2016 fantasy football red zone analysis

Touchdowns are king in fantasy football. When your players reach the promised land (now with touchdown celebrations included!), it's a huge win. So it only makes sense to research which teams enter the red zone (inside the opponent's 20-yard line) most often. It's also a good idea to know which teams favor the pass or the run when the stakes are the highest and fantasy points are on the line.

Here's a look at all 32 teams, in order of the number of red-zone plays and including the percentages of pass versus run, from last season. Also included are team leaders in touches and targets, along with what fantasy fans should expect after a fun offseason that saw a lot of player movement around the league. Of course, you'll also see plenty of new spins for the upcoming 2017 fantasy football season.

1. New Orleans Saints (199 plays): The Saints threw the football almost 57 percent of the time inside their opponents' 20-yard line, and ranked second in red-zone touchdown passes (28). It's no surprise then, that Michael Thomas tied for 10th in red-zone targets (19) and tied for second in red-zone touchdowns (7) among all receivers. Coby Fleener ranked second in red-zone targets (16) for the Saints, but he was able to cash in just twice. When the Saints did run the ball, Mark Ingram was the main option with 36 rushing attempts and 46 touches in all. He ranked eighth at the position in touches. Of course, the addition of Adrian Peterson all but smashes any chance Ingram might have had to duplicate those totals next season. That's part of what could make this committee a massive fantasy headache.

2. Atlanta Falcons (184 plays):Matt Ryan and the Falcons threw the football 54.3 percent of the time in the red zone last season, scoring 23 touchdowns on passes. The Packers (31) and Saints (28) were the lone teams to have more scoring passes. Surprisingly, Julio Jones wasn't even in the top 70 in terms of red-zone targets (9). Furthermore, just two of his touchdowns came inside the opponent's 20-yard line. Mohamed Sanu (13) had more targets. Devonta Freeman ranked an impressive second in the league in red-zone touches (62) among running backs. He cashed in on 11 of them, including nine on the ground. His teammate, Tevin Coleman, had 33 fewer touches but still scored eight touchdowns in the red zone. Freeman is the Atlanta runner to target, but Coleman isn't going anywhere.

3. New England Patriots (172 plays): When the Patriots entered the red zone last season, their offense ran the football 57 percent of the time. That ranked second in the league behind Buffalo (58.5). The bell cow was LeGarrette Blount, who led all running backs in both red-zone touches (68) and touchdowns (16). Now that he's in Philadelphia, however, fantasy fans should expect Mike Gillislee to see a good portion of these opportunities when the Pats run the rock. The percentage should lean more towards the pass next season, however, as red-zone maven Rob Gronkowski will be back. The team also traded for Brandin Cooks, who saw 11 red-zone targets in New Orleans last season. I wouldn't be surprised to see Tom Brady finish with 40 touchdowns passes in what should become a pass-laden attack.

4. Los Angeles Chargers (170 plays): The Chargers threw the football almost 60 percent of the time inside the red zone last season, which should come as no surprise when you consider that their top tight ends, Antonio Gates and Hunter Henry, scored a combined 16 touchdowns. Gates led the team in red-zone touches (18), with Tyrell Williams (16) and Henry (16) close behind. Of course, the return of Keenan Allen and the addition of rookie Mike Williams means these opportunities could be more spread out in what is a loaded pass attack. When the Bolts ran the football (40.6 percent), Melvin Gordon was the main rusher with 55 touches. That was good for fourth in the league among running backs. With little competition behind him on the depth chart, Gordon should continue to see plenty of opportunities.

5. Philadelphia Eagles (166 plays): The Eagles had a close split between pass (53.6) and run (46.4) percentages a season ago. Zach Ertz led all team receivers in red-zone targets (14), though he scored just three times. Jordan Matthews (12) and Dorial Green-Beckham (12) tied for second, but neither is likely to equal those totals with the addition of Alshon Jeffery in the pass attack and Blount on the ground. Ryan Mathews ranked 14th among running backs in red-zone touches (38), but Blount will handle most of those opportunities next season. He won't score 18 times like he did in New England, but the Oregon product is a good bet to reach the promised land seven to nine times. Veteran Darren Sproles was second out of the team's backfield with 23 touches, two of which he took into the end zone.

6. Green Bay Packers (164 plays): It should come as a surprise to no one that the Packers threw the football on almost 66 percent of their red-zone plays last season. Jordy Nelson led all receivers in targets (29) and touchdowns (11), while teammate Davante Adams was tied for fourth in targets (20) and tied for second in touchdowns (7). Regression is possible, however, so don't be shocked if both wideouts see declines (even slight) in fantasy points next season. Randall Cobb was third among Packers receivers with 13 targets. Ty Montgomery led Packers backs in red-zone touches (12), but one has to wonder if he'll do it again after the Packers added three rookies, including Jamaal Williams and Aaron Jones. At this point, Montgomery is still the best bet for fantasy fans as a viable flex starter.

7. Arizona Cardinals (158 plays): The Cardinals threw the football on 54.4 percent of their red-zone plays a season ago, and Larry Fitzgerald benefited the most among receivers. He tied for seventh in targets (20) and scored four touchdowns. Only one other Arizona receiver (J.J. Nelson - 10) had double-digit red-zone chances, however. That should change with John Brown looking more and more likely to enter next season at 100 percent. David Johnson, who was fantasy football's best runner, ranked third in touches (61) and total touchdowns (17) inside the opponent's 20-yard line. With little competition behind him on the depth chart, Johnson should once again dominate opportunities all over the gridiron for coach Bruce Arians. He's the consensus No. 1 overall selection in all 2017 fantasy football drafts.

