In the past, we’ve looked at red zone rush and pass rates to see which teams prefer either option. Let’s take it a step further to look at the leaders in rush success rate in the red zone. The top five teams are the Miami Dolphins, Los Angeles Rams, Washington Commanders, Cleveland Browns and Chicago Bears.
The visual below shows the rest of the top 12 in rush success rate in the red zone.
We’ll notice the Cincinnati Bengals, Commanders, Arizona Cardinals and Kansas City Chiefs don’t run much in the red zone, so they’re being successful in a smaller sample. Meanwhile, we want pieces of the Indianapolis Colts, Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers, mainly via their ground games.
The graphic above shows the top 12 in red zone pass success rate. When sorting by the teams with the highest passing success rates, the 49ers aren’t a surprise as one of the more efficient offenses. The graphic should give us confidence in the Cardinals’ passing game, especially with Kyler Murray back at quarterback. And the Bengals throw at the second-highest rate in the red zone, with a quality success rate, possibly related to inefficiencies with Joe Mixon.
Below, we’ll examine red zone goal-to-go (GTG) touches and opportunities. The context for these touches is important, so we’ll consider the potential game script that led to the usage. This information helps identify which players might be on the verge of scoring more touchdowns and fantasy points — and which players aren’t.
Given the small sample size, we sometimes find that players don’t regress quickly or that the data becomes more noisy than meaningful. The information will be broken down by red zone and GTG rushing and receiving data to find usage patterns and expected fantasy points.
Red Zone Rushing
The Detroit Lions and Los Angeles Chargers scored 79 points, the week’s highest total. Austin Ekeler led all rushers with six red zone carries in Week 10, four of which came in goal-to-go situations. Ekeler rocks elite usage, a rush share of 67.9 percent and a target share of 17.5 percent.
Since Week 6, Ekeler has a 61.8 rush share (No. 9) and 17.3 percent target share (No. 3). The Chargers have several friendly matchups coming with the third-best schedule for running backs — expect Ekeler to win weeks.
The scatter plot below shows the red zone rushing leaders in Weeks 6-10. We included the ratio of rushes per touchdown to show which players have been efficient in the touchdown department.
On the other side of the game, David Montgomery returned, but rookie Jahmyr Gibbs remained involved, unlike earlier in the season. Montgomery and Gibbs had four red zone carries, and the rookie scored two touchdowns on those rushing attempts (Montgomery had zero). In Weeks 1-4, Gibbs scored on zero of his 43 touches, compared with five touchdowns on his 68 touches in the past three games.
Meanwhile, Montgomery has a touchdown on 6.7 percent of his touches in four games played before Week 10. It’s a one-game sample with Gibbs playing well and Montgomery healthy, and thankfully, Gibbs earned five targets (15.2 percent team target share), and Montgomery had zero.
While it will be challenging to have both produce at a high rate each week, Week 10 gave fantasy managers another data point to digest with Gibbs’ stock going up.
Robinson posted his second-best rush share of the season at 53.7 percent. He also had a serviceable 11.1 percent target share, as seen above. However, the Falcons’ passing game, or lack thereof, was concerning, evidenced by their 2.9 yards per pass attempt.
Meanwhile, Tyler Allgeier had a season-low rush share of 22 percent, which logically makes sense for the Atlanta backfield usage. I’ve been pounding the table to buy Robinson and Allgeier despite their frustrating roles.
Raise your hand if you sat Devin Singletary. Just me? Cool. Before Week 10, the Bengals looked like a juicy matchup for Singletary. The Bengals’ rush defense ranked last in defensive rush success rate (50.2 percent), 27th in yards after contact per attempt (YAC/Att) and last in explosive rush rate allowed. However, the Houston Texans rank 26th in rush success rate, second-to-last in YAC/Att and 29th in explosive rush percentage.
