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 8 to see which players excelled in the red zone and which ones struggled.
Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys – It looks like Ezekiel Elliott will finally serve his six-game suspension. If that’s the case, the Cowboys lose 67 percent of their red zone rushing attempts and five touchdowns. Alfred Morris and Darren McFadden are fine running backs but neither is Elliott. Expect the Cowboys to lean more on Prescott as both a passer and runner in the red zone with Elliott out. Prescott already has three red zone rushing touchdowns. He ranks seventh in red zone passing attempts (33) and fourth in touchdowns (10). It’s Dak’s show for the next month and a half unless something unexpected happens…again.
Tyrod Taylor, Buffalo Bills – Taylor doesn’t put up a ton of passing yards but much of his fantasy value is tied to his red zone production. He has eight passing touchdowns this year and seven have come inside the red zone. Six have come from inside the 10-yard line. Taylor’s six touchdowns from inside the 10 ranks tied for third in the NFL. Taylor isn’t an every-week fantasy starter but with bye weeks in full swing, his red zone numbers make him an adequate streamer for fantasy owners.
Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions – Stafford is coming off a game where the Lions were 0 for 6 in the red zone. He ranks third in the NFL with 38 red zone attempts but Stafford is completing just 36.0 percent of his passes (15) with six touchdowns. Stafford will continue to throw the ball in the red zone because the Lions lack a strong running game but his lack of production is why he can’t be counted on by owners to be an every-week fantasy starter.
DeShone Kizer, Cleveland Browns – This probably won’t come as a surprise to anyone but Kizer has been the worst red zone quarterback in the NFL this season. He’s completed just 6 of 18 passes (31.6 percent) with three touchdowns and four interceptions in the red zone. Kizer is the only quarterback with more red zone interceptions than touchdown passes. One other player can make that claim. It’s Chiefs receiver Tyreek Hill. There aren’t many Browns players with fantasy value right now. The fact that Cleveland can’t score in the red zone is a major reason why.
Jordan Howard, Chicago Bears – Early in the year it looked like Tarik Cohen was going to eat into Howard’s carries but that hasn’t been the case, especially in the red zone. Howard has 16 red zone carries with four touchdowns. The 16 carries aren’t a lot but Howard is seeing 70 percent of the Bears red zone rushing attempts. That ranks sixth in the NFL. The bad news for Howard owners is the Bears don’t get into the red zone often. The good news is when they do get there, Howard is by far their top offensive weapon.
Jay Ajayi, Philadelphia Eagles – Ajayi is on the list because his trade to the Eagles impacts a few different players. Ajayi had 11 red zone carries with the Dolphins and no touchdowns. The 11 carries weren’t many but it accounted for 92 percent of Miami’s red zone attempts. Those carries will now get split between Kenyan Drake and Damien Williams. In Philadelphia. LeGarrette Blount has gotten 18 red zone carries. That ranks fifth in the NFL but Blount has only scored twice. Blount has eight carries from inside the 5-yard line. He has -5 yards on those eight carries and one score. Expect Ajayi to start eating into Blount’s goal-line work and produce better red zone numbers now that he’s running behind a much better offensive line than the one he had in Miami.
C.J. Anderson, Denver Broncos – Anderson has received 13 red zone carries through seven games but he’s yet to score a touchdown. He’s getting 40.6 percent of the Broncos red zone carries. Expect that number to decline in the coming weeks with Jamaal Charles and Devontae Booker both getting more carries. Booker, especially, could become a bigger factor in the red zone. He currently has four red zone carries with one touchdown. Don’t be surprised if Booker becomes the Broncos top running back soon.
Christian McCaffrey, Carolina Panthers – No one expected McCaffrey to be Priest Holmes but his red zone numbers are pathetic through eight games. McCaffrey has gotten a total of four red zone carries and has yet to score. He hasn’t received one carry inside the 5-yard line. It’s not like Jonathan Stewart has been killing it in the red zone either. Stewart just scored his first red zone touchdown on 13 carries this past Sunday. McCaffrey isn’t known as a power back but on the other hand, he wasn’t drafted to be a 5.0 yard per catch slot receiver either. It’s a little surprising he’s not being used at all in the red zone.
Mohamed Sanu, Atlanta Falcons – Sanu has been targeted seven times in the red zone with two touchdowns. That’s pretty impressive considering Sanu missed two games with a hamstring injury. It’s even more impressive when you consider Julio Jones has also been targeted seven times in the red zone with one touchdown. Both Sanu and Jones are seeing 19.4 percent of the Falcons red zone targets. Maybe someone should show those stats to Falcons offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian and remind him that Julio Jones is an elite NFL receiver. Until he figures that out, Sanu in knocking on the weekly WR3 door.
Danny Amendola, New England Patriots – Chris Hogan injured his shoulder and early reports say he could miss a few weeks. The Patriots are on a bye but if Hogan misses a couple of games, it could mean more red zone looks for Amendola. Amendola has seen six red zone targets with one touchdown. However, Hogan has been targeted in the red zone 11 times with four touchdowns. Hogan’s 11 targets rank tied for third in the NFL. If Hogan misses time, Amendola should get more scoring opportunities near the goal line.
Demaryius Thomas, Denver Broncos – Thomas has been a disaster in the red zone this year. It has to be Trevor Siemian’s fault. Thomas has only been targeted four times in the red zone this season. He’s yet to score. That’s the same number of red zone targets as Deonte Thompson and Demarcus Robinson. Thomas has dominated in the red zone throughout his career. The fact that he has half the targets of Bennie Fowler tells you all you need to know about the Broncos struggling offense. A quarterback change is imminent in Denver. Hopefully, that will turn Thomas’ fantasy fortunes around.
Michael Thomas, New Orleans Saints – For all the love Thomas gets, he’s been average in the red zone this season. Thomas has been targeted six times in the red zone. He has two touchdowns. Thomas’ six targets is tied with guys like Tarik Cohen, Eric Ebron, Jaron Brown, Ryan Grant and Albert Wilson. Thomas is having a decent season but when owners selected him at the end of Round 1, they expected him to be a bigger factor in the red zone than Albert Wilson. He only has two touchdowns so far in 2017. Thomas is seeing just 16.7 percent of the team’s red zone targets. Welcome to life as a receiver in the Saints offense.
Jimmy Graham, Seattle Seahawks – Graham is tied for second in red zone targets (12) and third in touchdowns (4). With the Seahawks running game non-existent, they’re utilizing Graham more near the goal line. He’s seeing 28 percent of the Seahawks red zone targets. After a slow start to the season, Graham’s recent red-zone usage has him back among the elite fantasy tight ends.
Martellus Bennett, Green Bay Packers – Bennett only has three red zone targets on the season. In our first article of the year we mentioned that Packers tight ends don’t get targeted much in the red zone with Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers likes to target his receivers in the red zone. Jared Cook was only targeted nine times last year with one touchdown. Perhaps Bennett sees more targets with a new quarterback but right now he’s a non-factor in the red zone.