Fantasy Football: Week 3 Red Zone Report
The red zone is a gold-mine for fantasy scoring. Of the 89 offensive touchdowns scored in Week 3, 65 of them (73%) came from within the 20-yard line, bringing the season total to 157 of 209 (75%).
Fantasy football's two highest-scoring running backs also are tied for the league lead in touchdowns, while the number-one wideout is first in receiving touchdowns. We're only three weeks into the season, but it should already be clear just how valuable touchdowns are.
Touchdowns are also one of the most volatile stats on a week-by-week basis, but by taking a look under the surface and identifying players that are getting the ball in the red zone, we can identify players that have the highest probability of reaching the end zone. This can give us an idea of whose fantasy success is likely to continue, while also identifying players that are scoring at unsustainably high rates and may make for good sell-high candidates. It can also help us identify which players are scoring at low rates and which are likely to improve, making it worth considering trying to acquire them for cheap.
Let's get right to it.
Just Another Reason to Be Excited About Kareem Hunt
Kareem Hunt has been getting a ton of well-deserved hype with his strong start to the year -- he's sitting over 10 points ahead of the pack as the top running back in fantasy. He has scored three touchdowns from outside the red zone (to go with three in the red zone), and while that's not a sustainable pace, he can afford to see some significant regression in that area and still be one of the game's most productive backs. His usage inside the 20 is a strong indicator that he should continue to score plenty of touchdowns.
Hunt is the only player to have handled 100% of his team's red zone carries in 2017, and his 47.4% market share of opportunities (rushes and targets) is the third-highest in the NFL.
The Chiefs offense has run the league's fifth-fewest red zone plays despite ranking third in both yards and points for. So, we can expect that volume to increase significantly. With Hunt commanding such a huge share of the touches, the potential for an increase in volume means he continues to offer elite touchdown upside.
Carlos Hyde Is Here to Stay
No player has more total red zone opportunities this season than Carlos Hyde's 17. He ranks behind only Hunt with an 87.5% share of his team's red zone carries, and with a 50% share of opportunities, he is one of only two players (Devonta Freeman being the other) to have seen at least half of their team's opportunities inside the 20.
A ton of that volume has also come on especially valuable snaps inside the 10-yard line -- his nine carries from this area of the field is tied for the league's most.
The San Francisco 49ers rank top five in red zone snaps, and while that ranking is likely to fall significantly unless their overall offensive production increases, Hyde's big share of the touches means he should keep seeing plenty of work.
He has also only scored on two of his 14 red zone carries (both inside the 10), making both his 14.3% red zone touchdown rate and 22.2% touchdown rate inside the 10 below his career averages (17.6% red zone, 34.2% inside the 10). That potential for an increase in efficiency should also help make up for any dip in volume.
Dalvin Cook Can Be Even More Productive
The Minnesota Vikings ran only one red zone snap in Week 2, and with such a limited sample size, it was tough to draw any significant conclusions. They got back on track in Week 3, though, as their 12 snaps last weekend brought the season total up to 27.
Cook accounted for one-third of the team's carries and one-fourth of the targets inside the 20 in Week 1, and his role increased in Week 3, handling all six of the red zone rushes while also seeing one of the six targets (16.7%) -- good for a 58.3% market share of opportunities. His 40.7% market share of opportunities on the season ranks eighth in the NFL.
He has only scored once in his 11 opportunities, which comes out to a lowly 9.1% touchdown rate. That mark is so far below the league average (19.8%) that it is likely to increase moving forward. If we combine that with the Vikings' volume likely increasing as they leave that quiet Week 2 performance behind them, fantasy football's RB8 has plenty of room for increased upside.
T.Y. Hilton's Significant Volume
T.Y. Hilton is the only player to account for at least half of his team's red zone targets in all three weeks this season, with his 55.6% market share being the best in the league.
He hasn't been an especially efficient red zone receiver over his career (15.5% touchdown rate) and the Indianapolis Colts have also been quite run-heavy inside the 20 (0.78-to-1 pass-to-run ratio), so your expectations should be tempered, but the huge market share does give Hilton some big upside on a week-to-week basis. The Colts have been more pass heavy in Weeks 2 and 3 than they were in Week 1, making this a situation worth monitoring.
D'Onta Foreman Edging Out Lamar Miller
The team called only pass plays in the red zone in Week 1, but in Week 2, Foreman handled all four of the team's carries while Miller didn't see a single opportunity. They each had two carries in Week 3, but Foreman added one target while Miller didn't get any.
Foreman ranks in the top 10 with a 75% market share of red zone carries, and if we combine that with his increased overall workload (double-digit touches in Week 2 and 3) and Miller's falling snap count (81% in Week 1, 74% in Week 2, 70% in week 3), Foreman has some really interesting upside. He's well worth stashing on your bench if you have the roster space for it.
Keeping an Eye on Play-Calling Trends
For the first time this season, all 32 teams ran plays in the red zone last week.
The Arizona Cardinals called 11 pass plays to only 1 rush, and the Seattle Seahawks called 10 passes and 2 rushes, solidifying them as the most pass-heavy red zone teams -- they are the only squads with pass-to-run ratios above 2.5-to-1. The New York Giants and Chicago Bears have both passed twice as often as they've run, and the New Orleans Saints round out the top five with a 1.9-to-1 ratio.
On the other end of the spectrum, the Los Angeles Rams (0.57-to-1), Buffalo Bills (0.63), Carolina Panthers (0.69), Jacksonville Jaguars (0.70) and Tennessee Titans (0.73) are the five most run-heavy squads, as the only units with ratios below 0.75-to-1.
The Detroit Lions had a significant shift in play-calling, with eight passes and one rush after posting ratios below 0.7 in each of their first two games. That's going to be worth keeping an eye on moving forward.
The Cincinnati Bengals also had a big shift in their first game with Bill Lazor serving as their offensive coordinator -- they posted a 0.4-to-1 ratio after settling in at 2.3 in Week 1 and 1.5 in Week 2.
Reflecting on Last Week's Trends
Outlined as threats for increased scoring last week, both Le'Veon Bell and Dez Bryant continued to see significant shares of their teams' red zone work and they both found the end zone.
C.J. Anderson saw his workload drop off pretty significantly in Week 3 with only one rush and one target in the red zone, accounting for 25% of the Denver Broncos' opportunities. With his big workload in the first two games, it's not time to worry just yet, but keep an eye on his usage moving forward.
Jordan Howard has gone in the opposite direction of Anderson -- he saw two red zone opportunities in the first two games, but then got five carries in Week 3, accounting for 83.3% of the Chicago Bears' red zone carries and 71.4% of their opportunities. Like with Anderson, one week isn't something that should influence you too much, but if this usage continues, Howard's fantasy value will get a big bump.
The New England Patriots didn't run a ton of red zone plays this week (four passes and one rush), but Mike Gillislee continued to be the go-to back inside the 20. He earned the team's only red zone carry, bringing his season market share up to 60.9%.