There's time to be a tape dog. There's time to be a spreadsheet virgin. Today, it's the latter. We're going over positive and negative regression candidates based on last year's receiving TDs.
The model analyzes how many receiving TDs a player should've scored based on his usage (where his targets are in relation to the goal line, where his targets are in relation to the sideline, how far downfield their targets are, etc.). It's important to remember that each player has their own personal baseline, while this model is for the average player at their position in an average NFL offense. We should expect the elite players score slightly more TDs than my model expects. The bad players, the opposite.
Justin Jefferson - It's scary to think that last year's 128-1809-8 receiving line could've been better, but that's a fact. Despite being the best WR in the game, Jefferson (somehow) scored 2.4 fewer TDs than expected on his usage. He led the position with a whopping 10.4 expected scores, a trend that likely repeats with Kirk Cousins back and the Minnesota secondary looking spotty. Jefferson is the consensus 1.01 on Underdog Fantasy.
Ja'Marr Chase - He missed some time last year, but Chase led the position in expected TDs per game. If he played all 17 regular season games, he paced for 11.6 expected scores. I have a feeling he'll score some TDs this year.
Davante Adams - Even by his standards, Adams went nuclear last year in a middling situation. His 14 TDs are unlikely to repeat, as he had +5.2 TDs over expected thanks to some downfield bombs. That's the biggest discrepancy of any WR. With Adams exiting his prime and with Jimmy G being viewed as a slight downgrade, a more realistic TD projection for Adams is closer to 8.0 in 2023. That's enough to be a fantasy WR1 still.
Stefon Diggs - He set a career high in TDs last year, running +2.9 TDs above expectation. A fairer projection is closer to 8.0 scores, especially if the Bills change their offense a bit. They want more short-yardage rushing production from their RBs (see: Damien Harris) and may use more 2-TE sets, especially in the red zone. He'd still likely be a fantasy WR1 with regression baked in.
A.J. Brown - He scored a whopping +3.9 TDs above expectation last regular season, but I'm less convinced that his personal baseline rate is far off from that. AJB is simply a grown ass man. The Eagles also may throw more in 2023, after blowing out teams all last year. Nobody projects for 11 TDs pre-season, but Brown is as good of a bet to lead the NFL in receiving TDs as anyone. He'll (comfortably) be a fantasy WR1 next year if he and Jalen Hurts stay healthy.
Garrett Wilson - The Jets were miserable in the red zone last year, leading to Wilson's brutal 3.0 fewer TDs than expected. Thankfully they added Aaron Rodgers this offseason if you hadn't heart. Wilson is going in the middle of Round 2 on Underdog Fantasy, however, so all of this (and maybe even more) is baked into his price tag.
Amon-Ra St. Brown - There could be some size reasons why this occurred, but ARSB scored 2.1 fewer TDs than expected in 2022. That's why we saw Gyration King Jamaal Williams twerk for a dozen times (my favorite part of last season). If the Sun God can run pure with TDs, he can be a borderline top-5 fantasy WR in this offense. It helps that Jameson Williams (6-game suspension) and T.J. Hockenson (trade) are out of his way.
Jaylen Waddle - Even certified ballers are bound to regress. That's Waddle, after going from 7.3 to 11.3 yards per target last year. The Dolphins will likely not hit on the cylinders they were hitting on in 2022, which easily could slide Waddle's TDs closer to his 4.4 number. His +3.6 TDs above expectation were 5th-highest at the position. He's been a fade for me in late Round 2.
Deebo Samuel - Last year's ADP was truly insane after going nuts with 14 total TDs in 2021. It was one of the easiest fades I can remember, which proved to be right. Samuel, despite being a very good player, scored 2.8 fewer receiving TDs than expected and dropped his rushing scores back down to 3. Now is the time to get back into the Samuel waters, especially when his ADP sits on the Round 3/4 border. He's a positive regression candidate.
D.J. Moore - I'm out at cost. Last year, Moore was the WR25 per game in fantasy points over replacement. That happened despite scoring 2.4 TDs over expected. The Bears ranked 31st in expected TDs to their WRs last year (8.9) because of Justin Fields' rushing ability.
Christian Watson - He had +2.6 TDs above expectation as a receiver, then ripped off 46- and 15-yard rushing TDs. Watson will struggle to run as pure this year, especially with the offense going from Aaron Rodgers to Jordan Love. He'll need to see more overall volume to repeat as a fantasy WR2.
