The Fantasy 32 analyzes the NFL from a fantasy perspective, with at least one mention of each of the league’s 32 teams. Though efficiency will be discussed plenty, the column will lean heavily on usage data, as volume is king in fantasy football. Use these tidbits to make the best waiver, trade and lineup decisions for the upcoming week and beyond. Be sure to check back each week of the season for a new version of the Fantasy 32.
Note that data from Monday Night Football may not immediately be reflected.
In this week’s special “regression alert” edition of Fantasy 32, I will be doing my annual examination of a player from each team who is a strong candidate to score touchdowns at a higher or lower rate during the second half of the season.
Throughout this piece, I’ll be referencing “OFP” and “OTD”. OFP stands for opportunity-adjusted fantasy points. Imagine a league in which players are created equal. “OFP” is a statistic that weighs every pass/carry/target and converts the data into one number that indicates a player’s opportunity to score fantasy points, or his “expected” fantasy point total. For example, if a player has an OFP of 14.5, it means that a league average player who saw the same workload in the same area of the field would have scored 14.5 fantasy points. “OTD” works the same way, except instead of fantasy points, it’s touchdowns.
Falcons WR Julio Jones: This one hurts. Early in his career, Jones wasn’t used much near the goal line, but had success (32.1 OTD, 40 touchdowns from 2011-16). That changed with Steve Sarkisian took over as offensive coordinator last season. Jones found the end zone only three times, but enjoyed an 8.6 OTD (fourth at wide receiver) and 16 end zone targets (seventh). We’ve seen another change in 2018 as Jones is no longer utilized near the goal line (3.0 OTD, 1.6 since Week 2) and it has resulted in zero touchdowns. Still, despite Jones’ bizarre scoring woes, averaging 11.6 targets per game (second-highest in the league) is going to lead to at least the occasional touchdown.
Browns WR Jarvis Landry: Landry sports a 4.4 OTD, but has found the end zone only twice this season. His 92 targets are second-most in the league behind only Adam Thielen (98) and his seven end zone targets are ninth-most. Cleveland’s offensive inefficiencies have led to a career-worst 53-percent catch rate, but Monday’s firings of Hue Jackson and Todd Haley could lead to better days. Landry has certainly seen enough volume that his scoring should rise moving forward.
Packers TE Jimmy Graham: Expected to be the team’s primary option near the goal line, Graham has managed only three end zone targets this season. He’s caught none of them, with his only score coming after a catch at the 2-yard line. Graham has been targeted eight times while inside the opponent’s 7-yard line and his 2.8 OTD suggests he should have triple the touchdowns he already has. Graham, who finished sixth in the league in OTD and second in end zone targets last season, should find the end zone a lot more often the rest of the way.
Texans TE Ryan Griffin: Griffin (3.3 OTD, zero touchdowns) has missed two games due to injury, but he has what might be the league’s flukiest touchdown total. Houston’s top tight end has been inside the confines of the end zone on eight of his 25 targets. In fact, only six players in the entire league (and one tight end) have more than his eight end zone looks. As if that isn’t painful enough, replacement Jordan Thomas found the end zone on two of four targets in Week 8. Griffin could be a sneaky fantasy option, especially in two tight end leagues, once back from an illness.
Giants WR Odell Beckham Jr.: I spent the offseason explaining why Beckham’s touchdown pace would dip dramatically this season, but he’s overcorrected. Beckham has found the end zone only twice (three if you include a passing touchdown on a gadget play), but sports a 4.9 OTD. Beckham’s 10 end zone targets are fifth-most in the league. His hefty 30 percent target share will help allow him to get back on track in the scoring department.
Steelers WR JuJu Smith-Schuster: Only 13 players have exceeded Smith-Schuster’s six end zone targets this season, but the second-year receiver has been limited to two touchdowns (4.2 OTD). Smith-Schuster’s 24 percent target share — coupled with plenty of usage near the goal line — suggests more scoring is on the way. His touchdown boost would figure to come at the expense of Antonio Brown (eight touchdowns, 4.4 OTD) and James Conner (nine touchdowns, 6.9 OTD), who are the only players on the team with more than two rushing/receiving touchdowns.
Titans WR Corey Davis: Tennessee’s offense has been a debacle, but Davis’ 29 percent target share should be leading to more fantasy production. The second-year receiver has been limited to one touchdown, but sports a 2.8 OTD and has handled a team-high four end zone targets. Davis also struggled in the touchdown department as a rookie, but that was more related to a lack of opportunity (zero touchdowns, 1.3 OTD). If Davis’ current usage keeps up, he should at least triple his current touchdown total in the second half.
Vikings TE Kyle Rudolph: Rudolph (seven) trails only Eric Ebron (12) and Griffin (eight) in end zone targets among tight ends this season. Rudolph is handling a 13 percent target share — his lowest since 2014 — but the generous workload neat the goal line means he should have more than two touchdowns (3.6 OTD). Combined with his usage near the goal line, a slight uptick in targets would allow Rudolph to return to “solid TE1” status.
Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald: Fitzgerald appears back on track after Byron Leftwich’s promotion to offensive coordinator, but there’s still room for growth in the scoring department. Fitzgerald has found the end zone twice, but sports a 2.8 OTD and has four end zone targets.
Bills WR Zay Jones: Jones’ career progress has been held back by poor quarterback play thus far, but his 1.9 OTD and four end zone targets suggest he should have more than one touchdown. Nonetheless, Jones is only on the fantasy radar in the deepest of leagues.
Raiders RB Doug Martin: Martin was just recently promoted to lead back in Oakland, but he’s underachieved in the touchdown department across all of his 47 looks this season. Martin has yet to find the end zone despite a 1.7 OTD and a pair of carries inside the 5-yard line. Expect him to fall into the end zone several times in the second half in his current role.
Eagles TE Zach Ertz: Ertz is enjoying a career year and is on pace for a massive 166 targets, but he’s actually fallen short of his expected touchdown total. Ertz (4.3 OTD, three touchdowns) sits fourth at the position with five end zone targets. Last season, Ertz scored eight touchdowns with a 6.6 OTD.
49ers RB Alfred Morris: Morris (3.4 OTD) ranks seventh in the league with six carries inside the opponent’s 5-yard line, but has scored only one touchdown (it came from 3 yards out). Morris has failed on all three tries from the opponent’s 1-yard line, but entered the year 12 of 20 in his career. Morris is the only 49ers’ running back a carry inside the opponent’s 3-yard line this season (he has four).
Redskins TE Jordan Reed: Technically, Reed is right around where he should be (one touchdown, 1.4), but his situation is interesting nonetheless. Reed is averaging a solid 6.7 targets per game, but has yet to see a single end zone target. His lone score came on one of two targets while at the 1-yard line and he’s seen only one additional target while inside the opponent’s 13-yard line.
Bears TE Trey Burton: Burton sits sixth in fantasy points at tight end but has benefited from good touchdown fortune and has eclipsed five targets in only one game (11 in Week 7). Burton (1.8 OTD) has scored four touchdowns on the season. He’s caught both of his end zone targets and has scored on two of the additional three targets he’s seen while inside the opponent’s 10-yard line. A hit rate of four scores on five targets inside the 10 simply isn’t sustainable. Burton will need an increase in usage in order to keep up his midrange TE1 production in the second half.
Bengals WR Tyler Boyd: Boyd (five touchdowns) joins Joe Mixon (five) and A.J. Green (six) as the only Bengals with more than three touchdowns from scrimmage this season. However, unlike Mixon (4.7 OTD) and Green (5.7 OTD), Boyd’s scoring isn’t sustainable at his current usage (2.1 OTD). Whereas Green sits second in the league with 12 end zone targets, Boyd has seen four. He’s caught all of them, with his other touchdown coming from 10 yards out — his only additional target while within 10 yards of the goal line. On the plus side, Boyd still sits 18th at wide receiver in OFP, so even with some regression to the mean, he can still provide WR3 numbers.
Broncos WR Emmanuel Sanders: Sanders (2.4 OTD) has caught three touchdowns, while also adding one as a rusher and one as a passer. The five scores come despite Sanders having seen only one end zone target and two additional targets while inside the opponent’s 6-yard line — none of which resulted in touchdowns. In fact, Sanders’ touchdown catches required post-catch runs of 8, 17 and 26 yards. His touchdown rush came from 35 yards out (his other two carries were also outside the opponent’s 30-yard line) and his passing score was from 28 yards away. Sanders sits sixth at wide receiver in fantasy points, but is 17th in OFP. His plus-45 FORP is nowhere near sustainable. Some of Sanders’ scores figure to go to teammate Jeff Heuerman (3.2 OTD, one touchdown), who ranks fourth at tight end with five end zone targets.
Chargers RB Melvin Gordon: Gordon has only appeared in six games this season, but his nine offensive touchdowns trail only Todd Gurley II (15) and Kareem Hunt (10). Incredibly, Gordon has found the end zone so often despite only three of his carries coming inside the opponent’s 10-yard line. His touchdown rushes have come on runs of 1, 4, 10, 11, 11 and 20 yards. He caught his only end zone target and his other touchdown catches have required post-catch runs of 2 and 5 yards. Gordon is nearly doubling his 4.7 OTD and will need more work near the goal line to continue his torrid scoring pace.
Dolphins RB Kenyan Drake: I’m a Drake apologist, but his current scoring pace is unsustainable. Drake (2.7 OTD) has found the end zone five times. He’s managed only one carry inside the opponent’s 5-yard line, with his rushing scores coming from 6, 12 and 54 yards out. His receiving scores came on one of two end zone targets and a post-catch run of 2 yards. Those marked his only targets while inside the opponent’s 5-yard line. Drake’s 38 percent carry share and 17 percent target share keep him in the RB2 mix in PPR, but don’t expect continued success in the touchdown department.
