- What 2018 red zone stats matter the most for 2019?
- Davante Adams was dominant in 2018
- Can Tyler Lockett have as much TD fortune in 2019?
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The opening look at red zone performance took more of a top-down team approach, but here we are going to be getting into some individual player performance data. As mentioned in that opening post, rolling over year-to-year short-yardage opportunities is hardly stable on a team level, but do those correlations change at all on a player level?
Year-Over-Year Red Zone Opportunity Correlation
|Inside 10-Yard Line||0.2968||0.0935||0.3482|
|Inside 5-Yard Line||0.1225||0.0481||0.2367|
Compared to the team correlations, individual player targets, carries, and pass attempts carry some stickiness, but on the grand of scheme of projectable stats, there’s a lot left to be desired here. If you squint, you can talk yourself into the entirety of red-zone opportunity holding some water year-over-year for passing and rushing work, but when we get to those green and gold zones that we truly care about from the opening post, yearly rollover can just about be thrown in the shredder.
With per player volume not holding a lot of yearly consistency, we’re going to flip the script and look at which players overachieved their actual red zone opportunities in 2018.
To do that, I took a 10-year sample in creating an expected points per pass attempt, target and rushing attempt for each yard line on the field for the red zone. In the opening article, we uncovered how the most successful plays came the closest to the goal line and the same carries over to fantasy points. For an example, a rushing attempt from the 1-yard line carries an expected point value of 3.3 fantasy points while a carry from the 10-yard line drops to 0.77 fantasy points and drops all the way down to 0.53 fantasy points from the 19-yard line. If you’re a player with a high volume of red zone targets, but lack for a lot of targets inside of the 10- or 5-yard lines, you’re not going to carry the same weight. So with that in mind, let’s run down the biggest overachievers at each position from last season with underachievers coming later in the week.
Quarterbacks 20 Fantasy Points Over Expectation in Red Zone
There’s no surprise here that Patrick Mahomes is the first name to pop up and members of the Chiefs offense will make regular appearances here throughout. Mahomes also led all passers in expected output, which is the actual number to focus on. The same can be said Andrew Luck (ranked fourth) and Drew Brees (second). Luck led the NFL with six touchdown passes from the 1-yard line while Drew Brees ranked second with four.
The same can’t be said for Russell Wilson. Wilson came in at 15th for all quarterbacks in expected points, yet finished ninth. Wilson threw a touchdown on 8.2 percent of his overall attempts (Patrick Mahomes was at 8.6 percent) and 46.9 percent of his fantasy points stemmed directly from passing touchdowns, the highest rate for his career to date. After throwing a touchdown on 5.7 percent of his passes prior to 2018, Wilson will need a major spike in volume in to reach 30 passing touchdowns once again.
The Vikings (80 percent) and the Falcons (71.5 percent) ranked first and third in the league in percentage of touchdowns scored from inside of the 10-yard line from passing. That played a big role in why Matt Ryan and Kirk Cousins show up here. The Vikings ran for just three touchdowns inside the 10-yard line with just two rushing scores from inside the five all season, which was ahead of only the Dolphins. The Falcons had just three rushing touchdowns from inside the five, ranking just ahead of Minnesota. With a flip to more Dalvin Cook and Devonta Freeman scores, with both backs potentially healthy, both quarterbacks should naturally see their touchdown totals decline.
Jameis Winston smoked his expected output on the strength of throwing a touchdown pass on 50 percent (9-of-18) of his pass attempts from the 10-yard line and in, the highest rate in the league. The league average touchdown rate was 35.2 percent of pass attempts. For comparison sake, Patrick Mahomes threw a touchdown on 42.6 percent of his passes in the same area of the field. Over a full sample of playing time, we should have seen this correct itself, but with Winston in and out of the lineup, it remained an outlier. We already highlighted the Bucs as one of the teams that should find more rushing scores in 2019, potentially being a natural way that we see Winston’s short-yardage touchdown rate recoil.
