While the RotoViz guys have done a ton of work on predicting a player’s red zone touchdown rate (RZTDR) based on body type, it remains one of the most difficult and more frustrating things to predict from year to year. Since even the most dominant WRs only see 20-25 red zone targets per year, a few missed targets, as well as a few lucky grabs, can completely change a players red zone TD rate on the season. Not only are these opportunities hard to predict, but they can easily cost you multiple weeks in a season.
In 2013 there were 10 players who either had bad luck, down years, or were ruined by poor QB play, who could easily bounce back in a huge way in 2014. In our effort to find TDs at a discount thanks to an unlucky/down 2013 season I used the NFL Receiver Stat Filter and took a look at every WR who saw 10 or more red zone targets last season. Another interesting category the app provides you with is the average field position of each player’s RZ targets. Of all 62 players in our pool the average field position players saw targets from was the 11-yard line. I plotted each player on a graph with an axis for his RZTDR and an axis for his average field position. For our pool of players each yard closer to the end zone meant the player had a roughly two percent better chance of scoring. With all of that being said, here is your 2014 Discount TD all-star team:
Vincent Jackson 19 Targets – 4 TDs – 21 percent RZTDR
Tampa Bay had a wild year at the QB position. Josh Freeman started the year as a player many considered a pretty capable QB. It didn’t take long for Greg Schiano to nuke the entire team and walk away from the burning fire. It’s safe to assume the Bucs’ QB situation had something to do with Vincent Jackson’s down year in the RZ. Before 2013 Jackson had a career 32 percent RZTDR and that’s no fluke for a guy who’s 6’5” and weighs 230lbs. With Josh McCown now running things from under center Jackson’s RZTDR should improve toward his career average. McCown certainly has experience throwing to big receivers after he got to play with Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery in 2013.
Torrey Smith 17 Targets – 3 TDs – 18 percent RZTDR
Baltimore’s offense took a huge hit last season from the inability to run the ball. Torrey Smith was a guy who had a ton of people excited prior to the 2013 season before mildly disappointing. Before 2013 Smith had a 40 percent RZTDR(!) which is backed up by the 44 percent RZTDR(!) he posted in his final season as a Terp. While it’s not a huge deal, Smith was also one yard behind our average field position line on the targets he saw inside the 20. As Rich Hribar pointed out, the assumption that new Ravens offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak doesn’t involve his WR1 in the RZ is a myth. Smith should not only see more RZ targets in 2014, but his efficiency should be expected to climb back toward his impressive average.
Greg Jennings 12 Targets – 2 TDs – 17 percent RZTDR
If Jackson had his RZTDR hurt by the Bucs QB situation, Greg Jennings had his obliterated. Jennings isn’t the massive body you’d expect to dominate inside the 20, but before 2013 his RZTDR was at a solid 29 percent. Aaron Rodgers certainly had something to do with those numbers, but even in his last season in college Jennings posted an impressive 47 percent RZTDR so he’s certainly capable without elite QB play. Matt Cassel is likely the starter early in the season for Minnesota and while that doesn’t sound like a good thing, it actually might be for Jennings. The former Packer scored all four of his TDs during Cassel’s eight games at the helm. Teddy Bridgewater will likely be the signal-caller sometime in 2014 and there’s no way to predict the chemistry him and Jennings will have, but it can’t be much worse than the Christian Ponder/Freeman exposure he saw last year.
DeAndre Hopkins 11 Targets – 1 TD – 9 percent RZTDR
Many are predicting a big jump from Hopkins in his second season in the NFL, but an underlying positive is that he could have been a lot better in the RZ last year. Hopkins is fully capable at 6’1”, 214 lbs. and proved that with a 54 percent RZTDR in his final college season. Not only will Hopkins see a bigger target share in 2014 simply due to his development, but he could also steal some of Andre Johnson’s share after his contract dispute and a new coach who might not have any sense of loyalty toward Johnson. Hopkins’ QB play should also improve from 2013 even if Ryan Fitzpatrick isn’t anyone’s favorite QB. Any situation is better than the dumpster fire that engulfed Houston last year.
Josh Gordon 18 Targets – 1 TD – 6 percent RZTDR
Of course the
smoke situation around Gordon needs to settle before we even start to imagine what his 2014 season could look like (if there even is one), but it’s scary to think he should have been even better last year. Gordon has such a small sample size that we really have nothing to go off of other than his frame at this point. It’s hard to believe that a WR at 6’3” 225 lbs. could actually be as bad in the RZ as he was in 2013. Gordon should easily be coming down with 25-30 percnet of his RZ targets at his height and weight. If he does see the field in 2014 it shouldn’t surprise anyone to see his TD numbers skyrocket.