The Fantasy Football Numbers Do Lie: Why hasn't Puka Nacua scored yet?

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 21.5 fantasy points are a lie

Rice ranks as fantasy's WR53 over the first three games, but the rookie saw his most snaps last week after Richie James went on IR. Andy Reid praised the WR afterward (presumably in between bites of his "nuggies"), so hopefully Rice's extra playing time wasn't just a product of the lopsided score or Kadarius Toney being limited to just two snaps because of his toe injury.

Rice ranks third in the NFL in targets per route run this season — behind only Tyreek Hill and Davante Adams. He was stopped at the one-yard line two separate times (and never scored) last week. Rice needs to be added in all fantasy formats and remains available in more than 70% of Yahoo leagues.

Dak Prescott’s three touchdown passes are a lie

Prescott has just three TD strikes despite attempting an NFL-high 24 red-zone passes, which is more than Lamar Jackson, Jalen Hurts and Deshaun Watson have combined.

(Side note: Watson has more touchdown passes than Prescott despite ranking last among all non-injured 32 starters in red-zone passes.)

The Cowboys are bottom-five in red-zone efficiency this season after ranking first last year. While the switch to Mike McCarthy is playing a role in the team's issues, expect Dallas to perform far better in the red zone moving forward.

Prescott ranks sixth in EPA/dropback, and he's surrounded by top fantasy QBs this year in that metric. But Prescott has only been the QB25 in 2023, when he's scored 1.6 more fantasy points than Anthony Richardson despite the rookie playing only five quarters.

Prescott is likely taking fewer risks after throwing the most interceptions of his career last season (and only Richardson has attempted fewer passes 15+ yards downfield), but touchdown regression is coming. Prescott averaged 2.1 TD passes over the last two seasons. He's always played better at home but has opened 2023 with two road games and the lone matchup in Dallas came against a tough Jets secondary. Week 1 quickly became a blowout, thanks to the Cowboys' defense; passing wasn't needed.

Dallas’ offensive line will get healthier, Brandin Cooks is back and Michael Gallup looked better than he has in years last week. Prescott has yet to throw a touchdown to any of his wide receivers in 2023, while Tony Pollard is on pace for an unsustainable 420 touches.

The fantasy community is down on Prescott, ranking him as the QB20 while playing at home this week. That's about to change.

Breece Hall’s 51.3 rushing yards per game are a lie

Hall doesn't rank top 20 in rushing yards per game but sits second in the league in yards per touch. He also ranks first in Juke Rate and second in breakaway run rate while seeing increased snap percentages every week so far this season. Dalvin Cook, meanwhile, has lost a fumble, is getting 2.3 YPC and has seen his snaps decrease each week. It barely matters Hall is losing third downs to Michael Carter — Austin Ekeler has averaged fewer than one catch per game on third downs during his career.

The problem, of course, isn't just playing time but also Zach Wilson playing quarterback. Wilson ranks 34th in EPA/dropback this season. New York's passing offense (EPA/pass) has been worse than Chicago's.

To help better understand how much this affects New York's fantasy players (other than their low fantasy scores), the Jets have already run 60 fewer plays than their opponents so far. Nine teams are averaging fewer than 60 plays per game this year.

The Jets have signed Trevor Siemian, who looks like an upgrade. Siemian has a 12:4 TD:INT ratio since 2021 but will almost certainly struggle behind New York's offensive line. But at least he's not Wilson.

With Hall’s playing time going up the further he's removed from knee surgery (and with Cook providing little competition), all we need is C-level quarterback play for Hall to be a major fantasy factor moving forward.

D’Andre Swift splitting work with Kenneth Gainwell is probably a lie

Swift finished with just six more snaps and two more opportunities (18 vs. 16) than Gainwell during the team's win Monday night. But nine of Gainwell's opportunities came during Philadelphia's final 15-play drive in garbage time, including eight carries.

That said, it's also possible the plan was to rotate quarters, as Gainwell dominated snaps in the second quarter as well. Ultimately, Swift looks to be losing playing time in the two-minute offense but is running more routes and getting more rushing work (including short-yardage, where he's been unlucky and stopped at the one-yard line three separate times to open 2023).

Swift has the second-most rushing yards in the league (and nearly 50 more than third place) despite seeing one carry in Week 1. He’s also a more than capable receiver should Jalen Hurts start throwing to him more.

Swift is a real health risk, but he’s also a talented runner who now gets to play behind the league’s best offensive line that’s providing the most yards before contact. Swift is a threat to finish as fantasy’s RB1 any given week.

Puka Nacua’s zero touchdowns are a lie

Nacua has the second-most catches in the league and ranks top five in targets and receiving yards. But he also easily has the most targets (41) without scoring a touchdown. Nacua is second in target share, sandwiched between two receivers who've combined for seven touchdowns already this season.

Cooper Kupp has scored 22 TDs over his last 26 games playing a similar role in the Rams’ offense.

Matthew Stafford has attempted a modest 13 red-zone passes this season, which should regress moving forward. He attempted the fourth-most RZ passes in the league the last time he was healthy in 2021. Nacua will eventually have to compete with Kupp, but Nacua's going to remain a major part of LA's passing attack regardless. The Rams play their next five games indoors, facing a vulnerable Colts secondary this week followed by an Eagles defense that's allowed the second-most passing touchdowns this season.

Nacua will start hitting paydirt soon.

Comments on this article

mobile apps

Everything you love about and more! Tap on any of the buttons below to download our app.

amazon alexa

Enable our Skill today to listen live at home on your Alexa Devices!