2017 Fantasy Football Draft Prep: Spencer Ware, Melvin Gordon moving in opposite directions in touchdown regression watch

Touchdowns are one of the hardest things to predict in the NFL, and I ascribe to the theory that we're better off focusing on opportunity rather than scores when projecting in Fantasy. Of course, touchdowns are the most valuable thing a player can do in Fantasy, and past touchdown production influences where a player is drafted, so it's far from unimportant. 

With that in mind I sat out to find eight running backs who were outliers in terms of touchdown rate in 2016. In theory, these guys should regress towards the norm, and it's quite possible they're being over- or undervalued based solely on a few plays last year that happened to end in the end zone. 

Note: As a quick aside, I know how bent out of shape people can get when I say regression and then say someone should be better. I also do not like the term "positive regression". What we're talking about is regressing from an extreme to the norm, but just to keep the comments section under control, we'll lay this out as positive regression and negative regression candidates. I'm sorry in advance to the math majors.

Positive Touchdown Regression Candidates
Paul Perkins
Perkins is the one guy on this list I'm certain will score more often in 2017... but that's only because he had zero touchdowns on 127 touches in 2016. And let's be clear, it's not because he was just bad: Perkins averaged 4.1 yards per carry and more than 10 yards per reception. He was tackled inside the 10 yard line six times, once after a 67 yard reception. There have been rumblings about the Giants discontent with Perkins, but they have no better option. 2017 touchdown expectation: 6
In 2015, Spencer Ware had six touchdowns on 72 carries. That kind of rate was far from repeatable, but it also highlights the former fullback's ability to punch the ball into the end zone. In 2016 he touched the ball 247 times, but produced just five scores. Ware's 18 carries inside the 10 yard line were tied for the 15th most in the NFL last year. No player who touched the ball in the red zone as often as Ware scored fewer touchdowns. Opportunity is more predictive than success rate in the red zone. 2017 touchdown expectation: 8
Lamar Miller finally got his workhorse role in 2016, but it didn't quite go as planned. Miller's efficiency fell off and he scored just six touchdowns on 299 touches. In four years in Miami, Miller scored once every 33 carries and once every 39 receptions. That type of efficiency last season would have given him nine scores in 14 games. Expect a bounceback from Miller with double-digit potential if he plays 16 games -- assuming he sees a similar role2017 touchdown expectation: 8
Duke Johnson is exactly the type of player you would expect to have a low touchdown total right? Isaiah Crowell is the red zone back, and generally the back running between the tackles. So I guess the one rushing touchdown on 73 carries shouldn't be that surprising. But there's no way he's compiling 514 receiving yards without scoring again this year. There's a lot of talk about putting Johnson in the slot more this season and focusing on him more in the passing game, something we've already seen in the preseason. That's a matchup nightmare for linebackers and safeties alike. 2017 touchdown expectation: 4

Honorable Mention: Le'Veon Bell, Jordan Howard, Todd Gurley

Negative Touchdown Regression Candidates
LeGarrette Blount Philadelphia RB
As I said with Perkins, Blount is the one guarantee I'll make on this list. There is no way he matches last year's 18 touchdowns, and I would even be surprised if he halves that total. The Eagles don't have that type of offensive firepower, and we've never seen Blount have a season close to the one he just had. He's a decent flex option in standard leagues who can be your No. 2 running back if you start wide receiver heavy. 2017 touchdown expectation: 8
LeSean McCoy Buffalo RB
There's been a lot of talk about how LeSean McCoy won't have Mike Gillislee stealing his touchdowns in 2017. I hope that doesn't mean people think he's going to score more touchdowns, however. McCoy scored once every 35 carries over the first seven years of his career. Last year he got into the end zone roughly once every 18 times he toted the rock. Jonathan Williams will still be involved in support of McCoy, and it's highly unlikely the team matches last year's touchdown total on the ground -- especially with the offense in general in flux following the Sammy Watkins trade2017 touchdown expectation: 10
Devonta Freeman has everything you want in a running back. He's on a high-scoring offense that loves to run the ball in the red zone, with a good offensive line. Well, almost everything. That pesky timeshare with Tevin Coleman does limit his upside. Freeman is my No. 3 running back in Fantasy, but I wouldn't expect him to match last year's touchdown rate. The actionable advice here is, you should prioritize star receivers over any running back not named David Johnson or Le'Veon Bell. 2017 touchdown expectation: 10
Melvin Gordon L.A. Chargers RB
I know, I shouldn't do this again. I don't care. Melvin Gordon scored zero touchdowns on 217 touches in 2015. He scored 12 last year on 295. Both years he rushed for less than four yards per carry. Was Gordon a good Fantasy back last year? Absolutely. Am I convinced he's a great NFL back? Not at all. 2017 touchdown expectation: 9

Honorable Mention: David Johnson, Ezekiel Elliott, Latavius Murray

Senior Fantasy Writer

Heath Cummings is a Senior Fantasy Writer that covers Daily Fantasy Sports of all types. Before coming to CBS Sports he was a staff writer for Footballguys and the host of The Fantasy Football Show on... Full Bio

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