NFL

Fantasy Football Week 11: Wide Receiver Touchdown Regression Update

It's true that some players -- I'm looking at you, Dez Bryant -- are good at scoring touchdowns. But, across the entire NFL, finding the end zone is something that mostly stems from opportunity. And, of course, a little bit of luck.

Remember Calvin Johnson's historic 2012 campaign? You know, the one where he almost hit the 2,000-yard mark in receiving? That year, Megatron scored five -- that's five -- touchdowns. Despite the fact that he caught more than a mile worth of yards, he found the end zone five times. He was unlucky -- he was tackled within the five-yard line eight times that season.

It goes the other way, too. In 2013, Jerricho Cotchery scored 10 touchdowns on just 602 yards receiving. Clearly, that was an outlier -- he regressed to the mean the next season in Carolina, scoring once with just 22 fewer yards.

Math is real.

Yards are one way to normalize touchdown production, but to be more accurate, we can also use our Net Expected Points (NEP) metric, which you can read more about in our glossary. Specifically with wide receivers, Reception NEP measures the number of real points a player accumulates on all catches. Because this is fantasy football and we're only interested in cumulative volume, we'll work with that.

The Process

I wrote about this topic over the offseason, so rather than re-writing the process of using Net Expected Points to show touchdown regression, I'll copy and paste that sucker here for you:

Charting the relationship between touchdowns and our Net Expected Points (NEP) metric -- which shows how many actual points a player adds for his team (check out more on NEP in our glossary) -- allowed for an analysis of how many touchdowns a player should have scored versus how many touchdowns a player actually scored. To put this another way, because Net Expected Points measures how many points a player actually scored for his team, it's not skewed by a counting statistic like touchdowns -- a touchdown scored from the 1-yard line isn't as impactful as a touchdown scored from the 40.

This, in turn, brought the following chart.

What we find with this trendline is the number of touchdowns a player would be expected to score based on his NEP totals. So, if a dude puts up 100 Net Expected Points, we'd generally expect him to score a little under eight touchdowns.

Update Through Week 10

Now that that's out of the way, let's take a look at players who should have more touchdowns than they currently do. (Note: Data does not include Thursday night's contest.)

PlayerTouchdownsReception NEPShould HaveDifference
Alshon Jeffery153.003.842.84
Amari Cooper264.494.722.72
Stefon Diggs261.414.492.49
Jarvis Landry145.273.242.24
Pierre Garcon143.903.142.14
Brandon Marshall254.563.961.96
Julio Jones590.426.721.72
Robert Woods138.402.721.72
John Brown137.202.621.62
A.J. Green475.725.591.59
Robby Anderson023.731.591.59
Julian Edelman134.992.451.45
Victor Cruz134.122.391.39
Kenny Britt359.824.361.36
Emmanuel Sanders359.584.351.35
Tajae Sharpe131.322.171.17
T.Y. Hilton469.375.101.10
Dontrelle Inman130.032.071.07
DeSean Jackson129.702.051.05

And here's a list of wide receivers who should have fewer touchdowns than they currently have:

PlayerTouchdownsReception NEPShould HaveDifference
Jordy Nelson860.764.44-3.56
Anquan Boldin535.422.49-2.51
Rishard Matthews649.553.57-2.43
Tyreek Hill424.851.67-2.33
Justin Hunter312.790.74-2.26
Seth Roberts426.931.83-2.17
Donte Moncrief314.510.88-2.12
Antonio Brown768.785.05-1.95