5 Quarterback Touchdown Regression Candidates

5 Quarterback Touchdown Regression Candidates

In Part One of this series, I uncovered four tight end touchdown regression candidates and re-introduced Red Zone EV, 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. With three years of data and over 50 regression candidates to date, Red Zone EV has proven to be a metric that accurately predicts touchdown regression at an incredible rate.


More Touchdown Regression Candidates: TE 


As is the case with every position, Red Zone EV must be calculated using specific scoring expectation for each position. Here are the expected values for all red zone pass attempts:

Expected Value of Red Zone Pass Attempts, 2016–2018
Starting Yard Line % Chance of a TD EV of a Pass Attempt
20–16 11.2% 0.67
15–11 16.4% 0.98
10–6 27.5% 1.65
5–1 43.4% 2.60

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 - 4.4%; League Average Red Zone Touchdown Rate - 23.3%

Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs

2018 TD Rate - 8.6% ; Career TD Rate - 8.1%
2018 Red Zone TD Rate - 33.7% ; Career Red Zone TD Rate - 32.4%
Red Zone EV - 150.0; Actual Points from Red Zone TDs - 210

In his first full season as a starter, Patrick Mahomes posted the single greatest fantasy season ever by a quarterback. While that was great for fantasy owners that rode the Chiefs’ signal caller to a fantasy title, the fact is that Mahomes’s dominance is simply unsustainable. Mahomes outscored 2018’s QB2 by 73.7 fantasy points, the largest gap between the top two fantasy quarterbacks this decade—over the previous 10 seasons, the average point differential between the top two passers was 26.7 points. 

Much of that scoring came on the back of a touchdown rate that was just the seventh ever above 8.5%. For perspective, the top two active career touchdown rates belong to Aaron Rodgers (6.2%) and Russell Wilson (6.0%). The possibility of playing without Tyreek Hill for at least part of the season limits the potential explosiveness of this offense and Mahomes’ upside. Although the overall QB1 spot is still very much up for grabs for the third-year star, don’t expect him to blow away the field like he did last season. 

Russell Wilson, Seahawks

2018 TD Rate - 8.2% ; Career TD Rate - 6.0%
2018 Red Zone TD Rate - 37.5%; Career Red Zone TD Rate - 29.3%
Red Zone EV - 94.9; Actual Points from Red Zone TDs - 144

Russell Wilson has consistently overcome a lack of pass-catching options and bad offensive schemes to become one of the most efficient passers in league history but 2018 was an outlier even for him. Wilson is only the fifth active passer to finish a season with a touchdown rate above 8%. Or try this one on for size: there have been 41 instances of a quarterback throwing at least 35 touchdowns in a season and only two—Y.A. Tittle and George Blanda—did so on fewer attempts than Wilson last year. 

Probably the biggest hindrance to another top-10 fantasy finish for Wilson is his playcaller, Brian Schottenheimer. As a primary playcaller, Schottenheimer hasn’t had an offense rank in the top half of the league in neutral passing rate since 2011 and Seattle ranked dead last in 2018. If we assume regression back to Wilson’s career-long touchdown rate, he would need to throw 500 times to reach even 30 touchdowns, or 73 more attempts than last year.

What Wilson does have going for him is the deep ball. When Seattle did throw, they threw deep (15+ yards downfield) at the seventh-highest rate in the league. As the quarterback with the second-most fantasy points per attempt on deep balls over the last two seasons, Wilson will need to hit often downfield in order to maintain the efficiency needed to stay in the QB1 conversation.

Andrew Luck, Colts

2018 TD Rate - 6.1% ; Career TD Rate - 5.2%
2018 Red Zone TD Rate - 32.0%; Career Red Zone TD Rate - 26.7%
Red Zone EV - 150.6; Actual Points from Red Zone TDs - 198

Last season, Andrew Luck finished second in touchdown passes, throwing 11 fewer than Mahomes, but the Colts quarterback threw just two fewer than his Chiefs counterpart inside the red zone. While that may seem impressive on the surface, if we look at the starting field position of all of Luck’s red zone scores his true expectation was only about 25 touchdowns, or eight fewer than he actually threw.

Whereas Mahomes may lose talent from his receiving corps and Wilson has to overcome low passing volume, Luck is actually on the right side of both of these problems. Indianapolis added a respectable red zone threat in Devin Funchess, a field stretcher in rookie Parris Campbell, and will be with a healthy Jack Doyle. All this will come on an offense that ranked second in the league in neutral passing rate last season and should maintain a similar philosophy in 2019.

Positive Touchdown Regression Candidates

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