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Quarterback Regression: Touchdown and Interception Rates

Historical touchdown and interception rate regression and how it affects 2017 quarterbacks

One of the biggest influences to fantasy football scores is a touchdown. Plenty of randomness goes into a touchdown from a defensive turnover creating a short field, jump ball in the end zone, pass interference penalty to even a tipped pass or garbage time drive. The Red Zone channel parks most of their coverage inside the 20-yard-line for a reason: touchdowns live there. The term touchdown regression has been around awhile. Back in my profootballfocus.com writing days, I scoured nearly every offensive statistic looking for the best regression outliers from year to year. While there were some categories fighting for second place, touchdown rate was annually at the top, both in its strength of regression and in bottom-line fantasy football impact. With the NFL Draft in the rear-view mirror, let's look at touchdown regression for the quarterback position in 2016:

Sample Size: 236 quarterbacks from 2005-2015

Criteria: 250+ attempted passes in both the test season and the following season

THE TOUCHDOWN DATA

Overall, these 236 criteria-fitting quarterbacks averaged a 7.5% touchdown rate (on their completed passes)

TD Rate Total Regressed Regression Rate AVG
>9.5% 27 26 96% -3.0%
<5% 17 15 88% 2.6%

Using a big picture lens, the average drop of 3.0% for a decent volume of completions is in the range of 7-10 touchdowns. This is a huge correction and arguably the single most important regression trend to notate for the following year's drafts and player valuations. On the flip side, the low touchdown rate group's boost was as stark and adding 5-10 touchdowns to their total turns them from and afterthought or fantasy dud back to matchup QB2 or better the following season. Anything over 80-85% regression is a strong trend. Adding these players to target and avoid lists can clarify draft values for the following year based on expected opportunity and price.

In 2016, we saw the high touchdown group log a perfect 5-fo-5 regression downward, including Cam Newton's -4.8% dip (35 touchdowns to 19), Russell Wilson slipping -4.4%, Carson Palmer down -3.1%, Blake Bortles dropping 3.6%, and Andy Dalton plummetting -4.9% and losing seven scores.

For the low touchdown rate crew, last year had none of the qualifiers from 2015 log more than 250 attempts to fit the sample in 2016.

2017 QUARTERBACKS: MOVING UP

Let's start with the low touchdown rate quarterbacks from 2016. Remember, the historical data is based on the quarterback logging at least 250 attempts for a second straight season.

carson wentz, 4.2%

Wentz had a woeful set of weapons as a rookie, but Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith immediately bolster the targets, including incumbents Jordan Matthews and Zach Ertz. Similar touchdown rates have risen by 2.1% historically, which would be a net gain of 7-10 scores for Wentz, pushing into the mid-20s.

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