Fantasy Football: Regression Candidates Through Week 1

Regression is fantasy football soothsaying when practiced correctly, but that's the key -- it must be practiced correctly. If a player is expected to score one touchdown but instead scores two, that doesn't mean they're expected to score zero touchdowns the following week. It means they're expected to score, as you might have guessed, one touchdown.

In that sense, regression doesn't necessarily mean a player is bad or even overvalued. It means they've produced differently than they're expected to in the future.

Reversing the earlier example, a player who scores zero touchdowns when expected to score one touchdown should expect regression but in a positive sense. Some hate the term "positive regression," but regression is short for regression to the mean -- meaning it can be either positive or negative, depending on which direction the mean is. It can be a mean process. Sorry, but I'm contractually bound to use all three forms of the word mean in this article.

Now on to this week's regression candidates.

Negative Regression Candidates

Josh Allen, QB, Buffalo Bills

I am in a standing state of conflict with Bills Mafia. Sorry Bills Mafia, but Josh Allen still isn't good. Sure, he finally threw for 300 yards, but it took him 46 attempts to do so. Allen had previously hit 40-plus pass attempts just twice. Thus the uptick in passing volume is unlikely to be a permanent one. The driving force behind Allen's pass attempts (and 14 rush attempts) were the Week 1 league-high 81 offensive plays run by the Buffalo Bills. That number is unsustainably high and substantially higher than their (just above league average) pace of 64.6 plays per game last year.

Allen's rushing ability will keep his fantasy value relatively high, but think again if you're expecting a Lamar Jackson-esque season of both passing and rushing efficiency.

Chris Carson, RB, Seattle Seahawks

Chris Carson made fantasy managers happy with two receiving touchdowns, but the Seattle Seahawks ran more of a committee than expected. In fact, Carlos Hyde lead Seattle in carries. With DeeJay Dallas and Rashaad Penny lurking on the periphery, it's possible Carson's declining workload becomes a trend.

Carson has a habit of never going away when he's expected to, but with a fair amount of enthusiasm for Carson right now after his two-score day, maybe it's time to explore trades.

Adam Thielen, WR, Minnesota Vikings

In a game in which the Minnesota Vikings were trailing most of the way and Adam Thielen was targeted on 32% of Minnesota's pass attempts, he still commanded just 8 targets. The 110 yards and a touchdown Thielen went for are not consistently achievable on that number of targets.

Thielen requires a more robust Vikings passing attack to firmly enter WR1 territory, and that appears to not be what's happening.

TJ Hockenson, TE, Detroit Lions

T.J. Hockenson produced 56 yards and a touchdown, but it came on just 5 targets. Matthew Stafford's 42 pass attempts makes that just an 11.9% target share for Hock, and that's without Kenny Golladay active. Hockenson also cannot sustain a 100% catch rate as he did last Sunday.

Hockenson has been repeatedly touted as a breakout candidate on this site, and I'm a believer myself. He can still breakout, but he will need more volume to do so.

Positive Regression

Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta Falcons

Matt Ryan is still a good quarterback and the Atlanta Falcons' defense is still abysmal. Those two factors serve as the ultimate fantasy springboard, and while Ryan won't throw 52 times every week, he could very well set the single-season pass attempt record, something he flirted with last year prior to injury. When he does so, he'll likely pass for touchdowns at a 3.8% rate.

Generally, the "negative game script" narrative is overplayed with quarterbacks, because generally teams that lose consistently have bad quarterbacks. That's not the case with Atlanta. Ryan's volume and efficiency should equal a top-flight fantasy option on a weekly basis, even without much in the way of the coveted Konami code.

Jonathan Taylor, RB, Indianapolis Colts

Unfortunately, Marlon Mack is done for the year. While Nyheim Hines will be around, make no mistake -- Jonathan Taylor, the definition of a feature back, will be the next man up. Taylor flashed receiving volume in Week 1 that surprised some, but it is not inconsistent with his final-season college production. He won't be as efficient through the air as he was in his debut, but he'll be much more efficient on the ground.

Don't stress about Taylor's lack of rushing efficiency. There's a lot of randomness there, and the Indianapolis Colts still have a top-level offensive line, which is the more important factor in rushing production. Taylor is in great shape moving forward, and he is clearly the Indy back you want on your team.

D.J. Moore, WR, Carolina Panthers

D.J. Moore has been nothing but great in college and the NFL. And while he wasn't great in terms of production in Week 1, the volume was there with a 26% target share. The Carolina Panthers produce a lesser version of the aforementioned "springboard effect" with a respectable offense paired with a porous defense.

Moore caught just 44% of his targets on Sunday against a career 65% catch rate. He's a lock to rebound and be an excellent fantasy receiver when he does.

Chris Herndon, TE, New York Jets

Chris Herndon managed just 37 receiving yards, but historically efficiency has never been his problem. There may not be a Sam Darnold breakout in 2020, but Herndon's 20% target share is encouraging nonetheless.

Tight ends typically require strong quarterback play, but the alternate route for a tight end to have success is volume. With a non-existent receiving corps and running game in New York, that volume should come. In the likely event that Herndon returns to his efficient ways, he will be a viable fantasy tight end, though probably not as high upside as we'd like without quality quarterback play.