Fantasy Football: Week 9 Red Zone Report
The red zone is a gold mine for fantasy scoring. Of the 65 offensive touchdowns scored in Week 9, 48 of them (74%) came from within the 20-yard line, bringing the season total to 418 of 579 (72%).
There are five running backs who have found the end zone at least six times this year, and they all rank top-6 in fantasy scoring. The 10 wideouts with at least 5 touchdowns also make up half of the top-20 fantasy scorers at the position.
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 who 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 who 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.
Joe Mixon Takes a Clear Lead in the Cincinnati Backfield
Taking over the lead back role for the Cincinnati Bengals, Joe Mixon has played 43%, 63%, and 72% of the team's snaps over the past three weeks. He has accounted for 70% of the carries and 55% of the targets out of the Bengals' backfield in that stretch, but despite this volume, he has yet to show much fantasy value, partially because he has only scored 2 touchdowns this year.
While the Bengals' poor offensive efficiency -- they rank 25th in Adjusted Net Expected Points (NEP) per play -- leaves some room for concern, Mixon's red zone volume is encouraging, and it does leave room for him to offer a lot more fantasy upside than we have seen from him thus far.
He has two red zone carries in each of the Bengals last three games, accounting for 100% of the team's total. He also has one red zone target, and his 41.2% market share of Cincy's red zone opportunities over those three weeks is a top-10 mark.
Similar Situations for Shady and Zeke
Shady's 58.1% market share of opportunities inside the 20 over the past three weeks is tops in the NFL, while Zeke's 43.9% isn't far behind, ranking seventh. The pair both have 18 opportunities in that time -- tied for first in the league -- while nobody else has notched more than 14. Despite this, neither has a red zone touchdown.
Zeke has been the much more efficient red zone threat over his career, with a 24.3% rushing touchdown and a 20.0% receiving touchdown rate compared to a 14.4% rushing and a 16.9% receiving touchdown rate for McCoy. Both offer a ton of upside and should see a big bump in their fantasy production as their touchdown rates move towards their averages.
Jimmy Graham's Increasing Volume
After seeing only six red zone targets between Weeks 1 and 6, Jimmy Graham has a league-leading seven over his last three games, accounting for 38.9% of the Seattle Seahawks' total in that stretch. Especially encouraging is that five of those seven targets have come from inside the 10-yard line, where the league average receiving touchdown rate this season jumps from 24.4% to 36.6%.
Since Graham entered the NFL in 2010, he has a 33.0% red zone touchdown rate that ranks 34th among the 100 players with at least 25 red zone targets. With that top-notch efficiency, this recent uptick in volume gives him a ton of upside in a Seattle offense that has been the league's second-most pass-happy inside the 20.
The Ravens Backfield
Javorius Allen has played a sizable red zone role for the Baltimore Ravens, accounting for 51.4% of their carries and 12.2% of their targets. while his 24 opportunities rank seventh in the NFL and account for 30.8% of the Ravens' total. He has turned that into only 3 touchdowns though, and he has been hugely inefficient in the red zone over his three years in the NFL, with a 5% rushing and 17% receiving touchdown rate.
Woodhead has been much more efficient inside the 20 than Allen has over his career, with a 12.6% rushing touchdown rate and 24.6% receiving touchdown rate, and he will likely take a ton of that volume away from Allen upon his return.
With the Ravens feeding so much volume to their running back even when it's the inefficient Allen, it would be no surprise to see Woodhead pick up one of the league's biggest red zone workloads upon his return, giving him a ton of upside as we approach the home stretch of the fantasy football season.
Play-Calling Trends to Monitor
The Seahawks (with a 1.96-to-1 pass-to-run ratio) are the second-most pass-heavy red zone team in the league, just ahead of the Miami Dolphins (2.15-to-1), Detroit Lions (1.76), Oakland Raiders (1.63), and Green Bay Packers (1.62).
The Packers' ranking is trending steadily downward with six run plays and only one pass play in the two games that Brett Hundley has started. The Dolphins have really solidified themselves in the top spot in that time, with 10 passes to one run. The Lions only posted a 0.44-to-1 pass-to-run ratio this week, but that was their first time below 2.0 since Week 2. Unless that trend continues, we can consider this a small hiccup, and expect them to continue throwing the ball moving forward.
The Los Angeles Rams look like they will make their way back on that list soon as well. They posted marks of 0.60 or lower in each of the first three weeks of the season, then after a pair of weeks above 3.00, they have a 0.57 since Week 6.
Reflecting on Last Week's Trends
Here's how the players outlined in Week 8's Red Zone Report fared:
Shady McCoy continued to rack up a ton of volume, and we can expect scoring to follow. Zeke has also continued to see big volume, and as long as his legal battles are in limbo, he looks locked into plenty of red zone work.
The Houston Texans offense predictably faltered with Tom Savage at the helm, and while they ran six red zone plays, Savage went 1-for-5 inside the 20, not creating any real scoring opportunities. Will Fuller and DeAndre Hopkins should see their touchdown totals come crashing back to earth.