An Introduction to ‘oTD,’ a Replacement for Redzone Targets

Mike Clay introduces Opportunity-adjusted Touchdowns (oTD) and Average Distance from Endzone (ADEZ) as methods for replacing flawed redzone statistics.

| 3 years ago

An Introduction to ‘oTD,’ a Replacement for Redzone Targets

Over the past five NFL seasons, 863 pass plays have been called when the line of scrimmage is the opponent’s 20-yard line. 7.4 percent of those plays have resulted in a touchdown.

Over the past five NFL seasons, 727 pass plays have been called when the line of scrimmage is the opponent’s 22-yard line. 7.4 percent of those plays have resulted in a touchdown.

Yet, when we refer to redzone data, we only include plays run from within 20 yards of the end zone. Why? Because it’s what our daddy taught us. But, this day in age, there’s no reason we should be using an arbitrary number to weight what does and doesn’t count as a “scoring opportunity.”

Should a wide receiver screen to Randall Cobb from the 19-yard line really be valued the same as a quick slant to Calvin Johnson at the two-yard line? Of course not. But, if you’re referencing redzone data, that’s exactly what you’re doing.

Today, I’m going to introduce new statistics that will replace blatantly flawed redzone target data. And I’m going to take it a step further, focusing the new statistics on where the player was on the field when targeted, rather than the original line of scrimmage.

By the end of the project, we’ll have two new statistics. One is the average distance in yardage the player was from the endzone when targeted (tADEZ). The other, more important stat is opportunity-adjusted touchdowns (oTD).

To kick off this project, I created a chart with four columns. The first shows each yard marker from 0 (which includes all 10 yards of the endzone) to 109 (the longest possible play distance). The next column includes five years (2008 to 2012) of target data for each yard line. Remember, we’re charting the location of the targeted player when the ball arrived at this person, not the line of scrimmage. The third column indicates the converted touchdowns on each target. The final column is the conversion rate.



This chart is more for information than anything, with its real purpose coming later when we use it to weight each of the 83,631 targets from the last five years. Of course, one of my goals here is to stop you from blindly trusting redzone data, so let’s look at it for a minute or two.

It shouldn’t be a surprise to see a progressive decline in scoring rate as you work your way down the list. What’s slightly interesting to me is that the conversion rate on a ball thrown into the endzone (36.9 percent) isn’t much higher than the conversation rate on a ball directed to a player standing on the one-yard line (36.0 percent). That’s something to keep in mind next time you trash Tom Brady for throwing a pass short of the endzone on third down.

We do see a few areas of sharp decline. One is the difference between two (32 percent conversion rate) and three (22 percent) yards out of the endzone. Next, we see a 23 percent mark from four yards out, but a dip to 15 percent at five yards. From there, the drops are evenly distributed for the most part.

What’s key here is the tiny difference between the conversion rate from 11 and, let’s say, 18 or 21 yards out. Players score when targeted at the 11-yard line 6.5 percent of the time. They convert from the 18-yard line at a 5.2 percent rate and from 21 yards out 4.0 percent of the time. And that’s all from farther than 10 yards away from the endzone. You could make a case that it’s not worth getting excited about a player’s chances of scoring until he’s targeted inside the five-yard line.

The next step in our process is to weight each target from the last five NFL seasons. From there, we can determine our “oTD” for each player. The next chart includes six columns. The first includes each player who saw at least one target during the 2012 season. The next is the total number of targets for each player. The third column is tADEZ, which was explained earlier. Note that tADEZ is here only for informational purposes and has zero impact on the final three columns. The final three columns will be our main focus. We have actual touchdowns, “oTD,” and the difference between the two.

