To assist owners with their 2016 fantasy football draft strategy, I recently published two red zone reports on running back and wide receiver production highlighting specific fantasy performances in the features.
Because most of my attention was on 2015 individual feats, I felt it necessary to tie a bow on the two-part red zone series with a third. Below are NFL team tendencies in the red zone from 2015. It should come as no surprise that the majority of teams elected pass over rush inside the 20 throughout the course of 2015.
It's should also come at no surprise that several teams embraced new head coaches and offensive coordinators since the end of last season. So, their red zone play-calling tendencies should impact their new offenses provided they have the talent to succeed.
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|Tier 1 - Highly Likely To Pass (2015)|
Fantasy football owners need to know which head coaches are scheduled to call their own plays in 2016. In some cases, these teams also employ an offensive coordinator. Those who remain with their 2015 team are in BOLD:
Bruce Arians, Cardinals
Adam Gase, Dolphins
Hue Jackson, Browns (no OC)
Andy Reid, Chiefs
Bob McAdoo, Giants
Mike McCarthy, Packers
Doug Pederson, Eagles
Chip Kelly, 49ers
Sean Payton, Saints
Bill O'Brien, Texans
Dirk Koetter, Buccaneers
Jay Gruden, Redskins
Gary Kubiak, Broncos
This ESPN report contributed to this research
The Packers' Mike McCarthy allowed assistant coach Tom Clements to call the plays for most of the 2015 season, but after taking back the role last December, McCarthy's holding a tight grip on play-calling in 2016. The Packers led the league in red zone pass play percentage last season at just over 69 percent of the time. Aaron Rodgers completed 45 percent of his passes in the RZ last year with 23 touchdowns and four interceptions. If those stats concern you, the return of veteran Jordy Nelson should help improve Rodgers' accuracy when compared to the young, developing receivers he had to target in 2015. Additionally, do not be surprised to see Eddie Lacy, if in playing shape, used to cut into that 69 percent as the Packers work to run the ball again inside the 10 yard line.
Love it or hate it as a fan, fantasy owners despised Chip Kelly's offensive philosophy as a whole 2015, but the 50-50 red zone rush-to-pass ratio does roll over to the West Coast. The 49ers passed on 60 percent of red zone plays last season, but with the return of an assumed "100 percent healthy" Carlos Hyde and limited options in the passing game, I expect a balanced red zone attack out of Kelly's offense depending how many points San Francisco trails by in the second half. Oh, and if Colin Kaepernick ever regains control behind center, I'd double-down on this thought. Then again, he could (and probably will) still be traded.
|Tier 2 - Likely To Pass in RZ (2015)|
Without hesitation, I believe the Colts 57 percent red zone pass-to-rush ratio could compete with the Packers for the top spot in 2016. Fresh off a fat, new contract, Andrew Luck enters 2016 presumably healthy and for my previously stated prediction to come to fruition, he needs to remain healthy. His offensive line MUST give him time to throw. With the Andre Johnson experiment a thing of the past and Coby Fleener now with the Saints, Luck can concentrate on T.Y. Hilton, Donte Moncrief and Dwayne Allen in the red zone.
Also, if Ryan Fitzpatrick resigns with the Jets, New York's ratio will receive a bump, too. Not only are Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker must-have red zone targets, but the addition of Matt Forte and subtraction of red zone workhorse Chris Ivory make for a pass-friendly environment when the Jets are driving to score.
|Tier 3 (More Likely to Run in RZ (2015)|
For the Bengals to wind up a rush-first offense inside the red zone was slightly surprising as A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert were top-scoring targets. Then again, Hue Jackson was calling the plays and Bengals do play in the AFC North.
Speaking of Eifert, he's recovering from May ankle surgery that could force him to miss the start of the season. When you subtract Eifert, that will free up defenses to wallpaper Green and places more pressure on Jeremy Hill and Gio Bernard to finish off drives. Also worth noting, when Eifert and Green are on the field, new offensive coordinator Ken Zampese had been the Bengals' quarterback coach for as long as Andy Dalton has been behind center - advantage Dalton. So, I do believe the pass vs. run ratio will rise in 2016.