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RED ZONE: Target Analysis

The NFL relaxing the touchdown celebration rules is one of the few things the league seems to have gotten right recently. It’s amazing how often professional sports leagues simply don’t listen to their fans and try to force unwanted or unnecessary changes to the game.

Much like we fans are enjoying the revival of personality and choreographed celebrations, nothing gets a fantasy football fan on the dance floor faster than a touchdown. Touchdowns remain the biggest source of fantasy points and that means it’s vital to have a good clue which players are in the best position to score those valuable points.

Tracking the weekly red zone passing targets is the best way to keep track of the players that are getting those all-important red zone targets. So let’s take a look at the red zone targets from Week 10 and what they mean for Week 11 and moving towards the fantasy playoffs.

Rank Name Team Pos. Targets Catch TD
1 Jimmy Graham SEA TE 4 3 2
2 Davante Adams GB WR 3 2 1
3 Jermaine Gresham ARI TE 3 2 1
4 Vernon Davis WAS TE 3 1 0
5 Rod Smith DAL RB 3 1 0
6 Rob Gronkowski NE TE 3 1 0
7 Jamison Crowder WAS WR 3 0 0
8 Tyler Lockett SEA WR 2 2 0
9 Alvin Kamara NO RB 2 2 0
10 Austin Hooper ATL TE 2 2 1

Jimmy Graham‘s big performance vaulted him to the top of the NFL red zone target leaderboard, where the Seahawks tight end is now tied for the league lead with 18 looks and six touchdowns. Graham has scored all six of this touchdowns in the past five games and gets a Week 11 home date with the Falcons, who are a Top-5 fantasy tight end defense.

The player Graham just beat out to lead Week 10 is also the player he’s tied with season-to-date. Adams also has 18 red zone targets and six scores this season after Brett Hundley looked somewhat competent last week. Aaron Rodgers has just started taking snaps and could return in four weeks, just in time for the fantasy playoffs, which would obviously be a huge boost for Adams and the rest of Green Bay’s skill position players.

Jermaine Gresham has scored in back-to-back games with Drew Stanton under center but there’s no telling how he’ll fare with No. 3 signal-caller Blaine Gabbert taking the snaps for Arizona. Forward-thinking fantasy players might consider adding Gresham for that Week 16 Championship matchup with the New York Giants, who have allowed a tight end to score to a touchdown in 10-straight games.

Vernon Davis now has more red zone targets (6) and catches (4) than Jordan Reed (5 looks, 3 grabs) mainly because Davis has now played far more than the oft-injured Reed. For the season, Davis has out-snapped Reed 409-233. Reed is nursing a hamstring injury and is listed as questionable for Week 11 but Davis might be a better option anyway.

Dallas running back usage went as expected, with Alfred Morris taking the most carries and Rod Smith playing the change-of-pace and third-down role. Darren McFadden logged all of one snap. Of the three, Smith has the most upside and stands to have the biggest role in a Cowboys offense that will undoubtedly be more pass-heavy without Ezekiel Elliott.

Rob Gronkowski nearly caught a 19-yard touchdown that was ruled incomplete and upheld via replay. The play was close enough that if it had been called a touchdown on the field it likely would have stood. Gronk continues to be New England’s primary receiving threat, especially near the stripe. The Patriots travel to Mexico City to take on a very average Oakland secondary in Week 11.

All three of Jamison Crowder‘s red zone targets came inside the Minnesota three-yard line but none were completed. For the season, Crowder has caught only three of seven RZ targets without scoring a touchdown.

Alvin Kamara has been red-hot in all facets of the game. Kamara leads the NFL with 6.5 yards-per-carry and has rushed for a touchdown in three consecutive games. Kamara’s 10 red zone looks and eight grabs are second among all NFL running backs, just behind Christian McCaffrey.

After three straight games with six targets, Austin Hooper has snuck into TE1 status for the season. Hooper’s touchdown from last week came from 1-yard out and was the second scored in three weeks for the second-year tight end. Hooper and the Falcons have a solid matchup in Week 11 against an injury-ravaged Seattle secondary.

Rank Name Team Pos. Targets Catch TD
11 JuJu Smith-Schuster PIT WR 2 2 1
12 Danny Amendola NE WR 2 2 0
13 Robert Woods LA WR 2 2 1
14 Kenny Britt CLE WR 2 1 1
15 Adam Thielen MIN WR 2 1 1
16 Taylor Gabriel ATL WR 2 1 0
17 Jarvis Landry MIA WR 2 1 1
18 Rex Burkhead NE RB 2 1 1
19 Charles Sims TB RB 2 1 1
20 Bruce Ellington HOU WR 2 1 0

Danny Amendola logged six yards with each of his red zone catches but wasn’t targeted inside the 10-yard line. The Patriots like to get the ball to Rob Gronkowski and their running backs near the goal line so Amendola is a reliable chain-mover but unlikely to be a consistent touchdown scorer.

Robert Woods has been one of the hottest receivers in football, catching 12 balls for 241 yards and four scores over LA’s past two games. Woods has been able to produce long touchdowns and also cashed in from 12-yards out against the Texans. Things won’t be as easy this week as the Rams travel to Minnesota as Woods will see Xavier Rhodes in coverage.

Speaking of the Vikings, Adam Thielen might be the most unheralded player in fantasy football this season. It took a while for Thielen to get his first touchdown, but he’s now scored in consecutive weeks and is the season’s WR3 in PPR formats. With a 1-for-2 mark in Week 10, Thielen improved his red zone efficiency for the season, which now stands at four-for-14.

Jarvis Landry has now caught seven of nine red zone targets for the season and has scored five touchdowns, which is his career high. Landry is on pace to catch 108 balls but only register 839 receiving yards due to a paltry 7.7 yards-per-catch average.

New England keeps shifting their main red zone runner, with Rex Burkhead the current flavor of the week. Burkhead had a season-high 10 totes last week and caught a 14-yard touchdown on the Patriots’ opening drive. With Mike Gilislee a healthy scratch last week, Burkhead is primed to have significant PPR value as the fantasy playoffs loom near.

Will Fuller (ribs) is expected to miss Week 11 versus the Cardinals so Bruce Ellington should be in for an increase in targets. Ellington is second on the Texans with six red zone looks this season, only catching his first ball in Week 10’s blowout loss to the Rams. With Patrick Peterson expected to shadow DeAndre Hopkins, Ellington could be a sneaky source of targets and catches in Week 11.

About Jody Smith

2012 Most Accurate Fantasy Football Expert at FantasyPros and FSTA award. 27-year fantasy football veteran. Covers the Houston Texans. Member of the PFWA (Pro Football Writer's of America) and FSWA. Podcast host. NFL projections guy.