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Doug Orth | Archive | Email |
Staff Writer


Red Zone Report
Preseason Matchup Analysis
7/7/15

A d v e r t i s e m e n t

Touchdowns are the lifeblood of fantasy football. In most cases, they are highly volatile despite the fact that most play-callers endlessly scheme to make sure 2-3 players are the primary options in the red zone. There are many reasons for this, but it doesn’t change the fact that during a given NFL game, the unplanned happens with regularity. For example, a fullback may vulture the short score that was originally earmarked for the team’s goal-line specialist or a team’s fourth receiver gets a bit lucky on a tipped pass meant for another receiver and comes down with the ball in the end zone.

For the most part, one of the jobs of a successful fantasy football owner is to be able to discern what exactly can be considered lucky and what is repeatable. In other words, it is beneficial to place your chips on the event that is most likely to happen while also reducing the number of resources (i.e. players in your fantasy lineup) that essentially need to count on a breakdown or mistake from the defense to get their points. So how exactly do we measure this?

One of the older fantasy football adages is that more opportunities tend to lead to more success. Going into my fourth of measuring each team’s red-zone activity, my goal with the Red Zone Report is to break down what each of the 32 teams did inside the 20 last season – individually as well as a team – in an effort to give you some idea of what happened over the course of 2014 when offenses marched into scoring territory. What players were their team’s “bellcow”? Was Demaryius Thomas targeted on every red-zone throw or did it just seem like it? How often did Lamar Miller turn a run from inside the 20 into a touchdown? Which teams were balanced and which ones were unbalanced with their red-zone play-calling?

Information is typically what you make of it. As I spend the next month-plus in preparation for my Big Boards, I will refer to this article on a regular basis. While I focus mostly on what players may/should exploit their individual matchups in my projections, there is also something to be said about how stubborn a team is about running the ball in the red zone or fixated on 1-2 primary receivers near the goal line. Sustained success in fantasy football is all in the details and it has been my focus for years that no owner will have considered more variables in their analysis than I will.

Obviously, I just touched on a few of the applications for the data I’m about to present as I attempted to give both player and team equal time in my analysis. You will notice below that I have provided all the red-zone information from the team’s last four seasons so that each of you can observe your trends. I believe as the years pass, this information will be useful for the teams that retain their head coaches and/or offensive coordinators season after season. While I left some brief thoughts for each team, don’t hesitate to take a few minutes to review each category I have provided and try to understand why that team opted to do what it did and the possible resulting carryover for 2015.

With that out of the way, allow me to explain what each of the headers mean before we get started with my overview on each team’s red-zone attack philosophy last season:

Att – Pass Attempts
Cmp – Completions
PaTD – Pass TD
PaTD % - The rate at which a red-zone pass attempt resulted in a red-zone touchdown pass
RuAtt – Rush Attempt
RuAtt % - The percentage of red-zone carries a player had for his team (For example, Andre Ellington secured 14 of Arizona’s 52 red-zone carries, meaning he had 14.3% of his team’s red-zone rushing attempts.)
RuTD – Rush TD
RuTD % - The rate at which a red-zone rush attempt resulted in a red-zone touchdown run
Tar – Red-zone targets
Tar % - The percentage of red-zone targets a player had for his team (For example, Larry Fitzgerald secured 24 of Arizona’s 68 red-zone passing attempts, meaning he had 34.3% of his team’s red-zone targets.)
Rec – Red-zone receptions
ReTD – Receiving TD
ReTD% - The rate at which a red-zone reception resulted in a red-zone touchdown reception
RZ Pass % - The percentage that an offense attempted a pass in the red zone
Pass % - The percentage that an offense attempted a pass, regardless of field position
RZ Run % - The percentage that an offense attempted a run in the red zone
Run % - The percentage that an offense attempted a run, regardless of field position

Note: the very detailed-oriented readers will notice that the targets do not always equal the number of pass attempts in the “totals” row. This discrepancy comes as a result of occurrences such as clock-killing “spikes” in the red zone that do not have an intended receiver.

ARI | ATL | BAL | BUF | CAR | CHI | CIN | CLE | DAL | DEN | DET | GB | HOU | IND | JAX | KC
MIA | MIN | NE | NO | NYG | NYJ | OAK | PHI | PIT | SD | SEA | SF | STL | TB | TEN | WAS


 Arizona Cardinals
Pos Player Att Comp PaTD PaTD% RuAtt RuAtt% RuTD RuTD% Tar Tar % Rec ReTD ReTD % RZ Pass % Pass % RZ Run % Run %
QB Carson Palmer  30 16 6 20
QB Ryan Lindley  5 2 0 0
QB Drew Stanton  24 12 2 8.3 4 10.5 0 0
RB Andre Ellington  18 47.4 3 16.7 5 8.3 4 1 25
RB Stepfan Taylor  5 13.2 1 20 4 6.7 4 3 75
RB Jonathan Dwyer  5 13.2 1 20
RB Kerwynn Williams  1 2.6 0 0 2 3.3 1 0 0
RB Marion Grice  1 0 0 0 5 13.2 1 20 3 5 1 0 0
RB Robert Hughes  2 3.3 1 0 0
WR Jaron Brown  6 10 5 1 20
WR John Brown  6 10 2 1 50
WR Larry Fitzgerald  10 16.7 7 0 0
WR Ted Ginn  2 3.3 0 0 0
WR Michael Floyd  5 8.3 1 1 100
TE John Carlson  8 13.3 3 1 33.3
TE Rob Housler  4 6.7 1 0 0
TE Troy Niklas  1 1.7 0 0 0
2014 Totals 60 30 8 13.33% 38 100.1 6 15.79% 58 96.6 30 8 26.67% 61.22% 58.86% 38.78% 41.14%
2013 Totals 70 38 15 21.43% 52 98.1 11 21.15% 68 97.1 38 15 39.47% 57.38% 57.63% 42.62% 42.37%
2012 Totals 57 25 7 12.28% 45 97.9 9 20.00% 57 100.1 25 7 28.00% 55.88% 63.34% 44.12% 36.66%
2011 Totals 51 27 11 21.57% 52 99.9 12 23.08% 49 96.1 27 11 40.74% 49.51% 60.83% 50.49% 39.17%

Overview: Arizona did not have a reliable quarterback or a proven red-zone runner for most of last season. Predictably, the Cardinals’ efficiency inside the 20 suffered once Palmer (ACL) was ruled out for the season after Week 10 and the numbers from HC Bruce Arians’ first season in charge declined considerably as a result. Fitzgerald experienced the biggest drop-off of any one single player, going from 15 catches on 24 red-zone targets and six touchdowns in 2013 to seven, 10 and zero, respectively. It doesn’t speak well to the long-term prospects or trust the team has in Floyd that the recently-retired Carlson was the team’s second-most targeted player in an offense that doesn’t really use the tight end much in the passing game.

How it affects 2015: Arians made it quite clear early on last season that he felt the offense no longer had to force the ball to Fitzgerald (in the red zone or anywhere else) and I don’t expect that to change in 2015, especially considering how high the team appears to be on John Brown. While the tight end position was targeted 17 times in 2013 and 13 in 2014, last year’s numbers would appear to be the ceiling of what Arizona should expect at the position this year with Carlson and Housler no longer around. Look for Niklas to replace Carlson’s totals, with the remaining 5-10 extra opportunities getting split between third-round rookie RB David Johnson, Ellington or John Brown. Although Johnson is bigger than Ellington and could conceivably take over goal-line carries from him, I expect Taylor, Grice or another back not already on the roster to handle those responsibilities in an effort to keep the top two backs healthy this year.


 Atlanta Falcons
Pos Player Att Comp PaTD PaTD % RuAtt RuAtt % RuTD RuTD % Tar Tar % Rec ReTD ReTD % RZ Pass % Pass % RZ Run % Run %
QB Matt Ryan  60 38 19 31.7
RB Steven Jackson  32 68.1 6 18.8 1 1.7 0 0 0
RB Jacquizz Rodgers  8 17 1 12.5 3 5 2 1 50
RB Devonta Freeman  3 6.4 0 0 5 8.3 4 1 25
RB Antone Smith  3 6.4 0 0 1 1.7 1 0 0
RB Patrick DiMarco  4 6.7 1 1 100
WR Roddy White  13 21.7 9 6 66.7
WR Julio Jones  11 18.3 7 2 28.6
WR Harry Douglas  7 11.7 5 2 40
WR Devin Hester  1 2.1 0 0 7 11.7 3 1 33.3
WR Eric Weems  2 3.3 2 2 100
TE Levine Toilolo  5 8.3 3 2 66.7
TE Bear Pascoe 1 1.7 1 1 100
2014 Totals 60 38 19 31.67% 47 100 7 14.89% 60 100.1 38 19 50.00% 56.07% 62.95% 43.93% 37.05%
2013 Totals 93 51 19 20.43% 51 100.1 8 15.69% 91 98.1 51 19 37.25% 64.58% 67.24% 35.42% 32.76%
2012 Totals 82 54 24 29.27% 78 100 11 14.10% 80 97.4 53 23 43.40% 51.25% 61.93% 48.75% 38.07%
2011 Totals 79 38 18 22.78% 83 100 12 14.46% 77 97.6 38 18 47.37% 48.77% 57.78% 51.23% 42.22%

Overview: The Falcons struggled mightily to run the ball last year and that certainly was the case inside the 20 as well. Additionally, it should never come as a surprise whenever a team with two of the better receivers in the league is able to turn half of their red-zone catches into touchdowns. Jackson proved more than capable of converting short runs into scores when he got the chance, but the team’s overall opportunities inside the 20 took a sizeable hit from 144 (and 160-plus the two prior years) to just 107 in 2014. No one expected Toilolo to replace Tony Gonzalez, but even Atlanta had to be a bit disappointed that he ran more routes (457) than Rob Gronkowski (445) and finished with only 31 catches, 238 yards – a 7.7 YPC average –and two TDs.

How it affects 2015: In new OC Kyle Shanahan’s last three seasons as a play-caller (2012-13 with Washington and 2014 with Cleveland), his offenses have sported red-zone run-pass ratios of 85-44 (Robert Griffin III’s rookie year), 58-65 and 72-42. There’s little question the 2015 Falcons possess more skill-position talent – especially at quarterback and receiver – than any other offense Shanahan has called plays for in Houston, Washington and Cleveland, so a more balanced approach figures to be the way to go. In 2011 and 2013, Shanahan’s offense had no problem peppering his top receiver with a ton of red-zone targets (18 for Jabar Gaffney in 2011, 19 for Pierre Garcon in 2013), which should make Jones’ owners giddy since he is a superior talent and has a better quarterback at his disposal. Where things will get interesting is on the ground, where Freeman and third-round RB Tevin Coleman are both smallish backs. With Jones a physically dominant receiver and two backs not ideally suited for moving the pile, does that mean Atlanta gets pass-happy inside the 20 this year? I think there is a really strong case to be made for that happening.


 Baltimore Ravens
Pos Player Att Comp PaTD PaTD % RuAtt RuAtt % RuTD RuTD % Tar Tar % Rec ReTD ReTD % RZ Pass % Pass % RZ Run % Run %
QB Joe Flacco  70 34 18 25.7 12 13.5 2 16.7
RB Justin Forsett  39 43.8 7 17.9 3 4.3 0 0  0
RB Lorenzo Taliaferro  16 18 4 25
RB F. Toussaint  2 2.2 0 0 1 1.4 1 0 0
RB Kyle Juszczyk  6 8.6 3 1 33.3
RB Bernard Pierce  19 21.3 2 10.5
WR Torrey Smith  13 18.6 8 6 75
WR Kamar Aiken  6 8.6 5 3 60
WR Steve Smith  18 25.7 8 2 25
WR M. Campanaro  2 2.9 1 1 100
WR Jacoby Jones  1 1.1 0 0
TE Owen Daniels  12 17.1 7 4 57.1
TE Crockett Gillmore  3 4.3 1 1 100
TE Dennis Pitta  3 4.3 0 0  0
2014 Totals 70 34 18 25.71% 89 99.9 15 16.85% 67 95.8 34 18 52.94% 44.03% 55.29% 55.97% 44.71%
2013 Totals 75 36 17 22.67% 62 100.1 7 11.29% 74 98.5 36 17 47.22% 54.74% 59.40% 45.26% 40.60%
2012 Totals 50 22 11 22.00% 61 98.3 15 24.59% 49 98 22 11 50.00% 45.05% 55.78% 54.95% 44.22%
2011 Totals 55 23 12 21.82% 67 99.9 13 19.40% 54 98.1 23 12 52.17% 45.08% 55.69% 54.92% 44.31%

Overview: It is nearly useless to try to predict any patterns with Baltimore’s offense simply because new OC Marc Trestman will be the third different play-caller the team has had to start a season in as many years. Former OC Gary Kubiak’s influence on the running game really showed in the red zone, where the Ravens nearly flip-flopped their run-pass ratio. The other notable Kubiak influences were Daniels’ 12 red-zone targets and stunningly-low 10 combined targets between the running backs, with the majority of those going to Juszczyk. Steve Smith’s 18 targets inside the 20 led the team last year and is pretty surprising considering: 1) his size and 2) how efficient Torrey Smith was when he was given the chance.

