Touchdown Regression Candidates (2019 Fantasy Football)

by Mike Tagliere | @MikeTagliereNFL | Featured Writer
Jul 31, 2019

Based on where his throws took place, Patrick Mahomes threw 16 more touchdowns than he should’ve in 2018

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We hear about it every year; Player X scored too many touchdowns and will regress the following year. Touchdowns are the most fickle thing in fantasy football, as they decide so much, but they’re often unpredictable, though there’s an argument to be made for certain players who continually score above the average rate.

Today, we’ll be talking about the players who are due for touchdown regression in 2019. I’ll talk about that player’s history and whether or not we should expect a massive dip in the category. Remember this – no matter how good a player is, they almost always regress to the mean. In fantasy football, you want to try and predict what is most likely to happen; not the outliers.

Quarterbacks

Patrick Mahomes (KC)
Let’s get this party started, shall we? Mahomes threw 16.3 more touchdowns than he was expected to in 2018, a number that just one other quarterback was within 10 touchdowns of. He threw a touchdown on 8.6 percent of his passes in 2018, the seventh-highest mark of all-time. Here’s the list of quarterbacks who are ahead of them with their touchdown rate that season, as well as their rate the following season: Peyton Manning (9.9 to 6.2), Ken Stabler (9.3 to 6.8), Deshaun Watson (9.3 to 5.1), Aaron Rodgers (9.0 to 7.1), Tom Brady (8.7 to 5.0), Mark Rypien (8.7 to 4.6). If he threw 16 less touchdowns, you’d have essentially the same season as Ben Roethlisberger in 2018, which was still top-three, but he’s not lock to finish as the No. 1 quarterback. Naturally, elite quarterbacks will throw more touchdowns than the average quarterback would, but once you get over the 5-6 touchdown mark, it’s prime regression territory.

Russell Wilson (SEA)
The only other quarterback who finished with double-digit touchdowns more than they were supposed to was Wilson, as he finished with 35 touchdowns, though based on where his attempts took place, that number should’ve been closer to 23 touchdowns. Wilson has proven to be above the average mark throughout his career, but his 8.2 percent touchdown rate was easily the highest mark of his career. Lowering his touchdowns to his career mark of 6.0 percent, he would’ve finished in the 25-26 touchdown range. His attempts need to rise in order to live up to his current price tag.

Philip Rivers (LAC)
It was odd to see Rivers here, as it didn’t feel as if he had a particularly efficient season, though it was solid. According to where his pass attempts took place, he threw six more touchdowns than the average quarterback would’ve. His 6.3 percent touchdown rate was the second-highest mark of his career, so you’d better hope his attempts move north of the 508 they were at last year.

Matt Ryan (ATL)
Ryan was another quarterback who threw half-a-dozen more touchdowns than he was expected to in 2018. His 5.8 percent touchdown rate doesn’t seem to crazy when you compare it to Mahomes and Wilson, but there’s been just one other season in his career he’s thrown higher than a 5.2 touchdown percentage. With the defense healthy heading into 2019, he may see a dip in attempts as well.

Other notables: Baker Mayfield (CLE), Andrew Luck (IND)

Running Backs

Melvin Gordon (LAC)
Based on the carries he received, Gordon was only expected to score seven touchdowns in 2018, which makes his 14 touchdowns kind of ridiculous. Did you realize Gordon never hit 20 carries in a game during the 2018 season? Or how about the fact that he ranked 24th in red zone carries? There’s good reason he wasn’t considered among the top-four running backs off the board and that’s before his holdout concerns.

Kenyan Drake (MIA)
It’s rather impressive to see Drake here based on the offense he played for last year. You’ll typically see running backs on high-scoring teams in this conversation, but Drake overcame that and scored 5.2 more touchdowns than he should’ve in 2018. It’s hard to say that Brian Flores and crew will turn them into a high-scoring offense, so it’s reasonable to expect Drake’s nine touchdowns come down, even if he does see an increase in touches.

