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 2 to see which players excelled in the red zone and which ones struggled.
Trevor Siemian, Denver Broncos – Siemian has been one of fantasy football’s biggest surprises so far this season and a lot of it has to do with his red zone production. After two games, Siemian ranks first in the NFL with six red zone touchdowns. He’s completed 9 of 11 passes in the red zone. Two things to keep in mind are it’s unlikely Siemian keeps this pace up all season and he’s played both of his games at home. This Sunday Siemian plays his first road game of the year at Buffalo. However, it’s obvious the Broncos like to get Siemian on the move and throw the ball near the goal line. Those short touchdown passes will add value to Siemian’s fantasy worth.
Derek Carr, Oakland Raiders – Carr was one of the most efficient red zone quarterbacks last season and he’s off to a good start in 2017. Even with the addition of Marshawn Lynch, Carr has four red-zone touchdown passes in four games. The Raiders are often unpredictable in the red zone, utilizing Amari Cooper, Michael Crabtree, Seth Roberts and their tight ends. Oakland likes to run the ball but Carr’s high volume inside the red zone puts him in the QB1 category almost every week.
Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions – One of the best things about a team that doesn’t run the ball well is its quarterback usually throws a lot near the goal line. Guys like Stafford, Drew Brees and Carson Wentz are a good bet to be near the top of the list in red zone passing attempts at the end of the season. Stafford ranks tied for second (Carr) with four red zone touchdown passes through two games. Ameer Abdullah is expected to get more touches this season but when the Lions get into the red zone, they’ll continue to lean on Stafford and the passing game.
Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys – Prescott has been dreadful in the red zone through two games. He’s completed just 5 of 13 passes with two touchdowns and one interception. Prescott has been given plenty of opportunities, he just hasn’t produced. According to @SharpFootball, the Cowboys have thrown the ball a surprising 93 percent of the time in the red zone this season. Expect that number to change. In 2016, Dallas ran the ball 52 percent of the time. Running the football should make Prescott more accurate in the red zone. He’s missed a couple open receivers for touchdowns in the first two weeks.
Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons – Ryan hasn’t been bad in the red zone, he just hasn’t thrown it very much. In two games, Ryan has completed 4 of 6 passes with only one touchdown. The Falcons have opted to run the football more near the goal line with new offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian. A Falcons offensive coordinator running the football? Seems odd. Devonta Freeman has three red-zone touchdowns in the first two games. Ryan will get it going eventually but last season’s top scoring quarterback could see a significant dip if Atlanta’s running backs start cyphering his short touchdown passes.
Derrick Henry, Tennessee Titans – You never want to wish an injury on anyone but if DeMarco Murray’s hamstring bothers him all year, Henry will be a stud. Henry was already starting to eat into Murray’s red zone touches last season. So far this year, Henry has five attempts inside the red zone and one touchdown. Remember, he’s been splitting time with Murray. Henry is already seeing 42 percent of the team’s carries inside the red zone. Imagine what Henry’s red zone workload will be if takes over as the feature back. Henry is inching his way to more carries in Tennessee even when Murray is healthy, especially near the goal line.
Jacquizz Rodgers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers – The Buccaneers are all flash on the outside with Jameis Winston and Mike Evans but when they get into the red zone, Tampa Bay likes to run the football. Rodgers already has six red zone carries and he’s only played one game. Last season, Rodgers and Doug Martin combined for 37 red zone carries. That would have ranked ninth in the NFL. The problem is the two only scored five touchdowns and Rodgers didn’t convert any of his six carries into scores on Sunday. Rodgers and Martin are getting the opportunities. Hopefully for fantasy owners, they’ll start converting more of them into touchdowns.
Jay Ajayi, Miami Dolphins – Ajayi didn’t score a red zone touchdown but looking ahead, he’s going to be a beast this year. In his first game of the season, Ajayi received four red zone carries, including two from inside the 10-yard line. Last season, Ajayi got 31 red zone carries and scored six touchdowns. Five of those touchdowns came from inside the five. Jay Cutler has struggled with turnovers in the red zone throughout his career. The Dolphins are going to run power football near the goal line. Ajayi accounted for 56.4 percent of Miami’s red zone carries in 2016. Expect that number to go up this season.
Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys – As stated above, it’s shocking how heavily the Cowboys have relied on the pass in the red zone through two games. Elliott has just three carries for -7 yards and one touchdown. It’s amazing he has the one touchdown. Do you think that will change soon? The Cowboys played two of the NFL’s best defenses in the Giants and Broncos to start the year. They’ve been out-thinking themselves and getting too tricky near the goal line. If you own Elliott, sit tight. Zeke will eat plenty in the red zone before it’s all said and done.