T-8. Cincinnati Bengals (149 plays): The Bengals had a balanced attack between pass (48.3) and run (51.7) percentages inside the red zone last season. Jeremy Hill ranked sixth among running backs when it came to touches (47), and tied for ninth in rushing touchdowns (8). Those opportunities could be on the decline, however, as the Bengals added rookie Joe Mixon in the NFL Draft. He's projected to pass Hill and Giovani Bernard on the depth chart, at least in fantasy circles. Brandon LaFell led the team in red-zone targets (17), but that was due in large part to the absence of A.J. Green. Now back at 100 percent, Green will no doubt be a top-20 fantasy selection. Tyler Eifert finished with nine targets in the red zone (five touchdown catches) in eight games, but injuries continue to be a concern.

T-8. Oakland Raiders (149 plays)Derek Carr and the Raiders threw the football almost 62 percent of the time inside their opponent's 20-yard line last season. Michael Crabtree was Carr's favorite target, as he finished fourth in targets (21) and tied for ninth in touchdowns (6) among receivers. Believe it or not, but Seth Roberts (20) was second on the team in this category. Amari Cooper had 13 targets, but he failed to score a single touchdown on his five receptions. He'll need to improve on that before he can take the next step to fantasy stardom. When the Raiders did run the ball, Latavius Murray was the main option with 41 touches (11 touchdowns). That tied for 10th among running backs. Owners should now expect Marshawn Lynch to take on that role next season, which adds to his draft value.

10. Kansas City Chiefs (147 plays): The Chiefs leaned toward the pass in the red zone last season, chucking it on 55.1 percent of those plays. The team leader was Travis Kelce, who saw 16 targets. Tyreek Hill (13) and Chris Conley (13) tied for second, though the former also saw three opportunities as a rusher. Jeremy Maclin, who could be a late-round value, had nine targets in just 12 games. On the ground, Spencer Ware received 29 red-zone touches, which tied for just 25th among running backs. Charcandrick West was second with 19, which shows that Ware is no lock to see high levels of scoring chances. You could argue that his opportunities could be capped even further with the addition of rookie Kareem Hunt, who some Chiefs beat writers believe will push him for backfield touches all season.

11. Washington Redskins (145 plays): The Redskins threw the football 57.2 percent of the time, with Jamison Crowder leading the team with 16 red-zone targets. Departed starters DeSean Jackson (11) and Pierre Garcon (13) left behind 24 targets, which is good news for Terrelle Pryor. He should see more than the 13 he had in Cleveland last season. Jordan Reed, who missed four games, received 12 targets (or one per game). Rob Kelley started nine games and saw 32 rushing attempts, but rookie Samaje Perine should be in a good position to eat into those opportunities. He's a fantasy sleeper.

T-12. Carolina Panthers (143 plays): True to form, the Panthers ran the ball 51.7 percent of the time in the red zone. As a result, it's no surprise to see that Jonathan Stewart tied for 10th in rushes (41) among running backs. He could now lose some of that work to rookie Christian McCaffrey, however. Cam Newton had 17 rushes, which was 12 fewer than he had in 2015 and part of the reason for his decline. Greg Olsen led all team receivers with 16 targets, but Kelvin Benjamin (15) was a close second. Devin Funchess (13) could receive more targets, but keep an eye on rookie Curtis Samuel.

T-12. Minnesota Vikings (143 plays): The Vikings threw the ball 54.5 percent of the time in the red zone, and Kyle Rudolph was the main option with 24 targets (five touchdowns). That ranked second among all receivers. He'll remain in the TE1 conversation in 2017 drafts. Stefon Diggs was second on the team with 12 targets (13 games), while Adam Thielen (10) was a close third. Matt Asiata (39) was tied for 12th in carries among backs. While Dalvin Cook is the Vikings runner to target in drafts, Murray's presence as a red-zone threat could hinder his rise to stardom in his rookie season.

T-12. Tennessee Titans (143 plays): The Titans were almost a 50-50 split between red-zone passes (50.3) and runs (49.7) a season ago. Of their 72 passes, more than 44 percent went to DeMarco Murray (16) and Delanie Walker (16). Rishard Matthews (15) was third, but his total could decline with the addition of rookie Corey Davis. Murray was a red-zone monster overall, as he finished fifth in total red-zone touches (52) among running backs. Derrick Henry received 23 such touches, scoring five touchdowns. Murray will remain the workhorse next season, though, so he's a lock top-15 choice.

T-15. Buffalo Bills (142 plays): It should come as a shock to no one that the Bills ran the football (58.5) in the red zone more than any other team. LeSean McCoy was eighth among backs with 44 touches, though he lost 16 to Mike Gillislee (now in New England). McCoy is a first-round lock in 2017 drafts. Tyrod Taylor received 16 carries, or one less than Cam Newton, and remains a great late-rounder. Charles Clay led Bills receivers with 13 targets, while Sammy Watkins had a mere four in eight contests. That number will no doubt increase next season, as long as Watkins can avoid injuries.

T-15. Indianapolis Colts (142 plays): The Colts threw the rock 54.2 percent of the time in the red zone, but the targets were spread out between T.Y. Hilton (13), Jack Doyle (12), Donte Moncrief (10) and Dwayne Allen (9). Doyle could see a bump with Allen out of the mix, making him a potential No. 1 tight end. Moncrief averaged more than one target per game and could break out in 2017. Frank Gore led the backfield in touches (34) and carries (29), and that should continue next season. Even in his mid-30s, Gore could once again become a solid draft bargain as a potential flex starter.

Michael Fabiano is an award-winning fantasy football analyst on NFL.com and NFL Network and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA) Hall of Fame. Have a burning question on anything fantasy related? Tweet it to @Michael_Fabiano or send a question via Facebook!

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