As fantasy football managers continue to try and score big points, they often find the highest upside in players who score touchdowns. The best area of the field to get into the end zone is as close as possible to the goal-line. That is why Red Zone carries and targets are so important. The purpose of the Red Zone Report 2020 Review is to look back at which players had the most Red Zone, rushing attempts, Red Zone targets, carries from inside the 5-yard line, and more. Also, this article dives into the Red Zone play-calling splits and total opportunities for all 32 NFL teams.
For the remainder of this article, the words “Red Zone” will be replaced with “RZ” for brevity.
Red Zone Opportunities
Regardless of anything else, including player talent, fantasy football is all about opportunity. In order to produce, running backs need carries, as much as receivers need targets. Those chances get magnified as the play gets closer to the goal-line. Seeing as this is the Red Zone Report 2020 Review, we will take a look back on the entire season. This is the list of the players who received the most combined RZ rushing attempts and RZ targets.
Player – Total Red Zone Opportunities (Rushes + Targets)
Josh Jacobs – 67 (64 + 3)
Dalvin Cook – 65 (63 + 2)
Derrick Henry – 60 (59 + 1)
Alvin Kamara – 59 (42 + 17)
David Montgomery – 57 (45 + 12)
Kenyan Drake – 55 (53 + 2)
Todd Gurley – 53 (53 + 0)
Jonathan Taylor – 53 (46 + 7)
Mike Davis – 49 (40 + 9)
Ezekiel Elliott – 49 (43 + 6)
Aaron Jones – 49 (39 + 10)
Kareem Hunt – 48 (39 + 9)
Myles Gaskin – 43 (36 + 7)
James Robinson – 37 (31 + 6)
Nick Chubb – 36 (34 + 2)
It was a close race for most of the season. In the end, Josh Jacobs edged out Dalvin Cook by 2 total RZ opportunities. Derrick Henry was just behind them, even though he held a lead throughout large portions of the 2020 season.
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Interesting situation, especially at the top of this list. Among the top seven players in total RZ opportunities, there are five individuals with 3 or fewer RZ targets on the season. In fact, if you take those five players (Jacobs, Cook, Henry, Drake, Gurley) they combine for a total of 8 RZ targets. For comparison’s sake, Alvin Kamara had more than double that amount of RZ targets on his own. Kamara actually led all running back in RZ targets. Among the top fifteen players in RZ opportunities, Kamara is one of only three individuals to register double-digit RZ targets. So most teams have a player they want to use often in the RZ, but not all teams will throw those players the football (see Henry with 1 RZ target).
One more tidbit. The Browns are the only team represented twice among the top fifteen running backs with the most RZ opportunities.
Carries Inside the 5
Dalvin Cook – 25
Ezekiel Elliott – 24
Kenyan Drake – 22
Josh Jacobs – 21
Derrick Henry – 17
Cam Newton – 17
Todd Gurley – 15
Benny Snell – 15
Jonathan Taylor – 15
This was a category that Ezekiel Elliott led for most of the season. His injury that forced missed time merely allowed others to approach him. But Elliott maintained his lead until near the end of the season when Dalvin Cook took over the top spot. Next season, Cook will be in consideration as the top overall pick in fantasy. His heavy workload not only in the RZ, but specifically inside the 5-yard line, will be a major factor in that decision.
Red Zone Targets
That was a good look at which running backs received the most touches with the best starting field position. But that is not the only way to score in the RZ. It is equally essential to look at which players received the most targets within 20 yards of the end zone.
Davante Adams – 26
Darren Waller – 22
Calvin Ridley – 22
Travis Kelce – 21
Mike Evans – 20
Jimmy Graham – 20
Tyreek Hill – 20
Allen Robinson – 19
Jonnu Smith – 19
Mark Andrews – 18
Rob Gronkowski – 18
JuJu Smith-Schuster – 18
Adam Thielen – 18
Eric Ebron – 17
Stefon Diggs – 17
Alvin Kamara – 17
Logan Thomas – 17
Keenan Allen – 16
Russell Gage – 16
Jarvis Landry -16
Tyler Lockett – 16
The old myth about tight ends being RZ monsters, actually held somewhat true this season. Among the top twelve players in 2020 RZ targets, six are tight ends. If we extend the list to the top sixteen, then tight ends still represent half the list.
Another interesting fact of the RZ target list is the number of teammates on the list together. In 2020 there were five sets of teammates with more than 15 RZ targets each. Considering those teams it might make sense. What do the Bears, Buccaneers, Chiefs, Falcons and Steelers all have in common? All five of those teams threw over 600 passing attempts during the regular season. With aerial attacks already the norm for those teams all over the field, it makes sense for them to continue that trend in the RZ.
Some signal-callers are quite active at running the football from RZ.
Player – Total Red Zone Opportunities (Rushes + Targets)
Cam Newton – 37 (37 + 0)
Taysom Hill – 23 (21 + 2)
Lamar Jackson – 23 (22 + 0)
Kyler Murray – 18 (18 + 0)
Josh Allen – 13 (12 + 1)
Only five quarterbacks received double-digit carries inside the RZ. Cam Newton led the way by a margin. The 37 RZ rushing attempts are staggering when comparing to Lamar Jackson’s 22. However, the larger disparity is the number of caries from inside the 5-yard line. Newton had 17 such attempts, enough to put him inside the top five for the entire NFL. Jackson meanwhile, only accounted for 2 carries inside the 5. Even compared to Josh Allen’s 9 or Kyler Murray’s 7, it is clear that Jackson is not running from the most optimal area to score a TD. He is probably more likely to find the end zone on a long run, than he is from the RZ.
