(Photo by Chris Williams/Icon Sportswire)
With 4 weeks of the NFL season behind us, our sample size continues to grow. Due to the Patriots and Colts playing Thursday night, and Chicago and Tampa Bay on a bye, there are some notable red zone options missing from this week’s article. My week 5 leaders in red zone carries+targets are listed below. While these projections are heavily based on this year’s statistics, the league changes so quickly that there is value in favoring recent games. Fantasy points are based on PPR 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 5 Red Zone Projections: RB
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Week 5 RB Preview
The Panthers early bye week lowers Christian McCaffrey to RB11 overall, but he has been elite on a per game basis, averaging 21 fantasy points per game. Amazingly he has done this without scoring a touchdown on the year. McCaffrey has a healthy 9 red zone carries+targets in three games, good for 32% of the Panthers red zone opportunities, so usage isn’t the problem. McCaffrey sneaks into the top 10 in projected red zone usage this week, and improved red zone results will continue to vault McCaffrey up the running back rankings.
With Leonard Fournette set to miss at least another week, T.J. Yeldon slots in as the Jaguars clear goal-line back against a Chiefs defense that has had trouble stopping anyone this year. Yeldon has seen 10 of the 14 Jaguars red zone rushes this year, adding 3 targets in the passing game as well. The Chiefs are allowing 5.7 yards per carry and have given up 5 rushing touchdowns, providing Yeldon with a great shot at a touchdown.
Carlos Hyde has made a living this year on carries+targets inside the 10-yard line, with 31.7 fantasy points inside the 10, second only to Alvin Kamara. While his usage is certainly encouraging, he seems out of place among the other leaders at points inside the 10 like Todd Gurley, Kareem Hunt, and Melvin Gordon. While the Browns have looked greatly improved on offense, they have also faced sub-par defenses in the Steelers, Jets, Raiders, and Saints. This week against the Ravens may provide a reality check, however, and Hyde owners may be disappointed if he can’t find the end zone. Nick Chubb may also eat into his carries after an explosive week 4.
Kenyan Drake has seen a near even split of red zone work with Frank Gore, with Drake receiving 6 red zone carries+targets and Gore receiving 5. A matchup with the Bengals defense looks a little less promising with the return of Vontaze Burfict, as evidenced by a low Vegas projection of 21.75 points for the Dolphins. This doesn’t look like the week for Drake to turn his struggles around, and he will need to separate himself from Gore in usage to approach last year’s success.
Week 5 Red Zone Projections: WR
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Week 4 WR Preview
Rams Wide Receivers
While Gurley continues to hog red zone usage, the Rams wide receiver corps amazingly has three of the top ten most used red zone receivers in the league. Cooper Kupp has 12 carries+targets, Brandin Cooks has 7, and Robert Woods has 6. Kupp and Woods have both even seen carries in the red zone. The Rams offense is a machine right now, and all of their receivers should be played whenever possible. Add in the big play ability of each player, and this seems for real. The Rams will surely slow down at some point, but for now, ride everyone while they are hot.
While the Green Bay Packers rank middle of the pack in giving up wide receiver fantasy points this year, they have faced the Bills, Redskins, and Bears receivers to help pad their stats. In the only matchup with an explosive receiver duo, the Packers were destroyed by Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen. This week, the Lions talented trio faces the Packers. Marvin Jones has led the Lions with 7 red zone opportunities, and while he has struggled to produce in those chances, this week seems like a good week to turn things around. Marvin could be a sneaky DFS play if people load up on the Kenny Golladay or Golden Tate.
Odell Beckham is a big play waiting to happen. But with Eli Manning‘s struggles, it sure would be nice to get some easy touchdowns while the Giants sort things out. Beckham has received 5 red zone carries+targets through 4 games and has scored only 0.7 red zone fantasy points. Vegas doesn’t believe the Giants offensive turnaround starts this week, with a low 18.5 projected score in Carolina. You’re obviously playing him in season-long leagues, just cross your fingers for a big play.
Despite his well known red zone struggles, it’s still staggering that Julio Jones has 3 red zone targets on the year and 0 fantasy red zone points to show for them. The Falcons’ offense has been at peak efficiency lately and has steamrolled through the red zone, but Julio has missed out on the fun. Julio’s fortunes have to change one of these days, right? It’s getting harder to believe that as each game passes. His elite yardage totals more than make up for it, but he remains absent in scoring position.
Week 5 Red Zone Projections: TE
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Week 4 TE Preview
While not an exciting name, nor an option in a high scoring matchup, Broncos tight end Jeff Heuerman could provide a shot at a touchdown for desperate owners. With 14% of the Broncos red zone carries+targets, Heuerman has already established himself as an option after Jake Butt‘s injury. Heuerman had a respectable 4 catches on 7 targets for 57 yards last week, and a touchdown would certainly make him a tight end play given the position’s weak showing this year.
Despite playing in a fantasy red zone gold mine of an offense, Saints tight end Benjamin Watson has 0 touchdowns on the year, and can likely be benched in most leagues. He is sharing time with Josh Hill and has not been a factor in scoring position. With so many options ahead of him and such a lack of scoring opportunities so far, Watson has been a disappointment in a disappointing tight end year.
Red Zone GIF of the Week
A last-second game-winning touchdown seems like enough to lock in the GIF of the week, as Andy Dalton threaded the needle to A.J. Green to lead the Bengals to a 3-1 record. Green ranks 4th among this week’s wide receivers with 9 red zone chances, and the Bengals new and improved offense should continue to provide him with plenty of looks for the rest of the year.