Red Zone Carries + Targets: Week 15 Preview

Erik Smith projects week 15's red zone usage and highlights Doug Martin, D.J. Moore, and Rob Gronkowski as recent red zone standouts.

(Photo by Douglas Stringer/Icon Sportswire)

This week’s projections will exclude players from the Chargers vs Chiefs Thursday night game. As the season winds down, most of the stand out red zone players are obvious by now, and most of those without a role were long ago relegated to fantasy waivers. I’ll try to highlight a few players with recent red zone role changes. Projected carries+targets should be given more weight than projected points, as we ultimately want volume players in the red zone to give us more chances to overcome bad touchdown luck. Fantasy points are based on PPR scoring.

Thanks as always to Pro Football Reference for their excellent red zone data and play index.

Please note: This is a red zone article. Projections and rankings are based on red zone usage only


Week 15 Red Zone Projections: RB Top 10 Carries+Targets

Player Proj C+T Proj RZ Pts
Todd Gurley 8.5 15.5
Alvin Kamara 6.6 11.4
Saquon Barkley 4.1 5.6
Christian McCaffrey 4.0 7.8
Ezekiel Elliott 3.9 5.2
Sony Michel 3.5 3.2
James Conner 3.4 7.0
James White 3.4 7.3
Chris Carson 2.5 3.4
Joe Mixon 2.4 4.7

Noteworthy Week 15 RB

Doug Martin

Starting RB Doug Martin in the fantasy playoffs is what keeps fantasy owners up late at night wondering where things went wrong. But with so many big-name running backs missing time with injuries, some owners may find themselves in desperation mode. Raiders coach Jon Gruden has shown a willingness to feed one running back the goalline work, with RB Marshawn Lynch taking that role earlier in the year before going down to an injury of his own. Over the last two weeks, Martin has had a league-leading 13 red zone rushing attempts, four more than second place RB Sony Michel. Like most things with Martin and the Raiders, you’ll have to stomach his atrocious 1.38 yards per carry on those 13 red zone attempts, but he did turn those carries into two touchdowns. Going up against a Bengals team giving up the most fantasy points to the running back position, Martin is a useful player this week in leagues where a touchdown is enough to turn in a flex-worthy performance.


Week 15 Red Zone Projections: WR Top 10 Carries+Targets

Player Proj C+T Proj RZ Pts
Michael Thomas 2.3 6.7
JuJu Smith-Schuster 2.2 4.0
DeAndre Hopkins 1.9 5.8
Adam Thielen 1.8 5.4
Brandin Cooks 1.7 4.4
Davante Adams 1.7 6.2
Julian Edelman 1.7 3.9
Antonio Brown 1.6 2.5
Sterling Shepard 1.4 2.9
Robert Woods 1.3 3.5

Noteworthy Week 15 WR

D.J. Moore

As the Panthers phase WR Devin Funchess out of the offense, WR D.J. Moore is taking his first steps at replacing the vacant red zone role left by both Funchess and the injured TE Greg Olsen. After only seeing two red zone rushing attempts and zero targets through October, Moore has begun to become more involved, culminating with four red zone carries+targets last week, good for half of his yearly total. It may take time for the Panthers and QB Cam Newton to figure out how to use Moore in the red zone, as his uptick in usage has not paid off yet. But Moore has the first round pedigree and athleticism to take advantage of these opportunities, and even if it doesn’t pay off this year, things are breaking perfectly for him to have a breakout sophomore year in 2019. I envision owning Moore in many leagues next year if he doesn’t get hyped above his value.


Week 15 Red Zone Projections: TE Top 10 Carries+Targets

Player Proj C+T Proj RZ Pts
Eric Ebron 1.9 7.7
Zach Ertz 1.4 4.1
Austin Hooper 1.2 3.7
Kyle Rudolph 1.1 1.9
Trey Burton 1.0 3.2
Jared Cook 1.0 2.6
Gerald Everett 1.0 2.1
Ben Watson 0.9 2.1
George Kittle 0.9 1.8
Cameron Brate 0.8 3.6

Noteworthy Week 15 TE

Rob Gronkowski

After the top ten tight ends listed above, the tight end position is a barren wasteland of red zone usage, outside of TE Rob Gronkowski. Gronk scored his first red zone touchdown of the season last week, and while he’s not vintage Gronk anymore, he is trending in the right direction. The Steelers, Gronk’s opponent this week, have given up the fifth most points to the fantasy tight end position this year, and the Patriots figure to use Gronk often in a game they desperately need to win after last week’s disaster of an ending against Miami. If you made it to the playoffs with Gronkowski congratulations, you deserve it, and you may finally be able to feel confident playing him this week.


Red Zone GIF of the Week

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What a difference a change of scenery can make. WR Amari Cooper has been on a tear lately, and while he is an obvious regression candidate, fantasy owners should keep riding him until the magic wears out. This was actually his only red zone target in the last three games, after seeing seven red zone targets in the three games prior. Cooper will need to regain his red zone involvement for when his big-play touchdowns inevitably regress, but Cooper clearly has the eye of QB Dak Prescott, making a heavy red zone role seem completely possible. Trying to decide where to draft Cooper next year is going to be an interesting fantasy decision.

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