Running Back Touchdown Regression

Touchdowns are king in fantasy football. A player’s entire fantasy outlook any given week can change with a trip (or two) to the end zone and go from a major disappointment to a week winning performance. Given that, it’s worth looking at players who will likely regress both positively and negatively. In this article, I will discuss three running backs who should see the end zone more this season, and for that reason are being underrated heading into drafts.

Coming off two consecutive eight touchdown seasons, Lamar Miller was drafted as an elite RB1 in 2016 with the expectation the he would receive the bulk of the carries as a new member of the Houston Texans. While the volume was there for him (he had a career high 268 carries), he was very inefficient and scored only five touchdowns.

Season Carries Inside 20 Carries Inside 10 Carries Inside 5
2016 31 (50.8%) 15 (48.4%) 8  (53.3%)
2015 19 (44.25) 11 (50%) 6 (66.7%)

*Stats from profootballreference.com

Miller’s volume will almost certainly be lessened in an effort to increase his efficiency. In addition, there is a clear player to take those carries through the addition of D’Onta Foreman. Foreman has had positive reviews for his play in training camp and has the ability to find the end zone as is made clear by his 15 touchdowns in his junior year of college.

That isn’t a death knell to Miller’s value, though. As indicated by his 2015 numbers, Miller is able to thrive both in and out of the red zone on a lower volume of carries. Of course that will require an increase in efficiency, both on an individual and team level. Not only did Miller only average 4.0 yards per carry last season, but the Texans scored only 17.4 points per game in 2016 – a mark that tied for 28th in the league. As for individual regression, Miller has averaged 4.4 yards per carry throughout his career, so it is reasonable to expect his mark to move up from 4.0.  

Finally, given the departure of Brock Osweiler and betting on regression alone, it’s difficult to imagine that the offense will not put up more points, which in turn will give Miller more chances to find the end zone. That makes him a candidate for positive regression.




Much like Lamar Miller, Spencer Ware was a feature back in 2016 only to see his team take a rookie running back relatively early in the draft. However, it’s difficult to envision a scenario where Kareem Hunt overtakes all or even most of Ware’s carries. Hunt’s scouting profile notes a few concerning weaknesses, which include being an inconsistent inside runner, not running to his size, and not pass blocking with proper technique. That means that even though Hunt has been regarded as an inside running goal line back, his skill set doesn’t necessarily match the profile.

Furthermore, Ware is of similar stature to Hunt and has already proven he is capable of shedding tackles as illustrated by his 280 yards after contact last season (20th best in the league^). All of these factors reinforce the unlikely nature of Kareem Hunt completely taking over Spencer Ware’s role.

Finally, again like Miller, simple regression suggests that Ware will find the end zone more. Despite having only 214 carries on the season, Ware had 27 touches in the red zone, including 20 inside the opponent’s 10. That volume won’t necessarily fall drastically, and his ability to shed tackles indicates he should be able to find the end zone more than three times this season.

Jordan Howard was a fantasy marvel last season, and though his 5.8 yards per touch (13th best in the league^ ) may be in for negative regression, his touchdowns should be in line for positive regression. Most importantly, unlike both Miller and Ware, barring injury, Howard has a full workload of carries virtually guaranteed for him in 2017.

While the passing portion of the Bears offense may be inept, their offensive line is widely regarded as one of the best units in the league, which will certainly help Howard find holes by the goal line. On top of that, Howard was a top-5 back in creating yards after contact, which indicates that he is capable of earning tough yardage.

Having individual skill backed up by a strong offensive line make Howard a candidate to reach double-digit touchdowns despite having relatively poor overall offensive team context.

^stat from playerprofiler.com

 

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Dan Marcus
Dan recently moved to Columbus, Ohio but is a lifelong Pittsburgh sports fan. Fantasy baseball was and always will be his favorite fantasy sport, but he also enjoys football and basketball as well.