Touchdowns are like women.
Both involve scoring (well, maybe sometimes, at least), but above all, both can be pretty difficult to predict. I mean, seriously. One day they’re picking flowers and smiling and laughing. The next? Chaos ensues. As for touchdowns, they can also be very annoying because, as fantasy football fans, we gravitate towards guys who can score 15 touchdowns in a given season. However, with so much variance and luck (or misfortune) that is involved sometimes, we find ourselves wanting more from our wide receivers. So, after stating how projecting touchdowns is very, very difficult to do, let’s try to highlight a few pass-catchers who will see an uptick in trips to paydirt in 2015.
2015 Red Zone Target Leaders
-The two Green Bay Packers’ wideouts combined for 54 red zone targets, 189 catches and 25 touchdowns. I guess those are some of the benefits of playing alongside the best quarterback in the game, Aaron Rodgers. However, I fully don’t expect Randall Cobb to continue to score like he did last season. Nine of his touchdowns came from inside the red zone, and seven of those nine actually came from within 10 yards of the end zone. At 5’10”, 192 lbs, Cobb simply isn’t the type of player who is going to thrive in the red zone like other wideouts, so I expect his touchdown totals to drop by a few. But hey, I guess anything is possible when you’re a key part of an elite offense Green Bay offers.
-Over the last two seasons, no wideouts in all of football have seen more end zone targets than both Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. During Marc Trestman’s tenure in Chicago, the former duo were thrown at religiously when in close, which has helped Jeffery score 17 touchdowns during that span. Of course, Trestman is now calling plays in Baltimore and Marshall has joined Gang Green, but I still think Alshon is going to score plenty of touchdowns. From Weeks 11 to 16 last season, with Marshall injured, he scored in six consecutive contests, and only trailed Odell Beckham Jr. in fantasy points among receivers.
Now, let’s get into some more wideouts I expect to catch more touchdown passes than they did last season.
Vincent Jackson, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2014 TD total: 2)
It was a pretty strange season for VJax last season. After averaging seven touchdowns per season when playing at least 15 games, Jackson found the end zone just twice in 2014. The opportunity was there for Jackson, as he saw a very healthy 15 end zone targets. However, with guys like Josh McCown and Mike Glennon tossing him the rock, a handful of those targets probably weren’t very catchable, as he converted just 13 percent of those EZ looks into scores. That’s an ugly number, as ESPN points out that Jackson converted over 40 percent of his end zone targets into touchdowns over the last five seasons. One thing is for sure– Tampa Bay wants to use him, even with the emergence of Mike Evans. Over his three seasons in Tampa, Jackson has averaged 150 targets, and last season, he ranked 8th in that category, seeing seeing 19 more targets than Evans.
Entering 2015, rookie quarterback Jameis Winston will be under center, and whether you believe in him or not, the fact that he is not afraid to just hoist it up is actually very exciting to me. And, although Evans is supremely talented, I do think Winston will look for his veteran receiver quite often in year one. I also expect the Bucs to throw the ball quite a bit. Last year, they ranked 8th in the NFL in passing percentage, and I don’t see them running the ball with much success this year. They also ranked 9th in passing touchdown percentage, and with three guys who are at least 6’5″, I expect them to want to throw the football when they get in close.
Andre Johnson, Indianapolis Colts (2014 TD total: 3)
An obvious one here, but going from the likes of Ryan Fitzpatrick, Matt Schaub, Sage Rosenfels and T.J. Yates over the years to Andrew Luck is probably (and I’m just spitballing here) good for your fantasy value. It’s funny, though, because Johnson actually tied for fourth in red zone targets last season, while seeing 11 looks from inside the 10-yard line. However, from watching him last year, there were so many instances where the only way he’d score a touchdown was if he made a miraculous grab, while dragging both feet in traffic. Now he’ll play in this high-powered Colts offense that ranked top-10 in red zone scoring attempts per game, and when they got inside the 20, they threw the ball quite a bit, as only two teams averaged a higher passing touchdown percentage than Indy last season (76.2%). Luck may not throw 40 touchdown passes again, but I’d say he’s a lock for at least 35, and they’re not all going to T.Y. Hilton, folks.
Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons (2014 TD total: 6)
Julio Jones can be the number-one wide receiver in fantasy football.
Last season, he ranked third in targets (163), receptions (104) and receiving yards (1,593), but his six touchdowns definitely left something to be desired. It was a bit odd to see Julio, arguably the most pure talent in the NFL, see just five targets from inside the 10-yard line, as well as only 12 red zone targets. Simply put, Julio is far too talented to score just six touchdowns, and although Kyle Shanahan is in town, I still think Atlanta throws the football quite a bit because their personnel fits an aerial attack way better than one on the ground. With absolutely no presence at tight end, no true goal line back, the amount of times Matt Ryan is either looking at Julio or Roddy White in the red zone should be fairly high, and at 6’3″, 220 lbs, the odds of him converting should also be high.
Keenan Allen, San Diego Chargers (2014 TD total: 4)
It’s funny, actually.
I didn’t necessarily love Keenan Allen heading into this season, but I do think he sees more production from up close in 2015. During his rookie year, he was seemingly always open, and it resulted in 71 catches, over 1,000 yards and eight touchdowns. He caught six of his 14 end zone targets during that season, but in his sophomore year a season ago, Allen saw just six end zone looks, converting only one into a score. I’d expect those numbers to go up this year, especially with Antonio Gates being suspended for the first four games of the season. Over the course of his career, Philip Rivers has looked Gates’ way more than anyone on both third downs and in the red zone.
With Gates not there for the first four weeks, Allen should see an uptick in usage not only in between the twenties, but also inside the 10. While I also think Stevie Johnson plays a bigger role than people think, you’d have to assume that Allen will score more touchdowns this season.