5 RBs who had outlier seasons in 2021

In Part 1 of this series, I discovered four quarterback touchdown outliers using my expected touchdown model. The introduction to this article presents the whole methodology of this study, but the basic principle is simple: we can know who scored touchdowns above or below expectations based on historical touchdown rates for the starting position. of each game. Of course, each type of game and each position will have different expectations.


More Touchdown 2021 outliers: QB | WR | AND


Calculating touchdown expectation for ball carriers requires extra work as we are often dealing with a significant number of carries and targets for a player. The following table lists touchdown rates for all running back opportunities (carries and targets) over the past three seasons:

RB TD rates based on field position, 2019-2021
line of scrimmage TD rates, rushes TD rates, targets
1–49 0.3% 0.2%
50–41 0.4% 0.5%
40–31 0.7% 1.4%
30–21 1.3% 4.7%
20–16 3.1% 4.6%
15–11 5.8% 13.4%
10–6 10.8% 24.4%
5–1 41.2% 45.7%

For the running back position, this process has been particularly helpful in identifying players who need to experience a significant drop in production.

Since expanding this research in 2019, 15 running backs have scored at least two touchdowns over expectation in a single season. Of those 15, none saw an increase in touchdowns the following year and 14 fell in the scoring column with a median drop of three touchdowns. There were also 15 backs who scored at least two touchdowns below expectations and 13 of those players increased their touchdowns the following season with a median jump of two scores.

After compiling all the opportunities (rushes + goals) for every ball carrier in the league from 2021 (minimum 100 opportunities), I calculated each ball carrier’s touchdown expectation and compared that number to the actual touchdowns that they generated. The differential of these numbers will serve as an indicator for ball carriers who scored more or less often than they should have and, in turn, potential posts or misses in 2022.

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