Fantasy Football: Week 13 Red Zone Report

The red zone is a gold mine for fantasy scoring. Of the 67 offensive touchdowns scored in Week 13, we saw 51 of them come from within the 20-yard line, bringing the season total to 611 of 853.

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.

Le'Veon Bell Is on the Wrong Side of Variance Again

Le'Veon Bell has never been a particularly efficient red zone producer, evidenced by a career 15.1% red zone rushing touchdown rate and a 9.8% receiving touchdown rate. However, even relative to those low numbers, he's been finding the end zone at a particularly low rate lately.

His 36.2% market share of the Pittsburgh Steelers' red zone opportunities (carries plus targets) ranks fifth in the NFL over the past four weeks, and he ranks top-five in both carries (12) and targets (7) during that time. Despite that volume, his lone touchdown over those four games came from outside the red zone. Nobody in football sees more volume than Bell, which keeps his fantasy value high even when he's not scoring, but his elite workload in the red zone gives him some ridiculous upside that he hasn't tapped into lately.

Don't Fret About Todd Gurley

Another running back seeing a ton of red zone work recently is Todd Gurley -- his 16 opportunities over the past four weeks rank third in the NFL, while his 40.5% market share of opportunities is tops in the league.

He has been a more efficient red zone threat than Bell over his young career (19.4% rushing and 10.5% receiving touchdown rate), but like Bell, he has just only one touchdown over his past four games. The Los Angeles Rams' offense continues to roll, scoring at least 25 points in three of those four games, and they haven't shown any signs of slowing down. So, this means that commanding a big market share of the red zone work should continue to give Gurley a ton of scoring opportunities.

Even with tough matchups against the Philadelphia Eagles and Seattle Seahawks in the next two weeks, we can still expect Gurley's touchdown numbers to improve.

DeAndre Hopkins Still Has Upside

Having Tom Savage instead of Deshaun Watson throwing to him is obviously not an ideal situation for DeAndre Hopkins' fantasy value. He has seen huge volume with Savage at the helm, though, accounting for 68 of 209 targets (32.5%), telling us taht Hopkins' fantasy floor has held steady. The real concern has looked to be his upside, catching only two touchdowns from Savage after catching seven from Watson.

That ceiling quietly looks to still be there for Hopkins, though. Despite only catching one target in the zone since Watson went down (and no touchdowns), his nine red zone targets are tied for third in the NFL.

No quarterback with at least 50 red zone pass attempts over the past three years has a touchdown rate below 17.9%, and even though we can safely say Savage is not nearly as good as most passers getting that kind of opportunity for volume, his 6.9% mark since re-taking the starting quarterback job in Houston is so far below expectation that we can also count on an up-tick in scoring out of him moving forward.

Play-Calling Trends to Monitor

With sample sizes getting pretty significant, play-calling trends are becoming more stable, especially at the extremes. Through Week 13, the most pass-heavy red zone teams have been the Miami Dolphins (2.79-to-1 pass-to-run ratio), Kansas City Chiefs (1.93), Seattle Seahawks (1.73), Detroit Lions (1.71), and Oakland Raiders (1.59). The five most run-heavy have been the Jacksonville Jaguars (0.71-to-1), Tennessee Titans (0.74), Minnesota Vikings (0.75) Carolina Panthers (0.83) and Cleveland Browns (0.85).

Unsurprisingly, there's also a stark difference in the number of plays being run inside the 20 between the league's best and worst offenses. The most extreme include the New England Patriots (151 plays run), Pittsburgh Steelers (134), Los Angeles Rams (134), Dallas Cowboys (130) and New Orleans Saints (119) at the top, while the Chicago Bears (64), Oakland Raiders (70), Miami Dolphins (72), New York Giants (72) and New York Jets (80) are at the bottom.

One team that has seemed to undergo a recent shift in play-calling has been the Titans. They opened the year with pass-to-run ratios of 1.0 or lower in six of their first seven games, but it looked like they were moving to a more pass-heavy approach after their bye week, with a 1.41 rate over three games. They have reverted to their early-season ways again over their last two, though, with one pass and eight runs.

Reflecting on Last Week's Trends

To wrap things up, let's look at how the players outlined in the Week 12 Red Zone Report fared:

Dion Lewis saw his red zone workload shrink significantly, with only one opportunity compared to Rex Burkhead's five. This was the first time since Week 1 that Burkhead has seen more red zone opportunities than Lewis, and unless we see this trend continue to shift, it's not one to overreact to. Lewis has still commanded a team-high 18.0% of the Pats' red zone opportunities over the past four weeks, compared to 10.3% for Burkhead.

The Green Bay Packers took a run-heavy approach near the goal line last week, with six runs and only three passes. Davante Adams didn't see any of those targets, but he remains the team's top red zone threat in the passing game, ranking fourth in the NFL with a 41.7% red zone target market share over the past four weeks.

Latavius Murray did continue to command solid volume, running the ball four times in the red zone. He didn't turn any of those attempts into touchdowns, but nobody has more red zone carries than his 19 (or more opportunities than his 21) over the past four weeks. He continues to offer elite touchdown upside.