One of the older fantasy football adages is more opportunity tends
to lead to more success. That logic applies just as much - if not
more so - inside the 20 than it does outside of it. Since touchdowns
are the lifeblood of fantasy football and since the majority of
them are scored closer to the goal line, it only makes sense to
take into account what players are getting those chances and how
successful they are with them.
Red zone analysis helps owners get a sense of what teams are
doing in prime scoring territory, but looking at what teams do
solely inside the 20 doesn't provide the total picture. And it
makes sense why: just like in basketball where the field-goal
percentage goes down as the shot get progressively longer, the
percentage of teams scoring a touchdown on any given play go down
the further away a team is from the goal line. In keeping up with
the basketball metaphor, fantasy owners aren't concerned with
the first few passes that led to the shot; we want successful
conversions. The point to be made here is a lot more touchdowns
are scored inside the 5 and inside the 10 than between the 11
Here is a key for the abbreviations you will see below:
Cmp – Completions Att – Pass Attempts Cmp % – Completion Percentage TD – Passing Touchdown INT – Interception INT Rate – Interception rate
Qualified QB Averages (QBs with at
least 20 RZ attempts; those with less were included/excluded based
on likely 2017 significance) Inside the 20: 52.5 percent completion rate Inside the 10: 50.6 percent completion rate
If you thought you were watching a better version of Aaron Rodgers
last year than you remembered in previous years, your eyes were
not deceiving you. Rodgers' TD-to-INT ratios inside the 20 (31:0)
and 10 (24:0) were the best in the NFL since Peyton Manning's
historic 2013 campaign (37:0; 25:0). The fact Rodgers did so without
much of a running game makes it all the more impressive. While
Jordy Nelson's return to form (65.5-percent catch rate inside
the 20; 73.3 inside the 10) had something to do with it, Davante Adams (60; 70) and Randall Cobb (69.2; 85.7) were almost as good
- if not better in some cases. That's as much the quarterback
finding the open man and putting it in a spot he can catch it
as it is the skill of the receiver.
On the opposite end of the spectrum was Cam Newton, who was actually
serviceable in the red zone (58.2 percent, 26 TD, 0 INT) and inside
the 10 (54.6, 13, 0) in 2015. In 2016, however, those marks were
36.7, 11 and 2 inside the 20 and 53.3, 7 and 1 inside the 10.
(The 36.7-percent completion percentage inside the red zone was
the worst among the quarterbacks listed last year.) Although we
all know Newton had his own issues, Devin Funchess let him down
far more than any other one of his receivers did (23.1-percent
catch rate inside the red zone).
Care to question the Raiders' most recent $125 million investment?
While Michael Crabtree was among the most targeted receivers inside
the 20 (21 targets) and 10 (eight) and executed when given his
opportunities for the most part (57.1-percent catch rate inside
the 20, 50 inside the 10), Seth Roberts (40, 50) and Amari Cooper
(38.5, 0) did not help Derek Carr (47.8, 37.2). Cooper's bagel
inside the 10 (0-for-7) in particular contributed greatly to Carr's
16-for-43 line in close (37.2 percent). The problem with laying
the blame entirely on Cooper or Roberts is Carr's 43.4 completion
percentage inside the red zone in 2015.
Kirk Cousins proved he was a "franchise quarterback"
in 2016 by throwing for 751 more yards and lowering his interception
rate by a fraction of a percent. Or did he prove nothing at all?
Despite attempting 63 more passes, he threw for four fewer touchdowns
and was shockingly inaccurate inside the 20 (45.8 percent) and
the 10 (31.6). Some may point to Jordan Reed being a shell of
himself after injuring his shoulder on Thanksgiving as the main
cause for the stunning drop Cousins' efficiency took from 2015
(61.1, 60.5). Then again, a "franchise quarterback"
should never be that reliant on one player in any area of the
field. Maybe Terrelle Pryor's efficiency with Cleveland last year
(69.2-percent catch rate inside the 20, 75 percent inside the
10) was just another reason Washington saw him as a suitable replacement
(upgrade?) on DeSean Jackson. In the interest of fair-and-balanced
analysis, Cousins was one of the best and most efficient deep
passers in the NFL in 2016, going 39-of-82 on passes 20 yards
in the air and longer for a league-leading 1,359 yards, 11 touchdowns
and just three interceptions, per Pro Football Focus.
"Exotic smash-mouth" football seemed to agree with
Marcus Mariota, who finished fourth among the quarterbacks above
in completion percentage inside the 20 (63) and second inside
the 10 (69.6). His accuracy was made all the more impressive by
the fact his best weapons were Delanie Walker, Rishard Matthews
and DeMarco Murray coming out of the backfield. Matthews, in particular,
was awesome inside the 20 (80-percent catch rate) and the 10 (100),
while Murray wasn't far behind (75, 66.7). There's no telling
if Mariota can improve on his stellar numbers from a season ago,
but given the impressive influx of receiving talent Tennessee
acquired in the offseason, it's not unreasonable to think he can
Doug Orth has written for FF
Today since 2006 and been featured in USA Today’s Fantasy
Football Preview magazine since 2010. He hosted USA Today’s
hour-long, pre-kickoff fantasy football internet chat every Sunday
in 2012-13 and appears as a guest analyst on a number of national
sports radio shows, including Sirius XM’s “Fantasy Drive”.
Doug is also a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.