- Are Mike Williams and Hunter Henry bad for each other?
- Tyreek Hill’s dominance from a distance
- Alvin Kamara can score from anywhere
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We’ve reached the end of our red zone analysis. The first three posts looked at the most successful plays and areas of the red zone, team performance, and the players who exceeded and fell short of their expected fantasy production. To close things down, we’re highlighting the players who have needed the finest areas of the red zone to achieve success and those players who have bypassed those arbitrary yard lines and the red zone altogether to score.
Career TD Dependency Inside of the 10-Yard Line for Tight Ends
Keeping the minimum career touchdowns scored at double digits, we have a mix of a few smaller samples and some larger ones. These tight ends are the ones most reliant on getting those money targets set up by their team sustaining long drives since they are lower aDOT options and aren’t adding a lot to the party after the catch on their own merit. Two things to remember here, the depth of a player’s target downfield belongs more to the receiver than it does to the passer and the closer a team gets to the end zone, the higher the rate of scoring a touchdown.
Austin Hooper has this lovely long-range score on his resume, but since Week 1 of the 2017 season, his past six scores have all come from inside of the 10 with four of those coming from three yards out and closer. Hooper ranked fourth among all tight ends in receptions last season with 71, but his lack of explosive plays — he’s averaged just 10.7 and 9.3 yards per catch the past two seasons — left him with a moderately low floor. He finished as the TE6 in overall scoring, but on a weekly level he was a top-12 scoring tight end in just six games. In his other 10 games, he was the TE16 or lower.
Jack Doyle is no surprise on this list since he’s averaged just 8.6 yards per catch for his career, but Jordan Reed may come as a surprise given his athletic profile. The truth is, Reed has been a volume-induced fantasy option whose volume and per game reception totals have steadily deteriorated. Since entering the league in 2013, Reed has racked up the eighth-most receptions at the tight end position but sits 57th overall in yards per catch (10.2) among all tight ends with 50 or more receptions over that timeframe.
Hunter Henry is the one player we can likely hold our nose at when it comes to the sample size and true opportunity. Henry spent his first two seasons as a part-time player and he relied on being used as a package player near the end zone to float his fantasy relevancy. But he also averaged 13.0 yards per reception in each season with 9.2 yards per target. Henry has received just five or more targets in 13 career games but has posted 13.7 yards per catch and 9.7 yards per target in those games with that increased volume.
Jimmy Graham’s days of being a dynamic playmaker outside of the money zone are just about all but over. Nine of his past 12 touchdowns over the past two seasons were from six yards out and in while Graham has averaged fewer than 40 yards receiving per game in each of the past two seasons.
Career TD Dependency Inside the 10-Yard Line for Wide Receivers
Moving over to the wide receivers, I don’t believe anyone will be surprised by too many names here given the abundance of short-yardage, slot options. These players have their touchdown totals impacted by passing volume near the end zone since they are rarely creating a high amount of touchdowns on their own via vertical targets and game-breaking yards after the catch.
Michael Thomas is the one true alpha wide receiver who shows up here. Through three seasons, Thomas has two seasons with nine touchdown receptions and one other with five. Seeing those results paired with his dependency on short touchdowns and it’s clear his touchdown totals to date have been driven by those short-yardage opportunities. To begin his career, Thomas had 11, seven, and 14 targets from inside the 10-yard line. Of his 23 career touchdown catches, 12 have come from five yards out and closer, 17 have come from 10 yards out and in, while just four have come from outside of the red zone.
There’s a small sample for Mike Williams, but with the way he was used near the goal line combined with Hunter Henry popping up in the opening section, we may have an intersection on where each of these players can cannibalize each other’s short-yardage scoring opportunities. Or perhaps with Henry back in the fold, this is just the area of the field in which we see Williams’s unsustainable touchdown rate from 2018 normalize since Williams added four touchdown receptions from three yards out and in last season.
Robert Woods has been of the steadiest floor wide receivers over the past two seasons, but his pedestrian receiving touchdown totals of just five and six the past two years have prevented turning many of those safe and usable weeks into many league-winning ones. Of his six touchdown catches last season, four came from within eight yards of the end zone.
Career Rec TD Dependency Outside of the Red Zone
|Player||ReTD||Avg. ReTD||>RZ ReTD||>Re TD%||<10 ReTD|
Shifting gears, these are the players who have scored more than half of their career touchdowns by bypassing red zone and short-yardage opportunities. Once again, player archetypes are crystalized. These are the receivers who are going to reward you in those leagues that are driven by distance scoring. With the exception of a few high-target volume options here, this is also largely the group receivers who turn in huge games when they score, but also carry lower fantasy floors when fail to do so.
We’re obviously deep into a what “could have been” in the career of Josh Gordon, but his distance scoring splits are dramatic. With only one career touchdown coming from inside of the 10-yard line and 16-of-19 coming from outside of the red zone altogether, Gordon’s receiving scores with the Patriots a year ago were 34, 55 and 24 yards.
Robby Anderson is in a similar bucket. He’s scored just three of his 15 touchdowns from inside of the red zone and just two of those have come from inside of 18 yards.
Since entering the league in 2016, no player has more total touchdowns scored from outside the red zone than Tyreek Hill with 24. Hill is as explosive a player we’ve seen enter the league; he led the league in touchdowns of 35-yards or longer (six) for the third consecutive season, which gave him 20 such scores over that span, 10 more than the next highest player. His average touchdown length of any kind is 44.8 yards, the largest for a player since he entered the league.
