2022 Touchdown Regression Candidates - RBs

Feb 16th 2022

Hayden Winks

Touchdowns are even more valuable in half PPR best ball because this is a spiked week game, so making sure we have accurate touchdown projections is an edge. The starting point for projecting touchdowns is by comparing last year's touchdowns to their "expected touchdowns", a metric I created using NFLfastR data. My expected touchdowns separates RBs from WRs and TEs, and it uses yards to the end zone, air yards, and distance to the sideline for its projection. Yards to the end zone is the most impactful, of course.

All of the data is found below, but I want to make one thing clear before that: not every player will regress to the NFL-wide mean. Each player has their own true mean because some players are better than others and some players just play in more efficient offenses. The way to look at the expected touchdowns column is to say "this is how many touchdowns the average NFL receiver would score in the average NFL offense." Because of that, my expected touchdown number will under-project a running back like Austin Ekeler (great player in a great offense) and over-project a running back like Tevin Coleman (fringe player in a bad offense).

For this reason, you'll find some quick player takes below the chart and table.

RB Regression Candidates. WR and TE Regression Candidates.

2021 Touchdowns Over Expected

Positive Regression Candidates

Miles Sanders (0 TDs vs. 5.2 expected TDs)

The Eagles use Jalen Hurts and other running backs near the goal line, so Sanders is unlikely to have double digit touchdowns, but last year's numbers simply make no sense. With Sanders and scat back Kenny Gainwell as the only backs under contract, Sanders projects for 5-7 touchdowns in 2022, even when Philly inevitably brings in a power complement this offseason. He's a fine RB3.

Dalvin Cook (6 TDs vs. 10.5 expected TDs)

There are suspension and injury risks here, but Cook had an outlier bad season in 2021. He didn't seem to be running with his usual pop and it translated to below-average scores. If he fully rebounds, Cook could outperform my model's projection. But even an average season will have him with more than six touchdowns in 2022. On field Cook is a top-six fantasy back. It's the other things that I'm nervous about.

David Montgomery (7 TDs vs. 11.2 expected TDs)

Montgomery is probably my favorite positive regression candidate and RB dead zone selection right now. He had a bell cow workload, especially near the goal line last year, but didn't maximize his usage. If his usage holds and the offense gets better under a new coaching staff in Justin Fields' second season, Montgomery easily could slide back into the double-digit score territory. I won't be surprised if his touchdowns and expected touchdowns are up in 2022.

Antonio Gibson (10 TDs vs. 12.0 expected TDs)

Similar to Montgomery, Gibson underperfomed my model in 2021 because the offense around him was just terrible. Washington is very likely to find a better quarterback play, and Gibson has been established as a power back with some home run speed. If he plays more third downs or if Washington hits the quarterback jackpot, Gibson could be a 12-14 touchdown player.

Negative Regression Candidates

James Conner (18 TDs vs. 11.2 expected TDs)

Conner balled out of his mind in 2021, finishing with the most touchdowns over expected (6.8) among all fantasy running backs. Even if he returns to Arizona, Conner is going to regress back towards the 10-12 touchdown range, and it could get worse than if they don't re-sign him. He's an impossible ranking right now, but the market seems to be overreacting by selecting him near 100th overall. I'll roll the dice on a player with 10+ touchdowns in his range of outcomes, even if repeating 18 is extremely unlikely.

Austin Ekeler (20 TDs vs. 13.5 expected TDs)

The Chargers gave Ekeler the Alvin Kamara role with the new offensive coordinator last year, and he handled it to perfection, leading to the most touchdowns at the position. Ekeler isn't likely to repeat to that extent, but his 13.5 expected touchdowns only trailed Jonathan Taylor last year. That's because the Chargers offense is sick AF. Ekeler catching his usual passes and settling into the 11-13 touchdown range is good enough for first-round production.

Damien Harris (15 TDs vs. 11.0 expected TDs)

Harris remains a double-digit touchdown candidate in this efficient, balanced offense, but 15 scores is a bit much. Only James Conner and Austin Ekeler had more touchdowns over expected (4.0) than Harris. Plus, Harris faces some competition from early-down grinder Rhamondre Stevenson, and the offense could just pass more in general in Mac Jones' second season. Harris is a lower-ceiling RB2/3.

Cordarrelle Patterson (11 TDs vs. 8.6 expected TDs)

C-Patt was absolutely dunking on my model all 2021 season long, but I'll win eventually. Patterson outperformed my model via explosive runs, something that's difficult to sustain as a 30-year-old, especially if he switches offenses. Patterson is unlikely to have as big of a role next year after the Falcons lost their WR1 and ghosted their on-paper RB1. Would it surprise you if he scored 5-7 touchdowns in 2022? Not me.