How it affects 2015: With much more proven skill-position players and an erratic quarterback, Trestman’s red-zone run-pass ratios over his two year stint in Chicago were 69-84 (2013) and 44-78 (2014). It would take a philosophical change of epic proportions for the Ravens to repeat their red-zone numbers from a season ago and, as such, expect a shift back to the 2013 numbers inside the 20 with a heavy emphasis placed on getting the ball out to the running backs in space and utilizing WR Marlon Brown’s 6-5 frame. As a point of reference for the running backs, Matt Forte had 12 and 13 red-zone targets over the last two years, respectively. Flacco hasn’t thrown more than 75 passes inside the 20 in the four years I’ve conducted this analysis, but it is a fair bet that he will do so this year, although much of that will depend on how far WR Breshad Perriman is able to expand his game in his rookie year. The team probably can’t count on much more out of Gillmore or second-round pick TE Maxx Williams and obviously can’t bank on Pitta’s return, so there should be plenty of opportunities for Flacco to make three receivers and at least one receiver relevant in fantasy.

 Buffalo Bills
Pos Player Att Comp PaTD PaTD % RuAtt RuAtt % RuTD RuTD % Tar Tar % Rec ReTD ReTD % RZ Pass % Pass % RZ Run % Run %
QB Kyle Orton  52 27 11 21.2 3 5.3 1 33.3
QB EJ Manuel  16 7 4 25 5 8.8 1 20
RB Fred Jackson  26 45.6 2 7.7 7 10.3 3 1 33.3
RB Anthony Dixon  13 22.8 1 7.7 2 2.9 2 0 0
RB C.J. Spiller  3 5.3 0 0 2 2.9 2 1 50
RB Frank Summers  4 7 1 25 1 1.5 1 0 0
RB Bryce Brown  3 5.3 0 0 2 2.9 1 0 0
WR Robert Woods  12 17.6 7 3 42.9
WR Chris Hogan  9 13.2 5 3 60
WR Sammy Watkins  10 14.7 4 3 75
WR Marquise Goodwin  1 1.5 0 0 0
WR Mike Williams  5 7.4 0 0 0
TE Scott Chandler  11 16.2 6 2 33.3
TE Chris Gragg  2 2.9 1 1 100
TE Lee Smith  1 1.5 1 1 100
TE MarQueis Gray  1 1.5 1 0 0
2014 Totals 68 34 15 22.06% 57 100.1 6 10.53% 66 97 34 15 44.12% 54.40% 59.02% 45.60% 40.98%
2013 Totals 39 17 8 20.51% 92 99.5 13 14.13% 36 90.1 17 8 47.06% 29.77% 48.88% 70.23% 51.12%
2012 Totals 53 30 14 26.42% 46 100 10 21.74% 52 98.2 30 14 46.67% 53.54% 53.62% 46.46% 46.38%
2011 Totals 79 42 20 25.32% 57 100 8 14.04% 76 96.3 42 20 47.62% 58.09% 60.58% 41.91% 39.42%

Overview: The dramatic shift from the red-zone run-pass ratio from ex-HC Doug Marrone’s first season (92-39) to his second and final season (57-68) would usually suggest that a quarterback was beginning to earn the trust of his play-caller in his second season, but such was not the case in Buffalo last year. While Orton played at a much higher level than Manuel did the previous year and Watkins quickly emerged as the most dangerous threat for the Bills, the fact of the matter is that Buffalo’s offensive line disappointed. Perhaps there was no better proof of the decline of the front five than in Jackson’s RuTD%, which dropped from 20.9 in 2013 to 7.7 last season. Somehow, Woods and Chandler ended up with more red-zone targets than Watkins, something that I should not have to type again. All in all, the Bills should feel fortunate that Marrone decided to opt out of his contract.

How it affects 2015: Perhaps no team did a better job of upgrading its skill-position talent (outside of quarterback) this offseason than Buffalo, which added two game-breaking talents in RB LeSean McCoy and WR Percy Harvin as well as a dependable short-to-intermediate option in TE Charles Clay. The offensive line should be slightly improved at the very least, leaving quarterback as the biggest question. New OC Greg Roman, formerly of the 49ers, will almost certainly attempt oversee one of the more lopsided red-zone run-pass ratios in the league to address that very shortcoming. I suspect McCoy will see a Jackson-like (circa 2013) 43 carries inside the 20 – and quite possibly more – with about another 5-8 red-zone targets. There is some question as to whether or not Jackson will even make the team this year, further cementing McCoy’s workhorse role. A healthy Watkins should be in line for a healthy bump to about 15-18 targets while Clay and Harvin each draw around 10.

 Carolina Panthers
Pos Player Att Comp PaTD PaTD % RuAtt RuAtt % RuTD RuTD % Tar Tar % Rec ReTD ReTD % RZ Pass % Pass % RZ Run % Run %
QB Cam Newton  38 19 10 26.3 19 29.2 5 26.3
QB Derek Anderson  15 8 3 20 2 3.1 0 0
RB Jonathan Stewart  18 27.7 2 11.1 1 1.9 1 1 100
RB DeAngelo Williams  6 9.2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
RB Darrin Reaves  7 10.8 0 0 1 1.9 0 0 0
RB Mike Tolbert  9 13.8 0 0 1 1.9 0 0 0
RB Fozzy Whittaker  2 3.1 1 50
RB Chris Ogbonnaya  2 2.7 1 50
WR Kelvin Benjamin  15 28.3 4 3 75
WR Jerricho Cotchery  6 11.3 5 1 20
WR Jason Avant  3 5.7 2 1 50
WR Brenton Bersin  2 3.8 2 1 50
WR Philly Brown  2 3.8 0 0 0
TE Greg Olsen  14 26.4 10 5 50
TE Ed Dickson  3 5.7 2 1 50
TE Brandon Williams  3 5.7 1 0 0
2014 Totals 53 27 13 24.53% 65 99.6 9 13.85% 51 96.4 27 13 48.15% 44.92% 53.54% 55.08% 46.46%
2013 Totals 54 28 17 31.48% 88 100 12 13.64% 53 98.3 28 17 60.71% 38.03% 49.48% 61.97% 50.52%
2012 Totals 57 20 8 14.04% 75 100 18 24.00% 57 100.2 20 8 40.00% 43.18% 51.47% 56.82% 48.53%
2011 Totals 59 26 13 22.03% 68 98.5 18 26.47% 57 96.6 26 13 50.00% 46.46% 57.98% 53.54% 42.02%

Overview: It’s hard to say a NFC South title run was a wasted year for the Panthers, but it probably felt that way for Newton’s fantasy owners as he dealt with a host of injuries as well as a leaky offensive line in 2014. Somehow, he was a more efficient red-zone rusher last season, but seven fewer red-zone passing scores and 18 fewer rushing attempts inside the 20 are the numbers that stand out the most in regards to Carolina’s newest $100-million man. The volume that had been present in the Panthers’ run game was also lacking last season thanks to an ailing Newton, although one has to wonder how Stewart shared so many red-zone touches with so many other backs. One possible reason: Stewart must be able to score more than two times in 18 rushing attempts inside the 20. As for the receivers and tight ends, Benjamin (28.3 percent) and Olsen (26.4) accounted for over half of the team’s targets in the red zone, which actually is probably a bit lower than many expected.

How it affects 2015: Newton is an aging 26-year-old in terms of the punishment his body has taken through four NFL seasons, but Carolina GM Dave Gettleman told the Charlotte Observer in late May that “you don’t hold back a thoroughbred”. Since Cam is “as healthy as he’s been in a long time” according the Observer, expect a top 5-10 finish at his position as the Panthers hitch their wagon to their talented quarterback as long as they can. The addition of second-round WR Devin Funchess should steal targets away from Benjamin and Olsen in theory, but I don’t think that is a given. Perhaps the rookie and Cotchery share the No. 2 receiver role for the first half of the season and perhaps Funchess takes advantage of defenses committing too many resources to Benjamin and Olsen early on, although I think the two veterans will still be the clear winners in the red-zone race when the season is over. While I do expect Stewart to lead the team in red-zone touches, he will probably remain frustrating to own given his propensity for injury and the fact he will continue to lose goal-line chances to Newton.

 Chicago Bears
Pos Player Att Comp PaTD PaTD % RuAtt RuAtt % RuTD RuTD % Tar Tar % Rec ReTD ReTD % RZ Pass % Pass % RZ Run % Run %
QB Jay Cutler  75 37 21 28 3 6.8 2 66.7
QB Jimmy Clausen  3 1 1 33.3
RB Matt Forte  40 90.9 6 15 13 16.7 8 3 37.5
RB Ka’Deem Carey  1 2.3 0 0
WR Alshon Jeffery  21 26.9 9 6 66.7
WR Brandon Marshall  15 19.2 7 6 85.7
WR Marquess Wilson  3 3.8 1 1 100
WR Josh Morgan  3 3.8 2 1 50
WR Santonio Holmes  1 1.3 0 0  0
TE Martellus Bennett  21 26.9 11 5 45.5
2014 Totals 78 38 22 28.21% 44 100 8 18.18% 77 98.6 38 22 57.89% 63.93% 63.17% 36.07% 36.83%
2013 Totals 84 44 25 29.76% 69 99.9 10 14.49% 83 98.8 44 25 56.82% 54.90% 58.90% 45.10% 41.10%
2012 Totals 52 27 13 25.00% 60 100 10 16.67% 51 97.9 26 13 50.00% 46.43% 50.79% 53.57% 49.21%
2011 Totals 44 21 10 22.73% 52 99.9 9 17.31% 41 93.3 20 10 50.00% 45.83% 53.37% 54.17% 46.63%

Overview: Former HC Marc Trestman was good for Forte in a number of ways, in part because Forte was able to prove he was a capable goal-line back and because Trestman likely extended the 29-year-old’s career by using him so often as a receiver out of the backfield. The two-time Pro Bowler handled 90 carries and 25 targets in the red zone during the Trestman era – numbers which are sure to decline somewhat under new OC Adam Gase. It is impossible to get a sense of just how much the Bears’ lopsided run-pass ratio inside the 20 was a product of their pathetic defense in 2014, but it sure didn’t help matters. Thanks to Marshall’s injuries, Jeffery proved he was ready for the responsibility of being a No. 1 receiver while Bennett tied Jimmy Graham for the most red-zone targets by a tight end.

How it affects 2015: It doesn’t make a lot of sense to predict what Gase will do for the Bears based on his recent history since Cutler isn’t ever going to be mistaken for Peyton Manning, but it is fair to say that new HC John Fox and Gase will probably strive for more balance inside the 20 in their first season in Chicago. Expecting Forte to top 40 red-zone carries again is probably a bit much to ask though, as Fox has a long history of using committee backfields whenever he has the opportunity to do so. No one should expect the Bears to utilize a true committee, however. It would be an upset if the combination of Carey, fourth-round rookie Jeremy Langford or ex-Falcon Jacquizz Rodgers see more than a quarter of the running back snaps and I expect that to be the case near the goal line as well. Jeffery’s volume should hold somewhat steady and Eddie Royal could steal more looks than most are expecting, but it should come as no surprise if the red-zone pecking order ends up in the following order: Jeffery, Bennett, Forte and then No. 7 overall pick Kevin White (or Royal). Unless the defense is historically bad again, it seems unlikely Cutler will be able to support two fantasy-relevant receivers and a tight end on a regular basis.

 Cincinnati Bengals
Pos Player Att Comp PaTD PaTD % RuAtt RuAtt % RuTD RuTD % Tar Tar % Rec ReTD ReTD % RZ Pass % Pass % RZ Run % Run %
QB Andy Dalton  51 28 12 23.5 11 13.9 3 27.3 1 1.9 1 1 100
RB Jeremy Hill  33 41.8 7 21.2
RB Giovani Bernard  30 38 4 13.3 4 7.7 4 1 25
RB Rex Burkhead  3 3.8 1 33.3
RB Cedric Peerman  1 1.3 0 0
WR A.J. Green  1 1.3 0 0 11 21.2 6 3 50
WR Mohamed Sanu  1 1 1 100 15 28.8 6 2 33.3
WR Brandon Tate  2 3.8 1 1 100
WR Greg Little  2 3.8 1 0 0
WR D. Sanzenbacher  1 1.9 0 0 0
TE Jermaine Gresham  13 25 9 5 55.6
TE Kevin Brock  1 1.9 1 0 0
2014 Totals 52 29 13 25.00% 79 100.1 15 18.99% 50 96 29 13 44.83% 39.69% 50.55% 60.31% 49.45%
2013 Totals 65 40 21 32.31% 57 99.9 13 22.81% 64 98.4 40 21 52.50% 53.28% 54.96% 46.72% 45.04%
2012 Totals 72 38 20 27.78% 70 98.6 11 15.71% 70 100.7 38 20 52.63% 50.70% 55.67% 49.30% 44.33%
2011 Totals 65 34 15 23.08% 70 100 8 11.43% 62 95.3 34 15 44.12% 48.15% 55.17% 51.85% 44.83%

Overview: A number of teams fail to get one runner 30 carries in the red zone; the Bengals had two last year. While some of that is a function of Green’s injury-plagued season as well as the fact that Bernard and Hill pretty much split the feature-back role, much of the credit for Cincinnati’s impressive distinction can be credited to the transition from former OC Jay Gruden to power-running enthusiast Hue Jackson in 2014. (Cincinnati and Cleveland were the only two teams in the league to run the ball on over 60 percent of their red-zone plays.) Injuries to WR Marvin Jones and TE Tyler Eifert meant players like Sanu and Gresham became unexpected primary red-zone options, but it appears as if Jackson could care less about throwing to his backs inside the 20 – all four of the Bengals’ red-zone targets to halfbacks went to Bernard.