Patriots RB James White: We’re only in Week 9 and White has already set a career high with seven touchdowns. A closer look, however, suggests a return to earth is on the horizon. White (2.6 OTD) entered the season with 14 career touchdowns in 47 regular season games. He has yet to carry the ball inside the opponent’s 5-yard line, scoring his only rushing touchdown from 22 yards out. White has scored on six of nine targets while within 8 yards of the end zone, including going two for two on end zone targets. White entered 2018 having caught one of two career end zone targets, though he’s now scored 12 touchdowns on 15 career targets while inside the opponent’s 6-yard line. White’s massive 24 percent target share in New England’s high-scoring offense keeps him in the RB1 discussion, but his touchdown pace figures to drop off, maybe considerably.
Jets RB Isaiah Crowell: If you didn’t do the obvious and trade Crowell after his 200-plus yard effort in Week 5, you may have missed the boat. Crowell racked up 426 yards and scored five touchdowns on 63 touches during Weeks 1-5, but has been limited to 140 yards and no scores on 41 touches in three games since. Despite the fact that he’s already regressed quite hard, Crowell’s 2.1 OTD is still well below his touchdown count of five. He’s handled one carry and two targets while inside the opponent’s 5-yard line. Crowell is a flex option and will lose value when Elijah McGuire returns.
Seahawks WR Tyler Lockett: Lockett is doing his best to break math this season, having scored exactly one touchdown in six of his seven games. Lockett has hauled in all four of his end zone targets (he was five of 14 entering the season) and has managed only one additional target while inside the opponent’s 10 yard line. Lockett (1.8 OTD) entered the 2018 season with nine career touchdown catches on 202 targets. Lockett has totaled nine targets over his past three games and is averaging 4.4 targets per game this season. Don’t expect the undersized deep threat to continue anything close to this pace moving forward.
Ravens RB Alex Collins: Collins (3.9 OTD) has more touchdowns (six) than carries inside the opponent’s 5-yard line (five) this season. His touchdown rushes have come from distances of 2, 6, 8, 13 and 14 yards. He’s been targeted only twice inside the opponent’s 10-yard line, but scored on one of those plays. Teammate Javorius Allen has more carries inside the 5-yard line.
Panthers WR Curtis Samuel: Samuel (0.3 OTD) has found the end zone twice despite touching the ball only six times. He has a 14-yard touchdown run and a catch-and-run touchdown from 24 yards out. Those account for two of his three looks while inside the opponent’s 33-yard line.
Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott: Dallas’ touchdown scoring has been about on schedule, but Elliott is noteworthy because of a rather uninspiring workload near the goal line. Elliott (3.5 OTD, four touchdowns) has racked up only three carries inside the opponent’s 6-yard line and one target while inside the 9-yard line. Elliott ranks fourth in the league in looks, but 37th in OTD.
Lions WR Golden Tate: Tate has found the end zone three times this season despite seeing one end zone target and only three additional targets while inside the opponent’s 11-yard line. Tate has never been much of a factor near the goal line, eclipsing five touchdowns in a single season only twice in his eight NFL seasons. Tate’s teammate Marvin Jones Jr. leads the league with 13 end zone targets.
Colts TE Eric Ebron: Ebron is second in the league in end zone targets (12), so his seven scores aren’t too far off his 5.6 OTD. Still, he’s a bit over his head and Jack Doyle‘s return led to Ebron seeing only three targets on 14 snaps in Week 8. Ebron is no longer a reliable TE1 option.
Jaguars WR Dede Westbrook: Westbrook ranks second on the Jaguars with three offensive touchdowns, but fifth with a 1.3 OTD. He’s registered two end zone targets (he caught one), but has no additional targets while within six yards of the end zone. Westbrook’s other two scores required post-catch runs of 9 and 56 yards.
Chiefs RB Kareem Hunt: Hunt has found the end zone 10 times this season, but his 7.3 OTD suggests he’s a bit over his head. Of course, he does have nine carries inside the opponent’s 5-yard line and, as long as the Kansas City offense continues to produce at an elite level, the second-year back won’t be short scoring opportunities.
Rams RB Todd Gurley II: Gurley (15 touchdowns) is breaking the rules to some extent this season, but it’s worth noting that volume is the primary reason for his massive numbers. Gurley’s 11.8 OTD is by far highest in the league (Alvin Kamara is second at 8.3) and, with 14, Gurley has four more carries inside in the 5-yard line than any other player. Even if his scoring rate normalizes a bit, Gurley will be elite.
Saints RB Alvin Kamara: Speaking of Kamara, those who suggested he’d regress to the mean during the offseason were right on the money. He’s scored nine touchdowns this season, but that’s behind an 8.3 OTD. Kamara has only handled six carries inside the opponent’s 5-yard line, but has two end zone targets. Kamara was an astounding 101 points above his expected fantasy point total (or OFP) last season, but sits at plus-16 through Week 8. He’s still outstanding, but regression definitely took hold.
Buccaneers WR DeSean Jackson: Jackson has been a boom-or-bust producer throughout his career, but he’s been hitting the boom at a higher rate than usual in 2018. Jackson has found the end zone five times despite a 2.9 OTD. He’s caught one of five end zone targets and his other receiving scores have required post-catch runs of 13, 18 and 40 yards. His fifth score was a 14-yard run (his only carry within 55 yards of the end zone). Jackson’s five touchdowns mark his highest total since he scored six touchdowns in 2014.