NFL

Touchdown Regression: 5 QBs Who Should Score More in 2024

Brandon Gdula
Brandon Gdula@gdula13
Touchdown Regression: 5 QBs Who Should Score More in 2024

Touchdowns are a big part of fantasy football.

Huge, even.

With six points per score (or four for passing touchdowns, usually), an extra touchdown can swing any fantasy matchup, and of course, touchdown scorer props are a staple at FanDuel Sportsbook.

But touchdowns can also be a little volatile. A shoelace tackle here, a tipped pass there. You get it.

So, knowing that we should be tuned into touchdowns for various reasons, it stands to reason that we should want to figure out who should be scoring more (or fewer) times this season.

We can use some math to do just that.

Defining Touchdown Regression

Simply, regression can show us who is scoring more often or less often than they "should."

The "should" part is pretty subjective because better players can maintain elevated scoring rates, but in most instances across the league, the regression monster is always lurking, and players should play to a true baseline of their underlying output over the long-term.

To varying degrees, passing stats such as passing yards, passing air yards, and numberFire's Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) tell us a lot about touchdown totals (NEP is just an Expected Points Added [EPA] model by another name).

We can leverage historical relationships between various stats and touchdowns to see what true scoring expectations should be.

Is Touchdown Regression Real?

Short answer: yes. Move on to the next section if you'd like to see some of the key candidates for regression in 2024.

Long answer: yes, but you can read on for some testing.

We need to make sure that what we see in the data is applicable moving forward.

We also need to try to define how we estimate touchdowns.

Across numerous stats (pass attempts, total yards, EPA numbers, air yards, etc.), two stand out above the rest for quarterbacks in terms of passing TD regression.

Those two are:

  1. Total Passing Yards
  2. Successful Drop Backs

A successful drop back is a play during which a team increases its EPA.

These two tell us a lot about touchdown rate (TD%; touchdowns per pass attempt) and let us estimate an expected touchdown rate (xTD%).

Since 2012 (through the 2022 season), 91 quarterbacks had a TD% at least 1.0 percentage point higher than their xTD% while throwing at least 100 passes.

I'm going to classify this group as qualified "overperformers."

Of these 91, 69 had at least 100 pass attempts the following season. That gives us a year-over-year trend to analyze for nearly 70 quarterbacks.

Again, we should probably expect that this overperforming group sees its collective TD% drop after the prior outlier year.

And we do.

In this 69-QB sample, 57 of them (82.6%) saw their touchdown rate drop the season following an outlier season.

And of the 12 who grew their TD% the next year after a great season, 10 of those improved their underlying data from the prior season to increase their xTD%.

On the flip side, the underperformers also see large-scale touchdown regression.

I found 57 underperformers since 2012 with a qualified follow-up season, and of those 57, 51 of them (89.5%) increased their touchdown rate the next year.

Similar trends exist for rushing touchdowns, but I won't dig into the details there.

If we want to have a process in place where we can feel good with touchdown calibration, history says that this works.

2024 Touchdown Regression Candidates: Quarterbacks

Let's look at the quarterback output from 2023, their touchdown numbers, their xTD numbers, and the difference between the two.

The table is sorted by the most xTD.

Name
Team
Pass TDs
Rush TDs
TD
xTD
TD Differential
Josh AllenBUF29154435.48.6
Dak PrescottDAL3623833.24.8
Jalen HurtsPHI23153832.95.1
Patrick MahomesKC2702732.8-5.8
Jared GoffDET3023231.90.1
Tua TagovailoaMIA2902930.6-1.6
Jordan LoveGB3243629.96.1
View Full Table

Off the bat, we see the biggest xTD totals align with the best of the best in the NFL, which is what we should expect.

Notably, Josh Allen (+8.6), Dak Prescott (+4.8), and Jalen Hurts (+5.1) were overperformers -- but Patrick Mahomes (-5.8) stands out as a big regression candidate the other way.

Let's take a closer look at five of the most relevant QBs we should expect to score more often in 2024.

Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs

Mahomes' -5.8 touchdown differential rates out as the fourth-largest of all QBs in 2024.

This is actually Mahomes' first ever qualified season underperforming in the TD column.

So, you could view this as a long time coming to the regression baseline for a player who has outperformed expectation for his entire career, but there's a bit more to it for someone like Mahomes.

Notably, Mahomes ran 75 times in 2023, a career-high in the rushing column, but he didn't log a single regular season rushing touchdown despite 4.3 xTDs from his underlying rushing stats.

