As was the case yesterday when we took a look at red zone production versus expectation for fantasy quarterbacks, we are continuing to run through all of the positions. I will not hit you with the full intro as the first post, but when diving into what we can take away from team production in the red zone, we covered that the crux of touchdowns scored in the NFL come from inside of the red zone and that not all red zone touches are created equal. As is the case as always, we always like to take a peek at just how sticky any of these stats can be.
Year-Over-Year Red Zone Rush Attempt and Target Correlation
|FIELD POSITION||TGT||Rush ATT|
|Inside 10-Yard Line||0.0935||0.3482|
|Inside 5-Yard Line||0.0481||0.2367|
Just like passing attempts, targets and rushing attempts decrease in rollover stability the closer you get to the goal line. Rushing attempts remain far more stable than targets (and passing attempts tracing back yesterday) the closer you get, however. Those attempts have more than triple the correlation to targets inside of the 10-yard line and nearly four times of targets inside of the 5-yard line. When it comes to red zone rollover, carries are the stickiest of the sample.
So with everything in place, let us jump into some of the output from a year ago to highlight those who out-produced and fell short of expected output on their actual opportunities per yard line in the red zone. Since the running back field is denser than quarterbacks, I took the top-30 non-rookies from current fantasy ADP to use from a year ago.
2019 RB Red Zone Fantasy Points Vs. Expectation
|RB||RZ FF Pts||Exp. Pts||(+/-)|
Aaron Jones was Superman to Leonard Fournette’s Bizarro in the red zone in 2019. Jones led all running backs in red zone fantasy points scored and out-kicked his expected red zone fantasy point total by a league-leading 37.4 points. Including the postseason, Jones had a league-high 16 rushing attempts from the 1 or 2-yard line while matching Ezekiel Elliott’s eight rushing scores on those carries. Jones was a solid 50% in converting those opportunities for scores, but that was actually a little under league rate for 2019 (55.1%). Jones was still third in expected opportunity, which is noteworthy if he can sustain his red zone usage. Hanging on to those short scoring opportunities is going to prove crucial for Jones moving forward.
Last season, Jamaal Williams only had two such carries from that area of the field. Green Bay just selected a 6’0”, 247-pound locomotive in A.J. Dillon in the second round (No. 62 overall) of this year’s draft. Dillon’s stature alone could incentivize Matt LaFleur and the staff to use him in that area of the field, at least at a higher rate than they did with Williams.
For the season, Fournette’s -38.0 fantasy points scored in the red zone versus expected total based on his touches was the largest discrepancy in the league. He was seventh in expected points scored, but 27th among the players above in actual output. Fournette scored on just 3-of-8 carries inside of the 5-yard line and 3-of-7 carries from the 1-2 yard lines after scoring on 11-of-19 carries (57.9%) inside of the five and 10-of-15 (66.7%) carries from 1-2 yards out over his first two seasons in the league.
Fournette has some potential issues in rolling over his 2019 volume which we will get to shortly, but he is an objectively strong bet to score more touchdowns in 2020 while the 2019 Jaguars as a team were one of the biggest anomalies of the past decade in passing to rushing touchdown dispersal.
Derrick Henry has proven to be a touchdown machine at the NFL level. Henry has found the end zone in 45.2% of his career games played in the regular season and in 18 of his past 25 regular season games. Last season, the Titans were the best red zone team in the league since 2000 and Henry was part of the ride. Tennessee ran the second-fewest plays inside of the 10-yard line (41) and the fewest plays (16) in the entire league inside of the 5-yard line last season. Henry was 13th in expected points scored, but sixth in actual points scored. He did so while having just one target in the red zone all season, with that coming from the 13-yard line. Henry has converted 15-of-23 carries (65.2%) inside of the 5-yard line for scores the past two seasons while league rate has been 47.3% and Henry himself was at 40% through two NFL seasons.
Attached to the most efficient scoring offense since the 2007 Patriots, Mark Ingram was third in red zone fantasy production behind Aaron Jones and Christian McCaffrey while sixth in expected output. Where Ingram especially shined outside of the box for him was turning 12.7 expected receiving points into 34.2 actual points scored. In total no matter field position, Ingram caught five touchdown passes on 29 targets in 2019 after posting five touchdown receptions on 286 targets over the first eight seasons of his career.
Only Derrick Henry matched the eight touchdowns that Raheem Mostert scored Weeks 12-17 last season as Mostert found the end zone in all six of those final games of the regular season. The touchdown totals over that stretch were far above expectations considering that Mostert only had three total carries (two scores) and zero targets inside of the 10-yard line over that span, having additional rushing scores from 15, 40, 10, 16, and 13 yards on the ground with an 35-yard receiving touchdown to make up his other touchdowns scored over that timeframe.
Shifting to the bottom, the only player who had a worse red zone discrepancy compared to expectation than Nick Chubb was Fournette. After reaching the end zone six times through six games, Chubb scored in just two of his final 10 games played. Even with Kareem Hunt in the lineup over the final eight games of the season, Chubb handled 15-of-19 team rushing attempts inside of the 10-yard line while Hunt had just two.
Inside of the 5-yard line over that same span, Chubb had 10 of the 12 team carries while Hunt had just one. On those 10 carries for Chubb, he scored on zero of them. The base rate for the league in 2019 was converting 48.1% of carries inside of the five for touchdowns. It is worth noting too that Chubb created some of his own volume there by failing to reach the end zone on any of his six carries from the 1-2 yard lines versus Buffalo alone in Week 10, while having just four other carries inside of the 5-yard line over his other seven games over the back half of the season.
We covered what went into Alvin Kamara’s scoring depression a year ago here, as well as Joe Mixon’s here, so the final player we will touch on here is Saquon Barkley. Through two seasons, Barkley has now found himself in this club, finishing -11.0 and -16.7 red zone points scored below expectation. Through two years, Barkley has converted just 6-of-23 carries (26.1%) inside of the 5-yard line for scores and 6-of-14 (42.8%) carries from the 1-2 yard lines while the league rates over that span have been 47.3% and 54.5%.
The positive news is that nobody else on the Giants is getting those carries. Barkley has 14-of-17 running back carries from the 1-2 yard line when active and 23-of-26 carries inside of the five. Barkley has run cold in knocking in those short yardage opportunities for scores, but those touches are still largely an opportunity-driven game and Barkley has a grasp on them. Eventually he should spike back towards the base rate.
A few other random tidings as we close up shop….
No running back had more fantasy points scored from exactly the 1-yard line than Melvin Gordon (37.6 points). 24.7% of his total fantasy points scored on the season came from inside of the 5-yard line, which was behind only Jordan Howard (28.0%) among all backs here. At the bottom of that category, Chubb (4.2%), Miles Sanders (5.4%), Barkley (5.5%), Fournette (6.9%), Austin Ekeler (7.0%), and Kamara (7.5%) were the backs above that had fewer than 10% of their season long fantasy points come from inside of the 5-yard line.
Tevin Coleman had the largest individual yard line difference among backs last season, scoring +14 points from the 19-yard line as he scored two touchdowns on three carries there.
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