How it affects 2015: A healthy Green changes everything for the Bengals, but it is a pretty solid bet Cincinnati will run more than it will pass inside the 20 for as long as Jackson is in charge of the offense. Sanu will not lead the team in red-zone targets again and Gresham is gone, which should free up enough targets to get Green back over 20, Eifert around 12-15 and Jones around 10-12. It should not come as a surprise if Hill ends up with nearly 50 red-zone carries (stealing half of Bernard’s attempts) and finishes among the league leaders in the category. Bernard is one of the better handcuff options in fantasy and will have those weeks that drive Hill’s owners crazy, but it would seem Cincinnati wants to put its fortunes in Hill’s hands on a more regular basis in scoring territory. There is talk of getting Burkhead more involved in the offense, but owners will most likely (and rightfully) take a believe-it-when-I-see-it approach.

 Cleveland Browns
Pos Player Att Comp PaTD PaTD % RuAtt RuAtt % RuTD RuTD % Tar Tar % Rec ReTD ReTD % RZ Pass % Pass % RZ Run % Run %
QB Brian Hoyer  40 21 8 20 5 6.9 0 0
QB Johnny Manziel  1 0 0 0 1 1.4 1 100
QB Connor Shaw  1 0 0 0
RB Isaiah Crowell  15 20.8 7 46.7
RB Ben Tate  23 32.2 4 16
RB Terrance West  26 36.1 4 15.4 4 9.5 3 1 33.3
RB Ray Agnew  1 1.4 0 0 1 2.4 0 0 0
WR Travis Benjamin  5 11.9 3 3 100
WR Miles Austin  5 11.9 2 2 100
WR Andrew Hawkins  7 16.7 6 1 16.7
WR Taylor Gabriel  1 1.4 0 0 9 21.4 5 0 0
WR Josh Gordon  3 7.1 0 0 0
TE Jordan Cameron  3 7.1 0 0 0
TE Jim Dray  3 7.1 2 1 50
TE Gary Barnidge  1 2.4 0 0 0
2014 Totals 42 21 8 19.05% 72 100.2 16 22.22% 41 97.5 21 8 38.10% 36.84% 51.28% 63.16% 48.72%
2013 Totals 74 32 15 20.27% 52 99.7 4 7.69% 72 97.4 32 15 46.88% 58.73% 66.18% 41.27% 33.82%
2012 Totals 48 21 7 14.58% 50 100 10 20.00% 48 100.3 21 7 33.33% 48.98% 58.84% 51.02% 41.16%
2011 Totals 47 25 10 21.28% 52 99.9 3 5.77% 45 95.8 24 10 41.67% 47.47% 59.47% 52.53% 40.53%

Overview: One year after then-OC Norv Turner relied upon Gordon to carry an offense that led the NFL in passing attempts, 2014 play-caller Kyle Shanahan turned to a running game that finished sixth in the league in rushing attempts. Unsurprisingly, those differences were reflected in the red-zone play-calling habits of both highly-respected offensive bosses. The ground attack was exponentially more successful under Shanahan, who bolted for Atlanta this offseason. Three backs handled at least 15 carries inside the 20, which is almost as unheard of as the Bengal-like five targets spread among their four halfbacks. Gabriel – a 5-8, 167-pound backup receiver – led the team with nine red-zone targets while 5-10, 175-pound Benjamin – a fellow backup wideout known more for his abilities as a returner and deep threat – paced the team with three such scores. Both facts underscore just how pathetic Cleveland’s options behind Gordon and Cameron were last year.

How it affects 2015: Given the fact that new OC John DeFilippo is a former college quarterback and has spent most of his coaching career tutoring the position, one might be led to believe that his leaning would be towards the passing game. That’s going to be a hard sell in Cleveland this year, however, because it would mean the team would be relying on QB Josh McCown, WRs Dwayne Bowe and Brian Hartline and TE Rob Housler – all newcomers – to carry the offense. So unlike predecessors Turner and Shanahan, trying to predict DeFilippo’s plan of attack will be a guessing game at best. HC Mike Pettine was supposedly the driving force behind the weekly merry-go-round at running back last year and it seems like a good bet he will instruct DeFilippo to hide the passing game as much as possible when the target is not third-round RB Duke Johnson, who reportedly was Cleveland’s best running back in the offseason, or Hawkins, who is probably the only wideout of the top three that can be realistically expected to get open on a regular basis. But how much can we expect him to contribute in the red zone from the slot in scoring territory with Bowe and Hartline likely penciled in as the primary receivers? Cleveland’s red-zone ratios should end up mirroring last year’s, but DeFilippo is going to need a lot of luck and creativity to get his ground game to match Shanahan’s from a season ago.

 Dallas Cowboys
Pos Player Att Comp PaTD PaTD % RuAtt RuAtt % RuTD RuTD % Tar Tar % Rec ReTD ReTD % RZ Pass % Pass % RZ Run % Run %
QB Tony Romo  50 32 19 38
QB Brandon Weeden  6 2 1 16.7
RB DeMarco Murray  56 94.9 12 21.4 4 7.1 4 0 0
RB Joseph Randle  2 3.4 1 50
RB Lance Dunbar  1 1.7 0 0 2 3.6 2 0 0
WR Dez Bryant  14 25 8 8 100
WR Terrance Williams  12 21.4 7 5 71.4
WR Cole Beasley  6 10.7 5 1 20
WR Dwayne Harris  1 1.8 0 0 0
WR Devin Street  1 1.8 1 0 0
TE Gavin Escobar  6 10.7 3 3 100
TE Jason Witten  8 14.3 4 3 75
TE James Hanna  1 1.8 0 0 0
2014 Totals 56 34 20 35.71% 59 100 13 22.03% 55 98.2 34 20 58.82% 48.70% 48.37% 51.30% 51.63%
2013 Totals 66 40 22 33.33% 53 100 12 22.64% 65 98.4 40 22 55.00% 55.46% 63.56% 44.54% 36.44%
2012 Totals 75 36 15 20.00% 40 100 7 17.50% 73 97.3 36 15 41.67% 65.22% 64.96% 34.78% 35.04%
2011 Totals 74 43 20 27.03% 60 99.9 4 6.67% 70 94.8 40 20 50.00% 55.22% 59.88% 44.78% 40.12%

Overview: Dallas’ efficiency inside the 20 last year was off the charts. Few quarterbacks are able to convert more than a quarter of their red-zone pass attempts into touchdowns and few teams are able to score on over 20 percent of their red-zone rush attempts, so it is quite impressive the Cowboys were able to clear both hurdles rather easily and speaks to the attention Bryant attracts just about as much as it does to the quality of their highly-regarded offensive line. It should come as a bit of a shock that Williams finished with only two fewer targets inside the 20 than Bryant and four more than Witten. With Romo telling the Fort Worth Star-Telegram in mid-June how impressive Williams’ offseason has been to this point, perhaps the Baylor product will evolve into something more than a deep threat this year. At 6-2 and 208 pounds, he should be able to hold up if he is asked to shoulder more responsibility.

How it affects 2015: It’s a big deal whenever a team loses 94.9 percent of whatever it did last season, so let’s not pretend – as the Cowboys have – that Dallas will not miss a beat in the running game this year without Murray. Yes, the ‘Boys will still run it better than most and should be able to get something out of Darren McFadden, but they simply would not have given the new Eagles’ back 60 of their 115 red-zone opportunities (including his four targets) if Murray wasn’t clearly the best option. Randle was drafted in part because owner Jerry Jones felt the Oklahoma State product “mirrored” Murray, so consider that in addition to whatever news comes out of training camp and the preseason regarding the depth chart at running back. It is safe to say that while Randle and McFadden may come close to totaling Murray’s production together (red zone or otherwise), neither will come anywhere close to doing it by himself. Are there any questions about Bryant’s nose for the end zone? All eight of his red-zone receptions went for scores. There are two questions I would like to have answered for the upcoming season: 1) how much will Beasley’s role expand (and will it include red-zone work)? and 2) do the Cowboys continue to utilize a lot of two-tight sets, thereby allowing Escobar to steal more scoring opportunities from Witten?

 Denver Broncos
Pos Player Att Comp PaTD PaTD % RuAtt RuAtt % RuTD RuTD % Tar Tar % Rec ReTD ReTD % RZ Pass % Pass % RZ Run % Run %
QB Peyton Manning  105 69 25 23.8 4 6.3 0 0
QB Brock Osweiler  1 1 1 100
RB C.J. Anderson  22 34.9 7 31.8 7 6.6 7 1 14.3
RB Ronnie Hillman  13 20.6 2 15.4 7 6.6 4 1 25
RB Juwan Thompson  12 19 3 25
RB Montee Ball  9 14.3 1 11.1 2 1.9 1 0 0
RB Jeremy Stewart  3 4.8 0 0
WR D. Thomas  39 36.8 18 6 33.3
WR E. Sanders  19 17.9 16 6 37.5
WR Wes Welker  9 8.5 6 1 16.7
WR Andre Caldwell  1 0.9 1 0 0
TE Julius Thomas  15 14.2 13 9 69.2
TE Virgil Green  1 0.9 1 1 100
TE Jacob Tamme  6 5.7 3 1 33.3
2014 Totals 106 70 26 24.53% 63 99.9 13 20.63% 106 100 70 26 37.14% 62.72% 57.81% 37.28% 42.19%
2013 Totals 110 79 37 33.64% 71 100 14 19.72% 110 99.9 79 37 46.84% 60.77% 59.42% 39.23% 40.58%
2012 Totals 82 47 27 32.93% 76 100 12 15.79% 80 97.5 46 26 56.52% 51.90% 55.01% 48.10% 44.99%
2011 Totals 45 23 11 24.44% 40 100 6 15.00% 45 100.1 23 11 47.83% 52.94% 53.69% 47.06% 46.31%

Overview: Entering my fourth year of this study, I had yet to see a player collect more than 29 red-zone targets (Roddy White, 2011) until Demaryius Thomas posted an astronomical 39 in 2014. (We’ll get to another player that topped 30 later on.) It’s an absurd number for one player to have and a small wonder how DT managed only 11 total touchdowns. To put his 18 receptions inside the 20 last year in further perspective, he would have ranked tied for third on a targets list of receivers/tight ends we have covered to this point; his 39 red-zone targets tripled Detroit’s Calvin Johnson’s total. Sanders was much more efficient, nearly matching his counterpart in catches inside the 20 while tying him in TD receptions despite seeing 20 fewer targets. Julius Thomas was insanely productive and efficient for the second straight year, improving his ReTD% from 57.1 in 2013 to 69.2 in 2014 as a result of the attention the receivers attracted. Anderson’s RuTD% is almost as ridiculous as DT’s target total. Most of the top backs’ RuTD% tops out somewhere in the low 20s, but Anderson’s 31.8 – obviously aided somewhat by the fact he didn’t get featured until the second half of the season – is impressive by any measure. It is also very likely unsustainable.

How it affects 2015: It would be wrong to suggest the Broncos won’t see insane red-zone numbers again this year, but they will have to come as a result of efficiency – and not volume – under new HC Gary Kubiak. In 2012 as Houston’s boss and offensive play-caller, Kubiak called upon Arian Foster 74 times in the red zone (and he was targeted nine more times as a receiver). All this is to say that Manning probably won’t be attempting 100 throws inside the 20 and Anderson probably shouldn’t be asked to channel 2012 Foster either, so the Broncos should see the most balance they’ve had in their offense since Manning arrived three years ago. Green and Owen Daniels should absorb the majority of the targets left behind by Julius Thomas while Demaryius Thomas and Sanders will probably lose anywhere from 15-20 total targets to the rushing attack, most notably Anderson. Welker’s targets could end up going to the same place or second-year WR Cody Latimer, who will probably steal a few snaps here and there from DT and Sanders throughout the season.

 Detroit Lions
Pos Player Att Comp PaTD PaTD % RuAtt RuAtt % RuTD RuTD % Tar Tar % Rec ReTD ReTD % RZ Pass % Pass % RZ Run % Run %
QB Matthew Stafford  76 39 15 19.7 3 4.8 2 66.7
RB Joique Bell  41 66.1 7 17.1 8 10.5 5 1 20
RB Theo Riddick  3 4.8 0 0 10 13.2 8 4 50
RB Reggie Bush  9 14.5 1 11.1 11 14.5 5 0 0
RB George Winn  2 3.2 0 0
RB Jed Collins  3 4.8 0 0 1 1.3 1 1 100
WR Calvin Johnson  13 17.1 4 4 100
WR Golden Tate  1 1.6 0 0 11 14.5 9 2 22.2
WR Corey Fuller  3 3.9 1 1 100
WR Jeremy Ross  3 3.9 1 0 0
WR Ryan Broyles  1 1.3 1 0 0
TE Eric Ebron  5 6.6 2 1 50
TE Joseph Fauria  6 7.9 2 1 50
TE Brandon Pettigrew  2 2.6 0 0  0
TE Jordan Thompson  1 1.3 0 0  0
2014 Totals 76 39 15 19.74% 62 99.8 10 16.13% 75 98.6 39 15 38.46% 55.07% 60.40% 44.93% 39.60%
2013 Totals 78 39 21 26.92% 56 96.5 14 25.00% 78 99.9 40 22 55.00% 58.21% 58.76% 41.79% 41.24%
2012 Totals 88 42 16 18.18% 56 98.3 16 28.57% 86 97.7 42 16 38.10% 61.11% 65.43% 38.89% 34.57%
2011 Totals 100 50 29 29.00% 50 100 8 16.00% 98 98 50 29 58.00% 66.67% 66.35% 33.33% 33.65%

Overview: Success and failure in the league tends not to center around a single player, but it is hard not to notice that Detroit suffered a lot because it could not give a banged-up Megatron his usual 20-plus targets inside the red zone. Fortunately, the Lions had Tate to help them in that regard, but one quick look at Johnson (four red-zone catches, four scores) versus Tate (nine, two) should give everyone a pretty clear indication as to how much of a matchup nightmare Johnson still is and how much he is needed entering his age-30 season. Perhaps the greatest shift in philosophy – likely due in part to Johnson’s injury woes – was how often Detroit threw to its running backs inside the 20. After recording only 12 such targets in 2013, first-year OC Joe Lombardi brought his Sean Payton-influenced offensive mind to the Motor City and peppered his running backs with 30.

