Red Zone Carries + Targets: Week 2 Preview

Erik Smith looks at notable red zone usage from week one and projects week two's red zone carries+targets.

(Photo by Tim Williams/Actionplus/Icon Sportswire)

Now that we have week one of the 2018 NFL season in the books, we have some fresh data to work with going forward. While we shouldn’t overreact to a one-week sample size, there is some important information we can use for predicting red zone fantasy usage going forward. You can look at last week’s article to see how my predictions fared, and I will review some of them in the article today. Fantasy points are calculated using PPR standard scoring.

Thanks to Pro Football Reference for their great statistics and play index, and Graham Barfield for his excellent team-level data.

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


Week 1 Review

Last week’s red zone article correctly predicted Alvin Kamara and Todd Gurley to finish as top 3 red zone RBs in fantasy football in week one, with Kamara finishing first (23.8 red zone points) and Gurley finishing third (10.8 red zone points).

My projections missed on Melvin Gordon, as he received only one red zone target and scored 0 red zone points. The other three Chargers red zone plays resulted in touchdowns, so I’ll chalk this one up to small sample size. He still saw 25% of the Chargers red zone looks.

Of the three sleeper running backs from last week, James White was the one that hit. He saw 3 red zone carries+targets and turned them into 8.5 fantasy points.

The projections were correct in predicting subpar weeks in the red zone for Saquon Barkley (salvaged his day with a long TD), LeSean McCoy, and Jordan HowardEzekiel Elliott managed 7 red zone fantasy points as the lone predicted disappointment that came through.

Wide receivers and tight ends are subject to even more weekly variance in the red zone, so I’ll be quick with them. Correct projections: Cooper KuppDavante Adams, and Michael Crabtree (only one red zone target, but did score a TD). Misses were Rob Gronkowski and Travis Kelce (0 red zone targets each), Odell Beckham Jr. (predicted as a bust, had 3 red zone targets, and although no TDs, he tied for 2nd in WR red zone usage), and Ryan Grant (sleeper, saw 0 targets in the red zone).


Week 2 RB Preview

Kamara and Gurley lead the league in week 2 projected carries+targets and projected red zone points. We can probably copy and paste these two into this spot for every week’s preview. They both have excellent matchups again.

Adrian Peterson is the first red zone surprise after an impressive week one performance. Peterson was tied with Gurley for second in red zone carries+targets last week with 7 and scored 6.9 red zone fantasy points, good for RB15. He sees an excellent matchup against the Colts defense that just got gashed by Joe Mixon last week, and playing at home helps his team’s projected red zone volume as well. Peterson’s yardage total might not hold from last week, but if he continues to receive 58% of Washington’s red zone carries+touches he has a chance at multiple touchdowns this week.

Another surprising name on top of the projected carries+targets leaderboard is Alfred Morris. Morris is projected for the fourth most chances in the red zone after getting 5 carries+targets in the red zone in week one. He was not productive in last week’s matchup with the Vikings but should find it much easier in week two in a home game against the Lions, who got torched last week against the Jets. If his red zone opportunities aren’t limited after a fumble last week, Morris should see plenty of opportunities to score a touchdown this week.

David Johnson saw 5 red zone carries+targets in week one, a very promising sign. The big question is how many times can his offense get him into the red zone. He has a tough matchup this week traveling to play the Rams. The Cardinals are big underdogs with a low point total.

At first look, Jay Ajayi blew up with 2 touchdowns last week and is the Eagles red zone running back going forward. It is worth noting, however, that he scored his two touchdowns on only two red zone touches and only handled 22% of the Eagles carries+targets in the red zone. A matchup against Tampa Bay should give him plenty of opportunities, and coach Doug Pederson has said that Ajayi was being eased into action last week. Ajayi has big touchdown upside this week, but with the Eagles use of multiple backs also has a low red zone floor.


Week 2 WR Preview

One week red zone samples can be especially fluky with pass catchers. But after leading wide receivers in red zone carries+targets last week, Cooper Kupp once again projects at the top of wide receivers in red zone usage. Kupp has been the Rams number two option in the red zone behind Gurley, and they are expected to have numerous red zone opportunities for the second straight week. Kupp was a favorite red zone option last year, so this shouldn’t be seen as a fluke.

Mixed in with some obvious names like Michael Thomas, Julio Jones, and Beckham Jr. is Jets wide receiver Quincy Enunwa. Enunwa saw 3 red zone looks last week and has a nice matchup against the Dolphins this week. He projects among the leaders at wide receiver in red zone targets, and at $5000 on Fan Duel is a severely underpriced option.

Keenan Allen saw one of the Chargers four red zone opportunities last week and made it count, scoring a touchdown and scoring 9 red zone points. This week in a potential blowout against the Bills, I would be surprised to see Allen without a touchdown at the end of the day.

With tight end Greg Olsen out, Devin Funchess should see an uptick in red zone opportunities. Funchess has seen more targets in general without Olsen in the lineup. In a matchup against an Atlanta defense missing two of its best defenders, Funchess looks to have a shot at some red zone looks after receiving 0 last week. If Carolina can get its offense in a rhythm, Funchess has shown touchdown scoring ability in the past and could benefit in week two.


Week 2 TE Preview

Jordan Reed saw two red zone targets last week, and as long as he is healthy should be considered an excellent option. With a nice matchup against the Colts, Reed is among the best tight end plays of the week. He scored 7.4 red zone PPR points last week and could top that this week.

49ers tight end George Kittle also saw two red zone targets in week one and gets an advantageous matchup against the Lions this week. Kittle has become Jimmy Garoppolo‘s favorite red zone target and should find the end zone this week after a tough matchup with the Vikings last week.

If the Colts try to avoid Washington corner Josh Norman in the red zone, Jack Doyle could see several targets. Last week Doyle absorbed two targets, and the lack of a solid run game should put Doyle near the top of the Colts red zone priority list.

Rob Gronkowski didn’t see any red zone targets last week and still had a big week. Although the Jaguars present a tough matchup, Gronkowski can score 2 touchdowns in any game he plays. Maybe the Jags defense will scare some people away from him in daily fantasy this week.


Red Zone GIF of the Week

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Sometimes you have to carry the whole team on your back to score a touchdown. Marshawn Lynch got the Raiders off to a powerful start, but Beast Mode wasn’t enough, as a promising first half turned into a nightmare of a second half in the opener for Oakland.

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