2013 Regression Alert
Mike Clay takes his annual look at touchdown regression as a way to upgrade and downgrade the value of players in the second half.
2013 Regression Alert
About this time every year, I stop and take a look at the NFL’s top candidates for second-half touchdown regression. As we’ve seen in the past, touchdown regression is nearly a sure thing when applied to extremely high or low touchdown rates.
What will make this year’s version a bit unique is that it’s the first time I’ll be able to reference opportunity-adjusted touchdowns (OTD), which I formulated just prior to the 2013 season. You can read weekly OTD articles over at ESPN Insider throughout the regular season.
Fantasy Football trade deadlines are just over the horizon. Be sure to keep these players in mind when getting your team set for the stretch run.
Note: The following stats are used: QB: TD/Completion, RB: TD/Carry, WR/TE: TD/Reception
Article is compiled through eight weeks of play and does not include the results from the 10/31 game between the Bengals and Dolphins.
Ben Roethlisberger – Steelers – 4.7%
The Steelers’ offense is struggling badly, but Roethlisberger’s numbers aren’t actually too bad. Compared to 2012, his adjusted completion percentage (76 percent) and average depth of target (8.8) are the same, and is yards-per-completion (11.2) mark is only slightly worse. In 2012, he put up a 9.2 percent TD rate and his lowest rate over the last five years is 6.0 percent (2008).
Joe Flacco – Ravens – 5.0%
The losses of Anquan Boldin and Dennis Pitta have done a number on Flacco’s touchdown numbers. He currently owns a 8:8 TD:INT ratio after putting up a 33:10 mark in 2012 (including the playoffs). Flacco’s worst touchdown rate of the last four years is 6.2 percent (2009) and he was at 8.5 percent only one year ago.
Tom Brady – Patriots – 5.3%
The Patriots lost the players responsible for an astounding 77 percent of their 2012 targets during this past offseason. Without question, that has been a big factor in Brady’s disappointing 2013 season. Over the last four years, Brady’s touchdown rates are as follows: 7.6 percent, 10.8 percent, 9.9 percent, and 8.4 percent. Including playoff games, Brady has reached 30 passing scores each of the last four years. He won’t get there in 2013, but his scoring rate is certain to regress in the second half.
Zac Stacy – Rams – 0.0%
Stacy is up to 76 carries during his rookie season, recently having taken over as St. Louis’ lead back. Despite racking up nine carries inside the opponent’s 10-yard line, Stacy has yet to find paydirt on the ground. Even more absurd, the Rams – as a team – do not have a rushing score this year. Now handling 20 or so touches each game, expect Stacy to rack up a handful of scores in the second half.
Chris Johnson – Titans – 0.0%
In the same boat as Stacy – but with more carries – Johnson has yet to find the end zone this season. Despite racking up 115 carries, Johnson has only five inside the opponent’s 10-yard line and, get this, zero inside the five. With Shonn Greene and Jackie Battle in the mix, goal line carries will be hard to find, but Johnson is certain to scamper into the end zone a few times in the second half.
Arian Foster – Texans – 0.8%
Foster has been a touchdown machine the past few seasons, easily leading the NFL in rushing OTD (essentially rushing TD opportunities) in 2012. Foster also paced the league in rushing OTD a few weeks into the 2013 season. All that’s landed him is one rushing score on the year. In 2012, Foster had 13 carries from the opponent’s one-yard line. He has two this year, one of which accounted for his only touchdown. Despite the Texans’ offensive woes, expect Foster to see more than three inside-the-five carries in the second half of the season.
Andre Johnson – Texans – 0.0%
Johnson’s scoring woes have continued into 2013. One year after scoring only four times on 175 targets, Johnson has failed to score on 69 targets. The problem is a lack of usage near the end zone. In 2012, Johnson saw 8 end zone targets, which is already very low. In 2013, he’s seen only one. Johnson isn’t a serious candidate for a huge barrage of scores, but the enormous volume of targets he sees will allow him to score a few times in the second half.
Hakeem Nicks – Giants – 0.0%
The last time Hakeem Nicks caught a pass while inside the confines of the opposing end zone was during the 2011 season. Let that sink in for a second. During the last season and a half, Nicks is 0-for-14 on end zone targets. In 2013, he’s been targets nine times while within eight yards of the end zone and has turned none into six points. Nicks is too good a player and sees too many targets for this bad luck and/or efficiency to continue.
Torrey Smith – Ravens – 3.2%
Including four playoff games, Torrey Smith caught 10 touchdowns on 128 targets last season. In 2013, Smith has caught only one on 57 looks. Smith has seen three end zone targets so far, scoring on none. His only touchdown came after catch-and-run from 11 yards out. Expect the highly-targeted downfield extraordinaire to rebound a bit in the second half.
Jermaine Gresham/Tyler Eifert – Bengals – 3.3%, 4.2%
With Marvin Jones stealing all the touchdowns lately (more on that later), the oft-utilized Bengals’ tight ends are struggling to find paydirt. Gresham converted his only end zone look and an additional look at the opponent’s one-yard line marks his only other target inside the opponent’s 13-yard line. Eifert has three end zone targets on the year and four other looks within 10 yards of the end zone. Like Gresham, he’s scored only once.
Update: The Bengals failed to score through the air during the team’s Week 9 Thursday Night Football appearance. Regression will have to wait for these two.
