7 Wide Receiver Touchdown Regression Candidates

7 Wide Receiver Touchdown Regression Candidates

By TJ Hernandez (Director of DFS), last update Aug 24, 2017

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TJ is a former full-time poker player who has been playing fantasy football for more than a decade. After online poker was outlawed, TJ ended his poker career and dedicated himself to fantasy football. His background in poker statistics and analytics translates to success in both daily and season-long fantasy football.

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In the first two parts of this series, I’ve examined Red Zone Expected Value (Red Zone EV) for quarterbacks and running backs 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

More Touchdown Regression Candidates: QB | RB | TE

The following table lists the expected value for all wide receiver red zone targets:

Expected Value of a Wide Receiver Red Zone Target
Starting Yard Line % Chance of a TD EV of a Target (% Chance of TD * 6)
20-16 11.5% 0.69
15-11 15.6% 0.94
10-6 29.7% 1.78
5-1 41.5% 2.49

When it comes to wide receivers, no volume stat carries less weight from one year to the next than touchdowns, and the rate at which receivers score touchdowns from year to year varies even more. With the knowledge that touchdown rates are likely to regress to some mean -- either the league average or an individual's average, given a large enough sample -- we can look at scoring rates from last season as an indicator of players that might see a significant change in the touchdown column in 2017.

After compiling every red zone target for every wide receiver in the league from 2016, 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 in those numbers will highlight receivers that 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 - 4.7% of targets
League Average Red Zone Touchdown Rate - 22.7% of targets

Jordy Nelson, Packers

2016 Touchdown Rate - 9.2%; Career - 8.4%
2016 Red Zone Touchdown Rate - 37.9%; Career - 30.3%
2016 Red Zone EV - 46.3; Actual Points Scored from Red Zone Touchdowns - 66

Jordy Nelson led all wide receivers in red zone touchdowns last season with 11, but he also scored furthest above expectation, as starting field position suggested a yield of fewer than eight red zone scores. In the quarterback iteration of this series, I hinted that Aaron Rodgers should see a slight decline in his scoring rate, and that would obviously have a direct impact on Nelson. Like his quarterback, Nelson has consistently scored at an electric pace over the course of his career, but 2016 was unsustainable even for his standards.

Having just turned 32, the Green Bay receiver is also fighting history. Since 1992 (when the league started tracking targets) only eight receivers aged 32 or older have posted a touchdown rate of at least eight percent. Considering that Nelson hasn’t been the healthiest of players, fantasy owners shouldn’t bank on a 2016 repeat.

Sterling Shepard, Giants

2016 Touchdown Rate - 7.6%
2016 Red Zone Touchdown Rate - 50%
2016 Red Zone EV - 17.9; Actual Points Scored from Red Zone Touchdowns - 36

Usually when a rookie wide receiver puts up as a respectable of a season as Shepard did in 2016, fantasy owners eagerly roster that player in year two in hopes of landing the next big thing. But there is reason for pause when it comes to the second-year Giants wideout. Only five receivers scored more touchdowns from inside the 20 than Shepard, but 37 saw more red zone targets.

In the offseason, New York added one of the most efficient red zone scorers of this generation, in Brandon Marshall, and drafted Evan Engram at tight end, a position that Eli Manning has always targeted heavily in the red zone. It’s virtually impossible for Shepard to maintain his 2016 scoring rate, but with the new roster, he might not improve on his 12 red zone targets, either.

Continue reading for two more negative regression candidates and three positive regression candidates...

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