5 Running Backs With Major Touchdown Upside for 2018

The Eagles should be one of the league's top offenses in 2018, giving Jay Ajayi some appealing scoring upside. Which other backs could rack up touchdowns?

Handling touchdowns in fantasy football analysis requires some nuance.

On one side of things, touchdowns are vitally important. They can salvage otherwise weak performances from low-volume players, they can give a player league-winning upside, and you're not going to find many correlations stronger than that between touchdowns and fantasy points scored.

On the other hand, zeroing in too closely on touchdowns scored in the past is a fool's errand. There's very little correlation in a player's overall touchdown number year-over-year, making past touchdowns a pretty weak way to try to predict future touchdowns.

So we want to chase touchdowns in the future, but as soon as they happen (or don't), it can serve us well to take the results with a grain of salt unless they can be backed up with a deeper look.

The variable nature of touchdown scoring doesn't mean that we can't predict them, though. Previous touchdowns might not help up identify players likely to score more in the future, but there are plenty of factors that do.

A player in a high-scoring offense, for example, stands to have more scoring potential than one in a low-scoring unit. And a player seeing more touches will have more opportunities to find paydirt than one rarely touching the ball -- especially as you get closer to the goal line.

In the first entry in this series, we took at look at the quarterback position, identifying five passers who have huge upside.

This time we'll be looking at the running back position.

The correlation between touchdowns and fantasy points isn't quite as strong for running backs as it is for quarterbacks, but with a 0.83 r-squared in point-per-reception (PPR) scoring over the last three years, there's no doubting the importance of touchdowns. In standard scoring, touchdowns become even more important, with the r-squared value jumping to 0.88.

There's obvious upside in the top-tier studs like Le'Veon Bell, Ezekiel Elliott and Todd Gurley, so I'll mostly turn my focus to mid- and later-round players, with the exception being early-round players whose upside may be going overlooked.