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2021 touchdown regression candidates at the running back position

Aug 28, 2020; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley (26) runs with the ball before the Blue-White Scrimmage at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Touchdowns may be a high-variance aspect of fantasy football, but it’s still a massively important aspect. In many cases, touchdowns are what makes or breaks a week for your fantasy squad — even in PPR formats. You should find players who are more likely to score touchdowns, as doing so is a great tertiary method of filtering and honing in on future fantasy producers. For this, we look to PFF’s expected fantasy points model.

A chunk of the model is dedicated to assigning likelihoods of scoring a touchdown on any given rush or target. For this article, rushing and receiving touchdowns are combined. Players that have a higher number of touchdowns than expected touchdowns could be due for some negative regression, whereas the inverse would imply positive regression is in order. We can also view these as per-game metrics in order to account for players that didn’t play a whole season.


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Before examining the players, let’s first check how many expected touchdowns went to the RB position group for each team last season.

Team

xTD

Team

xTD

MIN 23.9 TB 16.7
LA 21.5 PIT 16.5
SF 21.3 SEA 16.4
IND 21.2 MIA 15.9
DET 19.7 ATL 15.3
NO 19.6 CHI 14.9
CLV 19.3 HST 14.8
LV 19.2 BUF 14.6
TEN 18.8 PHI 14.3
ARZ 18.6 NE 13.6
LAC 18.3 CIN 13.5
GB 18.0 KC 13.4
BLT 17.8 NYG 12.9
WAS 17.8 DEN 10.5
DAL 17.5 NYJ 9.7
CAR 17.4 JAX 9.0

Two things jump out immediately: 1) The Jacksonville Jaguars were horrific by this metric and 2) There are two ambiguous backfields (San Francisco 49ers and Los Angeles Rams) with monster touchdown potential.

In regards to the Jaguars, after the news broke that rookie running back Travis Etienne suffered a Lisfranc foot injury, many celebrated the revived chances of sophomore back James Robinson. Last season, Robinson ended the year with 10 total scores, even though his expectation was just 6.7 total touchdowns. He managed to rack up 1,414 total scrimmage yards — which is definitely solid — but if he doesn’t overperform in the touchdown category again, his rising draft cost may become a severe overpayment.

The ambiguous nature of backfields in fantasy is surely one of the biggest edges left to squeeze value from as more teams shift to the RBBC concept. In the case of the 49ers, Raheem Mostert, Trey Sermon, JaMycal Hasty and Wayne Gallman all stand to grab a slice of a top-three backfield in terms of expected scoring. With the recent news of Mostert missing practice due to back pain, Sermon stands to garner a lot of fantasy attention. With that being said, Niners’ head coach Kyle Shanahan is known to deploy a good mix of running backs, so taking a cheap stab at the other two in deeper drafts is a savvy bet.

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