Brandon Marshall18139.91112.01.0
A.J. Green15837.41111.80.8
Calvin Johnson19940.5511.26.2
Reggie Wayne17944.259.94.9
Demaryius Thomas13839.3109.9-0.1
Mike A. Williams12038.099.70.7
Mike Wallace11637.788.90.9
Vincent Jackson13737.388.80.8
Eric Decker12037.3138.5-4.5
Julio Jones12740.1108.5-1.5
Torrey Smith10435.488.30.3
Roddy White13841.378.01.0
Marques Colston12641.8107.7-2.3
James Jones9335.7147.7-6.3
Rob Gronkowski7734.3117.5-3.5
Jeremy Maclin11842.277.40.4
Victor Cruz13739.9107.3-2.7
Larry Fitzgerald14842.647.23.2
Brian Hartline11840.216.95.9
Dez Bryant13743.1126.7-5.3
Steve Johnson14443.666.60.6
Brandon Lloyd12939.646.52.5
Jimmy Graham13144.696.5-2.5
Sidney Rice7536.776.4-0.6
Lance Moore10042.466.40.4
Steve L. Smith12744.046.32.3
Donnie Avery11241.236.33.3
Tony Gonzalez12144.386.2-1.8
Heath Miller9342.786.0-2.0
Anquan Boldin10842.146.02.0
Martellus Bennett8837.955.90.9
Louis Murphy5532.015.84.8
Miles Austin11540.865.8-0.2
Kenny Britt8540.145.61.6
Denarius Moore11043.875.6-1.4
Wes Welker16644.665.5-0.5
Antonio Gates7637.575.2-1.8
Randy Moss4730.435.22.2
Hakeem Nicks9639.735.12.1
Jason Witten14648.635.12.1
Kyle Rudolph8641.295.0-4.0
Justin Blackmon12945.655.00.0
Malcom Floyd8237.854.9-0.1
Golden Tate6537.074.8-2.2
Tony Scheffler8338.414.83.8
Andre Johnson15949.744.80.8
Josh Gordon8941.854.7-0.3
Cecil Shorts10141.174.7-2.3
Dwayne Bowe10741.634.51.5
Marcedes Lewis7545.944.40.4
Dennis Pitta9045.474.3-2.7
Brandon Myers10148.344.30.3
Owen Daniels9847.264.3-1.7
Darrius Heyward-Bey7744.354.3-0.7
Jermaine Gresham9246.054.3-0.7
Brandon Pettigrew9547.634.21.2
Michael Crabtree11848.094.2-4.8
Austin Pettis4639.344.10.1
Aaron Hernandez8046.254.1-0.9
Joel Dreessen5743.454.1-0.9
T.Y. Hilton8846.074.1-2.9
Brandon Gibson7541.754.0-1.0
Anthony Fasano6141.854.0-1.0
Rod Streater7137.834.01.0
Jordy Nelson7139.074.0-3.0
Scott Chandler7044.363.9-2.1
Michael Jenkins6641.723.91.9
Alshon Jeffery4837.233.90.9
Domenik Hixon5835.323.81.8
Antonio Brown9844.953.8-1.2
Greg Olsen9642.853.8-1.2
DeSean Jackson7543.923.81.8
Randall Cobb10243.583.8-4.2
Greg Jennings5839.343.7-0.3
Stephen Hill4638.633.70.7
Donald Jones6242.843.7-0.3
Jermichael Finley8544.523.71.7
Jonathan Baldwin4632.213.72.7
Danny Amendola9447.323.71.7
Dallas Clark6941.743.6-0.4
Kevin Ogletree5539.943.6-0.4
Brandon LaFell6947.143.6-0.4
Kendall Wright9547.643.5-0.5
Andre Roberts10745.353.4-1.6
Greg Little8748.943.4-0.6
Nate Washington8646.743.3-0.7
Santana Moss6041.283.3-4.7
Titus Young5342.643.2-0.8
Vernon Davis5640.353.2-1.8
Chris Givens7743.733.20.2
Michael Floyd7944.723.11.1
Doug Baldwin4636.833.00.0
Clay Harbor3841.623.01.0
Darren Sproles9350.972.9-4.1
Davone Bess9648.512.91.9
Rueben Randle3229.532.9-0.1
Brandon Stokley5743.352.8-2.2
Tony Moeaki4943.712.81.8
Percy Harvin8146.432.8-0.2
Jeremy Kerley8847.822.70.7
Brent Celek8347.612.61.6
Brian Quick2732.022.60.6
Ben Watson7449.932.6-0.4
Delanie Walker3733.732.6-0.4
Dustin Keller3642.122.60.6
Jared Cook6851.542.6-1.4
Coby Fleener4543.822.60.6
Braylon Edwards3436.112.51.5
Dante Rosario1724.432.5-0.5
Chaz Schilens4143.322.50.5
Jordan Cameron3140.212.51.5
Jeff Cumberland5244.032.5-0.5
Leonard Hankerson5541.132.4-0.6
Mohamed Sanu2437.542.3-1.7
Dwayne Allen6451.132.3-0.7
Danario Alexander5445.872.3-4.7
Andrew Hawkins7445.642.3-1.7
