Red Zone Carries + Targets: Week 9 Preview

Erik Smith previews red zone usage for the upcoming week, with notes on positive trends for Alvin Kamara and Sammy Watkins, among others.

(Photo by Roy K. Miller/Icon Sportswire)

Week nine features six teams on their bye week (ARI, CIN, IND, JAC, NYG, PHI), making it tough to fill out fantasy lineups in some cases. This article will skip players on those teams, as well as players in the Thursday night game (OAK, SF).

My week nine 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 excellent red zone data and play index.

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


Week 9 Red Zone Projections: RB Top 10 Carries+Targets

Player Proj C+T Proj RZ Pts
Todd Gurley 9.3 17.1
Alvin Kamara 8.5 13.1
Kareem Hunt 4.6 10.1
James White 3.6 10.1
Sony Michel 3.6 3.9
Adrian Peterson 3.5 4.7
Melvin Gordon 3.4 9.9
Christian McCaffrey 3.2 5.1
James Conner 3.1 6.6
Ezekiel Elliott 2.9 3.8


Noteworthy Week 9 RBs

Alvin Kamara

While RB Alvin Kamara’s overall volume has dropped some with the return of RB Mark Ingram, Kamara remains an elite red zone option going forward. Any concern with the emergence of QB Taysom Hill as a red zone option should be put to rest, as Kamara had five red zone carries+targets while scoring two touchdowns last week against the Vikings. In week nine Kamara faces a Rams team that has been solid at limiting fantasy points to opposing running backs, though largely due to grabbing early leads and eliminating the opposing teams’ running games. Kamara, however, is matchup-proof due to his receiving ability and should be heavily used in a projected shootout. He’s a no doubt start in season-long leagues and a potentially overlooked option in DFS that could help win a tournament.

Jordan Howard

RB Jordan Howard has an excellent matchup in week nine as the Bears are favored by nine and a half points on the road in Buffalo. While Howard’s lack of usage as a receiver hurts him in games that the Bears trail, he sees excellent usage in games where the Bears grab a lead and turn to the run. Overall, Howard sees 31% of the Bears’ red zone carries+targets and finishes right around the top ten in most red zone usage metrics this year. While his lack of receptions ultimately hurts his floor and ceiling in PPR leagues, Howard is a cheap option in DFS that has an excellent chance to score a touchdown. And with a large number of players on a bye this week, Howard makes for a solid play in most leagues, including PPR leagues.

Tevin Coleman

RB Tevin Coleman looked primed for a breakout year with RB Devonta Freeman hitting IR after week five. Coleman has failed to capitalize, however, and much of the reason why can be attributed to his lack of red zone use. Coleman has not seen a red zone carry in his last three games, and was fortunate to score a touchdown on one of his two red zone targets over the same three-game stretch. Coleman has a mediocre 20% of his team’s red zone carries+targets on the year despite being the Atlanta running back with the most consistent playing time. Rookie RB Ito Smith is the preferred red zone option with 29% of the Falcons red zone carries+targets, despite being third on the depth chart in Freeman’s two healthy games. A week nine matchup against a tough Washington run defense further hurts Coleman’s prospects, making him a low-end flex option this week.


Week 9 Red Zone Projections: WR Top 10 Carries+Targets

Player Proj C+T Proj RZ Pts
Michael Thomas 2.6 8.1
Davante Adams 2.3 7.6
JuJu Smith-Schuster 2.2 3.8
Cooper Kupp 2.0 4.5
Adam Thielen 1.9 4.7
Sammy Watkins 1.8 4.7
DeAndre Hopkins 1.8 4.7
Jarvis Landry 1.7 2.7
Brandin Cooks 1.5 3.3
Devin Funchess 1.5 3.9


Noteworthy Week 9 WRs

Sammy Watkins

WR Sammy Watkins exploded last week with eight catches for 107 yards and converted both of his red zone targets for touchdowns. With the health of fellow WR Tyreek Hill up in the air, look for Watkins to play a featured role this week against a Cleveland team in disarray. Watkins has received a steady number of red zone targets all season, and while 12% of his team’s red zone carries+targets is only ranked 16th out of this week’s receiving options, that percentage is more valuable in a Chiefs offense that runs more red zone plays and is more efficient with them than all but a few teams. Watkins is a WR2 in almost all season long leagues, and is a must play on DFS sites where his price is still cheap.

Robert Woods

Everything I’m about to say should be taken with a grain of salt, as WR Robert Woods has been an extremely good and consistent fantasy wide receiver on a Rams offense that is unstoppable. But from a red zone perspective, Woods has been a big disappointment after seeing all six of his red zone carries+targets in the first three weeks of the year. Even with WR Cooper Kupp missing most of the last three weeks, Woods has now gone five weeks without a red zone opportunity. With only 5% of the Rams red zone carries+targets, Woods could be a big play dependent receiver that isn’t a red zone threat. He could also be seen as having untapped upside if his red zone usage sees some positive regression. Play him in all season-long leagues, but he may be a bit overpriced in DFS if he remains absent in the red zone.


Week 9 Red Zone Projections: TE Top 10 Carries+Targets

Player Proj C+T Proj RZ Pts
Travis Kelce 2.0 4.8
Jeff Heuerman 1.5 1.3
Kyle Rudolph 1.2 2.5
Ryan Griffin 1.1 0.3
Trey Burton 1.1 3.9
Ben Watson 1.1 2.2
Jimmy Graham 0.9 1.7
Austin Hooper 0.9 2.8
Nick Boyle 0.8 0.3
Gerald Everett 0.8 0.6


Noteworthy Week 9 TEs

Kyle Rudolph

After converting his first two red zone targets into touchdowns to begin the year, TE Kyle Rudolph has now failed to score on his last six red zone targets. Rudolph saw three red zone targets last week (with two coming from the one-yard line) and two the week before, encouraging signs going forward despite the failed attempts. There’s no reason to think that QB Kirk Cousins can’t get on the same page as Rudolph, as both are talented players and Cousins frequently targeted his tight ends in Washington.

Rudolph gets a Lions defense that has allowed some solid games lately from mediocre tight ends, and 14% of his team’s red zone carries+targets ranks second among this week’s tight end options. The Vikings have 41 red zone targets and only 18 red zone rushes on the season, further playing into Rudolph’s chances this week. He should be played in all season long leagues, and offers some upside as a potentially overlooked option in DFS.

Vance McDonald

TE Vance McDonald is clearly a starter in most fantasy leagues when compared with the lackluster tight end position as a whole this year. But his red zone usage has been a big negative so far, with only two targets and 3% of Pittsburgh’s red zone carries+targets overall through week eight. He is a distant fourth option in scoring position behind RB James Conner, WR Antonio Brown, and WR JuJu Smith-Schuster. A week nine matchup against the Ravens further lowers his scoring chances.


Red Zone GIF of the Week

[gfycat data_id=”FrigidMetallicDavidstiger”]

This is certainly one of the easiest touchdowns that QB Drew Brees has ever thrown. While Kamara has competition for red zone work with RB Mark Ingram, gadget QB Taysom Hill, and WR Michael Thomas, the surplus of options allows the Saints to be extra creative in finding ways to get Kamara the ball. While Kamara is no longer quite in the top running back tier that RB Todd Gurley has to himself, Kamara will be an elite option all year. Don’t let his recent stretch against solid run defenses lower your expectations going forward.

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