The Fantasy Football Numbers Do Lie: Big games are coming from Kyler Murray

A simple look at a box score or a study of fantasy football 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.

Kyler Murray’s zero touchdown passes last week was a lie

Murray didn’t throw a touchdown but was a top-13 fantasy QB anyway during his return from knee surgery. He attempted a healthy six red-zone passes and just missed Marquise Brown on a would-be TD that bounced off his hands in the end zone. Murray also lost a goal-line score to backup QB Clayton Tune. Murray got 7.8 YPA and impressed with his legs, reaching his fastest top speed in a game since 2021. It certainly appears Murray’s running won’t be affected by the injury.

The Cardinals are an extremely fast-paced offense and suddenly have weapons with Marquise Brown, James Conner, Trey McBride and Michael Wilson. A healthy Murray in this situation (and outside of Kliff Kingsbury’s) is a top-six fantasy QB moving forward.

Davante Adams’ zero touchdowns/zero 100-yard games since Week 3 are a lie

Adams saw 13 targets with the fourth-most air yards last week but had a modest fantasy game thanks to a tough Jets secondary. New York has allowed by far the fewest fantasy points to wide receivers this season, yielding zero touchdowns to the position since Week 1. Adams appears to be much happier with Aidan O’Connell at QB, when he’s seen a 33% target share during AO’C’s three starts (compared to Jakobi Meyers’ 12.5%). Adams leads all wide receivers in targets inside the red zone (17) and the 10-yard line (nine). He hasn’t reached the end zone since Week 3, but touchdowns are coming.

With a favorable schedule, a prime red-zone role and seeing even more targets from O’Connell, Adams could easily be a top-five fantasy WR down the stretch.

Chris Olave’s 18.4 fantasy points last week were a lie

Olave was fantasy’s No. 9 WR last week, but it was misleading if looking forward. He had just one target and one catch for 15 yards over the game’s first 40 minutes but saw eight targets and five catches for 79 yards and a touchdown over the final 20 after Jameis Winston replaced an injured Derek Carr. Olave’s target share jumped from 6% to 35% while his average depth of target increased from 5.4 yards to 15.2.

It can’t be understated how much the change at quarterback sparked Olave’s fantasy value.

But coach Dennis Allen doesn’t care and doubled down on Carr as his starter. Carr’s shoulder checked out OK after the game, and while he’s currently in concussion protocol, he has extra time to heal during New Orleans’ bye. Carr remains the favorite to start for New Orleans in Week 12.

Olave leads the league in unrealized air yards by a mile (25% more than the next most!), and even more concerning is his drop in production coinciding with Carr spraining his AC joint. Carr took a big hit directly to the shoulder when suffering the concussion, so that problem is unlikely to improve anytime soon.

Winston has clear issues as an NFL starter, but it would be a significant boost to Olave’s fantasy value should he get another chance this season.

Tony Pollard’s 17.3 expected fantasy points are a lie

Pollard is the No. 6 RB in expected fantasy points per game but the No. 27 RB in actual fantasy scoring. He ranks second in the league in carries inside the red zone, the 10 and the five yet somehow hasn’t scored a touchdown since Week 2 while playing for an offense averaging the second-most points (29.9) in the NFL.

Pollard has undoubtedly been unlucky with touchdowns — he was stopped inside the two-yard line three separate times last week alone. But he (along with contributing circumstances) also deserve plenty of blame for his disastrous fantasy season. Ezekiel Elliott converted 9-of-21 carries inside the five into touchdowns last year, whereas Pollard is just 2-of-13 in the role this season. Some of this is random variance, but Pollard is 15 pounds lighter and routinely runs into his center.

Pollard’s efficiency was expected to drop with added work, but his breakaway run rate has been cut by more than half. He ranks 28th in YPC (3.9) after coming in second (5.2) last season, forcing fewer missed tackles. Whether it’s the heavier workload, coming off a broken leg that included “TightRope” ankle surgery, being used more on inside runs or Dallas matchups averaging by far the largest margin of victory killing game scripts (or some combination), Pollard is averaging fewer rushing and receiving yards than last season despite seeing 68 more touches.

While some of this will regress, another issue for Pollard is Dallas acknowledging his decline. The Cowboys have transformed from run-heavy to sporting one of the league’s highest pass rates over expectation since their bye. Dallas has also gone from 28th in first-down pass rate to No. 4 over those four games, as the team is clearly shifting. Pollard also concerningly didn’t see a single target last week.

Pollard is a no-brainer fantasy start this week in yet another highly favorable matchup given all his RZ opportunities, but he’s far more likely to remain a disappointment than he is to start scoring his expected fantasy points over the rest of the season.