Pierre Garcon6343.342.3-1.7
Kevin Walter6446.022.20.2
Jacoby Jones5043.012.21.2
Tiquan Underwood5340.122.20.2
Riley Cooper4448.232.2-0.8
Kellen Davis4442.622.20.2
Emmanuel Sanders6945.812.11.1
Jacob Tamme8046.722.10.1
Nate Burleson4142.422.10.1
Marcel Reece7150.212.11.1
Ray Rice8054.112.01.0
Keshawn Martin2634.811.90.9
Zach J. Miller4644.431.9-1.1
Ronnie Brown5650.301.91.9
Ryan Broyles3044.021.8-0.2
Jarius Wright3647.121.8-0.2
Derek Hagan3436.401.81.8
Devin Aromashodu2130.801.81.8
T.J. Graham5848.111.80.8
Juron Criner2942.911.80.8
Julian Edelman3150.431.8-1.2
Mario Manningham5547.611.80.8
Harry Douglas5643.811.80.8
Marvin Jones3140.811.70.7
Damian Williams4541.401.71.7
Dave Thomas1631.341.7-2.3
Armon Binns4046.511.70.7
Santonio Holmes3942.511.60.6
Danny Woodhead5047.131.6-1.4
Robert Meachem3238.321.6-0.4
Joique Bell6551.501.61.6
Garrett Graham3545.531.6-1.4
Josh Morgan6951.821.6-0.4
Jason Avant7144.201.61.6
Micheal Spurlock2943.611.50.5
Donald Driver1330.321.5-0.5
Deion Branch2840.001.51.5
Aldrick Robinson1836.331.5-1.5
Anthony McCoy2341.231.5-1.5
Lance Kendricks5752.141.4-2.6
Adrian L. Peterson4856.011.40.4
Earl Bennett4747.121.4-0.6
Mike Thomas3748.811.40.4
Early Doucet5145.701.41.4
Travis Benjamin3640.321.4-0.6
Pierre Thomas4551.111.40.4
Dwayne Harris2741.711.30.3
Will Johnson2244.011.30.3
Evan Moore822.401.31.3
Jerricho Cotchery2635.801.31.3
Steve Smith2344.301.31.3
Laurent Robinson4047.601.31.3
Arian Foster5354.921.2-0.8
Henry Hynoski1541.711.20.2
LaVon Brazill2434.211.20.2
Kevin Elliott2939.201.21.2
Jamar Newsome1437.601.21.2
Rob Housler6557.201.21.2
James Casey4145.631.2-1.8
Kris Durham2042.311.10.1
LeSean McCoy6357.731.1-1.9
Devin Hester4050.311.10.1
Mohamed Massaquoi3243.901.11.1
Eddie Royal4252.011.10.1
Vick Ballard2442.011.10.1
Niles Paul1541.211.00.0
Jordan Shipley3344.511.00.0
Joe Morgan1932.131.0-2.0
Devery Henderson4451.811.00.0
Brad Smith2040.221.0-1.0
Will Heller2247.311.00.0
Kyle Williams2139.011.00.0
Jerome Simpson4845.300.90.9
Damaris Johnson2850.200.90.9
Dexter McCluster7048.710.9-0.1
Doug Martin6256.510.9-0.1
Cole Beasley2445.800.90.9
Jacquizz Rodgers5951.010.9-0.1
Steven Jackson4956.700.90.9
Ed Dickson3145.500.90.9
Matt Forte5958.110.9-0.1
Plaxico Burress736.310.9-0.1
Darren McFadden5856.710.9-0.1
Michael Robinson1541.620.9-1.1
Jason Snelling3544.010.8-0.2
Armanti Edwards927.800.80.8
Reggie Bush4859.120.8-1.2
Stephen Burton1127.810.8-0.2
Jermaine Kearse634.800.80.8
Erik Lorig1652.610.8-0.2
Steve Maneri1040.400.80.8
Chris Rainey2150.600.80.8
Lee Smith439.020.7-1.3
Leonard Pope326.720.7-1.3
Toby Gerhart2543.000.70.7
Lestar Jean1132.510.7-0.3
Nathan Palmer426.500.70.7
Knowshon Moreno2455.500.70.7
Marlon Moore1130.410.7-0.3
Clyde Gates3338.900.70.7
LaRod Stephens-Howling2852.200.70.7
Charles Clay2848.120.6-1.4
Fred Davis3249.800.60.6
Jordan Norwood1852.000.60.6
Richard Gordon536.010.6-0.4
Terrance Copper1248.900.60.6
Willis McGahee3157.000.60.6
Jed Collins1547.920.6-1.4
Josh Cooper1644.800.60.6
Kevin Smith1548.010.6-0.4
Luke Stocker2153.410.6-0.4
Tandon Doss1442.310.6-0.4
Maurice Jones-Drew1856.110.6-0.4
Robert Turbin2347.400.60.6
Jorvorskie Lane1252.310.5-0.5
Ramses Barden1945.500.50.5
Logan Paulsen3552.510.5-0.5
James Hanna1149.400.50.5
Matt Willis1947.300.50.5
Fred Jackson3953.510.5-0.5
