There’s nothing better than a guy on your fantasy team that you know will get a chance to dance in the end zone once or twice a game when his quarterback is inside the 20-yard line. Let’s take a look at some of the players we believe will be Top Red Zone Targets this year.
Quarterback Jameis Winston has a few more weapons on his team this year, which will undoubtedly open up more opportunities for WR Mike Evans. Those new additions include the speedster DeSean Jackson and heralded rookie wide receiver Chris Godwin. Rookie tight end O.J. Howard could potentially contribute alongside Cameron Brate in the passing game, but will likely be used as a blocker for now.
Last year, Mike Evans gobbled up 12 touchdowns, even when defenses knew that he was about the only receiver Winston had to throw to. Outside of Adam Humphries and Cameron Brate, it was literally the Mike Evans Show.
The primary advantage for Mike Evans is, of course, his ability to tower over defenders with his 6’5″ 230-pound frame and come down with jump balls. This year, it wouldn’t be surprising if Mike Evans goes off for a whopping 15 touchdowns and 1,300-yards, with the bulk of his scores coming from inside the 20-yard line. As DeSean Jackson will likely be stretching the field now, this should allow Evans to participate in more intermediary plays that focus on efficiency.
With Jameis Winston coming into his third year with a much better feel for the game, we expect that he’ll spread the ball around a bit more and look to Mike Evans when it counts the most. The only hope is that DeSean Jackson can play his part by staying on the field to maintain a balanced attack.
It’s been quite a while since Aaron Rodgers has had a viable receiving tight end to work with. New free agent and Super Bowl champ Martellus Bennett is more than serviceable and could easily lead all tight ends in touchdowns with Rodgers at the controls.
As Rob Gronkowski was in-and-out of the Patriots lineup last season, Bennett played somewhat of a fill-in role. Additionally, Coach Belichick’s offensive trickery doesn’t always lead to great fantasy production. Thus, it’s not surprising that Bennett’s production was unpredictable, even though he still notched a healthy seven touchdowns and 700-yards.
This year, however, what you see is what you’ll get. From past experience, we know that when Aaron Rodgers gets inside the 20-yard line, he looks directly to his big-bodied receivers. With Jordy Nelson always a threat, Rodgers will have the bonus option of Bennett down the gut of the field, which he will likely cash-in on more than a few times. The new combination of Rodgers-Bennett is certain to net a minimum of 10 touchdowns and somewhere in the neighborhood of 800-yards.
Let’s call it what it is at this point — Larry Fitzgerald is the best tight end at the wide receiver position in the league. Ironically, even at age 33, he’s still the best receiver on the Arizona Cardinals. More importantly, with Carson Palmer’s never ending injuries, Fitzgerald has proven to be quarterback agnostic. He’ll catch a pass from anyone, anytime, anywhere on the field.
As Coach Bruce Arians looks to weed out the best among his lackluster receiving corps, unless it’s running back David Johnson, then Fitzgerald’s number is likely the first to be called. For Carson Palmer, passing to the ever-reliable Fitzgerald is a no-brainer being that His Royal Injury can ill-afford to take too many more hits in the pocket. Much like the ageless Frank Gore, it’s not unthinkable that Larry Fitzgerald goes all out in what could be his final season in the NFL. In his last pursuit of a championship ring, we project Fitzgerald to notch nine touchdowns and 1,000-yards.
(This article was originally published on August 15, 2017)