Wide Receiver Touchdown Variance and Regression

By Asher Molk - @AsherMolk
db
Jun
22
2016

Ahhh, touchdowns. The most exciting play in football and also to your fantasy teams. Whatever fantasy football league you play, touchdowns count (including some that ONLY count touchdowns). Since they are one of the universal stats in fantasy football, predicting them becomes vital to your drafting and overall fantasy success.

Although it is far from an exact science, there are variables we can take into account to predict those odds such as wide receiver size and red-zone targets. As fantasy football addicts, that is all we can do: trust the process!

As Mike Braude always says: “There is only one thing that is ever undefeated in fantasy football: regression.” Let’s take a deeper look into the top touchdown scorers at the wide receiver position in 2015 and see what we can take out of them to try and predict success in this upcoming season.

To make things more relevant and concise, I decided to look at only receivers who scored seven or more touchdowns:

PlayerTargetsCatchesYardsTDsPPR Fantasy PointsPercent of FPs from TDsRed Zone Targets
Doug Baldwin103781,06914268.931%17
Brandon Marshall1731091,50214343.224%21
Allen Robinson151801,4001430428%22
Odell Beckham Jr.158961,45013319.324%18
Eric Decker132801,02712254.728%28
DeAndre Hopkins1921111,52111329.120%23
Allen Hurns105641,0301022726%13
Antonio Brown1931361,83410382.216%25
Ted Ginn Jr.974473910183.933%9
A.J. Green132861,29710275.722%18
Brandin Cooks129841,1409253.821%8
Michael Crabtree146859229231.223%13
Larry Fitzgerald1461091,2159284.519%21
Calvin Johnson149881,2149263.421%16
Sammy Watkins93601,0479218.825%6
James Jones9950890818726%16
Julio Jones2031361,8718371.113%21
Jeremy Maclin124871,0888244.920%13
Jordan Matthews128859978232.721%14
Rueben Randle90577978184.726%11
John Brown101651,0037209.520%18
Julian Edelman88616927174.524%21

A few things to note here first: I believe it is important to include the percentage of fantasy points that came from touchdowns because that can be an indicator of how robust a player is. In other words: would he still be a top-flight WR1 if he didn’t score touchdowns? Also, it is important to include red-zone targets because obviously, shorter touchdowns are easier to score and more predictable than longer ones.

At this time last year, you could have given me 40 guesses as to which receiver would lead the league in touchdowns. Doug Baldwin would not have been on that list. The man had never scored more than five touchdowns in a season before, and suddenly 14? It’s highly unlikely to happen again: 14 touchdowns on only 103 targets, he’s not a large receiver (5’10”, 189), Lockett is emerging, Graham may be back…the list goes on and on. With a whopping 31% of his points coming from touchdowns, he is an incredibly risky bet to finish as even a WR2 this year.

Brandon Marshall, on the other hand, has been scoring touchdowns for a long time. 14 scores is tough to repeat, and some regression is due as he ages. But as a clear 1A on his team (maybe a 1B in the red-zone), he should fare just fine even if he only scores half of that. With over 100 catches and 1,500 yards, he can afford some regression and maintain his WR1 status.

Odell Beckham and Allen Robinson are two of the most talented receivers in the game. They will each remain the top options on their respective offenses – expect double-digit scores.

Eric Decker did see a large amount of his production come from touchdowns (28%) and he is definitely the number two option on the team. He’s never put up a huge yardage total, but his penchant for scoring touchdowns in Denver was no fluke. He led the league in red-zone targets last year, and there’s no reason to think he won’t see his fair share this year as well.

DeAndre Hopkins was unbelievable last year, and his red-zone chops are evident. He’s got more competition for targets with the drafting of Will Fuller, but he’s still the best bet to lead the Texans in touchdowns. With a mere 20% of his production coming from scores, he’s a safe top-six wideout.

Antonio Brown’s 16% of production from scores is just a testament to the sheer volume he saw last year. I wouldn’t expect that number to rise a lot, but that’s ok when you are the consensus number one pick in fantasy drafts.

Allen Hurns’ 10 scores on a mere 64 catches is cause for concern. With Robinson the alpha and Julius Thomas healthy, that number could go down. He’s still a fine WR3 and should score at least 7.

Ted Ginn…10 scores on 44 catches? At his size and touchdown history? With Kelvin Benjamin returning, he would be lucky to get to six this year.

Brandin Cooks relied a lot on longer touchdowns (nine on eight total red-zone targets), can he do it again? I’ll happily trust Drew Brees’ number one any day.

As Mike Braude pointed out, Michael Crabtree was one of the least efficient wideouts in the league last yearand things won’t get easier with Amari Cooper and Clive Warford getting set for sophomore leaps.

I’m giving up the ghost on James Jones and Rueben Randle. Don’t go chasing touchdowns.

My personal favorite touchdown regression candidate? Julio Jones. Eight touchdowns on 203 targets is insane, especially considering there aren’t any other proven red-zone receivers on that team. I would be shocked if he didn’t get to double digits. With a tiny 13% of his fantasy points coming from touchdowns, Julio is due for some good luck and is a passable candidate for the number one pick in drafts.

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