Singletary had a season-high rush rate at 88.2 percent (his previous high was 76.5 percent in Week 9). In 2022, Singletary’s season-high rush share came in Week 6 at 54.8 percent. In 2021, it was an 81.5 percent rush share in Week 15. The point is it’s rare for Singletary to dominate the backfield rush share. If Dameon Pierce misses in Week 11, have confidence in Singletary as a low-end RB2, mainly via rushing production.
The Denver Broncos’ Backfield
Javonte Williams handled a healthy workload on the ground Monday with 21 carries (55.3 percent rush share), ranking him 17th in Week 10. Four of his rushing attempts came in the red zone, but he had zero carries in GTG situations. Williams scored a receiving touchdown on his lone GTG target to break a 15-15 tie and finished with a respectable 13.8 percent target share against the Buffalo Bills.
Russell Wilson used his legs to extend drives and plays — he had six rushes on third and fourth downs — taking some opportunities away from Williams. The Denver Broncos mixed in Samaje Perine as their third-down back, and he ran eight routes in Week 10 while Williams ran two.
Thankfully, Perine and Jaleel McLaughlin haven’t eaten into Williams’ workload too much, which is evident in Williams ranking 11th in rush share at 60.7 percent and ninth in target share at 15.5 percent since Week 7.
Value Williams as an inefficient RB2, given his 11.5 EP/G (No. 26) and -1.7 FPOE/G (No. 108) before Week 10. His profile is similar to Rachaad White‘s, who has a 57.4 percent rush share and a 12.5 percent target share. However, White’s floor is safer with less backfield competition and a slightly better overall offense.
Houston Texans, Dallas Cowboys Dominate Red Zone
Two rookies on the Texans keep impressing us: QB C.J. Stroud and WR Nathaniel (Tank) Dell. Dell led all receivers with five red zone targets, two of which came in GTG situations, leading to a touchdown. Though Noah Brown led the team with 172 receiving yards, Dell garnered the sixth-highest target share in Week 10 at 35.9 percent.
It’s Dell’s second straight game with double-digit targets (25 total), yet there remain some inefficiencies in his 32.5 percent target share and 48 percent catch rate. We’ll take the volume and efficiency trade-off, evidenced by his 14.4 percent target share and 68.8 percent catch rate in Weeks 1-8. Dell’s stock keeps rising, and he looks like a legitimate receiving option on a team that passes 59 percent of the time (No. 16).
However, Stroud contributes to the Texans, ranking second in passing yards per game, third in adjusted yards per attempt (7.7) and first in the percentage of interceptions per attempt (0.6 percent). Stroud’s adjusted yards per attempt rank behind two of the most efficient offenses in the 49ers (8.8) and Dolphins (8.3), as seen below.
You probably had a good day if you had CeeDee Lamb in your lineup. Lamb dominated from all areas of the field, scoring a rushing touchdown on an end-around and a receiving score from the red zone. Four of Lamb’s 14 targets came in the red zone, and Dak Prescott is playing well again.
Since the Dallas Cowboys’ Week 7 bye week, Lamb has earned the third-best target share at 36.1 percent, behind Davante Adams and Michael Pittman Jr., and a ridiculous league-leading 166.7 receiving yards per game.
It’s not a coincidence to see the Cowboys’ offense rolling while feeding Lamb, the team’s best offensive player. In Weeks 8-10, Dallas ranks second in adjusted yards per attempt, second in yards per game and first in offensive points scored.
Cowboys TE Jake Ferguson seems to garner a couple of red zone opportunities and score a touchdown each week. That occurred in Week 10, with Ferguson catching two of his three red zone targets for one touchdown. It’s the third-straight week of Ferguson scoring a red zone touchdown, after one score in the first six weeks.
What’s Wrong with Christian Watson?
On a less positive note, Christian Watson had three red zone opportunities with zero catches. Though Watson missed time with an injury, he has six red zone targets (No. 54), and five of his six red zone looks came in the past three games. His teammate Romeo Doubs leads the team and is tied for fifth in the league with 13 red zone targets.
