In the concluding instalment of a four-article series on touchdown regression, my focus shifts to wide receivers who significantly underperformed in the touchdown category during the 2022 season. These receivers are poised for positive regression in 2023.
It’s crucial to clarify that positive regression doesn’t defy logic; instead, it indicates that a player’s touchdown count is likely to move closer to the average, assuming consistent touches and targets.
As noted in my prior articles on negative regression for wide receivers, there are various factors that can cause a player to either exceed or fall short of their touchdown expectations. In this context, my attention is on potential draft steals who might carry lower Average Draft Position (ADP) due to fantasy players’ reservations about their 2022 touchdown figures.
Now, let’s delve into the prime contenders projected to experience a touchdown mean regression in the upcoming 2023 season.
Diontae Johnson (WR – Pittsburgh Steelers)
Actual Touchdowns: 0
Expected Touchdowns: 7.03
Deviation: -7.03 Touchdowns
Remarkably, Diontae Johnson recorded zero touchdowns in the previous year, despite being ESPN’s top-rated receiver in terms of open field play, boasting a 99 Open Score (with the league average set at 50).
Several factors contributed to this anomaly. Firstly, the presence of a rookie quarterback who took time to find his rhythm. Nonetheless, Kenny Pickett displayed promise towards the latter part of the season and is anticipated to make substantial strides in 2023.
Secondly, unfavourable playcalling by Matt Canada hindered the Steelers’ offensive performance, with rankings of 27th in yards per play, 28th in touchdowns per game, and 26th in points per game. Canada recognizes the imperative to enhance these metrics to secure his position beyond 2023.
Lastly, Johnson’s lack of touchdowns can be attributed to a degree of misfortune, supported by statistical analysis. Similar sentiments were expressed last year about Miles Sanders, who indeed regressed to the mean in 2022. Scoring zero touchdowns with 86 receptions, as Johnson achieved, is statistically improbable. This trend is unlikely to persist in 2023. Assuming a consistent target and receptions tally, a return of 7 touchdowns can be anticipated for Johnson.
Chris Godwin (WR – Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
Actual Touchdowns: 3
Expected Touchdowns: 8.50
Deviation: -5.50 Touchdowns
Despite facing a substantial decline in quarterback quality as he transitions from Tom Brady to either Baker Mayfield or Kyle Trask, Chris Godwin makes this list. Notably, he also benefits from a much-needed alteration at Offensive Coordinator, with Dave Canales replacing Byron Leftwich.
Canales is expected to devise strategies to create more opportunities for his offensive weapons. Additionally, Godwin’s usage is set to evolve, potentially involving deeper field positioning and increased involvement in redzone scenarios.
Godwin’s statistics reveal that 15 redzone targets resulted in 10 receptions and all his touchdowns, demonstrating his effectiveness within the 20-yard line. Yet, a more inventive playcalling approach is likely to lead to an increase in these numbers. The Buccaneers ranked 25th in redzone scoring offense in 2022, a trend set to improve in 2023, capitalizing on the skills of Evans, Godwin, and White, regardless of the passer.
Godwin presents a promising prospect to exceed his ADP with the anticipated positive touchdown regression, making him an enticing choice in 2023 drafts.
Tyreek Hill (WR – Miami Dolphins)
Actual Touchdowns: 9
Expected Touchdowns: 13.72
Deviation: -4.72 Touchdowns
As highlighted in the wide receiver touchdown regression article, Tyreek Hill emerges as a prime candidate to be favoured over Davante Adams this season. This proposition requires little persuasion for fantasy enthusiasts.
However, it’s crucial to acknowledge the significant positive touchdown regression on the horizon for Hill. A mere 4 touchdowns were achieved within the redzone, with 10 targets and 8 touches. With a 50% success rate in redzone scenarios, Hill is poised to garner more touches in these situations. This is only logical.
Forecasts suggest that Hill could secure an additional seven or eight redzone touchdowns. His explosive big-play capability is also set to contribute to his touchdown count, a trend demonstrated consistently over the years. Assuming his well-being, Hill’s touchdown regression positions him as a solid contender for a top-four receiver spot in 2023. This is contingent on the Miami Dolphins capitalising on his prowess within the redzone.
Michael Pittman (WR – Indianapolis Colts)
Actual Touchdowns: 4
Expected Touchdowns: 8.09
Deviation: -4.09 Touchdowns
Michael Pittman registered over 140 targets and 99 receptions, yet managed to find the endzone only four times in 2022. Of these, three were in redzone situations, resulting from 8 catches and 12 targets. Notably absent were the explosive plays that characterise Pittman’s performance.
Renewed optimism surrounds Pittman’s prospects for this season. His partnership with rookie quarterback Anthony Richardson, possessing a stronger arm than his predecessor, bodes well. The Indianapolis offensive coaching staff has also seen changes, with Shane Steichen as Head Coach and Jim Bob Cooter as Offensive Coordinator.
These transformations, coupled with limited competition for targets, hint at a substantial positive regression toward the mean for Pittman. Even with a rookie quarterback, a touchdown count of 6 or 7 for 2023 seems highly probably based on his projected usage.
Gabe Davis (WR – Buffalo Bills)
Actual Touchdowns: 7
Expected Touchdowns: 10.92
Deviation: -3.92 Touchdowns
A principal factor contributing to Gabe Davis’s diminished touchdown count was the shift in offensive coordinator personnel. Brian Daboll’s departure paved the way for Ken Dorsey, promoted internally to his first Offensive Coordinator role. While Dorsey performed well, an adjustment period is required in the position, lending optimism to improved offensive efficiency in 2023.
This heightened efficiency, coupled with the absence of notable competition for Davis, positions him well within the Bills’ offensive framework. While Trent Sherfield and Justin Shorter were added to the mix, neither is expected to challenge Davis for targets against established receivers like Stefon Diggs.
Davis’s proficiency in exploiting coverage gaps, especially when Diggs draws extra attention, is poised for further utilisation in 2023. His knack for beating defensive backs and game-changing speed bolster expectations of increased touchdown involvement. With this positive touchdown regression in view, Davis emerges as a late-round draft option worth exploring.