Red Zone Carries + Targets: Week 8 Preview

Erik Smith looks at promising red zone usage from week seven, including Kerryon Johnson, and projects red zone carries+targets for the upcoming week.

(Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire)

With 7 weeks of the NFL season behind us, we’ve reached the halfway point in many fantasy football leagues. Due to the Dolphins and Texans playing on Thursday night, and 4 teams on a bye (ATL, DAL, LAC, TEN), there are some notable red zone options missing from this week’s article.

My week 8 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. Projected carries+targets should be given more weight than projected points, as projected points are based on how a player has produced this year and can still see a big swing depending on the outcomes of just a few red zone opportunities. 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 8 Red Zone Projections: RB Top 10 Carries+Targets

Player Proj C+T Proj RZ Pts
Todd Gurley 11.3 22.1
Alvin Kamara 7.7 10.3
Kareem Hunt 5.0 12.1
James Conner 4.1 8.6
Sony Michel 3.8 4.1
James White 3.2 9.6
Adrian Peterson 3.2 3.7
Jordan Howard 2.9 3.3
Joe Mixon 2.8 4.3
Saquon Barkley 2.8 4.5


Noteworthy Week 8 RBs

Kareem Hunt

Prior to Denver’s destruction of the Cardinals last week, the Broncos were getting decimated by opposing running backs, giving up 200-yard rushers in consecutive weeks. With the high powered Chiefs offense hosting the Broncos in week eight, Kareem Hunt looks poised for another monster week.

Hunt was slow out of the gate this year but has caught fire lately, culminating last week with a three-touchdown game against an equally running back friendly Bengals defense. Hunt saw seven red zone carries+targets last week in producing his three touchdowns, and now has 30% of the red zone carries+targets in one of the leagues most explosive offenses. With the Broncos pass rush wreaking havoc lately, look for the Chiefs to lean on Hunt as much as they can. He’s an elite running back option again this week.

Kerryon Johnson

Last week’s breakout performance by Kerryon Johnson lacked a touchdown, but his red zone usage was very encouraging. Johnson received six red zone carries, tied with Todd Gurley for the most in week seven. LeGarrette Blount, the Lions usual goalline back, saw three carries by comparison, and while Blount scored a touchdown and Johnson did not, Johnson actually had more yards per attempt than Blount in the red zone. With Theo Riddick out again this week, Johnson has room to grow in the receiving game as well. Johnson has a tough schedule ahead, so it’s not all good news, but his red zone usage is trending in the right direction.

Mark Ingram

While there has been plenty of concern from Drew Brees and Alvin Kamara owners regarding the red zone usage of gadget QB Taysom Hill, Mark Ingram owners are the ones that should really be concerned. Brees can score from anywhere on the field, and Kamara will have passing game usage that will separate him from most fantasy options. Ingram needs touchdowns to live up to the hype of his promising week five debut, and last week’s usage is troubling. Kamara led the way with five red zone carries, followed by Hill with three carries. Ingram brought up the rear with two red zone carries, and while that usage still has value in the explosive Saints offense, adding more competition may lower Ingram’s value. Ingram owners should hold tight and see how this works out, but Hill is providing a new obstacle towards Ingram’s rest of season outlook.


Week 8 Red Zone Projections: WR Top 10 Carries+Targets

Player Proj C+T Proj RZ Pts
JuJu Smith-Schuster 3.3 5.6
Michael Thomas 2.6 8.3
Davante Adams 2.5 8.4
A.J. Green 2.3 4.6
Brandin Cooks 2.0 4.3
Antonio Brown 1.8 1.9
Adam Thielen 1.8 4.0
Tyreek Hill 1.8 6.8
Sammy Watkins 1.8 2.6
Jarvis Landry 1.7 2.8


Noteworthy Week 8 WRs

Brandin Cooks

The Rams offense has run the most red zone plays in the league this year, and with Cooper Kupp doubtful this week there is an extra 13% of the red zone carries+targets available. Brandin Cooks is a likely beneficiary as the Rams’ second most targeted red zone receiver and is an excellent play in what projects as a shootout with the Packers. Cooks has received 10% of the Rams’ red zone opportunities this year, and without Kupp last week, Cooks caught both of his red zone targets and scored a touchdown in a game against the 49ers where the passing game was barely needed. Look for the Rams to pass more against the Packers, and if not for a mid-season injury, Cooks would be a much more obvious WR1 this week.

Chris Hogan

Chris Hogan has shown signs of life the last two week with his yardage totals, but his red zone usage has disappeared and is a concerning trend for his rest of season outlook. Hogan has only seen two red zone targets all year and hasn’t had any since week two. Despite Rob Gronkowski vanishing in the red zone, Hogan has not been able to take advantage and loses a lot of benefit from playing in such a high-powered offense. Hogan is big play dependent until his usage changes.


Week 8 Red Zone Projections: TE Top 10 Carries+Targets

Player Proj C+T Proj RZ Pts
Eric Ebron 2.4 6.6
Travis Kelce 2.0 4.3
Jared Cook 1.8 4.3
Zach Ertz 1.8 3.1
Trey Burton 1.3 5.0
Ben Watson 1.1 2.3
George Kittle 1.1 1.8
Jeff Heuerman 1.1 0.4
Gerald Everett 1.0 0.8
Jimmy Graham 0.8 1.9


Noteworthy Week 8 TEs

Jared Cook

Jared Cook had two disappointing games before the Raiders’ week seven bye week, so many owners may have forgotten about how good he was before. Cook has a solid 18% of the Raiders’ red zone usage, and with Amari Cooper traded and Marshawn Lynch to IR, Cook is set up to dominate usage in week eight. Cook has been a preferred option in close, with 9 of his 11 red zone targets coming inside of the ten-yard line. The Colts defense has been fairly giving to opposing tight ends, setting up Cook to be a top option this week.

Jordan Reed

Jordan Reed started the season with a promising two red zone targets in week one but has been a disappointment since, with last week providing his only other red zone target of the year. He’s still worth starting with the poor state of the tight end position as a whole, but owners should lower expectations until he becomes a more viable red zone option. Six percent of Washington’s red zone carries+targets won’t cut it and needs to improve going forward.

Red Zone GIF of the Week

[gfycat data_id=”ObedientDearestAnnelid”]

I thought this was a particularly well designed red zone play from the Patriots, and also shows the promising usage in scoring position for wide receiver Julian Edelman since returning from suspension. After only one red zone target in his first game back, Edelman has received three red zone targets in each of the last two games, with three of those targets coming inside the ten-yard line. With the continued disappearance of Gronkowski in the red zone, Edelman may be taking over a promising red zone role behind running backs Sony Michel and James White. While Edelman’s overall volume has been slightly disappointing, owners should be encouraged with his usage inside the 20.

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