Amari Cooper has averaged 37.0 yards per touchdown reception for his career (37.1 yards in 2018). Since joining the league in 2015, only Hill (22) has more touchdowns of 30-plus yards than the 14 Cooper has scored. Of Cooper’s 25 career touchdown receptions, just five have come from inside the 10-yard line with just eight from inside the red zone.
In the previous post, we talked about how Tyler Lockett’s 2018 season was one of the more unique seasons a receiver had in the scoring department. For his career, just two of his touchdown catches have come from inside the 10-yard line. If you include his returning scores, Lockett’s 16 career touchdowns from outside of the red zone since entering the league in 2015 now rank tied for fifth in the league.
Career Rush TD Dependency On Carries from the 1 & 2 Yard Line
As we discussed in the open, rushing touchdowns are really more about team performance and opportunity than anything else. Over the past 20 seasons, 44 percent of all rushing touchdowns in the league have come from the one- or two-yard line — which was at 44.4 percent in 2018 — while the success rate on converting carries from those yard lines into touchdowns is 50.2 percent.
James Conner has the lightest touchdown sample size here, but it’s easy to figure out how he cashed in last season in the touchdown department. The Steelers trailed just the Saints and Patriots in plays run from two yards and in. It was their most plays run in that area of the field over the past 20 seasons. Despite missing three games, Conner trailed only Todd Gurley in carries from those yard markers with 12. For comparison sake, Le’Veon Bell totaled just 14 rushing attempts from the 1-2 yard lines over the previous four seasons.
Just two of David Johnson’s past 14 rushing touchdowns have come from longer than two yards out. He’s provided additional value by adding 11 career touchdown receptions that are more explosive (18.3 yards), but Johnson has needed his offense to set up his scoring opportunities on the ground. After Arizona had one of the worst seasons in reaching the opposition’s red zone last season, Johnson will be looking for more of those opportunities in 2019.
No player has had the kind of scoring opportunities like Gurley has had over the past two seasons. He leads the NFL with 28 rushing attempts from two yards out or closer over that span while the next closest players are Carlos Hyde (24) and Mark Ingram (16).
Speaking of Ingram, his vacated situation is now owned by Latavius Murray, who pops above as a short-yardage dependent player. Since joining the league in 2014, only Gurley (24), Johnson (20), and LeGarrette Blount (20) have more 1-2 yard rushing touchdowns than Murray’s 19. The Saints led the NFL in 1-2 yard line rushing attempts in 2018 with 24 and only the Patriots (96) have had more rushing opportunities from that area of the field than the Saints (84) over the past five seasons.
Career Rush TD Dependency On Carries Over 5 Yards
|Player||RuTD||Avg. RuTD||RuTD >5Yd||%|
For the final rushing bucket, we’ve lowered the career scores down to five. That creates the smallest of samples for some players that fall right on that line but also speaks to the lack of true rushing scoring opportunities that many of those small sample scoring players have received. 63 percent of all rushing scores come from five yards out or closer over the past 20 seasons, with that number sitting at 61 percent in 2018.
We covered both Aaron Jones and Ezekiel Elliott in the past two posts in over and underachieving in the red zone, so we’ll gloss past them here. As highlighted above, the Saints provide a plethora of short-scoring opportunities on the ground, which makes Alvin Kamara so dangerous paired with his big-play ability. That team and player scoring synergy are how a player with 11 touchdown runs over five yards can still have 22 rushing scores altogether through two seasons, even while sharing some of those short opportunities with another back.
In the opening red zone post, we highlighted the extreme lack of scoring opportunities the Dolphins had a year ago. That was something that was a major thorn for them the past three seasons. Over that span, the Dolphins have the league’s fewest amount of rushing attempts five yards and in (27) while the next closest team have 40. Kenyan Drake has tallied just five career carries from that area of the field. Six of his nine career rushing scores have come from 12 yards out or more with four of them coming from 42 yards or longer. To go a step further, even four of his six career receiving touchdowns have come from outside the red zone. Drake’s five receiving touchdowns are surely due for major regression given the way they came last season, meaning the Dolphins need to have a spike in short-scoring opportunities for him to fend off a significant scoring dip.
James White found the end zone 12 times last season after scoring 13 times over his first four seasons in the league. He added to his totals with five rushing touchdowns after just two for his career prior to last season. Two of those rushing touchdowns came from outside the red zone while another was from eight yards out. White accrued eight rushing attempts from inside the 5-yard line for the season with six attempts from two yards or closer, but five of those attempts in each category came over Weeks 8-9 when White was the only running back the Patriots had. White’s a prime target for touchdown regression in 2019 from both areas of touching the football, but starting with the likelihood to lose the majority of his rushing scores from last season.
The fun is really all about seeing all three 49ers running backs show up here. Diagnosing the San Francisco backfield could yield a major fantasy value given the history of backfield success Kyle Shanahan has set up. Even last season with a hobbled backfield rotation, the San Francisco backfield tallied the fifth-most yards from scrimmage. The 49ers are going to have more rushing touchdowns this season and we already covered why Tevin Coleman should be the favorite of the three main options to get the early look in that area of the field based on his competition for those touches. Coleman not only has more experience handling goal-line rushing attempts on his resume than the other backs in San Francisco, he also just has been a flat-out consistent touchdown scorer in the NFL on limited opportunities. Coleman is just the fourth running back since the 1970 merger to score eight or more touchdowns on fewer than 200 touches in three consecutive seasons. Last season, Coleman only had two carries from two yards out or closer, which played a role in his disappointment for fantasy after becoming the starter. All Coleman has needed was consistent goal-line work paired with his already measured upside from distance scoring to open up his upside.