5 NFL Red Zone Trends to Monitor for Week 6

In year two, Courtland Sutton has turned into quite the red zone threat for the Broncos. What does that mean for his current and future fantasy value?

Through a handful of weeks and quite a number of games, NFL teams have produced 378 offensive touchdowns. Of those, 241 have come through the air with another 137 on the ground, which comes to a 63.8% lean in favor of passing scores.

In the red zone, it is closer to even as teams have accounted for 148 passing and 123 rushing scores inside the 20-yard line. Compared to last year at this point, passing and overall scores are ever-so-slightly down in the red zone, but rushing touchdowns are up by 16 after a big Week 5. Those scores account for 592 fantasy points from passers, 738 from rushers and 888 for those on the receiving end of their quarterback's touchdown tosses.

All that is to say that red zone opportunities are valuable for fantasy football players. In season-long leagues and daily games alike, we want to target guys with touchdown upside because of the amount of points you get on that one play compared to the 60 rushing or receiving yards you need to add up to that touchdown.

The question is, why are we talking about this if it is such a logical approach? The reasoning is simple: touchdowns are pretty hard to predict. Certain players are off the field in certain situations and packages, while others might be called upon as go-to guys in the red zone because of their size or versatility.

That's why we're here. All season, we're diving into the data to uncover valuable red zone trends that either point us toward one player or suggest we avoid another. Let's get down to it.

Michel's Goal-to-Go Upside

Going into this year, there was a lot of optimism around Sony Michel. There was the promise of last year's rookie season, and a large number of people pointed to his potential involvement in the passing game. Well, to date, the 24-year-old has hauled in three of only four targets with all three catches coming this past week.

With the likes of James White and Rex Burkhead around, the passing stats could be very scarce most games. But one thing we do know is that Michel will be a part of the game plan close to the end zone. Last year, he not only had six rushing scores in 13 regular season games but managed another six in three postseason appearances. That tends to happen for a key contributor for one of the league's best offenses.

Through five weeks, the New England Patriots rank in the bottom half of our offensive power rankings, but they haven't had to show up most weeks. They haven't cashed in all the time, either, as they sit in a three-way tie for 20th with a 50.0% red zone conversion rate. What's encouraging, though, is that according to Pro Football Reference, they are tied for third with 15 rushing attempts inside the 10-yard line. Michel has seen 13 of those for 29 yards, 3 first downs and 2 touchdowns, but based on this year's numbers, he should have more scores from that point of the field.

Over 320 attempts, runners have tallied 108 touchdowns for a conversion rate of 33.8% -- over 18 percentage points higher than Michel's. If he was just average, he would have closer to four scores on those goal-to-go opportunities alone. In other words, the upside is still there despite the second-year pro logging a lowly 39.11% snap rate in five games.

Our models are just as high on Michel's rest-of-season outlook. We have him ranked as the RB20 with a projected 8.07 rushing touchdowns the rest of the way, trailing only Derrick Henry and Todd Gurley in that category. A buy-low might be in order for those with less desirable options.

All the Kupp

Way back before Week 1, I took a look at the Los Angeles Rams' receiver situation with all three stud wideouts healthy. My preliminary finding was that -- as suspected -- Kupp is a prime candidate for easy scores in close due to his big-time rapport with Jared Goff and his usage on short targets. He has always seemed to operate well with little space, but what he's doing this year is just nuts.

In five games, Kupp has four touchdowns, putting him on average for around 13 for the season, which would eclipse his previous career-best by 7. All but one of those trips to the end zone have come from inside the red zone, where Kupp has received 6 targets on the Rams' 22 pass plays. Tight end Gerald Everett -- a hot waiver wire target this week -- is second on the team with five red zone looks but has a single touchdown to show for it, while Robert Woods and the now-injured Brandin Cooks have combined for two touchdowns on four targets.

Just like a year ago, Kupp has seen all of his successful red zone targets in the short left and short middle areas of the field in tight. He has a 100% success rate in both areas, which has given Goff passer ratings of 142 and 152, per Sharp Football Stats.

With Kupp operating as Goff's main man in scoring territory, and just about everywhere else on the field, it's hard to imagine a scenario in which an owner would be willing to part with fantasy's WR3 in PPR formats. He's our WR10 going forward, and for this week's DFS slate, he checks in as the second-ranked receiver according to our projections. His $7,800 price tag is fifth at the position ahead of a home matchup with the San Francisco 49ers.

Sutton's Value Soars

Standing two inches taller and weighing in eight pounds heavier than Kupp, Courtland Sutton provides a different kind of threat in the red zone, but he didn't show much in his rookie year. He managed only four scores with the same number of red zone targets (for one touchdown) on the receiving end of passes from an erratic Case Keenum. In year two, it appears the second-round pick has turned a corner.

