6 Quarterback Touchdown Regression Candidates

Jun 11, 2017
6 Quarterback Touchdown Regression Candidates

Last season, I introduced a metric called Red Zone Expected Value (Red Zone EV). The idea behind Red Zone EV is to quantify a player's scoring expectations of all plays that take place in the red zone by calculating how many points a player should have generated from touchdowns based on the yard line that a play started.

For example, over the last three seasons, a pass play that starts between the opponent's 16 and 20 yard line has a 10.8% chance of scoring a touchdown, resulting in an expected value of 0.65 points scored per pass attempt (6 points per touchdown * 0.108), whereas a pass play that starts inside the five yard line has a Red Zone EV of 2.62 (43.7% touchdown rate).

More Touchdown Regression Candidates: RB | WR | TE

Here are the expected values for all red zone pass attempts:

Expected Value of Red Zone Pass Attempts
Starting Yard Line % Chance of a TD EV of a Pass Attempt
20 – 16 10.8% 0.65
15 – 11 15.6% 0.94
10 – 6 28.6% 1.72
5 – 1 43.7% 2.62

This metric is especially useful in that pinpointing players that performed well above or well below touchdown expectation could be strong candidates for significant touchdown regression, which could result in very surprising fantasy seasons to owners.

After compiling every red zone pass attempt for every quarterback in the league last season and comparing their Red Zone EV to actual points generated from red zone passes, I’ve uncovered the following touchdown regression candidates.

Negative Touchdown Regression Candidates

League Average Touchdown Rate - 4.3%; League Average Red Zone Touchdown Rate - 21.8%

Marcus Mariota, Titans

2016 TD Rate - 5.8%; Career TD Rate - 5.5%

2016 Red Zone TD Rate - 33.3%; Career Red Zone TD Rate - 33.7%

Red Zone EV - 87; Actual Points from Red Zone TDs - 114

In his first two seasons, Marcus Mariota has been one of the most efficient passers in the league, but history suggests that his rate numbers may be unsustainable. No active quarterback besides Mariota has a career red zone touchdown rate above 28% and Mariota’s sample size is relatively small, having attempted just 65 passes inside the 20 so far in his career.

Last year, the Titans' signal caller was especially fortunate inside the opponent’s 10-yard line, converting 57.7% of his 26 attempts into scores, the highest mark of any passer with at least 15 such attempts -- and 22 percentage points above the league average.

Mariota may prove to be one of the better passers in the league, and Tennessee’s investment in the passing game could prop up his fantasy value with more volume, but his dominance in the red zone will eventually come back to Earth a bit.

Aaron Rodgers, Packers

2016 TD Rate - 6.6%; Career TD Rate - 6.4%

2016 Red Zone TD Rate - 28.7%; Career Red Zone TD Rate - 26.4%

Red Zone EV - 163.7; Actual Points from Red Zone TDs - 198

In terms of scoring rates, Aaron Rodgers performed as we’d expect -- like one of the best passers in the game. Like Mariota, though, Rodgers bested even his high standard inside the 10, with a 51% touchdown rate on 49 attempts. By scoring so often from close range, ARod scored roughly six red zone touchdowns over expectation, based on starting field position.

Going into 2016, Rodgers had converted 39% of his career attempts inside the 10-yard line into scores, so last year was extraordinary even for the Packers star. While Rodgers will still be in the running for the overall QB1 in 2017, he may see a slight drop off from his league-leading 40 touchdown 2016 season.

Continue reading for four positive regression candidates...

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