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2023 NFL Week 4 High-Value Touch Report: Rushing and Receiving Data

Sep 28, 2023; Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA; Detroit Lions running back David Montgomery (5) reacts after scoring a touchdown in the fourth quarter against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Last week, we analyzed the team-level red zone and goal-to-go efficiency. This week, we'll jump right into the data and look at the leaders for rush and pass rates in goal-to-go situations.

The visual below shows the top teams in rush rate.

Not surprisingly, the Buffalo Bills and Philadelphia Eagles rank toward the top, especially with their quarterbacks typically scoring rushing touchdowns. Seattle is interesting, though it aligns with their top running back's usage, which we'll cover later.

The Detroit Lions feeding David Montgomery causes them to be toward the top, too.

It's worth noting teams typically pass less often in goal-to-go situations. Last season, 998 rush plays came in goal-to-go opportunities compared to 854 targets. So, take the above data with a grain of salt because it's a larger sample of rushing attempts than targets.

Some of the same teams toward the top of the goal-to-go pass rates align with the poor scoring efficiency. A few of those teams include the Denver Broncos, Minnesota Vikings, Pittsburgh Steelers and Carolina Panthers. It’s partly due to the teams not being efficient on the ground due to poor run-blocking or running-back.

Below, we’ll examine red zone and 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. 

McCaffrey, Montgomery Crush Red Zone Rushing

Montgomery dominated the red zone rushes with 11 for the Lions on Thursday. Eight of Montgomery's red zone carries came in goal-to-go situations. He converted three of the eight rushes for touchdowns headed toward the sixth-best fantasy performance in Week 4 before Monday night. After Jahmyr Gibbs garnered most of the running back share without Montgomery, the Lions relied on the veteran. Gibbs had one red zone carry and zero targets in Week 4. 

Don't panic about Gibbs, especially if you loved his college profile like myself. He is averaging 9.7 points per reception (PPR) on the season. Since 2010, Gibbs' rookie running back comparisons include Michael Carter, Chuba Hubbard, Jordan Wilkins and Kerryon Johnson through their first four games.

While the running back comparisons don't inspire confidence, it's only four games. Gibbs has talent and upside in a high-end offense that already leaned on him when Montgomery was out.

Christian McCaffrey scored three touchdowns on eight red zone carries, with five rushes and two scores in goal-to-go opportunities. McCaffrey's massive 48.7 PPR outing became a career-best for him. That gave him five games of 40 PPR or more in a single season since he entered the league in 2017. The two other players with five or more games meeting the 40 PPR threshold are Tyreek Hill (6) and Alvin Kamara (5). 

Should We Buy Rachaad White?

Rachaad White garnered six, and Hubbard had five red zone rushes in Week 4. White and Hubbard wrap up the four backs with five or more this week.

The volume has been in White's favor. That's evident by his 53.8 percent rush share (No. 16) and a 10.9 percent target share (No. 16). Unfortunately, it's ugly efficiency, with -2.2 fantasy points over expectation per game (FPOE/G) before Week 4. 

White's advanced stats don't give us much confidence either. His 1.0 yards before contact (YBC/Att) and 2.3 yards after contact per attempt (YAC/Att) aren't great. While volume remains a part of White's profile, we want efficient players. There is a slight chance White presents as a buy candidate, but be cautious.

Red Zone Receiving

McCaffrey caught all three red zone targets in Week 4. His lone goal-to-go one resulted in a fourth touchdown. The target beast, Davante Adams, garnered five of his 13 targets in the red zone. In the absence of Jimmy Garoppolo, Aidan O'Connell fed Adams and Josh Jacobs (11), accounting for 61.5 percent of the team's target share.

While it's not red zone related, Jacobs set a career-high in targets and receiving yards (81) in Week 4. Buy low on Jacobs if possible. He has the 13th-best expected points per game (EP/G) at 16.1 and the third-worst FPOE/G at -6.1 before Week 4. 

Stefon Diggs finished as the fourth-best player in Week 4 due to his uber-efficient performance. He had three touchdowns on six receptions and seven targets. Diggs reeled in two of his three red zone targets in goal-to-go situations, scoring one touchdown each in the red zone and goal-to-go.

Adams and Diggs round out the top three pass catchers. Adams has 10 (No. 1), and Diggs has seven (No. 3) in the red area through four games. 

Chasing the Chiefs

In the past, Travis Kelce dominated the headlines and red zone target leaders for the Kansas City Chiefs. We expect Kelce's routes per game at 28 in 2023 to grow and compare similarly to 2022 with 35.2. However, Kelce's 7.1 AY/T (2022) fell to 6.2 (2023) in the early four-game sample.