Under a third of the way through the 16-game season, Sutton has three touchdowns, two of which have come inside the 20. In fact, he's converted 6 of Joe Flacco's passes into 5 catches, 45 yards and 5 first downs (include the 2 scores). And when we narrow the sample to targets inside the 10, Sutton has two catches for scores of eight and seven yards. So, throwing it up to the big man isn't a bad idea, huh?

When you trail only 10 other players in red zone catches and sit in the company of Keenan Allen, Tyler Lockett and Allen Robinson, that's saying something.

Sutton is WR10 for the year, but for all the good he's done, he could be looking at regression over the remainder of 2019. Our models project him for no more than 0.38 touchdowns in any one game, and his 3.64 scores wouldn't be enough to get him inside the top 30.

But this is a unique situation, where you might just be able to get one more big week out of him before selling high. This week's matchup against the Tennessee Titans isn't as bad as their ninth-ranked pass defense would suggest, and Sutton costs just $5,900 this week on FanDuel.

The Titans' Deceiving Pass Defense

The Titans have held opposing receivers to the ninth-fewest fantasy points per game in the early going, but the solid 20.9 average against is in large part due to lower volume. They are in the bottom half of the league in receiver targets, but they jump into the top half in catches and yards. Don't let their four receiving touchdowns fool you, either.

Teams have enjoyed a good amount of success against the Titans in the red zone passing game. Seven of their opponents' nine red zone touchdowns have come via the air. Receivers Parris Campbell, T.Y. Hilton and Duke Williams have all tallied a touchdown catch on a single red zone target. Meanwhile, tight ends David Njoku, Eric Ebron, Lee Smith and James O'Shaughnessy have all accomplished the same feat.

To zoom back out, against the Tennessee defense, 36% and 55% of the red zone targets have gone to tight ends and receivers. Those two possessions have success rates of 100% and 83%, putting the Titans in a tie for last and dead last in those two categories.

The small sample size could present an issue, but for this week, it's one worth taking a shot at, especially with Sutton playing at the level he has. Emmanuel Sanders and his eight red zone targets are in play, as well, at $5,500. And you could do worse than a tournament dart throw at either of the two tight ends -- Noah Fant ($4,500) or Jeff Heuerman ($4,600) -- at their low prices.

Play-Calling Trends

Again, our last trend is a full snapshot of each team's pass and run rate in the red zone, as well as their success rate in those two facets, per Sharp Football Stats.

Team Pass Rate Pass Success Run Rate Run Success Team Pass Rate Pass Success Run Rate Run Success
CIN 67% 38% 33% 38% PIT 53% 29% 47% 67%
NYJ 67% 50% 33% 100% IND 53% 43% 47% 52%
ATL 65% 46% 35% 36% TB 52% 33% 48% 36%
MIA 64% 33% 36% 20% CHI 50% 47% 50% 53%
WAS 63% 54% 37% 47% HOU 50% 63% 50% 58%
LAC 62% 43% 38% 47% LAR 50% 41% 50% 59%
GB 61% 43% 39% 68% PHI 49% 39% 51% 63%
ARI 60% 36% 40% 45% CAR 49% 40% 51% 48%
NYG 59% 37% 41% 48% JAC 47% 41% 53% 26%
CLE 57% 21% 43% 61% DAL 47% 40% 53% 65%
KC 56% 31% 44% 54% OAK 46% 58% 54% 59%
SEA 56% 44% 44% 38% TEN 46% 41% 54% 45%
DET 56% 37% 44% 33% SF 43% 40% 57% 46%
DEN 56% 40% 44% 67% BUF 38% 40% 62% 58%
NO 55% 43% 45% 42% BAL 38% 38% 62% 57%
NE 54% 47% 46% 59% MIN 31% 27% 69% 54%

After another two weeks in negative game script, the win-less Cincinnati Bengals are now tied for first in pass rate in the red zone despite being below league average in success rate. With that trend, on top of Cincinnati's likelihood of being in negative game scripts throughout the year, we can expect Joe Mixon's value to suffer greatly. He won't be given many valuable opportunities to convert between the 20 and the goal line.

In Seattle, despite the usual run-first narrative, the Seahawks have been reliant on Russell Wilson and the red zone passing game. This past week, he threw three of his four scores inside the 20, now pushing his total to a league-high 12 passing touchdowns to this point. He is the QB2 in fantasy, and we project him for 22.28 passing touchdowns over his remaining regular season schedule.

Brett Oswalt i
s not a FanDuel employee. In addition to providing DFS gameplay advice, Brett Oswalt also participates in DFS contests on FanDuel using his personal account, username BrettOswalt. While the strategies and player selections recommended in his articles are his/her personal views, he may deploy different strategies and player selections when entering contests with his personal account. The views expressed in his articles are the author’s alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of FanDuel.