Top touchdown regression candidates for 2022 (quarterback)
Touchdowns are one of the main components of fantasy football, and I don’t just mean that they are one of the few ways to generate fantasy points. I mean they matter a lot.
Sort a fantasy football ranking by yardage, and you’ll see a pretty tight spread overall. It’s touchdowns that really shake up the Fantasy standings (especially in the standard and half-PPR leagues).
If a player finds dirt at a high position rate, he’s going to have a great fantasy season even if the other stats are lagging. And, of course, there are always productive players from a distance standpoint who just don’t score much in a 17-game season (whether by chance, their offense or their role).
But one truth remains: players generally regress year after year, especially in the touchdown column, and that should help us build our fantasy football and best ball Waiting lines.
Here are the biggest touchdown regression candidates among quarterbacks for 2022. If you don’t care about the process or its accuracy, just skip to the results.
Highlighting the process
Using R^2 values, we have two ways to fully understand touchdown passes.
If you compare a quarterback’s passing distance to his total touchdowns (among passers with at least 100 attempts since 2016), you’ll see an R^2 of 81.1%. If you look at successful passes (measured by our expected net points [NEP] metric), the R^2 is 78.9%.
So basically with those two numbers we can figure out about 80% of a player’s touchdown output.
If we look at players with at least 100 retirements in a season and at least 100 attempts in a follow-up season since 2016, we can see 153 total seasons with a qualified follow-up.
Among those 153 campaigns, there are 38 instances in which a quarterback had at least 3.0 more touchdowns than expected. Only 7 of 38 (18.4%) increased their touchdown rate (touchdowns per pass attempt) the following year. That means there’s an over 80% chance, based on history, that the big overperformers will fall.
Of the 45 quarterbacks who underperformed touchdown expectations by at least 3.0 points in this sample, 37 increased their touchdown rate the following year (82.2%).
Positive candidates for touchdown regression
These quarterbacks should have a better touchdown chance in 2022 than in 2021.
The 13.7 touchdowns below expected by Trevor Lawrence is the biggest gap since 2016. He had a paltry 2.0% touchdown rate but should have been at 4.3%, according to the data. At this rate (i.e. 25.7 APs), Lawrence would have been QB13 last season. He is drafted as QB19 in the best ball formats on FanDuel.
Derek Carr was the actual QB13 (and QB13 in the best-ball leagues) last year despite nearly 10 pass scores below expectations. Top five in passing yards and with solid efficiency, Carr is a prime candidate to succeed with an increased touchdown rate, especially now with historical overachiever Davante Adams.
matt ryan (QB17 by ADP Best Ball) is heading to a new team but will continue to play indoor home games with the Indianapolis Colts. Although it’s hard to envision a top QB1 season for Ryan with the offense going through Jonathan Taylorthe underlying data is there for him to be in the QB2 conversation in fantasy leagues.
Negative candidates for touchdown regression
These players should see a decrease in their touchdown rate in 2022.
If you look at this list, it’s basically a who’s who of the best passers in the league, and there’s absolutely something about being above average when you’re an above average talent. That’s not the argument here.
The argument (and what the data says) is that these guys should see a drop in touchdown rate this season. They still have room to finish above the NFL’s average touchdown rate (4.5%) but below those high rates posted in 2021. History says 10 or 11 of those 13 will drop in rate of touch.
That said, the group of passers who had exceeded touchdown expectations by at least 3.0 scores had an average touchdown rate of 6.4% and trailed it with a sample average of 5.1%. That’s above the NFL average, but a steep drop from their high rates. At 600 attempts, that would be the difference of 38 touchdowns to just over 30.
Aaron Rodgers will have his work cut out for him to be as good as he was last year in fantasy formats (QB6) while throwing for 41 touchdowns. He loses Davante Adams and was destined to see his touchdown rate drop anyway, so even at the ADP of Rodgers’ best QB9 ball, it might be hard to back him up.
Matthew Staffordthe QB12 of ADP’s best ball, doesn’t necessarily have to be someone we’re outright buffing or anything, but he had a career-best touchdown rate (6.8%) in 2021. Sure, he changed teams and had better weapons than in past seasons, but we should embrace less scoring this year (or, more accurately, at least a lower touchdown rate).
The two Dak Prescotts (QB10 in best ball) and Tom Brady (QB6) lost key passers of 2021, and Russell Wilson (QB11) joins a new team. These are prime candidates for reduced scoring efficiency. With more volume than he had last season, Wilson could easily top touchdown totals, of course.