The Fantasy Football Numbers Do Lie: There's much more to come from Zay Flowers

Zay Flowers #4 of the Baltimore Ravens
Zay Flowers had a big Week 12 — which could be just the start. (Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images)

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.

Zay Flowers’ 9.5 fantasy points per game are a lie

Flowers has flashed as a rookie but ranks a modest 39th in fantasy points per game among wideouts. He could be a top-20 WR down the stretch with Mark Andrews out, though. Flowers had the league’s third-highest first-read target percentage (46.7) last week without Andrews, behind only Keenan Allen and Tyreek Hill. It resulted in Flowers’ best fantasy game of the season (though a rushing TD contributed).

Flowers isn’t going to score a bunch of touchdowns with a limited role in the red zone, but his opportunities are going to significantly increase down the stretch. He has seen target shares of 47.6% and 26.6% over two games without Andrews this season, and Baltimore could be in shootouts during the fantasy playoffs (@Jax, @SF, Mia).

Rashee Rice’s 42.0 receiving yards per game are a lie

Rice ranks 52nd in receiving yards per game this season, but an increased role should lead to a big finish. The rookie saw season highs in route participation (68%) and target share (31%) last week, when he became the first Chiefs WR to reach 100 receiving yards since Week 7 of 2022 and also sported a top-20 first-read target percentage (31.8). He still has plenty of room for growth as a route runner, but Rice is clearly KC’s best wide receiver.

Rice ranks top-20 in yards per route run (2.30) and 11th in fantasy points per target this season, while Patrick Mahomes sports a 128.2 passer rating when targeting the rookie. Rice’s stats will start skyrocketing if his expanded role from last week sticks.

Michael Pittman Jr.’s three touchdown catches are a lie

Pittman is tied for the second-most red-zone targets among wide receivers this season but ranks just 29th in touchdown receptions. More looks inside the 10 would help, but Pittman has been unlucky with scoring this year. Courtland Sutton has eight times as many RZ TDs on three fewer targets.

Pittman ranks eighth in first-read target percentage (35.7) this season, sandwiched between Stefon Diggs and Amon-Ra St. Brown. He could be even busier moving forward, with Josh Downs playing through a knee injury and Jonathan Taylor undergoing thumb surgery. The Colts get a funnel Titans defense this week that ranks 30th against the pass but second versus the run in DVOA. More touchdowns are coming for Pittman.

Tank Dell’s Week 12 stats were a lie

Fantasy managers aren’t complaining after another top-20 WR finish by Dell last week, but his game could’ve been much bigger. C.J. Stroud missed the rookie on a would-be 76-yard touchdown midway through the first quarter, and an awesome 58-yard catch shortly thereafter was negated by a shaky illegal shift penalty. If that weren’t enough, Dell had yet another catch stolen by the referees, who incorrectly ruled him out of bounds on a play late in the first half.

Dell might be due for some modest touchdown regression (five of his seven scores have come from 15-plus yards out), but he undoubtedly suffered bad luck last week.

Devin Singletary & Dameon Pierce splitting carries last week was a lie

The box score shows a near-even split in rush attempts between the returning Pierce (five) and Singletary (six). But Singletary also finished top-five among running backs in snap percentage and route participation last week. Singletary also out-carried Pierce four-to-two in the red zone and two-to-zero inside the 5 (where he was stopped at the 1 twice).

Singletary was top-10 in RB fantasy usage last week despite seeing just six carries, as he also saw a season-high seven targets (19.4% share). The return of Pierce no doubt hurts Singletary, but he remains the Texans’ lead back and the far superior fantasy option moving forward.