If you’re anything like me – and you grew up investing more time in Tecmo Super Bowl on the NES than you did in school – you’ll remember that one specific area of math came very easily. I could pretty much rattle off every multiple of seven below 100 in about six seconds flat. The reason for this was pretty simple, too. Seven points was the value of a touchdown in a time that pre-dated the two-point conversion and Tecmo’s AI was programmed to essentially not cover a single receiver up until roughly Week 6. That meant a lot of trips to the end zone and a lot of learning one specific times table.
Unfortunately, racking up touchdowns in real life is not nearly as plentiful or exact a science. Still, while most players finish a particular campaign with a reasonable and logical amount of scores, there are always a few outliers, whether it be in a positive or negative sense. Today, let’s focus on a few individuals who find themselves staring regression in the face as we enter the 2019 fantasy football season.
RUSSELL WILSON: 35 PASSING TOUCHDOWNSWilson’s 35 touchdown output doesn’t really seem all that insane at first glance. Not only did Wilson lead the NFL in passing TDs with 34 a season prior, but the pivot ended the year with 15 fewer touchdowns than the superhuman Patrick Mahomes. Yet, for all of Wilson’s success in 2018, he ranked dead last in several important categories when it comes to projecting volume. Among the 16 QBs to start all 16 of their team’s contests last season, Wilson had the fewest drop backs (509), the fewest completions (280), the fewest passing yards (3,448), and the fewest red zone passing attempts (63). All of this was a direct result of Seattle being the lone offense in the league to call more rushing plays than passing plays, with the latter making up a modest 47.6% of the Seahawks’ snaps. So, to compensate, all Wilson had to do was produce one of the most efficient quarterback performances of all-time. In fact, he and the aforementioned Mahomes became just the eighth and ninth players since the merger to post a touchdown rate of over 8.0% on at least 400 attempts. Some of the other seasons in that grouping? Dan Marino’s record-setting 1984, Tom Brady’s record-breaking 2007, and, of course, Peyton Manning’s 55 touchdown total from 2013. Considering Wilson has the NFL’s second-highest career touchdown rate (6.0%), you shouldn’t expect him to fall off a cliff; however, 25 passing TDs is far more likely than another 35 this coming season.
EZEKIEL ELLIOTT: SIX RUSHING TOUCHDOWNSWhile there’s no way to know when Elliott’s impromptu vacation in Cabo will end, we can pretend to envision what his coming season will look like if he decides to take part. Spoiler alert: It should involve many more trips to the end zone than the Pro Bowler enjoyed last year. The correlation between rushing yards and touchdowns is far from concrete, yet let’s view Elliott’s performance from 2018 through a historical lens. Elliott finished his season with a league-high 1,434 yards – the 129th time since 1970 that a running back cleared the 1,400-yard plateau. Of those 129 occasions, Elliott became just the 15th RB to rush for six touchdowns or fewer. Elliott also led the NFL in touches with 381, the 85th time within that same span that a player accounted for at least 380 in a single campaign. However, the Ohio State product’s six rushing scores represented one of the 12 lowest touchdown outputs of that grouping, the fewest number of TDs with that level of volume since Tiki Barber mustered a mere five touchdowns on 385 touches in 2006. It would simply be without precedent for Elliott to shoulder the amount of Dallas’ offense that he routinely does without reaching the end zone more frequently in 2019; especially with the squad’s elite offensive line play in touchdown-oriented situations. On goal-to-go rushing attempts of two yards or fewer, along with third and fourth downs of the same distance, the Cowboys converted 75% of the time. That was the third-best rate in the entire league and still, somehow, Elliott managed to find the end zone on only two of his 10 attempts from inside the opponent’s five-yard line. This type of unluckiness won’t happen again.
MIKE WILLIAMS: 10 RECEIVING TOUCHDOWNSBefore we get into the sustainability of Williams’ sophomore campaign, it must be noted that his circumstances going forward are much different than the other two players mentioned in this article. Wilson isn’t getting a new offensive co-ordinator this coming season and Elliott isn’t about to step into even more touches. However, some of the outlier statistics that Williams produced in 2018 can have their importance diminished due to Tyrell Williams’ absence and the former seventh-overall pick expecting to step into a much more voluminous role this September with the Chargers. Yet, even with that said, 10 receiving touchdowns on 43 catches is straitjacket levels of crazy. First and foremost, just 23 players have been able to haul in double-digit touchdowns on fewer than 45 receptions since the merger. Crazier still is the fact that it’s only been accomplished three times by a wide receiver since 1990: Reggie Williams in 2007, Ted Ginn Jr. in 2015, and Williams last year for the Chargers. That certainly reads like a list of flukes. Now, that’s not to suggest Williams isn’t a prototypical red-zone threat. The 6’4″ wideout was one of 14 men to garner at least nine targets inside their opponent’s 10-yard line last season; one of the major reasons Williams ended the year with a league-high six receiving TDs from that quadrant of the field. It’s this specific area that could be ripe for regression moving forward, though. Philip Rivers loves utilizing his tight end in the red zone. In 2016, Los Angeles targeted its TEs on a league-high 42% of passing plays inside the 20-yard line. That figure remained top-five in the NFL in 2017 when Rivers targeted his tight ends on 34% of red zone passes. With Hunter Henry once again healthy, look for the Arkansas product to steal some of Williams’ thunder near the goal line. That roster wrinkle, plus natural normalization, should keep Williams’ touchdown total from reaching mind-boggling heights in 2019.
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I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is theglt13) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above. I am not an employee of DraftKings and do not have access to any non-public information.