Using Red-Zone Data

Geared toward the novice, FantasyDraft 101 was designed to teach the absolute basics when it comes to daily fantasy sports. This lesson is a part of the FantasyDraft 102 series, where lessons become slightly more advanced. This article is geared towards those who read the 101 series or have a basic understanding of DFS, specifically daily fantasy football. By incorporating these intermediate lessons into your game, they should take your ability to the next level.

Using Red Zone Data

Touchdowns (TDs) are a big part of both real football and fantasy football. In real football, a TD earns a team six points and is accompanied by a shot at an extra point or the opportunity to go for a two-point conversion. Getting into the end zone earns a team the most possible points they can be awarded on any one play. Fantasy football is scored similarly, in that TDs from players make it easier to rack up fantasy points rather quickly. Rostering players that will make receptions and rack up yards has its benefits, but TDs are what everyone is looking for. For that reason, it is a great idea to find those players with the best shots to score on a given week.

How though would one go about guessing which player will have the opportunities? Red-zone data is the answer. Red-zone data lays out the quality and quantity of red-zone opportunities a player has accrued. This becomes more helpful by the week as data starts to compile and trends develop.

The data is broken down by yardage inside the red zone. For instance, red-zone rushes are classified as “inside 20,” “inside 10” and “inside five” yards. If a runningback (RB) is handed the ball at the 20-yard line, he’ll need to break a 20-yard rush to score. It’s a higher probability opportunity to score than if he were handed the ball at the 40. At the same time, that carry is not nearly as valuable as an opportunity inside the five-yard line, because the runner doesn’t need to go as far. If a player is consistently presented opportunities inside the five-yard line, then the probability of them scoring on any given week is high. Some backs, like Rashad Jennings, often carry the ball into the red zone and then are pulled for bigger backs with specific skill sets. Those types of backs are better left for cash games, since they lack the multiple TD upside necessary to win tournaments.

Here are the RBs who received more than 10 carries inside the five-yard line last season:

Mark Ingram – 20 carries inside the five, nine rushing TDs

Marshawn Lynch – 14 carries inside the five, 13 rushing TDs

Lamar Miller – 13 carries inside the five, eight rushing TDs

Chris Ivory – 13 carries inside the five, six rushing TDs

DeMarco Murray – 12 carries inside the five, 13 rushing TDs

Matt Asiata – 12 carries inside the five, nine rushing TDs

Jeremy Hill – 11 carries inside the five, nine rushing TDs

Joique Bell – 11 carries inside the five, seven rushing TDs

As you can see, the lowest TD output any of these players produced was six, so the floor sits rather high for players awarded such opportunities. All of these players carried at least 40 percent of the team’s overall red-zone carries for the season as well… so nearly half the opportunities. This data doesn’t even include receiving numbers for these backs, which in theory increases their upside even further. The same holds true for wide receivers (WRs) targeted in the red zone. The more balls thrown their way in the end zone, the greater chance they have of hauling one in and scoring. Targets inside the five are less likely for receivers as teams usually transition to a goal-line offense with multiple tight ends (TEs), but here are the WRs who were targeted at least seven times inside the five:

Demaryius Thomas – 11 targets inside the five, 11 receiving TDs

Dez Bryant – eight targets inside the five, 16 receiving TDs

Roddy White – eight targets inside the five, seven receiving TDs

Antonio Brown – seven targets inside the five, 13 receiving TDs

Randall Cobb – seven targets inside the five, 12 receiving TDs

Andre Johnson – seven targets inside the five, three receiving TDs

Red-zone targets are nearly as indicative of TD output as carries, except for the outlier (Johnson). If a player isn’t thrown to inside the red zone, then they will have to break one in order to score (is much more difficult to predict). Offensive schemes change from year-to-year, but having a grasp on players’ skill sets and an understanding of which players will convert given the opportunity is an important factor in daily fantasy football.

Quarterback (QB) data works the same as both of the other positions mentioned, except they have the opportunity to pass or run. QBs like Cam Newton like to tuck the ball and run it in themselves, which increases their fantasy-point ceiling. I don’t think the number of opportunities for a QB is nearly as important as their efficiency. Is it better for a QB to throw three incompletions inside the one-yard line or throw one for a TD? In that instance (as well as many others), the sheer quantity does not translate into production. For that reason, I’d focus on rushes inside the red zone and completion percentage as gauges for QBs, rather than “red-zone passes.”

To reiterate, we will not know how this season will pan out without a sample size. Early on, it will be beneficial to look back to last year’s numbers and see how targets/carries were distributed, but many teams have new players and coordinators in the mix. A few weeks into the season, we will have numbers to fall back on and we’ll have seen how offenses distribute the ball in crunch time. When that data becomes available, you should have a leg up on your competition by being able to identify which players are likely to be asked to score by their respective teams.

Sites such as RotoWire and ProFootballFocus provide excellent breakdowns of these statistics and I’m sure there others out there. Good luck and catch you in the PayoutZone.

Ricky Sanders

Ricky Sanders

Ricky Sanders is a fantasy sports expert with over 15 years of playing experience. After starting several freelance fantasy sports blogs, Ricky moved up in the fantasy industry when he joined Going9 Baseball. He wrote fantasy baseball content and had a weekly radio spot on the site’s SiriusXM Satellite Radio show. Shortly thereafter, in early 2013, Ricky joined RotoExperts as a three-sport fantasy contributor, eventually becoming one of the site’s lead basketball writers. While writing for RotoExperts, Ricky was introduced to daily fantasy sports and immediately fell in love. With help from some of his mentors, some of the best DFS players in the world, he honed his skills and became the daily fantasy expert he is today. When RotoExperts created a daily-focused website called DailyRoto.com, Ricky was brought on as one of the main contributors. He still makes frequent appearances on the RotoExperts SiriusXM Radio show and on the FNTSY Sports Television Network, talking daily fantasy sports. He also continues to write for a few DFS content sites: RotoCurve and The Fantasy Fix. Ricky is a proud and active member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. He has agreed to be a writer and representative for the FantasyDraft brand and serves as an ambassador to the site. He has no more access to the site than the typical user. Don’t hesitate to contact Ricky with questions on Twitter @RSandersDFS.

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