Red Zone Carries + Targets: Week 16 Preview

Erik Smith projects week 16's red zone usage and notes the recent hot streaks of Derrick Henry and Mike Williams.

(Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire)

This week’s projections will include all players available for fantasy championships, as the weekend kicks off with a 4:30 ET Saturday game. As the season winds down, most of the stand out red zone players are obvious by now, and most of those without a red zone role were long ago relegated to fantasy waivers. 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 16 Red Zone Projections: RB Top 10 Carries+Targets

Player Proj C+T Proj RZ Pts
Todd Gurley 7.9 15.0
Alvin Kamara 6.8 11.8
Ezekiel Elliott 4.9 6.4
Sony Michel 3.7 3.3
James White 3.6 7.6
Christian McCaffrey 3.5 6.9
Saquon Barkley 3.3 4.5
James Conner 3.1 6.4
Derrick Henry 3.1 5.3
Chris Carson 3.0 4.2

Noteworthy Week 16 RBs

Derrick Henry

After sleepwalking through most of the season, RB Derrick Henry has exploded over the last two weeks, pushing himself into the top ten red zone projections for week 16. Henry leads all running backs with 17 red zone rushing attempts and four red zone touchdowns over the last two weeks, which makes up 43% of his red zone carries+targets on the year as a whole. This week’s matchup sets up perfectly for Henry, with the Titans favored by 10 points over a struggling Washington team. We can spend all offseason debating whether his breakout was for real or not, but for now ride Henry while he’s hot, as he projects to see heavy usage in a game that favors the Titans heavily.

Chris Carson

Tied for third over the last two weeks with 10 red zone carries is RB Chris Carson. The Seahawks are proudly going against the rest of the pass-happy NFL with their run-heavy approach, and that will certainly be their strategy to keep the high flying Chiefs offense off the field in week 16. Carson has seen 28% of Kansas City’s red zone carries+targets this year, and on a home team in a game with a high point total, Carson should see plenty of red zone opportunities this week. And if the Seahawks fall behind, Carson caught a season-high six passes last week with RB Rashaad Penny missing the game, giving him a higher floor if Penny is out again.

Todd Gurley/James Conner

RB Todd Gurley and RB James Conner both head into the weekend with major injury question marks, but at full strength, they are both excellent red zone options this week. If either running back misses this week, its easy to see the massive scoring potential for the backups that replace them. For the Rams, RB Justin Davis also finds himself nursing an injury, leaving RB John Kelly and recently signed RB C.J. Anderson as the remaining options. Kelly looks like he has the most upside, as he generated some buzz leading up to the draft and in the preseason. For the Steelers, RB Jaylen Samuels would step into a starting role if Conner misses, including red zone work, as he has received six red zone carries+targets in the last two weeks compared to RB Stevan Ridley‘s two red zone carries+targets.


Week 16 Red Zone Projections: WR Top 10 Carries+Targets

Player Proj C+T Proj RZ Pts
Michael Thomas 2.3 6.5
Davante Adams 2.3 7.7
JuJu Smith-Schuster 2.0 3.6
Julian Edelman 1.9 4.1
DeAndre Hopkins 1.8 5.8
Tyreek Hill 1.7 4.3
Jarvis Landry 1.6 2.7
Adam Thielen 1.6 4.8
Brandin Cooks 1.5 3.8
Antonio Brown 1.5 2.9

Noteworthy Week 16 WRs

Mike Williams

With WR Keenan Allen going down with an injury early in the game last week, WR Mike Williams stepped up to fill the Chargers number one receiver role, especially in the red zone. Williams saw four red zone targets last week, with his two touchdowns coming on passes inside the five-yard line. He also saw a red zone carry that went for a touchdown, to go along with a two-point conversion. A matchup against the Ravens this week is certainly less than ideal, and Allen being a likely game-time decision further muddies the waters. But even if he ends up not being startable this week, it’s worth remembering Williams’ role change without Allen, and it will be interesting to see if he can hold onto a red zone role when the Chargers are at full strength. Williams may end up being a popular breakout candidate around fantasy draft season next year.

Robert Foster

Wide receivers don’t rely on red zone work quite as much as running backs do, so WR Robert Foster can still be a good play despite lackluster red zone usage. But it should be noted that Foster has not developed a red zone role during his recent hot streak. Foster has two red zone carries+targets all season, with one of them coming in week 10 against the Jets and the other coming week 14 against the Jets again. With QB Josh Allen being a low volume passer, Foster will be especially dependent on the big play. He has certainly produced enough big plays to be a solid fantasy contributor and there is no reason to believe it is a fluke. But he will have a very low floor in the weeks where he is bottled up, making him a risky play in fantasy championships.


Week 16 Red Zone Projections: TE Top 10 Carries+Targets

Player Proj C+T Proj RZ Pts
Travis Kelce 2.2 7.7
Eric Ebron 2.0 8.1
Zach Ertz 1.8 4.4
Austin Hooper 1.0 3.0
Trey Burton 1.0 3.4
Kyle Rudolph 1.0 1.7
Jared Cook 1.0 2.3
Gerald Everett 1.0 1.9
Ben Watson 0.8 2.0
George Kittle 0.8 1.7

Noteworthy Week 16 TE

Zach Ertz

Despite last week’s disappointing showing with QB Nick Foles at quarterback, TE Zach Ertz remains a top end fantasy option this week. Hidden in his three catches and 22 receiving yards was that he was targeted three times in the red zone. Foles and Ertz have had chemistry in the past, so there’s no reason to think that they won’t convert on those opportunities going forward. And this week’s matchup against a Texans defense allowing the fifth most fantasy points to the tight end position looks like a perfect rebound spot. Start Ertz with confidence in both season long and daily fantasy leagues.


Red Zone GIF of the Week

[gfycat data_id=”BelatedOpulentGreatwhiteshark”]

Mike Williams dominated the Chargers red zone work with three touchdowns last week, including the touchdown above coming within the last 10 seconds. The Chargers are one of the hottest teams in football after last week’s dramatic come from behind victory against the Chiefs, good enough to earn the honor of Red Zone GIF of the week.

2 responses to “Red Zone Carries + Targets: Week 16 Preview”

  1. Bon says:

    I read the article, get good about my guys, then read that this author sold sandwiches at a park. Fuck

    • Erik Smith says:

      I’m proud to have worked there if you can’t tell. I think everyone should work in food service when they are young, it is a very eye opening experience.

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