Data is from Pro Football Reference
Touchdowns are king in fantasy football. You can have a great season at quarterback if you’re racking up yards with your legs, but otherwise, QBs are going to need to put the ball in the end zone to score points.
That said, teams don’t necessarily operate the same way around the goal line that they do inside the 20s. Some teams prefer to run the ball when they get near the end zone, while others keep the ball in the hands of their quarterback.
That’s why diving into red zone data is so important. If your quarterback isn’t getting opportunities to score the ball from in close, it greatly impacts their ability to rack up fantasy points.
Fortunately, the red zone passing report at FantasyLife has you covered. It dives into every statistic you need to know about quarterbacks when they get into the money zone.
Inside the 20 vs. Inside the 10
The red zone report can be broken into two distinct categories: inside the 20 and inside the 10. Inside the 20 statistics are going to cover all plays that take place inside the red zone, while inside the 10 stats will focus on the plays closest to the goal line.
The stats from inside the 10-yard line are going to prove most useful for fantasy purposes since that’s where the majority of touchdowns come from. For example, Patrick Mahomes led the league with 34 touchdown passes in the red zone last year, but 29 of them came from inside the 10-yard line.
Other QBs see similar breakdowns. Jared Goff had 20 of his 22 red zone touchdowns from inside the 10. Tom Brady had 18 of 20, while Kirk Cousins was 16 of 23. There are a few players who stand out as outliers—Josh Allen and Joe Burrow are two of the biggest—but the easiest way to score touchdowns is to get the ball in close.
Regardless of whether you’re looking inside the 20 or 10, attempts might be the most important statistic to consider. The first step to scoring a passing touchdown is to have the ball in your hands and not in the hands of a running back.
Attempts highlight two important metrics for a quarterback: how often his team is getting the ball to the red zone and how often they’re letting him pass. Unsurprisingly, the leaders in red zone attempts last season came from the most productive offenses in football. Mahomes was far and away the leader in this department, with Cousins, Herbert, and Brady right behind. Their offenses moved the ball pretty consistently—with the exception of the Buccaneers—so they had plenty of opportunities to look for scores.
Completions go hand-in-hand with attempts. The same four players who led the way in red zone passing attempts last season also occupy the top four spots in completions. For the most part, quarterbacks are going to complete a pretty similar number of passes around the red zone, so it all comes down to volume. I’d much rather focus on attempts.
Completion percentage can be a good way to look at efficiency around the goal line. It’s still not as important as volume, but you can use it when forecasting players moving forward.
For example, Dak Prescott was one of the more efficient throwers of the football inside the red zone last year, completing 65% of his passes. He only had 49 attempts for various reasons, but he still converted 16 touchdown passes in that area. To put that in perspective, Geno Smith had 21 additional attempts last season, but he finished with just one additional touchdown. Ryan Tannehill had six fewer touchdowns on one additional attempt.
Overall, that tells me that Prescott could be looking at a big year if he can increase his volume in 2023-24.
You can also use it on a week-by-week basis. If a high-efficiency passer is facing an exploitable defense—and should get more opportunities than usual— he can be worth considering in DFS or as a streaming option.
This is easily the least important of all the red zone metrics. When you get near the end zone, you’re looking for touchdowns, not yards. It’s also directly linked to the number of attempts that each quarterback gets inside the 20- and 10-yard lines.
Care to wager on who led the position in yards in 2022-23? It’s not a trick question, it’s Mahomes. Since you can only rack up so many yards in the red zone, the guys with the most attempts are obviously going to have the most yards. A quarterback would have to be extremely efficient for that to be the case, and even if they were, it wouldn’t matter unless it ended with a touchdown.
Speaking of touchdowns, this is the real money-maker. You can have all the yards and attempts you want, but if you’re not converting those opportunities into scores, it’s going to lead to disappointing fantasy results.
For example, look at Brady. He ranked fourth in red zone attempts and first in overall attempts last season, but the Buccaneers’ offense was a disaster. He finished with just 25 passing touchdowns for the year—20 of which came in the red zone—and he was the No. 16 quarterback in terms of fantasy points per game.
Unfortunately, predicting touchdowns is harder than it seems. Nothing about Brady’s profile screams inefficient. He had the same red zone completion percentage as Burrow, but he managed four fewer red zone touchdowns on five additional attempts.
Meanwhile, Josh Allen was second in red zone passing touchdowns despite ranking seventh in attempts and posting a subpar 53% completion percentage.
Ultimately, Brady finished third in the league in expected touchdown passes per Pro Football Focus, so it’s clear he was pretty unlucky. Trusting the volume didn’t pay off in that situation, but in general, it should lead to more positives than negatives.
For the record, other QBs that “underperformed” expected touchdowns in 2022-23? Cousins (35.8 xTD, 29 actual), Herbert (33.3 xTD, 25 actual), and Trevor Lawrence (30.5 xTD, 25 actual). All three players could be poised for bigger years in 2023-24.
This is another stat that is probably more noise than signal. Does it matter that Allen led the league in red zone interceptions last season? Absolutely not. Mahomes was also tied for second in that department, and they were two of the top three QBs in fantasy.
Again, volume is king in this area of the field. It might lead to the occasional negative, but that is more than outweighed by the positives.