We already highlighted how the Bengals greatly out-kicked their touchdown expectancy in the red zone last year through hyper-efficiency and Andy Dalton was a benefactor. Dalton threw eight of his 21 touchdown passes inside the 5-yard line, which ranked fourth in the league despite missing two games.
Running Backs 10 Fantasy Points Over Expectation in Red Zone
The running backs here largely ran on the plus side of touchdown variance given their opportunities. Despite missing two games, Todd Gurley led the NFL in red zone touches (72) and touches inside the 5-yard line (18) while he matched Alvin Kamara with a league-high 35 touches from inside the 10-yard line. Gurley tallied a league-high nine rushing scores from two yards out while he also matched the league lead with six total touchdowns from 10-19 yards out. Both he and Kamara overshot expectations, but their expectation levels themselves are something to covet for fantasy owners. In fact, they ranked first and second in the league in expected red zone points, ahead of all quarterbacks. There’s much more to be penned about Gurley’s overall situation that we will cover, but no one has had the scoring opportunities that he has had over the past two seasons.
Melvin Gordon’s holdout puts a damper on his fantasy expectations. After what we saw happen with Le’Veon Bell last season, it’s only natural to be pessimistic and gun-shy on drafting Gordon at this time. Gordon only had two carries total from three yards and in — an area where 49.5 percent of all rushing touchdowns are scored — but still found his way to 10 rushing touchdowns on the season. By all accounts, his touchdown output was fortunate for his opportunities, but his lack of shorter opportunities was also a victim to team circumstance. If his contract situation does resolve itself prior to the start of the season, he should be treated as someone who is going to get those opportunities when they become present.
Aaron Jones has nine total touchdowns last season with only two coming from inside of the 5-yard line. He totaled 17 rushing attempts in the red zone, but just four came from inside the five with just two total coming from the one- or two-yard lines. As with Gordon, though, Jones’s lack of overall true short-yardage opportunities is more of a product of team circumstance than anything else. As the primary starter Weeks 8-14, Jones handled 16-of-18 red zone backfield opportunities.
Tarik Cohen is a true example of someone we should already be circling to score fewer times in 2019. Cohen is coming off a year with eight touchdowns — while also adding a passing touchdown — as opposed to three in his rookie season. He received just three opportunities (one target and two carries inside the 5-yard line all season). Just six backs all-time have scored eight or more touchdowns in consecutive seasons on fewer than 200 touches while just five backs under 200-pounds have scored eight or more times in consecutive years over the past 20 seasons.
Nick Chubb cashed in 5-of-7 rushing attempts (71.4 percent) from inside the 5-yard line for touchdowns while the league rate was 46.4 percent. We had to wait until Week 7 to see Chubb take over the Cleveland backfield. There should be some tradeoff for Chubb if his rookie season hyper-efficiency in multiple areas oscillates back to the pack with the added volume from a full-season of work, but we’re working with a small sample at the start of a player’s career.
Wide Receivers 10 Fantasy Points Over Expectation in Red Zone
There’s clearing your expected point total, and then there’s Davante Adams. No other wideout was remotely close to his level of out-producing his scoring opportunities, but he also trailed just JuJu Smith-Schuster, Michael Thomas and DeAndre Hopkins in actual red zone expected opportunity, something that can’t be discounted even with regression in efficiency. Adams turned 23 red zone targets into 12 touchdowns catches (52.2 percent) while the rest of the league converted 31.8 percent of their red zone targets for scores. Over his previous two seasons, Adams converted 14-of-42 (33.3 percent) red zone opportunities for scores.
Calvin Ridley, on the other hand, is a tricky one. We already established earlier that the Falcons are a good bet to have more balance in terms of passing and rushing touchdown splits, and Ridley hardly received a tangible amount of scoring opportunities as a rookie. Ridley tallied just four of the 33 team targets inside the 10-yard line all season. He also had just five end zone targets all season. Yet he ranked 15th in overall red zone fantasy output despite ranking 63rd in expected opportunity. We also got a glimpse of that scoring regression hitting Ridley in-season and how it impacted his fantasy lines. After he scored six touchdowns through four weeks, Ridley only scored four touchdowns over his remaining 12 games and hit 50-yards receiving in just three of those contests. There’s going to be an intriguing intersection of where his scoring regression meets his career progression in terms of required draft capital.
