5 Quarterback Studs & Duds for 2021

Jun 14, 2021
5 Quarterback Studs & Duds for 2021

Since the 2016 offseason, I’ve used touchdown expectation to pinpoint players that are due for reversion to the mean in the touchdown column and, consequently, in fantasy scoring. Calculating expected touchdowns improves on metrics such as touchdown rate or red zone opportunities by giving an accurate representation of how much players should have scored based on specific field position and play type. Red zone data, for instance, is inherently flawed—a pass from the 1-yard line doesn’t have the same scoring expectation as one from the 19.

More Studs & Duds: RB | WR | TE

Using data from the last three seasons, I calculated the touchdown rate (touchdowns per pass attempt) for every play type from various starting field positions on the field. For example, since 2018, a pass play starting between the opponent’s 20-yard line and 30-yard line resulted in a touchdown 6.5% of the time—a pass attempt from inside the 5-yard line was converted into a score 45.3% of the time.

Here are the scoring rates for all starting field positions over the last three seasons:

Passing TD Rates Based on Field Position, 2018–2020
Line of Scrimmage TD Rate
1–49 0.6%
50–41 2.0%
40–31 3.2%
30–21 6.5%
20–16 11.9%
15–11 17.1%
10–6 27.2%
5–1 45.3%

As we’ve shown here at 4for4, touchdown rates are among the most volatile year-to-year stats. Just because touchdowns and scoring rates are inconsistent doesn’t necessarily mean they aren’t predictable, though. The swings in scoring rates mean that most players' touchdown efficiency is likely to revert to the mean—either to the league average or to their individual mean if there is a large enough sample.

This methodology has proven to be actionable. Since the 2016 offseason, the procedure has identified 25 quarterbacks that had outlier touchdown seasons—13 threw more touchdowns than expected and 12 threw fewer—and played significant time the following year (minimum 200 pass attempts).

Of the 13 that overperformed, 11 saw a decline in overall touchdown rate (average change of -2.0%, median change of -2.1%) the following year and nine declined in fantasy points per game (average change of -1.91, median change of -3.30).

Out of the 12 that scored below expectation, 10 saw a spike in overall touchdown rate (average change of +1.3%, median change of +1.0%) the next season and seven increased their fantasy points per game (average change of +1.65, median change of +2.08).

After compiling every pass attempt for each quarterback in the league last season (minimum 200 attempts) and comparing their expected passing touchdowns to their actual passing touchdowns, we can get an idea of potential surprise studs and disappointing duds in 2021 based on touchdown regression.

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