Triple Crown Club
To be in the RZ triple crown club a player is utilized as the undisputed top RZ weapons for the squad. Two running backs were in this exclusive club. These players each led their respective teams in the following categories:
Player (TEAM) Total RZ Opportunities – RZ Targets -Carries Inside the 5-yard line
Alvin Kamara (NO) 59-17-13
David Johnson (HOU) 35 – 15 – 12
As you may notice, Johnson and Kamara both have double-digit Z targets and carries inside the 5. They are not the only two running backs who are 3-down weapons in the RZ, but they are the only ones to lead their teams in those two important categories. However, there is a massive difference between Kamara’s and Johsnons’s respective RZ rushing attempts. In fact, Kamara more than doubled Johnsons’ total RZ carries 42 to 20.
There are a couple of factors that influence this discrepancy. First, the sheer number of RZ plays run by their respective teams. The Saints snapped the ball 181 times in the RZ during the 2020 season, while the Texans only ran 113 plays. Furthermore, New Orleans was a fairly balanced RZ offense with 54% run plays. Meanwhile, Houston had the highest passing rate in the RZ with 71%.
Both equate to reasons why Kamara has so many more RZ rushing attempts than Johnson, yet their RZ targets are similar. Because the play-calling influence looms so large, let us turn towards team opportunities in the RZ.
These are the offenses that ran a balanced run-pass play calling in the RZ. For the purposes of this article, this list includes teams who run or pass no more than 54% of the time in the RZ.
|New Orleans Saints||97||84||181||Run 54 %|
|Indianapolis Colts||86||78||164||Run 52 %|
|Atlanta Falcons||78||85||163||Pass 52%|
|Los Angeles Chargers||72||81||153||Pass 53%|
|Buffalo Bills||71||80||151||Pass 53%|
|San Francisco 49ers||71||73||144||Pass 51%|
|Green Bay Packers||72||72||144||50 %|
|Dallas Cowboys||65||73||138||Pass 53%|
|Detroit Lions||65||72||137||Pass 53%|
|Cincinnati Bengals||63||72||135||Pass 53%|
|Washington||63||60||123||Run 51 %|
|Philadelphia Eagles||52||53||105||Pass 51%|
As you can see from this (and the following) table(s) the Saints had by far the most RZ opportunity of any team in the league. With 181 RZ plays, New Orleans is almost 20 opportunities clear of any other team. The Colts and Falcons are the closest in the NFL to that type of RZ workload and they have 164 and 163 opportunities respectively.
Run Heavy Teams
These are the offenses that ran the ball 55% of the time or more while inside the RZ.
|Minnesota Vikings||102||52||154||66 %|
|Cleveland Browns||85||68||153||56 %|
|Baltimore Ravens||91||59||150||61 %|
|Arizona Cardinals||88||62||150||59 %|
|Las Vegas Raiders||83||67||150||55 %|
|Miami Dolphins||83||60||143||58 %|
|Tennessee Titans||80||63||143||56 %|
|Los Angeles Rams||85||56||141||60 %|
|Carolina Panthers||82||53||135||60 %|
|New England Patriots||90||35||125||72 %|
|New York Jets||53||42||95||55 %|
While run-heavy equates to 55% in this article, there are certainly different ranges that teams fall into. In terms of run rate, the Patriots are far above everyone else with 72% of RZ plays on the ground. A bit of a drop then you find the Vikings at 66% and the Ravens at 61%. Those are the only three teams who ran more than 60% of the time in the RZ. Baltimore and New Englad both employed rushing quarterbacks during 2020, so that accounts for that rise in run rate (although the Patriots really did take it to the extreme). For Minnesota, a lot of the RZ rushing attempts came courtesy of Dalvin Cook.
One massive outlier among the team at 55% RZ run rate or higher is the Jets. They are one of six teams that snapped the ball in the RZ less than 120 times. The other five squads all threw the ball more than they ran in that area. Perhaps the Jets should have called less running plays in the RZ, since they had a league-low 95 RZ opportunities.
Pass Heavy Teams
These are the offenses that passed the football 55% of the time or more while inside the RZ.
|Chicago Bears||66||86||152||57 %|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||55||87||142||61 %|
|Pittsburgh Steelers||60||76||136||56 %|
|Kansas City Chiefs||54||79||131||60 %|
|Seattle Seahawks||49||79||128||62 %|
|Houston Texans||33||80||113||71 %|
|Jacksonville Jaguars||36||70||106||66 %|
|New York Giants||40||58||98||59 %|
|Denver Broncos||38||58||98||60 %|
When looking at the pass-heavy RZ teams, it actually appears similarly to the run-heavy list. Only two teams above 65% and only one above 70%. Firstly, the Texans had the highest RZ passing rate in the league with 71%. Considering their quarterback, that was probably a good idea. Next, the Jaguars held the second-highest RZ passing rate in the NFL with 66%.
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