Coffin Corner: The Red Zone, Runners
We've got a lot of amazing tools at RotoWire.com. There's so much info here to be had that perhaps some of it slips through the cracks as you're prepping your fantasy squad for battle each week. So today I'm going to touch on a page of information that's extremely valuable, something you can access each week, that will aid your move to fantasy greatness. What is that page? It's the Red Zone Stat Page. Why does it matter and why are you missing out if you aren't consulting it each week? In fantasy football we oftentimes spend too much time and effort simply studying the fantasy numbers of any effort. Did “my guy” score a touchdown or not? Did he throw for 300 yards or not? Sometimes the truly important information slips through the cracks. You should be paying attention to things like snap counts more heavily than you likely do. What about targets? Hey your guy had only four catches for 47 yards and your ticked. However, did you notice that eleven passes were thrown his way? Isn't that more important to know, the number of times his team threw the ball at him? These numbers, this data, is extremely useful as you try to assess the value of your roster. Today, we're going to take up that cause and focus on red zone looks, something you should all be interested in given just how important the touchdown is to fantasy football scoring.
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THE RED ZONE
Let's break down some running backs as pass catchers before we move on to looking at how teams are divvying out the carries this season.
Danny Woodhead leads all runners with 31 receptions, and that's three more touches than the 28 carries he has on the ground. He is what he is and that is a very useful running back option in a PPR setup. More than that, he's actually an RB1 in PPR setups because of all those catches. At 5'8” and about 190 lbs, it's not a surprise that he's used that way. Even down in the Red Zone, the Chargers are continuing to use their mighty mite. Woodhead leads all runners with nine targets inside the Red Zone, i.e. the 20 yard line. Why is that significant? How about because it's the largest number in football among runners. He's getting the ball all over the field including when the Chargers move in for a score. Though Woodhead leads the way in Red Zone (RZ) targets, it should be noted that the Chargers have been in the RZ frequently this season. As a result Woodhead might lead all runners in total looks, but he's only 4th in the league in terms of seeing the highest number of targets inside the 20. Who is ahead of him? One name you would expect, and then two potentially surprising ones.
Jamaal Charles leads runners in fantasy points in PPR, and he's also second in Red Zone targets with eight. Hardly a shock there. By the way, he also leads the league with 17 RZ carries, not a shock.
Two runners are tied at 25 percent of the RZ targets for their clubs. The two runners aren't the lead backs on their clubs, and until the past week most weren't very happy to have them on their fantasy squads in many instances. Pierre Thomas hasn't rushed for 45 yards in a game this season, and he doesn't have a rushing score either. He does catch passes, at least four in each game including a season best nine in Week 5. The 28 touches in Week 5 really stand out, with Mark Ingram down he's getting a lot of work, but don't overlook that he only touched the ball nine times in Week 4. Marcel Reece is likely to lead the Raiders backfield in touches in Week 6 as Darren McFadden (hamstring) and Rashad Jennings (hamstring) are both dealing with injuries (DMC is out and it sounds like Jennings will be limited even if he plays). That leaves the Raiders with Reece and Jeremy Stewart likely set to carry the mail in Week 6 (the Raiders are working out runners off the street in order to build depth). Reece was a top-10 RB last season from Weeks 10-13 when DMC was down, and the guy has considerable skills. Thomas and Reece both have that 25.0 percent mark in the RZ but they also have combined for, get this, one target inside the 10 yard line. Neither is a big threat for scores through the air when everyone is healthy and the offense is operating as it normally would.
Now let's turn to what runners do best and that is carry the mail on the ground.
I noted earlier that Charles leads the way with 17 rushes inside the 20, a league leading total also matched by Frank Gore and Chris Johnson. Surprisingly, Gore and CJ2K don't even have a hold on 60 percent of their teams RZ carries (both are at 58.6 percent). Gore cedes carries to Kendall Hunter and Anthony Dixon (more on that below) and Johnson takes a backseat to Jackie Battle or Shonn Greene. In KC it's more Charles all the time as he has 70.8 percent of the carries. That number pales in comparison to others at the position however. Take a look.
