Fantasy Football: Week 8 Red Zone Report
The red zone is a gold mine for fantasy scoring. Of the 51 offensive touchdowns scored in Week 8, 36 of them (71%) came from within the 20-yard line, bringing the season total to 370 of 514 (72%).
The five running backs with at least six touchdowns all sit in the top six in fantasy production, while the eight wideouts with at least five touchdowns all rank in the top 18.
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.
Mark Ingram's Rise in New Orleans
With Adrian Peterson out of town, Mark Ingram has seen his market share of the New Orleans Saints' red zone opportunities (carries plus targets) jump 32.0% (the NFL's fifth-biggest increase in that span), up to 48.3%. He's getting work both through the air and on the ground, with a 53.3% market share of carries and 42.9% of targets during that time. His 14 opportunities over those three weeks are also the third-most in the NFL.
The Saints have run the league's seventh-most red zone snaps this season, and their offense ranks fourth in the NFL in Adjusted Net Expected Points (NEP) per play, and there's not going to be any shortage of scoring chances moving forward in this offense, meaning Ingram's big market share should continue to mean a high number of touches near the end zone.
LeSean McCoy's Ridiculous Volume
One of those players with more opportunities since Week 6 than Ingram has been LeSean McCoy, who has 11 carries and 5 targets despite only two games, leading the NFL with a 66.7% market share of the Buffalo Bills' opportunities.
He has better than 27 fantasy points in each of those games, despite only finding the end zone on two of those 16 touches.
He hasn't been efficient near the end zone over his career, with touchdown rates of 17% through the air and 14% on the ground inside the 20, but his huge numbers recently have come while underperforming relative to those averages.
No Zeke Could Mean Big Things for Dez Bryant
It's looking like Ezekiel Elliott will be serving his suspension (for real this time), leaving an obvious void in the Dallas Cowboys offense. Zeke ranks fifth in the NFL with a 40.8% market share of red zone opportunities while accounting for 67.4% of the Cowboys' red zone carries.
Dallas has been the league's ninth-most run-heavy team in the red zone. That is likely to change without their stud running back, giving a boost in value to Dak Prescott and the rest of the passing game. With a league-high 42.4% target market share, that should translate to a big bump in work for Dez Bryant.
Among the 71 players with at least 60 red zone targets since Bryant came into the league, only two have touchdown rates higher than his 38.9%.
Beware the Texans' Passing Game
The Houston Texans only rank 24th in red zone pass plays run, but are tied for first in red zone passing touchdowns while also being tied for first in overall passing touchdowns.
DeAndre Hopkins has five red zone touchdowns on eight targets, good for a 62.3% touchdown rate (compared to his 22.2% career average), and Will Fuller's touchdown rate inside the 20 sits at a perfect 100% -- four touchdowns on four targets.
When you consider Dez Bryant, one of the best red zone wideouts of all time, has a career rate over 20% lower than Hopkins' mark in 2017 (and over 60% lower than Fuller's), it's obvious that they can't be expected to keep this pace up for long.
There is some room for an up-tick in volume -- Houston sits in the middle of the pack in pass-to-run ratio but has run the league's ninth-fewest red zone snaps. Even with a big increase in volume, the duo's overall touchdown production is incredibly likely to fall off, which also means a drop is likely coming for Deshaun Watson.
Play-Calling Trends to Monitor
The Chicago Bears continue to completely resist throwing the ball with Mitchell Trubisky. They have red zone pass-to-run ratios below 0.45 in each of the past three games, representing a significant shift from earlier in the season, which was a 2.27 ratio from Weeks 1 to 5.
Through eight weeks, the NFL's five most pass-happy red zone teams have been the Detroit Lions (2.35-to-1 pass-to-run ratio), Arizona Cardinals (2.16), Seattle Seahawks (2.00), Green Bay Packers (1.78) and Miami Dolphins (1.77).
The Cardinals are unlikely to remain so pass-heavy with Carson Palmer sidelined, while the Dolphins also aren't particularly exciting there -- their 36 red zone snaps are tied for the fewest in the NFL.
Reflecting on Last Week's Trends
To wrap things up, let's go back and look at the players highlighted in last week's Red Zone Report.
Le'Veon Bell continued to dominate the Steelers' touches, accounting for both of their red zone carries and making up 40% of their opportunities. He sits third in the NFL in market share of opportunities over the past three weeks, and with the Steelers' run-heavy approach, his volume isn't going anywhere.
The Dolphins didn't run a single red zone snap in Week 8, and so while nobody cut into his market share, Jay Ajayi didn't add any volume. He is also now a member of the Philadelphia Eagles, but even with Ajayi out of the picture, there simply aren't many touches to go around in Miami.
Jordan Howard saw five opportunities (four carries and one target), accounting for 55.6% of the Bears' total. With Chicago committed to the run, he should keep getting plenty of scoring chances.
The San Francisco 49ers had five red zone opportunities as a team this past week, and tight end George Kittle notched one of their four targets, bringing his season-long market share up to 25%. Carlos Hyde saw only one opportunity, continuing his worrisome trend and leaving him with only a 13.8% market share of opportunities over the past three weeks.