
Burrow hasn’t been a top-20 fantasy QB this season, but he’s going to be top-five moving forward now healthy. Burrow is back.
Diontae Johnson’s zero touchdowns remain a lie
Injuries are partially to blame for Johnson still having not scored a touchdown since the 2021 season, as he’s finished just two games this season. He had a sure touchdown last week open in the end zone, but a poor throw (in bad weather) killed it. Johnson saw 11 targets before halftime and was second among WRs in fantasy usage last week. His first-read target rate (37%) nearly doubled George Pickens, who unfortunately returned to his clear-out role (downgrade him accordingly).
Johnson saw a career-high in air yards last week, so it’s unclear if Mitch Trubisky would be a downgrade should Kenny Pickett have to sit for Thursday night’s game. Either way, Johnson gets a favorable matchup against a pass-funnel Titans defense that stuffs the run but is allowing the seventh-most fantasy points to wide receivers this season. All the targets will start leading to Johnson touchdowns soon enough.
Chris Olave’s 517 receiving yards and one touchdown are lies, BUT …
Olave has run the most routes in football while ranking seventh in targets and third in air yards this season. But he ranks just 18th in receiving yards and 60th in touchdowns. He leads the league in unrealized air yards by a mile. While it’s safe to assume Olave performs better from here on out given all that volume – he’s been just the WR39 so far this season – expectations need to be significantly lowered compared to his second-round ADP.
Olave has played through some injuries and missed some opportunities this season, but the switch at quarterback has been the biggest problem. Andy Dalton’s accuracy numbers were quietly among the best last season, whereas Derek Carr ranks 28th in deep ball completion percentage (26.8%). Nearly 40% of Olave’s targets have been “prayer yards,” and Carr has flat-out missed him when he was wide open many other times. Olave is due for touchdown regression, but he also ranks fourth in receiving yards on his own team since Alvin Kamara returned.
Olave is one of the best receivers in football who’s sure to produce more moving forward but is likely to remain a fantasy disappointment thanks to Carr’s low catchable target %.
Chuba Hubbard’s 38.6 rushing yards per game are a lie
Hubbard acted as Carolina’s clear lead back coming out of the team’s bye and with a new play-caller last week. He had 15 carries to just two for Miles Sanders, who returned healthy but saw limited snaps and ran the wrong route on a fourth down. Hubbard has been the better back all season while ranking top-10 in rush yards over expectation and more than doubling Sanders’ broken tackle rate. Hubbard also led the league with three carries inside the five-yard line last week, when he finished top-10 in RB fantasy usage.
Hubbard gets a shaky Colts run defense this week allowing the fifth-most fantasy points to running backs and an NFL-high 15 rushing touchdowns. He’ll rush for more yards moving forward given his new expanded role (and with Bryce Young’s continued growth).