The Fantasy Football Numbers Do Lie: Patience with Javonte Williams will pay off

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.

Rashee Rice’s 8.7 fantasy points per game are a lie

Rice is the No. 47 fantasy WR this season but saw a season-high in routes run (and participation) last week with Justin Watson hurt. The rookie is tied for 10th among all receivers in red-zone targets this season, so the touchdown production hasn’t been fluky despite the sparse playing time. Rice ranks top-10 in yards per route run, while Skyy Moore, Kadarius Toney and Marquez Valdes-Scantling are outside the top 85! Justyn Ross was also recently arrested. If 34-year-old Travis Kelce were to ever miss time due to injury, Rice would have even more upside.

Rice ranks 72nd among receivers in target share (13.1%) but fourth in target rate (32.2%). Put differently, Rice has run the 96th-most routes in the league this year but has been targeted at a top-five rate when on the field. Some of these efficiency stats will no doubt drop (although having Patrick Mahomes will help), but the incoming expanded volume will more than make up for it.

Rice has legitimate upside to be a top-20 fantasy WR down the stretch.

Jakobi Meyers’ 54.2 receiving yards per game are a lie

Meyers ranks a modest 27th in receiving ypg this season, which hides just how impressive his first year in Las Vegas has truly been. Despite sharing the field with someone who led the league in target share and air yards last season, Meyers has earned the 13th-most targets (56) among WRs in 2023. He’s seen a strong 31.8% first-read target rate (top-20) despite having a teammate who ranks fourth (there can only be one first read on a play!). Meyers even out-targeted Davante Adams last week despite the latter’s squeaky-wheel narrative. Meyers has the fifth-most expected fantasy points per game this season among wide receivers, sandwiched between Stefon Diggs and A.J. Brown.

Meyers’ expert consensus ranking this week has him as barely a top-20 WR, yet only two receivers (Tyreek Hill and Jordan Addison) are averaging more touchdowns per game this season (after it took Meyers 39 games before scoring his first NFL TD). Meyers is seventh in red-zone targets and third in looks inside the five-yard line, so the sudden scoring is no fluke. More yards should follow.

The Raiders can’t run on anyone this season, getting the second-lowest EPA/rush. Meyers has produced with shaky quarterback play from Brian Hoyer and Aidan O’Connell but could get Jimmy Garoppolo back Monday night in a game indoors (admittedly versus a much-improved Lions defense). Don’t let Meyers’ modest yardage output so far disguise how well he’s played and how valuable of a fantasy receiver he can be moving forward.

Javonte Williams’ 7.1 fantasy points per game are a lie

Williams hasn’t been a top-35 RB in fantasy points per game this year but is coming off his best performance last week in which he posted season-highs in touches, snap rate, routes and YPC after contact. He also had a four-yard touchdown run called back by penalty. It’s an encouraging development and no surprise Williams is starting to look better as the season progresses while coming off serious multi-ligament knee surgery.

Fantasy managers may need to remain patient with an upcoming matchup against Kansas City and then a bye, but Williams should be fully unleashed afterward. He has the most touches without scoring in the league by a wide margin and ranks top-three in avoided tackle and explosive rush rates over the last month.

Williams is still dealing with a committee — Samaje Perine ranks 40th in rush yards over expectation and has just two carries over the last two games but gets passing-down work, and Jaleel McLaughlin isn’t going away. But few running backs aren’tsplitting touches these days, and Williams is going to score a lot more fantasy points in the second half of this season than he did in the first.

Jordan Love’s two touchdown passes last week were a lie

Love threw two incredibly fortunate touchdowns over the final 17 minutes last week after being shut out in the first half. Romeo Doubs somehow won a battle with Patrick Surtain for one score, while Jayden Reed ended up with another TD that wasn’t even intended for him. Put differently, Love is lucky he didn’t have two more picks instead of his two touchdowns Sunday.

Love has been a top-10 fantasy QB this season thanks to a big start but has gotten just 6.1 YPA with a 4:7 TD:INT ratio since Week 2. A league-high average depth of target has contributed, but he ranks toward the bottom of the league in completion percentage above expectation.

Love is tied for seventh in touchdown passes per game this season but is middle of the pack on throws inside the five. Love ranks eighth among QBs in TD%, one spot behind Patrick Mahomes. Expect the touchdown passes to regress moving forward unless he starts playing dramatically better (a home matchup against Minnesota this week should help, but Christian Watson’s new injury won’t).