After recently releasing my analysis on running backs with potential negative regression in touchdown performance for 2023, I believe it’s now time to shift our focus to wide receivers who might experience a decrease in their touchdown numbers this year.
While the term “regression” often carries a negative implication, it’s important to note that, from a mathematical and practical perspective, it simply implies a return to the average. Consequently, there will be players who had exceptional touchdown performances in 2022, as well as those who fell short. To address this, I’ve constructed a model that predicts expected touchdown counts by factoring in metrics like attempts/catches, red zone utilisation, and yardage, while comparing against a subset of players. The aim is to comprehend the underlying reasons.
Thus, this analysis blends objective metrics and subjective considerations related to offensive strategies. For instance, wide receivers facing heightened competition or adapting to new offensive schemes could be susceptible to a decline in touchdown production.
Let’s now examine the prime candidates who are anticipated to experience a regression towards the mean in terms of touchdowns during the 2023 season.
1. Christian Watson (WR – Green Bay Packers)
Actual Touchdowns: 9
Expected Touchdowns: 3.35
Difference: +5.65 Touchdowns
Christian Watson managed to secure 9 touchdowns while making 41 receptions and 7 carries. However, this extraordinarily high touchdown rate is unsustainable, leading to a significant gap between his actual and expected touchdown counts.
Notably, Watson achieved 8 out of his 9 touchdowns in a concentrated four-game span before the bye week in 2022, underscoring the notion of riding a temporary wave of success. His performance dipped in the four games following the bye, with no touchdowns scored.
It’s reasonable to anticipate that while Watson may garner more targets and receptions in 2023, his capacity to score touchdowns is unlikely to remain as potent. As such, his 2022 touchdown tally shouldn’t be the sole basis for drafting decisions in 2023.
2. Davante Adams (WR – Las Vegas Raiders)
Actual Touchdowns: 14
Expected Touchdowns: 9.17
Difference: +4.83 Touchdowns
Recognised as an elite wide receiver, Davante Adams is expected to be an early-round selection in almost all fantasy drafts this season. Nevertheless, when comparing him to Tyreek Hill in terms of touchdown regression, my model projects Hill to experience positive regression while Adams faces negative regression.
Despite Adams’ exceptional skill set, the projected negative regression indicates that he might outperform his expected touchdown count by only a touchdown or two in most seasons. The transition to a new quarterback further dampens the likelihood of Adams exceeding his touchdown count by nearly 5 as he did in 2022. Despite his ongoing value, it might be advisable to consider Adams within the WR5-7 range, as opposed to the higher ranks.
3. Jahan Dotson (WR – Washington Football Team)
Actual Touchdowns: 7
Expected Touchdowns: 2.86
Difference: +4.14 Touchdowns
Jahan Dotson’s touchdown rate of 20% per reception in 2022 is unfeasible to maintain into the future. While he might attract attention based on his usage and touchdown statistics, it’s improbable that he’ll sustain a 20% touchdown rate.
Drafting Dotson solely due to his 2022 performance would not be a good idea, given the unlikely recurrence of such a high touchdown rate.
4. A.J. Brown (WR – Philadelphia Eagles)
Actual Touchdowns: 11
Expected Touchdowns: 7.19
Difference: +3.81 Touchdowns
A.J. Brown showcased his talent on a new team in 2022, solidifying his status as an elite receiver. However, a closer look reveals that his touchdown count is poised for a negative regression in 2023.
Despite his strong performance, Brown’s red zone usage was relatively limited in 2022, with only 15 red zone targets resulting in 4 touchdowns. It’s improbable that he will maintain this efficiency with only 7 receptions in the red zone leading to 4 touchdowns again.
Considering potential changes in offensive personnel, it’s doubtful that Brown will retain his 2022 target volume. While still a top player at his position, the anticipated touchdown regression will temper his ceiling.
5. Amari Cooper (WR – Cleveland Browns)
Actual Touchdowns: 9
Expected Touchdowns: 6.37
Difference: +2.63 Touchdowns
Despite dealing with subpar quarterback play in 2022, Amari Cooper showcased efficiency. However, with the addition of competition for targets, notably Elijah Moore, Cooper’s touchdown numbers are likely to decrease.
While Cooper benefits from an improved quarterback situation, it’s improbable that he will see a significant increase in targets. Consequently, a decline in his touchdown production can be expected due to increased competition and the Browns’ focus on their ground game.
Those considering Cooper should anticipate a negative regression in touchdown numbers for the 2023 season.