2022 Touchdown Regression Candidates - WRs and TEs

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 WRs from TEs and 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 receiver like Tyreek Hill (great player in a great offense) and over-project a receiver like Adam Humphries (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

Kyle Pitts (1 TD vs. 5.8 expected TDs)

This is the one that everyone will cite this entire offseason. Pitts, put simply, was the unluckiest fantasy tight end or fantasy receiver this year. He converted just one of his 14 red zone targets into scores despite lighting up fools between the twenties. There is nothing about his game that makes him worse in the red zone. In fact, he's going to settle in as a player who overperforms my model because he's a beast. His 2022 touchdown projection is in the 6-8 range with Atlanta likely playing better offense next year.

Kenny Golladay (0 TDs vs. 3.5 expected TDs)

He was bad in 2021, but the offense will undeniably be better next season under a new offensive-minded head coach, especially if the offense can get healthier. Golladay is locked into the X-receiver spot and should be projected for 4-5 touchdowns.

Chase Claypool (2 TDs vs. 5.4 expected TDs)

I wouldn't be surprised if Claypool outperforms my model's expectations over the next few seasons. I think he's a talented player, both in the red zone (size) and down the field (speed). He busted in an unwatchable offense in 2021, but there are paths to better quarterback play next season. 5-7 touchdowns and flex-level production is a reasonable starting point.

Mecole Hardman (2 TDs vs. 5.2 expected TDs)

Hardman is more of a gadget player because he isn't physical enough to beat press man coverage and has been in the wrong spot against zone coverage at times, but he is attached to Patrick MFin Mahomes still. He should at least be near his expected touchdowns next year with room for an outlier season in the event of a Tyreek Hill or Travis Kelce injury. Hardman's true baseline is in the 4-6 touchdown range. As a Hardman skeptic, I'm comfortable calling him a value at ADP right now for the first time since he's joined the NFL.

Darren Waller (2 TDs vs. 4.7 expected TDs)

Injuries and a regressed season in general tanked his fantasy value, but Waller got a coaching upgrade and is now likely to keep Derek Carr around heading into the offseason. Waller has a similar skillset to A*ron H*rnandez and will be Josh McDaniels' passing game centerpiece. Fully getting back to his 2020 numbers is a stretch, but a top-five TE season with 5-7 touchdowns is the baseline.

Negative Regression Candidates

Ja'Marr Chase (13 TDs vs. 5.9 expected TDs)

He's going to out-perform my model because he's an absolute tank, but he led the position with 7.1 touchdowns over expected. That's simply not sustainable. Yes, the Bengals could score more touchdowns in general after addressing the offensive line this offseason, but his mean touchdowns is probably closer to 8-10 touchdowns, not 13. What does that mean for rankings? He's probably closer to the lower half of the first round than the top of it.

Mike Evans (14 TDs vs. 7.5 expected TDs)

So not only did Evans finish second in touchdowns over expected, but his actual expected touchdowns (the one that's derived based on his usage) should also come down because the Bucs offense will be much worse. Some of this could be offset by the possible departures of Chris Godwin (franchise tag candidate), Antonio Brown (you know), and Rob Gronkowski (retirement plus free agent), but his true mean for 2022 touchdowns is probably closer to 6-8, not 14. Evans is a mid-range WR2 for me entering the offseason.

DK Metcalf (12 TDs vs. 6.4 expected TDs)

I refuse to write about how my stupid model is betting against DeKaylin Zecharius Metcalf, so I'll keep it short. Metcalf is going to outperform my model, but just not this much. 8-10 scores sounds fair, assuming Russell Wilson hangs around and that's not a lock right now.

Adam Thielen (10 TDs vs. 5.7 expected TDs)

Thielen has been a receiving touchdown model breaker for a few seasons now, but I think he's truly a negative regression candidate this year for a few reasons. Most importantly, he was fourth in touchdowns over expected, but Thielen will also have to overcome the age model (32 years old) and the Vikings' overall offensive efficiency regression. His 2022 projected touchdowns should be closer to the 5-7 range, not 10. This regression is fully baked into 2022 ADPs on Underdog Fantasy, however, so I'm not fading him right now. In fact, I like him as a bit of a value with everyone onto younger players.

Cooper Kupp (16 TDs vs. 13.5 expected TDs)

Kupp isn't as big of a negative regression candidate as most think. He was expected to score 13.5 touchdowns based on his usage last year, so as long as his usage stays in a similar spot next season, then he should remain in the double digit zone. In other words, his baseline for touchdowns is just off the charts good right now because of the Rams' offense and his own play. If I had to pick who will score more touchdowns between Kupp and Chase next year, give me Kupp. His touchdown scoring was less outliery.