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Red Zone Usage Risers and Fallers - Week 15

We are at a crucial point in the season. Hopefully, your team is still alive, but there is always an opportunity to get your team in shape before that final push!

As fantasy owners, we know that not all touches are equal. A touch in the red zone has an increased chance of scoring a touchdown, so those touches are important to target. To identify the players to target in trades, RotoBaller's Premium Red Zone Sleepers tool can give you a sense of who is being utilized more in the all-important area of the field to provide more scoring potential. A preview of the tool and the top players in red-zone touches is shown below.

Just like targets are the lifeblood of a receiver's value in PPR leagues, red-zone touches are the most relevant factor to consider for standard leagues. Each week, I will identify some risers and fallers based on their red-zone touches, and what that means for your team.

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Red Zone Risers


Joe Mixon (RB, CIN) - 33.3% Red-zone touch%

Someone needs to tell Cincinnati that their season is over. It seems as though in recent weeks the team has (finally) been able to get moving on offense, with a massive 16 red-zone plays in their last game. Mixon has finally repaid the faith that fantasy owners showed him in the draft, touching the ball a massive seven times out of those 16 plays and scoring a touchdown. In the middle of the season, it almost got to a point where owners were considering dropping Mixon! If you are still alive, put him in your lineup with confidence.

Devonta Freeman (RB, ATL) - 18.5% Red-zone touch%

Freeman personifies the struggle that Atlanta has faced this season. A lot of opportunities in games, but a disappointing amount of production. However, Freeman has immediately picked up his workload from before his injury. That provides fantasy owners with some hope, especially as the only (effective) running back with Brian Hill not being overly productive when he has been given the lead back job. Freeman touched the ball four times out of the team's last nine red-zone plays, scoring a touchdown. That heavy usage should start to pay dividends for Freeman's value towards the end of the season.

Patrick Laird (RB, MIA) - 11.2% Red-zone touch%

The darling waiver wire pickup of recent weeks deserves inclusion in this article. The Miami Dolphins have looked a lot better on offense in recent weeks, and after the team rotated through several running backs it seems Laird is the lead back. Miami might be in the middle of a rebuild, but with Ryan Fitzpatrick leading the offense they are able to score points. The Dolphins had 18 plays in the red zone last week, and Laird was able to get five touches. While he was unable to convert them into a touchdown, based on his usage that should change sooner rather than later.


Christian Kirk (WR, ARI) - 9.6% Red-zone touch%

Kirk has become one of the few reliable options on the Cardinals offense. I mentioned in my offensive line article this week that the team doesn't have a strong unit, meaning that Kirk has been looked at often as the release for rookie quarterback Kyler Murray. Kirk looks like the perfect starting option for fantasy owners at the moment, with a reliable target share and red-zone usage. The Cardinals have opted to pass on 54.4% of their red-zone attempts this season and with Kirk the leading the team in receptions he is a fantastic option.

Diontae Johnson (WR, PIT) - 6.9% Red-zone touch%

Someone has to touch the ball in Pittsburgh! The team has recently welcomed back James Conner back to practice but JuJu Smith-Schuster suffered a setback on Thursday and won't play. Both have struggled on this offense this season. The normally potent Steelers offense has only run 101 plays in the red zone, ranking 26th in the league. With a number of players injured and Vance McDonald struggling to get consistent looks, Johnson could be a worthwhile pickup in deeper leagues.


Mike Gesicki (TE, MIA) - 7.1% Red-zone touch%

A second Dolphin? As a riser? Yep! That is really more of an indication of how sketchy the tight end position is outside of the elite options. Gesicki had a two-game stretch where he was able to get involved in the offense, before struggling against the New York Jets last week. However, he still had five targets in that game, three of which were in the red zone. If you are desperate for a tight end in the playoffs, grabbing one that gets red-zone looks seems a great way to go.


Red Zone Fallers


Carlos Hyde (RB, SF) - 27.3% Red-zone touch%

Hyde has been an effective (unspectacular) running back this season leading the Houston Texans offense on the ground. However, the team has been struggling on defense and Hyde needs to score to be productive. His role has shrunk of late, particularly in the red-zone. Hyde has been overlooked in recent weeks, only getting a single touch from the team's nine red-zone plays last week (in fact of the last 14 red-zone plays, Hyde has touched the ball twice). With Hyde's goal-line work getting squeezed, his touchdown upside needs to be reduced accordingly.


Emmanuel Sanders (WR, SF) - 10.0% Red-zone touch%

Sanders' trade to San Fransisco has certainly boosted his fantasy value, but his use in the offense is different than his time in Denver. The 49ers are reliant on their running backs in their offense, rushing on 52.3% of their red-zone plays this season. The team also has elite tight end George Kittle and rookie Deebo Samuel as receiving options. While Sanders is a great talent, and likely to excel next season, until he develops better chemistry with Jimmy Garoppolo he is likely to be overlooked in the red zone.


Hunter Henry (TE, LAC) - 8.1% Red-zone touch%

Henry returned from injury with a bang, but since then Henry and the Los Angeles Chargers have stalled on offense. Melvin Gordon returned to the team after holding out during the offseason, immediately becoming the team's primary red-zone weapon. Gordon now leads the team in touches near the goal line. With the availability of Austin Ekeler and receiving duo Keenan Allen and Mike Williams, there simply isn't a reliable target share for their tight end.


Red Zone Sleepers

RotoBaller's Premium tools offer more detailed insight into player values and help you identify which players to target on the waiver wire and/or trade market. Start with a free one-week trial, including NFL Optimizer and DFS Premium and get an advantage on the competition!

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