How it affects 2015: Lombardi wants Stafford to take more chances with his throws this season, which is obviously a double-edged sword for his owners and probably depends just as much on Johnson’s health as it does on the coaches’ willingness to let Stafford sling it. Given Bell’s crummy offseason (Achilles, knee) and the addition of second-round RB Ameer Abdullah, there is almost no chance he comes anywhere close to the 49 red-zone opportunities he saw last year. At least half of that work should go to Abdullah, who is probably the best bet outside of the top three backs drafted in April (Todd Gurley, Melvin Gordon and T.J. Yeldon) to be featured at some point this season. Riddick should probably be expected to match his 2014 numbers inside the 20. In regards to the passing attack, Johnson should see a healthy bump in opportunities assuming good health, which should in turn help Tate’s efficiency. The wild-card to making this offense dynamic is the growth of Ebron, who boasts rare impressive physical skills at tight end but struggled with drops as a rookie. The ability for Stafford to trust him with even 10-12 targets inside the 20 may be enough to make this offense as explosive as it should be.

 Green Bay Packers
Pos Player Att Comp PaTD PaTD % RuAtt RuAtt % RuTD RuTD % Tar Tar % Rec ReTD ReTD % RZ Pass % Pass % RZ Run % Run %
QB Aaron Rodgers  96 51 24 25 10 13 2 20
QB Matt Flynn  3 3.9 0 0
RB Eddie Lacy  37 48.1 8 21.6 10 10.4 6 2 33.3
RB James Starks  14 18.2 2 14.3 1 1 1 0 0
RB John Kuhn  10 13 1 10
RB DuJuan Harris  1 1.3 0 0
WR Randall Cobb  2 2.6 0 0 25 26 16 10 62.5
WR Jordy Nelson  25 26 12 5 41.7
WR Davante Adams  11 11.5 6 2 33.3
WR Jarrett Boykin  2 2.1 0 0  0
TE Andrew Quarless  13 13.5 5 3 60
TE Brandon Bostick  2 2.1 2 1 50
TE Richard Rodgers  6 6.3 3 1 33.3
2014 Totals 96 51 24 25.00% 77 100.1 13 16.88% 95 98.9 51 24 47.06% 55.49% 55.20% 44.51% 44.80%
2013 Totals 85 48 18 21.18% 86 100 14 16.28% 85 97.4 49 18 36.73% 49.71% 55.39% 50.29% 44.61%
2012 Totals 66 41 24 36.36% 41 102.5 7 17.07% 65 98.4 41 24 58.54% 61.68% 56.31% 38.32% 43.69%
2011 Totals 90 57 31 34.44% 59 98.4 10 16.95% 87 96.5 57 31 54.39% 60.40% 60.02% 39.60% 39.98%

Overview: Green Bay was more efficient across the board in the red zone in 2014, with the biggest difference being the slight increase in passes and slight decrease in rushes despite a fairly similar year in terms of number of offensive plays (173 in 2014, 171 in 2013). Lacy saw his targets inside the 20 increase from four to 10 – helping to make up for a 12-carry decrease – while Adams essentially replaced the red-zone numbers James Jones had the previous year. Cobb also played a big role in the minor discrepancy as his numbers shot up from nine targets, four receptions and two scores in 2013 to 25, 16 and 10 last year (pretty much absorbing Boykins’ totals from the previous season and scoring at a much higher rate). Nelson’s red-zone statistics were nearly identical to 2013. Quarless’ numbers were nearly twice as good as the previous year’s and somewhat surprising given how often the Packers’ tight ends have been ignored in fantasy since the decline of Jermichael Finley.

How it affects 2015: With pretty much the entire band returning for another run, don’t expect a lot to change in terms of run-pass ratios or the high volume of plays inside the 20. The most significant change figures to be how involved Adams will be going forward since his emergence will most likely take significant targets away from Quarless and maybe a few from Cobb and/or Nelson. It should not come as a big surprise if Green Bay has three wideouts that are all capable of starting in three-receiver fantasy leagues this year. The degree to which the running game will see more or less red-zone carries will mostly depend on whether or not Lacy can begin the season a bit faster than he did in 2014. The soon-to-be third-year back still saw plenty of volume in the red zone last year, but his owners undoubtedly would like something closer to the 49 carries and 11 scores inside the 20 he had as a rookie.

 Houston Texans
Pos Player Att Comp PaTD PaTD % RuAtt RuAtt % RuTD RuTD % Tar Tar % Rec ReTD ReTD % RZ Pass % Pass % RZ Run % Run %
QB Ryan Fitzpatrick  38 22 11 28.9 7 12.3 2 28.6
QB Case Keenum  19 10 2 10.5 1 1.8 0 0
QB Ryan Mallett  9 2 1 11.1
RB Arian Foster  1 1 1 100 29 50.9 7 24.1 10 14.9 5 4 80
RB Alfred Blue  16 28.1 2 12.5 2 3 2 1 50
RB Ronnie Brown  3 5.4 0 0 1 1.5 0 0 0
RB Jay Prosch  1 1.5 0 0 0
RB Jonathan Grimes  1 1.8 0 0
WR Andre Johnson  26 38.8 12 3 25
WR DeAndre Hopkins  12 17.9 6 2 33.3
WR Keshawn Martin  1 1.5 1 0 0
WR Damaris Johnson  5 7.5 2 0 0
TE Ryan Griffin  2 3 2 1 50
TE C.J. Fiedorowicz  1 1.5 1 1 100
TE Garrett Graham  4 6 1 0 0
2014 Totals 67 35 15 22.39% 57 100.3 11 19.30% 65 97.1 32 12 37.50% 54.03% 46.81% 45.97% 53.19%
2013 Totals 64 29 14 21.88% 52 99.9 6 11.54% 64 100.1 29 14 48.28% 55.17% 60.46% 44.83% 39.54%
2012 Totals 50 28 14 28.00% 92 100 18 19.57% 49 98 28 14 50.00% 35.21% 52.17% 64.79% 47.83%
2011 Totals 69 31 11 15.94% 101 97 16 15.84% 61 88.2 31 11 35.48% 40.59% 47.80% 59.41% 52.20%

Overview: Easily the most stunning pair of numbers we have reviewed up to this point belongs to Johnson, who scored only three times on his 26 targets inside the 20. Some of the blame rests on his shoulders, but given the fact that Hopkins was only 2-of-12, most of the blame falls on the musical chairs situation at quarterback. It is also a bit surprising that Houston passed more than it ran inside the red zone, sporting almost the exact opposite run-pass ratio it had overall. Foster’s 29 rushing attempts (and 39 total opportunities) seem a bit low at first look, but we need to remember that he missed three full games and was extremely limited in two others. Tight end offered virtually nothing with seven total targets – one more than the less-than-desirable combination of Levine Toilolo and Bear Pascoe in Atlanta last year.

How it affects 2015: Although they lost franchise icon Johnson, the Texans solidified their depth chart at receiver by adding Cecil Shorts, Nate Washington and third-round selection Jaelen Strong. It’s questionable whether or not the team actually upgraded at quarterback by trading away Fitzpatrick and signing Brian Hoyer. Unless UDFA Khari Lee makes a big splash or Fiedorowicz takes a giant step forward, Houston is probably not going to get much more out of its tight ends again this year. Thus, the only real mysteries for the Texans are how much longer can Foster carry the mail and to what degree Hopkins will dominate the targets. If Foster is somehow able to play 14-15 full games, he should be in line for roughly 45 red-zone carries and 10-12 targets. If not, don’t be surprised if free-agent signee Chris Polk ends up as the handcuff to own. Even with a less than desirable quarterback situation, Hopkins erupted for a 76-1,210-6 line as Johnson’s sidekick last year. “Nuk” has a wonderful opportunity to top each one of those marks and inherit the 26 red-zone targets Johnson left behind while Shorts/Washington/Strong combine for about 20. I suspect Hopkins will find a way to score more than three touchdowns.

 Indianapolis Colts
Pos Player Att Comp PaTD PaTD % RuAtt RuAtt % RuTD RuTD % Tar Tar % Rec ReTD ReTD % RZ Pass % Pass % RZ Run % Run %
QB Andrew Luck  82 48 23 28 16 23.2 3 18.8
QB Matt Hasselbeck  7 3 2 28.6
RB Ahmad Bradshaw  18 26.1 2 11.1 13 14.6 12 6 50
RB Trent Richardson  24 34.8 3 12.5 5 5.6 3 0 0
RB Zurlon Tipton  1 1.4 0 0 2 2.2 2 1 50
RB Dan Herron  9 13 0 0 2 2.2 1 0 0
WR Hakeem Nicks  14 15.7 5 3 60
WR T.Y. Hilton  11 12.4 4 2 50
WR Reggie Wayne  8 9 2 0 0
WR Donte Moncrief  1 1.4 0 0 3 3.4 2 0 0
TE Coby Fleener  12 13.5 7 5 71.4
TE Dwayne Allen  8 9 7 5 71.4
TE Jack Doyle  8 9 5 2 40
2014 Totals 89 51 25 28.09% 69 99.9 8 11.59% 86 96.6 50 24 48.00% 56.33% 61.43% 43.67% 38.57%
2013 Totals 74 33 14 18.92% 50 100 14 28.00% 72 97.6 33 14 42.42% 59.68% 58.73% 40.32% 41.27%
2012 Totals 70 35 15 21.43% 61 100.1 11 18.03% 68 97 35 15 42.86% 53.44% 58.80% 46.56% 41.20%
2011 Totals 61 25 9 14.75% 47 100 7 14.89% 59 96.8 25 9 36.00% 56.48% 59.83% 43.52% 40.17%

Overview: The Colts’ best options in scoring territory last season were a run by Luck or a toss out in the flat to Bradshaw; a team with as many weapons as Indianapolis should not need its quarterback to finish off drives as often as the defending AFC South champs did last year or its running back to lead the team in red-zone scoring catches. Most were quick to suggest the disappointing Richardson was the reason for Luck’s heavy involvement as a runner, but a quick glance at each back’s RuTD% suggests Indy’s running backs probably were not the ones most at fault. Allen’s injury woes led to something of a featured role for Fleener and, to a lesser extent, Doyle, while Wayne’s decline resulted in Nicks pacing the team in red-zone targets. Moncrief, who should have been the obvious choice as the team’s top receiver inside the 20, somehow saw a measly three targets.

How it affects 2015: The arrival of RB Frank Gore and WR Andre Johnson should address major weaknesses, but the former’s job figures to be much more difficult than the latter’s. Gore will consistently see fewer defenders in the box than he probably ever has, but the Colts’ perplexing indifference when it comes to addressing the offensive line may ultimately keep the ex-49er from having a potentially dominant season. Gore should be able to pick up Indy’s dreadful 11.59 RuTD%, for whatever that is worth. At worst, Johnson will probably take the combined targets of Nicks (now in Tennessee) and Wayne (a free agent) and handily lead the team in red-zone targets. A healthy Allen is a more complete tight end than Fleener or Doyle, so it should not come as a surprise if Allen once again becomes Luck’s most dependable weapon inside the 20. Moncrief’s true breakout will probably be stunted by the arrival of first-round WR Phillip Dorsett and ex-CFLer Duron Carter, but the Colts would be foolish to not expand his role in the red zone this year.

 Jacksonville Jaguars
Pos Player Att Comp PaTD PaTD % RuAtt RuAtt % RuTD RuTD % Tar Tar % Rec ReTD ReTD % RZ Pass % Pass % RZ Run % Run %
QB Blake Bortles  38 13 5 13.2 4 12.1 0 0
QB Chad Henne  4 2 0 0 1 3 0 0
RB Denard Robinson  12 36.4 3 25
RB Toby Gerhart  9 27.3 2 22.2 2 4.7 2 0 0
RB Storm Johnson  6 18.2 2 33.3
RB Will Ta’ufo’ou  1 2.3 0 0 0
RB Jordan Todman  1 3 0 0 2 4.7 1 0 0
WR Allen Hurns  8 18.6 4 2 50
WR Cecil Shorts  1 1 0 0 14 32.6 4 1 25
WR Marqise Lee  6 14 0 0 0
WR Allen Robinson  5 11.6 2 0 0
TE Marcedes Lewis  2 4.7 1 1 100
TE Clay Harbor  2 4.7 1 0 0
TE Nic Jacobs  1 2.3 1 1 100
2014 Totals 43 16 5 11.63% 33 100 7 21.21% 43 100.2 16 5 31.25% 56.58% 60.74% 43.42% 39.26%
2013 Totals 76 30 11 14.47% 40 100 7 17.50% 74 97.1 29 11 37.93% 65.52% 61.03% 34.48% 38.97%
2012 Totals 69 34 13 18.84% 35 100 3 8.57% 65 99.8 33 12 36.36% 66.35% 62.08% 33.65% 37.62%
2011 Totals 50 22 9 18.00% 55 99.9 8 14.55% 50 100 22 9 40.91% 47.62% 51.20% 52.38% 48.80%

Overview: Consider for a second just how awful an offense must be to run 76 total red-zone plays over the course of a 16-game season. Jacksonville’s offense was nothing to brag about in any of the first three years I did this study either, yet still managed at least 104 red-zone snaps in each season. If there was a hint of a bright spot for the Jaguars in 2014, it was probably the early emergence of Allen Robinson before a broken foot sidelined him for the season after Week 10. A secondary bright spot was Denard Robinson, who eventually proved to be something more than a change-of-pace back even if the team wants to keep him in that role.

