Touchdown Regression Candidates – Position Players

Rich takes a look at some running backs, wide receivers, and tight ends that could be in for some touchdown regression.

Yesterday, I dove into some quarterbacks that I viewed as potential regression candidates. Might as well keep the train rolling and take a look at position players that might be in line for touchdown regression.

Thanks to my No Huddle Podcast partner, Kenny Hyttenhove, we learned in his preseason touchdown regression article that with rushing and receiving touchdowns it’s best to breakdown the data by area of the field. It makes a lot of sense. A running back with 10 carries within the opponent’s 5-yard line is more likely to find paydirt than a back with just 5 carries in the Green Zone. So, I built upon Kenny’s preseason data which included historical stats from 2015-2019 and added in 2020’s numbers.

For running backs, Kenny determined that rushing attempts based on field position was the stickiest stat in predicting rushing touchdown regression. Here are the touchdown rates.

 

2015-2020 TOUCHDOWN RATES OF RUSHING ATTEMPTS BASED ON FIELD POSITION

 

As expected, carries within the opponents’ 5-yard line is where running backs make their money. As we get further away from the end zone backs become less and less likely to find paydirt. Let’s take a look at the touchdown rate for receiving touchdowns based on field position.

 

2015-2020 TOUCHDOWN RATES OF RECEIVING YARDS BASED ON FIELD POSITION

 

My colleague Kenny determined that receiving yards per touchdown correlated slightly better than targets per touchdown – r-squared of .65 vs. .64 – so that’s what we’re rolling with. Now that we have our historical data, let’s dive into the players that could be in for some regression. Since we have both rushing and receiving data, I compiled running backs, wide receivers, and tight ends and then sorted the results to give us a variety of players on each end of regression.

 

Regression: More Touchdowns

 

ACTUAL VERSUS EXPECTED TOUCHDOWNS

 

  • Myles Gaskin, David Montgomery, Ezekiel Elliott, and David Johnson appear here mainly because of their workloads. They’ve been three-down backs that handle both the goal-line work and the passing down work, but have underperformed in terms of finding the end zone. Sadly, Gaskin landed on the limited IR list this week with a knee injury, so we may not get a chance to see his regression play out.

 

  • Clyde-Edwards Helaire shows up as number two in potentially scoring more touchdowns, but I’m not buying it. 2.92 of his expected 4.49 rushing touchdowns come from his 7 carries from within the opponent’s 5-yard line which has resulted in zero touchdowns. However, he has -3 yards on those 7 carries and 6 of those carries came in Week 1. He failed hard in his chance of locking down the goal-line work which means moving forward he won’t have an opportunity for regression to work its magic.

 

  • Stefon Diggs and Robby Anderson have led their teams in targets and yardage but just haven’t found the end zone as often at they should be based on the yardage they’ve accumulated. However, Anderson has just 5 targets in the opponent’s Red Zone, so it appears the majority of his workload is coming from outside the opponent’s 20-yard line.

 

  • I was surprised to see just how many carries Darrell Henderson, Jr. had within the opponent’s 10-yard line. In fact, his 18 carries within the opponent’s 10-yard line rank 3rd in the league behind just Derrick Henry and Ezekiel Elliott. He’s had 9 carries from between the opponent’s 6-10-yard line and gained 26 yards on those carries, but has not found paydirt from that area of the field.

 

  • Jarvis Landry has yet to find paydirt, but it’s not for the lack of trying (kinda). Last week, in a very windy game, Landry had two catchable end zone targets, but couldn’t convert on either. With Odell Beckham out for the year, Landry’s touchdown rate is one to keep an eye on.

 

  • Jamaal Williams’ time may have come and gone already. With Aaron Jones out, Williams handled the primary work for the Packers. However, Aaron Rodgers threw 5 touchdown passes within the opponent’s 10-yard line to squash Williams’ touchdown hopes. Now, with Jones back and Williams on the COVID list, we may never get his regression.

 

Regression: Fewer Touchdowns

 

ACTUAL VERSUS EXPECTED TOUCHDOWNS

 

  • I’m not going to take anything away from Dalvin Cook. He’s been excellent and the Vikings offense runs through him. However, he’s been extremely efficient and over 2 touchdowns of this regression come because of 3 scores in the 21+ yardage range.

 

  • Somehow, I’m going to lump D.K. Metcalf with Will Fuller V, Nelson Agholor, Jalen Guyton, and Donald Parham, Jr. All five players have made big plays down the field which our model feels is unsustainable. I’m all in on Metcalf and we know this is what Fuller does, so we’ll just have to see if Justin Herbert and Derek Carr can keep hitting his deep targets to keep Guyton, Parham, Jr., and Agholor relevant.

 

  • Nick Chubb has 5 carries within the opponent’s 10-yard line, but just 1 touchdown. On that, he’s probably due for some more touchdowns because of regression. However, his other 3 scores have come from between 11-20 yards out which is where the negative regression comes into play. Once he returns to the field, I expect these two to kind of balance themselves out.

 

  • Jeff Wilson, Jr. – Green Zone Specialist. Wilson has just been so efficient on his Green Zone touches when he gets them. He’s scored 3 touchdowns on just 4 carries inside the opponent’s 10-yard line. Good luck predicting when they’re coming.

 

  • With guys like Robert Woods and Chase Claypool, we’ve seen their respective teams figuring out ways to get the ball in their hands via screenplays or end-arounds. I’d say that definitely factors into their higher touchdown rate and as long as their coaches continue to draw up these types of plays, I’d expect less touchdown regression.

 

(Photo by Larry Radloff/Icon Sportswire)

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