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Fantasy Football: What air yardage and aDOT data say about potential must-target receivers in 2022

Fantasy analyst Jacob Gibbs dives into the metrics to uncover top receiving situations that deserve your attention in drafts.
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Air yards represent the distance that the ball travels in the air -- from the line of scrimmage to the recipient of the target, not from the quarterback's hand to the targeted player. The distance that the quarterback drops back is irrelevant.

Air yards are important. Below you will find displayed the 2021 Fantasy point per target rate (PPR scoring) at each air yardage interval.

Fantasy points per target:

1.91 PPR points -- Fewer than 5 air yards
2.01 PPR points -- 5-10 air yards
2.27 PPR points -- 10-15 air yards
2.68 PPR points -- More than 15 air yards

Even in full PPR scoring, which is intuitively the optimal scoring system for short targets with higher catch rates, deep targets reign king. The deeper the average depth of target (aDOT), the more Fantasy points on average.

Air yards are important. Almost as important as the wide receiver position's most frequently referenced statistic, targets.

The correlation between air yards and PPR points (0.928) at the wide receiver position isn't as strong as the correlation between targets (0.804) and PPR points, but it's still really strong!

As with any stat, understanding context is crucial when using air yards for Fantasy analysis. Not all air yards are created equal -- Courtland Sutton's 1,509 air yards from Teddy Bridgewater and company certainly weren't worth as much as the 1,497 air yards that Justin Herbert fed to Mike Williams. Even though he had fewer air yards, Williams finished with 1,146 receiving yards to Sutton's 776.

Air yardage share (AY%) explained

Today, we will be discussing air yards, average route depths and depths of targets, and air yardage shares. A player's air yardage share (AY%) represents the percentage of his team's total air yards that he accounted for in the games that he played in. AY% is especially useful when doing team-level analysis -- particularly when projecting forward and trying to understand how the receiving volume might be dispersed among a QB's pass-catchers.

From my experience, the most useful application of target and air yardage shares comes when evaluating a receiving corps that has undergone noteworthy personnel changes during the offseason. When it comes to in-season research, raw air yards generally take precedence over air yardage share; team-level situations just don't fluctuate much during the season, so raw air yards remain fairly predictable on a week-by-week basis. And at the end of the day, raw air yards of course correlate more closely with Fantasy scoring than air yardage market share. Air yardage market share is simply a way to better understand and predict raw air yardage totals.

Average Depth of Target (aDOT) explained

A player's average depth of target (aDOT) is a simple representation of his air yards per target. The league average at the wide receiver position in 2021 was 10.5 yards. Generally, a higher aDOT is going to lead to a lower catch rate -- at the very top range of aDOT data, you are likely to find a lot of empty air yards.

If you want to take it one step deeper in understanding how a player is used, a player's average route depth is also important to consider. This stat offers the truest representation of how an offensive scheme is using a pass-catcher, and it generally goes hand-in-hand with aDOT.

Putting all of these air yardage-related stats together to gain a more complete understanding of which quarterbacks are willing to air it out and how NFL offenses are using their downfield weapons can give you a serious edge in Fantasy.

So which receivers do the target per route run data suggest are ones to avoid in Fantasy drafts? And which players does Gibbs expect a big step forward from with more playing time in 2022? ... Join SportsLine here to see the complete data and which players Gibbs is focused on in 2022 drafts!

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Jacob GibbsDFS Guru