Lavelle Hawkins1142.400.50.5
Darrel Young953.320.5-1.5
Trent Richardson6161.710.5-0.5
Steve Breaston1448.300.50.5
Stefan Logan732.300.50.5
Todd Heap1240.300.50.5
Lance Ball1142.110.5-0.5
Jackie Battle1554.510.5-0.5
Jonathan Dwyer2560.000.50.5
Ryan Williams1053.300.50.5
Jonathan Stewart2264.610.5-0.5
Michael Hoomanawanui545.800.50.5
Toney Clemons934.900.50.5
David Wilson944.210.5-0.5
Drew Davis641.810.5-0.5
Matt Spaeth948.010.5-0.5
Dorin Dickerson1558.000.50.5
Andre Brown1455.200.50.5
Mark Ingram1051.700.40.4
David Ausberry1147.600.40.4
Michael Palmer632.810.4-0.6
Garrett Celek638.200.40.4
Guy Whimper321.310.4-0.6
Dezmon Briscoe535.200.40.4
John Phillips1049.110.4-0.6
Brian Robiskie641.810.4-0.6
Matthew Mulligan1258.410.4-0.6
Frank Gore3456.710.4-0.6
William Powell2354.900.40.4
Mewelde Moore841.010.4-0.6
Marshawn Lynch2855.810.4-0.6
Jarrett Boykin645.500.40.4
Kevin Boss322.310.4-0.6
Chris Owusu320.700.40.4
Nate Byham437.510.4-0.6
Travaris Cadet842.800.40.4
Felix Jones3458.220.4-1.6
Virgil Green661.200.40.4
DeMarco Murray4160.100.40.4
Bilal Powell2954.700.40.4
Lance Dunbar1142.500.40.4
Charly Martin652.200.40.4
Jason Hill333.310.4-0.6
Alex Green2848.400.40.4
Jamaal Charles4360.110.4-0.6
Bear Pascoe654.710.4-0.6
John Carlson1438.500.40.4
Ryan Mathews5262.800.40.4
Chris Pressley342.310.4-0.6
Ben Hartsock342.000.40.4
Mike Johnson10.010.4-0.6
Matt Tennant10.000.40.4
Kevin Cone10.000.40.4
William Beatty10.000.40.4
Mitch Unrein10.010.4-0.6
Mikel Leshoure4562.000.40.4
Richard Brockel11.000.40.4
Jalen Parmele960.900.40.4
Darius Reynaud850.100.40.4
Brandon Tate2445.210.3-0.7
Gary Barnidge653.510.3-0.7
Isaac Redman2163.300.30.3
Isaiah Pead450.300.30.3
Craig Stevens3157.810.3-0.7
C.J. Spiller5560.920.3-1.7
Chris D. Johnson4466.100.30.3
Daryl Richardson3154.800.30.3
Marcus Thigpen239.000.30.3
Mike Tolbert3562.100.30.3
Daniel Thomas2149.400.30.3
Vonta Leach2358.700.30.3
Rishard Matthews1852.300.30.3
Bryce Brown1849.400.30.3
Eric Weems324.300.30.3
Brian Leonard1547.300.30.3
Anthony Armstrong943.000.30.3
Chris Ogbonnaya2958.600.30.3
Deonte Thompson650.800.20.2
Kyle Adams840.400.20.2
Roy Helu740.400.20.2
Jabar Gaffney1145.300.20.2
Ahmad Bradshaw2663.000.20.2
Alfred Morris1559.000.20.2
Ruvell Martin639.700.20.2
Rashad Jennings2371.600.20.2
Lawrence Vickers1557.600.20.2
Shaun Draughn2758.800.20.2
Joshua Cribbs1056.300.20.2
DeVier Posey1339.100.20.2
Jeff King2652.500.20.2
Peyton Hillis1249.600.20.2
Bruce Miller1346.100.20.2
Michael Turner2961.010.2-0.8
Le'Ron McClain840.000.20.2
Mike Preston742.600.20.2
Rhett Ellison942.800.20.2
John Kuhn1854.200.20.2
Cedric Benson1550.400.20.2
Marvin McNutt212.500.20.2
Curtis Brinkley1254.800.20.2
Michael Bush1150.300.20.2
Alex Smith1654.500.20.2
Shane Vereen1056.910.2-0.8
Danny Ware1963.400.20.2
Anthony Sherman739.400.20.2
David Reed646.500.20.2
Ronnie Hillman1244.900.20.2
BenJarvus Green-Ellis2664.200.10.1
D.J. Williams Jr.1453.900.10.1
Matt Asiata16.000.10.1
Jacob Hester16.000.10.1
LaMichael James533.000.10.1
Brandon Banks856.300.10.1
DeAngelo Williams1958.220.1-1.9
Mike Goodson1660.210.1-0.9
Greg Jones II1360.000.10.1
Arrelious Benn655.200.10.1
Konrad Reuland1660.800.10.1
Taylor Thompson1253.800.10.1
Shonn Greene2662.400.10.1
Robert Hughes18.000.10.1
Allen Reisner18.000.10.1
Tom Crabtree949.620.1-1.9
