Much like how the game of football itself has evolved over the past two decades, fantasy football has changed with the times. Gone are the days of each team trotting out a plodding running back to carry the load 25 or more times per game. Now, we have high-octane read-option offenses with dual-threat quarterbacks that can not only run but can also regularly exceed 4,000 yards and 30 touchdown tosses a season with ease.
While today’s game is certainly more fantasy-friendly, touchdowns remain the most important part of any scoring system. Players that are consistently getting into the end zone tend to be the most valuable assets in fantasy football. And knowing which players are commanding the most attention and targets in and around the red zone is vitally important to building and championship-caliber fantasy squad.
With that in mind, here are the red zone targets for every player that got a look near the end zone during the 2016 NFL season, and what we might expect for each team in 2017.
First up, we look at the NFC West.
Inside the 20
Inside the 10
Larry Fitzgerald was actually more involved in the red zone in 2016 than he was in 2015. Fitzgerald got two more looks and seven more yards inside the 20, but his touchdowns fell in half- from eight to a mere four. Inside the five is where we really saw a drop-off. After finishing third in the NFL with 40 receiving yards and seven touchdowns inside the five-yard line in 2015, Fitzgerald managed only 18 yards and four scores in 2016. With RB David Johnson dominated those touches now and WR John Brown looking more healthy, we can probably expect Fitzgerald’s touchdown numbers to remain low.
Speaking of John Brown, he may be an excellent candidate for a healthy rebound. Brown was hampered by various injuries last season that limited his playing time. That was apparent in the red zone, as Brown actually led the Cardinals with 95 receiving yards in 2015, but managed to make only two grabs for 24 yards last season. Now that he’s reportedly fully healthy, and with Michael Floyd no longer in town, expect John Brown to reclaim a much bigger part or Arizona’s passing game.
David Johnson led the NFL with 66 red zone touches and scored an incredible 15 total touchdowns inside the five-yard line. Johnson trailed only Larry Fitzgerald in both red zone looks (13) and receptions (8). Overall, the Cardinals offense looks like a good candidate to bounce back from a subpar 2016 showing, and David Johnson will remain the overwhelming favorite to lead the NFL in touchdowns.
Los Angeles Rams
Inside the 20
Inside the 10
Finally rid of Jeff Fisher and his mundane offensive philosophy, the Rams will attempt to revive their stagnant red zone offense with an entirely new cast of talent. 52.9% of the red zone targets from last season are no longer with the club. The loss of Kenny Britt, who led the Rams is nearly every important category, will hurt, but the new staff signed Robert Woods and invested picks in two productive college wideouts.
Diminutive wideout Tavon Austin received eight total touches in the red zone but produced only 11 yards of offense and a single touchdown. Austin is expected to be utilized more as a deep threat this season, so bigger receivers like rookies Cooper Kupp, Josh Reynolds, or second-year tight end Tyler Higbee are candidates to potentially lead the Rams in end zone looks.
Case Keenum and Jared Goff combined to complete only 40.3% of their red zone attempts with only nine touchdowns. Under Sean McVay’s tutelage, Kirk Cousins completed over 54% of his red zone throws with a 36-2 TD-to-INT ratio for the Redskins in the past two seasons. Goff was slightly more efficient than Keenum, and now that he’s expected to be the full-time starter, Goff looks like a good candidate to see a significant boost in short-yardage scoring opportunities.