How it affects 2015: Shorts left for Houston, taking with him 32.6 percent of the red-zone targets. Robinson is the overwhelming favorite to step up – even though he won’t spend nearly as much time in the slot as Shorts did – and dominate targets for Jacksonville inside the 20 in a way we haven’t seen in years. When defenses become too preoccupied with him, Bortles will almost certain bombard ex-Bronco TE Julius Thomas with red-zone chances. Lee and Hurns will probably vie for third place in that race, although I’m not exactly sure it will matter much in a run-heavy offense led by Bortles. In short, the Jaguars should have no problem improving on their awful 11.63 PaTD% - worst in the league last year – and be much more entertaining to watch at the very least. Second-round RB T.J. Yeldon was a highly efficient goal-line runner at Alabama (82.3 percent conversion rate from the 2-yard line or closer over the last two years) and could easily emerge as the viable three-down threat in the backfield the team hasn’t had since Maurice Jones-Drew was in his prime.

 Kansas City Chiefs
Pos Player Att Comp PaTD PaTD % RuAtt RuAtt % RuTD RuTD % Tar Tar % Rec ReTD ReTD % RZ Pass % Pass % RZ Run % Run %
QB Alex Smith  57 34 13 22.8 3 5.2 1 33.3
QB Chase Daniel  8 4 0 0 0 0 0
RB Jamaal Charles  26 44.8 6 23.1 13 19.7 7 4 57.1
RB Knile Davis  23 39.7 5 21.7 5 7.6 2 0 0
RB D. Thomas  2 3.4 1 50 6 9.1 5 0 0
RB Cyrus Gray  3 5.2 1 33.3
RB Anthony Sherman  1 1.7 0 0 2 3 2 1 50
RB Joe McKnight  2 3 2 2 100
WR Dwayne Bowe  8 12.1 5 0 0
WR Junior Hemingway  1 1.5 0 0 0
WR Albert Wilson  2 3 0 0 0
WR Jason Avant  1 1.5 0 0 0
WR Frankie Hammond  2 3 0 0 0
WR Donnie Avery  4 6.1 2 0 0
WR A.J. Jenkins  2 3 2 0 0
TE Travis Kelce  11 16.7 8 3 37.5
TE Anthony Fasano  4 6.1 4 3 75
2014 Totals 65 38 13 20.00% 58 100 14 24.14% 63 95.4 39 13 33.33% 52.85% 54.00% 47.15% 46.00%
2013 Totals 76 47 17 22.37% 72 100.1 16 22.22% 75 98.5 47 17 36.17% 51.35% 55.26% 48.65% 44.74%
2012 Totals 33 13 5 15.15% 50 100 5 10.00% 32 96.9 13 5 38.46% 39.76% 48.72% 60.24% 51.28%
2011 Totals 46 21 8 17.39% 50 98.2 3 6.00% 45 97.9 20 8 40.00% 47.92% 52.30% 52.08% 47.70%

Overview: After posting a rather hefty 42 carries and 17 targets in the red zone in HC Andy Reid’s first year in charge, Charles dealt with sub-par line play and injuries in 2014 while Davis took on a significantly heavier load. The best part of the Chiefs’ season was most likely the emergence of Kelce, who pretty much copied Fasano’s numbers inside the 20 from 2013. After that, a near 50:50 run-pass ratio was about the only other positive characteristic about Kansas City’s red-zone distribution. None of the receivers found the end zone, which is equal parts quirky and reflective of the quality of the wideouts Smith had at his disposal. It is also a testament to how risk-averse Smith is.

How it affects 2015: The Chiefs aggressively pursued and landed former Reid protégé WR Jeremy Maclin, who should put an end to their embarrassing 19-game streak of a receiver not scoring a touchdown sometime in September. What isn’t quite as clear is whether the addition of Maclin will encourage Smith to take more shots downfield or whether he will end up being an expensive decoy for Kelce. Regardless, the combination of Kelce and Maclin plus the pass-catching prowess of Charles should allow Kansas City to pass slightly more than it will run all over the field, although I have my doubts that slight increase will result in Smith being a much better option in fantasy. The line added ex-Saints Pro Bowler LG Ben Grubbs, but lost C Rodney Hudson, making it fair to wonder if the line play will be any better in 2015. The team appears high on new C Eric Kush, but 73 career snaps – including none in 2014 – doesn’t inspire a ton of confidence. With that said, Charles is one of the better bets to return to the 40-plus carry, 15-plus target numbers inside the 20 that made him fantasy’s top back two seasons ago.

 Miami Dolphins
Pos Player Att Comp PaTD PaTD % RuAtt RuAtt % RuTD RuTD % Tar Tar % Rec ReTD ReTD % RZ Pass % Pass % RZ Run % Run %
QB Ryan Tannehill  89 56 24 27 7 8 1 14.3
QB Matt Moore  2 2.3 0 0
RB Lamar Miller  44 50 7 15.9 8 9 6 1 16.7
RB Daniel Thomas  10 11.4 2 20 2 2.2 2 0 0
RB Damien Williams  11 12.5 0 0 6 6.7 4 1 25
RB Knowshon Moreno  11 12.5 1 9.1 1 1.1 1 0 0
RB Orleans Darkwa  2 2.3 0 33.3
WR Mike Wallace  1 1.1 0 0 19 21.3 13 9 69.2
WR Jarvis Landry  13 14.6 11 5 45.5
WR Brian Hartline  7 7.9 5 2 40
WR Brandon Gibson  6 6.7 2 1 50
WR Rishard Matthews  3 3.4 1 1 100
TE Charles Clay  19 21.3 8 2 25
TE Dion Sims  3 3.4 3 2 66.7
TE Gator Hoskins  1 1.8 0 0  0
2014 Totals 89 56 24 26.97% 88 100.1 11 12.50% 88 99.4 56 24 42.86% 50.28% 59.86% 49.72% 40.14%
2013 Totals 64 39 18 28.13% 51 100.1 8 15.69% 63 98.5 39 18 46.15% 55.65% 62.99% 44.35% 37.01%
2012 Totals 48 24 9 18.75% 54 100.1 12 22.22% 48 97.2 24 9 37.50% 47.06% 53.39% 52.94% 46.61%
2011 Totals 66 31 16 24.24% 65 99.8 9 13.85% 66 99.9 31 16 51.61% 50.38% 52.63% 49.62% 47.37%

Overview: Despite the fact Landry was the only real impact player the team added to its skill-position corps following the conclusion of the 2013 season, Miami executed 62 more red-zone plays in first-year OC Bill Lazor’s up-tempo spread attack – a scheme more suited for the running ability of Tannehill and the rest of its personnel. Thomas’ role was slashed substantially and, once Moreno was lost for the season in Week 6, it cleared the way for an inspired Miller to finish among the league leaders in red-zone opportunities. Wallace was second behind only Randall Cobb for red-zone touchdowns by a receiver, which is quite impressive considering the duo often did not appear to be on the same page and also because Wallace has often been labeled as a one-trick pony. Perhaps the most impressive part of Miami’s stats inside the 20 was its balance. Four running backs and three receivers had at least 10 red-zone opportunities while four others players had at least six targets.

How it affects 2015: Wallace and Clay are gone among the key contributors from last year, but it is hard not to like what the Dolphins did in the offseason, adding first-round WR DeVante Parker, trading for WR Kenny Stills and signing TE Jordan Cameron. Landry figures to be a primary option from the get-go this time around and Parker should end up being the most complete receiver at some point for this team, although his offseason foot surgery could delay him getting to that point as a rookie. Cameron is a superior talent to Clay, but his concussion history is such that the Dolphins would be wise not to depend too much on him. Fifth-rounder RB Jay Ajayi is a much more viable threat to Miller’s workload than Thomas ever should have been (Miller’s owners in 2013 know exactly what I’m talking about), although it is very possible the rookie merely picks up for Miller when he reaches Miami’s artificial ceiling for him of about 18 carries or 20 touches. Overall, it seems unlikely the Dolphins will be able to rattle off another 177 red-zone plays in what will be a defensive-minded AFC East, but they should be able to repeat the balance that was so prominent in 2014.

 Minnesota Vikings
Pos Player Att Comp PaTD PaTD % RuAtt RuAtt % RuTD RuTD % Tar Tar % Rec ReTD ReTD % RZ Pass % Pass % RZ Run % Run %
QB Teddy Bridgewater  25 18 8 32 8 15.7 1 12.5
QB Matt Cassel  7 3 2 28.6 1 2 0 0
QB Christian Ponder  9 4 0 0 2 3.9 1 50
RB Matt Asiata  30 58.8 9 30 5 12.2 4 0 0
RB Jerick McKinnon  7 13.7 0 0 1 2.4 1 0 0
RB Ben Tate  2 3.9 0 0
RB Jerome Felton  1 2.4 0 0
RB Adrian Peterson  1 2 0 0 1 2.4 1 0 0
RB Joe Banyard  2 4.9 2 0 0
WR Greg Jennings  12 29.3 8 5 62.5
WR Jarius Wright  5 12.2 2 1 50
WR C. Patterson  3 7.3 1 1 100
WR Charles Johnson  1 2.4 0 0 0
WR Adam Thielen  1 2.4 1 0 0
TE Kyle Rudolph  3 7.3 3 2 66.7
TE Rhett Ellison  1 2.4 1 1 100
TE Chase Ford  4 9.8 1 0 0
2014 Totals 41 25 10 24.39% 51 100 11 21.57% 40 97.4 25 10 40.00% 44.57% 55.59% 55.43% 44.41%
2013 Totals 63 27 8 12.70% 60 100 17 28.33% 61 96.9 27 8 29.63% 51.22% 56.35% 48.78% 43.65%
2012 Totals 69 41 17 24.64% 74 100 11 14.86% 68 98.2 41 17 41.75% 48.25% 49.85% 51.75% 50.15%
2011 Totals 59 38 14 23.73% 68 100 16 23.53% 58 98.5 38 14 36.84% 46.46% 55.51% 53.54% 44.49%

Overview: It’s a credit to the coaching ability of HC Mike Zimmer and OC Norv Turner that Minnesota was able to remain competitive following the loss of Peterson and lead the Vikings to a 7-9 finish without their most important offensive piece. As a result of their all-world running back missing all but one game last year, there is not a lot reliable information to discern from last season, other than maybe Asiata’s 35 red-zone opportunities will serve as the floor for Peterson. Johnson emerged too late into the season for him to make a noticeable dent in this study, although one red-zone target is stunningly low for a 6-2, 215-pound receiver that became a key cog in the offense in mid-November and didn’t really have to fight Peterson or Rudolph for scoring chances.

How it affects 2015: The Vikings managed 92 red-zone plays last year, 31 fewer than in any year since I began doing this analysis following the 2011 season. The return of Peterson likely means that number will probably near the 131-play average the team posted over the previous three years; Rudolph is the odds-on favorite to kick that number even higher (and increase the passing game’s efficiency inside the 20) if he can stay healthy. Jennings is gone, WR Mike Wallace was acquired via trade and Johnson is 10 pounds stronger, meaning Minnesota should have a couple of potential game-breakers at receiver to complement Peterson. Wallace was incredibly efficient as a red-zone receiver in Miami last year, so one has to wonder if Turner will give him the chance to maintain that distinction over the bigger Johnson as the second-best passing-game option in the red zone. Rudolph is only two years removed from 15 targets and eight scores inside the 20 with Ponder as his quarterback, so avoiding injury is critical for him this year as the Vikings look to build upon the strong second-half play of Bridgewater and take advantage of the fact they have more weapons at their disposal this year than they’ve had since Brett Favre was under center.

 New England Patriots
Pos Player Att Comp PaTD PaTD % RuAtt RuAtt % RuTD RuTD % Tar Tar % Rec ReTD ReTD % RZ Pass % Pass % RZ Run % Run %
QB Tom Brady  74 44 25 33.8 11 12.8 0 0
QB Jimmy Garoppolo  1 1 1 100 1 1.2 0 0
RB LeGarrette Blount  11 12.9 3 27.3
RB Jonas Gray  25 29.4 5 20
RB Shane Vereen  14 16.5 2 14.3 11 14.7 5 2 40
RB Stevan Ridley  13 15.3 2 15.4
RB Brandon Bolden  7 8.2 1 14.3
RB James White  1 1.2 0 0
RB James Develin  2 2.4 0 0 2 2.7 1 0 0
WR Brandon LaFell  13 17.3 6 5 83.3
WR Julian Edelman  20 26.7 12 3 25
WR Danny Amendola  3 4 2 1 50
WR Brian Tyms  1 1.3 1 0 0
WR K. Thompkins  1 1.3 1 0 0
TE Rob Gronkowski  16 21.3 11 9 81.8
TE Timothy Wright  7 9.3 6 6 100
2014 Totals 75 45 26 34.67% 85 99.9 13 15.29% 74 98.6 45 26 57.78% 46.88% 58.17% 53.13% 41.83%
2013 Totals 83 42 20 24.10% 86 99.9 16 18.60% 80 96.2 42 20 47.62% 49.11% 57.19% 50.89% 42.81%
2012 Totals 81 49 24 29.63% 115 100 25 21.74% 80 98.7 49 24 48.98% 41.33% 55.07% 58.67% 44.93%
2011 Totals 99 57 29 29.29% 94 99 16 17.02% 98 99 57 29 50.88% 51.30% 59.52% 48.70% 40.48%

Overview: One of the many reasons the Patriots have been so successful during the Bill Belichick-Brady era is the incredible number of plays they execute inside the opposing 20-yard-line. Contrary to popular belief, they run more often than they pass in that area, although it doesn’t matter much when a team routinely exceeds 160 red-zone plays – last year’s total of 160 was the Patriots’ lowest mark in my four years of doing the Red Zone Report. Looking solely at the consistent volume New England has enjoyed in scoring territory in that time, it is hard not to imagine what one player could do if the team could ever settle on a power back over the course of an entire season. Perhaps the most surprising statistic in the passing game was Edelman finishing with more targets than Gronkowski, although that can be explained away pretty easily: most of Edelman’s red-zone work was moving the chains while Gronkowski’s chances inside the 20 usually involved embarrassing defenders on the cusp of the end zone or in it.