Donald Brown1357.000.10.1
Devon Wylie1254.900.10.1
Evan Royster1964.100.10.1
Kealoha Pilares325.310.1-0.9
Weslye Saunders436.800.10.1
Kendall Hunter1255.200.10.1
Baron Batch647.700.10.1
Lance Louis110.000.10.1
Kris Adams741.400.10.1
Montell Owens1056.000.10.1
Randy McMichael1163.000.10.1
Ben Obomanu851.600.10.1
Cedric Peerman955.200.10.1
David Paulson861.300.10.1
Stevan Ridley1155.300.10.1
Orson Charles955.700.10.1
Legedu Naanee542.200.10.1
Bernard Pierce1059.300.10.1
Anthony Allen457.800.10.1
Tashard Choice957.300.10.1
Ryan Whalen1256.200.10.1
Daniel Fells957.000.10.1
Andre Holmes238.000.10.1
Jordan White335.000.10.1
Rashard Mendenhall968.410.1-0.9
Jerrel Jernigan547.600.10.1
Ben Tate1160.500.10.1
Cyrus Gray345.700.10.1
Jim Dray230.500.10.1
Stanley Havili1162.100.10.1
Justin Forsett452.800.10.1
David Gilreath226.500.00.0
Brady Quinn114.000.00.0
Lamar Miller765.000.00.0
Preston Parker246.500.00.0
Zach Potter658.500.00.0
Lex Hilliard761.000.00.0
Jeremy Stewart859.800.00.0
Brad Smelley115.000.00.0
Richard Murphy120.000.00.0
Mardy Gilyard568.000.00.0
Leon Washington761.300.00.0
Jonathan Grimes232.500.00.0
Mike McNeill760.900.00.0
Montario Hardesty456.800.00.0
Donte' Stallworth233.510.0-1.0
Antonio Cromartie (Off.)
Andre Caldwell452.300.00.0
Jerome Felton451.300.00.0
LaRon Byrd237.500.00.0
Chris Ivory359.700.00.0
Ryan Grant233.000.00.0
Evan Rodriguez666.900.00.0
James Starks665.000.00.0
David Nelson565.600.00.0
Quinn Johnson864.900.00.0
Robert Griffin III122.000.00.0
Chase Coffman130.000.00.0
Ryan Taylor130.000.00.0
Richard Goodman126.000.00.0
Seyi Ajirotutu354.000.00.0
Phillip Tanner561.800.00.0
John Conner252.000.00.0
Patrick Turner460.800.00.0
Ladarius Green464.800.00.0
Courtney Roby243.500.00.0
Mike Cox364.300.00.0
Jeromey Clary128.000.00.0
Nate Eachus360.000.00.0
DuJuan Harris258.500.00.0
Greg Camarillo561.200.00.0
Cory Harkey240.000.00.0
Joe Adams132.000.00.0
Keith Toston470.300.00.0
Dane Sanzenbacher248.000.00.0
Trindon Holliday244.500.00.0
Alfonso Smith360.000.00.0
Dion Lewis262.500.00.0
Will Ta'ufo'ou143.000.00.0
Jake O'Connell368.700.00.0
Javon Ringer463.300.00.0
Owen Marecic477.800.00.0
Kellen Winslow263.500.00.0
Jordan Todman148.000.00.0
Dominique Jones148.000.00.0
Brandon Jackson355.700.00.0
Philip Rivers134.000.00.0
Tommy Gallarda368.000.00.0
Patrick Peterson (Off.)380.300.00.0
Joe McKnight251.000.00.0
Travis Beckum145.000.00.0
Sammie Stroughter263.000.00.0
Shaun Chapas272.500.00.0
Reagan Mauia141.000.00.0
Kregg Lumpkin141.000.00.0
Corey McIntyre131.000.00.0
Ted Ginn268.500.00.0
Armando Allen278.000.00.0
Lousaka Polite376.700.00.0
Chris Cooley373.000.00.0
Kahlil Bell272.500.00.0
Dedrick Epps153.000.00.0
Chris Gronkowski150.000.00.0
Tim Tebow171.000.00.0
Mike~ Brown171.000.00.0
Austin Collie164.000.00.0
Brandon Bolden279.000.00.0
Beanie Wells167.000.00.0
A.J. Jenkins163.000.00.0
Joe Hawley274.000.00.0
Keiland Williams281.500.00.0
Delone Carter265.000.00.0
Senio Kelemete177.000.00.0
Taiwan Jones170.000.00.0
LeGarrette Blount161.000.00.0
Visanthe Shiancoe175.000.00.0
Christian Ponder024.000.00.0
Jamie Harper181.000.00.0
Billy Bajema187.000.00.0
Mike Higgins175.000.00.0
Antone Smith184.000.00.0
Hayden Smith180.000.00.0
Terrelle Pryor185.000.00.0
Brit Miller178.000.00.0
Isaiah Stanback184.000.00.0