Drake London - The passing offense was brutal (and could be brutal again). There are some signs of life with London, however. He popped on tape in my opinion, and even finished as PFF's highest graded rookie receiver. That just didn't translate to production. He scored 2.8 fewer TDs than expected. Can we please get Ryan Tannehill to Atlanta? We need to save London and Kyle Pitts from airmails.
Chris Godwin - Am I worried about Baker Mayfield? Yes. Am I also ready for positive regression? Yes. Godwin stunk last year (he didn't look right post-ACL), which has kept his Underdog Fantasy ADP in check. He had a career low 7.2 yards per target compared to a career 9.1 rate, and then scored 3.1 fewer TDs than expected. I'm buying in Round 6, especially with some odds of Mike Evans getting traded or falling off a cliff given his age/playing style. Rob Gronkowski not being around also helps.
Tyler Lockett - I think this is the year where he finally falls off. Firstly, he's now 31 years old and noticeably falls down before contact (which I respect for longevity purposes). Secondly, they added Jaxon Smith-Njigba and Zach Charbonnet in the draft. And lastly, Lockett scored +4.9 TDs above expectation last year. While he's always a per-target stud, this is a bit rich even on his standards. If he scores closer to his expected number (4.1 TDs), then Lockett is not a top-36 fantasy WR. Keep in mind, DK Metcalf (also a baller) scored below expectation (-2.3). In fact, Metcalf was the WR3 in expected TDs with 8.3 last year. Regress.
Diontae Johnson - Is this a bit? His efficiency literally could not get worse. DJ's career yards per target sits at 6.6. Last year's was a career low 6.0. Then there's these damn TDs. He scored 0.0 (read: zero) last year, despite being expected to score 6.7!!!! That's insane. With the Steelers OL looking stronger and with Kenny Pickett going into his 2nd year, DJ is a safe bet for at least one (1) TD in my opinion. If we're lucky, he'll score more than that.
Travis Kelce - It was the 2nd-best fantasy TE season of all time last year, as you can easily see why from the chart. He went from 6.7 to 11.7 expected TDs last year in a post-Tyreek offense, leading to a career high 12 scores. Will that continue in his age-34 season? The market believes so, as his Underdog Fantasy ADP sits 6th overall.
Mark Andrews - With Lamar Jackson back in the lineup, we should expect Andrews to rebound in the TD department. In 2021, he had 9 TDs (1st) on 8.4 expected TDs (1st). Last year, those dropped to 5 (6th) on 6.0 (5th). It also helps that the OC change goes from run-heavy to pass-heavy. Andrews is a target at the Round 3/4 turn.
George Kittle - Always per-target efficient, Kittle once again scored more TDs than expected. Now, last year's numbers were a bit much even by his standards. He comfortably led the position with +5.0 TDs over expected. Despite this, he was the 51st overall player per game in my fantasy points over replacement metric. Like last year, drafting Kittle at cost is hoping that his random spike weeks happen to come when you need them most. If he scores anywhere near his 6.0 expected TDs, then he's tough click in Round 4/5.
David Njoku - A mid-season injury derailed what would've been a true breakout season. He was a target machine, yet only scored 4 times. That's 2.3 fewer times than expected. With Deshaun Watson highly likely to out-perform the Browns' passing outputs last year, Njoku is my favorite late TE1 selection at cost.
Pat Freiermuth - A good player on tape, Freiermuth needs the Steelers to figure their shit out on offense to truly breakout. He scored 2.3 fewer TDs than expected last year, after finding the end zone 7 times as a rookie. With the OL adding pieces and with Kenny Pickett in Year 2, Freiermuth is a fantasy bet for significantly more TDs in 2023. He's a fine TE1/2 selection.
Cole Kmet - He's not scoring +3.7 TDs above expected again. Easy fade, especially with Robert Tonyan, Chase Claypool, and D.J. Moore in town.
Tyler Higbee - It was a brutal year for the Rams last year due to injuries, and that trickled down to Higbee's scores. He finished with 3.7 fewer TDs than expected, the worst rate at the position. Despite that, Higbee was still the TE14 per game on what was the 2nd-most expected scores (6.7). If Matthew Stafford and the OL run into better luck, Higbee should be a decent TE2 selection in drafts.
Juwan Johnson - There's very low odds of Johnson repeating his +3.4 TDs over expected in 2022, especially with Foster Moreau signing a multi-year contract following positive news medically. I was in at TE16 with hopes of more volume offsetting TD luck, but things are back to being crowded.
Cade Otton - He finished 2nd worst in TDs over expected with -3.3. The 2nd-year pro should be a near full-time player with the Bucs, making him a reasonable last round dart throw for 3-TE builds.