2012 Wide Receiver Touchdown Reliance

| 4 years ago

2012 Wide Receiver Touchdown Reliance

In 2012, James Jones scored as many touchdowns as Calvin Johnson, Reggie Wayne and Andre Johnson combined to score.

Did you see that one coming?

The six-year Packer wideout hauled in fourteen touchdowns this past season, scoring more times than any other player at his position. His scoring pace was rather absurd, hitting the end zone once every 4.57 receptions. To put that into perspective, if Calvin Johnson had that same reception to touchdown rate, he would’ve scored nearly 27 touchdowns in 2012.

That’s 22 more touchdowns than Megatron actually scored.

James Jones is the perfect illustration portraying how end zone grabs can skew the output of a fantasy player. As I wrote last week, touchdowns are one of the more unpredictable benchmarks, and this is especially true at wide receiver.

To prove my point, let’s take a quick look at receivers who scored 8 or more touchdowns in 2011, and see how they fared in 2012:

Player 2011 Touchdowns 2012 Touchdowns Difference
Calvin Johnson 16 5 -11
Jordy Nelson 15 7 -8
Laurent Robinson 11 0 -11
Wes Welker 9 6 -3
Vincent Jackson 9 8 -1
Greg Jennings 9 4 -5
Dez Bryant 9 12 3
Victor Cruz 9 10 +1
Larry Fitzgerald 8 4 -4
Roddy White 8 7 -1
Lance Moore 8 6 -2
Santonio Holmes 8 1 -7
Marques Colston 8 10 +2
Plaxico Burress 8 1 -7
Mike Wallace 8 8 0
Eric Decker 8 13 +5
Julio Jones 8 10 +2

In 2011, 17 wideouts found the scoring area eight or more times. The following year, only five of those receivers saw an increase in touchdown production. While you may want to attribute that to the 2011 passing frenzy, in actuality, 16 different receivers scored eight or more times in 2012. That’s a difference of just one pass catcher from season-to-season.

So why – and how – did this happen? Well, when players have irregular seasons – scoring touchdowns when they historically haven’t – they tend to have a hard time repeating those seasons. For example, regardless of the team he played for, did we really expect Laurent Robinson to post another 11-touchdown season after only scoring four during his first four seasons? Or did we set some unrealistic expectation that Jordy Nelson would score another 15 times in 2012?

Repeating a stellar touchdown-driven season is no easy task, especially for players who historically have not performed at a high level.

Backing this touchdown drop-off assumption, Chet Gresham wrote an article entering the 2012 season titled “Which 2011 Fantasy Football Wide Receivers Will Fall Back to Earth in 2012?” In the piece, Gresham looked at 10-plus touchdown scorers between 2000 and 2010, and showed that the majority – 86 percent – of these receivers saw a drop-off in production the following season.

Again, it’s difficult to score a high number of touchdowns in back-to-back seasons.

Just as I concluded in my running back touchdown reliance article, when a top players’ fantasy production has little dependency on touchdowns, there’s more room for improvement for said player the following season. And, conversely, if a player (I’m looking at you, James Jones) makes a fantasy living off of finding the end zone, it may be more difficult for that player to continue his pace. After all, scoring touchdowns is no easy task.

With that being said, below is a list of the top-30 fantasy wide receivers from 2012 and their overall reliance on touchdowns in terms of fantasy output:

Player Touchdowns Touchdown Reliance
James Jones 14 53.2%
Eric Decker 13 44.3%
Mike Wallace 8 39.0%
Torrey Smith 8 37.8%
Victor Cruz 10 37.0%
Mike Williams 9 37.0%
Jordy Nelson 7 36.8%
Marques Colston 10 36.1%
Dez Bryant 12 35.8%
Jeremy Maclin 7 35.3%
Julio Jones 10 34.7%
A.J. Green 11 34.0%
Michael Crabtree 9 34.0%
Randall Cobb 8 32.0%
Cecil Shorts 7 31.8%
T.Y. Hilton 7 31.6%
Brandon Marshall 11 31.4%
Demaryius Thomas 10 31.4%
Miles Austin 6 29.8%
Steve Johnson 6 27.5%
Justin Blackmon 5 26.8%
Vincent Jackson 8 26.5%
Lance Moore 6 26.3%
Roddy White 7 24.9%
Wes Welker 6 22.1%
Brandon Lloyd 4 21.1%
Reggie Wayne 5 19.0%
Steve Smith 4 17.8%
Calvin Johnson 5 14.0%
Andre Johnson 4 13.6%

It’s no surprise that James Jones leads the list with over 53% of his 2012 fantasy output coming from 6-point scores. Eric Decker is somewhat surprisingly in second, but then the big play receivers Mike Wallace, Torrey Smith and Victor Cruz round off the top-5. It’s what you’d expect, as you’re drafting those players for their monster playmaking abilities.

At the bottom of the list, you see names like Andre Johnson, Calvin Johnson, Steve Smith and Reggie Wayne. Each of these receivers certainly got yardage, but none of them were able to find the end zone more than five times this season. Historically, these wideouts have been successful in finding the end zone. Why not take a shot with one of them in 2013?

Again, the takeaway here is the same as my previous analysis on running backs: You target the players lower on this list. It’s much easier – and more likely – for a player to repeat an above average yardage performance over the course of a season than it is for a receiver to continue to score at a high pace. And because so many people base their draft decisions off of previous year final rankings, you can find some great value by selecting a receiver who has room for improvement in the touchdown category.

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