There are numbers everywhere in fantasy football.  Points per game, yards per carry, points per opportunity, yards per route run: The list goes on and on.  Sifting through this data for more than five minutes can literally start making your eyes bleed, so I tried to figure out how to digest it with a simple data point.

Last week I dove into some red zone numbers from 2017 and found out how many PPR points red zone targets and receptions are worth.  We arrived at the numbers 2.43 and 4.53, respectively.  But how can we apply these numbers to be useful in 2018?  Regression.

Regression is a huge buzzword in fantasy football circles these days.  Regression commonly refers to when something happens outside of the norm one year and is expected to bounce back to what should have happened.  This can come in the form of positive regression and negative regression.

This regression is typically associated with an offense’s yardage output, player’s scoring rate, and offense’s win totals.  And spotting these regression candidates are the key to finding players that are overvalued and undervalued, which we should all strive for in our fantasy drafts.

Spotting regression candidates in this red zone data is probably its best use, so I sifted through the underperformers from last season to see who will likely bounce back (or maybe stay underperforming).

Julio Jones

Fantasy points per red zone target: .75 (-1.68)

Fantasy points per red zone reception: 2.86 (-1.64)

Falcons’ WR Julio Jones saw the 12th-most red zone targets in the NFL last season with 19.  He did absolutely nothing with all of those targets, catching only five of them for 33 yards and one touchdown.  On a per-target basis, Jones was the third-worst pass catcher in the red zone, something that wouldn’t be surprising if you looked at the Falcons’ offense last season.

For an elite wide receiver year-in-and-year-out, it is surprising how few touchdowns Jones scores, and his red zone efficiency is to blame.  He has a 6’3” 220 lb. frame with a nearly-40-inch vertical jump.  Generally, someone with this athleticism is bound to improve in the scoring category, but Jones only has eight red zone touchdowns over the past 3 years.  Despite how much of a stud Julio is, I wouldn’t bank on his red zone efficiency improving by much.

T.Y. Hilton 

FPPRZT: .32 (-2.11)

FPPRZR: 1.6 (-2.93)

T.Y. Hilton was the absolute worst receiver in the red zone last year.  He was dead last in points per target with .32 and was second to last among receivers with 1.6 points per target in the red zone.  Hilton does get more of a pass than Julio, as he stands 5’9” and only 180 lbs.  But he does have some positive signs working for him.

Jacoby Brissett was terrible all over the field last season, but he was particularly dreadful in the red zone.  He completed less than 30 percent of his passes for only six touchdowns, which was 30th in the NFL.  If Andrew Luck is fully healthy by the start of the season, Hilton will get an instant boost in the red zone.  His slim frame is still an issue, so don’t bank on the biggest bounce back.

Adam Thielen

FPPRZT: 1.23 (-1.2)

FPPRZR: 4.18 (-.32)

With 91 catches and 1276 receiving yards, there isn’t much we can ding Adam Thielen for.  But his poor red zone performance was swept under the rug of his breakout 2017 campaign.  Thielen offered half as much as the average receiver with 1.23 fantasy points per red zone target.  Despite the inefficiency, Thielen did command the 16th-most red zone targets with 17.  This will likely not repeat as his teammates Stefon Diggs and Kyle Rudolph offered almost three times as many fantasy points per red zone target than he did.

With Thielen’s teammates performing so well, they could be the ones developing red zone chemistry with new quarterback Kirk Cousins.  With Thielen likely being the odd man out, I wouldn’t bank on him seeing 17 red zone targets again.

 

Sterling Shepard

FPPRZT: .61 (-1.82)

FPPRZR: 1.34 (-3.19)

Just like the entire Giants offense in 2017, Sterling Shepard was rough in the red zone last season.  While he did snag five of his 11 targets, he turned those into a miserable 17 yards and no touchdowns.  What’s worse for Shepard is that the Giants drafted Saquon Barkley and will get Odell Beckham Jr. back from injury.  Couple this with the emergence of Evan Engram, who was the best tight end in the red zone last season, and Shepard’s opportunity will plummet in 2018.

Shepard’s efficiency could see positive regression in 2018, especially if you look at his six red zone touchdowns on 10 catches from 2016.  But his opportunities will be so scarce that I doubt it will have enough of an impact.

 

DeVante Parker

FPPRZT: 1.14 (-1.29)

FPPRZR: 2.74 (-1.79)

DeVante Parker is the final receiver we’ll look at today.  I am confident that Parker is primed for regression, and it is mostly opportunity based.  Last season Jarvis Landry was third in the NFL in red zone targets and first in red zone receptions.  Miami’s offensive line struggled so much that they had to use Landry as their de facto goal-line back, much like Seattle with Jimmy Graham.  He turned that into nine touchdowns, all within the 10-yard line.  Now that Landry is off to Cleveland and Miami’s line still didn’t improve much, Parker could slide into that role.

There are obvious reasons to be pessimistic about Parker filling that role, one being his poor red zone efficiency last season, but his 2016 numbers were on par with Landry’s that year.  Both scored twice in the red zone on nine targets each.  If Landry was able to improve with his size and (lack of) athleticism, Parker should get a chance.  I still believe that he is a talented receiver, and this red zone opportunity could be his chance to show what he offers.  Especially with a healthy Ryan Tannehill taking the mantle back from ‘Smokin’ Jay Cutler.

Well, that’s it for our red zone positive regression candidates.  Be sure to follow me on Twitter to catch the next installment in this series of articles where I’ll be tackling some players primed for negative regression.  As always, thanks for reading!

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