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Air Yard Analysis: Week 1 (2020 Fantasy Football)

by Isaiah Sirois | @is_sirois | Featured Writer
Sep 17, 2020

DeSean Jackson led the league in air yards this week, and he had the fifth-longest average depth of target (aDOT).

Fantasy football is a game of volume. Snaps, carries, targets, receptions, yards, red-zone looks — all of these reflect the opportunities a player receives in a game. While it’s up to the player to capitalize on their chances, a player’s efficiency tends to vary more than their opportunities.

Air yards are another volume stat that’s crucial to understanding a player’s value. Air yards measure the total distance that a thrown ball travels from the line of scrimmage to the player in question, and they help us to understand which targets are worth more than others.

For example, a wide receiver who earned six targets and eight air yards is far less valuable than one who earned four targets and 92 air yards, even if the second player failed to catch all of their looks. That’s because a best-possible six receptions for eight yards gives you only 6.8 PPR points, while four catches for 92 yards would let you 13.2 PPR points. That’s a higher ceiling, and the second player could even drop a pass and still out-perform the first player.

Each week, I’ll break down every team’s air yards and give you my assessment. I’ll include the relevant players from each team in my charts, and I’ll include impressive performances from unranked players as well!

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Arizona Cardinals

PLAYER WEEK 1 AIR YDS WEEK 1 aDOT
DeAndre Hopkins 98 6.1
Christian Kirk 54 13.5
Larry Fitzgerald 15 3
Maxx Williams 9 4.5

Takeaways: Hopkins may have dominated the target share for the Cardinals, but things look less bleak for Kirk when you consider his air yards — he’ll just need to haul in one or two more of his looks each week to reach value … still though, Hopkins is an elite WR1, and analysts were wrong to fade him in Arizona … Fitzgerald continues to see his short-yardage role from the slot, and he’ll depend on receptions and YAC to produce fantasy points.


Atlanta Falcons

PLAYER WEEK 1 AIR YDS WEEK 1 aDOT
Julio Jones 195 (#2) 16.3
Calvin Ridley 147 (#5) 13.4
Hayden Hurst 93 15.5
Russell Gage 86 7.2

Takeaways: Jones, Ridley, and Gage all went for 100-plus yards, but you wouldn’t know it from this chart — Gage just happens to be great at turning his short-yardage slot looks into yards after the catch … Ridley outscored Jones in Week 1, but this chart makes it clear that Jones is still the receiver to own in this offense, as he earned the second-most air yards on the week … Hurst’s mediocre Week 1 looks a little better when we consider his air yards — he just needs to make another catch or two to get back on track as a low-end TE1.


Baltimore Ravens

PLAYER WEEK 1 AIR YDS WEEK 1 aDOT
Marquise Brown 113 18.8
Mark Andrews 59 9.8
Willie Snead 42 10.5
Miles Boykin 21 5.3

Takeaways: Brown earned a ton of deep looks from quarterback Lamar Jackson, and that’s the best way for the Ravens to capitalize on his 4.27-second 40-yard dash time … Andrews saw a respectable number of air yards, but his fantasy value depends on his ability to score touchdowns … Snead and Boykin made some plays on Sunday, but they don’t get nearly enough volume to be weekly starters.


Buffalo Bills

PLAYER WEEK 1 AIR YDS WEEK 1 aDOT
John Brown 100 10
Stefon Diggs 89 9.9
Cole Beasley 50 7.1
Dawson Knox 19 6.3
Devin Singletary 16 2.3

Takeaways: I wrote after the game that Brown and Diggs looked like Buffalo’s WR1A/WR1B, but the two speedy receivers have lower aDOTs than I had anticipated — that said, they could both be excellent deep threats in a closer game … Cole Beasley may be able to retain his low-end WR3/WR4 role even with Brown and Diggs in this offense … unlike most running backs, Singletary totaled positive air yards, meaning that he got targeted past the line of scrimmage — this gives him a small boost in PPR formats.


