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fantasy football, dez bryant
Dez Bryant-USA TODAY Sports

fantasy football, dez bryant
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

This will be third and final wide receiver review as we wrap up the 2013 fantasy football campaign. The first edition focused on which receivers were the best targets for their respective teams, while the second looked at which receivers were playing a lot of snaps and if they were being utilized properly.  The last part is going to look at the lifeblood of fantasy football, touchdowns, more specifically, red zone usage and inside the 10-yard line usage.

Team Red Zone Passing

Before we get into specific players, however, let’s take a look at how teams handled their play calling in the red zone this season.

Tm

Pass Plays

TD

TD %

Pass Play %

ARI

72

15

20.8%

56.7%

ATL

102

19

18.6%

65.8%

BAL

82

17

20.7%

56.6%

BUF

52

8

15.4%

35.1%

CAR

66

18

27.3%

42.0%

CHI

86

25

29.1%

55.1%

CIN

74

23

31.1%

55.6%

CLE

81

16

19.8%

57.9%

DAL

78

23

29.5%

59.1%

DEN

121

40

33.1%

61.1%

DET

86

23

26.7%

57.3%

GNB

103

20

19.4%

53.9%

HOU

68

14

20.6%

55.3%

IND

86

16

18.6%

62.3%

JAX

84

12

14.3%

64.6%

KAN

84

17

20.2%

51.5%

MIA

68

18

26.5%

56.2%

MIN

68

9

13.2%

51.5%

NOR

97

22

22.7%

60.6%

NWE

89

20

22.5%

50.0%

NYG

61

8

13.1%

57.5%

NYJ

59

9

15.3%

49.6%

OAK

60

11

18.3%

50.8%

PHI

70

17

24.3%

47.3%

PIT

112

20

17.9%

65.5%

SDG

97

22

22.7%

57.4%

SEA

64

18

28.1%

41.8%

SFO

61

17

27.9%

38.4%

STL

79

18

22.8%

52.7%

TAM

66

16

24.2%

64.7%

TEN

64

13

20.3%

48.9%

WAS

71

14

19.7%

53.4%

*Plays that resulted in sacks were included

Not surprising, Denver led the NFL in passing plays, passing touchdowns and touchdown rate inside of the red zone while their pass to run ratio was the sixth highest in the league. Their quarterback was pretty decent this past season, so let’s not linger.

I was absolutely floored to learn that the Steelers ran the second highest amount of passing plays in the red zone. I’m shocked because they don’t really have a receiving corps built for having a strong passing game near the end zone, which shows by them being 27th in terms of converting those plays into touchdowns. They had a couple of receivers do well individually (we’re getting there), but this was a completely inefficient use of play calling.

Only seven teams called a pass on under half of their offensive plays, with the Bills and 49ers under 60 percent.  For Buffalo, that translated into them being tied with the Giants for a league low eight passing touchdowns and they weren’t efficient either, finishing 29th in TD percentage.

San Francisco on the other hand was far too conservative. They ranked 28th in total pass plays, 31st in pass play percentage, but were the sixth best team in converting those plays into touchdowns while finishing right in the middle of total scores. They had two elite performers in Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis in terms of conversion rate, so another completely inept use of play calling efficiency.

Not spending too much time here, but this is a great look at how rational coaching in the NFL really doesn’t exist and reinforces just how much the current game has shifted into a passing one.

Individual Red Zone Performance

Player

RZ TGT

REC

TD

TD %

Marvin Jones

14

12

9

64.3%

Marlon Brown

14

9

7

50.0%

Dez Bryant

21

13

10

47.6%

Anquan Boldin

15

11

7

46.7%

Jerricho Cotchery

22

13

10

45.5%

Eddie Royal

14

11

6

42.9%

Wes Welker

24

19

10

41.7%

Brandon Marshall

22

12

9

40.9%

Eric Decker

25

15

9

36.0%

Demaryius Thomas

20

13

7

35.0%

Calvin Johnson

26

11

8

30.8%

 

Only 11 receivers had at least 12 red zone targets and converted over 30 percent of those targets into touchdowns. Jones, Welker and Royal are the only receivers under 200 pounds here (Jones is 199 pounds), but Royal is the only true outlier. Welker scored the most touchdowns of his career this year, but when your quarterback throws 40 red zone touchdowns, there’s going to be plenty to go around.

Jones is no doubt in for regression, but that doesn’t make him a terrible buy going into 2014. Cotchery has the biggest physical profile of the three main Steeler receivers, so it’s no surprise he benefited the most from all of that pass happy volume noted earlier.

In the hallow route review, we noted that the Ravens already have a red zone monster on their roster in Brown, so if they’re pursuing a receiver in the draft to only catch touchdowns, that’s a mistake. Decker has always posted a good red zone conversion rate even dating back to his college days, which makes him a valuable target if he leaves Denver this offseason. Many will discount his success, tying it entirely to Manning, which isn’t the entire story.

