Red Zone Carries + Targets: Week 4 Preview

Erik Smith looks at notable red zone usage from week three and projects week four's red zone carries and targets.

(Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire)

With 3 weeks of the NFL season behind us, our sample size continues to grow. Due to the Rams and Vikings playing Thursday night, and Carolina and Washington on a bye, there are some big red zone options missing from this week’s article. I’ll try to highlight some less obvious red zone players each week that might help you with difficult decisions in season-long and daily fantasy leagues. 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


2018 Red Zone Carries + Targets Leaders: WRs

Player % Team C+T in RZ C+T in RZ
JuJu Smith-Schuster 40% 10
Davante Adams 35% 7
Corey Davis 24% 4
Jarvis Landry 24% 4
Marvin Jones 23% 6
A.J. Green 21% 6
Chris Godwin 21% 6
Odell Beckham 20% 4
Phillip Dorsett 18% 4
Demaryius Thomas 18% 4

These are the 10 most used red zone wide receivers among this week’s Sunday and Monday games.

Corey Davis, Jarvis Landry, and Odell Beckham have very little to show for their red zone opportunities. All three could be due for some positive touchdown regression, but they also need their respective offenses to produce more overall red zone opportunities.

Davante Adams and Chris Godwin have turned their opportunities into the most fantasy red zone points this year. Adams was a huge red zone option last year, so this year’s production is no fluke. Godwin is certainly riding the Fitzmagic so far this year, and could conceivably fade if Tampa’s red zone opportunities decrease going forward. But Godwin is a preferred red zone option of Fitzpatrick and will be a good bet for a touchdown for the moment. A Change to Jameis Winston could potentially throw a wrench into his usage, but Godwin has the pedigree to make this red zone role stick.

Phillip Dorsett is an odd name to see here and shows the struggles of the Patriots offense as a whole. With Josh Gordon and Julian Edelman due back, Dorsett may soon be off this list.


Week 4 RB Preview

The following running backs stand out for positive or negative reasons. I will skip over the obvious red zone options to target and avoid, and try to focus on some hidden red zone players. This is your weekly reminder that Todd Gurley and Alvin Kamara are the top two red zone running back options until further notice.

Marshawn Lynch

Marshawn Lynch projects for the 2nd most red zone carries+targets this week, behind only Kamara. While a matchup against Cleveland’s talented defense isn’t as nice as it used to be, the Raiders still play at home and are projected to score 24 points. Lynch has a whopping 44% of the Raiders red zone carries+targets so far this year and should see plenty of chances this week. 10 of Lynch’s 14 red zone carries+targets have come inside the 10-yard line, true goalline back usage.

Tevin Coleman

While Tevin Coleman struggled last week against the Saints, he did pick up 4 red zone carries+targets to give him 7 for the season. Ito Smith also has 7, but only had 1 red zone touch last week. His lackluster 33 yards on 13 carries last week may scare some off of him, but Coleman faces a Bengals defense that was torched on the road last week by Christian McCaffrey. If Devonta Freeman returns this week his value would take a hit. But if Freeman misses week four, Coleman looks locked into a big red zone role.

Kerryon Johnson

Kerryon Johnson broke out last week with the Lions first 100-yard rushing game since Thanksgiving 2013, but his red zone usage still lags behind. Johnson only has 2 red zone carries+targets this year, good for 8% of the Lions chances at a touchdown. While it could change this week, red zone usage is the aspect of Johnson’s game that could hold him back in fantasy. Theo Riddick leads Lions running backs in red zone carries+targets with 6 and LeGarrette Blount is second with 4. A road game this week in Dallas doesn’t project as a shootout either, limiting Johnson’s chances of breaking out.

Isaiah Crowell

Scoring 21 of his 47 fantasy points in the red zone this year, Isaiah Crowell‘s four touchdowns have made him a solid fantasy running back so far, good for RB12 in PPR. This week at Jacksonville will severely limit his upside, as the Jets may struggle to move the ball. If he can get there, Crowell sees 39% of the Jets red zone carries+targets and has a chance at a touchdown. I don’t like his odds this week against an elite defense on their home turf.


