Red zone production is a big factor in determining fantasy success. Every Wednesday throughout the season we’ll examine red zone statistics at each position and what it means going forward. We look back at Week 6 to see which players excelled in the red zone and which ones struggled.
Carson Wentz, Philadelphia Eagles – A couple of weeks ago Wentz was struggling in the red zone. He was completing just over 40 percent of his passes. Now Wentz is completing 61.5 percent of his red zone attempts with nine touchdowns and no interceptions. He has five touchdown passes from inside the 10-yard line. That ranks third in the NFL. Going back to last season, red zone attempts haven’t been an issue for Wentz. It’s been his accuracy. Now that Wentz has been more accurate near the goal line, his touchdown numbers are up. His nine red zone touchdowns rank second in the NFL and the Eagles offense shows no signs of slowing down.
Deshaun Watson, Houston Texans – Watson is having an amazing rookie season overall but he’s been close to flawless in the red zone. He’s 12 of 20 with 11 touchdowns and one interception. Watson is even better inside the 10-yard line where he’s completing 80 percent of his passes and has thrown 8 of his 11 red zone scores. Keep in mind, Watson didn’t even start the first game of the season and he ranks tied for first in red zone touchdowns. Add in his production as a runner to too (3 carries, 1 TD) near the goal line and Watson is locked in as a top fantasy quarterback for the rest of the season.
Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers – Roethlisberger played better in real football Sunday but he’s still struggling in the red zone. For the season, Big Ben is just 11 of 26 with five touchdowns in the red zone. Two of those scores came in the opener to tight end Jesse James. One of the problems though is the Steelers lack a consistent tight end. Heath Miller used to be one of Roethlisberger’s favorite targets near the goal line. Antonio Brown is great but he’s never been a big red zone option for the Steelers. Brown currently has six targets with one touchdown. Expect Le’Veon Bell to remain the Steelers top red zone option.
Marcus Mariota, Tennessee Titans – One of the big surprises early in the season is how badly Mariota is struggling in the red zone. Statistically, Mariota is the worst red zone passer in the NFL through the first six weeks. He’s 4 of 13 (30.7 percent) with no touchdowns. Mariota has completed only one pass this season inside the 10-yard line. He’s been solid this year but lack of red zone production is keeping Mariota from taking the next step as a fantasy quarterback. The good news for owners is his red zone numbers are likely to get better, so he could be a good buy-low candidate.
Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers – It can be frustrating for fantasy owners when a running back gets pulled near the goal line. That’s not an issue with Bell. Bell leads the NFL in red zone rushing attempts (27), percentage of team red zone rushing attempts (90 percent) and he’s tied for second in touchdowns (4). Bell has also received 100 percent of the Steelers carries inside the 10-yard line. David Johnson was fantasy football’s top overall scorer last season because he caught passes and consistently got carries near the goal line. Bell is on a similar path if he can stay healthy.
Adrian Peterson, Arizona Cardinals – It was only one game, but it was a big one game. Peterson carried the ball 26 times for 134 times and two touchdowns last week against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He also got three carries inside the 10-yard line and scored once. The Cardinals entire red zone offense shifted with the addition of Peterson. Arizona went from no red zone rushing attack and Carson Palmer consistently throwing the ball inside the 10-yard line to Peterson dominating carries near the goal line. Thank you Sean Payton.
Jonathan Stewart, Carolina Panthers – Stewart has been an utter red zone disaster this season. He has 11 carries and no touchdowns. Stewart has received four carries inside the 5-yard line this season. That’s 67 percent of the Panthers rushing attempts inside the 5-yard line. He has -1 yard and no touchdowns. Stewart’s fantasy value is largely tied to touchdowns. If he’s not effective near the goal line, he has very little fantasy value. Do the math.
DeMarco Murray, Tennessee Titans – Murray has been hampered by a hamstring injury but right now he currently has seven red zone carries with one touchdown. Backfield mate Derrick Henry has nine carries with a touchdown. Murray started to lose goal-line carries to Henry last season. While the carries are close now, it’s even more concerning looking ahead to the second half of the season. Henry appears to be the running back who is going to get more carries in Tennessee, especially in the red zone. If that’s the case, it will be hard to trust Murray as an every-week fantasy starter. He was gold in the red zone last season as both a runner and receiver.
Bennie Fowler, Denver Broncos – Fowler is an interesting receiver with Emmanuel Sanders injured. Sanders is dealing with an ankle injury and will miss at least Week 7. There’s a possibility that Sanders could be out even longer. Fowler has already been targeted six times in the red zone with two touchdowns while serving as the Broncos third receiver. His six targets are tied with Sanders for the team lead and two more than Demaryius Thomas. Fowler could be a sneaky fantasy start while Sanders is out if he continues to get looks in the red zone.
JuJu Smith-Schuster, Pittsburgh Steelers – We mentioned above that Roethlisberger doesn’t have a tight end to go to in the red zone. In reality, he doesn’t have many options at all. Martavis Bryant is struggling and is now losing snaps to Smith-Schuster. The rookie could emerge as a guy Big Ben can trust in the red zone. He already has six red zone targets, which is tied with Brown for the team lead. He’s scored twice. Smith-Schuster is seeing 23.1 percent of the Steelers red zone targets. That’s pretty significant for a guy who didn’t play much in the first two games. Smith-Schuster is a player to watch in the Steelers offense.
Jordy Nelson, Green Bay Packers – No player will miss Aaron Rodgers more than Nelson. Even if Brett Hundley is a competent backup and targets Nelson quite a bit, it’s not possible for Nelson to duplicate the red zone production he put up with Rodgers at quarterback. Over the last two seasons, Rodgers targeted Nelson 38 times in the red zone. He’s scored 16 touchdowns. Both of those numbers are by far tops in the NFL. It’s an obvious statement to say Nelson’s numbers will go down without Rodgers but in the red zone is where he’ll see the biggest drop-off.
Tyreek Hill, Kansas City Chiefs – Hill is a dynamic, big-play receiver but he’s almost invisible in the red zone. Hill has scored eight receiving touchdowns in 22 games. However, only one has come in the red zone. He’s more dangerous the further away he is from the goal line. This season Hill has only been targeted once in the red zone. That’s the same number of times as Josh Hill. Hill is a great fantasy receiver but unfortunately his value is tied to big plays. He provides almost no value near the red zone right now.
Cameron Brate, Tampa Bay Buccaneers – There was some thought that last season’s red zone monster would be phased out by first-round draft pick O.J. Howard but it hasn’t been the case. Brate is tied for second among tight ends in red zone targets (8) and tied for first in touchdowns (4). It doesn’t even matter who the quarterback is in Tampa Bay. Brate caught a touchdown pass from Ryan Fitzpatrick last week after Jameis Winston left with a shoulder injury. Howard will emerge as the starter in the future but Brate remains a red zone force for the rest of this season.
Evan Engram, New York Giants – Even as a rookie Engram was expected to be a big red zone threat for the Giants. Then after New York suffered all its injuries at receiver, he was expected to be an even bigger factor. Engram has only been targeted three times in the red zone through six games. Luckily for Engram owners, two of those three targets have translated into touchdowns. More good news is Engram should continue to see more targets and scoring opportunities now that the Giants are so decimated with injuries at the receiver position. Engram hasn’t been used much in the red zone during the first half of the season but he’s a candidate to end up with six or seven red zone touchdowns.