Football statistics are extremely hard to predict, but history continues to show that projecting touchdown regression to the mean is significantly easier than you might imagine.
During the 2011 to '21 seasons, there were 135 instances in which a wide receiver or tight end scored fewer than five touchdowns on 50-plus offensive touches before again managing at least 50 touches the next season. Of those 135 instances, 93 times (68.9%) the player scored more touchdowns the next season.
Focusing in on the 38 players in that group who scored fewer than three touchdowns during the first season, 30 of them (78.9%) scored more touchdowns the next season. Of the 12 who scored either one or zero touchdowns, 10 of them (83.3%) found the end zone more often the next season. Jason Avant (2011-12) and Danny Amendola (2018-19) were responsible for the two exceptions.
Last season, 33 WRs/TEs scored fewer than five TDs on 50-plus touches last season, with notables below three scores including Diontae Johnson (0), Chase Claypool (1), Pat Freiermuth (2), Courtland Sutton (2), Hayden Hurst (2) and Robert Woods (2).
We see similar results if we run this test on running backs. There are 32 instances in which a back failed to reach seven touchdowns on 200-plus touches before managing 200 touches again the next season. Of those 32 instances, 26 times (81.3%) the player scored more touchdowns the next season. Interestingly, there were three backs who failed to reach four touchdowns in the first season, but each scored at least seven times the next season (Melvin Gordon III, Ryan Mathews, Lamar Miller). Those three players averaged 9.3 touchdowns in that second season!
Last season, 12 RBs fell short of seven TDs on 200-plus touches, which is a larger sample than usual. Of those 12, four scored fewer than five TDs: Brian Robinson Jr. (3 TDs, 214 touches), Alvin Kamara (4, 280), Tyler Allgeier (4, 226) and Jonathan Taylor (4, 220).
If you skipped all of the above, or just tuned out while scanning over the math, the point here is simple: NFL players tend to bounce back -- often in a big way -- when they post an unusually low touchdown number and see similar opportunity the following season.
In this piece, I'll be referencing expected touchdowns (xTD), previously labeled as OTD, which is a statistic that weighs every carry/target and converts the data into one number that indicates a player's scoring opportunity. Put another way, it is how many touchdowns a league-average player would've scored with the exact same opportunity as the player shown.
A careful examination of the 2022 usage for each of the players below tells us that we should expect a boost in scoring production this season.
Be sure to also check out the list of players who will score fewer touchdowns this season.
NOTE: This study is limited to rushing and receiving data for the regular season only.