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Touchdown scoring can vary wildly from year to year. Red-zone usage and luck on longer touchdowns can have a massive sway on quarterback touchdown scoring in one season before things break against the quarterback the following year. Below are four quarterbacks who may be candidates for regression after high touchdown rates in 2021.
Joe Burrow was QB15 in passing attempts in 2021 (520) but was able to hold a top-12 seasonal finish based on a high touchdown rate (6.5%). Our projections like him to take a leap in passing attempts to QB9 (560) but, maintain a 6.5% touchdown rate. Based on his usage in 2021, Burrow was expected for 25 touchdowns but scored 34. Burrow scored 10 touchdowns of 40 or more yards and 8 touchdowns of 50 or more yards, both the highest at the position. In the past ten seasons, only Drew Brees (2013) and Eli Manning (2015) managed 10 touchdowns of 40 or more yards. The following season, each only managed three such touchdowns. If you are tempted to think that Burrow is the type of player who can consistently lead the position in long touchdown passes, he had 0 touchdowns of 40 yards or more in his rookie season.
It is easy to point to Matthew Stafford’s second in the league 6.8% touchdown rate and say he is a candidate for regression in 2022. However, Stafford’s production was different than Burrow's because 19% of Stafford’s passing attempts came in the redzone, and all but 9 of his 41 touchdowns came in the redzone. By contrast, only 10% of Burrow’s attempts came in the redzone and 18 of his 34 touchdowns came from outside the redzone. Stafford benefitted from favorable usage, where the team ranked fourth in red-zone plays (195) and fifth in redzone designed pass rate (57.9%). Stafford could regress from a lower volume or redzone passing rate, but his touchdown production profile is more durable than Burrows.
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