We have been spending some time in the red zone lately. First, we covered what we can take away from team-level production in the red zone. Following that up, we covered the actual fantasy scoring compared to expected points scored in the red zone for quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, and tight ends. With one final dive into red zone production, we have started to explore which players rely on the red zone the most and the least to produce their touchdowns. So far, we have looked at the red zone reliance for both the quarterbacks, running backs, and wide receivers.

Here, we can get a good gauge on which players are not solely reliant on their respective teams reaching one section of the field regularly and those who do. The added bonus gained is if you are in a league that rewards fantasy points based on touchdown length.

Wrapping things up, we are pulling up results for the top-30 tight ends in current ADP. What is different for the tight ends compared to wide receivers is that the position relies on shorter scoring opportunities more consistently. For the field below, 74.5% of all of the receiving touchdowns have come from inside of the red zone while 48.9% have come from inside of the 10-yard line while base rates for the league overall are 65.9% and 42.4% in those respective areas of the field.

Rob Gronkowski7929.11%70.89%43.04%15.95
Jimmy Graham7418.92%81.08%52.70%12.58
Greg Olsen5925.42%74.58%47.46%15.03
Kyle Rudolph4723.40%76.60%57.45%11.45
Travis Kelce3729.73%70.27%35.14%15.73
Zach Ertz3520.00%80.00%48.57%10.8
Jared Cook3450.00%50.00%32.35%22.35
Eric Ebron2722.22%77.78%44.44%14.81
Jack Doyle1811.11%88.89%66.67%7.61
Darren Fells1723.53%76.47%41.18%14.76
Hunter Henry1717.65%82.35%64.71%9.94
Austin Hooper1612.50%87.50%75.00%12.75
Mark Andrews1330.77%69.23%46.15%17.38
George Kittle1250.00%50.00%41.67%30.25
O.J. Howard1233.33%66.67%41.67%21.33
Evan Engram128.33%91.67%58.33%13.42
Dallas Goedert922.22%77.78%66.67%10.67
Jonnu Smith850.00%50.00%37.50%23.88
Gerald Everett714.29%85.71%71.43%10.71
Tyler Higbee70.00%100.00%85.71%4.86
Blake Jarwin650.00%50.00%16.67%23.67
Will Dissly60.00%100.00%50.00%9.33
Mike Gesicki520.00%80.00%20.00%14.8
Darren Waller50.00%100.00%80.00%7.8
Noah Fant366.67%33.33%0.00%38
Hayden Hurst366.67%33.33%33.33%29.33
Ian Thomas30.00%100.00%100.00%3.33
T.J. Hockenson250.00%50.00%50.00%14
Dawson Knox250.00%50.00%50.00%12
Irv Smith Jr.20.00%100.00%50.00%5.5

>RZ TD% = ReTD rate from Outside of the Red Zone
<10 TD% = ReTD from inside of the 10-yard line
Avg. ReTD = Length of average ReTD

Just eight players in our current top-30 sample even have scored 20 touchdowns in their careers while nearly half (14) have yet to reach double-digit touchdowns scored at the position yet for their careers. The tight end position is notorious for being a slow burning position in transitioning to the league. Of the current top-12 players being selected at the position, just Mark Andrews (24.0) and Noah Fant (22.8) will be younger than 25-years-old come September 10th when the season kicks off.

Some Juice For a Tight End

No tight end with double-digit career touchdowns here has an average length of touchdown from further out than George Kittle at 30.3 yards. We highlighted how Kittle has regularly fallen short of red zone expectations the past two seasons, which has prevented him from the truly monster fantasy season we believe exists in his range of outcomes. While Kittle has underperformed near the end zone, he is one of the few tight ends who scores on the long ball.

For Kittle, it is typically in the catch and run game as Kittle has led the tight end position in yards after the catch in each of the past two seasons. 50% of Kittle’s career touchdowns have come from outside of the red zone with four of his 12 touchdowns coming from 43 yards out or further with scores of 61, 82, and 85 yards among those. Just two other players have multiple touchdowns of 80-plus yards since Kittle entered the league in 2017, Amari Cooper and JuJu Smith-Schuster.

The only tight end other than Kittle with double-digit career scores to have at least half of them come from outside of the red zone is Jared Cook. Just 32.5% of Cook’s 34 career touchdown receptions have come from inside of the 10-yard line, the lowest rate for any tight end above with double-digit scores. In his first season with the Saints at age 32, Cook led the entire NFL in rate of receptions that went for 20-plus yards (23.1%) and led all tight ends with 10.9 yards per target. He reeled in a career high nine touchdown passes, with five of those coming from 20 yards out or further.

Cook has scored 21 times over his past five seasons with only nine of those coming from inside of the red zone. Rolling over a 13.9% touchdown rate on his targets will be hard to duplicate in 2020, but Cook has added appeal if there is any bonus for touchdown length. 

He only has one year on his resume, but Noah Fant has already drawn early-career comps to George Kittle, and not just because of the collegiate connection. Fant underperformed on his red zone opportunities and lived off yards after the catch and longer touchdowns in his first season. Fant led all NFL tight ends in yards after catch per reception (8.3 yards) while his three touchdowns scored as a rookie were from 14, 25, and 75 yards out. Relying on his YAC, Fant’s first ever career TD was all YAC on a tight end screen and we all remember his catch and run on his 75-yard score versus the Browns.

Travis Kelce is surprisingly not overly reliant on the long touchdown for his yards after the catch acumen. 29.7% of Kelce’s career touchdowns are from outside of the red zone, which ranks fifth among those with double-digit scores, but he has just three career touchdowns from 30 yards and out. His longest touchdown reception from Patrick Mahomes is 27 yards with just three of his 19 touchdown receptions (including the postseason) from Mahomes coming from outside of the red zone. 

Goal Line Tight Ends

Five players above have scored all of their career touchdowns from inside of the red zone, but all of those players have relatively small samples to work from. One of them is Darren Waller, however, who trailed only Kittle in yards after the catch among tight ends a year ago. We highlighted how Waller was actually on par with red zone expectations last season given the actual scoring opportunities he received compared to his overall target totals, but with that much YAC, you would have figured he would have had some fortune swing his way on a catch and run at some point. 

Among players with double-digit touchdowns, nobody has scored a higher rate of their touchdowns from inside of the red zone than Evan Engram. We did a deep dive into Engram and how misused he has been since entering the league compared to collegiate days and even his rookie season. Engram has one career touchdown from outside of the red zone with just three from further than 10 yards out. That would be fine if he were also getting jammed with end zone targets, but Engram also has just six end zone targets total over the past two seasons.  With a new offensive scheme, Engram will look for better usage under Jason Garrett.

Jack Doyle, Austin Hooper, Hunter Henry, Jimmy Graham, and Zach Ertz are the other tight ends with double-digit scores above that have scored 80% or more of their touchdowns from inside of the red zone. 75% of Hooper’s career scores have come from inside of the 10-yard line, the highest rate among any tight end with 10-plus scores above. 

Only Michael Thomas has more touchdown receptions (15) from five yards or closer over the past four seasons than Ertz (12). Ertz found the end zone six times last year, with four coming from exactly the 2-yard line. 

Doyle has the lowest average length of touchdown reception (7.6 yards) among all tight ends with an actual sample. He has scored just two times from outside of the red zone with those being 21 and 22-yard scores. Doyle has never scored more than five touchdowns in a season, but the glimmer of hope for him is that the Indianapolis depth chart is shaky at his position with Eric Ebron being replaced by Trey Burton while we covered how the Colts are more pass-heavy than league rates near the end zone.

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