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Fool’s Gold WRS: Positive Touchdown Regression Candidates Who Won’t Score More

Last year I found that while it may be difficult to project touchdowns year-over-year, touchdowns usually regress to the mean based on a wide receiver’s targets and receiving yards. Most analysts just use receiving yards to regress touchdowns, so finding that there is signal with adding targets was novel.1

Last week we explored the Five Wide Receivers Primed to Score More in 2019 based on positive touchdown regression. Those were WRs who scored fewer touchdowns compared to expectation. I personally have greater than 10 percent exposure in DRAFT Best Ball leagues to three of those WRs.

While we already touched on the players who should positively regress in the touchdown column, in that list (which I have posted again below) there were a couple of WRs who underperformed their touchdown expectation and thus we would expect them to positively regress in 2019, but whose circumstances have changed, so we shouldn’t actually expect them to score more touchdowns in 2019.

WRs with 50-plus targets in 2018 and underperformed their predicted touchdown total by at least 1.0 touchdowns.

RankPLAYERreTRGSreYDSreTDSExpected reTDSDifference
1D.J. Moore8278824.8032.803
2Willie Snead9565113.6882.688
3Danny Amendola7957513.3482.348
4Brandin Cooks116120457.3072.307
5Taylor Gabriel9368823.9711.971
6Julio Jones170167689.9631.963
7Keelan Cole7049112.8681.868
8Taywan Taylor5646612.8611.861
9T.Y. Hilton120127067.7211.721
10Jarius Wright6044712.681.68
11Quincy Enunwa6944912.5861.586
12Marquez Valdes-Scantling7258123.4741.474
13Jordy Nelson8873934.3881.388
14Jarvis Landry14897645.3271.327
15Kenny Golladay118106356.2961.296
16Mike Evans139152489.2711.271
17Robert Woods131121967.2321.232
18Corey Davis11289145.1641.164
19Emmanuel Sanders9886645.1571.157
20Kelvin Benjamin6738012.1271.127
21Sterling Shepard10787245.0911.091
22Josh Doctson7953223.0471.047
23Mohamed Sanu9483845.0091.009
24Michael Gallup6850723.0041.004

Fool’s Gold: WRs Due For Positive Touchdown Regression Who Won’t Score More in 2019

3. Willie Snead

Snead might sound like a boring, obvious name as someone who won’t score more in 2019. But given his Fanball ADP of WR 107, his status as a starting Wide Receiver on the Ravens depth chart, and the lack of proven surrounding pass-catchers on the Ravens,2 Snead could be a sneaky last round Best Ball value.

When discussing the touchdown upside for any Ravens pass-catcher, first and foremost, we must look at how big of a pie this passing game will generate as a whole. Using the RotoViz Team Splits App we see that in 2018 the Ravens pass attempts per game cratered from 43 to 26 with Lamar Jackson at Quarterback. Even if Jackson progresses as a passer in Year 2, the low passing volume will make it difficult for Snead to score more.

The Ravens also addressed the WR position in the 2019 NFL Draft by selecting Marquise Brown with the No. 25 pick and using another top-100 pick on Miles Boykin. Essentially, I think it’s fair for Snead to go undrafted in all formats.

2. Jarvis Landry

No player burned me harder last year in DFS than Landry. I included him as a “core” or “fringe core” play in my weekly RotoViz FanDuel article in Weeks 4, 7, 8, 9, and 10. Week 7 was his only strong performance out of those five games. After being traded to the Browns last offseason, Landry continued to be a target magnet, seeing a mouth-watering 11.6 targets per game in Weeks 1-8 with double-digit targets in 7 of 8 games!

However, everything changed when Freddie Kitchens was promoted to offensive coordinator ahead of their Week 9 game. From that point on, Landry’s targets plummeted to under 7 per game. His 16-game target pace fell from 186 (which would have led all NFL players in targets) to a less impressive 110 targets — a number that 27 other players reached.

Now the Browns added Odell Beckham Jr. who will command a large market share of the targets, and has the sixth most red-zone targets per game since 2011. Nick Chubb will be a threat to steal a lot of touchdowns, and TE David Njoku enters Year 3.

Landry has made his fantasy football living by being a target hog his entire year, but he finally won’t be the primary pass-catcher in an offense.

1. T.Y. Hilton

Hilton had a fantastic season last year finishing as the PPR WR 14. He also checks a lot of the boxes we like to see when projecting more touchdowns: He accumulates a lot of yards, he has a high yards per target, he’s the No. 1 target tethered to an elite QB, and the Colts offense is projected to score a lot of points.

However, there are several factors that suggest Hilton’s touchdown total will stay more in line with 2018, rather than increase. As a prospect, Hilton’s 50th percentile Freak Score suggests he won’t be a positive outlier at scoring touchdowns, which has panned out so far in his career as he’s averaged 5.7 touchdowns per season. The Colts will get back TE Jack Doyle and also added free agent WRs Devin Funchess who could steal some red-zone targets. In 2018, Hilton particularly benefited from Marlon Mack’s injury absence.

This isn’t to say Hilton won’t be a valuable fantasy asset. I’ve drafted a fair amount of Hilton in DRAFT Best Ball leagues, and Shawn Siegele drafted him in the MFL10 of Death. Hilton could certainly score more touchdowns in 2019, however, I think it’s more likely that he remains closer to six TDs than it is that he jumps to double-digit scores. The RotoViz Projections agree that Hilton will be a low-end WR1 to a high-end WR2:

Stay tuned for the negative touchdown regression candidates. 

Image Credit: Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire. Pictured: Andrew Luck.

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  1. And it was interesting to see that targets are actually negatively correlated with touchdowns, given the same amount of receiving yards.  (back)
  2. Snead had 95 targets last year, while no other returning Ravens’ WR topped 30 targets.  (back)

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