5 NFL Red Zone Trends to Monitor for Week 7
To this point, NFL teams have produced 443 offensive touchdowns. Of those, 276 have come through the air with another 167 on the ground, which equates to 62.3% as passing scores.
In the red zone, it is closer to even as teams have accounted for 170 passing and 152 rushing scores inside the 20-yard line. Somehow, someway, red zone passing touchdown and overall scores are down, but rushing touchdowns are up by 24. Those scores account for 680 fantasy points from passers, 912 from rushers and 1,020 for those on the receiving end of those 170 trips to the end zone.
All that is to say that red zone opportunities are valuable for fantasy football players. In season-long leagues and daily games alike, we want to target guys with touchdown upside because of the amount of points you get on that one play compared to the 60 rushing or receiving yards you need to add up to that touchdown.
The question is, why are we talking about this if it is such a logical approach? The reasoning is simple: touchdowns are pretty hard to predict. Certain players are off the field in certain situations and packages, while others might be called upon as go-to guys in the red zone because of their size or versatility.
That's why we're here. All season, we're diving into the data to uncover valuable red zone trends that either point us toward one player or suggest we avoid another. Let's get down to it.
Nick "Workhorse" Chubb
Through six weeks, the Cleveland Browns have disappointed early-season bettors and fantasy drafters alike. They head into their Week 6 bye with two straight losses, a 2-4 record and rank 21st in the league at 20.0 points per game. But they have been effective in the run game, ranking seventh by way of our in-house power rankings. As a result, running back Nick Chubb trails only two running backs in fantasy points per game: Christian McCaffrey and Dalvin Cook.
Chubb has managed the second-highest average yards per game (101.2), behind only McCaffrey, but a ton of his value comes inside the 20. Without a formidable backup, he's received 18 of 26 rush attempts in the red zone (a 69.2% share), and only four of the remaining eight have gone to a running back, Dontrell Hilliard.
When we add in Chubb's 3 red zone targets, he has 21 red zone opportunities to his name, which he has done well to convert to 5 rushing touchdowns. This week alone, he had seven rushes and one target inside the 20, accounting for 8 of Cleveland's 13 red zone plays, according to Pro Football Reference. The talented second-year back has also been featured much closer to paydirt, as he's taken 11 rushes for 3 touchdowns inside the 10.
But why mention Chubb if he's on bye this week? Well, while you can't utilize him in daily fantasy formats, Chubb makes for a great buy candidate with him off the field. That, and the return of the suspended Kareem Hunt in Week 8, could help to drive the cost down for such a high-upside RB1. Our models project Chubb to play as RB12 the rest of the way, but we might be a little low at 4.8 rushing touchdowns. If he continues at this pace, he could finish as a top-five back and win leagues when the Browns get into more favorable game scripts.
The New, Old Chargers
The Los Angeles Chargers have, in true Charger fashion, been really perplexing through the first half-dozen contests. After going 2-2 to start, despite several key injuries and the absence of Melvin Gordon, they have lost their last two at home to the Denver Broncos and Pittsburgh Steelers. They've scored just 13 and 17 points in those games, and it's worth noting that they got Hunter Henry back in their most recent loss.
Henry was the star in the Chargers' losing effort. He did a lot because of the negative script, but the stud tight end produced 8 catches on 9 targets for 100 yards and 2 fourth quarter touchdowns. His two trips for six originated -- including this toe-tapper -- from the 5- and 11-yard line, respectively, while his two targets made up 40% of the team's targets inside the 20.
Many have pointed out that Henry largely benefited from playing in a big wide receiver role out of the slot, as he scored both of his touchdowns from there. It is quite evident that the Chargers are looking to get him the ball close to the goal line. If he's still out on your waiver wire for some reason, pick him up before it's too late.
But, while Henry flourished, L.A.'s other pass-catchers did little to excite. Keenan Allen went without a red zone target, but don't be selling on the team's top target in both talent and production. Allen is tied for the team-high with seven red zone targets, three of which came in Week 1 -- Henry's only other appearance this season.
Most of the other notable pieces on this offense could be impacted by Henry's return. Mike Williams got one target, and Travis Benjamin was the only other weapon to get a red zone look in the passing game. Without Henry in Weeks 2 through 5, Williams was first on the team with six targets followed by Austin Ekeler (five) and Allen (four). Melvin Gordon has zero red zone targets in two games.
Ekeler's usage is going down in favor of Gordon, and his valuable red zone usage is on the decline to boot. He is a scary player to use outside of a strong flex matchup. After all, in all of 2018, Gordon tallied 13 red zone targets to Ekeler's 5 despite the former playing two fewer games due to injury.