Carolina Panthers

PLAYER WEEK 1 AIR YDS WEEK 1 aDOT
D.J. Moore 95 10.6
Robby Anderson 86 10.8
Curtis Samuel 61 7.6
Seth Roberts 13 6.5
Ian Thomas 12 6

Takeaways: Anderson led this team in receiving yardage in Week 1 with a 75-yard touchdown, but he created most of that with his legs … Teddy Bridgewater’s tendency to throw short passes manifests itself in these low aDOT numbers … despite his mediocre Week 1 fantasy performance, D.J. Moore led this team in both targets and air yards, so I’m optimistic about his low-end WR1 status … Curtis Samuel, once an air yard superstar in 2019, seems unlikely to repeat the feat in 2020.


Cincinnati Bengals

PLAYER WEEK 1 AIR YDS WEEK 1 aDOT
A.J. Green 127 (#10) 14.1
John Ross 61 12.2
C.J. Uzomah 46 9.2
Tyler Boyd 34 6.8
Mike Thomas 29 9.7

Takeaways: Green looks like the clear-cut WR1 according to this chart, as Joe Burrow trusted him deep … Ross’ two-reception, 17-yard performance looks a lot better when you consider that most of his looks would’ve gone for more yards … while Boyd’s four-catch, 33-yard game looks much worse in terms of air yards, he’s a slot receiver, so his job is to turn short-yardage looks into bigger gains, and that’s hard to do against Chris Harris and Desmond King … who is Auden Tate? Mike Thomas owned the WR4 role in this offense, and Tate failed to log a single target or air yard.


Chicago Bears

PLAYER WEEK 1 AIR YDS WEEK 1 aDOT
Allen Robinson 150 (#4) 16.7
Anthony Miller 112 18.7
Jimmy Graham 33 5.5
Ted Ginn 17 17

Takeaways: Mitchell Trubisky wasn’t afraid to throw deep to either Robinson or Miller, and while Miller outscored Robinson for fantasy purposes, more catchable targets would give Robinson the low-end WR1 value that analysts expected him to have … that said, the Bears’ pass-heavy, come-from-behind game script is apparent in these numbers — the two receivers may not reproduce these numbers in a closer game … Graham looks like a touchdown-dependent, short-yardage option.


Cleveland Browns

PLAYER WEEK 1 AIR YDS WEEK 1 aDOT
Odell Beckham 102 11.3
Jarvis Landry 72 12
David Njoku 43 14.3
KhaDarel Hodge 32 10.7
Austin Hooper 15 7.5

Takeaways: Beckham would’ve had a much better day if he had caught even a few more of his targets — but we can’t blame him for Baker Mayfield’s accuracy issues … Landry caught all but one of his looks, and he should retain his high-volume, medium-to-short-yardage role in Kevin Stefanski’s offense … if Austin Hooper gets David Njoku’s looks, then he could be in for much better fantasy performances in the future.


Dallas Cowboys

PLAYER WEEK 1 AIR YDS WEEK 1 aDOT
Amari Cooper 113 8.1
CeeDee Lamb 57 8.1
Michael Gallup 45 11.3
Dalton Schultz 16 4
Blake Jarwin 12 12

Takeaways: Cooper dominated the team in air yards and in targets — and that was despite playing against Jalen Ramsey — imagine what he can do against a worse defense … Gallup beat out Lamb in terms of aDOT, but Lamb earned more total air yards — you can expect them to flip-flop on these stats moving forward … even if Dalton Schultz combines his air yards with Blake Jarwin’s, he’s still a touchdown-dependent option at tight end.


Denver Broncos

PLAYER WEEK 1 AIR YDS WEEK 1 aDOT
Jerry Jeudy 101 12.6
DaeSean Hamilton 76 25.3 (#6)
Tim Patrick 59 11.8
Noah Fant 47 7.8

Takeaways: Jeudy was the clear-cut WR1 on Monday Night Football, but he may lose some of this volume once Courtland Sutton returns … Hamilton earned some deep looks from Drew Lock but failed to earn more than 18 yards — he’ll see considerably fewer looks once Sutton returns … Fant led this team in receiving yardage, and his low-end aDOT proves that he can turn short targets into longer plays with his athleticism.


