Data is from Pro Football Reference
Touchdowns are king in fantasy football. While the pass-catching upside of running backs has been all the buzz in fantasy football, RBs need to score touchdowns to have a shot at a top-end fantasy season. Additionally, identifying the quarterbacks that get rushing work inside the red zone can be a cheat code for fantasy football.
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 or look to pass. That’s why diving into red zone data is so important.
Does your running back or quarterback play for a team that’s going to make sure they touch the ball in the red zone and, even better, the goal line? That can be the difference in a mediocre season and a great one for fantasy purposes.
Fortunately, the red zone rushing report at FantasyLife has you covered. It dives into every statistic you need to know about running backs when they get into the money zone.
Inside the 20 vs. Inside the 10 vs. Inside the 5
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 originate. For example, Jamaal Williams led the league with 16 touchdowns inside the red zone, and 15 of them came from inside the 10, while 14 of the 16 total came from inside the five-yard line.
We see a similar breakdown with other players. Ezekiel Elliot was second in touchdowns inside the red zone (12) and all but one of them (11) came inside the 10 with nine of them coming inside the five. Similarly, quarterback Jalen Hurts had all 11 of his red zone touchdowns come inside the 10, while RB Derrick Henry scored 11 touchdowns in the red zone, 10 of which came inside the 10 with all 10 also coming inside the five.
Ultimately, of 31 total players with at least five red zone rushing touchdowns last year, Kenneth Walker was the only player with more scores from outside the 10-yard line (5) than inside the 10 (2). That makes all of the rushing metrics from inside the 10 (and five) more appealing for fantasy purposes.
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 rushing touchdown is to have the ball in your hands and in this case, in both the red zone (Att >20) and inside the 10 (Att >10).
A high volume of carries inside the red zone means that a player is seeing a lot of quality opportunities at TDs, which in turn gives him the potential for spike weeks in fantasy football. Jamaal Williams led in this stat in 2022 (and also led the league in rushing TDs). Four of the top-six players in this category in 2022 were also on teams who ranked inside the top 10 in Offensive DVOA.
Rushing attempts become more valuable for fantasy purposes as they get closer to the opponent’s goal line. In 2022, Williams had 16 more carries inside the 10-yard line than any other RB, and Williams led the league in rushing TDs as a result. Players who rank highly in this stat have high upside to score TDs any given week and can even score multiple TDs in some games.
Rush attempts inside the opponent’s five-yard line (Att >5) are important, as they include goal line work (snaps from the opponent’s one-yard line). When a team lines up at the opponent’s one-yard line, they have approximately an 85% chance of scoring a TD. This stat tells us which players are getting the valuable goal-line touches, which in turn helps them project for high weekly TD upside.
High red zone rushing yardage (Yds >20) means that a player often has achieved good opportunity and/or efficiency inside the red zone. RBs who have high red zone usage won’t necessarily be among the league leaders in rushing yardage, but they are often good candidates for high TD potential on the season.
As rush attempts begin closer to the opponent’s goal line, yardage gained matters less, but seeing which RBs are gaining the most yards in this area can highlight efficiency and usage that can be predictive for future TD production. Players who get a lot of opportunities inside the 10-yard line but are lacking in yardage gained in that area could also be in danger of having their role reduced at some point.
Inside the five, this stat will be heavily correlated with TDs scored and rush attempts inside the five-yard line. Efficient yardage gained in this area of the field is good, but just a few negative plays can quickly skew this yardage stat. Ultimately, usage inside the five-yard line matters far more for TD potential than whatever meager yardage is gained.
This stat lets us know which players are getting the most opportunities inside the red zone (%Rush >20) relative to their teammates. This can be hyper-important for determining future TD production, as players with high usage in the red zone won’t always immediately produce a lot of TDs. Additionally, RBs whose percentage of team carries fall off drastically when inside the red zone (compared to their usage in the rest of the field) can often be disappointing for fantasy purposes.
Noting which players see an increase in usage when inside the 10-yard line (Rush% >10) is important for understanding how a team operates in this section of the field. If a player is getting a bulk of the team's touches in this area, he’ll almost certainly be scoring more TDs than his teammates unless the team is extremely pass-heavy in this area of the field. Any RB who’s playing alongside a QB who takes a big share of the team’s rushes inside the 10-yard line is also in danger of getting his TDs vultured by said QB.
When it comes to rushing inside the five-yard line (%Rush >5), this is the area of the field where the majority of rushing TD are scored. Since 2010, 57% of rushing TDs have come from inside the five-yard line. Players who get the majority of their team’s touches in this area of the field can range from potential fantasy studs to good bye-week options at the very least. However, these players who see a high percentage of their respective team’s touches inside the five-yard line have great spike week potential and can be very useful for both daily fantasy sports (DFS) lineups and in best ball formats.
Most plays that result in TDs generally start inside the opponent’s 20-yard line (TD >20). In fact, over 73% of TDs since 2010 have come from inside the red zone. Any player who ranks highly in this metric is either getting good opportunities at scoring TDs on a weekly basis or is being efficient with his touches in this area of the field.
While 73% of the TDs since 2010 have come from inside the red zone, over 73% of red zone TDs over that span have come from inside the 10-yard line (TD >10). That makes touches inside the 10-yard line extremely valuable for fantasy purposes and very important to the upside potential of any player. A rusher who scores a higher number of TDs from inside the 10-yard line has at least decent standalone value, if not league-winning upside, even if they lack receiving upside or much usage between the 20s.
Players who score a lot of TDs from inside the five-yard line (TD >5) tend to have either a monopoly on the red zone rushing work or have a very specialized goal-line role that makes them valuable for fantasy purposes.