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. This week we look at players at each position who are set up for success/failure in the red zone for fantasy playoffs.
Nick Foles, Philadelphia Eagles – Foles picked up right where Carson Wentz left off on Sunday by throwing four touchdown passes. In his last five quarters, Foles has 10 completions in the red zone with four touchdowns. He’s completing 71.4 percent of his red zone passes. Wentz leads the NFL with 24 red zone touchdowns in 13 games. Foles may not be Wentz but he took advantage of a favorable matchup last week versus the Giants. He has another one in Week 16 against the Raiders. He could lead owners to a fantasy title.
Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons – Ryan has disappointed in the red zone all season after being one of the top red zone passers in 2016. He never got going and Julio Jones continues to be a non-factor inside the 20 with just one touchdown on 17 targets. Ryan has thrown 13 touchdowns and two interceptions on 68 attempts in the red zone. He ranks seventh in attempts but Ryan is completing just 46 percent of his passes. He’ll try to salvage an average fantasy season this week versus the Saints.
Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys – Elliott returns from his six-game suspension on Sunday to face a Seahawks defense that just got gutted by Todd Gurley. Elliott was so good in the red zone before his suspension that he still ranks fifth in attempts (35), yardage (103) and touchdowns (5). He should dominate all the touches in the Cowboys backfield this week. Even after missing six games, Zeke is a Top 3 running back play in Week 16.
Devonta Freeman, Atlanta Falcons – While Ryan has failed to produce in the red zone, Freeman continues to get the job done. Despite missing two games with a concussion, Freeman ranks tied for third with seven red zone touchdowns on just 28 attempts. Tevin Coleman missed last week with a concussion and he’s questionable to play this Sunday against the Saints. Freeman is a RB1 but his value goes up even more for Fantasy Super bowls if Coleman sits.
Samaje Perine, Washington Redskins – It appeared Perine was going to be a force during fantasy playoffs after he posted back to back 100-yard games against the Saints and Giants. It didn’t happen. Perine hasn’t topped 45 yards or scored in his last three games. Overall, Perine has just one red zone touchdown on 22 carries. Perine will be hard to trust in Fantasy Super Bowls this week when he faces a tough Broncos rush defense.
Nelson Agholor, Philadelphia Eagles – After two poor NFL seasons, Agholor really emerged in 2017. He’s been both a big-play threat and a factor in the red zone. Agholor has been targeted in the red zone 18 times and he’s caught four touchdowns. He has a catch rate of 72 percent and Agholor has seen 24 percent of the Eagles red zone targets. Agholor proved last week that his success isn’t tied to Wentz by catching seven passes for 59 yards and a touchdown. He’s a strong WR3 for Fantasy Super Bowls.
JuJu Smith-Schuster, Pittsburgh Steelers – Antonio Brown will miss the rest of the regular season with a torn calf muscle. Brown’s absence makes Smith-Schuster and Martavis Bryant stronger than normal starts this week. Smith-Schuster has already done damage in the red zone. He’s been targeted 12 times with three touchdowns. Bryant has been targeted nine times with three touchdowns. Smith-Schuster and Bryant will each have an opportunity to find the end zone on Monday when they face the struggling Texans secondary.
Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Evans has been a disappointment overall in 2017. He’s been an even bigger disappointment in the red zone. After scoring 12 touchdowns last season, Evans has just three red zone scores this year on 15 targets. Evans’ three touchdowns are his only receptions inside the 20. Erratic quarterback play is a big reason for Evans’ decline. Either way, he’s not delivering on being a first or second-round draft pick in most fantasy leagues this summer.
Zach Ertz, Philadelphia Eagles – Ertz only had 13 career touchdowns coming into the season. He has eight red zone scores in 2017 alone. The development of Wentz is a big reason why Ertz ranks second in the NFL to only Jimmy Graham (9) in red zone scores. However, Ertz showed last week that he’ll continue to be a factor with Foles at quarterback. Ertz caught six passes for 56 yards and a touchdown. He remains an elite tight end play this week in a favorable matchup versus the Raiders.
Jared Cook, Oakland Raiders – We mentioned Cook a few weeks ago but it remains a mystery why he’s so unproductive in the red zone. Cook has been targeted in the red zone nine times. He has just one reception and no touchdowns. Cook’s 11 percent catch rate in the red zone is the lowest in the league. Last year, Cook was a non-factor in the red zone with Aaron Rodgers as his quarterback. Unless your Gronk or Travis Kelce, red zone scores can make or break a fantasy tight end. Cook’s lack of production inside the 20 is a major reason why he’s so inconsistent.