Redzone Report

The Red Zone Report takes a weekly look at red-zone usage and matchups to identify top options and sleepers for touchdowns in the given week of NFL action. This is a touchdown-centric piece, and the yardage outlook for the highlighted players isn’t a consideration.

Running Backs

Top Option
Melvin Gordon (LAC) vs. BUF
YTD Redzone Touches- 26 Week 10 Redzone Touches- 1
Gordon’s lone red-zone touch last week is the only red-zone touch for a Chargers back in their last two games, so don’t read into it as a sign someone else is usurping goal-line duties. He’s been heavily utilized in the red zone as a runner (20 rush attempts) and pass catcher (eight targets and six receptions) this season. The third-year pro’s eight touchdowns on rushes and receptions combined is the third most this year. The Bills have yielded the most rushing touchdowns (11) to running backs this year, per Pro-Football Reference. The 11 scores they’ve coughed up on the ground are three more than the four-team tie behind them for the second most. Buffalo’s also yielded a score through the air to running backs this season. If you combine the Chargers’ propensity for feeding Gordon the ball in the red zone with the Bills’ inability to keep backs out of the end zone, you end up with the top touchdown option at running back this week.

Rex Burkhead (NE) @ Raiders (in Mexico City)
YTD Redzone Touches – 8 Week 10 Redzone Touches – 3
Entering the year, Mike Gillislee was presumed to be the man who’d inherit the bulk of the goal-line work for the Patriots (and he promptly scored three rushing touchdowns in the season opener and another in Week 2), but he’s fallen so far out of the rotation that he was inactive last week. Less ballyhooed free-agent addition Rex Burkhead missed four full games and significant time in Week 2, but he looks like the best back in New England’s backfield. Playing time aside, he quietly notched a red-zone touch in each of the first two games of the year when all four of New England’s backs were active, and he’s received multiple red-zone touches in two of his last three games played. Last week’s three touches in the red zone were a new season high for him, though, they were second to Dion Lewis’ four among New England’s running backs. Burkhead’s ability to do it all could result in a continued ascension in red-zone touches. The Raiders have allowed just three rushing touchdowns to running backs this year, and that’s tied for the third fewest. They have, however, ceded three scores through the air to running backs, a total tied for the fourth most. The Patriots have an implied team over/under total of 30.25 points, per Pinnacle, and Burkhead’s my favorite from their committee backfield approach to reach pay dirt this week.
Check out all the RB redzone touches here, at Redskins 9/24/17

Wide Receivers

Top Option
Michael Crabtree (OAK) vs. Patriots (in Mexico City)
YTD Redzone Targets – 6 Week 9 Redzone Targets – 0
The Raiders were on bye last week, hence Crabtree’s Week 9 red-zone bagel being listed in the table. They return to action this week to play the Patriots in Mexico City in a game with the highest/over under total on the board this week at 53.5 points. The Raiders are 7-point underdogs, and that should result in a pass-heavy approach, enhancing the touchdown-chasing appeal of Crabtree. His season total of six red-zone targets doesn’t jump off the page, but he’s turned half of them into touchdowns. Furthermore, while Amari Cooper’s seven best Crabtree’s half-dozen, four of Cooper’s red-zone targets came in the season opener. Prior to posting a goose egg in red-zone targets in Week 9, Crabtree had received at least one in back-to-back games (three total) and at least one in three of his four previous games played. New England’s ceded nine receiving touchdowns to wide outs this year, a total that’s tied for the 10th most. I like Crabtree’s odds of getting looks in scoring territory and cashing in.

Bruce Ellington (HOU) vs. Cardinals
YTD Redzone Targets – 4 Week 10 Redzone Targets – 1
If you’re the type who gets fired up about coach-talk relating to expanded roles and such, you’ll dig Aaron Wilson’s article in the Houston Chronicle that’s chock full of coaches quotes hyping up Ellington.Statistically speaking, though, Ellington’s stock was already on the rise. He’s been targeted once in the red zone in three straight games, and two of those games were quarterbacked by current starter Tom Savage. DeAndre Hopkins is basically a shoo-in to be shadowed by lockdown corner Patrick Peterson, and that leaves Ellington working against weaker members of a secondary that’s tied for the sixth most touchdown receptions (10) surrendered to opposing receivers.
Check out all the WR redzone targets here,

Tight Ends

Top Option
Travis Kelce (KC) @ Giants
YTD Redzone Targets – 11 Week 9 Redzone Targets – 2
Was there really any doubt who’d be the top option at tight end? The Giants have allowed a touchdown to a tight end in 10 straight contests, and the nine they’ve allowed in nine games this year are an NFL high. Kelce’s one of the game’s elite tight ends, and his 11 red-zone targets are the third most at the position. He’s parlayed his looks into four red-zone touchdowns, tying him for the fourth most among tight ends this year. Kelce’s been targeted in the red zone in five of nine games this season.Jaguars at Redskins 9/14/14 Value/Sleeper
Marcedes Lewis (JAX) @ Browns
YTD Redzone Targets – 8 Week 10 Redzone Targets – 1
Lewis isn’t a big-play threat, but he’s a red-zone favorite of Blake Bortles. Lewis’ eight red-zone targets are tied for the 12th most among tight ends, and he’s hauled in three touchdown grabs on them. Cleveland’s seven touchdown receptions allowed to tight ends this year trail only the Giants nine. The former Browns, better known as the Ravens, are another club that struggle mightily defending tight ends. When the Jaguars played them in London in Week 3, Jacksonville attacked them with Lewis. He was targeted three times in the red zone and turned two into touchdowns (Lewis’ other touchdown was on a 30-yard reception, thus, not a red-zone touchdown). If you’re looking for a tight end streamer in season-long leagues or a punt in daily games, Lewis should top the list.
Check out all the TE redzone targets here,

Josh Shepardson, fantasy sports pundit who's written and/or podcasted for a wide variety of websites that include The Hardball Times, Baseball Prospectus, RotoGraphs, Daily Fantasy Cafe and FantasyPros -- among other places. He's an avid Twitter user who typically tweets about sports but has occasionally been known to tweet about music, craft beer, and other non-sports things.

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