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    Fantasy Football: What air yardage and aDOT data say about potential must-target receivers in 2023

    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 -- and they're heavily correlated with Fantasy success. Below you will find displayed the 2022 Fantasy point per target rate (PPR scoring) at each air yardage interval.

    Fantasy points per target:

    1.93 PPR points -- Fewer than 5 air yards
    2.02 PPR points -- 5-10 air yards
    2.24 PPR points -- 10-15 air yards
    2.66 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 (0.808) at the wide receiver position isn't as strong as the correlation between targets (0.923) 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 -- Chris Olave's 1,686 air yards from Andy Dalton and company certainly weren't worth as much as the 1,565 air yards that Dak Prescott fed to CeeDee Lamb. Even though he had fewer air yards, Lamb finished with 1,359 receiving yards to Olave's 1,042.

    Air yardage share (AY%) explained

    A player's air yardage share (AY%) represents the percentage of his team's total air yards that he accounted for. 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)  and average route depth 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 2022 was 10.4 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.

    When digging into the 2022 air yardage data, a few players who stood out as particularly interesting were rookies Christian Watson and Treylon Burks. Houston's Year 2 receiver Nico Collins also posted intriguing air yardage data when healthy; a Year 3 breakout could be imminent with Brandin Cooks joining the Cowboys.

    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 2023? ... Join SportsLine here to see the complete data and which players Gibbs is focused on in 2023 drafts!

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    Jacob GibbsDFS Guru

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