Week 9: Red Zone Rush Touchdowns: New Opportunities Arising

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)

Injuries have ended the season for Jamaal Charles, Arian Foster, Le’Veon Bell, and Khiry Robinson to name a few. Off field issues have effectively ended Joseph Randle’s season. When it is time for the next man up it becomes interesting to project what role their replacements or teammates may have going forward. Last week alone saw Bell and Robinson’s seasons end and Randle’s as well. Using our Rushing Red Zone Stats tool I looked at these players and how their void may be filled.

Khiry Robinson: 4 red zone TD, 4 total TD
Mark Ingram has, and will continue to be, the New Orleans Saints dominant back but Khiry Robinson vulture his fair share of red zone work. He accounted for 24% of the Saints red zone touches. Ingram currently accounts for 66% of those touches and you would have to assume that he will eat up a majority of Robinson’s now available opportunities.

C.J. Spiller now becomes fantasy relevant. He has disappointed much of this season despite the preseason hype that surrounded him. If he were to step into this Robinson role the Saints backfield could look almost exactly the same. Spiller has three red zone touches this season for 18 yards. That is the extent of his production in the red zone. Ingram owners assume he will no longer be vultured at the goal line but I would not rule that out. Ingram in his own right has six red zone rushing touchdowns. I expect him to be given more opportunity in scoring situations but Spiller is a threat in my eyes. His role will increase for sure, but how and where remains to be seen.

Joseph Randle: 2 red zone TD, 4 total TD
The Dallas Cowboys backfield has not been a consistent one where an individual player is the leader of the pack. The release of Joseph Randle this week leaves Darren McFadden as the longest tenured Cowboys’ running back on the roster. Christine Michael and Rod Smith were in-season acquisitions. Trey Williams was picked up last week and likely will remain inactive for a few weeks. There is not much sense to make of this backfield but we can certainly try.

Until McFadden suffers an injury, which he is always likely to do, we can assume the he will be handling the majority of the work for the Cowboys. He has shown he can handle a larger workload, logging 49 carries over his past two games. He has also proven to be a factor in the passing game with eight catches for 59 yards in his past two contests. These were numbers he was producing with Randle in the picture. He is now gone and McFadden has a chance to retain the “starting” role in Dallas this week.

Randle was being used on 44% of Dallas’ red zone drives prior to being released this week. McFadden, on the other hand, accounts for 50% of the red zone plays. He has two touchdowns this season both of which came in the red zone. There is no reason to believe anyone else will be used down there at this time. It is McFadden’s job to lose. The biggest threat to his red zone production is Matt Cassel, who has a difficult time getting down there. When Tony Romo returns, McFadden may be one of the more discussed running backs out there.

Le’Veon Bell: 3 red zone TD, 3 total TD
Acquiring DeAngelo Williams in the off season is probably the most brilliant move the Pittsburgh Steelers pulled off this year. In their first two games without Le’Veon Bell, Williams was fantastic. In the season opener against the New England Patriots he took 21 carries for 127 yards. The following week against the San Francisco 49ers he took 20 carries for 77 yards and scored three touchdowns. After that, Bell returned and we did not hear much from Williams.

Bell is now on season-ending injured reserve. Williams has proved that he can be given the same workhorse touches that Bell has been given over the past few weeks. He is a legitimate RB1 going forward. Much like Bell I expect Williams to not be a victim of game script. Regardless of how the Steeler’s offense is performing he will be on the field. There is no one to threaten his production in the red zone or elsewhere.

Williams, who already has 15 red zone touches and accounts for 47% of the team’s red zone snaps, will be given more opportunities in scoring situations. He will have no problem picking up where Bell has left off. This is not to say that Bell is not the superior back because he is. This is to say that the Steelers showed in the first two weeks of the season that there is no hesitation in riding Williams. The key to his success over the next half of the season will be maintaining health.

Analyzing red zone usage is a big part of the fantasy football puzzle because that is where the most points can be generated. There is nothing more frustrating for a fantasy owner than to see their workhorse running back lose touches in the red zone. Our Rushing Red Zone Stats tool is so comprehensive. We break down touches, yards, touchdowns, 10 zone touchdowns, and usage percentages. These are all key factors in evaluating red zone usage. Looking beyond the numbers, I analyzed our tool this week coming from an angle of the “next man up” philosophy. Opportunity is everything in this game and these are just a few players who have new ones presented to them.