2021 Touchdown Regression Candidates

by Michael Tomlin
2021 Fantasy Football Week 15 Quarterback Streamers

There are not a lot of things that the majority of Fantasy Football analysts agree on, however, the flukiness/luckiness of touchdowns year over year is one of them. That is why the 2021 touchdown regression is so important to your Fantasy Football research.

How many times has your receiver caught a 50-yard bomb only to get tripped up at the one-yard line? Then, the bruising fullback gets the short rushing touchdown over the normal three-down workhorse running back? These types of touchdowns are impossible to predict and project.

So 2021 touchdown regression is all about who was the most unlucky and lucky last season. These are the guys who should score touchdowns at a higher or lower rate, depending on how they did last year. That is the regression back to the mean, either on a positive or negative slope.

Consider: Robby Anderson was the WR19 in PPR scoring last season, but without touchdowns involved he was the WR10. Evan Engram finished as the TE15, or non-starter. Without touchdowns involved, he would have been TE6, or top tier.

Cooper Kupp and Austin Ekeler both finished with the 26th most PPR points at their position. If touchdowns are not factored in then they would have finished sixteenth and fourteenth respectively.

It goes the other way too. Adam Thielen was the WR10 in PPR scoring but would have been WR28 without touchdowns. Chase Claypool and D’Andre Swift would have both dropped a full level from two’s to three’s at their position.

So we need to analyze which guys not only will benefit or be harmed by the 2021 touchdown regression, as well as factoring in any new circumstances in their situations.

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2021 Touchdown Regression Candidates

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Players Who Should Score More Touchdowns

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Cam Newton, New England Patriots

The closer we get to the start of the season the more it seems that Newton will be the guy behind center this year for New England. And if he is the starter then he is the most likely candidate for 2021 touchdown regression.

Newton threw just eight touchdowns over 368 pass attempts in 2020. That 2.17 touchdown percentage was by far the lowest in the entire NFL.

I get it, he is the best goal line rusher in the league. But he has been that type of goal-line threat his entire career yet the lowest touchdown percentage he had before 2020 was 3.7% in 2016. His career average is 4.4% topping out with 7.1% in 2015.

So, if Newton throws at his career touchdown percentage average, his passing touchdowns double last year. That puts him as the QB12 with a game missed.

Daniel Jones, New York Giants

If it wasn’t for Cam’s historically low passing touchdown season last year then we would be talking about Daniel Jones 2021 touchdown regression more often.

Jones had just a 2.46% touchdown rate last season and only 24.4% of his Fantasy production was attributed to touchdown passes. Those totals are ridiculously low especially for a non-running quarterback (just a single rushing touchdown).

In his rookie season, Jones was actually one of the higher guys when it came to touchdown percentage, throwing for a score 5.2% of the time. While that might be close to his ceiling, 2020 was definitely the floor.

What can help Jones more than just math? Adding Kenny Golladay to the team and a healthy Saquon Barkley. I think he clears the four percent mark easily this year.
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Devin Singletary, Buffalo Bills

Once again, Singletary is becoming “my guy” for 2021. The 2021 touchdown regression might fit him more than a running back sleeper.

Singletary carried the ball 156 times and caught 38 passes off of 50 targets but scored just two touchdowns total. Only Frank Gore touched the ball so much and scored so few times.

I still believe that Singletary leads the Bills in rushing, but even if you believe in Zack Moss, Singletary should still see a similar amount of touches.

If his touchdown percentage regresses to the league average, that would produce 4-5 more touchdowns and would have slotted Singletary around RB20.

As I have also said repeatedly, I think Josh Allen runs the ball less this season as well. The Bills have title aspirations and need him healthy. That will open up more goal line and red zone work for Singletary.

Myles Gaskin, Miami Dolphins

Gaskin scored just three touchdowns on 142 rushing attempts last season. Part of the problem was that Jordan Howard sniped four touchdowns on only 28 carries.

Well, Howard is gone, and Gaskin should see the majority of the running back touches. Sometimes the 2021 touchdown regression is just that simple.

Robby Anderson, Carolina Panthers

I will keep beating the drum that I still believe Sam Darnold can be a solid NFL quarterback. Anderson gets reunited with his former quarterback in Carolina now.

When they were in New York, Anderson averaged a 5.2% touchdown percentage. In his first year in Carolina, Anderson had just a 3.16% touchdown rate, the lowest of any receiver that got at least 82 targets.

With the scoring rate Anderson had with Darnold extrapolated for his 2020, he would have scored four more times and finished as WR11. He is currently going as WR34.
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Cooper Kupp, Los Angeles Rams

Similar to Robby Anderson, Kupp had just three end-zone spikes last season despite getting 124 targets and hauling in 92 passes.

And this is a guy that scored 10 times in 2019 with very similar numbers (134 target, 94 receptions). Kupp had a 7.4% touchdown rate in his first three seasons before the 3.46% he put up last season.

