6 Running Back Touchdown Regression Candidates

6 Running Back Touchdown Regression Candidates

Over the last month, I’ve used Red Zone Expected Value (Red Zone EV) to uncover potential touchdown regression at various positions. This article will examine the running back position. 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 a promising rate.

Calculating Red Zone EV for running backs can be a little tricky, though, since rushing attempts and receiving targets do not have the same touchdown expectation, and neither do a running back's targets compared to that of a wide receiver or tight end.


More Touchdown Regression Candidates: QB | WR | TE


The following table lists the expected value for all running back red zone opportunities:

Expected Value of a Running Back Red Zone Opportunity, 2016–2018
  Rush Attempts Running Back Targets
Starting Yard Line % Chance of a TD EV of a Rush Attempt % Chance of a TD EV of a Target
20 – 16 2.5% 0.15 8.1% 0.49
15 – 11 5.3% 0.32 11.7% 0.70
10 – 6 11.4% 0.68 23.6% 1.42
5 – 1 40.6% 2.44 41.2% 2.47

After compiling every red zone opportunity for every running back in the league from 2018, I calculated each back’s Red Zone EV and compared that number to the actual points that they generated from red zone touchdowns. The differential in those numbers will serve as an indicator for running backs who scored more often or less often than they should have in the red zone based on where each play started.

Negative Touchdown Regression Candidates

League Average Touchdown Rate - 3.2% of touches
League Average Red Zone Touchdown Rate - 18.2% of touches

Melvin Gordon, Chargers

2018 Touchdown Rate - 6.2%; Career Touchdown Rate - 3.5%
2018 Red Zone Touchdown Rate - 33.3%; Career Red Zone Touchdown Rate - 21.1%
Red Zone EV - 40.1; Actual Points From Red Zone Touchdowns - 66

Last season, Melvin Gordon finished as the RB8 in PPR leagues but he also scored roughly four touchdowns over expectation in the red zone, finding paydirt on a third of his touches inside the 20. Had the Chargers’ back scored at a more normal pace, he could have easily finished outside the top-10 fantasy backs. 

As of this writing, Gordon has already started a contract holdout, putting the beginning of his season in question. Natural regression combined with the return of red zone standout Hunter Henry were already going to be factors to consider regarding Gordon’s upside, and now there’s no telling when he will even be putting shoulder pads on. 

Aaron Jones, Packers

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