Lamar Miller, Houston Texans – Miller is starting to lose touches to rookie D’Onta Foreman. In the red zone, Foreman is already taking over. The Texans haven’t been in the red zone much this season but Foreman has three carries and one touchdown. Miller has yet to receive a red zone carry. When you combine Foreman and quarterback Deshaun Watson stealing red zone attempts away from Miller, it significantly hinders his already shaky fantasy value.
Michael Crabtree, Oakland Raiders – After a quiet Week 1, Crabtree rebounded against the Jets by scoring three touchdowns, including two in the red zone. Like we said, Carr is going to spread it around in the red zone but when the Raiders feel Crabtree has a big matchup advantage over a cornerback, they exploit it. Last year, Crabtree ranked fourth in the NFL with 24 red zone targets. He scored six touchdowns. A good thing to do with Crabtree is find out who will be covering him for a majority of the game. The Raiders like to attack a team’s weakest cornerbacks. If Crabtree has a sizeable matchup edge, he could be in for a big game.
Emmanuel Sanders, Denver Broncos – Sanders scored twice in the red zone last week and he’s already been targeted four times. Even though Demaryius Thomas is the bigger receiver, Siemian targets Sanders just as much. Each receiver saw 18 red zone targets last year. Sanders is similar to Eric Decker. Neither has great size but they’re both exceptional route runners, making both receivers dangerous in the red zone. Sanders scored three red zone touchdowns in 2016. He already has two this year. He remains an under-valued fantasy receiver.
Chris Hogan, New England Patriots – Hogan has seen three red zone targets so far this season with one touchdown. The Patriots are a unique team because they spread targets out between receivers, tight ends and running backs pretty evenly in the red zone. Julian Edelman saw 15 red zone targets last season. With all the injuries the Patriots have at receiver though, Hogan should eclipse that number. Hogan’s fantasy value will see a nice bump if he can reward owners with five or more red zone touchdowns.
Dez Bryant, Dallas Cowboys – There’s good news and bad news when discussing Bryant. The good news is he leads the NFL with six red zone targets. The bad news is he’s only caught one of them. It did go for a score. Bryant is catching just 16.7 percent of his red zone targets. That’s awful. It doesn’t feel like Bryant and Prescott have been on the same page early in the year. Here’s an interesting stat: In his career, Prescott throws an interception on 1 of every 30 passes to Dez. He throws an interception on 1 of every 215 passes to everyone else. Bryant will still get fed in the red zone but like we already stated, expect Elliott to start eating a lot more as well.
Jarvis Landry, Miami Dolphins – Landry has never been a touchdown machine. Last year Landry was only targeted in the red zone nine times and scored two touchdowns. He had fewer red zone targets than Travaris Cadet. On Sunday. Landry had a Landry-like two red zone targets for zero yards. With Ajayi and DeVante Parker both serious red zone threats, Landry’s touchdown totals aren’t likely to take a significant jump in 2017.
Coby Fleener, New Orleans Saints – Fleener has been a red zone presence for the Saints through two games. He’s caught all four of his targets and scored two touchdowns. Big things were expected from Fleener when he signed with the Saints last year but he did what Fleener usually does: Disappoint. Fleener only scored three times. He did see a respectable 16 red zone targets but converted them into just two touchdowns. The Saints like to feature the tight end, especially in the red zone. If Fleener continues to turn those opportunities into scores, he’ll be a weekly TE1.
Zach Miller, Chicago Bears – There’s not much to like right now on the Bears offense outside of rookie running back Tarik Cohen. If you’re looking for a flier, Miller is the guy. Miller has always been a factor in the red zone when healthy and he’s already seen four targets this year. He’s yet to score because the Bears quarterback play is horrendous but Miller should continue to see looks the few times the Bears are near the goal line. With Chicago so thin at receiver, Miller could carve out a role as a touchdown-dependent streamer at tight end.
Jimmy Graham, Seattle Seahawks – Remember when Graham couldn’t be stopped in the red zone? That’s a long time ago now. Graham was targeted 17 times in the red zone last year but scored only four touchdowns. He caught just 35 percent of his red zone targets. Through two games this season, Graham has been targeted once in the red zone. Graham is still one of the better fantasy tight ends when healthy but his decline in red zone production is why he’s no longer elite.
Tyler Eifert, Cincinnati Bengals – Eifert has also seen only one red zone target in the first two weeks and now he’s hurt. It’s amazing Eifert has even been targeted because it’s hard to remember the Bengals ever being in the red zone. Eifert is now dealing with back and knee problems. He plays on a bad offense. The year Eifert scored 13 touchdowns is now just a distant memory.