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 rushing receiving TDs. The WR and TE version of this column is here.
The model analyzes how many TDs a player should've scored based on his usage (where his carries/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.
Please note RBs who played on multiple teams will have two separate dots on this chart (ie. Christian McCaffrey), but I combined them in the table. Sorry for the confusion.
Christian McCaffrey - The consensus RB1 once again, CMC was on pace for 15.8 TDs on 11.0 expected TDs in his 14 games, including playoffs, with the Niners. He's only eclipsed 13 scores once in his career. McCaffrey is in good hands with Shanahan.
Austin Ekeler - He's finished 1st and 2nd in expected TDs in his last two seasons. Will he last in his age-28 season with a new play-caller? We'll see, but the upside is very obvious now that the Chargers exited the draft without a RB complement. Ekeler goes at the Round 1/2 turn on Underdog Fantasy.
Jonathan Taylor - After leading the NFL with 18.8 expected TDs in 2021, Taylor busted due to injury and bad OL/QB play in 2022. That said, Taylor scored 3.5 fewer TDs than expected based on his usage last year. I'm curious to see how much coach Shane Steichen deploys Anthony Richardson in the Jalen Hurts rushing role. Miles Sanders on an elite Ealges offense had 10.5 expected scores. It'll be hard for him to pay off a Round 1 price tag if those Philly rates continue. I'm out at cost on Underdog Fantasy.
Nick Chubb - He once again beat my model's expectations (as I expected), but things really open up for Chubb in 2023 with Kareem Hunt currently unsigned. He had 9.6 expected scores last year, compared to Hunt's 6.9 (nice). And that's not including the upside of this offense getting better with Deshaun Watson. We should expect Chubb to be somewhere around the top-3 RBs in touchdowns next year, assuming health. Not bad for a mid-Round 2 pick.
Tony Pollard - This projection can go in a million directions. Some just include the moon. Pollard ran absolutely pure last year (again), scoring +4.7 TDs above expected. That rate likely dips next year, especially if his broken leg has any lingering effects. BUT (and this is a big but ... and I cannot lie) Ezekiel Elliott had a whopping 10.2 expected TDs compared to Pollard's 7.3. Combining them would would make Pollard a potential RB1 overall candidate. Of course, that's wishful and dangerous thinking, but the point remains: there's so much upside if Zeke or another big back doesn't sign in Dallas.
Rhamondre Stevenson - The unwatchable 2022 Patriots had 15.7 expected TDs to their RBs. With Damien Harris being replaced by tinier RBs, Stevenson is a big positive regression candidate this year. He scored 2.5 fewer times than expected last year, and his opportunities should increase with Matt Patricia sent out of town. He's a fun pick at the Round 2/3 turn.
Travis Etienne - The Jaguars needed to find a power complement this offseason, which explains the Tank Bigsby and D'Ernest Johnson additions. Etienne, while explosive, scored 5.6 fewer TDs than expected last year. That was the worst mark at the position by a wide margin. He likely scores more than 5 TDs in 2023, but it wouldn't be a total shock if there were some vultured scores if he can't hit designed holes at a higher clip.
Najee Harris - It didn't feel like it, but Harris was the RB6 in expected TDs (11.1) last year. The Steelers offensive line added multiple starters in Kenny Pickett's Year 2. By the way, everyone's savior Jaylen Warren scored 1 TDs on 3.5 expected TDs, one of the very worst rates in all of football, not just at RB.
Kenneth Walker & Zach Charbonnet - Last year's Seahawk RBs combined for 12.7 expected TDs. If there's an even split here at all, we're in hell. I'm tilting.
D'Andre Swift & Rashaad Penny - Last year's Eagle RBs had 10.5 (Miles Sanders), 4.9 (Kenny Gainwell), and 2.6 (Boston Scott) expected TDs. It's possible that Penny, who is bigger and better between the tackles, takes on a version of the Sanders role, while Swift becomes fancy Gainwell.
Damien Pierce - He scored 2.5 fewer TDs than expected last year, so natural regression was likely coming anyways. Just as important are the QB and OL upgrades, however. CJ Stroud is better than Davis Mills, and the OL added a 2nd-round C and highly-paid RG Shaq Mason this offseason. Pierce dodged meaningful goal-line competition by just adding Devin Singletary, who is smaller than Pierce and also struggled at the goal line last year. Sometimes 4th-round RBs get rug pulled after their rookie season. Pierce got the table set for him as a fantasy RB2.
Joe Mixon - He had a bad 2022 season on a per-touch basis, but there's some positive regression expected for Mixon, who is going in Round 6 right now. Mixon scored 3.9 fewer TDs than expected on the 3rd-most expected TDs (12.9). If that corrects, he's a hulk smash at cost right now. Now-Bronco Samaje Perine also had 4.9 expected scores himself in this Bengals offense.
A.J. Dillon - He finished with more expected TDs (8.1) than Aaron Jones (8.0), who had to take a paycut in his age-28 season. There are flippening odds in this backfield for real.
Alexander Mattison - If Dalvin Cook is released as we've theorized for months, Mattison is set up beautifully for spike weeks. Cook (12.3) and Mattison (4.4) combined for a whopping 16.7 expected TDs last year in this potent Vikings offense, which returns a bunch of their starters. Mattison's 2-year, $7M contract solidifies him as a mini bellcow with 7th-round sleeper DeWayne McBride (who I quietly loved as an early down hammer) backing him up.
Jamaal Williams - The Gyration King emptied the damn clip with 17 TDs on 15.6 expected scores. That's a lot of ass shaking in the end zone, and we truly love to see it. Now, that's obviously not happening in New Orleans, a likely much worse offense, but nobody is arguing for that to happen given his suppressed ADP. It's worth noting that Alvin Kamara only had 4 carries inside the 5-yard line last year. Williams had a NFL leading 28 lol. This makes Kamara (7.1 expected TDs last year) a tough click with a suspension likely coming, too. The Saints also added my pre-draft rookie RB4 Kendre Miller. It's busy in the backfield.
Damien Harris - Devin Singletary underwhelmed near the goal-line, resulting in just 6 TDs on 9.3 expected TDs. Enter Harris, who has 4 inches and 10 pounds on Singletary. There's speculation the Bills want to limit the hits Josh Allen takes as a rusher, so double digit scores are in the range of outcomes for Harris. He could be a mini version of the Gyration King.
Brian Robinson - Sidelined by a gunshot would as a rookie, B-Rob grinded himself to just 3 scores in 2022. This Washington offense should have better QB play, leading to more opportunities in the red zone. He's also a positive regression candidate after finishing with 3.1 fewer scores than expected.