His yards after the catch per reception fell from 6.0 (2022) to 4.3 (2023). Maybe the knee injury is slightly impacting the numbers, or it's a small sample of noise. Expect Kelce’s goal-to-go targets to continue rising. 

We're consistently chasing the other Chiefs' receivers, Skyy Moore and Kadarius Toney. However, rookie Rashee Rice is an intriguing name to monitor. Rice garnered three red zone targets in Week 4. He has five in the past two weeks. Patrick Mahomes could look toward Rice in the red zone as the second receiving option behind Kelce.

Though Rice's 13.3 percent target share doesn't wow us, he rocks the third-highest targets per route run at 34 percent (minimum of 10 targets and 50 routes). Rice ranks behind Jaylen Warren and Adams, tied at 35 percent, as seen in the visual above. Add and stash Rice in deeper formats in case his role grows.

Jahan Dotson's Early Struggles

After massive offseason hype for Jahan Dotson, some questioned dropping him in shallower formats through the first three games. It's understandable because the underlying metrics don't wow us. Dotson has a 19.1 percent target share (No. 48), tying him with Jacobs and 7.6 air yards per target (AY/T). 

He garnered four red zone targets in Week 4, three of which came in goal-to-go situations. Dotson reeled in one of the goal-to-go opportunities for a touchdown. That led to the Washington Commanders tying the Eagles at the buzzer before losing in overtime. 

It's worth noting all of Dotson's red zone and goal-to-go targets came in Week 4. Dotson's uber-efficient rookie season, with 2.4 FPOE/G (No. 16) and downfield role via 14.5 AY/T (No. 6) regressed through four games in 2023. He had a -2.1 FPOE/G (No. 155) before Week 4. Buy low on Dotson with the hope his efficiency or opportunities improve. 

Goal-to-Go Rushing

Unsurprisingly, Montgomery led in goal-to-go rushes, giving him 2.5 rushes per touchdown (No. 15) among running backs with at least one carry. It feels like déjà vu since Montgomery ranks third in goal-to-go carries through four games behind Tony Pollard and Kenneth Walker, as seen in the visual below.

Most of Montgomery's goal-to-go rushes came in Week 4, so it's partly game script and matchup-related. 

We'll touch on the Indianapolis Colts lead back Zack Moss, who garnered four goal-to-go carries and zero scores. Moss had one before Week 4, yet Anthony Richardson also ate into the opportunities. Richardson scored his lone goal-to-go rush in Week 4, with three carries on the season and two touchdowns.

Since Moss debuted in 2023, he garnered a 57.4 percent rush share (No. 10) and 5.9 percent target share (No. 42). Like the Ravens' and Eagles' running backs, Richardson could continue stealing scoring opportunities in high-value situations. 

Speaking of rushing quarterbacks, Lamar Jackson scored two rushing touchdowns on three goal-to-go carries. Those are Jackson's only goal-to-go rushing attempts on the season. Jackson ranks second among quarterbacks with a 29.5 rush share behind Daniel Jones at 36.4 percent before Monday.

We hoped offensive coordinator Todd Monken's scheme would lead to a higher pass rate. However, the Baltimore Ravens ranked second to last in pass rate at 49 percent before Week 4. That's similar to 2022 when they had a 50 percent pass rate (No. 30). 

Walker scored another rushing touchdown in Week 4 after four more goal-to-go carries against the New York Giants. Among rushers with 10 goal-to-go opportunities, Montgomery and Walker have the two best touchdown rates.

Montgomery averages 2.5 rushes per touchdown, and Walker is close behind at 2.6. While Walker continues to dominate Zach Charbonnet in rush share (73.9 percent vs. 21.7 percent), the rookie reached a career-high in target share at 11.5 percent in Week 4. Keep an eye on the split and if Walker's rushing touchdowns regress.

Goal-to-Go Receiving

We already discussed the goal-to-go target leaders for Week 4, which includes Dotson (3), Diggs (2) and Adams (2). DeAndre Hopkins remained the only other pass catcher with more than one goal-to-go target in Week 4.

Before this game, Hopkins hadn't received a single goal-to-go opportunity. Unsurprisingly, the Tennessee Titans rank 29th in red zone efficiency at 38.5 percent. 

As seen above, Jake Ferguson leads all pass catchers with seven targets in goal-to-go situations. That's a fun trivia question, but the Dallas Cowboys didn't need the pass game against the New England Patriots.

Ferguson only garnered one goal-to-go target since two of the Cowboys' touchdowns came via the defense. Dak Prescott looks toward Ferguson in the red zone (10) and goal-to-go opportunities (7), presenting a potential buy opportunity at tight end. 

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