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 7 to see which players excelled in the red zone and which ones struggled.
Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks – Wilson ranks first in the NFL with 20 passing attempts inside the 10-yard line and he’s tied for third with six touchdowns. Wilson’s 34 red zone attempts ranks fourth in the league. The Seahawks lack of a running game means Wilson is forced to throw the ball in the red zone. That’s not likely to change as the season moves on. Neither Eddie Lacy nor Thomas Rawls has shown any signs of being a viable option at running back for the Seahawks and Seattle’s offensive line has struggled all year. Look for Wilson to continue to throw the ball near the goal, increasing his fantasy value.
Tom Brady, New England Patriots – Brady leads the NFL in red zone passing attempts (39) and he ranks third in touchdowns (10). Seven of Brady’s 10 red zone touchdowns have come from inside the 10-yard line. Brady always rewards his owners with short touchdown throws but last year he conceded a lot of red zone touchdowns to LeGarrette Blount. This season the Patriots haven’t had the same success running the football in the red zone with Blount gone. Mike Gillislee has only scored once since Week 1 and no one has really taken control of that “power back” role in New England’s offense. Rex Burkhead is healthy, so he could get more opportunities near the goal line but the Patriots aren’t going to run for over 20 red zone touchdowns this season. Through seven games, they have five.
Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens – Flacco has been a disaster in the red zone this year. He ranks third in the NFL with 36 red zone attempts. However, he’s completed just 15 passes (39.4 percent) with only four touchdowns. While Flacco doesn’t have many weapons or much of a running game to help him out, he’s also been maddening inaccurate. The one bright spot regarding Flacco is outside of two-quarterback leagues, he’s not being counted on by many fantasy owners this season. He should be counted on even less. The Ravens offense is a dumpster fire.
Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons – One guy who is being counted on by fantasy owners and is having only a slightly better year in the red zone right now is Ryan. Ryan has 28 red zone passing attempts but he’s produced just four touchdowns with one interception. Last year, Ryan was money in the red zone. He ranked third in the NFL with 23 red zone touchdowns. Ryan hasn’t played well, so he needs to take some of the blame himself. It’ not all on Ryan though. New offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian looks like he should be calling plays in high school. Sarkisian called a jet sweep to Taylor Gabriel from the goal line on fourth down last Sunday night against the Patriots. It lost five yards. Ryan has been one of this season’s biggest disappointments both in fantasy and real-world football. His struggles in the red zone are a big reason why. It may not change either because the guess here is the Falcons start running the ball more near the goal line. Running the ball straight ahead, that is, not sideways.
Carlos Hyde, San Francisco 49ers – Hyde is probably a decent quarterback away from having a great fantasy season. He’s getting most of the work for San Fran in the red zone. Hyde has 18 red zone carries and four touchdowns. All four of his scores have come from inside the 5-yard line where Hyde leads the NFL with 10 rushing attempts. Hyde is getting 83.3 percent of the 49ers rushing attempts from inside the 5-yard line. He’s been great in the red zone this year. The problem for Hyde owners is he’s been average everywhere else.
Mark Ingram, New Orleans Saints – Ingram doesn’t have great red zone numbers right now but he’s a player on the rise. He currently has 12 red zone carries with three touchdowns. However, half of his attempts have come from inside the 5-yard line. Those six carries rank fourth in the NFL. Alvin Kamara is around to take touches away from Ingram but Sean Payton is using both backs well since trading away Adrian Peterson. Ingram is the hammer out of the two backs. Expect him to be used a lot near the goal line over the last two months of the season.
LeGarrette Blount, Philadelphia Eagles – There’s a perception by some that Blount isn’t being used a lot in Philadelphia. That’s not that the case. Blount is getting red zone opportunities, he’s just not producing results. Through eight games, Blount has 17 red zone carries but only one touchdown. Blount actually has one more red zone rushing attempt than Leonard Fournette and two more than Devonta Freeman. The difference is Fournette has four touchdowns and Freeman five. Blount isn’t going to approach the 68 red zone carries he got last year with New England but his 17 attempts ranks fifth in the NFL. He’s just not converting those carries into touchdowns right now.
Lamar Miller, Houston Texans – Miller was drafted in many leagues as an RB2. It’s hard to produce consistent RB2 numbers when you have one red zone rushing attempt inside the 5-yard line through six games. You read that right, Miller has one red zone rushing attempt. That’s fewer attempts from inside the five than Delanie Walker and he’s a tight end. I guess if you’re looking for a silver lining, Miller did score a touchdown on that one attempt. Perhaps he deserves more carries near the goal line.
Dez Bryant, Dallas Cowboys – Bryant remains at the top of the red zone receiving chart. He’s been there all season, which makes it somewhat surprising that Dez isn’t having a better overall fantasy year. Bryant ranks tied for first in the NFL in red zone targets (12) and tied for second in touchdowns (4). It will be interesting to see what happens to Ezekiel Elliott because the Cowboys were overly pass happy early in the season in the red zone. Dallas is likely to lean more on Elliott near the goal line as the season goes on if he’s available. If Zeke serves his suspension, it means Bryant will continue to be one of the league leaders in red zone targets.
Cooper Kupp, Los Angeles Rams – Kupp is a receiver who has shot up in red zone targets over the last couple of weeks. Sean McVay is designing more plays to target Kupp inside the 10-yard line. Kupp now ranks second in the NFL with 11 red zone targets and three touchdowns. Four of those targets have come inside the 10. That ranks tied for fifth in the NFL. Kupp is seeing 33.3 percent of the Rams red zone targets. That’s the fourth highest rate of any receiver in the league. Kupp is clearly Jared Goff’s top target when the Rams get inside the red zone. That should make Kupp a consistent WR3.
Terrelle Pryor, Washington Redskins – Pryor has been targeted three times in the red zone this season. He has one catch and no touchdowns. Pryor has one target inside the 10-yard line. He’s 6’4. Pryor was signed to be the Redskins No. 1 receiver. Halfway through the season he’s been a monumental bust and non-existent in the red zone. There’s nothing that points to Pryor turning things around anytime soon.
Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals – Fitzgerald is tied for first in the NFL with 12 red zone targets. That’s not surprising but look for Fitzgerald to start dropping down the rankings simply because the Cardinals aren’t going to be in the red zone as often with Carson Palmer injured. We’ve seen Drew Stanton before and it’s not pretty. The Cardinals offense will struggle with him under center. Palmer was one of the top quarterbacks in red zone attempts. Those days are over.
Tyler Kroft, Cincinnati Bengals – Kroft only has four red zone targets but he’s turned three of them into touchdowns. Remember, Kroft has only started three games since Tyler Eifert was lost for the season with a back injury. Kroft isn’t going to gobble up a bunch of yards and receptions but he can be a Cameron Brate-like fantasy factor if he continues to produce in the red zone. He’s a borderline TE1 because of his weekly red zone production.
Delanie Walker, Tennessee Titans – Walker is usually targeted heavily in the red zone but this year he’s been a ghost. Through seven games this year, Walker has only been targeted three times in the red zone and he’s yet to record a catch. Now Walker is dealing with a bone bruise in his ankle as Tennessee heads into its bye week. The Titans offense has struggled at times this season. One way to get going would be to start using Walker again in the red zone.