2017 Fantasy Football Draft Kit

2017 Fantasy Football Red Zone Players: Trust & Reliance

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I have a personal anecdote and real life comparison I like to use when explaining Red Zone statistics and their significance in Fantasy Football. If you read last year’s red zone article, then feel free to skip to the “good stuff” below. Trust me, you won’t hurt my feelings.

Back when I was working as an operations manager, my team and I were frequently faced with crunch time and critical tasks in order to finish the final few objectives and reach our team’s operational goals. It was in these times that I would prioritize my workforce. I put my best employees in the most critical positions to maximize our overall chances of success.

The same goes for football. The “operational goals” is the end zone and the “final few objectives” is the red zone. Originally, when analyzing Fantasy Football, I didn’t care much for red zone targets. People were looking at red zone targets as a player’s scoring opportunity. This overlooks the fact that some of these targets are screens and short passes.

Now my mentality has changed. Much like the example above, “red zone targets” is a much deeper concept than how many times someone potentially got the ball in the red zone. Red zone usage equates to trust and reliance. When a player is utilized frequently in the red zone it means their Coach and or Quarterback trust them to get the job done. Similar to my experience in putting my best employees in critical positions.

2017 Fantasy Football Red Zone Players

With that being said below are the leaders in red zone rushing attempts and red zone targets for 2016. Remember that this frequent usage in the critical part of the football field demonstrates the team’s overall reliance on these particular players to make big plays and score touchdowns. Which means fantasy points for us. Do a very fast Mock Draft to see how many of these players you can land.

2016 Red Zone Rushing Attempts

Running BackInside 20TouchdownsInside 5Touchdowns
LeGarrette Blount, PHI68162412
David Johnson, ARI53142212
Devonta Freeman, ATL509165
Melvin Gordon, LAC5010179
Jeremy Hill, CIN448156
DeMarco Murray, TEN408126
Jonathan Stewart, CAR409169
Ezekiel Elliott, DAL3912117
LeSean McCoy, BUF381194
Latavius Murray, MIN3811169

LeGarrette Blount, RB, Philadelphia Eagles

Blount led the league in rushing touchdowns last year with 18. 16 of them were in the red zone. Most of his success and opportunity can be attributed to the prolific New England Patriots Offense. The Patriots score in bunches and are often in the red zone. This allowed for Blount to not only lead the league in rushing touchdowns but also lead the league in rushing attempts within the red zone and inside the five.

It would be foolishly optimistic to expect the same numbers for Blount who is now with the Eagles, a team that scored nearly 100 points less than the Patriots last year. However, the Eagles have improved their offense and even allowed Ryan Mathews to rack up 35 red zone carries for 8 touchdowns last year. 16 of those carries were inside the 5 which was tied for 5th best. It would not be surprising for Blount to beat Mathew’s 2016 touchdown total and score more than eight touchdowns.

Mike Gillislee, RB, New England Patriots

The more significant Fantasy Football impact of Blount’s move is on Gillislee. The former Bill is now playing for the Patriots.  Gillislee is the former backup to LeSean McCoy and now has a legitimate chance to take over a huge role in the Patriot’s offense. He should at least assume Blount’s old role. Gillislee led the league in yards per carry in 2016 for qualified running backs with over 100 carries, at 5.7 yards per carry. He had 15 red zone carries in 2016 as the backup running back and scored seven touchdowns on those 15 carries.

Even more telling is that Gillislee boasted an impressive 100% conversion rate on carries inside the five, scoring six touchdowns on six carries. At the very least Gillislee will fill the Blount role as the goal line back for an offense that is likely to be in goal to go situations often. If Gillislee gets the same volume as Blount did in the red zone it isn’t too far-fetched to expect double-digit touchdowns, especially since Gillislee has shown that he can be a very efficient runner. He is a more talented runner than Blount, in my opinion, and should benefit greatly with this new opportunity. If Gillislee can get a weekly role as a two-down back or more for the Patriots, he could become a very valuable fantasy asset. He is a great value at his current ADP.

Jeremy Hill, RB, Cincinnati Bengals

The Cincinnati Bengals have a very good offense that is often overlooked and underrated. With AJ Green and Tyler Eifert back and healthy and new additions to the offense, the Bengals are primed to be a successful offense yet again. This should mean the same if not more of these red zone numbers for Hill right? Wrong. Hill has been inefficient as the lead runner for the Bengals leading to the Bengals selecting Joe Mixon in this year’s NFL draft.

