The red zone is where the magic happens — most of the time. In 2015, 1.7 red zone scores per game was the league average. Carolina led the league with 2.6, and San Francisco ranked dead last, with 1.1. When a team like Carolina is scoring just over two touchdowns from the red zone, you are going to want to really key in on those players.
We start with the quarterbacks, who lead the way down in the red zone. Efficiency and volume will translate into fantasy points. Tom Brady and Matthew Stafford were two of the best red zone quarterbacks in 2015. They combined for 53 touchdowns, and both had completion percentages above 60%. Blake Bortles didn't have the same kind of efficiency in the red zone, yet his 97 attempts, which led the league gave him an advantage. Just because a quarterback doesn't have big red zone numbers, it doesn't make them a bad quarterback. Drew Brees and Ben Roethlisberger both threw less than 20 red zone touchdowns. This has a lot to do with their big play wide receivers, and also their red zone play-calling. It's the Josh McCown and Sam Bradford types that distinguish a good quarterback and a bad one when looking at the red zone numbers. Diving into inside the 20 and inside the 10 stats can help you determine the efficient quarterbacks in this league. You will certainly find the elite guys at the top of most of these lists. Lets not forget about running quarterbacks like Cam Newton and Russell Wilson, who give their red zone stats a bump in that department.
The red zone can be a frustrating place for fantasy owners when it comes to running backs. Vultures and committees really can take the sting out of a long drive. Rushing attempts inside the red zone really indicate the potential for rushing touchdowns. Over 30 rushing attempts in the red zone brought running backs with five or more rushing touchdowns. Todd Gurley and David Johnson were the exceptions, but this was more due to how many games they played. Guys like Devonta Freeman, Jonathan Stewart, and DeAngelo Williams were ran heavy inside the red zone. Two of them saw 60%+ of the red zone rushing attempts. Stewart did not. That's because Cam Newton had 28% of the red zone rushing attempts. Pass-catching backs get some looks inside the red zone as well. Johnson had 13 targets inside the 20 last season, and that just adds to his versatility. The passing down backs aren't heavy red zone guys, but this is more of an addition if they are already heavy usage guys. I won't be chasing the Shane Vereen's of the world just for these targets. Focus more on the rushing attempts when it comes to running backs, it is much more reliable.
Eight of Antonio Brown's 10 touchdowns came inside the red zone last season. 12 of Allen Robinson's 14 touchdowns came inside the 20 as well. There is certainly a dominance in fantasy production when receivers are getting targets inside the red zone. You are going to find your prolific strong wide receivers with the most targets, while secondary receivers fall behind them and receiving tight ends. We didn't see a lack of targets for Jarvis Landry inside the red zone, but three touchdowns on 22 targets isn't efficient. Larry Fitzgerald saw 18 red zone targets, catching 13 of them for eight touchdowns. Fitz has been one of the consistent performers inside the red zone. That 72% reception rate is certainly one you can admire, and chalk down when deciding to put him in your lineups. On rare cases, volume doesn't always need to be there. Doug Baldwin saw just 15 targets, but out of his team's targets, he made up 28% of them. A 60% catch rate also helps him out a bit there. Volume is certainly the first glance to make, and then efficiency on those targets comes behind that. The Packers were in the red zone a ton, but James Jones and Randall Cobb had poor showings when inside the 20.
Unless you are a Rob Gronkowski or Delanie Walker, the red zone might be where your tight end makes his living. Tyler Eifert had 11 touchdowns inside the red zone, and relied heavily on touchdown production, due to his lack of ability to stretch the field. Eifert caught 80% of the balls thrown his way, which was tops for tight ends inside the red zone. Pretty incredible given we usually see downfield tight ends score that high. When targets dwindle down for some of these tight ends, efficiency is what we need to see. Richard Rogers was another one, with a 71% catch rate. Tight ends are sharing targets with the team's top wideouts. Given their size, they can be a quarterback's favorite weapon when inside the 20. Just like Jordan Reed, who had 21 targets inside the red zone. He tied with Antonio Brown for most receptions inside the 20. Analyzing red zone stats for tight ends can help you find those touchdown fliers on a week-to-week basis. Look for efficiency over volume after those top tier guys. That is where guys like Ben Watson and Eric Ebron will hide. You will be able to take advantage of their red zone type receiving skills.