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Negative Regression Touchdown Candidates (2022 Fantasy Football)

Last week, I talked about the players in fantasy football who look likely to regress to the mean in the touchdown column in 2022 positively. This week, it is time to focus on those who will be drafted too high in 2022 due to their enormous touchdown totals.

As much as there is real value to be had, if you draft players due for negative regression, you are just on the path to wiping out any value you might obtain.

These six players are players to watch out for and have serious question marks over because they overperformed in the touchdown column in 2021. Therefore, if all things remain equal in 2022, they are likely to score fewer touchdowns. However, this is based on their 2021 activity and how productive they were with the ball in their hands. They could shatter expectations yet again. However, believing they will do this is a risk you will have to factor in, alongside taking them at their inflated ADP cost due to their efficiency and overperformance.

James Conner (RB – ARI) 

Actual Touchdowns: 18
Expected Touchdowns: 11.45
Difference: +6.55 Touchdowns

The Cardinals rewarded James Conner for his 2021 performance with a very lucrative 3-year, $21 million contract this offseason. On the surface of it, this seems well-deserved and justified. The truth is, he was incredibly efficient. He was too efficient, and his efficiency is unlikely to be replicated. Connor had the leading rushing touchdown rate of any running back with over 200 touches last year of 7.43%. This means he scored touchdowns every 7.5 times he carried the ball. Since 2017, no player with 200 touches and a Touchdown rate north of 7% repeated that figure. Only five players have had over 7% rushing Touchdown rate while having 150 touches or more since 2017. None, as of yet, have repeated.

This shows how difficult this percentage is to hit and that it hasn’t been repeated in any of the previous five seasons. Therefore, we can assume and expect James Conner’s Touchdown number to come down in 2021. After all, he overachieved by close to seven touchdowns, according to my model. Don’t expect 18 touchdowns from James Conner in 2022.

Damien Harris (RB – NE)

Actual Touchdowns: 15
Expected Touchdowns: 10.61
Difference: +4.39 Touchdowns

Another running back who massively overperformed in this column is Damien Harris. Harris was just behind Conner with a rushing touchdown rate of 7.39%, and he achieved this on the same amount of carries and was just one rushing touchdown behind Conner. Therefore, he also falls into the same category as Conner regarding obvious touchdown regression due to the unsustainable Touchdown rate.

However, while James Conner’s current ADP of 5.05-RB23 selection is worth a slight chance at that price, Damien Harris is going much earlier. Harris is being drafted at the 4.03 RB18 spot right now. The players you can pick in that range over Harris make this an easy fade. Let’s not forget that Harris has a long history of injuries, and he does have competition in the form of Rhamondre Stevenson. At the same time, Conner does not have that same competition.

Damien Harris is a fade at current ADP as it stands. However, he is worth a grab if he falls into the late 5th/6th round stage, which could happen.

Ja’Marr Chase (WR – CIN)

Actual Touchdowns: 13
Expected Touchdowns: 7.62
Difference: +5.38 Touchdowns

The reigning Offensive Rookie of the Year makes this list. Let’s get one thing straight. Chase is an incredibly talented wide receiver who will only get better. Having said that, while he might outperform my model most years, he is not going to exceed it by five touchdowns every year. Chase had a receiving touchdown rate of 10.16%. Over the past five years, players who caught over 50 passes and had a touchdown receiving rate of over 10% regressed the following season, except Mike Evans, from 2020 to 2021, who increased his touchdown rate. However, since Evans gets more RedZone targets and receptions inside the 10, he is more likely to maintain his touchdown rate.

Chase scored eight of his 13 touchdowns from outside the RedZone. This led the NFL in wide receiver touchdowns scored from outside the RedZone. While extremely impressive, it is unlikely he will repeat this feat in 2022. Chase is someone who can maintain his Touchdown total potentially in 2022. However, he will need to increase his target share to do it. So while Chase is due some negative regression on his current workload, there is nothing to stop him from raising his workload to maintain his touchdown number in 2022. That will mean it is highly likely to go up, and more than likely, it will go down. So be mindful of that when selecting him high up on the draft boards this summer.

D.K. Metcalf (WR – SEA)

Actual Touchdowns: 12
Expected Touchdowns: 7.13
Difference: +4.87 Touchdowns

D.K. Metcalf is another example of a player who overachieved in the Touchdown column in 2021. His Touchdown rate of 9.30% was ranked 6th amongst all primary receivers on their respective teams. While not at that 10% threshold which is guaranteed to regress, it’s still a highly unattainable number. His 2021, while disappointing to fantasy players who took him in the second round of drafts, was still a highly productive season.

In 2022, things already look like they are trending toward a natural negative progression. Metcalf has lost his quarterback and is now in a situation where it will be either Drew Lock or a rookie who is going to throw him passes instead of Russell Wilson. Add to that the uncertainty of his Head Coach Pete Carroll and a team that is looking to trade out any assets they have to go into a rebuild, and you have a recipe for disaster for Metcalf in 2022. Even if he manages 129 targets or more in 2022, the quality of targets will diminish. In all likelihood, the air yards the passes he was receiving balls are also likely to decline. There is almost certainly no chance that on his current production, Metcalf will find a path to double-digit touchdowns in 2022. Due to his high number of RedZone Touchdowns, he is someone who can beat my model year after year but not by five touchdowns.

Dawson Knox (TE – BUF)

Actual Touchdowns: 9
Expected Touchdowns: 4
Difference: +5.00 Touchdowns

Dawson Knox was a fabulous Waiver Wire addition to rosters last year. He kept scoring Touchdowns for fantasy players when they needed points out of the tight end position.

Knox also led all tight ends with a touchdown reception rate of 12.68%. Since 2017, of the 32 tight ends that had a touchdown reception rate of over 10%, none improved their mark the following season. Once again, this is classic negative regression territory. And, when it comes to tight ends, it is relatively consistent and predictable that when a player overperforms in the touchdown column next year, they negatively regress closer to the mean the following year, regardless of talent. Even Mark Andrews has fallen afoul of this.

What makes it worse for Knox is he also has former 1st-round pick O.J. Howard in the building now to compete for touches. That will hurt Knox and his quest to outperform his touchdown expectations again in 2022. Knox is someone who will probably go much higher in ADP than he should due to his fantasy finish in 2022. Therefore, sitting out and letting him go on the draft board will be the smart play this summer.

Hunter Henry (TE – NE)

Actual Touchdowns: 9
Expected Touchdowns: 4.08
Difference: +4.92 Touchdowns

Hunter Henry enjoyed a fine debut season in New England. In addition, he also built an excellent rapport with Mac Jones, as the two really managed to find the grove. Especially at Foxboro. However, just like Knox above, Henry also had a touchdown reception rate of 12%. So, once again, he is almost guaranteed to see a fall in touchdowns this season. Having said that, it is likely, due to his rapport with Henry, and their lack of receiving options, that Henry could outperform the expected touchdowns model again. However, I doubt it will be by five touchdowns. Out of the two options, I would back Henry to top his expected touchdowns by two or even three touchdowns. I just don’t see how that can happen for Knox.

Henry has a developing situation. He has a quarterback who will be better than last season as he is no longer a rookie. And he will still be the familiar and reliable RedZone target.

However, just don’t expect a similar touchdown rate to this year.


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Adam Murfet is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Murf, check out his archive and follow him @Murf_NFL.

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