Welcome back to the Week 17 installment of the high-value touch report. Hopefully, you made it to the playoffs and survived some injuries. As we head into the playoffs, let's examine the rushing and receiving data in the red zone, goal-to-go, and third/fourth down situations. Fantasy football is humbling, and sometimes the most logical and data-focused analysis doesn't pan out.
With more and more data each week, there are more trends and outliers. We also observe trends shifting for a team within a season. Sometimes, we find certain players over or underperforming for various reasons with potential buys and sells based on the high-value touches and underlying metrics. The goal is to use the data and see where it leads us instead of using data to fit the narrative. That said, let's dive into the Week 17 high-value touch report.
High-Value Touches: Red Zone Rushing
Austin Ekeler likely pushed teams into the championship game with nine red zone carries, five of which came near the goal line for two rushing scores. Before Monday night, Cam Akers led with eight rushing attempts in the red zone, with three scores in a record-setting game. Akers recorded the second-most carries, second-most yards rushing, and a career-best in touchdowns. Before Week 16, Darrell Henderson led Rams running backs with 25 high-value touches (No. 52), indicating this might be an outlier game. Surprisingly, the Rams rank 12th in red zone Efficiency at 58.5%, according to TruMedia.
Miles Sanders and Rhamondre Stevenson tied for third with six carries in the red zone. Without Jalen Hurts, Sanders and Kenneth Gainwell (4) totaled ten high-value touches on the ground. Gardner Minshew took a quarterback sneak for a one-yard rushing touchdown as one of his two red zone attempts. We've seen some rushing with Minshew in the past. However, they relied on the passing game, with 355 yards passing and 8.9 yards per attempt.
A few outlier names on the high-value touch leaderboards for red zone carries include Tyler Huntley, Taysom Hill, and Royce Freeman. Huntley (11), Gus Edwards (11), and J.K. Dobbins (12) shared the rush attempts evenly and combined for 184 yards rushing. The Ravens established the run like the Falcons, who trailed and threw 33 pass attempts. In one of the worst weather conditions for the Saints and Browns game, Hill took four carries in the red zone with one rushing touchdown. Hill trailed Alvin Kamara in total carries (9 to 20) and yards rushing (56 to 76), and they both scored a rushing touchdown. If Hill consistently garnered eight to ten carries, we would feel more comfortable projecting him weekly.
High-Value Opportunities: Red Zone Receiving
The target hog, Amon-Ra St. Brown, garnered six targets in the red zone but unfortunately came up empty via the touchdown department. Meanwhile, his teammate Lions TE Shane Zylstra, caught all three Jared Goff touchdowns. Zylstra won the This Helps Nobody Award as he served as Goff's red zone winner, who had one career receiving touchdown on a one-yard catch in Week 9.
On the flip side, DeVonta Smith might have helped teams move to the next round with three targets in the red zone as he hauled in two receptions for a duo of touchdowns. Smith led the Eagles in targets (12), receptions (8), yards receiving (113), and touchdowns (2). Over the past two weeks, Smith ranks fourth in receiving yards, with A.J. Brown at first with 284 through Saturday night. Brown bests Smith in target share (33.8% to 28.2%) in Weeks 15-16, and it's positive to see little dropoff with Minshew. Expect Smith's ADP to move closer to Brown, similar to Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle, who both possess WR1 skills.
Tyler Higbee had four targets in the red zone for the Rams, and he caught all of them for two touchdowns. Baker Mayfield fed Higbee with a team-high in targets (11), receptions (9), and yards receiving (94). When watching the game, it seemed Higbee kept feasting on shorter routes and created yards after the catch. The data aligned with 2.09 air yards per target (No. 32 out of 34) and 8.0 YAC/Rec (No. 4). While that's not surprising since Higbee ranks last in air yards per target (AY/T) on the season, it would boost his value if he became the primary option in the receiving game.
