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.
Anthony Richardson’s passing stats were a lie
Richardson had a modest passing debut on the surface, but his usage suggests he can be a top-five fantasy quarterback right away. He remains a limited passer, but the Colts called 45 dropbacks during the rookie’s first start — a number that tied Patrick Mahomes for the eighth-most in Week 1. Richardson also ranked eighth in first-down throw rate, while Indy was first in neutral pace.
AR had two of the Colts’ three carries inside the 5-yard line (and would’ve had another if he didn’t leave with a minor injury) and led all QBs in designed runs in Week 1. In fact, Richardson accounted for 27% of Indy’s designed rushing attempts and posted a nine percent scramble rate.
Had Richardson not exited, he likely would’ve finished as fantasy’s QB2 in Week 1 despite throwing for fewer than 225 yards and just one touchdown (and being tackled at the 1-yard line).
Richardson gets to play indoors at a lightning pace on a team with strong coaching and receivers but no running backs. Ignore the modest passing stats — Richardson will be an elite fantasy QB as a rookie.
Cam Akers leading the league in carries is a lie
Akers got the start and finished with an NFL-high 22 carries in Week 1, but the numbers are misleading. Beat writers warned throughout summer that Kyren Williams would be a big part of LA’s backfield, and Sunday’s usage suggested he’s the team’s “lead” back.
Akers played only four snaps in the first half!
Williams had more touches until Akers had 11 over the final nine minutes while nursing a double-digit Rams lead. Williams had an advantage in snap share (65% vs. 35%), route share (74% vs. 10%) and carries inside the 10 (3 vs. 2). He nearly scored his third touchdown before Akers replaced him and punched it in from the 1. Akers has the third-most touches in the league but ran 25 fewer routes, played half the number of snaps and saw one-third of the red-zone carries compared to Williams.
We haven’t even talked performance, which also skews Williams, who was one of the most active receiving backs in the league in Week 1. Akers benefitted greatly from a game script (and pace) that’s likely going to be much different for LA moving forward, starting this week against the 49ers.
Tee Higgins’ zero catches were a lie
While fantasy managers have my blessing to worry about Drake London and DJ Moore, there’s no reason to sweat Higgins’ goose egg in Week 1. Weather was a major factor that halted both passing attacks. Joe Burrow had the worst game of his career coming off a calf injury that prevented him from practicing much of the preseason.
Higgins’ usage, however, was completely fine, as he ran a route during every Burrow dropback with a 25% share. His eight targets without a catch were historical and the most since 2015. Higgins saw plenty of first-read looks and had the highest average depth of target (18.9 yards) among all WRs in Week 1 (which also helps explain him going catchless!).
Luke Musgrave’s 6.5 fantasy points were a lie
Musgrave’s 6.5 fantasy points were good enough for a top-10 finish (0.5 PPR) at a tight end position that looked bleaker than ever in Week 1. But the rookie could’ve led all fantasy tight ends in scoring had Jordan Love not overthrown him downfield, or if he hadn’t fallen after a long catch right before the end zone.
Musgrave was helped by Christian Watson’s absence, but he had encouraging usage during his debut. He led all Packers in routes run and should be added in fantasy leagues given the state of tight end (and Jordan Love looked great). The recent box score doesn’t show how close Musgrave was from a huge game, and he gets a Falcons defense this week that allowed the third-most fantasy points to tight ends last season.
Chicago’s backfield touches were a lie, but …
Khalil Herbert was Chicago’s lead back Sunday until the final two drives when the score was 38-14. Put differently, 92% of Roschon Johnson’s touches came in garbage time, including five targets over the final four minutes. Johnson went from seeing six snaps (no opportunities) before halftime to getting 12 opportunities after.
But the Bears looked bad, so similar game scripts could be normal moving forward. Johnson also impressed, while Herbert failed to (3.0 YPC).
Herbert likely remains the starter, and he led the NFL in rush yards over expectation last season, so he still has potential. But Chicago’s new regime isn’t tied to him like they are the rookie. D’Onta Foreman also rotated series at times, so it’s not an ideal fantasy setup in many ways — although one encouraging change was Justin Fields targeting his running backs a whopping 15 times.
Joshua Kelley’s carries were a lie, but …
Kelley finished with the same number of carries (16) as Austin Ekeler, but many came after Ekeler left with an ankle injury late in the third quarter (that oddly wasn’t widely reported until days later). Ekeler barely saw the field over the final 17 minutes, while Kelley’s snap percentage jumped to 78% in the fourth quarter (when he rushed seven times).
In other words, Ekeler’s opportunities (21) were as good as, if not better, than ever before suffering the injury.
But Kelley was surprisingly active before Ekeler’s injury and clearly established himself (5.7 YPC) as LAC’s No. 2 back in an offense that new offensive coordinator Kellen Moore made the most run-heavy in the league in Week 1. After finishing second last season, the Chargers were first by a mile in RB expected fantasy points last week.
Ekeler’s injury is unclear, but if it’s a high-ankle sprain, Kelley could be a top-10 fantasy back in Week 2. He was my No. 2 waiver wire target this week (behind Puka Nacua, of course).