Touchdown Regression Is Depressin’ July 6, 2012  |  Chet


Since I’m no Neil deGrasse Tyson this research I just finished up on touchdown regression is as scientific as Triumph The Insult Comic Dog at the Wiener’s Circle, but it is what it is.

In fake football we are always trying to predict the future and for the most part we end up incredibly wrong. There are so many factors going against us that even when you’re “right” you’re wrong. But we can still try!

I’ve always been under the impression that touchdowns were somewhat lucky and trying to predict them from year to year was tough, which is troubling, since many of your fake points come from touchdowns. But it does look like we can at least predict that the majority of big touchdown seasons will then be followed by a season with fewer touchdowns, unless your name is LaDainian Tomlinson.

So what I did was, take all the high touchdown scoring players from each season between 2000 and 2010 and then see how they did the following season. Here are how the numbers came out:

Quarterbacks with 30+ TDs: 29

More TDs the following season: 3 (10%)

Less TDs the following season: 23 (79%)

Same number of TDs the following season: 3 (10%)

Running Backs with 12+ TDs: 83

More TDs the following season: 10 (12%)

Less TDs the following season: 66 (80%)

Same number of TDs the following season: 3 (7%)

Wide Receivers with 10+ TDs: 81

More TDs the following season: 10 (12%)

Less TDs the following season: 70 (86%)

Same number of TDs the following season: 1 (1%)

Tight Ends with 7+ TDs: 40

More TDs the following season: 4 (10%)

Less TDs the following season: 33 (83%)

Same number of TDs the following season: 3 (7%)

The numbers actually stay somewhat consistent throughout. And what is even more consistent is the caliber of player that bucks the fall-off trend. Here is the list: Jeff Garcia, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Maurice Jones-Drew, Brian Westbrook, Priest Holmes, Shaun Alexander, LaDainian Tomlinson, Corey Dillon, Joe Horn, Terrell Owens, Randy Moss, Plaxico Burress, Larry Fitzgerald, Terrell Owens, Calvin Johnson, Marvin Harrison, Antonio Gates, Tony Gonzalez, Visanthe Shiancoe, and Rob Gronkowski.

There are very few names in there, save Garcia, Shiancoe and Horn, who won’t at least be considered for induction into Canton. So to beat the evils of regression you must be a total badass. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have top 10 fantasy years back to back, it just shows you that it’s not an easy task to improve on a great season.

When looking at the whole oeuvre of 2011 NFL statistics, you sure as shinola can’t expect all the players who had good years to repeat and the same goes for those that had poor years. When looking at many of these big seasons there was a tremendous ebb and flow. Often a player would get off to a slow start on his career for the first year or two and then explode and then get hurt or have a poor year for some unknown reason, only to come back the following year with another good season. Really, unless you are LaDainian Tomlinson, you are going to have down seasons.

So how can this help us in fantasy? I believe its biggest help is in tempering our expectations and in turn, helping us not pay for touchdowns, because they are pretty lucky. I am wary of players like Rob Gronkowski and LeSean McCoy for those reasons, but at the same time, they just might be those hall of fame type players that buck the trends. But the odds are squarely against them. I’d rather take someone like Ryan Mathews who is set up to have a breakout season, than a player who just had one.

Here are the numbers. You can go to the bottom of the chart to switch between positions. Do it!

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