Last year's sample was without Henry, but we should see Gordon get some looks in the red zone in time. Our reason-of-season projections have him as the RB22 with 28.3 catches and 1.3 receiving scores over the remaining 10 games. And his price has held steady at $6,600 on FanDuel ahead of a Week 7 trip to take on the Tennessee Titans. With the chance for more work through the air, Gordon makes for a sneaky play in tournaments against a Tennessee team that has also allowed 100-plus rushing yards in four of six games.
Auden Tate's Upside
Auden Tate is one of the hottest names in fantasy football. Sure, the Cincinnati Bengals are awful, but Tate has stepped in with both A.J. Green and John Ross sidelined. He has been a source of salary relief in DFS, and he is a top waiver wire candidate for Week 7.
Tate is one of a few usable players out there in most leagues, but the fact that he's carved out a role -- particularly in the red zone -- makes him a must-add and a great flex play in most matchups. The 6'5", 228-pound receiver is tied for fourth in the NFL with eight red zone targets in five games after seeing zero snaps (yes, snaps) in Week 1. In the last three weeks alone, he leads all players with seven such targets.
The results have yet to catch up to the volume though. Tate's four catches on his eight targets have returned only 25 yards for 1 touchdown so far. So long as Green remains out, he is in for some regression.
What should keep Tate viable regardless is Cincinnati's likelihood of being in negative game script most weeks. Under Zac Taylor, the Bengals have already passed it at the second-highest rate (65%) in the red zone, according to Sharp Football Stats, while they have run 11 personnel 84% of the time (highest in the league). In daily games, Tate maintains a worthwhile price ($5,900) for a home game against the Jalen Ramsey-less Jaguars.
Seattle's Run Defense
On the field, Bobby Wagner is a great NFL player from the linebacker spot. He's even a good bet to rack up tackles as an IDP option. However, even he hasn't been able to keep opposing offenses from frequently running it into the end zone this season.
Through six games (and remember some teams have had byes), the Seattle Seahawks' defense has allowed eight touchdowns, which ties them for first in the league with the Kansas City Chiefs. But they have done so on 28 red zone runs compared to the Chiefs' 37 -- good enough for a 28.6% touchdown rate that is bested by only the New York Jets and Carolina Panthers.
Over the last three weeks, they have watched ball-carriers take 15 rushes for 6 touchdowns from an average of 6.9 yards out (tied for second-longest in that span). Before Chubb and the Browns ran in three, the Los Angeles Rams took in two, preceded by three straight weeks in which their opponents managed at least one score on the ground.
Teams have been sure to note this trend, too. Seattle has faced one of the top seven most rush-heavy rates (57%) in the red zone this season, and that only gets higher (60%) in the last three weeks of play. Mind you, this is all in the face of Russell Wilson and Seattle winning three straight. Imagine what teams would do in more positive situations.
Lucky us, this week that trend plays into the hands of Lamar Jackson, Mark Ingram and the Baltimore Ravens. They are 3.5-point underdogs on the road, but Baltimore's run-heavy approach of Jackson/Ingram read options and the like could be a way to capitalize in tournaments and GPPs. At $8,400, Jackson is projected for 0.34 rushing touchdowns and 21.1 FanDuel points -- tied for first at the position -- while Ingram checks in at $7,500. Our numbers expect the Ravens' lead back to score 0.51 touchdowns en route to 11.7 points.
Again, our last trend is a full snapshot of each team's pass and run rate in the red zone, as well as their success rate in those two facets, per Sharp Football Stats.
|Team||Pass Rate||Pass Success||Run Rate||Run Success||Team||Pass Rate||Pass Success||Run Rate||Run Success|
In Week 6, the aforementioned Chargers didn't run the ball one time. Understandably, they passed on all nine red zone plays as they played from behind, but that didn't give us anything as far as how the red zone (and/or goal line) usage will play out with both Ekeler and Gordon vying for those oh-so-valuable carries. Assuming they look to balance things out in what projects to be a close game, their league-lead pass rate should fall back to the pack after Week 7.
What you can't see here is the Philadelphia Eagles' rushing dominance in neutral game scripts. When sorting these same figures to include only plays run with a margin between -7 and 7, Philadelphia's rush rate jumps from 51% to 58%, and they have done a lot with it, averaging a league-best 4.2 yards on 21 attempts, all for a 76% rush success rate in the red zone. Jordan Howard has four rushing touchdowns thus far, but he could continue to feast behind an offensive line ranked third in Football Outsiders' power success metric.
Brett Oswalt is not a FanDuel employee. In addition to providing DFS gameplay advice, Brett Oswalt also participates in DFS contests on FanDuel using his personal account, username BrettOswalt. While the strategies and player selections recommended in his articles are his/her personal views, he may deploy different strategies and player selections when entering contests with his personal account. The views expressed in his articles are the author’s alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of FanDuel.