Fantasy Football: Red Zone Rushing Statistics
The past two weeks, we examined red zone target shares for receivers with five positive outlooks and five negative ones. Now, we'll look at the running back position as a whole. This week, it's red zone rushing attempts as a percentage. We'll also go deeper though, examining the percentages inside the 10-yard and five-yard lines, as those can shed even more light on the potential scoring opportunities for running backs in Fantasy Football.
Melvin Gordon, LAC – We're skipping right past David Johnson, as we sort by the highest percentages inside the 10-yard line, since you don't need to be told he's aaaa…mazing.
We're going inside the 10 because it's more telling, and not surprising, many of the high percentage running backs are near the top in the red zone as well. Second only to Johnson is Gordon, who also happens to rank highest inside the five-yard line. While most are ready to buy into Gordon as a top running back this year, there are still some lingering concerns (and hurt) from his rookie year. Here's the added good news. Danny Woodhead was Top 10 in red zone rushing percentage for the Chargers in 2015, showing that the team likes to lean heavily on their main option. Gordon will reach double-digit touchdowns again.
Todd Gurley, LAR – By now, you've likely heard about Gurley's red zone share, as he was first in the red zone, third inside the 10 and eighth inside the five. When the Rams get into scoring position – yes, it happens – they turn to Gurley, and that won't change in 2017. Unfortunately, Gurley's inefficiency (36th in TD% both in the red zone and inside the 10) is concerning. Gurley was better inside the five with the 16th best touchdown percentage, but that's still lacking, especially when the Rams have so few scoring opportunities. Don't assume Gurley will magically bounce back to his rookie ways. With the concerns surrounding the offense and offensive line, Gurley's added inefficiency keeps him from being a RB1 in drafts, despite the high usage.
Latavius Murray, OAK (now MIN) – Murray not only ranks near the top in all three areas, he was No. 1 in red zone and inside the 10 (70.2/84.0) in 2015. This is not to sell you on Murray, as Dalvin Cook is the man in Minnesota. This is to point out the potential that Marshawn Lynch has in Oakland. Even if Lynch only sees 200 carries after a year away from the NFL and with his Skittles, Murray had just 195 last year and still dominated the red zone shares.
Lynch doesn't need 250-plus carries to reach double-digit touchdowns and is in the Top 15 running back conversation.
Matt Asiata, MIN (now DET) – As with Murray, this is more about the replacement than Asiata. Sure, the Lions could use Asiata near the goal line at times, but if Ameer Abdullah stays healthy, he is quite capable. As for the Vikings, they have Cook as their lead option now, and you can see that the team likes to run the ball in the red zone. Asiata's percentages increased as the Vikings got closer to the goal line, which could point to Murray seeing a bit more work than Cook inside the 10, as he's the bigger option. However, Asiata seeing just 55.4 in the red zone shows us that he was the "pound it in" choice, and the Vikings waited until they were closer to the goal line for heavy use. Cook is powerful enough to command a good share of the red zone work, which gives him plenty of upside, even if Murray steals a few. Cook has the ability to impress between the 20s and in the red zone, and that's why he's a Top 15 running back as a rookie.
DeMarco Murray/Derrick Henry, TEN – This might surprise some. Murray saw 56.3, 66.7 and 75.0 percent of the Titans' red zone rushes last year. Henry only saw 29.6, 28.2 and 25.0 despite being a power/speed monster. All of those concerned about Murray's value as a Top 10 running back need to worry less. It's clear that the Titans don't shy away from their best running back in the red zone, despite Henry's power. As for Henry, don't overspend and take him at his seventh round ADP. The rest of the talent on the board is significantly more valuable, as Henry's best threat to hold Fantasy Football worthiness is for Murray to miss time. Overpaying for a handcuff is a rookie mistake.
Chris Ivory, JAX – What does that tell you when Ivory only had 11 rushes inside the 10 yet ranks eighth in red zone percentage? First, the Jaguars desperately need to become more balanced, and second, the Jaguars aren't turning to T.J. Yeldon in the red zone (two attempts inside the 10). Enter Leonard Fournette. The Jaguars didn’t draft Fournette not to lean on him 20-plus times per game. He will be their workhorse and will bring balance to the force… err… I mean, Jaguars offense.
Ivory scored three times on his seven rushes inside the five-yard line, which shows us that Fournette is a good bet to score enough to warrant RB1 status as a rookie.
Jordan Howard, CHI – Howard ranked inside the Top 12 for red zone rushing share despite not starting part of the season. Howard began the year behind Jeremy Langford, and then John Fox went and Fox'd it up even after Howard started and split the backfield before letting Howard have it again from Week 8 through the end of the year. If Howard can put up that high of a percentage with six red zone touchdowns in 11 starts, think about what he can do with a full season. You should have no qualms about taking Howard in the first round.
Devonta Freeman/Tevin Coleman, ATL – While there is value in both running backs even while both are healthy, Freeman's numbers show us that he'll always be the red zone option of choice. Freeman not only neared 60 percent in the red zone and inside the 10-yard line, but he skyrocketed to 84.2 percent (second overall) inside the five. Coleman has a nice touchdown percentage inside the 10, but he sees just 25.0, 23.9 and 15.8 percent of the carries in each area. That will continue to limit his scoring potential, and that's a bit concerning if Steve Sarkisian doesn't lean on him as much as Kyle Shanahan did. Just tuck that nugget away so you don't overdraft Coleman (high sixth round ADP is a bit too much).
LeSean McCoy/Jonathan Williams, BUF – Interestingly, McCoy only had 44.7 percent of the Bills red zone rushing attempts, and it didn't get any better inside the 10 (41.4) or five (31.0). Strangely, it wasn't Mike Gillislee causing the low totals… at least not on his own. Gillislee only had 17.6, 19.0 and 20.7 and Karlos Williams had similar percentages in 2015. The other culprit is Tyrod Taylor, who averaged around 20 percent in 2015 and 30 percent last year. McCoy doesn't need a high percentage to be a Top 5 running back, but this is more about the hype for Jonathan Williams. Gillislee was remarkably efficient converting carries into touchdowns, leading everyone at 63.6 percent inside the 10. To simply assume Williams will do the same isn't a smart play.
Photo Credit: Leslie Plaza Johnson/Icon Sportswire
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