Fantasy Football: Regression Candidates Through Week 6
Regression is fantasy football soothsaying when practiced correctly, but that's the key -- it must be practiced correctly. If a player is expected to score one touchdown but instead scores two, that doesn't mean they're expected to score zero touchdowns the following week. It means they're expected to score, as you might have guessed, one touchdown.
In that sense, regression doesn't necessarily mean a player is bad or even overvalued. It means they've produced differently than they're expected to in the future.
Reversing the earlier example, a player who scores zero touchdowns when expected to score one touchdown should expect regression but in a positive sense. Some hate the term "positive regression," but regression is short for regression to the mean -- meaning it can be either positive or negative, depending on which direction the mean is. It can be a mean process. Sorry, but I'm contractually bound to use all three forms of the word mean in this article.
Now on to this week's regression candidates.
Negative Regression Candidates
Ryan Tannehill, QB, Tennessee Titans
The Tennessee Titans haven't faded into obscurity the way many expected, and Ryan Tannehill continuing to play at a high level is a big reason why. I'm starting to believe Tannehill's improvement may be genuine, but that doesn't rule out regression, which I believe will come in two key areas. First and most predictable, his touchdown rate of 7.5% is unsustainable.
That's nothing new, but more interesting is Tannehill's 2.8% sack rate this season. Tannehill, normally a sack prone quarterback, has become sack averse. If that 2.8% mark inches up closer to his career 7.8% sack rate, or even his 9.8% rate in 2019, that could take 2-3 pass attempts off the board for this offense. Over the course of the season that really adds up and can knock Tannehill and his pass-catchers down a significant tier of fantasy points.
Dalvin Cook, RB, Minnesota Vikings
With Dalvin Cook looking like a good bet to return after his bye, it's worth noting his concerning lack of receiving production and unsustainable rushing production. Cook is great and all, but getting just over three targets per game and had to rely on getting 5.3 yards per carry and an unsustainable touchdown rate to carry the day.
He'll be fine, but can't challenge the Alvin Kamara's of the world without receiving work.
Cowboys Passing Game
While the Dallas Cowboys are the favorites to lead the league in pass attempts, they likely won't challenge the 800 pass attempt mark as they're currently threatening. This means a slight decline for every part of the attack, but most notably Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb. Such is the nature of a shrinking cup to drink from.
Mark Andrews, TE, Baltimore Ravens
Mark Andrews is elite in his ability, but he's in a low volume passing attack. He's dominating in neither target share or efficiency the way he was in 2019, and is thus reliant upon an unsustainable touchdown rate for elite fantasy production. With Lamar Jackson throwing just 27 passes per game it may be time to reevaluate Andrew's status alongside Travis Kelce and George Kittle.
Positive Regression Candidates
Cam Newton, QB, New England Patriots
I tend to avoid quarterbacks like Cam Newton on the list. While it's true that their early-season passing touchdown rate is low, it's often the result of them running in touchdowns themselves as opposed to throwing them. This is true with Newton to some extent, but his 1.7% touchdown rate is inexplicably low even beyond that. As Cam throws more touchdowns and packs a minor passing punch to go with his rushing he can continue to be a quality fantasy quarterback.
Austin Ekeler, RB, Los Angeles Chargers
A bit riskier as we don't know when Austin Ekeler will return, but with the way Justin Herbert is playing it should boost Ekeler's fantasy production upon return. We've seen a committee approach continue in Ekeler's absence, and when paired with the fact that Ekeler's usage was on the uptick before his injury (72% snap share in Week 3) it indicates the Los Angeles Chargers don't view Joshua Kelley as a "1A" back as many feared.
Ekeler is also one of (if not) the best receiving backs in the league and can make up for any carry deficiency with receiving production. Put the early season version of Ekeler out of mind, a true RB1 will emerge upon his return.
Terry McLaurin, WR, Football Team
Darren Waller, TE, Las Vegas Raiders
Darren Waller, not Mark Andrews is the tight end who should be challenging the Kelce/Kittle tier. For whatever reason Waller hasn't scored nearly as many touchdowns as he should in his young career. That's probably more bug than a feature. Look for him to see more scoring and a bit of an efficiency rebound as well.