Fantasy Football: Week 7 Red Zone Report
The red zone is a gold mine for fantasy scoring. Of the 61 offensive touchdowns scored in Week 7, 41 of them (67%) came from within the 20-yard line, bringing the season total to 334 of 463 (72%).
The five running backs with at least six touchdowns this year all rank top-six in fantasy scoring, six of the seven wideouts with at least five touchdowns are among the top-12, and the only tight end with five touchdowns leads the position in fantasy scoring.
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.
Le'Veon Bell's Huge Volume Includes the Red Zone
Le'Veon Bell has seen some absurd volume recently, with 25 opportunities (rushes and targets) in Week 5, 38 in Week 6 and 38 in Week 7. This overall workload has also carried over into the red zone.
His 62.5% market share of Pittsburgh's red zone opportunities in that three-week span are the highest in the NFL, as are his 20 opportunities. He leads the league with a 56.8% market share of opportunities on the season, too.
He has only scored one touchdown in that time, limiting his fantasy output a bit, but with a career 11.4% receiving touchdown rate and 15.7% rushing touchdown rate inside the 20, this huge volume means Bell continues to offer unmatched upside moving forward.
Jay Ajayi Is the Only Dolphin Running the Ball
Jay Ajayi's 42.9% market share of opportunities over the past three weeks ranks seventh in the NFL, and is a significant 20.0% jump from his share during the season's first four weeks.
He is also the only player to have accounted for 100% of his team's red zone carries in that time. The Miami Dolphins' offense is not good, and while he's tied for eighth in red zone carries during this time, dominating the touches does give him a strong ceiling on a weekly basis.
Reports of DeMarco Murray's Death Have Been Greatly Exaggerated
As he deals with hamstring issues and cedes some of his workload to his backfield stablemates, people have quickly jumped ship from DeMarco Murray and have been quick to crown Derrick Henry as a back to own in fantasy football.
Neither of them were particularly effective last week, but Murray's has a bye week to get healthy and his domination of the team's red zone work means he continues to have the highest upside in that backfield. He saw just 12.5% of the Tennessee Titans' carries inside the 20 through the first four weeks, but that mark has jumped all the way up to 64.3% over the past three weeks. His 51.8% increase in market share of carries and 37.5% increase in market share of opportunities in those splits are both the second-highest in the NFL.
The Titans have also been the league's most run-heavy red zone team, with a 0.63-to-1 pass-to-run ratio, calling more passes than runs only once, which happened all the way back in Week 1.
Jordan Howard Is Dominating the Bears' Few Opportunities
Like the Dolphins, the Chicago Bears being bad on offense limits the red zone opportunities available.
Despite this, Jordan Howard has seen a ton of work. He is the only player with a bigger increase in his market share of opportunities over the past three weeks than DeMarco Murray (with a 39.0% increase), and his 62.5% market share in that time is tied with Le'Veon Bell for tops in the league.
The Bears look committed to running the ball with Mitchell Trubisky at the helm, and while a back in such a poor offense is never going to have a great floor, the red zone work means the ceiling is still there for Howard.
George Kittle Is Seeing Plenty of Volume and Has Room to Improve
George Kittle has accounted for 50% of the San Francisco 49ers' red zone targets over the past three weeks. The seven targets he's garnered rank second in the NFL in that time. The Niners have been one of the more pass-heavy red zone teams this season -- they own the 12th-highest pass-to-run ratio (1.46) and have called more runs than passes in only one game.
The league average receiving touchdown rate in the red zone is 24.3%. Without having enough of a sample size on Kittle to draw any conclusions about his long-term efficiency outlook, his 14.3% mark leaves plenty of room for optimism that he will increase his scoring rate moving forward. This is something that would be incredibly valuable while he's seeing his current levels of volume.
Carlos Hyde's Steep Decline
Carlos Hyde has seen a huge 34.3% decline in red zone opportunity share over the past three weeks. The only player who has seen a steeper decline is Dalvin Cook, who has not been on the field because of his knee injury.
Hyde has accounted for only 18.2% of the 49ers' opportunities over the past three weeks, notching four carries and two targets. This is a drop in workload that has been disguised a bit by a 50% rushing touchdown rate, a mark that is obviously not sustainable. Unless the 49ers start going away from their pass-heavy approach or start including Hyde in their red zone passing game more, his upside will be severely limited by a lack of touchdown potential.
Play-Calling Trends Worth Monitoring
As mentioned for Murray, the Titans (0.63 pass-to-run ratio) are the league's most run-heavy red zone team. Rounding out the top five in that category are the Jacksonville Jaguars (0.76), Pittsburgh Steelers (0.77), Minnesota Vikings (0.77), and New England Patriots (0.85). On the other side of the coin, the five most pass-heavy squads are the Detroit Lions (2.33), Arizona Cardinals (2.16 -- a mark that may fall now that Carson Palmer is banged up), Atlanta Falcons (1.84), Green Bay Packers (1.78), and Miami Dolphins (1.77).
As previously mentioned, the Bears look to have little interest in letting Trubisky throw -- they have posted pass-to-run ratios of 0.33 and 0.00 inside the 20 over the past two weeks.
The Denver Broncos have also been particularly reliant on the pass recently, with 12 passes and 2 runs over the past two weeks.
Reflecting on Last Week's Trends
To finish things off, lets look at how the players outlined last week fared in Week 7.
As expected, Todd Gurley continued to see big work -- he received seven red zone opportunities and found the end zone on one of those touches, snapping his brief scoreless skid.
The loss of Rodgers did cause a big dip in scoring for Davante Adams, with the Packers not throwing the ball once in the red zone. His value will likely continue to take a huge hit with Hundley at the helm.
Neither Melvin Gordon nor Kareem Hunt found the end zone in Week 7, though the trends they had heading into their respective games held up. Hunt didn't see a single red zone opportunity, while Gordon had four, accounting for 57.1% of the Los Angeles Chargers' total.