How it affects 2015: Gronkowski is the unquestioned No. 1 option in the red zone and Edelman is the primary chain-mover; that much is clear. Beyond that, it gets a bit dicey. Blount will start out the season as the primary power back, but what assurances do we have that he will hold off Gray all year? Ridley is now a Jet, removing one of the obstacles for both players, but would anyone really be surprised if someone like Tyler Gaffney ended up being fantasy-relevant at some point? Vereen signed with the Giants, leaving behind his 25 red-zone opportunities to likely either White or Travaris Cadet. Can we assume either player will secure a similar red-zone presence? There’s another great question. Is LaFell here to stay or is this the year Aaron Dobson, who has been riddled with injuries since about the midpoint of his rookie season in 2013, fulfills the potential the team saw in him when it invested a second-round pick? Wright’s near-perfect marks inside the 20 weren’t good enough to keep him on the roster, so does that mean ex-Bill Scott Chandler maintains the same kind of low-end TE2 status he enjoyed for most of his time in Buffalo?

 New Orleans Saints
Pos Player Att Comp PaTD PaTD % RuAtt RuAtt % RuTD RuTD % Tar Tar % Rec ReTD ReTD % RZ Pass % Pass % RZ Run % Run %
QB Drew Brees  83 54 25 30.1 6 8.2 1 16.7
RB Mark Ingram  43 58.9 8 18.6 5 6 5 0 0
RB Khiry Robinson  11 15.1 3 27.3 1 1.2 1 0 0
RB Pierre Thomas  6 8.2 1 16.7 3 3.6 3 1 33.3
RB Travaris Cadet  1 1.4 0 0 5 6 3 1 33.3
RB Erik Lorig  2 2.7 0 0 4 4.8 3 1 33.3
RB Austin Johnson  1 1.4 0 0 2 2.4 2 1 50
WR Marques Colston  13 15.7 6 3 50
WR Brandin Cooks  3 4.1 1 33.3 6 7.2 4 1 25
WR Kenny Stills  5 6 3 1 33.3
WR Nick Toon  3 3.6 3 1 33.3
WR Robert Meachem  2 2.4 1 0 0
TE Jimmy Graham  21 25.3 12 9 75
TE Josh Hill  6 7.2 5 4 80
TE Benjamin Watson  5 6 3 2 66.7
2014 Totals 83 54 25 30.12% 73 100 14 19.18% 81 97.4 54 25 46.30% 53.21% 61.88% 46.79% 38.12%
2013 Totals 85 52 22 25.88% 59 100 10 16.95% 80 94.3 52 22 42.31% 59.03% 62.48% 40.97% 37.52%
2012 Totals 96 60 31 32.29% 44 100 7 15.91% 94 97.9 60 31 51.67% 68.57% 64.46% 31.43% 35.54%
2011 Totals 96 62 30 31.25% 70 100 13 18.57% 94 97.9 62 30 48.39% 57.83% 61.41% 42.17% 38.59%

Overview: The process of becoming more balanced officially began last season, when Ingram nearly had as many red-zone carries himself (43) as the entire Saints’ team did in 2012 (44). Thomas battled injuries, but became a virtual afterthought one season after recording a team-high 23 carries and 33 red-zone opportunities overall. Colston’s targets inside the 20 fell for the third straight season, although he was still Brees’ top option among New Orleans receivers by a wide margin. Graham remained a target monster inside the red zone, but the biggest difference from previous Saints’ teams was the inclusion of notable use of Hill and Watson – likely a product of trading away Darren Sproles last offseason.

How it affects 2015: How exactly is New Orleans going to distribute Graham’s 21 red-zone targets from a season ago? Stills, Cadet and Thomas are all gone, Colston is in decline and Cooks is not ideally suited for work near the goal line. After entertaining the thought of bringing back Reggie Bush, C.J. Spiller should become the next satellite back to make it big in the Superdome, following in the footsteps of Bush and Sproles. It is a role in which Sproles saw an average of 20 red-zone targets in 2011 and 2012. Like Bush, Spiller hasn’t been the picture of durability, although HC Sean Payton will not go into this season expecting him to carry the load as was often the case in Buffalo. Perhaps for the first time since the days of Deuce McAllister, the Saints believe they have a workhorse they can pound in between the tackles in Ingram, who really didn’t stake his claim to the lead-back throne until midway through last season. With that said, the former Heisman Trophy winner has lasted a full season just once in his four-year career, meaning Robinson better be ready for some spot duty. Although there has been a bit of water thrown onto the fire that was burning for Hill this spring, I don’t think it is realistic to expect Watson to lead the position in fantasy production as some have suggested. Watson will turn 35 in December and frankly cannot be counted upon to handle a significant increase in snaps from the 578 he saw in 2014.

 New York Giants
Pos Player Att Comp PaTD PaTD % RuAtt RuAtt % RuTD RuTD % Tar Tar % Rec ReTD ReTD % RZ Pass % Pass % RZ Run % Run %
QB Eli Manning  98 50 24 24.5 5 6.7 1 20
RB Andre Williams  38 50.7 6 15.8 5 5.1 2 0 0
RB Rashad Jennings  24 32 4 16.7 4 4.1 2 0 0
RB Henry Hynoski  3 4 0 0
RB Peyton Hillis  2 2.7 0 0 1 1 0 0 0
RB Orleans Darkwa  1 1.3 1 0 1 1 0 0 0
P Steve Weatherford 1 1.3 0 0
WR Odell Beckham  1 1.3 0 0 25 25.5 16 8 50
WR Rueben Randle  19 19.4 8 3 37.5
WR Preston Parker  8 8.2 2 2 100
WR Corey Washington  4 4.1 3 1 33.3
WR Victor Cruz  4 4.1 2 0 0
WR Kevin Ogletree  1 1 0 0 0
TE Larry Donnell  20 20.4 11 6 54.5
TE Daniel Fells  5 5.1 3 3 100
TE Adrien Robinson  1 1 1 1 100
2014 Totals 98 50 24 24.49% 75 100 12 16.00% 98 100 50 24 48.00% 56.65% 57.48% 43.35% 42.52%
2013 Totals 56 25 7 12.50% 44 99.9 9 20.45% 55 98.1 25 7 28.00% 56.00% 59.81% 44.00% 40.19%
2012 Totals 83 37 18 21.69% 95 100.1 16 16.84% 82 98.8 37 18 48.65% 46.63% 56.86% 53.37% 43.14%
2011 Totals 71 36 15 21.13% 61 99.9 17 27.87% 71 100 36 15 41.67% 53.79% 60.02% 46.21% 39.98%

Overview: Just how “elite” was Beckham last year? He missed the first four weeks of the season with a hamstring and had a total of 10 catches (including six targets inside the 20) midway through the season, only to finish with 91 and 25, respectively. Those numbers are eye-opening when compared to Randle’s, especially considering he scored only three times on his 19 red-zone targets. (For comparison’s sake, Mike Wallace scored nine TDs on the same number of targets.). Donnell’s 20 red-zone looks seem like a fluke if only because Cruz missed 10 games and Randle was so inefficient. Jennings wasn’t the same after his Week 5 injury, leaving the bulk of the work to Williams, who ended up being more of a drain on the running game than the Giants could have imagined.

How it affects 2015: It is actually quite likely that Beckham and Randle end up with about the same level of activity inside the 20 as they had last year. Beyond the two of them, I expect a much different looking distribution of red-zone targets. Whether it is because Jennings can’t stay healthy again or the team wants to significantly reduce Williams’ touches, former Patriot RB Shane Vereen is going to play a key role for this offense all over the field. (It would not surprise me if he finished with more targets than Donnell.) HC Tom Coughlin strives for offensive balance as much as possible, so owners shouldn’t expect New York to get much more pass-happy inside the 20 than it was in 2014 – most of which was likely a function of trailing so often early in the season. The Giants are planning to play with even more tempo than last year, which means they could easily see five players (most likely Beckham, Cruz, Randle, Donnell and Vereen) reach double figures in red-zone targets.


 New York Jets
Pos Player Att Comp PaTD PaTD % RuAtt RuAtt % RuTD RuTD % Tar Tar % Rec ReTD ReTD % RZ Pass % Pass % RZ Run % Run %
QB Geno Smith  48 26 8 16.7 9 13 1 11.1 1 1.5 0 0
QB Michael Vick  19 9 2 10.5 6 8.7 0 0
RB Chris Ivory  33 47.9 5 15.2 7 10.3 5 1 20
RB Bilal Powell  6 8.7 1 16.7 3 4.4 3 0 0
RB Chris Johnson  10 14.5 0 0 3 4.4 2 1 50
RB John Conner  1 1.4 0 0 1 1.5 1 1 100
WR Eric Decker  14 20.6 9 3 33.3
WR Jeremy Kerley  1 0 0 0 1 1.4 0 0 9 13.2 4 1 25
WR Percy Harvin  2 2.9 0 0 5 7.4 1 0 0
WR Greg Salas  1 1.4 1 100 1 1.5 0 0 0
WR David Nelson  3 4.4 0 0 0
WR T.J. Graham  1 1.5 1 0 0
WR Chris Owusu  1 1.5 1 1 100
TE Jace Amaro  9 13.2 5 2 40
TE Zach Sudfeld  1 1.5 0 0 0
TE Jeff Cumberland  9 13.2 4 1 25
2014 Totals 68 35 10 14.71% 69 99.9 8 11.59% 68 100.1 36 11 30.56% 49.64% 49.55% 50.36% 50.45%
2013 Totals 49 21 8 16.33% 50 92.6 10 20.00% 49 99.8 21 8 38.10% 49.49% 49.33% 50.51% 50.67%
2012 Totals 48 20 11 22.92% 89 99.9 12 13.48% 49 102.2 20 12 19.57% 35.04% 49.95% 64.96% 50.05%
2011 Totals 79 42 21 26.58% 67 100 13 19.40% 79 101.4 42 21 50.00% 54.11% 56.99% 45.89% 43.01%

Overview: Proving it’s not all about how many plays a team runs, the Jets tallied 137 plays inside the 20 last year – 22 more than the Cowboys. Few teams fared worse than New York in scoring territory, which is what will happen when a team puts a spread quarterback scared of losing his job into a West Coast offense and continuously changes the parts around him. The Jets seemed to commit more often to Ivory all over the field, but especially in the red zone, where he handled 40 of the backfield’s 64 opportunities. Decker predictably led the way for the receivers and performed about as well as anyone could have expected despite the chaos. (Just as a point of reference to show the difference between his final year in Denver and last year, Decker had 13 catches and seven scores on 23 red-zone targets in 2013 as the Broncos’ second receiver. Last year, he went 9-14-3 as the Jets’ No. 1.

How it affects 2015: Out with former OC Marty Mornhinweg, in with creative new OC Chan Gailey – a play-caller that has utilized the spread with great success in the NFL but hasn’t lost sight of how important the running game is to an offense’s success. Brandon Marshall entered the picture following his trade from the Bears and immediately gives this offense a viable WR1 that will command the defense’s attention in the red zone as well as make Decker’s life easier. Marshall’s presence alone should get New York’s PaTD% somewhere in the neighborhood of the 22.92 mark it enjoyed in 2012, which would probably be good enough to make Marshall and Decker weekly starters in three-receiver leagues – as they should be. Gailey’s arrival should benefit Amaro as well since he was miscast as a West Coast tight end after working primarily out of the slot in college. Stevan Ridley and Zac Stacy join a backfield that had no problem letting Johnson walk, although it is difficult to see an important role in this offense for more than one of them. Ivory probably shouldn’t be expected to command so many red-zone chances this season, but he should remain the leader by a fairly wide margin.

