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. Every year there are outliers who catch touchdowns at a higher or lower rate than one would expect based on their targets and yards in that season. Perception about a player’s abilitay to score touchdowns — and thus score fantasy football points — may be drastically skewed if their actual touchdowns don’t align with their expected number.
We’ve already explored the 5 Wide Receivers Primed to Score More in 2019: Positive Touchdown Regression – which includes RotoViz’s favorite breakout WR for 2019 and a player that I have greater than 20% exposure to on DRAFT Best Ball – and we also looked at the Fool’s Gold WRS (Positive Touchdown Regression Candidates Who Won’t Score More).
Just as the positive touchdown regression analysis from last year helped us identify Julio Jones, Michael Thomas, and Adam Thielen as WRS who will take a leap in the touchdown column, the negative touchdown regression analysis helped us realize Jarvis Landry (9 TDS in 2017; 4 TDS in 2018) was a touchdown fraud.
There are a bunch of big name WRs who make the list this year as players whose touchdown totals may negatively regress, with 11 of these WRS being drafted in the top-30 at the position per Fanball ADP.
Wide Receivers Who Scored More Touchdowns Compared to Expectation
The following are WRs who saw 50-plus targets in 2018 and over-performed their predicted touchdown total by at least 1.0 touchdowns
Before we get into the specific players whose touchdowns should regress this year, notice how large the delta is between the expected touchdowns and actual touchdowns is here. The difference is much larger when receivers over-perform their touchdown expectation (see above) than when they underperform their expectation (see the table in Part 1 of this series). While 11 WRS over-performed their TD expectation by at least three TDs, no WR underperformed their expectation even by three.
Another thing to note is how many stars make this list as players who over-performed their touchdown expectation. While some may be due for regression, it’s possible that superstar WRs are capable of scoring at a right over expectation, especially during the era of the NFL Passing Revolution.
Negative Touchdown Regression WRs for 2019
5. John Ross
I assume I’m not the only one who had no memory of Ross scoring seven touchdowns last year. While Ross scored five of his touchdowns in the red zone, and the red zone is the most sustainable area of the field for continued touchdown production, he did so on just 11 red-zone targets. I expect both his red-zone efficiency and volume to decrease in 2019. I didn’t know it would be possible for a player to have such a high touchdown rate yet the lowest AYA I’ve ever seen.
4. Zay Jones
Like Ross, Jones had an embarrassingly inefficient rookie season, but unlike Ross, Jones actually progressed in his second season. Last year, Jones saw a respectable 102 targets on a 21.2% target share. While Jones outperformed his total targets and yardage touchdown expectation by over 4 touchdowns, the TD scoring efficiency wasn’t quite as fluky considering he scored five of those touchdowns in the red zone on his 41.5% red zone target share (2nd among WRS). Jones is probably underrated by the fantasy football community and certainly has sleeper appeal in 2019.
However, it can be true that Jones is both underrated and will continue to progress, yet scores fewer touchdowns next season. The real problem with expecting Jones to score eight touchdowns lies in his QB Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills offensive outlook. Allen had a career college QB completion rate of 56.2% and a 52.8% completion rate in his NFL rookie season (33rd). RotoViz fairly projects Allen to pass for 21 passing TDs, which is a small pie to distribute among the pass-catchers. Closer to five touchdowns is a more reasonable expectation.
For Hasan Rahim’s sake, I hope Zay doesn’t regress:
3. Tyler Lockett
Lockett is a talented WR that popped in Matt Harmon’s reception perception a few years ago. He and Russell Wilson have developed one of the strongest QB-WR connections in the NFL.
However, 10 touchdowns on just 71 targets is clearly not sustainable, especially when he only saw six red zone targets. While negative touchdown regression will happen, the good thing about Lockett for 2019 is he can still beat his ADP, primarily because he will see a dramatic increase in his target volume – anywhere from 30-45 target increase is expected. I’m joining Curtis Patrick and am buying Lockett at his ADP, despite TD regression.
2. Mike Williams
Many will see Williams’ 10 touchdowns last year and think it’s repeatable given that the Chargers likely drafted him to be a touchdown threat with jump-ball ability. However, Williams also benefited from the absence of Hunter Henry, who has been Philip Rivers’ most efficient pass-catcher.
Keenan Allen will remain a favorite target of Rivers, and even saw 23% of the red zone targets last year and a second-ranked 33% the year prior. I can’t deny Williams’ double-digit TD upside as a potential third-year breakout, but RotoViz’s projection of eight touchdowns seems more realistic.
Melvin Gordon’s holdout status will be important to monitor because his absence would free up a lot of red-zone opportunity.
1. Antonio Brown
Anyone – even one of the best receivers of this generation and a multi-year track record as a touchdown producer – that scores 15 touchdowns will be due for negative regression the following season. However, Brown is set up for an even more dramatic decline in touchdown production with the change from the Steelers to the Raiders. Over the last five seasons, Brown has an 8.83 AYA when targeted by Ben Roethlisberger and 11.8 touchdowns per season. On the other hand, Derek Carr has never supported a double-digit touchdown receiver.
Not only is there a QB downgrade, but RotoViz Radio co-host Matthew Freedman believes there’s a good chance Brown is slowing down, which we can see in the decline in his efficiency.
Patrick Kerrane also believes Antonio Brown may be a strong sell candidate in dynasty leagues.
There’s a lot of other WRS that make the negative regression candidate list. Stay tuned for those who won’t actually negatively regress, and may even progress as a touchdown scorer.