The Fantasy Football Numbers Do Lie: Prepare for DeAndre Hopkins' second half

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.

Kenneth Walker averaging fewer than 10 touches over the last two games is a lie

Zach Charbonnet has impressed Pete Carroll and is going to remain involved in Seattle’s offense. But Walker’s recent downturn in production has been due to poor game scripts more than the rookie’s emergence. Walker missed practice with a calf injury leading up to Week 8, when Seattle faced a Cleveland defense allowing by far the fewest EPA/play this season. The Seahawks were then blown out 37-3 in Baltimore last week, when Walker saw just three touches after halftime thanks to the lopsided score.

Charbonnet has out-snapped Walker each of the past two games, but Walker maintained a healthy 65.4% RB rush share over that span. Seattle also set season-lows in rush attempts each of the last two games, when they averaged just 51.0 plays. For perspective, the Broncos are averaging the fewest plays per game this season with 56.6. Cleveland has run 20+ more plays per game than the Seahawks have averaged over the last two weeks.

Seattle is a near-touchdown home favorite with one of the highest implied team totals in Week 10. The Commanders’ defense just traded away Chase Young and Montez Sweat and then gave up a career-long 64-yard run to Rhamondre Stevenson, who hadn’t had a rush for 15+ yards all season. Walker will continue to lose passing-down work and some carries to Charbonnet, but his drastic recent dip in usage has been a fluke. Walker easily leads the NFL in carries inside the five and is a top-10 RB this week.

Gus Edwards’ 66.5 fantasy points over the last three weeks are a lie

Edwards has scored nearly 10 more fantasy points than any other back over the last three weeks, when he’s been the RB6, RB1 and RB7, respectively. He’s played well this season and deserves credit for executing, but Edwards has run extremely hot scoring touchdowns. He’s seen eight carries inside the five-yard line over the last month after seeing just one over the first five games.

Edwards was fantasy’s No. 7 RB last week, when he played 14 snaps, had four carries for 10 yards at halftime and saw just one touch afterward. He has seven targets all season and hasn’t rushed for 100+ yards since Week 13 in 2020. Edwards ranks 37th among backs in touches per game (12.9) and 45th in expected fantasy points per game.

Meanwhile, rookie Keaton Mitchell emerged last week and gives Baltimore’s offense a different element of speed. The small rookie isn’t a threat to steal goal-line carries, but Mitchell split the Ravens’ RB first-half touch shares equally with Edwards and Justice Hill.

Baltimore is going to use a running back rotation moving forward. Edwards has been a fantasy savior over the last few weeks (especially to those who lost J.K. Dobbins), but he’s an obvious sell-high candidate.

DeAndre Hopkins’ 11.6 fantasy points per game are a lie

Hopkins hasn’t been a top-20 fantasy wideout this season despite a 32.8-point explosion in Week 8, but he will be moving forward. The Titans named Will Levis the team’s new starter, which is huge news for Hopkins. He caught three touchdowns during Levis’ NFL debut and then saw 11 targets last week, when Hopkins had the third-most unrealized air yards (128) and was shadowed by breakout CB Joey Porter Jr. more than any other WR in the league has been.

Tennessee’s schedule against pass defenses looks highly favorable over the rest of the year, starting this week against a premier pass-funnel Tampa Bay D. The Buccaneers are absolutely shutting down the run but have been gashed for 9.2 YPA, a 9:1 TD:INT ratio and by far the most passing yards over the last month. Tampa Bay has allowed the second-most fantasy points to receivers this season, so D-Hop’s big second half starts Sunday.

Jaxon Smith-Njigba’s 34.0 receiving yards per game are a lie

JSN has been the WR63 this season, but he’s the No. 23 fantasy wideout over the last three weeks. Smith-Njigba had the lowest average depth of target among qualified receivers over the first four games, but he’s seen more targets downfield since Seattle’s bye. Smith-Njigba ranked top-five in the league in first-read target percentage last week with a healthy DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett, so the rookie is emerging.

Smith-Njigba has a truly insane college resume, and his slow NFL start came after he returned from wrist surgery far earlier than expected. Geno Smith is due for major touchdown regression in the red zone; as mentioned, Seattle has one of the highest implied team totals this week against a Commanders defense allowing the third-most fantasy points to receivers. JSN is still sharing targets with two legit WRs, but he’s going to be far more fantasy-relevant now that he’s finally being used correctly.