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The Dark Zone: Mining for Touchdown Potential Inside the 10

Examining 2015 wide receiver performance from inside the 10-yard line... and looking for 2016 conclusions to draw

We all keep an eye on the red zone when setting fantasy football expectations, and for good reason. As common sense dictates, touchdowns come more abundantly and predictably from in close. But frankly, the red zone doesn’t do it for me – that’s to say, I don’t think it predicts enough for us. The 11- to 20-yard range is close to the goal line, for sure, but not quite close enough to affect the defense enough to draw major conclusions.

The red zone is a fine starting point for touchdown analysis. After all, since 2000, 66.4% of passing touchdowns have come from inside the opponent’s 20-yard line. Once a team lands inside the 10, however, things start to tell a more comprehensive tale: 66.7% of those red zone TDs come from there. All told, that’s 44% of a typical player’s touchdowns – a much higher share than any other 10-yard area of the field. So, to draw the true meat of my touchdown expectations (and therefore my fantasy expectations in general), I look primarily inside the 10-yard line – what I call the dark zone.

Most importantly, the dark zone gives us a tighter and more predictable view of a receiver’s scoring potential. Since most touchdowns spring from within the dark zone, the vast majority of a guy’s TD potential is built from his dark zone outlook. If 44% of an average player’s touchdowns come from there, then it stands as the most stable, reliable base of projection data in his formula. So it makes sense to examine the dark zone closely as we look for tomorrow’s TD kings. And here’s how 2015’s wide receivers fared:

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