What makes football fun, and particularly fantasy football, is that we have a number of statistics to display why “Player-X” is better than “Player-Y” that goes well beyond end of season totals. That’s why everybody comes to PlayerProfiler.com, to learn more about their players than that guy sitting next to him at a bar. In an attempt to find a way to measure the efficiency of receivers and tight ends in the red zone, I pulled stats on those who received a minimum of 10 red zone targets in 2016, and sought out to find what percentage of those targets were brought in for scores, or what I am calling RZTD.
Red Zone Targets/Red Zone Touchdowns = RZTD (red zone targets and red zone target share available via PlayerProfiler’s Data Analysis Tool)
This stat can be particularly useful for players in non-PPR leagues who need to capitalize on touchdowns any chance they get. Without giving too much away just yet, top-tier receivers like Antonio Brown, Odell Beckham, and T.Y. Hilton did not even crack the top-15. Now, without further delay, here are your top-10 RZTD wide receivers in 2016!
10. Doug Baldwin – Seattle Seahawks (35-percent RZTD)
At 5-foot-10, Doug Baldwin is one of the smallest wide receivers on this list, and the fact that he even cracked the top 10 is impressive given his 9.87 Catch Radius (23rd-percentile). Despite a rough season out of Russell Wilson, Doug Baldwin flourished for the Seahawks this season, posting career highs in receptions (94), receiving yards (1,128) and yards per game (70.5) while hauling in seven receiving touchdowns.
Ironically enough, all seven of Doug Baldwin‘s touchdowns came in the red zone, which is surprising for a player who posted the sixth-highest yards after catch (447) in 2016. Only a year removed from a 14 touchdown season, Baldwin has proven to be one of the most efficient receivers in the league posting a 75.2-percent catch rate (No. 5 in 2016), +20.6 Production Premium (No. 14 in 2016) and 15.8 fantasy points per game (No. 10th 2016).
9. Kenny Britt – Los Angeles Rams (36-percent RZTD)
The only reason this is a surprise, is because it indicates that the Rams actually managed to get close enough to the end zone to even give Kenny Britt a chance to score, even while being quarterbacked by Case Keenum and Jared Goff.
That being said, Kenny Britt has been doing this for years, when given the chance. Britt finally managed to find the end zone on red zone targets in 2016 after scoring on zero out of 17 red zone targets from 2013 to 2015. Prior to that dry spell, Britt had posted a RZTD of 36-percent from 2009 to 2012, right in line with what he did this season for the Rams.
Kenny Britt is one of the bigger wide receivers in the league, standing in at 6-foot-3, and his arm length of 34-inches (94th-percentile), gives him the ability to catch almost anything thrown his way. Which explains why he is on this list despite his awful quarterback situation. The veteran wide receiver will likely leave Los Angeles after this season, and will remind fans and teams once again of his effectiveness in the red zone, where he will be targeted by a good quarterback for the first time in his career.
8. Michael Thomas – New Orleans Saints (37-percent RZTD)
Let me start with saying that Michael Thomas is a great player, and is not a breakout candidate in 2017. Because Michael Thomas has already broken out! In 2016, Michael Thomas ranked ninth in the league in receptions (92), tenth in the league in receiving yards (1,137), third in air yards (1,079) and sixth in receiving touchdowns (9). Thomas also finished second in the league in red zone receptions (13), and turned 19 red zone targets into seven scores.
Like Kenny Britt, Michael Thomas is another large target who is an efficient scorer, only he was blessed with playing for a high quality quarterback. Thomas’ high-end athletic profile demonstrated by a 114.5 SPARQ-x Score (75th-percentile), 10.14 Catch Radius (73rd-percentile) and 99.9 Height-adjusted Speed Score (HaSS) (67th-percentile) helped to propel him to a +28.9 Production Premium (No. 4), was the highest among all rookie receivers in 2016. Regardless of the number of targets, and he should continue to flourish as long as Drew Brees is his quarterback.
7a. Davante Adams – Green Bay Packers (38-percent RZTD)
7b. Michael Floyd – Arizona Cardinals/New England Patriots (38-percent RZTD)
Both Michael Floyd and Davante Adams posted a 38-percent RZTD in 2016, but it’s Adams who will be the focus at number seven, given his lack of recent career derailment which is exactly the case for Floyd heading into 2017.
NOTE: Floyd has a career RZTD of 21-percent, indicating that what he managed to post in 2016 was more of a fluke than a normality, trust him at your own risk in 2017.
Davante Adams was not only a scoring threat in the red zone last season, but was one of Aaron Rodgers‘ favorite targets down in the red zone, receiving 24 targets (2nd highest in 2016) down inside the 20-yard line last year. Adams is an explosive player (408 yards after catch, ninth highest in 2016), who can score on deep plays, and in the red zone. He catches rockets from Aaron Rodgers on a daily basis, and finished the season with the second most receiving touchdowns (14) in 2016.
Last season, Davante Adams caught nine red zone passes for scores, and saw the fourth highest total in red zone receptions (14). With a 128.7 Burst Score (84th-percentile) and 10.18 Catch Radius (81st-percentile), it’s no wonder that Adams flourished with the extra opportunities he received. He also vastly improved on his catch rate from 53.2-percent in 2015 to 62-percent in 2016. Adams had a strong year on the field for the Packers last season, and could find himself on the receiving end of all the main red zone targets in 2017.