Mixon is a top talent and arguably the best, if not a top three running back from this year’s draft class. It is his off the field issues that lowered his draft stock. It is uncertain what the Bengals are going to do with their backfield, but the hype is that Mixon will be the starting running back come week one. Regardless of how this backfield turns out, it is unlikely to expect the same numbers from Hill this year. And, if Mixon does take over, he could see those types of numbers and more. This could boost him into a very valuable Fantasy Football running back commodity.

Jonathan Stewart, RB, Carolina Panthers

Here is another situation in which a rookie running back was drafted and the running back situation is unclear. The Panthers drafted Christian McCaffrey as the second running back drafted in the first round. Anyone that watched McCaffrey play in College knows how explosive and dynamic this guy really is. He can run the ball, he can catch the ball, he can basically do it all with the ball in his hands. Because of his skill set, the run-heavy tendency for the Panthers, and the high draft capital the team spent on McCaffrey, McCaffrey is the presumed starter and is being drafted as a top 20 running back in fantasy.

This should certainly lower Stewart’s red zone attempts, should it not? Stewart is not a bad running back himself and counting him out this early is a little premature. He could still see early down work and should remain the goal line back. Mike Tolbert is now in Buffalo. And there is a desire to hold back on designed runs for Cam Newton, to preserve his health. For these reasons, Stewart should still be used heavily as a goal line back.

Marshawn Lynch, RB, Oakland Raiders

Latavius Murray, as seen in the chart above, had 38 carries inside the red zone last year. He also scored 12 rushing touchdowns, good enough for fifth most. But, this isn’t about Murray. Murray is now in Minnesota, where the offensive line is one of the worst. College star and Vikings’ rookie Dalvin Cook is also a factor limiting Murray’s Value. The real focus is on new Raiders’ running back, but veteran, Marshawn Lynch.

Lynch has returned from retirement to play for his hometown team. He has a history of being a successful, superstar, running back in the NFL. He has also been a very valuable commodity in Fantasy Football. Doing this all while playing for the Seahawks, a team that never had an elite offensive line, while Lynch played for them. I mean this is a team that wouldn’t even hand him the ball on the one-yard line!

Now Lynch plays for a top four offensive line, which gave Murray the ball 38 times in the red zone and allowed Murray to basically tumble into the end zone 12 times. Lynch is a superior talent to Murray, and though he may be “old”, the Raiders have a great offense and will be in the red zone frequently. If Lynch can get the same opportunities inside the red zone has Murray, there is no reason Lynch shouldn’t finish with ten or more touchdowns.

2016 Red Zone Targets

ReceiverTargets Inside 20TouchdownsTargets Inside 10Touchdowns
Jordy Nelson, GB2911159
Kyle Rudolph, MIN245104
Anquan Boldin, FA22694
Odell Beckham, Jr., NYG21594
Michael Crabtree, OAK21684
Brandon Marshall, NYG21472
Davante Adams, GB207105
Larry Fitzgerald, ARI204124
Seth Roberts, OAK20482
Allen Robinson, JAX196104
Michael Thomas, NO197116

Kyle Rudolph, TE, Minnesota Vikings

Rudolph was the most targeted tight end last year. It is no surprise that he was the second-most targeted player in the red zone. Did you notice that he is the only tight end in the top ten? It is difficult to find a tight end that garners so much attention on an offense. So what that it is short yardage dump offs from Sam Bradford? Bradford trusts his tight end, and with little competition for targets in the red zone, Rudolph should see similar usage this year. He is a value pick at the tight end position based on volume and usage.

Brandon Marshall, WR, New York Giants

Odell Beckham Jr. is a superstar and so it is no surprise to see his name in the chart above. However, Beckham isn’t a typical “red zone” target. His numbers are slightly inflated because the Giants haven’t had a “true” red zone target since Plaxico Burress. This led to Beckham being force fed by Manning.

This year will be different. The Giants drafted Evan Engram, a highly coveted tight end and a big red zone threat. More notably the Giants added Brandon Marshall who has made a career on being an excellent red zone receiver. Marshall always manages to finish in the top ten in red zone targets. He accomplishes this regardless of where he is playing and who his quarterback is. The Giants are a pass heavy team, and Marshall should see plenty of red zone targets. Beckham’s numbers should go down inside the red zone, but he will still find a way to get it done.

About Alex Hamrick

Alex is an avid fantasy football enthusiast and writer for Fantasy Six Pack. With a background in quantitative methods and analysis, Alex enjoys using statistics and data analytics to develop detailed fantasy football analysis. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram @AlexBHamrick

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2 Comments

  1. Aaron

    June 26, 2017 at 4:50 pm

    Great advice for RB2 and flex

    • f6padmin

      June 28, 2017 at 9:58 am

      Glad you liked it. Good luck this upcoming season.

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