Only 4 of 43 quarterbacks have scored fewer than Mahomes' 27 touchdowns while posting at least 32.5 xTDs since 2012.

So, sure, Mahomes finally played below baseline, but history says he's due for a bounceback year in the touchdown column.

Mahomes' passing touchdown prop for 2024 is 31.5 with -118 odds on the over at FanDuel Sportsbook.

Bryce Young, Carolina Panthers

Bryce Young struggled a lot in 2023, but it's important to remember that the xTD numbers account for not playing particularly well.

And those xTD numbers say he should've had better TD luck in his rookie season.

If Young had gone for 21 or 22 touchdowns (he had 21.7 xTD), I think we'd at least give him a little more leeway than knowing he totaled only 11 scores on 527 attempts.

In fact, according to Stathead, he's one of two quarterbacks in NFL history to throw fewer than 12 touchdowns on 500-plus attempts in a season.

He can really only go up from here.

But it's more than just the passing scores that stand out.

Young also failed to score a rushing touchdown despite 39 carries for 253 yards and a 65.7% rushing success rate (percent of carries leading to positive EPA).

We've seen 247 quarterbacks run for between 200 and 300 yards in a season, and only 33 of them failed to score a rushing touchdown (again, per Stathead).

By all indications, Young really can only go up from here. The math is very much on his side.

Young's passing touchdown prop is only 17.5 with -112 odds on the over.

Geno Smith, Seattle Seahawks

Geno Smith was unable to carry over his success from 2022 to 2023.

In 2022, Smith played all 17 games and threw for 4,282 yards and 30 touchdowns, both career-bests. In 2023, he saw regression hit and went for 3,624 yards and 20 touchdowns in 15 games.

His touchdown rate fell from 5.2% to 4.0%.

Interestingly, though, his Passing NEP per drop back increased from 0.10 to 0.13, and his expected TD% was actually 4.8%.

Therefore, this looks like a legitimate outlier situation for Smith -- as opposed to being unable to sustain a huge year.

Smith's touchdown prop is down at 20.5 with -112 odds on the over. Smith seems legitimately due for a bounce-back in the TD column in 2024.

Trevor Lawrence, Jacksonville Jaguars

Trevor Lawrence has played three NFL seasons.

He has underperformed his touchdown expectations in all three.

As a rookie, he went 14.1 touchdowns under expectation in a 15-TD season (12 passing, 3 rushing), which is the largest differential in my database (since 2012).

Interestingly, Lawrence has actually had good rushing TD results (3, 5, and 4), meaning he slightly overperformed in that department (12 rushing TDs versus 10.8 xTDs from rushing).

That means he has a huge gap in passing touchdowns (80.3 xTDs versus 58 actual TDs).

With all this in mind, Lawrence's pass-catching group is a bit decimated after the departure of Calvin Ridley, so we can't exactly pencil him in for a bounce-back.

Evan Engram and Christian Kirk return, but Gabe Davis and rookie first-rounder Brian Thomas Jr. will be newcomers as deep threats for Lawrence.

Lawrence's 21.5-touchdown prop comes with -118 odds on the over.

If things click, touchdowns could spike for Lawrence in a big way soon.

Matthew Stafford, Los Angeles Rams

Matthew Stafford is anchored to two top-20 wide receivers by average draft position -- Puka Nacua (WR7) and Cooper Kupp (WR20) -- so his touchdown total will be pretty vital to how the fantasy season shakes out for some core WRs.

Stafford underperformed by 2.6 scores in 2023, which isn't an absurd number by any means, but it's also noteworthy because he was heating up down the stretch.

Stafford had just one multi-TD game through his first nine weeks with nine total TDs.

From Week 11 on, he racked up 15 scores in six games (2.5 per game) with a TD% increase from 2.9% to 7.1% between those two splits.

He was actually a case for in-season regression who still should've had better success.

After a +7.6 TD differential in his debut season with the Los Angeles Rams, Stafford has now posted seasons of -2.7 and -2.6.

Stafford's passing TD prop is set at 23.5 with -118 odds on the over.


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The above author is a FanDuel employee and is not eligible to compete in public daily fantasy contests or place sports betting wagers on FanDuel. The advice provided by the author does not necessarily represent the views of FanDuel. Taking the author's advice will not guarantee a successful outcome. You should use your own judgment when participating in daily fantasy contests or placing sports wagers.