• More TDs coming for Saquon Barkley and Ezekiel Elliott in 2019?
  • Odell Beckham’s scoring upside with Baker Mayfield
  • George Kittle is set to up for more scores in 2019

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Following up our post yesterday on the players that outproduced their fantasy red zone expectations in 2018, we’re turning things over to the players that were on the negative side of their expected output. 

Quarterbacks 10 Fantasy Points Under Expectation in Red Zone

PlayerRZ PtsExPtsDiff
Marcus Mariota49.865.1-15.3
Eli Manning84.897.6-12.8
Nick Foles17.829.8-12
Derek Carr65.976.4-10.5

Case Keenum and Blake Bortles also fell into this bucket as red zone scoring underachievers, but with neither projected to start, we’re carrying on without them. 

2018 was just about a lost season for Marcus Mariota. After missing another three starts last season, Mariota has still yet to play a full season through four years in the league. He’s yet to finish higher than 12th in fantasy points and has been 19th or lower in points per game during three of his four seasons. Mariota still has elite athleticism — he’s averaged 48.3 rushing points per season — and on paper, the 2019 Titans arguably have his best supporting cast of skill players to date. He has the best odds given his rushing ability to make the jump out of this group, but he’s someone that has to earn our trust back from a fantasy stance. 

The only quarterbacks with more expected red zone fantasy points than Eli Manning last season were Patrick Mahomes, Drew Brees, Andrew Luck, Deshaun Watson, Ben Roethlisberger, and Jared Goff. Despite ranking seventh in expected points, Manning finished 18th at the position in overall output.  The problem with signaling Manning as someone who could recover is that we just can’t believe that he’ll get to start all season long. Since 2008, there have been 32 quarterbacks selected in the first round of the NFL draft. Of those 32 quarterbacks, 15 of them started immediately in Week 1 and 22 of those players were starting for their organizations by Week 4 of the season. 24 of those players started more than half of the team games. This holds heavier weight with the passers who require the most draft capital. Of the 21 quarterbacks here to be selected within the top-10 picks of their respective draft, 18 of them started 11 or more games as a rookie. The Giants — and Manning — will have to exceed expectations to keep Daniel Jones off the field. 

The only other quarterback to qualify with a full season played was Derek Carr. His overall expected production ranked 13th at his position, yet he came in at 23rd among all quarterbacks in output. I’ve tried to make as compelling of a case I could for Carr being a dark horse to have a productive season, but even with that said, he’s not going to be selected as more than a QB2 option in any format this summer.

Running Backs 10 Fantasy Points Under Expectation in Red Zone

PlayerRZ PtsExPtsDiff
Sony Michel40.659.2-18.6
Carlos Hyde33.950.6-16.7
Dion Lewis24.938.8-13.9
Ezekiel Elliott69.982.1-12.2
Saquon Barkley83.794.7-11
Peyton Barber46.456.8-10.4

Seeing both Ezekiel Elliott and Saquon Barkley here should make you feel even better about taking them where they are going since they ran on the negative end of expected scoring output and still were so good. Each player has room for a larger touchdown ceiling. Elliott converted just two of his 10 rushing attempts from inside of the 5-yard line into touchdowns last season after converting 11-of-19 such carries into touchdowns over his first two seasons in the league. He was just 1-for-7 in carries from three yards out and closer last season after converting 10-of-15 such carries for scores to begin his career.

Barkley ranked second in the NFL in carries from inside the 5-yard line with 16 but managed to convert just five (31.3 percent) for touchdowns. The league average on those carries was 46.9 percent. Barkley also added five targets inside the 10-yard line — sixth-most among running backs — but managed to score on just one while the league average was 38.9 percent. 

Sony Michel is a good example of just how small of a sample an entire NFL regular season is and how expected regression to the mean doesn’t always take shape within a season. That’s because his positive regression immediately took hold in the postseason. During the regular season, Michel converted just 4-of-12 rushing attempts for scores inside the 5-yard line and unbelievably scored just on just 2-of-8 carries from the 1-yard line. Those eight carries from just a yard out ranked tied for fourth in the league. However, in the postseason Michel scored six times on the ground, converted 4-of-8 carries from inside the 10-yard line for touchdowns while he converted three of his four carries from the one for scores.

