Positive Touchdown Regression Candidates (2019 Fantasy Football)
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Back in July, Mike Tagliere made a thorough breakdown of players likely to negatively regress in touchdowns during the 2019 season found here. Touchdowns are one of the most difficult metrics to predict, and being able to do so might be the difference between a fantasy player being a value or a weakness based on their current ADP. Players who have scored significantly more than average with their given opportunities are unlikely to maintain that rate and the same vice versa. Identifying these players on both ends of the spectrum will be very useful in adding an extra element to understanding player value.
What’s the best way to identify positive or negative touchdown regression candidates? Through my research, I believe it is a combination of the two rates of touchdowns per touch and yards per touchdown. Using these, we can find an average baseline for each group we are aiming to study. These averages vary greatly between each skill position, but each respective average has great consistency year to year.
When we dig in to find out how accurate this is, the results are fantastic. Both touchdowns per touch rate and yards per touchdown rate each have a ~75% chance of regressing towards the average for each player the following year. For this article, we will focus on players that are low outliers in both of these categories to increase our odds, ensuring them as very strong candidates to return into the league average range and increase their touchdown production.
Dak Prescott (DAL)
Prescott barely made the cut based on touchdown per pass and yards per touchdown rates, and as such his increase should not be as large as others on this list. But an increase is still worth noting, and if their star running back does indeed hold out, the Cowboys might be forced to turn to the pass more often than usual which could lead to an additional surge in fantasy production.
Derek Carr (OAK)
The Raider’s passing offense last year seemed to be a combination of inefficiency and short, bail-out passes from Carr. His low touchdown rates are due for an increase especially when we consider the amount of receiving firepower Oakland signed this offseason. Antonio Brown, Tyrell Williams, and a few others were brought in to give this passing game a much-needed boost.
Josh Allen (BUF)
Already a fantasy treasure due to his rushing abilities, Allen and company are poised to convert more passes to touchdowns this season. Similar to the Raiders but with less star-packed additions, they brought in receiving help in John Brown and Cole Beasley. Being selected in fantasy for his ability to create yards with his legs, the added passing touchdowns would be a nice bonus.
Ezekiel Elliott (DAL)
Finishing fifth at the position last year, Elliott had the lowest touchdown per touch rate of the top-24 running backs, and yet he still dominated as a fantasy player. Imagine if his touchdown rate returns to league average this year. This gives him the safest floor of the big-four running backs as he was the least touchdown dependent, and his ceiling is loaded with potential. All of this is, of course, is dependent on if his holdout issue gets resolved, but his heavy usage and strong offensive line set him up for all the success in the world if he plays.
Dalvin Cook (MIN)
We need to look at Cook’s production from a per-game basis because he missed a large portion due to injury. Through 11 games last year, he was only able to log four touchdowns whereas both touch and yard based touchdown rates dictated that he should have scored six to seven. Touchdown savvy Latavius Murray is no longer with the Vikings and if healthy, Cook should be in for a much better season, even on a per-game basis if he does miss time due to injury.
Kerryon Johnson (DET)
In a nearly identical circumstance as the aforementioned Cook, Johnson missed time with an injury, had a strong goal-line teammate leave (LeGarrette Blount), and should have seen more touchdowns on a per-game basis. Both Cook and Johnson are two of my favorite bounce-back candidates this year as they should see a heavy share of the backfield touches along with their touchdown efficiency increasing.
Sony Michel (NE)
Michel was the closest running back to not making this list, but he just qualified in both categories. As such, he likely will see a smaller increase than others on this list, but an increase nonetheless. Patriots seem to lean more heavily on their running backs each year that Tom Brady ages and that tendency has a strong case to continue.
Rashaad Penny (SEA)
Players on this list needed to have a strong reason for their usage to maintain or increase in 2019, and Penny makes the list simply due to the departure of Mike Davis and his extremely low touchdown rates. His touchdowns are near certain to increase with this uptick in usage, but Carson is currently the lead back in this backfield and a possible favorite for goalline carries.
JuJu Smith-Schuster (PIT)
If Big Ben throws even close to the same amount of touchdowns this year, JuJu is going to explode. Antonio Brown corralled in an amazing 15 touchdowns last year and is no longer with the team. Juju was also featured in my increased targets article, so if we combine this with positive touchdown regression, he is in for a major fantasy season and very well could end up climbing to be the top wide receiver in fantasy this year.
Keenan Allen (LAC)
It is no coincidence that Mike Williams was highlighted in the negative touchdown regression article and that Allen is found here. Even if Williams is the favorite red-zone target, there’s little chance these extreme rates maintain based on history. It is far more likely that both these receivers regress more towards the average, albeit in different directions and much to the pleasure of Allen owners.
Brandin Cooks (LAR)
Cooks has been amazingly consistent year after year, except that his regular touchdown rate of ~10% over the past few years dropped to 6.3% last year. The Rams offense has been very good at finding the end zone under Sean McVay, and Cooks looks to see his role in that increase in 2019.
D.J. Moore (CAR)
Due for the largest touchdown rate increase under both measures of anyone on this list, all Moore needs is the continued or increased volume to capitalize on this. Only two touchdowns on 55 catches are insanely low. He was already marked as a potential breakout candidate and this will only help solidify his case.
Sterling Shepard (NYG)
Shepard’s reception share should increase now that OBJ is gone. This will only compound with the fact that he was already due for a touchdown increase. In what should be a rather thin receiving corps, he and Golden Tate will lead the G-men. There seems to be controversy over who will start most of the games this year under center, but Shepard’s role as the top wideout will remain unchanged.
Corey Davis (TEN)
Here’s hoping that either Marcus Mariota plays better as a passer this year, or that Ryan Tannehill takes over if he struggles. In either scenario, we would imagine the passing game improves in Tennessee or at the very least, the quality of the targets. Davis should have seen more touchdowns based on both receptions and yards so it likely that gets a bump this year.
George Kittle (SF)
This one was apparent seemingly all season long. The tight end receiving yards leader only caught five touchdowns which were the worst rate amongst the top-10 tight ends. If he is anywhere near his production from last year from a reception and yardage standpoint, he has the clearest path to find more pay dirt.
Austin Hooper (ATL)
A rising star out of Atlanta last year, Hooper seems to become more and more a part of this offense. With Calvin Ridley’s touchdown rate likely to give way to both Julio and Hooper, this receiving group as a whole is shaping up to have quite a few fantasy-relevant players yet again this year.
Jordan Reed (WAS)
Reed has had moments in his career where he has looked like the best fantasy tight end in the game. His lack of durability has proven to be a large obstacle to producing, but reports from camp are saying this is the healthiest he has ever been coming into the season. With a big perennial “if” around his health, he could return to fantasy dominance being the main receiving weapon on a team that appears very weak on wide receivers.