Though Watson led the team with seven targets (17.5 percent), it’s a low floor of two receptions for 23 receiving yards. Jordan Love spread the ball around. Doubs, Jayden Reed, Watson and Aaron Jones earned five or more targets. Dontayvion Wicks and Luke Musgrave also produced on their four targets.
After the 11th-highest fantasy points over expectation (FPOE) for Watson at 2.9 per game, his efficiency fell to -1.2 FPOE/G, ranking 175th before Week 10. That’s mainly due to touchdown efficiency; he scored on 17 percent of his receptions in 2022.
It’s not like Watson has dominated via volume. He had a 22 percent target share in Weeks 10-18 in 2022 when he produced at a high rate (17.2 PPR/G). Players like Watson need more efficiency if they lack the volume, and that’s not happening with Love at quarterback.
However, it’s worth noting Watson’s role hasn’t changed much. He averages 16.4 air yards per target (No. 3) and 5.5 yards after the catch per reception (No. 14) in 2023 among receivers with 25 targets. That’s nearly identical to his 2022 numbers.
It’s partly Love throwing the fourth-highest rate of off-target pass attempts at 14.3 percent among quarterbacks with 100 passes. That’s behind Deshaun Watson, Kenny Pickett and Aidan O’Connell. Though Watson hasn’t exploded and scored like last season, he feels like a “buy” candidate in dynasty, but not in redraft leagues. I’ve been offering Jakobi Meyers and Mike Evans for Watson and sent Meyers for Watson. Use Ian Miller’s dynasty rankings as a guide for making trades.
Ekeler and Gibbs led running backs with four GTG carries. Gibbs scored two short-yardage touchdowns, however Ekeler didn’t score on his. Tony Pollard had three GTG carries and scored on zero. In a smash spot against the New York Giants, Rico Dowdle led the backfield in rushing yards (79) and scored on his lone GTG rush attempt.
Before we overreact — though it’s hard not to — Pollard garnered a 61.1 percent rush share in the first half compared with Dowdle’s at 22.2 percent. With the Cowboys leading 28-0 in the first half, Dowdle’s usage increased in the second; he had a 53.3 percent rush share in the second half, with Pollard at 26.7 percent.
That’s partly game script, yet Dowdle looked more explosive with 5.25 YAC/Att (No. 3) compared with Pollard at 3.33 (No. 12). For context, Dowdle doubled his season-long rush share of 17.9 percent at 36.4 percent in Week 10.
In Weeks 1-6, the Cowboys ranked 27th in pass percentage (53.6 percent), which jumped to ninth (61.9 percent) in Weeks 8-10 after their bye week. They’re leaning into the passing game and have been feeding Lamb since the bye, and this seems like a blip on the radar for Pollard and Dowdle’s usage, given the game script.
Before Week 10, Pollard had the eighth-best expected points per game (EP/G) at 15.9 while lacking efficiency at -2.2 FPOE/G (No. 118). If anything, this further solidifies Dowdle as a high-end backup option.
Again, it’s a small sample, as seen below, with Ferguson one of seven receivers with four GTG targets in Weeks 6-10.
Among the GTG target leaders in Weeks 6-10, only Tyreek Hill, David Njoku, DeAndre Hopkins, Lamb and Donald Parham haven’t scored in these situations. In the past five weeks, the Falcons (12), Ravens (11), Texans (11), Philadelphia Eagles (11), Cowboys (10) and Bengals (10) have 10 or more GTG drives.
The visual below shows the leaders in GTG drives, including pass and rush rates.
Unsurprisingly, the Ravens and Eagles have two of the lowest GTG pass rates with their high-end rushing options. However, the Bengals rank fourth, and the Cowboys rank seventh in GTG pass rate in Weeks 6-10. That indicates we’ll want to target their pass catchers, mainly the high-end options.