Detroit Lions

PLAYER WEEK 1 AIR YDS WEEK 1 aDOT
Quintez Cephus 117 13
Danny Amendola 66 9.4
Marvin Jones 65 8.1
Marvin Hall 62 31 (#4)
T.J. Hockenson 23 4.6

Takeaways: The rookie Cephus led this team in potential passing volume against the Bears, although he only hauled in three of his ten targets — look for most of this to go Kenny Golladay’s way once he gets healthy … Marvin Hall (note — not Jones) got two deep looks from Matthew Stafford as well, but as with Cephus,  Golladay’s return should cause this to drop … Marvin Jones didn’t see much use as a deep threat against Chicago, but I expect him to get a few longer targets against the Packers … Amendola led the team in receiving yards after earning a good number of yards after the catch.


Green Bay Packers

PLAYER WEEK 1 AIR YDS WEEK 1 aDOT
Davante Adams 166 (#3) 9.8
Marquez Valdes-Scantling 123 20.5 (#8)
Allen Lazard 39 9.8
Josiah Deguara 20 10

Takeaways: Uh, wow — Adams exploded for the third-most air yards in Week 1, and without much competition in this offense, he’s a high-end WR1 … MVS and Lazard posted similar fantasy numbers, but MVS had the clear advantage in terms of air yards — Lazard looks like the better short-yardage PPR option, while MVS offers more upside in standard formats … Jace Sternberger failed to log a target or an air yard in Week 1.


Houston Texans

PLAYER WEEK 1 AIR YDS WEEK 1 aDOT
Will Fuller 128 (#9) 12.8
Brandin Cooks 44 8.8
Kenny Stills 28 14
Jordan Akins 24 12
DeAndre Carter 16 8
Randall Cobb 11 3.7

Takeaways: Fuller looked like the clear-cut WR1 in this offense, as he earned the mid-range looks that DeAndre Hopkins used to get … a healthy Cooks could offset some of Fuller’s production, but for now, I’d start Fuller and leave Cooks on the bench … Fuller out-produced Cobb in terms of air yards, but Cobb’s short-yardage looks and YAC ability make him the better receiver to own.


Indianapolis Colts

PLAYER WEEK 1 AIR YDS WEEK 1 aDOT
Parris Campbell 103 11.4
T.Y. Hilton 103 11.4
Jack Doyle 42 10.5
Zach Pascal 31 10.3
Michael Pittman 11 5.5

Takeaways: Campbell and Hilton tied in terms of receptions (9) and air yards (103), so it looks like a WR1A/WR1B situation in Indy … that said, Campbell out-performed Hilton in Week 1, as he caught more of his targets … Doyle and Pascal seem like Rivers’ preferred short-yardage options … Michael Pittman is droppable in most formats; he’s not even listed as a starter on the depth chart.


Jacksonville Jaguars

PLAYER WEEK 1 AIR YDS WEEK 1 aDOT
Laviska Shenault 34 8.5
Keelan Cole 32 6.4
DJ Chark 16 5.3
Collin Johnson 12 12

Takeaways: Gardner Minshew didn’t throw many deep balls on Sunday, as his average depth of throw was only 8.65 yards … Shenault’s combination of size and speed make him a viable option all over the field, including out of the backfield — expect his air yards to spike if the Jaguars are playing from behind … four Jacksonville players earned negative air yards: Chris Conley, James O’Shaughnessy, James Robinson, and Bruce Miller … Chark didn’t see a ton of volume, either in terms of targets (3) or air yards (16) — his usage alongside Shenault will be something to monitor.


Kansas City Chiefs

PLAYER WEEK 1 AIR YDS WEEK 1 aDOT
Sammy Watkins 59 6.6
Tyreek Hill 43 7.2
Demarcus Robinson 38 6.3
Travis Kelce 14 2.3
Mecole Hardman -4 -4

Takeaways: The Chiefs’ offense depended upon its receivers to get yards after the catch, and no receiver caught a pass for more than 20 yards … Watkins led in targets (9) and air yards (59), and if he keeps this up, he’s a viable WR3/4 option, especially in standard-scoring leagues … Demarcus Robison looked like the preferred option over Mecole Hardman, and these numbers make that case well.