6. Jordy Nelson – Green Bay Packers (39-percent RZTD)
While Davante Adams was second in the league in red zone targets last season, it was his counterpart Jordy Nelson who lead the league with 31 red zone targets in 2016. Nelson converted 12 of those red zone targets to touchdowns last year, utilizing his 6-foot-3, 217-pound frame to secure 58.3-percent of his contested catches.
Not only did Nelson lead the league in red zone targets, but also in total receiving touchdowns (14), red zone receptions (21) while being second in fantasy points per game with 19.1 FPPG.
5a. J.J. Nelson – Arizona Cardinals (40-percent RZTD)
5b. Sterling Shepard – New York Giants (40-percent RZTD)
5c. Justin Hardy – Atlanta Falcons (40-percent RZTD)
Justin Hardy will most likely enter 2017 as the fourth receiver on the Falcons behind Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu and Taylor Gabriel, while J.J. Nelson is still coming into his own with the Cardinals. Nelson will carry higher fantasy value than Hardy heading into next season, but the guy we will focus on in this trio is Sterling Shepard, who secured six of his 15 red zone targets for touchdowns in his rookie campaign.
Sterling Shepard benefits from playing opposite Odell Beckham Jr., who will often draw a team’s best cornerback and defensive focus every week. Boasting a 4.48 40-yard dash (70th-percentile) and 131.2 Burst Score (90th-percentile), Shepard possesses the ability to separate himself from opposing defenses, and is a highly trusted player in the Giants offense, after receiving 100-percent of the snap share as a rookie. Shepard’s value should only go up as he builds more of a rapport with Manning this offseason, and continues to share the field with the league’s most dynamic receiver.
4. Mike Evans – Tampa Bay Buccaneers (40-percent RZTD)
Of all the players on this list, Mike Evans may be the least surprising. Evans lead the league in targets (171), target share (30-percent) and air yards (1,146). He managed to haul in 12 touchdown passes, with seven of them coming inside the 20-yard line.
Mike Evans is the tallest receiver on this list at 6-foot-5, and his 35 1/8-inch arm length (100th-percentile) provides him the ability to haul in nearly anything that’s thrown within his zip code. The third-year pro also has a 115.7 HaSS (95th-percentile), and a Catch Radius of 10.29 (94th-percentile). Evans has the size and talent to be a top red zone target for years to come, and should remain Jameis Winston‘s favorite in 2017 among his receiver corps.
3. Dez Bryant – Dallas Cowboys (43-percent RZTD)
Dez Bryant has made a career out of converting red zone targets to touchdowns (career 39-percent RZTD). Despite playing in only 13 games this season, Bryant still managed to reel off 796 receiving yards (61.2 YPG) and eight touchdowns.
Dez Bryant‘s HaSS (102.3, 74th-percentile), Burst Score (131.1, 89th-percentile) and Catch Radius (10.08, 65th-percentile), all make him an attractive target in the end zone, along with his 6-foot-2, 220-pound frame. He has a 34-inch arm length (94th-percentile), that allows him, like Mike Evans, to catch nearly any ball thrown his way.
With a declining Jason Witten, and no true number two receiver on the outside, Dez Bryant should continue to see red zone targets heading into next year. The biggest threat to Bryant’s targets could come in the form of Ezekiel Elliott and a run focused attack, more so than a receiver garnering looks in the aerial attack.
2. Rishard Matthews – Tennessee Titans (47-percent RZTD)
Rishard Matthews turned his first full season as a starter into a season of career highs in 2016. Matthews hauled in a career high in receptions (65), receiving yards (945) and receiving touchdowns with nine. Despite playing on a team that excelled in running the ball, Matthews still managed to see fifteen red zone targets, the 10th highest total among any receiver or tight end in the league. Matthews finished the season with the 12th highest total in red zone receptions with 12, and posted an exceptional +22.7 (No. 10) Production Premium, PlayerProfiler’s signature advanced efficiency metric. He also averaged 1.97 fantasy points per target, outscoring the likes of A.J. Green (1.86), Dez Bryant (1.89), Odell Beckham Jr. (1.76) and Mike Evans (1.75).
Matthews, while not being the most physically gifted receiver in the league, still boasts a 114.9 SPARQ-x Score (74th-percentile) and a 10.07 Agility Score (64th-percentile). The Titans ranked 29th in the league in total pass plays in 2016, but at least we know who the trust guy is in the passing game when they get down inside in the 20-yard line.
1. Donte Moncrief – Indianapolis Colts (60-percent RZTD)
He only received 10 red zone targets in 2016, and saw action in just nine games, but Donte Moncrief‘s 60-percent RZTD% last season was no fluke. Since taking over as a key receiver in the Colts’ passing attack in 2015, Moncrief has posted a RZTD of 48-percent, which would still put him at the highest of any player on this list over a single season.
Taking it one step further, Donte Moncrief is a physical freak, posting a 4.40 40-yard dash (92nd-percentile), a 119.5 HaSS (97th-percentile), 133.2 Burst Score (94th-percentile) and 10.21 Catch Radius (86th-percentile). Moncrief also has a 115.5 SPARQ-x Score (78th-percentile) and dominating football games at an early age evidenced by a 18.1 Breakout Age (100th-percentile).
What the Colts, and Donte Moncrief both need now is a healthy season out of him. While Moncrief is one of the more successful red zone targets in the league, it’s his teammate T.Y. Hilton, who is one of the least efficient. Despite leading the league with 1,448 receiving yards this year, Hilton has a tendency to disappear in the red zone. In 2016, Hilton turned only 23-percent of his red zone targets into touchdowns in (3-of-13), and has a career RZTD of 16-percent.