Brandon Pettigrew – Lions – 3.8%
Despite the Lions loss of Nate Burleson for the last month of the season, Pettigrew has continued to struggle to find both targets and, to a larger extent, scoring opportunities. A year after handling 12 targets within six yards of the end zone, Pettigrew has only three so far in 2013. That includes one successful end zone conversion – his only score of the year on 39 targets. With the Lions averaging 3.0 offensive-touchdowns-per-game (third-most in the NFL), Pettigrew will score more in the second half by default.
Peyton Manning – Broncos – 12.2%
That’s right – I’m going to tell you to downgrade Peyton Manning. But only a little bit. The Broncos’ offense is running on all cylinders, but the odds of them keeping up their torrid touchdown pace are low. Over the past five years, Manning’s highest touchdown rate is 9.3 percent (2012). He did have a ridiculous 14.6 percent mark when he threw 49 touchdowns during the 2004 regular season, but note that his team only scored 10 times on the ground that year. The 2004 Colts averaged 3.8 offensive touchdowns-per-game, which is a massive 1.2 scores below the 2013 Broncos’ pace. Manning will put up a ton of fantasy points in the second half, but expect a drop in touchdowns.
Andy Dalton – Bengals – 8.7%
Dalton’s touchdown:interception ratios during his first two NFL seasons were 20:16 and 27:17. At the midway point of 2013, he sits at 16:7. If you watch some Bengals tape, you know for sure that Dalton’s numbers are a bit better than his actual performance. Going forward, Dalton’s scoring rate figures to be closer to the 6.1 percent (2011) and 7.9 percent (2012) marks he put up the last two years.
Update: Dalton failed to throw a touchdown despite a 32-of-58 passing night vs. Miami on Thursday Night Football. His TD rate is now 7.4 percent, which is below his 2012 mark. Regression!
Knowshon Moreno – Broncos – 7.4%
The lead back in the Broncos’ high-powered offense, Moreno has already scored eight touchdowns on the ground this season. The scoring opportunities will keep coming, but Moreno is extremely unlikely to keep up a 7.4 percent touchdown rate. Consider that his previous career-high in the category was 2.8 percent way back in 2009. Additionally, the Broncos are averaging 5.0 offensive scores-per-game, which is certain to cool off in the second half.
Roy Helu – Redskins – 11.1%
Eating into Alfred Morris’ workload, Helu has scored four times on only 36 carries this season. Two of those scores came on successful tries from the three-yard line. The other two were dashes from 14 yards out. With only three carries inside the opponent’s 13-yard line, and Morris ticketed for most goal line work, Helu may not even score twice in the second half on the ground. Helu had two career rushing touchdowns entering the season.
Joique Bell – Lions – 6.5%
Bell has four rushing touchdowns on 62 carries this season. He’s an extremely impressive, but unsustainable 3-for-3 on carries from either one or two yards out. With Reggie Bush taking on more and more of the workload, Bush is unlikely to match his four first-half inside-the-five carries going forward.
Marvin Jones – Bengals – 29.2%
I just can’t stop talking about Mr. Jones. A poster boy for regression, Jones has scored on an absurd seven of his 34 targets this season. He’s seen a healthy, but not massive, six end zone targets. He’s caught all six. Jones’ other score came on a catch-and-run from seven yards out. On the year, Jones has played on only 40 percent of the Bengals’ offensive snaps, which is the league’s lowest mark among the Top 65 fantasy wide receivers. Expect a massive drop-off in touchdowns in the second half.
Update: Jones caught four of seven targets during the team’s Week 9 Thursday Night Football appearance, but he was unable to find paydirt. Jones’ TD rate is now 25 percent. Expect it to continue to plummet.
Eddie Royal – Chargers – 27.3%
Having scored once since racking up five touchdowns during the Chargers’ first two games, Royal is already regressing at a massive rate. Still, his scoring rate remains high because he’s scored those six touchdowns on just 30 targets. Royal has seen a healthy eight targets while inside the opponent’s 10-yard line, but his 5-of-8 conversion rate on those looks is not going to keep up.
Rueben Randle – Giants – 17.4%
Operating as the No. 3 option in the Giants’ passing game, Randle has hauled in four touchdowns on 45 targets this season. Of those 45 looks, five have come while Randle was in the end zone. He caught two. Randle’s other scores have come after runs of 11 and 18 yards. Nicks’ aforementioned regression will come at the expense of Randle.
Joseph Fauria – Lions – 62.5%
62.5 percent!?! Fauria has five touchdowns on only 13 targets this season. An absurd eight of those looks have come while he was inside the end zone and one other came while he was one yard out. He converted five of those nine looks into scores. Fauria is going to play more often and will see plenty of work near the end zone, but he’s very unlikely to reach double digit scores on the year.
Vernon Davis – 49ers – 24.1%
During the 2011 and 2012 seasons – including playoff games – Davis saw seven end zone targets each year. He caught five both years. In 2013, Davis has already seen eight end zone looks. He’s caught five. He’s obviously being utilized more often near the goal line, which is great news for his fantasy stock, but a rate 100 percent higher than what we’ve seen the past few years is unlikely, especially with Michael Crabtree set to return in a month. Davis is very efficient when targeted in the end zone (27-of-42 over the last five years), but he won’t continue this scoring at a 24 percent clip.
Follow Mike Clay on Twitter: @MikeClayNFL