This chart is sorted by “oTD.” Before I dive into analysis, I need to make something clear. “oTD” is an adjusted touchdown number based on two items: total targets and the distance from the endzone on those targets. There is no differentiating a player with great hands vs. a player with stone hands. There’s no factor for a great quarterback vs. a poor quarterback. Remember, we’re focusing on a replacement for redzone target data, which also takes neither of those items into account. This stat is completely related to target volume and scoring opportunity based on the distance from the endzone. That’s it.

Okay, let’s analyze.

First, we’ll look at straight-up oTD data. In a world where all pass-catchers had the same exact hands and quarterback, Brandon Marshall would’ve led the league in touchdowns. A.J. Green in second is no surprise, but Calvin Johnson coming in third is fairly interesting. Johnson had some awful luck when it came to scores in 2012. He was tackled at the one-yard line a ridiculous five times (not to mention another three times inside the five). We’ll discuss the biggest gaps in actual vs. expected later, but note that Johnson came up a whopping 6.2 touchdowns below expected last year. That’s 37.2 fantasy points, my friends.

Reggie Wayne is in a similar boat to Johnson. Despite plenty of scoring opportunities, he managed to find paydirt only five times. He should’ve been closer to 10. Before you jump to the conclusion that all players with high target volumes and low touchdown totals are going to climb to the top of this list, search our list for Andre Johnson. I’ll give you a minute.

Johnson is 46th on this list despite ranking fifth in targets. Johnson’s opportunity-adjusted touchdown total is 4.8, which suggests his low touchdown total of four is legit. Why is that? Check this out:

  Overall In EZ
Player Targ tADEZ  TD  oTD Diff Targ Rec
Calvin Johnson 199 40.5 5 11.2 6.2 16.0 2.0
Brandon Marshall 181 39.9 11 12.0 1.0 22.0 9.0
Reggie Wayne 179 44.2 5 9.9 4.9 15.0 4.0
Wes Welker 166 44.6 6 5.5 -0.5 6.0 2.0
Andre Johnson 159 49.7 4 4.8 0.8 6.0 1.0

Shown are the five most-targeted players of the 2012 regular season. First of all, notice Andre Johnson’s tADEZ, which was highest of the five wide receivers at 49.7 yards. Calvin Johnson (40.5) and Wayne (44.2) both had much lower figures. Next, check out the second-to-last column. Andre Johnson was targeted only six times while in the boundaries of the endzone last year. Calvin Johnson saw 16 and Wayne was just behind with 15. We learned earlier how important endzone targets are to touchdown totals. Our chart here is further proof.

Next, I want to look at the players with the biggest gaps between their actual and expected touchdown numbers.

The Fortunate

Player Targ tADEZ  TD  oTD Diff
James Jones 93 35.7 14 7.7 -6.3
Dez Bryant 137 43.1 12 6.7 -5.3
Michael Crabtree 118 48.0 9 4.2 -4.8
Danario Alexander 54 45.8 7 2.3 -4.7
Santana Moss 60 41.2 8 3.3 -4.7
Eric Decker 120 37.3 13 8.5 -4.5
Randall Cobb 102 43.5 8 3.8 -4.2
Darren Sproles 93 50.9 7 2.9 -4.1
Kyle Rudolph 86 41.2 9 5.0 -4.0
Rob Gronkowski 77 34.3 11 7.5 -3.5

This shouldn’t be even a little surprising, but James Jones scored nearly double the touchdowns he would’ve under normal circumstances. Despite not clearing 100 targets, he managed to find paydirt 14 times. Note that Jones was in the boundaries of the endzone on seven of his scores and was at the two-yard line on four others. The other three touchdowns came from 10, 11, and 12 yards out. All in all, Jones was within two yards of the endzone when targeted 17 times last year and he converted 11 times.

We also see Randall Cobb on this list (seventh) and Jordy Nelson came in 11th. The presence of Aaron Rodgers clearly has a big impact here, but Jermichael Finley only scoring twice helped boost these guys, as well.

You may recall that Nelson scored a seemingly unsustainable 15 touchdowns on only 93 targets in 2011. Had I written this article last year, he would have been first on this list with 15 actual touchdowns, 6.3 expected, and a difference of 8.7. Jones was sixth in 2011 and Greg Jennings was seventh. It’s important to remember that the reason Packers rank high on this list is the elite performance of the offense. Under normal circumstances, they wouldn’t have the opportunity to put up such large numbers. This is important to remember when evaluating the 2013 scoring potential for a player like Jennings (now with Minnesota).

Dez Bryant and Michael Crabtree are other interesting names on this list. Bryant scored 12 times, but had an expected mark of 6.7. Crabtree found the endzone on nine occasions, but would’ve scored 4.2 under normal circumstances. A deeper look at the data explains the discrepancies.

