Let’s talk about some regression candidates for 2022 from each position in fantasy football. Not all regression is negative. Analytical metrics can call for positive regression aka the regression fantasy managers want to see from their players. Okay, I have mentioned the word ‘regression’ enough (just did it again). Let’s check out some candidates that could be affected for the 2022 season.
Regression Candidates for 2022:
QB Derek Carr, Las Vegas Raiders
Derek Carr was a solid quarterback option in fantasy football last season. He was QB 13 overall and QB 16 on a points per game basis. The Raiders scored 15.9 points per contest, but his Expected Fantasy Points per Game was 18.1. That is the second biggest difference in fantasy. The signal caller was No. 5 in the league in passing yards but was middle of the pack in touchdown passes. Carr tossed 23 touchdowns which is nothing to get excited over. What is exciting is that his Expected Passing Touchdowns was 28.4. Again, that is the second biggest difference.
Currently, Carr is being drafted as QB 16 and has an ADP of 108.3 according to PlayerProfiler ADP Data. I am all over that price point for a quarterback with this many positive indicators. He is accurate. Carr posted an 8.02 Accuracy Rating (No. 2 among qualified quarterbacks). He has weapons especially after the addition of his college teammate, Davante Adams. Vegas plays in the AFC West which could be the battle ground for shootouts in 2022. And the Raiders just brought in an offensive minded head coach in Josh McDaniels. It is wheels up for Carr
RB Austin Ekeler, Los Angeles Chargers
Fantasy team builders were excited for Austin Ekeler (for good reason) in 2021, and he delivered. He finished as the second highest scoring running back. Ekeler ran for 911 yards, caught 70 balls for 647 yards, and scored 20 total touchdowns. His Expected Total Touchdowns, however, was far less. The back was expected to score 12.4 touchdowns which is a difference of 7.57. This was the largest margin in all of fantasy football. Touchdowns weren’t the only 2021 total that was inflated based on xSTATs. Ekeler’s 21.5 fantasy points per game outperformed his Expected Fantasy Points per Game by 3.7 points. That is the third largest difference and would have made put him outside the top five for running back scoring in 2021.
Expected stats alone are not the end all be all indicator for regression. There were other underlying metrics in his 2021 production profile that is concerning. Ekeler was No. 22 amongst qualified running backs in True Yards per Carry (4.4 yards). That number is less than Chase Edmonds, Devin Singletary, and Darrell Henderson. Ekeler posted a 25.4-percent Juke Rate (No. 29) and that further suggests that negative regression could surface in 2022. The Chargers have been looking for a complement back for Ekeler and Isaiah Spiller might be their guy. If he is a running back that produces, even in limited work, Spiller could take a handful of touchdowns and receptions from Ekeler. Between the addition of Spiller and certain performance metrics coming down, I am staying away from Ekeler in Round 1 of drafts.
WR D.J. Moore, Carolina Panthers
Anyone who follows my content or has listened to my fantasy football podcast, Kiwoom and Jones, knows D.J. Moore is my guy. So this breakdown may have a faint stink of bias, but I promise the evidence backs Moore benefitting from positive regression this year. Moore scored about 14 points per game in 2021. That mark was 2.5 points lower than expected, and that was the No. 6 largest positive difference. Moore has hauled in four touchdowns each of the last three seasons. Last year, the Panther’s Expected Total Touchdowns was 5.85. Among the wide receivers in fantasy football, that is in the top 15. His xSTATs are encouraging, but he also pops in a number of performance metrics.
Moore is a winner on the field. He recorded 223 Total Route Wins (No. 10 among qualified wide receivers). There is no doubt that Moore is an alpha on the grid iron. Last season, he posted a 28.4-percent Target Share (No. 5), 1,632 Air Yards (No. 5), and 30.5-percent Dominator Rating (No. 12). Baker Mayfield is projected to be Carolina’s QB 1 this upcoming season. And like it or not, he will be the most talented signal caller that Moore has played with. If Mayfield can elevate the Panther offense even a little bit, Moore will have a big campaign. He did not see many accurate targets last year. Moore had a 6.6 Target Accuracy Rating (No. 86). Also in 2021, Moore had the No. 4 most Unrealized Air Yards (901) and the most Drops (11) in football at the receiver position. Both metrics indicate that there was a lot of meat on the bone. With a 32.4 1QB ADP, give me all the Moore humanly possible in 2022.
TE Pat Freiermuth, Pittsburgh Steelers
The tight end is a position that can greatly be affected by regression in either direction. A sway in touchdown total can make or break a tight end season more than any other spot in fantasy football. Pat Freiermuth posted a top 15 tight end season in the first year of his career. But his 2021 profile has a number of negative regression red flags. Freiermuth averaged 9.5 fantasy points per game, but his Expected Fantasy Points per Game was 8.6. One point may not seem too severe, but in a position group as fragile as tight end, that is the No. 5 worst margin. Last year he caught seven touchdowns (No. 6 among qualified tight ends), but his Expected Touchdown Total was 5.6. It might not seem like a big cliff, but it’s not the only issue.
The Pittsburgh Steelers will have a new quarterback. Ben Roethlisberger may have been dust, but he went to Freiermuth 20 times in the Red Zone (No. 1). It is possible Mitch Trubisky or Kenny Pickett prefers a different option. Pittsburgh’s offense stars Diontae Johnon, Najee Harris, Chase Claypool, and camp standout George Pickens. Despite having the most red zone targets at the tight end position, Freiermuth posted a 13-percent Target Share (No. 23) and 61.8-percent Snap Share (No. 32). It is not all bad when it comes to the Steeler’s tight end. His 22.4-percent Dominator Rating (No. 7) and 16.7-percent Juke Rate do suggest the kid has talent. I’m selecting Albert Okwuebunam and Cole Kmet where Freiermuth is going according to PlayerProfiler redraft ADP data.
Regression metrics aren’t bulletproof (speaking of bulletproof check out my last article), but they are useful when trying to paint a complete picture of a player’s potential. Pat Freiermuth and Austin Ekeler have markers in their underlying metrics that call for negative regression in 2022. On the other side of the mountain, D.J. Moore and Derek Carr’s 2021 production profile show signs of potential positive regression in the upcoming fantasy football season. Who are you targeting, and who are you fading among these regression candidates for 2022?
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