100.0 – Doug Martin (six carries)
93.3 – DeMarco Murray (14 carries)
92.3 – Arian Foster (12 carries)
84.2 – Adrian Peterson (16 carries)
77.8 – Willis McGahee (14 carries)
That 100 percent mark is why you don't want to give up on Martin. He's the only show in town. He's not only getting all the work when the Bucs go in for a score he's also leading the NFL with 100 carries despite the fact that he has only played four games.
Murray gets the ball for the 'Boys, and he will continue to get the ball until he is injured. Yep, I said it, until he is injured. It's gonna happen. Just look at his upright running style and his history going back to college.
Ben Tate... why are people still talking about Ben Tate? Arian Foster gets all the work in the RZ. Arian Foster has 97 carries, the third most in the NFL. Ben Tate? The guy averages nine carries a game for his career. This season he's failed to get 10 carries in any game and he's averaging eight carries a contest. Tate is merely a desperation flex play. Foster is carrying the mail.
AD is second in the league in carries in the RZ and he's also second in carries inside the 10 yard line with nine (that number is tied with Marshawn Lynch and BenJarvus Green-Ellis, one behind the leader – Charles).
McGahee, where did this come from? In just three games of work McG has 14 carries inside the RZ, the same number as Lynch and Murray. It's also two more than Foster, three more than Matt Forte and five more than LeSean McCoy. Pretty shocking isn't it? McG may not be anything other than a volume runner at this stage of his career, but wow is he being used in the happy zone for runners as McGahee leads the NFL with eight carries inside the five yard line. The guy has played three games. What that obviously signifies is that whenever there is a short yardage situation at the goal line the ball is gonna be in Willis' hands. If that continues to be the case it's quite conceivable that he could score a good number of times this season which will help to buoy his fantasy value even if he's not exactly tearing it up in the YPC department.
Others who are at the top with five yard in carries.
Eight – McGahee
Seven – Jackie Battle
Six – DeMarco Murray
Five – Jamaal Charles, Jacquizz Rodgers, Anthony Dixon & BJGE
Battle is a replacement level talent who is only getting a shot at the goal line work because of Shonn Greene's knee injury. When Greene is healthy it's very likely that Battle recedes into the woodwork. By the way, Chris Johnson is fifth in the NFL with 94 carries, an average of 18.8 a week, but he doesn't have a single carry inside the five yard line. He simply must score on long runs since the Titans have zero confidence that he can punch the ball across the goal line.
Dixon? Really? Frank Gore has no issue taking himself out of the game if he needs a breather, and the Niners don't have an issue with it either cause they can turn to Kendall Hunter, one of the best backup runners in the NFL. Still it's been the bigger Dixon who has come in at the goal line when Gore needs a break. In fact, 50 percent of Dixon's carries this season have been inside the five yard line.
We all want to write off BJGE, and I get it. Giovani Bernard is vastly superior talent, a game breaking talent, and BJGE is simply plodding. Still, the numbers don't lie. Through five games BJGE has received 63.2 percent of the Bengals carries in the RZ, his nine carries inside the 10 yard line are second in football, and those five goal line touches put him in a tie for fourth in football. As for Bernard he has half as many RZ carries (six), a third as many inside the 10 (three) and a fifth as many inside the five (one). Bernard is the back to own, the back to start, and the back to count on. However, true fantasy greatness might elude him in 2013 if the Bengals continue to insist on giving the ball to BJGE every time they get down to the goal line.
Make sure you take a look a bit deeper than just the surface stats on ESPN. Sometimes a little digging can reveal some pretty interesting/useful information.
Ray Flowers can be heard daily on Sirius/XM Radio on The Fantasy Drive on Sirius 210 and XM 87, Monday through Thursday at 7 PM EDT & Friday's at 9 PM EDT. For more of Ray's analysis you can check out BaseballGuys.com or the BaseballGuys' Twitter account where he tirelessly answers everyone's questions.