Of Bryant’s 12 touchdowns, he was in the endzone when targeted on only six of them. Even more telling, he scored the other six from at least seven yards out of the endzone. And taking it even a step further, four came from outside the 20-yard line. Bryant had to run 48 yards for one of the scores (100:1 odds) and 65 for another (1,000:1 odds).

Crabtree’s resume, as you might imagine, is similar. He was in the endzone when targeted on only one-third of his nine scores. He was two, four, seven, nine, 19, and 32 yards out on the other six.

It’s obvious that these are two players who can make plays with the ball in their hands. That’s certainly a factor here. But that doesn’t change the fact that they weren’t given nearly the same opportunity to score as players like Brandon Marshall, A.J. Green, and even Calvin Johnson.

Quickly glancing over the other names here, Danario Alexander, Santana Moss, and Kyle Rudolph were already logical regression candidates, so seeing them here is no shocker. Eric Decker, Darren Sproles, and Rob Gronkowski will continue to take advantage of high-scoring pass offenses.

The Unfortunate

Player Targ tADEZ  TD  oTD Diff
Calvin Johnson 199 40.5 5 11.2 6.2
Brian Hartline 118 40.2 1 6.9 5.9
Reggie Wayne 179 44.2 5 9.9 4.9
Louis Murphy 55 32.0 1 5.8 4.8
Tony Scheffler 83 38.4 1 4.8 3.8
Donnie Avery 112 41.2 3 6.3 3.3
Larry Fitzgerald 148 42.6 4 7.2 3.2
Jonathan Baldwin 46 32.2 1 3.7 2.7
Brandon Lloyd 129 39.6 4 6.5 2.5
Steve L. Smith 127 44.0 4 6.3 2.3

We already talked at length about Johnson and Wayne, so we’ll leave them be.

Despite a breakout 2012 season, Hartline scored only once, so it’s no shocker to see him here. Our data shows how fluky the one-score campaign was. He’ll score more often going forward, even with Mike Wallace in town.

Ex-Panthers WR Louis Murphy is really interesting to me because he was only targeted 55 times, but the data suggests he should’ve scored nearly six touchdowns. Digging deeper, we see that Murphy was in the endzone when targeted a whopping 10 times last season. He failed to convert any of them into touchdowns. Murphy saw four other targets when inside the three-yard line, scoring on only one. We also see Murphy’s teammate Steve Smith on this list, which makes you wonder if Cam Newton is bad or just unlucky when throwing into or near the endzone. That’s a study for another day.

The news is good for Larry Fitzgerald, who suffered through awful quarterback play last season. Bruce Arians’ arrival means his usage will be adjusted, but the presence of Carson Palmer is sure to result in a rebound season.

If you read and understand what I did here today, your brain probably hurts. So I’m going to stop here for now. There are certainly other areas that need to be examined. First of all, I want to look at the opportunity-adjusted touchdowns on a per-target rate. Our oTD stat is just raw data that will always be inflated for players seeing significant targets.

The next obvious study is one focused on receptions instead of targets. That would eliminate the earlier issues related to a player’s catch rate and the ability of the quarterback. Of course, that wouldn’t really be a proper replacement for redzone targets. Players on good teams and those who had lucky catch rates would be inflated. Still, there’s some value, especially if you’re only looking to adjust touchdown rates for players returning to the same team/offense the next year.

Additionally, today’s research was focused solely on the passing game. I plan on doing the study on running backs at some point this offseason.

Remember, redzone stats are terribly flawed and not a good method for evaluating scoring potential. Refer to the above tables instead and you’ll come away with significantly better feel for which players are and aren’t being put in position to score touchdowns.


Want to discuss? Leave a comment or hit up Mike Clay on Twitter at @MikeClayNFL

  • e.fowle

    so do you think a way to identify potential breakout (fantasy) WRs this year is to look at guys like Rueben Randle and Jonathan Baldwin, who had a pretty low target count, but also had a low tADEZ?

    I realize this assumes Randle and Baldwin are due for more targets, which could be a dangerous assumption. But you have to start somewhere, i guess.

    • Mike Clay

      Sure, it’s something to keep in mind. Obviously their teams attempted to make use of them closer to the endzone. Randle, especially, makes for a sneaky WR3.

  • James

    If you have the data for five years, could you look to see the consistency in tADEZ, oTD, and Diff from season to season? Can we expect everyone’s Diff to regress to zero, or will there be enough good offenses that some players will consistently exceed expectations?

    • Mike Clay

      Yes, that’s definitely on the long list of ways to expand this. Thanks for reading.