Most importantly, Matthew Stafford is now behind center. There will be more touchdown passes in the entire offense, especially with the Cam Akers injury.

Evan Engram, New York Giants

Engram took the hardest hit to Daniel Jones’ rough touchdown season last year. Engram pulled in just a single touchdown despite catching 63 passes on 109 targets.

That 0.92% touchdown rate was the lowest of any player in the league that reached the end zone. It literally has nowhere to go but up.

Players Who Should Score Fewer Touchdowns

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Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers

As with anything written until the situation is settled, this is with the understanding that Rodgers plays for Green Bay this season. Honestly though, wherever Rodgers plays he will probably throw for fewer touchdowns.

Rodgers put up a 9.13% touchdown percentage last season. That is the fifteenth highest percentage in NFL history and only the second time since 1976 that someone broke nine percent.

While this is the second Top-20 all-time percentage season for Rodgers, the other season was 2011, a decade ago. Besides these two years, he does not have another year above 7.3%.

While that seems like a trivial difference, if Rodgers had just had a great year around that 7.3% range, then he would have thrown 10 fewer touchdowns. That would have slotted him at QB8.

Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers

Big Ben did not have a crazy high touchdown percentage per his attempts last year. He threw a touchdown on 5.43% of his passes, which is just slightly higher than his career average of 5.1%.

What will regress to the mean is Roethlisberger’s touchdowns in relation to his Fantasy Points. Ben’s touchdown passes accounted for 49.4% of his Fantasy Point total last season. That is the second-highest percentage in the league after Rodgers.

What this shows me is that Ben threw the ball in the shorter areas of the field quite a bit, leading to less yardage. However, around the goal line, the Steelers threw the ball more than most teams (73 Red Zone pass attempts for Roethlisberger in 2020).

Enter first-round draft pick, Najee Harris, at running back and those percentages are sure to drop in 2021.
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Alvin Kamara, New Orleans Saints

When you score six touchdowns in a single game then you can almost assuredly bet for some 2021 touchdown regression. That performance boosted Kamara’s rushing touchdown percentage to 8.56% leading the league. Only one other back with at least 60 carries even crossed seven percent.

Going into last season, Kamara averaged just a 5.57% rate scoring rushing touchdowns. That would have dropped him to around 10-11 touchdowns.

So that single-game boosted up his entire resume last season as well as inflated his current Average Draft Position.

To top it all off, it looks like Taysom Hill is going to be heavily involved, even if he is not the starter. That will take goal-line looks away from Kamara, dropping his 2021 touchdown outlook.

D’Andre Swift, Detroit Lions and J.K. Dobbins, Baltimore Ravens

These two second-year backs are grouped together for many different types of analysis, but 2021 touchdown regression fits perfectly.

Swift was second among running backs to Kamara with a 7.02% rushing touchdown percentage and Dobbins’ 6.72% ranked third among backs with at least 60 carries.

This is the best time to point out that 2021 touchdown regression does not necessarily mean fewer touchdowns. What it does mean is we need to stop extrapolating out these to running backs production from last season to more carries in 2021.

So while both of these guys might equal or even surpass their touchdown totals from last season, we should not expect that scoring rate to stay that high.

Adam Thielen, Minnesota Vikings

Going into last season, Thielen averaged a receiving touchdown on 5.4% of his targets. In 2020, Thielen scored a touchdown on 12.96% of his targets. That is a pretty damming stat for 2021 touchdown regression.

Thielen was probably due to some regression in a positive manner. The Viking had only one season with more than six touchdowns and never scored double-digit times going into last season.

Then last season he exploded with 14 scores on just 108 targets, the highest target/touchdown percentage of any receiver with at least 40 targets.

So if Thielen had had his career touchdown percentage, he would have caught just six touchdowns. That would have moved him from WR10 to WR28 in PPR scoring. Be cautious with your expectations for Thielen this year.
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Chase Claypool, Pittsburgh Steelers

See Roethlisberger, Ben. Besides the 2021 touchdown regression for Big Ben, Claypool had an absurd 11 total touchdowns on just 72 total touches. That is simply unrepeatable.

Sprinkle in Najee Harris being more productive than the Steelers’ backs last year and it is going to be tough going for Claypool to come anywhere near that score total.

Robert Tonyan, Green Bay Packers

I mean this is the easiest call of all the 2021 touchdown regression candidates. Tonyan’s obscene 18.64% target to touchdown percentage was more than fifty percent higher than anyone else in the league.

It is simply not going to happen again. Combine that with the Aaron Rodgers drama, and even if Rodgers plays he is due some 2021 touchdown regression himself.

If you enjoyed the 2021 Touchdown Regression Candidates, check out more 2021 Fantasy Football content from our great team of writers!

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