Like Ridley, Tyler Boyd really cooked his expected opportunity in terms of producing on marginal scoring opportunities. Boyd converted 5-of-8 red zone targets total for touchdowns but received just four end zone targets all season long and had just three targets inside the 10-yard line all season. Paired with the Bengals’ expected reduction in red zone efficiency that we covered in the previous post, Boyd is tough for me to pay the tax on when factoring his 2018 breakout into his current cost.
Mike Williams ranked seventh for all pass catchers in red zone fantasy production, yet ranked 25th in expected output. We know that Mike Williams cannot sustain the touchdown efficiency he had a year ago when he turned 23.3 percent of his receptions into touchdowns. Williams added four receiving touchdowns from three yards out or closer, which was tied for the league lead. But one sticking point for Williams is that he was an elite touchdown producer in college — catching a touchdown on 11.9 percent of his receptions — and his quarterback, Phillip Rivers, has thrown 26 or more touchdown passes in 11 consecutive seasons. With his projected increased role and history of producing touchdowns, I’m more bullish on Williams matching his required fantasy cost than I am of the other 2018 breakout/2019 ADP risers in Ridley and Lockett.
There may not be another wideout who turned in a more unique season in 2018 than Tyler Lockett, so much so it barely makes any sense in terms of how efficient he was on the field. We’ll have more on him later, but seven of his 10 touchdowns came from outside of the red zone and he managed just six red zone targets and just seven end zone targets on the season. Unlike both Ridley and Boyd — who still have to contend with alpha WR1 options on their own teams — Lockett at least has a clear runway to lead his team in opportunity with the loss of Doug Baldwin, albeit in a lower passing volume offense in totality.
Tight Ends 10 Fantasy Points Over Expectation in Red Zone
Eric Ebron was one of the biggest values of the season in 2018, but there’s a lot of points to remain cautious on paying the immediate tax on his 2018 breakout. Ebron turned 11.8 percent of his targets into touchdowns, which ranks second all-time out of 126 seasons from tight ends with 100-plus targets, behind only Rob Gronkowski’s 2011 season (13.7 percent). He got there on the strength of scoring on 55.6 percent (10-of-18) of his red zone targets while the league ran at a 31.8 percent rate. Ebron caught nine touchdown passes from 12-yards out or longer, the most among all tight ends. For comparison, Travis Kelce had just four touchdowns in that range. There are other reasons to tread lightly with Ebron, but his 2018 touchdown output should be expected to come down.
Travis Kelce led all tight ends in expected output, so there’s not much to see here beyond the overall inflation of the Chiefs offense from an efficiency stance in 2018.
Both Tampa Bay tight ends find themselves here, but I am less concerned about O.J. Howard’s volume to date near the end zone because I attribute a portion of it to be due to injuries while anticipating his overall target volume to expand. Howard has just seven targets from inside the 10-yard line for his career but has lived on the efficiency of turning five of those targets into touchdowns. Tampa Bay lost 37 percent of their team targets — the fourth-highest rate in the league — while Howard is clearly the third-best talent in his team’s remaining passing game.
Chris Herndon was a breakout candidate for many, but his four-game suspension to start the season makes it hard to draft him outside of the deepest of formats. That suspension may save a few people from a regrettable decision. Herndon had almost no involvement near the end zone as a rookie. Herndon saw just one target inside the 10-yard line all season, but he still scored four times in his first season. The Jets acquired Jamison Crowder and Le’Veon Bell this offseason while they’ll get Quincy Enunwa — who missed five games in 2018 — back into the lineup as well, which leaves the opportunity growth for Herndon still a question mark once he returns to the lineup.