Last week we introduced our My Insider Plus package and gave a little preview of our new red zone statistics. Specifically, Alex took a look at those receivers that saw plenty of footballs thrown their way in the red zone, regardless of whether or not a touchdown was the result. And in doing so my friend provided you with some very nice sleeper options. And I'm going to do the same thing while taking a look at some under-the-radar tailbacks.
Obviously producers like Toby Gerhart and Ryan Williams led the nation in red zone carries with 94 and 83, respectively. Then Keith Toston snuck his way in there, only to be followed by the likes of Dion Lewis, Andre Dixon and Montario Hardesty. So clearly Williams and Lewis are two guys to target in the draft...no kidding, right? But what about other guys we should target on Draft Day 2010, you know, beyond the no-brainers?
There are five backs that seem to jump off the page. And I'm sure you're thinking that it's great these guys are seeing red zone carries, but if they can't punch it in then what good will they do? Points aren't awarded for almost scoring touchdowns. True, but Confucius once say that "fantasy back must first see red zone carry to post red zone score." And backs often see red zone carries because they've proven in practice that they can get it done.
So here are five runners that should see a nice bump in touchdown production. Care to do a little number crunching yourself? Then take a look at some red zone stats.
MiQuale Lewis, Ball State
Lewis' stats were a little skewed last season. He played in every game and gained 871 yards on the ground...but 301 of those yards came against the nation's saddest program, Eastern Michigan. So in the other 11 games he gained 570 yards, for an average of 51 yards per game. Not much went right for Mr. Lewis last season, but thankfully Eastern is once again on the schedule.
Lewis carried the ball a total of 181 times and 54 of them (about 30%) took place in the red zone. And he could only parlay that into five touchdowns. So fantasy owners that started MiQuale Lewis on a weekly basis and somehow watched most of his games were probably among the nation's angriest. Not only was Lewis coming off a monster 2008, but he couldn't punch it in too many times. But 2010 will be better...it has to be.
This year's Ball State offense will be much-improved, and they will again lean on their Mighty Mouse tailback. The offense returns 10 starters, and four of the chaps on the offensive line are back. Look for similar touches in the red zone, but many more spikes of the pigskin.
Seth Smith, New Mexico State
Last season Seth Smith was handed the football 43 times in the red zone, and he scored one touchdown. That magical score was a one-yard plunge against Utah State on October 10. The senior Smith, a former JUCO from the College of Sequoias, really came from nowhere in 2009. And now the former walk-on is coming off a 1000-yard season, and he'll perform in an offense that returns eight starters, including three on the offensive line. The schedule isn't overwhelming, with only trips to Kansas and Boise posing problems.
Brandon Bolden, Ole Miss
Bolden saw 39 red zone carries last year, but he could only post four rushing touchdowns on the season, with two of the four coming in the Tennessee game. Dexter McCluster has moved on, and he takes his 31 red zone carries from 2010 with him. So not only do we expect the 220-lb. back to improve upon his red zone touchdown percentage, but we expect him to see plenty more opportunities. Yes, the Rebels are in rebuild mode, but Bolden will get his looks.
Kendall Hunter, Oklahoma State
This great Cowboy back was hurt for nearly all of 2009, so it's difficult to put too much stock in anything he did last season. However he did, in limited action, see 27 red zone carries among his total of 87, but he could only score one time. He'll see plenty more in 2010, and his percentage with increase considerably.
Greg Nwoko, Arizona
Mr. Nwoko has all the makings of a touchdown vulture; hell, even his name sounds like someone who would go all Bo Jackson on linebackers. He's an absolute beast that will see an increased role in 2010.
However last season he only scored three touchdowns among his 76 carries, and 27 of these touches came in the red zone. This redshirt sophomore is more than just a goal line battering ram, but he'll see a whole lot of red zone carries in an under-the-radar Arizona offense, and he'll cash in with greater frequency.
Again, take a look at the numbers yourself, particularly if you partake in a little conference-only action. There are diamonds in the rough...find them!