Fantasy Football: Regression Candidates Through Week 7
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
Baker Mayfield, QB, Cleveland Browns
Baker Mayfield's 7.6% touchdown rate just isn't supported by any of his underlying numbers. He's been turnover prone and not particularly efficient, but he also hasn't thrown very much. Throwing 30 touchdowns on less than 500 pass attempts is unlikely for any quarterback, especially one whose play has been inconsistent.
D'Andre Swift, RB, Detroit Lions
D'Andre Swift is the future of the Detroit Lions' backfield, but he's not necessarily the present -- or at least the present we see reflected in usage. That'll happen eventually, maybe even later this season, but given current usage, he's getting by on a touchdown rate that's a little bit better than expected.
Christian Kirk, WR, Arizona Cardinals
Christian Kirk's metamorphosis into a field stretcher has been a weird one, but it's one that's found him in the end zone a fair amount, maybe even a bit too much. With the dominance of DeAndre Hopkins in most of the team's receiving metrics, Kirk's five to three touchdown advantage over Hopkins is a bit perplexing. Look for that to change.
Jimmy Graham, TE, Chicago Bears
If Jimmy Graham looks like he's washed, it's because he is. At 5.6 yards per target, he's one of the least efficient non-running backs in the league, and that's a trend dating back a few years. He's catching a lower percentage of his passes than most tight ends while also getting less yards per catch. Luckily for Graham, a disproportionate amount of the passes he's caught have been in the end zone. With Graham now on 65% of ESPN rosters, it may be worth re-evaluating whether or not you have a year-long tight end option in him.
Positive Regression Candidates
Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta Falcons
With Dak Prescott decommissioned, it leaves Matt Ryan and Joe Burrow as the new passing volume kings. We saw Ryan's defense springboard him into fantasy production last year, but the touchdowns haven't been there for a repeat this year. If the scores pick up, it's not a lock to move him into a higher tier of fantasy production, but it's something to look forward to if he's on your fantasy team.
Cleveland Browns Rushers
If Mayfield's touchdown rate declines, it means a higher share of the scoring is left for rushing. This doesn't necessarily apply to only Kareem Hunt as he has four touchdowns through the air, but Nick Chubb could be back by Week 10 and would benefit from this, as well.
DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Arizona Cardinals
To put it overly simplistically, Kirk has been taking some of Hopkins' touchdowns. Hopkins, the overwhelming leader in targets, receptions, and yards on the Arizona Cardinals, would also be the favorite to lead the team in receiving touchdowns. He is projected to do so from here on out.
Darren Waller, TE, Las Vegas Raiders
Darren Waller made the list last week and delivered with a score. He still hasn't scored on pace with other tight ends on the year as a whole, and it should be kept in mind that he should continue to score touchdowns in the future.