Dynasty Fantasy Football Regression Trends: Week 12

Peter Howard

I’ve been keeping painstaking track of all things regression in the database, and you can see my weekly calls so far this season as well as the hits and misses.

However, I’m switching it up. It is time to talk about regression trends we can write up earlier in the week. So, let’s talk about Najee Harris and touchdown regression.

Here’s a weekly reminder that I collect weekly NFL data and post it on a sheet here for free.

Predicting the unpredictable

It probably won’t be the first time you’ve heard that touchdowns are unpredictive, unsticky, or some other kind of “un” which means they are annoying for projections. Nerds being nerds, however, they still work hard at trying to find exceptions.

Najee Harris’s bounce back into the top 12 last week, for example, wasn’t entirely out of nowhere.

Where Touchdowns Come From

Most touchdowns are scored in the red zone. For example in 2022, 86% of rushing touchdowns and 71% of receiving touchdowns have come from the red zone.

That’s probably not a surprise, but you may not have considered how that can affect our ability to look at the opportunity and expectation.

As part of my weekly data collection, I’ve been collecting red zone touches and touchdowns in the passing, receiving, and rushing game for some years to calculate a metric TJ Hernandez (from 4for4.com) described a few years ago called Red Zone Expected Value (RZEV).

Essentially, using a history of how often touches in the red zone are converted into touchdowns at different down and distance lines inside the 20-yard line, we can get a reasonable expectation for how often players “should” convert touches into touchdowns.

For example, if a player scores a touchdown every five rushing attempts inside the ten-yard line, we know that when they have five such attempts they, on average, should have scored six fantasy points.

It’s like a mini-expected points model, purely devoted to the red zone and touchdowns.

Unfortunately, in a smaller area of the field, touches are somewhat less stable than overall volume. But the logic is sound, and it works.

Harris, even on the Pittsburgh Steelers circa 2022, had 11 touches inside the 10-yard line and only one touchdown to show for it. It was less likely he’d sustain getting that level of volume with that little production.

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In fact, in week four he’d been too efficient by catching a touchdown on a single target inside the 10-yard line. Nevertheless, volume leads to points.

This was the same thing we saw play out with Joe Mixon in week ten.

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You should also note that this “build-up” of potential points went on for several weeks before both had big games and multiple touchdowns.

This is something we can track and highlight players for the future.

Week 12

This week the running back with the highest level of missing touchdowns, and a pattern of missed opportunities through several weeks is Jonathan Taylor.

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He’s had 13 carries inside the 10-yard line and so far, only has two touchdowns to show for it. He’s also had nine inside the last three games he’s played, and only one touchdown. It’s also promising that his red zone usage has been revealed as consistent even with the recent coaching changes this season.

Based on our average calculation, he should have two more touchdowns than he has right now – not as much of a differential as Joe Mixon in week nine, but more than Najee Harris’ difference last week.

This week Jonathan Taylor faces the Pittsburgh defense that has allowed six top 12 weeks to his position (joint second most in the NFL this year).

Anything else?

I know what you’re thinking: “Peter, you statistical stud. Can we apply the same formula to other positions and types of red zone touches and find something else?”

And to that, I say, of course.

Here are the players “missing’ the most touchdowns based on their red zone touches so far this season.

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Diontae Johnson, WR PIT

I’m not surprised to see more touchdown regression due for the Steelers, however even Johnson’s missing touchdowns might have gone far enough at this point. He’s had 11 targets inside the red zone (three inside the 10) and has yet to haul in a touchdown on them. He’s also had six in the last three games for zero touchdowns.

Indianapolis has allowed seven top 12 weeks to the wide receiver position this season, the joint second most in the NFL.

Both sides of the ball being “due” touchdown regression in this matchup is also interesting. Could it be a bit of an unexpected barn burner?

Anyway, that’s about all I have time for this week. I hope you are enjoying your season. I’ll see you in week 13 with some more observations about regression potential.

peter howard
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Dynasty Fantasy Football Regression Trends: Week 12