8 Wide Receiver Touchdown Regression Candidates

Jul 23, 2019
8 Wide Receiver Touchdown Regression Candidates

In the first two parts of this series, I’ve examined Red Zone Expected Value (Red Zone EV) for tight ends and quarterbacks in hopes of uncovering potential touchdown regression candidates. Red Zone EV is a metric designed to quantify how many points a player should score from red zone touchdowns based on the starting field position of every red zone opportunity—since its inception, Red Zone EV has proven to accurately predict which players will see their touchdown rates revert to the mean at an astounding rate.

More Touchdown Regression Candidates: TE | QB

Of course, not all red zone opportunities are created equal—a target to a wide receiver, for example, has a much different scoring expectation than a target to a running back. The following table lists the expected value for all wide receiver red zone targets:

Expected Value of a Wide Receiver Red Zone Target, 2016–2018
Starting Yard Line % Chance of a TD EV of a Target
20–16 12.3% 0.74
15–11 16.5% 0.99
10–6 29.8% 1.79
5–1 44.6% 2.68

History has shown that touchdowns and scoring rates are among the most volatile statistics for wide receivers. With this knowledge in hand, we can look at scoring rates from last season as an indicator of players who might see a significant change in the touchdown column in 2018 due to natural regression.

After compiling every red zone target for each wide receiver in the league from 2018, I calculated each receiver’s Red Zone EV and compared that number to the actual points that they generated from red zone touchdowns. The differential between those numbers will highlight receivers who scored more often or less often than they should have in the red zone, based on starting field position.

Negative Touchdown Regression Candidates

League Average Touchdown Rate - 4.8% of targets

League Average Red Zone Touchdown Rate - 24.6% of targets

Davante Adams, Packers

2018 Touchdown Rate - 7.7%; Career - 6.9%

2018 Red Zone Touchdown Rate - 37.5%; Career - 31.4%

2018 Red Zone EV - 38; Actual Points Scored from Red Zone Touchdowns - 72

After a shaky start to his career, Davante Adams has become one of the most efficient scorers in the league, something we’ve become accustomed to from wide receivers tied to Aaron Rodgers. Even for a Packers pass-catcher, 2018 was an aberration, though. While Adam’s overall scoring rates didn’t deviate too far from his career numbers, his dominance in the red zone is something that we can’t expect to repeat. Based on the starting field position of his targets inside the 20, Adams should have scored roughly six times in the red area but he managed 12 such touchdowns.

For Green Bay’s number one wideout to match that production in 2019, he’ll need more looks closer to the goal line—just nine of his 32 red zone targets came from inside the 10-yard line—or an uptick in red zone volume. The latter is unlikely. Adams is one of five receivers to see at least 30 red zone targets in a season over the last 10 years—in that span, only one WR (Eric Decker) has had consecutive seasons with at least 25 red zone targets. The good news for Adams is that his overall volume is likely to remain steady while Rodgers had a bit of a down scoring year and is due for a bounceback. Even with some positive regression from his quarterback, though, Adams’s owners should expect him to come back to Earth in the scoring department a bit.

Calvin Ridley, Falcons

2018 Touchdown Rate - 66.7%

2018 Red Zone Touchdown Rate - 10.9%

2018 Red Zone EV - 13.1; Actual Points Scored from Red Zone Touchdowns - 36

In his first season in the league, Calvin Ridley went full-on anti-Julio and demolished his expected touchdown numbers, especially in the red zone. Only four wide receivers scored more times from inside the 20 than Ridley, despite the fact that the rookie ranked 52nd at his position in red zone targets. There is some room for Ridley to expand his role in the red zone as Atlanta threw at the fourth-highest rate from inside the 20 last season and there are 12 vacated red zone targets. Ridley does profile as an elite young receiver but he will need to see his volume grow in order to match his fantasy production from 2018.

Tyler Boyd, Bengals

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