Carlos Hyde had a rough 2018 season. Outside of being traded midseason and then riding the bench in Jacksonville for the bulk of his time there, when Hyde did actually find the field a year ago, he was an underperformer. Hyde was 19th among running backs in expected output but checked in at 34th in actual output. Hyde had 10 carries from the 1-yard line in 2018, which matched James Conner for the most in the league. While he did convert five of those for touchdowns, those were the only touchdowns he managed to score all season despite 15 other red zone opportunities. Even prior to last season, Hyde had converted just 36.7 percent (11-of-30) of his carries inside of the 5-yard line for touchdowns while the league rate since he entered the NFL is 44.6 percent conversion rate on those attempts. Opportunity is still the name of the game and the Chiefs offense can create short scoring opportunities, but this is another mark that signals Damien Williams has a true edge over Hyde as a player. Williams has a much smaller sample size but has converted 6-of-13 such carries for touchdowns inside of the five for his career with a conversion rate of 4-of-7 carries for the Chiefs a year ago.

Wide Receivers 10 Fantasy Points Under Expectation in Red Zone

PlayerRZ PtsExPtsDiff
Corey Davis22.736.9-14.2
JuJu Smith-Schuster52.765-12.3
Jarvis Landry33.645-11.4
Golden Tate12.523.9-11.4
Odell Beckham33.344.6-11.3

There are a lot of moving chairs tied together on the wide receiver list. Odell Beckham’s depression ties right into Manning’s and Barkley’s appearance on the list above just above gives you an idea of just how greatly the Giants failed to match their opportunities. While Beckham’s underachievement can be traced back to Manning, Jarvis Landry also shows up here, so we can’t just say “well, Baker Mayfield is better than Eli” and wash our hands, even though it is true. With Golden Tate now and replacing Beckham in New York, it’s all a nice round of musical chairs here. Tate’s overall expected total isn’t much of note here, either, coming in at 58th for all wide receivers and tight ends. 

That said, Beckham still converted just 4-of-18 red zone targets (33.3 percent) for touchdowns last season. Landry was even worse, with just 2-of-18 red zone targets that resulted in touchdowns and that dropped to 1-of-7 inside the 10-yard line. The latter is surprising because Mayfield was excellent in that area of the field targeting any other player. Mayfield completed 4-of-7 passes inside the 10 to Landry for just one score while he completed 11-of-16 passes for nine touchdowns on his attempts to everyone else in that portion of the field. 

Just as it was with Ezekiel Elliott and Saquon Barkley in the running back section, seeing JuJu Smith-Schuster here should be viewed as an overall positive considering his draft capital and anticipated team target share with the departure of Antonio Brown. That’s because Smith-Schuster led all pass catchers in expected red zone points while Brown was still on the team. Smith-Schuster was able to convert three of his six targets from the 2-yard line and in but converted just two of his remaining 14 red zone targets for touchdowns, including failing to score on any of his five targets from 3-10 yards out. 

Corey Davis had the largest negative discrepancy for all wideouts. Davis ranked 22nd for all wideouts and tight ends in expected points yet came in at a meager 51st in actual production. Davis turned 15 red zone targets into just two touchdowns and failed to convert any of his six targets inside the 10-yard line for touchdowns. 

Tight Ends 10 Fantasy Points Under Expectation in Red Zone

PlayerRZ PtsExPtsDiff
George Kittle27.742.2-14.5
Jeff Heuerman18.528.8-10.3

Unless you really love Heuerman, there’s only one tight end of true note here. George Kittle ranked 15th among all tight ends and wide receivers in expected fantasy output in the red zone, yet he ranked 42nd in actual output. A one-man band, Kittle shouldn’t be expected to maintain the massive target gap that he had over his 2018 peers — he had 70 more targets than the next closest 49er — but after playing the crux of the season with two backup quarterbacks, Kittle still has room for touchdown growth; his 3.6 percent touchdown rate was the lowest of all top-10 scoring tight ends.