(Photo by Jeff Halstead/Zuma Press/Icon Sportswire)
With 5 weeks of the NFL season behind us, our sample size continues to grow. Due to the Eagles and Giants playing on Thursday night, and Detroit and New Orleans on a bye, there are some notable red zone options missing from this week’s article. My week 6 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.
Please note: This is a red zone article. Projections and rankings are based on red zone usage only
Week 6 Red Zone Projections: RB Top 10 Carries+Targets
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Week 6 RB Preview
David Johnson faces a Minnesota defense in week 6 that, despite its struggles, has held opposing fantasy running backs to below average results in 2018. With a low projected point total in a game on the road, Arizona may have trouble reaching the red zone at all in this matchup.
Despite a rough outlook this week, Johnson deserves recognition for his red zone role this year, as he leads this week’s fantasy options with a whopping 65% of his team’s red zone carries+targets. Last week DJ received 5 carries for 19 yards and 2 touchdowns in the red zone, rewarding his patient fantasy owners with a solid game. While this week may be tough, his red zone usage bodes well for his fantasy chances for the rest of the year.
Sony Michel & James White
Sony Michel has overcome his early-season struggles to become a high volume player in an improving Patriots offense. Despite his slow start, Michel has already commanded 33% of his team’s red zone carries+targets in 2018, after getting 6 red zone carries last week.
Michel checks all of the boxes needed for a red zone explosion this week, as the Patriots are home against the Chiefs in a game with one of the highest over/under totals in recent memory (59.5). He projects for the second most red zone carries+targets this week playing for a Patriots team that loves to run the ball in the red zone. Improved red zone efficiency would boost Michel to a potential week winning fantasy performance in week 6. Michel has been on the injury report this week, so make sure to monitor that through the weekend.
James White is a much more established player and has become a bigger red zone option with the injuries at running back for New England. White has seen 27% of the Patriots red zone carries+targets, and all of the above reasons for optimism that apply to Michel also apply to White. White saw 4 targets and 1 carry in the red zone last week. If Michel were to miss week 6, White would be a must-start in all formats, and a locked in daily fantasy option wherever possible. He would likely be in all of my DFS lineups. Even with Michel, White is an excellent option this week.
Dion Lewis & Derrick Henry
The Titans’ running backs have combined to see 51% of the team’s red zone carries+targets, with Derrick Henry seeing 10 carries+targets and Dion Lewis seeing 7. Despite the usage, the two running backs have combined for only 10.5 red zone fantasy points on the year. Maybe this is a small sample size fluke, but I think its a sign of the Titans offensive struggles as a whole. With a tough matchup against a Ravens’ defense that is top 5 in the league at preventing opposing RBs to score fantasy points, this doesn’t feel like the week that they turn their red zone performance around. Their red zone usage gives some optimism going forward, but this offense can’t be trusted at the moment.
Week 6 Red Zone Projections: WR Top 10 Carries+Targets
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Week 6 WR Preview
I could include Davante Adams in this section every week if I wanted to as he is a red zone monster playing with Aaron Rodgers, and even maintained his red zone ability last year when Rodgers was injured. Adams’s 26% of his team’s red zone carries+targets is 2nd only to JuJu Smith-Schuster among wide receiver options this week, and Adams ranks 2nd in red zone fantasy points with 33.1, only behind Calvin Ridley and his absurd 34.6 points on only 5 targets.
In week 6 the Packers are a 9.5 point favorite over the 49ers and are projected to score 28 points. Rodgers loves to throw in the red zone, as evidenced by Green Bay’s 27 red zone targets and only 11 red zone carries on the year. Give Adams four trips to the red zone and I like his chances to score a touchdown, and one of these weeks he will score 2. He still feels undervalued in DFS.
You don’t need me to tell you that DeAndre Hopkins is a top end fantasy receiver. What’s worth noting, however, is that Hopkins could actually be even better this year. Hopkins leads this week’s receiving options with 8 targets inside the 10 yard-line, yet has only turned those chances into 11 fantasy points. While his struggles could be cause for alarm for some, I see it as a positive. Hopkins has been the WR3 in PPR despite only scoring 2 touchdowns. If he keeps getting fed inside the 10 yard-line the touchdowns will come, and he may end up as fantasy’s WR1 if that happens.
Dede Westbrook has been a fairly consistent fantasy player this year for the Jaguars. What he has not been, however, is the target of a red zone pass. In a game against an underrated Cowboys defense, Westbrook isn’t a good bet for a touchdown this week. This may turn into a slow paced game if both teams are content to run the ball and play defense, further limiting his upside. Westbrook is just a floor play this week, with owners left hoping for a big play to bail them out.
Larry Fitzgerald has had a terrible start to the fantasy season so far, and while some can be blamed on a poor offense and an injury, red zone usage is a big factor. Fitzgerald has only seen 2 red zone targets on the year, only 10% of the Cardinals red zone carries+targets. With age and injury slowing Fitzgerald down, elite red zone usage could have kept his owners starting him. Without red zone opportunities, he probably lacks the explosiveness for many big-play touchdowns. A matchup with a Vikings defense looking to straighten things out doesn’t seem like a startable matchup for Fitzgerald.
Week 6 Red Zone Projections: TE Top 10 Carries+Targets
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Week 6 TE Preview
Eric Ebron has missed two practices this week, so his injury situation may need to be monitored up until kickoff. Ebron missing week 6 would further downgrade the lackluster tight end position, as Ebron projects to see the most red zone targets and the most red zone points out of all tight ends this week. His 12 red zone targets would rank him 3rd among wide receivers, so his usage has been excellent even without the disappointing tight end group used as a comparison.
A few weeks ago David Njoku made this list, and I said to wait and see if Baker Mayfield would target him in the red zone after getting no looks from Tyrod Taylor. Going into week 6 still sitting on zero red zone targets, this seems like a systematic decision to not target Njoku in the red zone, severely limiting his upside. Tight end is such a wasteland that he is obviously worth a start, and hopefully his usage develops as the year progresses. But I wouldn’t want to bet on touchdowns for daily fantasy purposes until he at least gets a target first.
Red Zone GIF of the Week
Todd Gurley has been a red zone monster this year, and deserved to get mentioned after the touchdown streak he has been on. Sean McVay can scheme plays where Gurley isn’t even touched in the red zone, impressive considering everyone knows Gurley is getting the ball near the goal line. If the offense keeps up like this, there is no reason to think Gurley will slow down. In any other offense, Gurley’s 9 touchdowns through 5 games would seem ripe for regression.