Touchdown Regression Candidates (2018 Fantasy Football)

by Mike Tagliere | @MikeTagliereNFL | Featured Writer
Aug 2, 2018

Despite many expecting a breakout season from Stefon Diggs, you should expect less touchdowns

Each and every year, we tell ourselves that this player is different. He’s the exception to the rule. He’s going to defy the odds and overcome regression. Going back to 2016, many thought it was Allen Robinson repeating his 14-touchdown season. In 2017, many thought there was no way Dez Bryant fell-off as a top-12 fantasy receiver. There will always be a few exceptions to every rule, but what happens when we take emotion or our feelings away from the players? What are we left with then?

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This was a question I wanted answered the last two years, so I went to work and asked, “who are the players most likely to regress in the touchdown department?” based on where their targets took place and how they produced. To give you an idea as to how this worked over the last two seasons, I’m going to show you which players my method spit out in 2016 and 2017, as well as the results of what transpired.

Player 2015 TDs 2016 TDs Difference
Ted Ginn 10 4 -6
Doug Baldwin 14 8 -6
Larry Fitzgerald 9 6 -3
Seth Roberts 5 5 0
John Brown 7 2 -5
Donte Moncrief 6 7 1
Devin Funchess 5 4 -1
Jeremy Maclin 8 2 -6
Anquan Boldin 4 8 4
Tavon Austin 9 4 -5

 

Player 2016 TDs 2017 TDs Difference
Jordy Nelson 14 6 -8
Davante Adams 12 10 -2
Rishard Matthews 9 4 -5
Donte Moncrief 7 2 -5
Sterling Shepard 8 2 -6
Doug Baldwin 7 8 1
Mike Evans 12 5 -7
Michael Thomas 9 5 -4
Cole Beasley 5 4 -1
Dez Bryant 8 6 -2

 

So, over the last two seasons, the method I’ve used has correctly predicted regression for 16-of-20 players, with just three players scoring more than the previous season. The results were 9-of-10 in 2017 with only Doug Baldwin increasing his output (was just one touchdown). With this in mind, let’s take a look at the top-10 touchdown regression candidates in 2018 (as a bonus, I’ve added those who should score more at the bottom of this article).

1. Stefon Diggs (WR – MIN)
It’d be easy to say that Diggs’ quarterback upgrade could make up for his expected regression, but based on his usage in 2017, he’s unlikely to match his eight touchdowns in 2018. The change in offensive coordinator could definitely change matters as well, but Diggs scored on 7-of-13 red-zone targets, something that won’t happen again. His regression score is even higher than Jordy Nelson‘s was at this time last year, which was the highest in the league.

2. Sammy Watkins (WR – KC)
Switching teams will likely change everything for a wide receiver, so it’s hard to say he’s a lock to regress, but he definitely scored more touchdowns than he should’ve in 2017. The Chiefs have said they’ll be using Watkins all over the formation, something his former teams struggled to do. The average slot target is worth much more than the others, so keep that in mind with him.

3. Will Fuller (WR – HOU)
This should’ve been a given, when we saw Fuller score seven touchdowns in just 10 games in 2017. Did you know that he scored four touchdowns on five red-zone targets? On average, a wide receiver scores a touchdown one every 4.17 red-zone targets. Even if Fuller plays all 16 games in 2018, I don’t know if he outperforms last year’s number.

4. Alshon Jeffery (WR – PHI)
On top of Deshaun Watson throwing more touchdowns than he should’ve in 2017, Carson Wentz wasn’t too far behind and it shows in Jeffery’s expected regression. Scoring nine touchdowns when your catch-rate was just 47.5 percent is quite the accomplishment. Based on where his targets were in 2017, you should expect his touchdown numbers to fall a little bit in 2018.

5. Jarvis Landry (WR – CLE)
Wait, Landry, who hadn’t scored more than five touchdowns in any one season, scored more than he was supposed to? Well, can’t slide anything past my method. His nine touchdowns in 2017 were roughly three more than he should’ve had, but he’s another one who is going to a new team in 2018, making it an entirely different situation. Still, based on his usage over his career, it’s tough to say that you shouldn’t expect regression.

6. JuJu Smith-Schuster (WR – PIT)
I’m a fan of the player Smith-Schuster is, but he had no business scoring seven touchdowns based on his workload in 2017. Most don’t realize that he ranked 55th in targets per game, behind Kendall Wright. Now he’s someone who is very likely to see a target increase in 2018, but you shouldn’t expect more touchdowns.

7. A.J. Green (WR – CIN)
Every now and then, I’ll come across a player I didn’t think had any business being on a list, and Green is one of them here. His eight touchdowns in 2017 seemed like they were exactly where they should’ve been, but considering he ranked just 19th in targets inside the 10-yard line, he scored more than he should’ve.

8. Davante Adams (WR – GB)
He’s the only one who was on this list last year as well, but that was somewhat to be expected with Aaron Rodgers as his quarterback, because Rodgers’ wide receivers almost always exceed projected output. But knowing he outproduced with Brett Hundley as his quarterback for much of the season is somewhat shocking. With Rodgers coming back, he might be one who escapes regression.

9. Larry Fitzgerald (WR – ARI)
After scoring six touchdowns, you’d think that Fitzgerald, who netted 109 receptions for 1,156 yards, would be in for positive regression, but that’s not what the data spits out. The change at quarterback and coach will also change things in the way the offense is run, but it’s just hard to accept that Fitzgerald can regress from the six touchdowns he scored last year.

10. DeAndre Hopkins (WR – HOU)
He’s the second Texans player on the list, though Will Fuller is more likely to regress based on what happened in 2017. Hopkins is one of the best catch-in-traffic receivers in football, so I’d expect him to naturally score more than he’s supposed to, but even so, his 13 touchdowns should’ve been more like 11.

Those Who Should Score More

If you’re like me, you likely got to the end of this list and want to know who should be on the opposite end of regression. The players who should score more touchdowns based on their opportunity last year include: Julio Jones, Sterling Shepard, Marquise Goodwin, Keenan Allen, and T.Y. Hilton.


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Mike Tagliere is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Mike, check out his archive and follow him @MikeTagliereNFL.

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