Week 4 WR Preview

Wide receivers are much harder to predict in the red zone, and they don’t necessarily need red zone production to be elite (see Julio Jones). Their whole red zone week could come down to the success of one target, making multiple targets very valuable. Similar to running backs, I’ll try to point out some less obvious positive and negative red zone projections for wide receivers.

Calvin Ridley

It takes a slight leap of faith to pick Calvin Ridley as a red zone option based on only three career red zone carries+targets. Ridley, however, has turned his three targets into 24.8 red zone fantasy points this year. All three red zone touchdowns have come in the last two games, with two of the touchdowns coming last week. He has all of the signs of a breakout wide receiver after last week’s explosion, and this week’s home game against the Bengals projects as another shootout. Sure, there will be games where Julio overshadows him, but I wouldn’t want to miss Ridley’s breakout it this ends up being real.

T.Y. Hilton

T.Y. Hilton seems to be undervalued in both season long and daily fantasy leagues right now. He has lacked the big plays that have made him a star in the past, but he has developed a high volume role with red zone usage, something fantasy owners have wanted for years. Hilton has 6 red zone carries+targets this year and projects to see the fourth most red zone chances for a wide receiver this week. In a home game against the Texans, Hilton faces a burnable secondary if the pass rush can be slowed down. There has been some concern about Andrew Luck‘s arm strength, but I still like Hilton’s chances in the red zone, giving him a nice floor.

Mike Evans

A scary player to avoid in DFS, Mike Evans always seems to be a threat for a touchdown. But so far this year Evans only has two red zone targets, making up a minuscule 7% of Tampa Bay’s chances. I don’t expect this red zone usage to continue all year, but a week four road game in Chicago seems like a tough game to turn his usage around. Play Evans in all season long leagues, but this may be a week to avoid him in DFS.

Michael Crabtree

Traditionally known as a red zone monster, Michael Crabtree has only seen one red zone target this year, which came back in week one. Crabtree probably lacks the explosive ability to score many long touchdowns, and without the goalline work in Baltimore’s offense, he may see a low touchdown total this year. He still has a decent weekly floor, but he probably isn’t a good bet for an explosive game.


Week 4 TE Preview

We are living in a crazy world where Rob Gronkowski has yet to see a red zone target, and Eric Ebron leads tight ends with 6. This may be the biggest indicator of the Patriots struggles so far. Don’t overreact on Gronk, his red zone usage should be fine by the end of the season.

Jared Cook

Jared Cook faces the Browns this week in a matchup that traditionally has been a good one for opposing tight ends. The Browns have done a good job limiting Jesse James, Ben Watson, and the Jets tight ends so far, but Cook may pose the biggest challenge yet. He’s tied for first among tight ends in red zone targets with Ebron and is seeing a healthy 18% of the Raiders red zone carries+targets. Play him with confidence this week.

Austin Hooper

If you’re desperate at tight end this week, Austin Hooper could be worth a look. Hooper has seen 3 red zone targets this year, turning one of them into a touchdown. The Bengals have struggled with some mediocre tight ends this year, and the Falcons are projected for 28.5 points this week at home. When Vontaze Burfict returns from suspension this matchup may not be as exploitable, but for now, Hooper has a shot at a touchdown, making him worthwhile in a shallow tight end pool.

David Njoku

While I love David Njoku‘s potential, he has received zero red zone looks so far this year. Maybe this changes with Baker Mayfield starting this week. Or maybe this is just a product of the offensive design. I would definitely be happy to have his upside on my team, but his fantasy value this week may be shaky. If you can, give the Brown’s offense a week to settle in if you have a better option.


Red Zone GIF of the Week

[gfycat data_id=”GlaringLeadingHarrierhawk”]

I’m sure you’ve watched this play too many times by now, but this GIF is the one to remember for week three. Patrick Mahomes showed all of the reasons he is so explosive with his mobility, arm strength, and accuracy. And despite his reputation for long touchdowns, Mahomes leads this week’s quarterback options in red zone fantasy points for 2018. He’s a touchdown machine.

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