Welcome to Part IV of your fantasy football draft training series, where we teach you how to draft a winning fantasy football team. In this video, I’m going to show you how to project touchdowns, using running back Arian Foster as an example. It’s first important to note that touchdowns are a relatively low-frequency event. Even the top scorers convert only around four percent of their carries into touchdowns, and as I discussed in a previous video, low-frequency events are generally susceptible to randomness. Touchdowns in particular are very dependent on team strength and red zone looks.
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This is part of our "How to Draft Fantasy Football" guide.
The good news is that we can use the same general formula to project touchdowns for quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, and tight ends. All you need to do is multiply their opportunities by their touchdown rate. By opportunities, I mean the number of overall touches of a particular type, whether they be passes, carries, or receptions. If you’re trying to project touchdown passes, for example, you’d use all quarterback passing attempts as your “opportunities.”
Touchdown rate is the percentage of opportunities a player converts into touchdowns. To calculate it, you simply divide touchdowns by opportunities, then multiply it by 100. For example, if a running back scores 20 rushing touchdowns on 300 carries, his touchdown rate would be 20/300 (or 0.067) times 100, or 6.7 percent.
Remember, when we calculate a player’s average opportunities and touchdown rate, we want to use the mean from the past three seasons. If the player in question had 1,000 touches over the past three seasons, for example, his three-year average would be 1000/3, or 333.
Let’s use Texans running back Arian Foster as an example. Remember, our goal when projecting any player is to determine the most likely outcome for him in the upcoming season, so we’re using three-year averages. For example, Foster recently recorded a career-high 351 carries—something he’s unlikely to replicate in future seasons. Instead, Foster’s carries will probably be closer to his average in the past three seasons—319.
In addition to carries, we also need to accurately predict Foster’s touchdown rate, or the percentage of carries he takes into the end zone. You can calculate rushing touchdown rate by simply dividing rushing TDs by total carries. Foster’s touchdown rate over the past three seasons is extraordinary at 4.3 percent. Again, that’s his total rushing TDs divided by his total number of carries, multiplied by 100.
Once we make our initial predictions for carries and touchdown rate, we simply multiply the two to get Foster’s projected rushing touchdowns. You can see that our initial touchdown projection for Foster is 13.7. However, don’t forget that this is simply a baseline projection—or a foundation to build off of.
Refine The ProjectionsBefore you can draft a winning team, you need to do the preparation.
After creating a baseline, we must refine our projection with relevant information. One such piece of information relevant to Foster’s touchdown projection is that he has seen an unusually high number of red zone carries. Even after factoring in the strength of the Texans’ offense, Foster’s carries inside the 20 and inside the five, especially, have been quite high. It’s pretty unlikely that he’ll see another 26 carries inside the five-yard line; that number is actually 11 higher than Adrian Peterson’s total.
Plus, coming off of a 351-carry season, you’d expect Foster’s overall workload to decrease a bit too. The running back averaged only 4.1 YPC and it’s probable that the Texans’ coaches will want to limit the wear and tear placed on Foster.
After adjusting Foster’s touchdown rate to account for his recent red zone luck and likely decreased workload, we multiply that rate, which is 3.5 percent, by Foster’s projected carries. The result is a final rushing touchdown projection of 11.2 touchdowns.
Remember, you can use the same method we use to project Arian Foster’s touchdowns to predict TDs for every other position. It’s simply opportunities multiplied by touchdown rate. For receivers, you’d substitute catches in for carries, and for quarterbacks you’d use pass attempts.
It’s also important to note that the predictability of yards and touchdowns isn’t the same. A projection is only useful insofar as it is predictable, so it’s important to factor the year-to-year consistency of each stat into your projections. However, I advise to project stats as if they’re completely predictable, as we’ve done here, and then revise later. In subsequent videos, I’ll show you how to use consistency to change your projections into rankings.