  • Brett

    A good read and always nice to see new stats. Though I have to question the use of the word “fortune” here. It’s possible that some players just have excellent post-reception movement, and a determination to get that TD no matter what. Likewise, others like Hartline might be catching flat-flooted, destined to play at a constant Diff surplus. I would agree that on average though, you’d expect the numbers to converge together.

    Would like to see this data regressed with past years as another poster mentioned. That way, we could pick out players who have statistically significant nonzero diff’s. What was your method of grabbing this data if you don’t mind?

  • psa

    Hey Mike,

    I really liked this article! I would be interested in a similar analysis for RBs too. The chance of throwing a touchdown increases exponentially with yardage (doubles every 5.63 yards, R-squared 0.98) and maxes out at around 38% of throwing a td. I wonder if the max percent or the doubling rate is different for RBs.

    Again, Top Notch article!

    • Mike Clay

      Thanks – I did write one on RBs. Hope you saw it.

  • MJ

    This series is outstanding – is there anywhere on the website we can find the Endzone targets for each player?

    • Mike Clay

      Thanks MJ. I don’t have a chart with just end zone targets but I did a weekly piece for ESPN Insider showing a lot of the info. Hope you read along!

  • AW

    I liked your article and usually try to incorporate red zone targets into my research. While it might not be as good of a stat, I think it is still useful to know who is in the red zone and goal line offensive package. There are some WR’s that are on the sidelines as soon as the team gets into the red zone and that is bad news bears if you happen to have this WR. So while I don’t gravitate towards the WR’s with high red zone targets, I do try to steer clear of WR’s with low red zone targets. Thoughts?

    • Mike Clay

      There’s some value there since the average red zone pass will be inside the 10 yard line. I’d still recommend shying away and looking at OTD. Thanks!

  • Jeff

    Mike, where does the play by play data you use to calculate oTD come from? Is the source publicly available somewhere? All the data I’ve seen shows targets from the line of scrimmage and not where the targeted receiver was standing.

  • brianmurphy1969

    im VERy interested in the OTB and after reading this it made me start thinking about what other “factors” might be both important to this stat and measurable in some way…for example some that come to mind are..
    1.was it a busted play where the QB thought it was a go and the wr thought it was a stop and go?
    2. did a Def player make a rockstar play that killed it?
    3. did an Off player miss a runblock by tripping on the snap thus no hole or other similar
    4. was it a 3rd and 34 4thqtr behind by 10…or other obvious game situations or on filed packages that made the upcoming play obvious to the def allowing them to key?

    there are many more but im wondering if it might be a project to take a look at a number of them and see if any of them are actually measuragbly relevant.

    the part where he talked about L MURPHY really bot me thinking and because i could not get it out of my head i went back and looked at the actually game tape to see if there was a reason for the big oTD, and i did not get all 6of them (time issue) even the few i found was quite revealing and made me wonder how critical some of the facturs such as the rockstar Def Play are to the stat and can they be measured.

    here are what i found

    Week 1
    (11:28) (Shotgun) 1-C.Newton pass incomplete deep right to 83-L.Murphy (24-M.Barron).

    Under pressure crossing route at tb 22 1 on one (clear behiind to end zone) AMAZING leaping knocked away by his tingertips of #24 Mark barron – Purely a rockstar defensive play responsible

    (3:34) (Shotgun) 1-C.Newton pass incomplete short left to 83-L.Murphy (25-A.Talib). Fade to Endzone- murphy up top – knocked away at last second by #25 Talib – also a defensive stop

    week 3
    (10:53) (Shotgun) 1-C.Newton pass incomplete deep left to 83-L.Murphy. 1st

    Odd one- LOS car 23- murphy did a stop and go where he stop and turned at the car 40 then ran again, the ball was passed to the 50yrd line overthrowing both murphy & defender by 7yrds- MS COMMUNICATION, but no way to know if it was murphy’s fault or cams fault

    (13:47) (Shotgun) 1-C.Newton pass incomplete deep middle to 83-L.Murphy (20-P.Amukamara).4th

    car trailing by 19 3rd and 22 from car 48 man to man w/ free saftey middle 4ws set blitz….thrown on a up & in to the nyb 31 middle filed……this was blocked by #20 on a great play but it also appeared that murphy had to slow down for the pass as well – combination of def and not great pass NOT MUrphys fault

    week 5 vs seatle


    (4:38) (Shotgun) 1-C.Newton pass short left to 83-L.Murphy to SEA 1 for 5 yards (23-M.Trufant; 39-B.Browner).

    3rd and goal los 11 Murphy up top ran an in route at the 2 but he stopped to catch the pass and then changed direction towards the headlines to get in the end-zone so he had no momentum when he caught the ball..he was manned up by #23 cb marcus trufant who started the tackle at the 2 , and #39 CB brandon browner was also on him he was in the end zone when murphy caught it and ran at him hitting him head one at the 1/2yrd line with #23 already on him