Fantasy Football: Week 5 Red Zone Report

The red zone is a gold mine for fantasy scoring. Of the 61 offensive touchdowns scored in Week 5, 42 of them (69%) came from within the 20-yard line, bringing the season total to 254 of 341 (74%).

Through five weeks of the NFL season, there are eight players with at least five combined rushing and receiving touchdowns. All five of the running backs to hit that mark rank among the top eight in fantasy scoring, and all three of the wideouts rank in the top six.

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 those who 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. Furthermore, it can 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.

The Giants Losing Weapons

We can expect the New York Giants to look a lot different on offense moving forward, with both Odell Beckham (ankle) and Brandon Marshall (ankle) done for the season.

Those injuries aren't necessarily going to change much in the red zone, though. Giants players have only seen 17 red zone targets this season -- the ninth-fewest in the NFL. Beckham has accounted for four and Marshall for two, so missing 35% of their targets is a significant share, but without any real volume to go along with it, the impact is limited. It also wouldn't be a surprise to see their approach become increasingly run-heavy near the end zone with their top passing option out.

Sterling Shepard actually leads the team in red zone targets this year (six), and Evan Engram (two) is the only other player in the offense with more than one target inside the 20. Those two may get a slight bump in scoring opportunities, but don't expect it to be a big one.

The Giants didn't run a single red zone play in Week 5, but Wayne Gallman shouldered a big workload in Week 4, with his six carries and one target accounting for 53.9% of the red opportunities (carries and targets) for the G-Men. He should continue to play a significant role there after leading the backfield in snaps last week.

Keenan Allen Isn't Scoring, But the Volume Is There

Keenan Allen's lone touchdown so far this season didn't come from within the red zone. Despite averaging 10.4 targets per game, this lack of scoring has him sitting outside the top-12 wide receivers in standard fantasy leagues.

Receiving just one red zone target in the first three weeks was certainly a concern, but there's been a lot more reason for optimism lately. He's one of only three players with at least five red zone targets within the past two weeks.

He's not a dominant threat inside the 20, but he has converted 22.9% of his red zone targets into touchdowns for his career. An increase in touchdown scoring shouldn't be far off with his recent rise in volume.

Buck Allen's Huge Volume

Javorius Allen toted the rock 10 times in the red zone last Sunday, giving him two-thirds of the Baltimore Ravens' red zone carries and 38.5% of their opportunities over the past two weeks. He's up to a 56.0% share of carries and 36.2% share of opportunities (the 11th-highest mark in the NFL) on the year.

While Terrance West isn't expected to miss a ton of time, him being banged up certainly isn't likely to lead to an increased workload. With such a command of the work already, Allen's volume should be safe moving forward.

West also ranks second on the team in red zone opportunities, so any time he does miss will spell an increase in upside for Allen.

Aaron Jones Is Dominating the Packers' Rushing Work

Speaking of injuries, Ty Montgomery's absence has meant a huge bump in work for Aaron Jones.

Jones has accounted for at least 75% of the Green Bay Packers' red zone rushes in each of their last two games. His 77.8% market share is the league's fifth-highest rate in that time.

The Pack have been one of football's more pass-happy teams in scoring range, so that does limit Jones' touchdown upside a bit. However, commanding a dominant share of those carries in such an explosive offense is enough to give him a strong ceiling for as long as Montgomery is out.

Ezekiel Elliott Erasing Concerns Over His Slow Start

Ezekiel Elliott ranks second in both market share of carries (85.7%) and market share of opportunities (56.5%) over the past two weeks. After seeing low red zone usage to open the year, his 29.3% increase in opportunity share from Weeks 1-3 to Weeks 4-5 is a top-10 mark in the NFL. He's also up to fourth in both total red zone carries (17) and opportunities (19).

After averaging better than a touchdown per game as a rookie, it looks like Elliott's volume within scoring range is going to be among the highest in football again, giving him elite scoring upside.

Play-Calling Trends Worth Monitoring

Looking at full-season play-calling trends, the Arizona Cardinals (2.6-to-1 pass-to-run ratio), Seattle Seahawks (2.5), Chicago Bears (2.3), and Los Angeles Chargers (2.2) are the only teams calling at least twice as many passes as runs in the red zone, while the New Orleans Saints (1.8) round out the five most pass-heavy squads.

The Tennessee Titans (0.71), Washington (0.72), Jacksonville Jaguars (0.74), Carolina Panthers (0.77) and Indianapolis Colts (0.79) have been the five most run-heavy teams, and are also the only ones with ratios below 0.85-to-1.

The Buffalo Bills hadn't finished any game with a ratio higher than 0.75-to-1 heading into Week 5, but they changed their tune drastically last week with 4.0-to-1 ratio. We can't read too much into one week of data, but Tyrod Taylor could see increased fantasy value if this keeps up.

The Los Angeles Rams' Week 4 situation was similar to the Bills' this week. They had ratios of 0.60-to-1 or lower in each of their three games before posting a 3.0 in Week 4. The pass-heavy approach continued in Week 5 (3.3-to-1), dinging Todd Gurley's value a bit while giving a boost to Jared Goff,

Reflecting on Last Week's Trends

I already started reflecting on last week's trends a bit in highlighting Zeke again this week, but the consistency in his increased volume is that important.

With only two red zone carries in Week 5, Mike Gillislee continues to play a significantly smaller role inside the 20 than he had to start the season -- he hasn't accounted for more than 20% of the New England Patriots' red zone opportunities since Week 2. His 15.4% market share over the past two weeks marks a significant decrease from his 35.0% over the first three.

Leonard Fournette bounced back after looking like he may be on a similar path with Gillislee, running the ball on four of the Jags' five red zone snaps, giving him a 57.1% market share of red zone carries over the past two weeks. That mark is right in line with his 60.0% over the first three.

The Minnesota Vikings remained run-heavy with Dalvin Cook out, posting a 0.60-to-1 red zone pass-to-run ratio in Week 5. Jerick McKinnon led the team with 57.1% of the opportunities (three carries, one target), while Latavius Murray was the only other player with multiple opportunities (two carries).