Fantasy Football Week 13: 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.

Touchdowns vs. NEP, 2015 wide receivers

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 12

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

Player Reception NEP Touchdowns Should Have Difference
Alshon Jeffery 53.00 1 3.84 2.84
Stefon Diggs 64.45 2 4.72 2.72
Terrelle Pryor 85.45 4 6.34 2.34
Pierre Garcon 58.01 2 4.23 2.23
Amari Cooper 70.46 3 5.18 2.18
Robert Woods 41.59 1 2.96 1.96
Jarvis Landry 54.14 2 3.93 1.93
Julio Jones 92.27 5 6.86 1.86
Victor Cruz 40.15 1 2.85 1.85
Marqise Lee 52.73 2 3.82 1.82
John Brown 38.44 1 2.72 1.72
A.J. Green 75.72 4 5.59 1.59
Adam Humphries 36.20 1 2.55 1.55
Brandon Marshall 62.04 3 4.54 1.54
Jordan Matthews 61.57 3 4.50 1.50
DeAndre Hopkins 61.23 3 4.47 1.47
Robby Anderson 22.13 0 1.46 1.46
Emmanuel Sanders 73.45 4 5.41 1.41
T.Y. Hilton 86.42 5 6.41 1.41
Julian Edelman 46.77 2 3.36 1.36

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

PlayerReception NEPTouchdownsShould HaveDifference
Antonio Brown87.00106.46-3.54
Jordy Nelson75.8995.60-3.40
Donte Moncrief25.3151.71-3.29
Justin Hunter16.8841.06-2.94
Davante Adams69.1285.08-2.92
Odell Beckham69.1685.08-2.92
Seth Roberts31.3152.17-2.83
Michael Thomas57.5074.19-2.81
Anquan Boldin44.5363.19-2.81
Tyreek Hill34.5352.42-2.58
Danny Amendola23.9641.60-2.40
Kenny Stills39.9852.84-2.16
Rishard Matthews67.2674.94-2.06
Dez Bryant (pre-Thursday)57.8964.22-1.78
Taylor Gabriel33.7442.36-1.64
Andre Holmes8.1620.39-1.61
Jordan Taylor8.2820.40-1.60
Torrey Smith21.6631.43-1.57
Mike Evans112.84108.45-1.55
Brandin Cooks61.4964.49-1.51