Which Wide Receivers Will Score More Touchdowns in 2016?

Mike Evans underperformed in 2015, but math tells us that he could be in store for a big 2016 campaign.

Yesterday, I looked at which wide receivers will score fewer touchdowns in 2016.

Today's article isn't as sad.

The Process

I won't bore you with another analogy that explains why touchdowns in football can be volatile -- if you need the reasoning, go ahead and peep yesterday's article. But I will explain the general process for the study, just in case there are some readers who only want to know which wide receivers are going to improve in the touchdown column, disregarding the guys on the other end of the spectrum.

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. This will look similar to the one you saw in yesterday's article, because it's the exact same 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.

Of course, this isn't to say all wide receivers fit this mold. Some are great in the red zone and have a knack for finding the end zone, like Dez Bryant, placing them consistently above the line. Keep that open mindset as you read on.

2015 Results

Just as I said in yesterday's column, an analysis like this is useless if previous results showed nothing helpful. So, to be transparent, here's a look at the top-10 players who were projected to score more touchdowns in 2015 given their 2014 Reception NEP totals:

Name Reception NEP 2014 TDs TDs/Reception 2015 TDs TDs/Reception
Dwayne Bowe 68.13 0 0.00 0 0.00
Julio Jones 142.69 6 0.06 8 0.06
Vincent Jackson 82.04 2 0.03 3 0.09
Golden Tate 104.80 4 0.04 6 0.07
Kenny Stills 86.87 3 0.05 3 0.11
Larry Fitzgerald 67.09 2 0.03 9 0.08
Rueben Randle 78.23 3 0.04 8 0.14
Julian Edelman 83.67 4 0.04 7 0.11
Markus Wheaton 54.89 2 0.04 5 0.11
Doug Baldwin 67.63 3 0.05 14 0.18

The list of players who were supposed to score fewer touchdowns in 2015
was a little wonky, only because a lot of the players on it ended up seeing a change in team over the offseason. This list, though, is pretty startling.

Among the group above, no wide receiver saw a lower touchdown-to-reception ratio in 2015 when compared to their 2014 rate, but Dwayne Bowe -- who ended up just not seeing playing time -- and Julio Jones did see the exact same rate.

And according to NEP, fantasy football values Larry Fitzgerald, Doug Baldwin and, to a lesser extent, Julian Edelman, were all projected to see big jumps in their receiving scores in 2015. They did -- combined, their 2014 to 2015 touchdown differential was +21.

Of course, some of this positive regression turned into an overcorrection. As you saw in yesterday's column, both Edelman and Baldwin are now on the other side of things, as they're expected to score far fewer touchdowns in 2016 as they did in 2015. But all in all, the Reception NEP to touchdown relationship was a great predictive one this past year.

A Look Ahead

With this in mind, assuming wide receivers produce at similar levels, what should we expect in 2016? Here's a look at wideouts who scored fewer touchdowns in 2015 than their Reception NEP said they should have.

NameReception NEPTouchdownsShould Have ScoredDifference
Mike Evans102.2137.63-4.63
Julio Jones148.18811.17-3.17
Brandon LaFell36.5402.57-2.57
T.Y. Hilton100.5857.50-2.50
Terrance Williams73.5335.42-2.42
Willie Snead72.8435.36-2.36
Roddy White45.3413.25-2.25
Mohamed Sanu30.8402.13-2.13
Jarvis Landry82.2646.09-2.09
Demaryius Thomas107.7368.05-2.05

For Mike Evans, 2015 was a classic case of overcorrecting obvious regression.

As I showed in yesterday's article, Evans was one of the top players who were supposed to score fewer touchdowns in 2015. He sure did that, totaling just three scores when he should have scored close to eight.

Given Vincent Jackson's age, Jameis Winston's progress and how Evans ended up performing in fantasy this season, his natural progression in the touchdown column going into 2016 means I'm more than likely going to select him often in fantasy drafts.

It's interesting to see Julio Jones on this list once again, but digging deeper, it makes a ton of sense -- the athletic wideout was just not very good in the red zone. Jones ended up seeing 22 targets within his opponents' 20-yard line this season, and he hauled in just 5 touchdowns. Among the 37 pass-catchers (includes tight ends) with 15 or more red zone targets this past season, Jones' touchdowns-per-target rate in that area of the field ranked 11th worst.

And when you combine that with scoring just three touchdowns on 181 non-red zone targets, you get a player who really underperformed.

Given the fact that Jones has proven to be a relatively decent touchdown threat, there's a chance he sees a lot of progression within the statistic in 2016. The problem is that there's not much equity to be had even with this knowledge, as Jones will surely be close to a top-five draft pick in fantasy.

Really, there's a case to be made for many of the guys on this list to be huge fantasy football bargains in 2016. 

T.Y. Hilton not only underperformed when it came to touchdowns this year, but he also will be getting Andrew Luck back next season. 

Willie Snead put together one of the most under-the-radar second-year performances this league has ever seen at wide receiver and could see a more consistent role as a third-year guy for New Orleans. 

Jarvis Landry may be an underperformer in the red zone, but we know Demaryius Thomas usually isn't. With the potential for better quarterback play -- it can't get much worse than Peyton Manning, who ranked in the bottom five in Passing NEP among all quarterbacks this year -- there's a good chance he's undervalued going into 2016.

The offseason is long, and plenty of things can change. But keep tabs on these players because, come August, they could be the ones who end up being the best draft day values.