High-Value Touches: Goal-To-Go Rushing
Two Akers rushing touchdowns came in goal-to-go situations with three high-value touches on the ground in Week 16. The Packers struggled to establish the run against the Dolphins, but A.J. Dillon had three goal-to-go carries with one rushing touchdown. Aaron Jones had one four-yard carry, with Jones at six total and Dillon with 11. Tony Pollard looks explosive each week, and he helped the Cowboys move near the endzone. Then they swapped Ezekiel Elliott in to punch in a rushing score with three goal-to-go (GTG) carries.
Brian Robinson finished second in Week 16 with four high-value touches on the ground but didn't score. Antonio Gibson garnered two of his five total carries in GTG situations. Unfortunately for Gibson, the Commanders established the run while trailing most of the second half. Robinson's 66.7% rush share (No. 8) versus Gibson at 15.2% (No. 66). In the second half against the 49ers, Gibson had zero carries, with Jonathan Williams having a 22.2% rush share. Two of Gibson's three total targets came in the second half, and that's not the usage we anticipated when the Commanders trailed. Since Week 5, when Robinson debuted, he has 11 high-value touches on the ground, with Gibson at seven.
High-Value Opportunities: Goal-To-Go Receiving
Higbee caught both touchdowns on his two high-value opportunities in these situations. Allen Lazard led all receivers with three targets, yet one reception for negative five yards. We mentioned Zylstra earlier, and he also caught both targets for a duo of scores like Higbee. Christian Watson caught his two high-value opportunities but didn't score for the second game in a row. Unfortunately, Watson left with a hip injury and didn't return.
Two of three Dak Prescott touchdowns went to Michael Gallup and CeeDee Lamb in goal-to-go situations. Gallup and Lamb have five goal-to-go targets on the season, making Week 16 an outlier. Lamb had another efficient day with ten receptions on 11 targets for 120 yards receiving and two scores. He posted back-to-back games with 120 yards receiving or more, and his third on the season. According to TruMedia, Lamb is one of nine receivers with consecutive games of 120 yards receiving, with Justin Jefferson and Davante Adams tied with three.
Lamb averaged 7.75 targets per game (No. 19) with the fifth-best catch rate over the past four games. From Weeks 13-16, Lamb has the second-highest Receiver Air Yard Conversion Ratio (RACR) at 1.38, indicating uber efficiency in turning air yards into receiving production. Though the Cowboys spread the ball to several weapons, it's positive to see Lamb earn a healthy chunk of opportunities.
Third & Fourth Down Receiving Opportunities
In Week 16, Justin Jefferson (7), Chris Godwin (6), Amari Cooper (6), and Keenan Allen (6) led the league in targets on third and fourth down. On one of the worst weather days in Cleveland, Cooper performed well. Hopefully, fantasy managers didn't sit Cooper like I unfortunately did, though the process hinted at concerns via the passing game. Cooper remained at No. 1 ahead of Jefferson for the high-value opportunities leaders on third and fourth down. Godwin and Leonard Fournette tied for ten targets, accounting for a 20.8% target share each. Unfortunately, Rachaad White scored on the only Tom Brady touchdown, not the Buccaneers' target leaders in Week 16.
On Sunday night, Trace McSorley fed Greg Dortch 11 targets, and Dortch caught ten for 98 yards. Dortch also finished with the second-most yards rushing (25) on three carries. He garnered four of his 11 targets on third and fourth down, with teammate DeAndre Hopkins at three targets, yet with zero receptions. Hopkins posted a dud of one reception for four yards, yet he had ten targets in Week 16. Dortch might hold deep-league value as a flex option or disappear in Week 17 if Colt McCoy returns. With Kyler Murray healthy, the passing volume and target quality remained above average to boost Hopkins plus another receiver. But that's not the case with McCoy and McSorley.
Justin Herbert fed Keenan Allen the ball with 14 targets (45.1%), six of which came on third and fourth down on Monday night. In the red zone and goal-to-go situations, the Chargers had 11 carries, with only four pass attempts. Since Week 11, when Allen returned from his injury, he has the most targets on third and fourth down with the ninth-highest overall target share (27.8%). Herbert relied on Allen, and hopefully, Allen's late-season surge helped fantasy managers.
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