Making A Living In The Red Zone

By RouteTree Research    

Much is made of the importance of converting the opportunities in the red zone (although others have rightfully questioned its existence - see There Is No Red Zone ). In this article, we look at the WRs/TEs who have been most productive in the red zone. From a fantasy perspective, red zone opportunities are of interest due to the outsized contribution of touchdowns in most fantasy leagues and the seeming repeatability of where teams direct their red zone targets.

Below is a table of the top ten WRs/TEs in terms of red zone fantasy points in 2012. It is hardly a surprise to see WRs like Colston, Marshall, Green and Jones or TEs like Gonzalez, Graham or Gronk on this list. Some of the more interesting names are Decker, James Jones and Rudolph. Decker led the league in red zone targets last year and produced at a pretty high level with 3.54 fantasy points per target, something to keep in mind as much of the Denver WR fantasy hype focuses on Thomas and Welker.

Player Targets Fantasy Pts FP/Target
Eric Decker 25 88.4 3.54
James Jones 20 78.5 3.93
Marques Colston 23 77.6 3.37
Kyle Rudolph 17 63.5 3.74
Brandon Marshall 23 60.1 2.61
A.J. Green 24 57.4 2.39
Tony Gonzalez 17 56.5 3.32
Jimmy Graham 17 56.2 3.31
Rob Gronkowski 17 55.3 3.26
Julio Jones 20 52.8 2.64

James Jones emerged as a primary target for the Packers in the red zone, scoring 11 TDs in the red zone which eclipsed his career high in TDs from anywhere by 4. Where is Calvin Johnson in this list? Johnson was targeted a reasonable 17 times in the red zone but produced only 17 fantasy points, a surprisingly low number for him. As we will see, this is not consistent with prior years. This decreased productivity may be the result of adjusted defensive schemes or just being unlucky. Another name receiver who had shockingly low production in the red zone in 2012 is Larry Fitzgerald with a paltry 12 fantasy points on 20 targets.

To increase the sample, let's consider the most productive fantasy WRs/TEs over the last three years, 2010-2012. Calvin Johnson now pops up in the middle of the top ten with a much higher fantasy points per target than his 2012 season. Gronk is a red zone dominator, getting targets and producing an extremely high fantasy points per target.

Player Targets Fantasy Pts FP/Target
Rob Gronkowski 59 208.4 3.53
Marques Colston 58 153.1 2.64
Tony Gonzalez 58 151.9 2.62
Jimmy Graham 54 150.2 2.78
Wes Welker 64 141.8 2.22
Calvin Johnson 57 140.3 2.46
Antonio Gates 39 138.1 3.54
Roddy White 73 129.1 1.77
Lance Moore 54 122.8 2.27
Eric Decker 36 116.8 3.24

Welker has gotten plenty of fantasy targets but has been somewhat less effective in terms of fantasy point per target, something to keep in mind when considering his impact on Decker. Roddy White has been targeted an astounding 73 times in the red zone over the past three seasons but has been very inefficient compared to others at 1.77 fantasy points per target. We saw Julio Jones at the bottom of the 2012 season list and perhaps we can expect the Falcons to increasingly make Jones the focal point of their red zone offense with White somewhat ineffective and Gonzalez aging.