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Opening Drive: Week 7 Player Red Zone Analysis

Michael Waldo

As I'm sitting here writing, I'm wallowing in the agony that has been this Bears/Packers game. I like to use Thursday nights as a time to dig a little deeper into the week ahead, as well as reflect upon what strategies have worked and which haven't amounted to nearly as much success. I hesitate to ever use the word "fail" when describing DFS performance. When things don't go your way, there's a really important distinction to be made between being wrong and simply not having things go your way. Just because a specific player didn't perform the way we expected, doesn't necessarily mean rostering him was a bad move. After all, we're talking about human beings and with human beings comes built-in variance.

The best way to limit your variance in the DFS game is by chasing the players with good chances to score. At the end of the day, that strategy is at the core of every player who chases Vegas lines. One way we can try to identify the players with the best chance at scoring is by analyzing our red zone information.

Red Zone Opportunity (Rushes+Targets) Leaders:


The first view is sorted in descending order of red zone opportunities per game. A red zone opportunity includes any rushing attempt or passing target between the opposing team's 20 yard line and their end zone. Not surprisingly, running backs dominate this view simply because it's pretty common for running backs to see multiple chances around the goal line per game. Of the players listed here, you want to focus your attention to the players with 4 or more red zone opportunities per game (Johnson, Gordon, Gurley, Hyde, Freeman and Murray) and the players with a red zone conversion rate of 25% or more (Murray, Mathews, McCoy, Riddick). The idea here is to stack the percentages in the favor of the player you're rostering, whether that's by sheer volume or efficiency, it doesn't matter. Obviously, it always ideal when a player pops up on both categories like DeMarco Murray does.

Red Zone Target Leaders:


Since red zone opportunities tends to get skewed by running backs, here's the view of the red zone target leaders. On this list, the most important things for me to look at are the red zone conversion rates and the red zone target market share. For example, Jordy Nelson (before Week 7) was capturing 41% of the Packers targets in the red zone and he was scoring touchdowns on 45% of the targets. That's elite level production for both categories and makes Jordy a seemingly strong play regardless of the matchup. Other really interesting things on this chart are the huge number of 0% conversions, particularly for Allen Hurns and Jason Witten. On the value side, both Michael Thomas and Brandon LaFell are typically inexpensive options in the daily space, but rank in the top 20 of red zone targets per game, while also boasting conversion rates of 43% and 38%, respectively.

We bake in this red zone data into our weekly projections and it definitely influences our weekly rankings and analysis. Knowledge is power and that's why we like to share some of our target and red zone data with you on a regular basis. While this information is really helpful, it's important to not get carried away. In addition to this data being based on a rather small sample size, we also have other factors in play and many of those factors have a higher correlation to production than red zone analysis (i.e. matchups). Our favorite application for this data is by using it as a tiebreaker when you're particularly stumped between two different players.

Now it's time for me to flip back over to the game. Oh look, Rodgers threw for two touchdowns and neither went to Jordy, go figure. That's called variance, folks. Learn it, live it and embrace it.

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