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Red Zone Target Hogs and Potential WR Sleepers for 2019


As a fantasy owner reading this, you know that not all fantasy touches are equal. Ultimately, we are all looking for players that are able to score that elusive touchdown. If you can find a later round draft pick that is used in the red zone then you have a great opportunity to win your league.

Throughout last season, I used the Premium Red Zone tool (if you haven't bookmarked the tool already, it's right here) to try and help identify who is given more opportunity near the goal line, and therefore who has higher scoring potential. As I said in the article each week: "Targets are the lifeblood of a receiver's value in PPR leagues, just as red zone touches are the most relevant factor to consider for standard leagues."

With the season over, there is no guessing on how players are going to be used. I'm going to try and identify a few players from elite options to ones that could be a sleeper for next year. So let's get into it!

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Elite Red Zone Weapons

Elite players are ones that shouldn't come as a huge shock to fantasy owners. In my weekly article, I tagged these as members of the 40% club. To get over 40% of the opportunities in the red zone is a hard benchmark to achieve. In 2018, there were only five players who had more than 40% of their team's opportunities:

Of the names mentioned above, they all have one thing in common, they are the clear bell-cow running backs on their respective teams and are also involved heavily in the passing game. Going into 2019, there are two players that have question marks over the red zone potential for next season.

David Johnson's role in the offense means that he is likely to be involved in the red zone. However, the lack of talent on the roster and having either a rookie QB or second-year man Josh Rosen means that the number of visits may be limited as the Arizona Cardinals struggled to get into the red zone.

Christian McCaffrey had a fantastic season, heavily involved in the offense. That may be the downfall of the running back - the Panthers may feel that they need to bring another body into the rotation, which could limit the potential of him returning to the levels that he had this season.

Other than that, the guys above have shown themselves to have the talent and opportunity to be heavily involved in the red zone and are likely to be towards the top of red-zone usage and consideration.

 

Sleeper Targets

Identifying sleeper targets is about one thing - narrative. I'm going to be looking at players that haven't seen a huge amount of usage in the red zone, but with changes in offense could easily shoot up the charts.

There are some names that I was expecting, and some that I wasn't in the above. Taking each of them in turn, and why I think they should be thought of as sleepers.

Lamar Jackson (QB, BAL)

Jackson was one player that on the face of it I was shocked had so much of his team's opportunity, but after thinking about it some more it isn't a great shock. Jackson is effectively a pass throwing running back, and that is shown in the number of opportunities that he had in rushing the ball in the red zone. Given the commitment that the Ravens have shown the quarterback in trading away Joe Flacco, I'd expect that number to grow next season.

Nick Chubb (RB, CLE)

Chubb gets an uplift following the trade news out of Cleveland. While we are all jumping on the hype train going into Cleveland with the blockbuster trade of Odell Beckham Jr. Chubb is one player who gets a bump. Chubb is the goal line back for the Browns, and the offense should likely see more red zone opportunities with an all-star lineup of skill players. Even with Kareem Hunt waiting in the wings due to his suspension I'd expect Chubb to continue to be given red zone opportunities next season.

Evan Engram (TE, NYG)

I was wanting to keep players in position groups, but Engram's effectiveness in the red zone is linked to the trade I mentioned above. Simply the Giants moving away from Beckham means that the red zone targets will have to go somewhere. The Giants have added Golden Tate to their ranks, but currently, there is no one on the roster who you can count on as a red zone weapon other than the elite running back Barkley- other than the big-bodied Engram.

Leonard Fournette (RB, JAX)

Fournette had a season to forget last season. Struggling from injury, the offense stalled and will be looking to rebound next season. I don't believe that Nick Foles is the elite quarterback that his contract would suggest, but he doesn't need to be in Jacksonville. The strength of Fournette combined with a defense that should be improved means that he can lean on the running back. Certainly, that game plan was used effectively previously. If Fournette has put his injury concerns behind him, he could be a big player for fantasy owners.

Chris Godwin (WR, TB)

Godwin at the moment is one of my favorite sleepers and a great target in dynasty formats. Bruce Arians is an offensive guru, and even with some time off from the game, he should return to that role. Godwin is currently the second receiver on the depth chart and has a good rapport with quarterback Jameis Winston. Tight end O.J. Howard could provide competition for the targets that alpha receiver Mike Evans doesn't get but Godwin's ability should give him great red zone value for fantasy owners.

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