Aaron Jones (GB)
While the Packers offense disappointed in 2018, Jones didn’t let that affect him, as he scored nine touchdowns on just 159 touches. Based on where his carries took place on the field, he was only expected to score 4.4 touchdowns. His teammate Jamaal Williams scored 0.35 fewer touchdowns than the average running back would have. Jones makes the case that running backs do matter. He may not continue his crazy touchdown pace, but his touches should rise to help make up for the touchdown decline in 2019.

Kareem Hunt (KC)
Everyone can see that Damien Williams came in and did perfectly fine as the starter, but he wasn’t on Hunt’s level. Through 11 games, Hunt scored 14 touchdowns despite his touches saying he should’ve had just 9.5 of them. With the touches that Williams had, he scored one more touchdown than the average player would’ve, which is much more sustainable than Hunt’s close-to half-a-touchdown per game.

Other notables: Todd Gurley (LAR), Phillip Lindsay (DEN)

Wide Receivers

Tyler Lockett (SEA)
This article is damning for Lockett’s potential in 2019, but it’s something everyone must realize. Based on where his targets took place on the field, Lockett should’ve scored just 3.1 touchdowns in 2018 instead of the 10 that he did. Most don’t realize that he scored seven touchdowns on targets outside the red zone on just 65 targets. The league average for touchdowns outside the red zone is one every 44.9 targets. He’s going to regress in the touchdown department big time. He ranked 76th in red zone targets among wide receivers in 2018.

Antonio Brown (OAK)
He averaged a touchdown per game during the 2018 season, but regression should kick in when you consider he should’ve scored nine touchdowns instead of the 15 touchdowns he did. It was a career high, so he was naturally going to slip, but moving to Derek Carr from Ben Roethlisberger is also going to hurt. If there’s someone you can bank on scoring less touchdowns in 2019, it’s Brown. In fact, it’s likely his touchdowns are cut in half.

Calvin Ridley (ATL)
Even Ridley’s biggest supporters (I like to think I was the biggest) couldn’t have expected him to score 10 touchdowns in his rookie season. He’ll come back down to earth in 2019 based on what his expected output was. He should’ve been much closer to four touchdowns, and while I believe superstars can rise above and score more than the average player, a six-touchdown gap is nearly impossible to keep up. You must hope his targets increase this year if he wants to return WR2 value.

Tyreek Hill (KC)
This has become a theme for Hill outproducing his expected touchdown numbers, but his 12 receiving touchdowns would’ve been closer to seven touchdowns on an even playing field. Again, there are elite players who’ll rise above and score more than expected, but when you’re above the 3-5 touchdown mark, that’s hard to repeat. With Mahomes regression in mind, Hill’s naturally follows.

Mike Williams (LAC)
Everyone knows Williams was going to have a difficult time repeating his 10 touchdowns on 66 targets performance, but it’s shocking he’s not higher on the list. He scored roughly 4.5 more touchdowns than he should’ve, which highlights his usage in the red zone was really good. We’re expecting a big jump in targets with Tyrell Williams out of town, which makes it possible for Williams to return to double digits, but you shouldn’t bank on it.

Other notables: Dante Pettis (SF), Kenny Stills (MIA)

Tight Ends

Eric Ebron (IND)
He’s the only one I wanted to put in the tight end column just to highlight the regression he’s in for this year. He scored 7.3 more touchdowns than he was expected to in 2018, while there was no other tight end who scored 2.3 more touchdowns than they were supposed to. If you were to remove those 7.3 touchdowns, he would’ve finished with 750 yards and 6.7 touchdowns, comparable to Jared Cook‘s 896 yards and six touchdowns or Austin Hooper‘s 660 yards and four touchdowns. Not exactly elite territory anymore, right? It’s not horrible, but you must also remember that Jack Doyle was out for 10 games. Ebron is in the low-end TE1 tier rather than the high-end one he’s been drafted as.

O.J. Howard (TB)
Even though he was hurt and had to miss the final six games, Howard scored 2.3 more touchdowns than he should’ve, based on where the targets took place. His five touchdowns in 10 games seems repeatable, but knowing he saw just seven red zone targets, that changes things. That ranked 21st among tight ends, but his four red zone touchdowns tied for sixth. He’s a special talent, so he may not see much regression, but history suggests he may score at a lesser pace.

Other notable: Cameron Brate (TB)


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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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