Week 8: Tight End Red Zone Efficiency

By Jen Ryan
(Reference Link: http://www.footballdiehards.com/fantasy_football_target_stats.cfm)
(Reference Link: http://www.footballdiehards.com/fantasyfootballtargets/fantasy-football-target-stats.cfm)
(Reference Link: http://www.footballdiehards.com/fantasy_football_Redzone_stats.cfm)

Each week I study our Rush Zone Stats and Target Zone Stats tools. These tools are loaded with information and we provide filters to help you sort through what it is that you are looking for. I am always looking for a different way to analyze the vast field of numbers provided. This week as I was scouring over our various statistics, tight ends jumped off the screen at me. I took a hard look at which tight ends are used in the red zone and which tight ends are efficient in converting their targets and scoring touchdowns. It is important to look beyond the numbers and analyze them in context. If you just glance at our tool you will think a tight end like Charles Clay is incredibly efficient because he has a 100% completion percentage in the red zone and has scored on all of his red zone targets. As you look deeper into our table you will see that he has had just one red zone target and he scored on it, hence the 100% rating. I have sorted through all of the tight ends and below I have listed some who have been highly efficient in the red zone. Tight end value mainly comes from touchdowns; therefore red zone efficiency becomes a crucial stat when selecting a tight end.

Eric Ebron – 3 targets, 3 receptions, 3 TD – 100%
Of all the 100%-ers I would argue that Ebron is the most efficient of those tight ends. All three of his red zone targets were caught for touchdowns. He has made a huge leap since his rookie season and seems to have grabbed ahold of the tight end position in Detroit. Three targets is a very small sample size but it is worth analyzing. The Lions offense in general has struggled this season and Ebron will always compete for targets with Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate. Stafford should target Ebron more in the red zone. As I just mentioned, three targets is a small sample size but when your tight end scores on all three of his red zone targets you should look in his direction more often. While it is unlikely to maintain a 100% completion rate it is still encouraging. If the Lions offense takes on a new direction with Jim Caldwell now calling the plays Ebron could easily become more of a factor and has the ability to be a true red zone threat.

Delanie Walker – 5 targets, 4 receptions, 1 TD – 80%
Walker has completed all but one of his red zone targets but only one of those went for a score. He is a big-bodied target for his rookie quarterback who is currently sidelined. The biggest hit to Walker’s value is the offense he is on which will be rolling out Zach Mettenberger again this week. The veteran tight end needs more looks in the red zone. He is the top receiving option outside of Kendall Wright. Antonio Andrews has been handling a majority of the red zone work but if the Titans are looking to throw from scoring position they should be targeting Walker who is converting 80% of his targets. He is a boom or bust player that can be considered a cheap option in daily leagues but holds no true value outside of that.

Ladarius Green – 5 targets, 4 receptions, 2 TD – 80%
The likelihood of Green’s targets, receptions, and touchdowns to increase is all but guaranteed. Antonio Gates is dealing with a knee injury that he apparently has no interest in looking further into. He has opted against having any MRI done in order to determine the extent of the damage. For all we know he could miss one week or multiple weeks. In the meantime, Green will fill in as he did when Gates missed the first four games of the season. He has been a reliable target for Rivers and very efficient in the red zone. The Chargers are throwing the ball more than any other team in the league. The more they are in the red zone the more Green should see the ball as long as Gates remains sidelined. He is another cheap option in daily leagues and may even been on the waiver wire in season long leagues. He has proven efficient and it will be exciting to see what he can do if given more opportunity.

Tyler Eifert – 9 targets, 6 receptions, 6 TD – 67%
Of all the players who were on board this summer’s hype train I would argue that Eifert is the one who truly lived up to the hype. All six of his red zone completions went for touchdowns. All six of his total touchdowns have come in the red zone. For comparison, stud tight end Greg Olsen also has converted six of his nine red zone targets but just two of those have gone for touchdowns. Eifert is a legitimate red zone threat and the red zone is where he thrives. Andy Dalton clearly has trust in his tight end’s efficiency and he should. The Bengals offense is one of the more potent offenses in the league at the moment. They have no real weakness at any position. Eifert may not be getting the most looks in the red zone but when he does he is doing everything that is expected of him. He will continue to be a major factor in this offense and is proven to be somewhat matchup proof. You can rarely go wrong when you play him and over the next half of the season I expect his red zone usage to remain intact. He is on pace to finish the season as a top tier tight end.

Gary Barnidge – 7 targets, 4 receptions, 4 TD – 57%
Barnidge has been nothing short of incredible this season, so much so that I personally have seen and heard him referred to as “Barnkowski”. No one in their right mind ever thought Gary Barnidge would be remotely compared to Rob Gronkowski but I am about to compare the two of them for you. Both have a red zone completion percentage of 57% and Barnidge has four red zone scores to Gronkowski’s five red zone scores. Gronkowski has exactly double the amount of red zone targets and completions as Barnidge. He has been given double the opportunity in scoring position yet Barnidge trails him by just one red zone score. He has pulled away as Josh McCown’s favorite target which is why I have some fear for Barnidge going forward. McCown appears to come away from each game with some sort of injury. He has already missed time this season and probably should miss this weekend’s game but he is insistent on toughing it out. If McCown suffers another injury or if the Browns decide to eventually turn to Johnny Manziel in order to evaluate what they have in him, I fear Barnidge’s value will take a plummeting dip. I have some hope that regardless of quarterback he will still remain a focal point of the offense but it is impossible to ignore the chemistry between him and McCown. In the meantime, Barnidge is without question and every week TE1 and should be treated as such.
There are so many more tight ends who warrant analysis and our Target Zone Stats tool is available for exactly that. I encourage you to spend time filtering statistics to your specific interests and taking the time to look beyond the numbers and interpret what they mean. The tight end position is so heavily reliant on touchdowns. You would be shorting yourself if you did not take a hard look at tight end usage. In a position that is so highly streamable you should consider studying our Target Zone Stats tool before putting in your tight end waiver claims each week. This is where the bulk of your scoring and value will come from.