As fantasy football managers continue to try and score big points, they often find the highest upside in players who score touchdowns. While finding the end zone is certainly no easy task and those times someone accomplished it, it may be considered fluky. However, there is some predictability when looking at Red Zone usage. In Red Zone Report Week 8, we will do just that, identify which players are getting the most opportunities in that coveted area of the field.
For the remainder of this article, the words “Red Zone” will be replaced with “RZ” for brevity.
Red Zone Rushing
As per usual, the players with the most RZ carries, also have the most RZ opportunities total. Todd Gurley lays claim to the Week 7 RZ rushing attempt throne at 8. James Conner comes in just behind with 7 RZ carries, but equals Gurley’s RZ opportunities with 1 RZ target.
Next are a few running backs who began the season as backups. Giovani Bernard, Kareem Hunt, Jamaal Williams, and Jeff Wilson all received 5 RZ rushing attempts apiece. This demonstrates the importance of opportunity when it comes to running back evaluation. The Bengals, Browns, Packers and 49ers are all teams that employ a run-heavy approach in the RZ. Regardless of which back is in the game, those teams have a plan in place that they will follow.
Speaking of backups, Latavius Murray was one of only two other backs who received more than 3 RZ carries. (Derrick Henry was the other, which we should come to expect by now). But with 4 such attempts, Murray again shows that he is a valuable fantasy commodity even when Alvin Kamara is playing. Murray even received the only goal-line opportunity for the Saints running backs.
Carries Inside the 5
On the topic of goal-line, that brings us inside the 5. Such a valuable place on the field of TD chances. Big surprise, the Week 7 leader in total RZ rushing attempts also paced the league with 3 attempts from inside the 5-yard line. The only other players with multiple carries from inside the 5 include Joe Burrow, Derrick Henry, Kyler Murray, Benny Snell, and Jamal Williams.
While the others running back had already been mentioned, it is curious to see Snell on that list. It appears as though the Steelers are splitting the goal-line back role between two players. Conner has 8 rushing attempts from inside the 5-yard line on the season, while Snell has 5.
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Red Zone Targets
During Week 7, Tyler Boyd saw 6 RZ targets, setting a new high mark for the 2020 season. That type of RZ usage is great not only from a wide receiver perspective but also looking at running back numbers. 6 RZ opportunities place Boyd in a tie for 3rd place in the entire league. He was alongside teammate Giovani Bernard and division rival Kareem Hunt.
We will stay in the AFC North. Two Steelers players each received 4 targets during Week 7. One is Eric Ebron, whose 6 RZ targets leads all Pittsburgh players this season. The other is Diontae Johnson, who saw those 4 targets coming off of an injury. That speaks to his health in that contest, but also how integral he is to the offense.
It’s a lucky group of 7 players who received 3 RZ targets in Week 7. Davante Adams, Rob Gronkowski, Christian Kirk, Tyler Lockett, Terry McLaurin, Calvin Ridley, and Sterling Shepard…. maybe not so lucky. All those players are great receivers who should be expected to draw those types of targets. Perhaps the only unexpected occurrence is that Christian Kirk has more RZ targets on the season than new teammate DeAndre Hopkins.
Earlier in this Red Zone Report Week 8, I already spoiled the two league-leading quarterbacks from a RZ perspective. Joe Burrow and Kyler Murray, both received 3 RZ carries, each, including the aforementioned pair of rushing attempts from inside the 5.
Interestingly enough, almost every quarterback with a RZ carry in Week 7, had it occur inside the 5-yard line. Kyle Allen, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Chad Henne, Drew Lock, and Carson Wentz are all in that group. Wentz also added an extra RZ carry outside the 5-yard line. So I guess he gets the tiebreaker and finishes third this week.
2020 Season So Far
With his monster opportunity game in Week 7, Todd Gurley passed Derrick Henry for most total RZ opportunities on the season. Currently, it is at 33 to 32 so Gurley is narrowly edging him out. However, the Titans have already played their bye week. So from a RZ opportunity per-game perspective, Henry is still king. One common aspect between those two players is that they are not involved in their team’s RZ passing attack. Among their 65 combined RZ opportunities, Henry and Gurley combined for only 1 RZ target.
Currently, Kareem Hunt is third in 2020 RZ opportunities with 23 rushing attempts and 6 targets. Of those 23 RZ carries, 5 of them came from inside the 5-yard line. For reference sake, the league leader in that category has 14 attempts from inside the 5. In spite of a silent week in the RZ, Ezekiel Elliott is still leading that race.
Finally, we have a new leader in RZ targets. Calvin Ridley currently paced all players with 12 RZ targets. A pair of tight ends in the form of Jimmy Graham and Travis Kelce tie for 2nd place with 11 each.
Thank you for reading Red Zone Report Week 8. Be sure to check out Full Press Coverage for more great NFL content.