 Oakland Raiders
Pos Player Att Comp PaTD PaTD % RuAtt RuAtt % RuTD RuTD % Tar Tar % Rec ReTD ReTD % RZ Pass % Pass % RZ Run % Run %
QB Derek Carr  44 28 18 40.9 2 6.1 0 0
RB Darren McFadden  16 48.5 2 12.5 3 6.8 1 0 0
RB Jamize Olawale  2 4.5 2 2 100
RB Latavius Murray  10 30.3 1 10 1 2.3 1 0 0
RB MJ-Drew  2 6.1 0 0 1 2.3 1 0 0
RB Marcel Reece  2 6.1 0 0 4 9.1 3 1 33.3
WR James Jones  10 22.7 7 5 71.4
WR Andre Holmes  4 9.1 3 2 66.7
WR Rod Streater  1 2.3 1 1 100
WR Brice Butler  4 9.1 1 1 100
WR Denarius Moore  1 3 0 0 3 6.8 0 0 0
WR K. Thompkins  1 2.3 0 0 0
TE Mychal Rivera  7 15.9 6 4 66.7
TE Brian Leonhardt  1 2.3 1 1 100
2014 Totals 44 28 18 40.91% 33 100.1 3 9.09% 42 95.5 27 17 62.96% 57.14% 65.11% 42.86% 34.89%
2013 Totals 56 27 11 19.64% 57 100 13 22.81% 54 100.1 26 11 42.31% 49.56% 54.29% 50.44% 45.71%
2012 Totals 72 38 15 20.83% 46 99.9 3 6.52% 71 98.8 38 15 39.47% 61.02% 62.59% 38.98% 37.41%
2011 Totals 44 23 10 22.73% 69 99.9 14 20.29% 43 97.8 23 10 43.48% 38.94% 54.09% 61.06% 45.91%

Overview: By any measure, 33 red-zone rushing attempts, three rushing touchdowns and a 9.09 conversion percentage are pathetic marks for an entire season. They are also clear indicators that the offensive line was weak, Jones-Drew was ready to retire, McFadden was ready for a change and Murray was parked on the sideline too long. The 40.91 PaTD% is incredible by comparison, but the low number of attempts substantiates how much trouble Oakland had getting inside the opponents’ 20. The few time the Raiders did march into the red zone, it was often in garbage time and against a defense more focused on using clock than keeping Oakland off the scoreboard.

How it affects 2015: Jones led the team in red-zone activity and was promptly released one season after signing a three-year contract, which alone was a good enough reason to select Alabama WR Amari Cooper with the No. 4 overall pick. Rivera was second on the team with seven targets inside the 20 and is unlikely to keep his starting job through midseason after the team used a third-round pick to pick Miami TE Clive Walford. Both rookies can do something their veteran counterparts have struggled to do throughout their careers – separate from coverage. As a result, they should see more than the 17 red-zone targets that Jones and Rivera combined for last year simply because they should help the Raiders get into scoring territory more often. Oakland stole C Rodney Hudson from the rival Chiefs and is starting to build a fairly promising front five – one that should be able to execute new HC Jack Del Rio’s vision of a physical running team. The talent upgrades everywhere should lead to more opportunities for the running game and Murray in particular. Roy Helu Jr. or Trent Richardson could end up being a bit of drain on his overall value, but the Raiders seem to want Murray to win the early-down and red-zone jobs (and rightfully so).

 Philadelphia Eagles
Pos Player Att Comp PaTD PaTD % RuAtt RuAtt % RuTD RuTD % Tar Tar % Rec ReTD ReTD % RZ Pass % Pass % RZ Run % Run %
QB Mark Sanchez  42 21 10 23.8 5 5.7 1 20
QB Nick Foles  35 15 5 14.3
RB LeSean McCoy  56 64.4 4 7.1 5 6.5 4 0 0
RB Darren Sproles  9 10.3 5 55.6 6 7.8 3 0 0
RB Chris Polk  17 19.5 4 23.5 1 1.3 0 0 0
WR Jordan Matthews  15 19.5 10 6 60
WR Riley Cooper  14 18.2 5 3 60
WR Jeremy Maclin  12 15.6 6 3 50
WR Josh Huff  1 1.3 1 0 0
WR Brad Smith  1 1.3 0 0 0
TE Zach Ertz  11 14.3 3 1 33.3
TE James Casey  1 1.3 1 1 100
TE Brent Celek  9 11.7 3 1 33.3
2014 Totals 77 36 15 19.48% 87 99.9 14 16.09% 76 98.8 36 15 41.67% 46.95% 56.71% 53.05% 43.29%
2013 Totals 60 33 17 28.33% 74 100.2 13 17.57% 55 91.7 33 17 51.52% 44.78% 50.40% 55.22% 49.60%
2012 Totals 71 31 13 18.31% 54 100.1 9 16.67% 64 90.1 31 13 41.94% 56.80% 59.90% 43.20% 40.10%
2011 Totals 72 37 17 23.61% 85 100 17 20.00% 68 94.6 37 17 45.95% 45.86% 56.56% 54.14% 43.44%

Overview: Foles sported an unsustainable 43.2 PaTD% in 2013, although it is probably fair to say HC Chip Kelly had something better than 14.3 in mind as an encore. Most of Philadelphia’s offensive woes – which is quite the statement for a team that executed 164 red-zone plays – were the result of an offensive line that was in disarray due to injuries for most of the season. McCoy’s RuTD% of 7.1 is unforgiveable regardless of the state of the offensive line and probably contributed to the decision to use Polk more often in scoring situations near the end of the year. After all, Sproles needed only nine carries inside the 20 to score more often than McCoy! Matthews really began to take off about the same time Sanchez took over for an injured Foles and surprisingly ended the season with the team lead in all of the red-zone categories for receivers. Stunningly, Maclin placed third (behind Cooper!?!?!) and finished with only one more target inside the 20 than Ertz, who saw just over half the team’s offensive snaps a season ago.

How it affects 2015: By now, Kelly’s roster overhaul has been well-documented. A healthy Sam Bradford at quarterback should get Philadelphia’s red-zone passing game numbers looking more like 2013, even after losing Maclin. First-round WR Nelson Agholor has been considered by some as a Maclin clone and, while that comparison isn’t 100 percent accurate, it isn’t too far off-base either. The rookie could easily replicate Maclin’s red-zone production in 2015. Can Cooper go 3-for-3 in terms of garnering double-digit red-zone looks under Kelly? Matthews should push his total into the high-teens or low-20s, but one would have to think that Huff or Miles Austin (or maybe UDFA Devante Davis) will be able to bring more to the table than Cooper. Free agent RBs DeMarco Murray and Ryan Mathews are undoubtedly better fits for what Kelly wants at running back than McCoy was, but the coach’s roster retooling saw the Eagles say goodbye to G Evan Mathis and G Todd Herremanns. While RG Andrew Gardner may end up being an upgrade over Herremanns based on their Pro Football Focus grades last season, counting on new LG Allen Barbre to replace PFF’s second-best guard in Mathis seems like a tall order and a bit of a setback for Philadelphia.


 Pittsburgh Steelers
Pos Player Att Comp PaTD PaTD % RuAtt RuAtt % RuTD RuTD % Tar Tar % Rec ReTD ReTD % RZ Pass % Pass % RZ Run % Run %
QB Ben Roethlisberger  91 51 20 22 6 10.2 0 0
RB Le’Veon Bell  40 67.8 6 15 13 14.1 10 3 30
RB LeGarrette Blount  12 20.4 2 0 3 4 2 0 0
RB Dri Archer  1 1.1 1 0 0
WR Antonio Brown  1 1 1 100 1 1.7 0 0 33 35.9 18 8 44.4
WR Martavis Bryant  8 8.7 4 4 100
WR Markus Wheaton  7 7.6 3 1 33.3
WR Lance Moore  6 6.5 2 1 50
WR Justin Brown  6 6.5 3 0 0
TE Heath Miller  12 13 8 3 37.5
TE Michael Palmer  2 2.2 1 1 100
2014 Totals 92 52 21 22.83% 59 100.1 8 13.56% 91 99.6 52 21 40.38% 60.93% 59.13% 39.07% 40.87%
2013 Totals 90 48 18 20.00% 56 100 9 16.07% 87 96.5 48 18 37.50% 61.64% 59.80% 38.36% 40.20%
2012 Totals 73 40 20 27.40% 53 98.3 7 13.21% 69 94.4 40 20 50.00% 57.94% 58.22% 42.06% 41.78%
2011 Totals 58 28 15 25.86% 67 100.1 12 17.91% 58 99.9 28 15 53.57% 46.40% 57.24% 53.60% 42.76%

Overview: Chew on this nugget for a bit: Bell went nine games without rushing for a touchdown and didn’t score on the ground in the red zone until Week 11, yet still finished as the top back in fantasy. Amazingly, half (20) of his 40 carries inside the 20 came after Week 10, suggesting he is easily capable of handling 50-plus over a full 16-game season. He also ended up being Roethlisberger’s second favorite red-zone target, although it becomes clear after analyzing the passing-game distribution that just about every player eligible to catch a pass was fair game in scoring territory for Big Ben if he opted not to throw to Antonio Brown. Unsurprisingly, Brown was the runaway leader in red-zone targets and ended up with the second-highest total (behind Demaryius Thomas) I’ve seen in the four years of this analysis. One more noteworthy point: Pittsburgh’s run-pass ratio over the last two years under OC Todd Haley is nearly identical. Given the fact that the nucleus of the offense remains intact (as well as the lack of a quality backup for Bell), expect the pass-heavy lean to continue.

How it affects 2015: Like it or not, Bell is capable of bigger and better things this season simply because Pittsburgh figures to let him handle as much work as possible as soon as he completes his season-opening three-game suspension. Ex-Carolina RB DeAngelo Williams may get a few opportunities in his absence, but there is no reason why Bell shouldn’t be getting 90 percent of the red-zone work out of the Steelers’ backfield this season. Antonio Brown’s targets spiked from 21 two seasons ago to 33 last year. A slight regression should be expected, if only because Bryant should play a more pivotal role near the goal line (all four of his red-zone catches were good for scores). Miller’s involvement nearly doubled from his injury-plagued 2013 season and should stay roughly the same assuming good health, although 6-7, 261-pound rookie TE Jesse James may be too inviting of a target for Roethlisberger. Outside of the players I’ve already mentioned, it is hard to see anybody else – outside of maybe third-rounder WR Sammie Coates – collecting more than a handful of targets barring a rash of injuries.


 San Diego Chargers
Pos Player Att Comp PaTD PaTD % RuAtt RuAtt % RuTD RuTD % Tar Tar % Rec ReTD ReTD % RZ Pass % Pass % RZ Run % Run %
QB Philip Rivers  71 41 21 29.6 6 12.2 0 0
RB Branden Oliver  21 42.9 3 14.3 6 8.5 5 1 20
RB Ryan Mathews  5 10.2 1 20 1 1.4 0 0 0
RB Donald Brown  11 22.4 0 0 5 7 3 0 0
RB Ronnie Brown  2 4.1 0 0 1 1.4 1 0 0
RB Danny Woodhead  2 4.1 0 0 2 2.8 1 0 0
RB Shaun Draughn  1 2 0 0
WR Malcom Floyd  10 14.1 7 4 57.1
WR Eddie Royal  1 2 0 0 11 15.5 6 4 66.7
WR Keenan Allen  12 16.9 6 2 33.3
TE Antonio Gates  19 26.8 10 9 90
TE Ladarius Green  2 2.8 1 0 0
TE John Phillips  1 1.4 1 1 100
2014 Totals 71 41 21 29.58% 49 99.9 4 8.16% 70 98.6 41 21 51.22% 59.17% 59.05% 40.83% 40.95%
2013 Totals 87 57 22 25.29% 64 100 8 12.50% 86 98.6 57 22 38.60% 57.62% 52.82% 42.38% 47.18%
2012 Totals 61 40 18 29.51% 54 100 4 7.41% 57 93.4 39 18 46.15% 53.04% 56.23% 46.96% 43.77%
2011 Totals 64 30 14 21.88% 68 99.9 15 22.06% 60 93.8 30 14 46.67% 48.48% 58.40% 51.52% 41.60%

Overview: Over the last three years, no team has struggled scoring red-zone rushing touchdowns more than the Chargers. A team RuTD% of 12.5 is a poor mark in any single season, but represents San Diego’s best percentage in that span. Oliver gave San Diego the little force on the ground it had, although the Chargers’ inability to consistently punch it in near the goal line is more of a reflection of the run-blocking capabilities of their offensive line. The struggles of the running game are even more glaring considering how often Rivers has turned red-zone throws into touchdowns over the same three seasons. (His success over that time rivals that of Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Tom Brady and Tony Romo.) Gates’ activity was the highest it had been since I started doing Red Zone Report while Royal’s usage was probably the main reason why Green remains stuck in neutral. Woodhead’s leg injury and Allen’s uninspiring first half were probably the main reasons Gates saw as much action as he did.

How it affects 2015: If first-round RB Melvin Gordon is able to remain a big-play back in the pros, it may not matter as much whether or not the Chargers are overly efficient at running the ball inside the 20. (It remains to be seen whether plugging ex-Bronco Orlando Franklin in at left guard will be enough to help shore up the front five.) With no real big-back competition behind him, the nation’s leading rusher from a season ago should be in line for over 40 red-zone rushes (and 50 opportunities) if San Diego can return to the 151-play mark it achieved inside the 20 in 2013, as opposed to the 120 it did last season. Woodhead and Allen have reportedly enjoyed solid offseasons, meaning the red-zone reliance on Gates will probably fall off a bit in 2015. Gates should still lead the charge when he returns from his season-opening four-game suspension, but he’ll get pushed by Allen. Woodhead had a staggering 39 scoring opportunities (18 carries, 21 targets) two seasons ago. A repeat of that magnitude shouldn’t be expected, but he could end up being more of a drain on Gordon’s rookie-year production than some are expecting. The wild-card among the receiver group, however, is ex-Bill and 49er WR Steve Johnson. Although he is slated to take Royal’s role in the slot, he is a superior player to his predecessor and could lead his position group in touchdowns.