Player

RZ TGT

REC

TD

TD %

Harry Douglas

14

5

0

0.0%

Chris Givens

12

1

0

0.0%

Antonio Brown

23

12

1

4.3%

Josh Gordon

18

5

1

5.6%

Roddy White

12

5

1

8.3%

T.Y. Hilton

15

8

2

13.3%

James Jones

14

8

2

14.3%

Michael Floyd

14

6

2

14.3%

David Nelson

13

6

2

15.4%

Kris Durham

13

5

2

15.4%

Alshon Jeffery

19

5

3

15.8%

Andre Johnson

18

7

3

16.7%

 

Now, the bad, and immediately we have some notable names. As you can tell from above, the red zone is where small receivers really get hurt for fantasy purposes. Not even volume could really help Brown here, if he was able to convert more of those targets into scores, he may have led all receivers this season in points.

The fact that Gordon, Jeffery and to a much lesser extent, Floyd, were able to have so much success overall in only their second seasons despite being so poor near the end zone speaks on just how good they really are. Jeffery and Floyd were both plus performers in college and fit the profile, so there’s no reason to think that they won’t have positive regression. Gordon has a limited college resume, so he’s tougher to gauge. He fits all of the physical prerequisites and Cleveland had subpar quarterback play, so I’m willing to buy him improving in this area.

The last guy that is pretty interesting is Andre Johnson. For the most part, owners have complained about his red zone usage over his career, but he had ample opportunity to make an impact there. In fact, he’s been a subpar red zone performer for his entire career, turning only 39 of his career 161 targets (24.2 percent) into touchdowns, in other words, fiction can be fun when we’re talking about Johnson being misused.

Inside the 10-yard Line

We’re really cutting the sample small when cutting the red zone field in half, but a healthy percentage of targets from the 20 aren’t going to go for scores. These are leaders who had at least seven targets inside the 10-yard line.

 

Player

INSIDE 10 TGT

REC

TD

TD %

Jerricho Cotchery

10

6

6

60.00%

Dez Bryant

16

11

9

56.25%

Wes Welker

15

10

8

53.33%

Brandon Marshall

14

8

7

50.00%

Emmanuel Sanders

10

7

5

50.00%

Marlon Brown

10

7

5

50.00%

Anquan Boldin

8

5

4

50.00%

Marvin Jones

8

7

4

50.00%

Julian Edelman

9

6

4

44.44%

Vincent Jackson

7

3

3

42.86%

Calvin Johnson

10

5

4

40.00%

Demaryius Thomas

10

6

4

40.00%

Keenan Allen

10

4

4

40.00%

Pierre Garcon

10

5

4

40.00%

 

Eight of Welker’s 10 scores came inside the 10-yard line this year, most of all Broncos receivers and not surprising since he really added zero big plays all season (and never topped 100 yards in any game).

Bryant was the true stud here, having the most touchdowns and the most targets in the league. He may actually slide a bit this season since owners may have been expecting him to lead all fantasy receivers this year and some other young guys have gotten into the mix. If you look at the team totals, Dallas was near the bottom of plays run in the red zone, so if that volume increases even more, look out. If he’s available near the turn, I would pounce in drafts this season.

Player

INSIDE 10 TGT

REC

TD

TD %

Darrius Heyward-Bey

7

1

0

0.00%

Harry Douglas

7

1

0

0.00%

Josh Gordon

11

1

1

9.09%

Julio Jones

7

4

1

14.29%

Alshon Jeffery

11

3

2

18.18%

Cecil Shorts

11

3

2

18.18%

Jordy Nelson

11

5

2

18.18%

A.J. Green

12

5

3

25.00%

Greg Little

8

2

2

25.00%

James Jones

8

4

2

25.00%

Jarrett Boykin

8

2

2

25.00%

Andre Johnson

11

6

3

27.27%

T.Y. Hilton

7

4

2

28.57%

 

I have absolutely no idea what Pep Hamilton was doing this year, and Hilton and Heyward-Bey’s usage in this area just compounds that even further. Interesting to see three Green Bay receivers here, but Aaron Rodgers had nearly the same number of attempts (25) in this area as Scott Tolzien (8), Matt Flynn (17) and Seneca Wallace (2) had combined.

We touched on most of the others on the list at some point and for the ones we’re passing up, they don’t have the profile to even be on this list in the first place. Lastly, I hate to pile on here (that’s a lie), but it’s worth noting that we get our first appearance from Greg Little, making this a perfect hat trick of showing up in all three posts for wide receiver inefficiency.

We’ll be moving on to running backs next in our review of the 2013 season, followed by tight ends and lastly, quarterbacks.

*Stats were provided from ProFootballReference.com

2 comments
Rich Hribar
Rich Hribar

Thanks. Luck is definitely guilty by association, but having plays run for a 180 pound speed receiver and DHB, who converted only five of 27 red zone targets while in Oakland isn't putting him in favorable spots. An area Luck can improve in most definitely, getting Dwayne Allen back in the fold will be a tremendous boost as could using Da'Rick Rogers and his frame down there more often.

Jessa Fitz
Jessa Fitz

According to PFF: "We have the players who didn't fare as well on end zone throws. Interestingly, Andrew Luck is dead last in the category. Luck completed only eight of his 34 tries (23.5 percent). Additional research will be required to determine if this is quarterback-, receiver-, or luck-dependent, but Luck did struggle in this area last year, as well." So Pep might not have helped but if Luck struggled last year too, I think that may be more on Luck.