 Seattle Seahawks
Pos Player Att Comp PaTD PaTD % RuAtt RuAtt % RuTD RuTD % Tar Tar % Rec ReTD ReTD % RZ Pass % Pass % RZ Run % Run %
QB Russell Wilson  57 28 13 22.8 19 22.9 5 26.3
RB Marshawn Lynch  52 62.7 12 23.1 10 17.5 6 4 66.7
RB Robert Turbin  7 8.4 0 0 3 5.3 3 2 66.7
RB Christine Michael  2 2.5 0 0 1 1.8 0 0 0
RB Derrick Coleman  1 1.8 1 1 100
WR Percy Harvin  3 3.6 0 0 3 5.3 3 0 0
WR Doug Baldwin  12 21.1 8 2 25
WR Jermaine Kearse  7 12.3 1 1 100
WR Paul Richardson  3 5.3 2 1 50
TE Luke Willson  5 8.8 0 0 0
TE Tony Moeaki  2 3.5 1 1 100
TE Cooper Helfet  6 10.5 2 1 50
2014 Totals 57 28 13 22.81% 83 100.1 17 20.48% 53 93.2 27 13 48.15% 40.71% 46.37% 59.29% 53.63%
2013 Totals 54 27 18 33.33% 82 98.8 14 17.07% 48 89.1 27 18 66.67% 39.71% 45.21% 60.29% 54.79%
2012 Totals 62 35 18 29.03% 72 100 11 15.28% 56 90.5 35 17 48.57% 46.27% 43.04% 53.73% 56.96%
2011 Totals 50 25 9 18.00% 57 100.1 12 21.05% 50 100 25 9 36.00% 46.73% 49.85% 53.27% 50.15%

Overview: Perhaps no team has a better sense of its identity near the end zone than Seattle (at least it did prior to its final offensive play of the Super Bowl). The Seahawks ran one more time and recorded three more passing attempts than they did two seasons ago, but the overall numbers above are remarkably similar – with the exception of the declined efficiency in the passing game. For the second straight season, Lynch was granted 50-plus carries and at least 60 opportunities inside the 20. The result in 2013 was 14 touchdowns and 16 in 2014. Wilson accounted for 19 red-zone scores two years ago and 18 last year, with the biggest difference being that he was considerably more efficient on his red-zone runs and considerably less efficient on his passes last year. Looking at the pass catchers’ totals, it isn’t hard to figure out why Seattle struggles to make a receiver or tight end relevant in fantasy.

How it affects 2015: There are really only two questions that need to be answered for Seattle this year: 1) how much does the trade for TE Jimmy Graham alter the Seahawks’ offensive philosophy and 2) will it change how often the team relies on either Lynch or Wilson to run it in? The overwhelming opinion is that Seattle will keep pounding the rock, but consider for a second the best receiving option Wilson has had in his three-year career was Golden Tate. That not so much a knock on Tate, who proved himself to be a very good receiver last year, but no one will ever say the 5-10, 202-pounder is the physical mismatch that the 6-6, 260-pound Graham is. Seattle’s tight ends combined for 13 red-zone targets last year; Graham should easily surpass that by himself. I would expect Lynch’s efficiency – which has been over a very impressive 20 percent in three of the four years of the Red Zone Report – to only get better. If a player like unexpected Super Bowl star WR Chris Matthews is able to build upon his big-game success, it is scary how good the Seahawks could be inside the 20 this year.


 San Francisco 49ers
Pos Player Att Comp PaTD PaTD % RuAtt RuAtt % RuTD RuTD % Tar Tar % Rec ReTD ReTD % RZ Pass % Pass % RZ Run % Run %
QB Colin Kaepernick  42 25 11 26.2 15 23.4 0 0
RB Carlos Hyde  19 29.7 4 21.1 5 11.6 3 0 0
RB Frank Gore  27 42.2 3 11.1 2 4.7 0 0 0
RB Bruce Miller  1 1.6 0 0 2 4.7 2 2 100
WR Steve Johnson  4 9.3 3 3 100
WR Anquan Boldin  1 0 0 0 15 34.9 8 2 25
WR Michael Crabtree  9 20.9 6 2 33.3
WR Bruce Ellington  2 3.1 1 50 3 7 1 1 100
WR Brandon Lloyd  1 2.3 1 0 0
TE Vernon Davis  1 2.3 1 1 100
TE Vance McDonald  1 2.3 0 0 0
2014 Totals 43 25 11 25.58% 64 100 8 12.50% 43 100 25 11 44.00% 40.19% 50.89% 59.81% 49.11%
2013 Totals 51 29 15 29.41% 92 100.2 15 16.30% 49 95.4 29 15 51.72% 35.66% 45.23% 64.34% 54.77%
2012 Totals 46 26 13 28.26% 83 100 14 16.87% 46 100 26 13 50.00% 35.66% 46.98% 64.34% 53.02%
2011 Totals 61 25 9 14.75% 81 98.7 13 16.05% 61 99.9 25 9 36.00% 42.96% 55.73% 57.04% 44.27%

Overview: Kaepernick ran the ball in the red zone only nine times in 2013 and scored three touchdowns; in 2014, he was shut out on 15 attempts. His “struggles” were representative of the team as a whole as the demise of the defense (or at least the drop-off as a result of injuries to key players like LBs Patrick Willis and Navarro Bowman) allowed opponents to play keep-a-way from San Francisco and dramatically lower its number of plays inside the 20. While Hyde did steal a bit of Gore’s thunder near the goal line, it doesn’t fully account for why the franchise’s all-time leading rusher saw his red-zone carries fall by more than half (57 in 2013, 27 in 2014). It shouldn’t come as much of a revelation that Boldin led the team with 15 red-zone targets, but Davis’ one target – one season after drawing 18 – was a stunner.

How it affects 2015: Gore left for Indianapolis in the spring, but did Hyde inherit all of the early-down work Gore left behind and keep the goal-line duties? Probably not. Fourth-round RB Mike Davis put on a little bad weight during his final year at South Carolina and struggled with injuries, but was considered a second-round talent about this time last year. The Niners also signed RB Reggie Bush, who will probably either take over or share the passing-down role that Hunter has typically filled in recent years. The nine red-zone targets by the running backs were the most since 2011, but look for that to change with Bush in town. The biggest question regarding the former USC standout is how much San Francisco will use him in a Darren Sproles- or Danny Woodhead-like manner in the red zone. Vernon Davis is going to be much more involved this year, although it would be a lot to ask for him to match the lofty red-zone target total he had in 2013. WR Torrey Smith adds an interesting dynamic insomuch that seven of his 11 touchdowns in Baltimore last year were inside the 20. Boldin should once again pace the receivers in red-zone activity, although I could see Ellington or Quinton Patton emerge as a bit of a wild-card in scoring territory this year.

 St. Louis Rams
Pos Player Att Comp PaTD PaTD % RuAtt RuAtt % RuTD RuTD % Tar Tar % Rec ReTD ReTD % RZ Pass % Pass % RZ Run % Run %
QB Austin Davis  25 17 7 28 2 3.6 0 0
QB Shaun Hill  23 14 3 13 1 1.8 1 100 1 2.1 1 0 0
RB B. Cunningham  10 17.9 3 30 6 12.5 5 1 20
RB Tre Mason  21 37.5 3 14.3 2 4.2 2 0 0
RB Zac Stacy  13 23.2 1 7.7 2 4.2 0 0 0
RB Trey Watts  1 1.8 0 0 2 4.2 2 0 0
WR Tavon Austin  8 14.3 2 25
WR Brian Quick  3 6.3 3 2 66.7
WR Stedman Bailey  4 8.3 3 1 33.3
WR Kenny Britt  6 12.5 3 0 0
WR Austin Pettis  3 6.3 2 1 50
WR Chris Givens  1 2.1 0 0 0
TE Lance Kendricks  6 12.5 4 3 75
TE Jared Cook  9 18.8 4 1 25
TE Cory Harkey  2 4.2 2 1 50
2014 Totals 48 31 10 20.83% 56 100.1 10 17.86% 47 98.2 31 10 32.26% 46.15% 56.59% 53.85% 43.41%
2013 Totals 74 34 18 24.32% 67 100 7 10.45% 74 100.1 34 18 52.94% 52.48% 54.29% 47.52% 45.71%
2012 Totals 61 33 13 21.31% 39 100 5 12.82% 61 98.5 34 14 41.18% 61.00% 57.60% 39.00% 42.40%
2011 Totals 43 13 5 11.63% 29 99.8 6 20.69% 42 97.8 13 5 38.46% 59.72% 59.62% 40.28% 40.38%

Overview: The Rams pretty much posted the kind of stats inside the 20 that one might expect from a team that started two former undrafted free agents at quarterback all season. In a league in which some teams are getting 3-4 players with double-digit red-zone targets, it is embarrassing that St. Louis and Cleveland were the only teams to not have such a player. (For perspective, remember Demaryius Thomas had 39 red-zone targets by himself last year – eight fewer than the Rams had as a team.) Some of the blame for that falls on Quick’s shoulder injury, but most of it goes to the fact the Rams ran 37 fewer red-zone plays in 2014 (104) than they did in 2013 (141). One of the more curious abnormalities was the usage of Austin, who somehow managed eight carries in scoring territory despite the fact he is generally considered too small (5-8, 176) to play the slot inside the 20 for a team that was (and still is) much deeper at running back.

How it affects 2015: St. Louis’ approach isn’t going to change this year and, in all likelihood, the team will go more run-heavy regardless of where it is on the field. No. 10 overall pick RB Todd Gurley should be among the league leaders in red-zone activity over the next few years and was only the first of several picks the Rams made in an effort to build a dominant ground game in the league’s most defensive division. (St. Louis basically turned over half of its depth chart along the front five, drafting four offensive linemen.) QB Nick Foles figures to strike a bit more of fear into opposing defenses than Davis or Hill could, which should allow Britt, Quick and Cook to all post more respectable numbers. A healthy Quick should lead the receiving corps in targets and Britt should enjoy more success than last year, but the Gurley- (or possibly Mason-) led ground game figures to limit their opportunities and make counting on one of the big receivers to be a consistent touchdown scorer an unlikely proposition. The biggest change from last year, however, will be that Gurley will probably be responsible for at least 60 percent of his team’s red-zone carries, whenever he is officially cleared.


 Tampa Bay Bucs
Pos Player Att Comp PaTD PaTD % RuAtt RuAtt % RuTD RuTD % Tar Tar % Rec ReTD ReTD % RZ Pass % Pass % RZ Run % Run %
QB Josh McCown  27 15 7 25.9 6 14.3 3 50
QB Mike Glennon  23 9 7 30.4
RB Bobby Rainey  1 0 0 0 17 40.5 1 5.9 3 5.9 1 1 100
RB Doug Martin  9 21.4 2 22.2 1 2 1 0 0
RB Charles Sims  4 9.5 1 25
RB Mike James  6 14.3 0 0
RB Jorvorskie Lane  1 2 1 0 0
WR Mike Evans  13 25.5 8 6 75
WR Vincent Jackson  14 27.5 3 2 66.7
WR Louis Murphy  6 11.8 3 1 33.3
WR Robert Herron  1 2 1 1 100
TE A. S-Jenkins  4 7.8 2 2 100
TE Brandon Myers  4 7.8 3 0 0
2014 Totals 51 24 14 27.45% 42 100 7 16.67% 47 92.3 23 13 56.52% 54.84% 60.07% 45.16% 39.93%
2013 Totals 57 25 15 26.32% 33 100.1 4 12.12% 51 89.6 23 13 56.52% 63.33% 55.03% 36.67% 44.97%
2012 Totals 71 39 20 28.17% 66 100 8 12.12% 70 98.6 39 20 51.28% 51.82% 57.64% 48.18% 42.36%
2011 Totals 65 39 13 20.00% 30 99.9 6 20.00% 65 100 39 13 33.33% 68.42% 64.18% 31.58% 35.82%

Overview: Want a good reason why fantasy owners should expect a bounce-back season for Jackson? He had one more red-zone target than Evans. It’s not a trend that should continue going forward, but is worth noting nonetheless. Perhaps the biggest takeaway from Evans’ meager 13 targets inside the 20 is the fact that only six of his 12 rookie-year touchdowns came in the red zone, which means he scored his other six TDs from beyond 20 yards – hopefully proving to the general fan he is more than just a nice tall receiver that can win jump balls in the end zone (at least for those that didn’t watch him in college). Jackson secured 18 targets in each of his first two years in Tampa, so he’s going to remain a factor in the red zone as any 6-5, 230-pound receiver should. Rainey has handily led the running backs in red-zone opportunities in each of the last two years (18 in 2013, 20 in 2014) since Martin’s huge rookie campaign, something the Bucs desperately need to change if they want to compete this season.

How it affects 2015: Evans and Jackson have flip-flopped positions from last year (the former will take over the Julio Jones’ “X” spot in new OC Dirk Koetter’s offense while the latter will occupy Roddy White’s Z/slot role). While it is possible that No. 1 overall pick QB Jameis Winston finds the coverage more lax on Jackson on a consistent basis than he does for Evans, it seems quite likely the second-year Texas A&M product will push his red-zone targets into the 20s. Jackson will also benefit from having one quarterback under center and shouldn’t be expected to fall too far off of Evans’ pace simply because the Bucs should be able to execute more than 93 plays inside the 20 this year. Seferian-Jenkins figures to be the biggest winner of the Koetter hire as the well-respected play-caller has coaxed solid production out of Jacksonville TE Marcedes Lewis and an aging Tony Gonzalez in recent years. Martin is reportedly having his best offseason as a pro. If the “Muscle Hamster” can approach anything resembling 2012 in his contract year behind what should be an improved offensive line, it is entirely possible every skill-position starting player for the Bucs will be useful in fantasy.

 Tennessee Titans
Pos Player Att Comp PaTD PaTD % RuAtt RuAtt % RuTD RuTD % Tar