Las Vegas Raiders

PLAYER WEEK 1 AIR YDS WEEK 1 aDOT
Henry Ruggs 96 19.2 (#10)
Darren Waller 28 3.5
Nelson Agholor 23 23 (#7)
Hunter Renfrow 4 2
Josh Jacobs 0 0
Bryan Edwards -1 -1

Takeaways: Derek Carr either threw the ball very short or very deep on Sunday, and Henry Ruggs benefited the most from this tendency … running back Josh Jacobs turned his zero air yards into 46 receiving yards … Agholor’s single deep look (which he caught for a touchdown) doesn’t suddenly give him fantasy value … Bryan Edwards will need to have a much better performance in Week 2 to justify keeping his spot on fantasy rosters … Renfrow might be droppable, he needs a lot of targets to return value with his aDOT, and there’s no indication that he’ll get those looks.


Los Angeles Chargers

PLAYER WEEK 1 AIR YDS WEEK 1 aDOT
Mike Williams 143 (#7) 15.9
Keenan Allen 84 10.5
Hunter Henry 66 8.3
Jalen Guyton 14 14
Virgil Green 9 4.5
Austin Ekeler -5 -5

Takeaways: Tyrod Taylor wasn’t afraid to throw it deep to Mike Williams last Sunday, and the banged-up receiver caught four of his nine targets for 69 yards … both Allen and Henry earned a solid number of air yards, but Allen will need to catch more passes to return on his high-end WR2 ranking … there doesn’t seem to be a clear fourth option on this offense … Ekeler will need to see more usage in the passing game to return fantasy value, and the fact that he only got targeted behind the line of scrimmage doesn’t help his case.


Los Angeles Rams

PLAYER WEEK 1 AIR YDS WEEK 1 aDOT
Van Jefferson 52 17.3
Robert Woods 28 3.5
Tyler Higbee 26 6.5
Cooper Kupp 19 3.8
Gerald Everett 16 8

Takeaways: Just as we all expected, rookie Van Jefferson led the Rams in air yards — he’s not fantasy-relevant yet, but he could be if the Rams find themselves in a come-from-behind situation … Woods is the receiver to own in this offense, and he doesn’t need a ton of air yards because of his high-volume role … the same logic applies to Kupp, although the presence of Higbee and Woods caps his upside … Gerald Everett truthers took an L on Sunday night, and they’ll keep taking Ls until they recognize Higbee’s value. I used to be one of them, so I know.


Miami Dolphins

PLAYER WEEK 1 AIR YDS WEEK 1 aDOT
Preston Williams 98 14
Mike Gesicki 54 10.8
DeVante Parker 41 10.3
Jakeem Grant 27 6.8
Isaiah Ford 24 6

Takeaways: Williams disappointed in Week 1, but a huge Week 2 rebound is imminent — not only did he lead the Dolphins in air yards (98), he also led them in targets (7) … Parker’s injury makes Williams even likelier to go off in Week 2 … assuming Week 1’s results are predictive of future performances, Parker looks like a touchdown-dependent WR3/4 when Williams is around … Gesicki barely plays tight end, but he’s a decent option at the position given Chan Gailey’s tendency to use a big slot receiver — expect him to bounce back against a less impressive defense.


Minnesota Vikings

PLAYER WEEK 1 AIR YDS WEEK 1 aDOT
Adam Thielen 140 (#8) 17.5
Bisi Johnson 41 10.3
Tajae Sharpe 35 35 (#2)
Kyle Rudolph 21 10.5
Alexander Mattison 13 3.3
Irv Smith 11 11
Justin Jefferson 7 2.3

Takeaways: These numbers are heavily skewed because the Vikings trailed for most of the game, and we shouldn’t expect Thielen to keep seeing so many deep looks … that said, he’s certainly the lead option in this offense, which makes him a low-end WR1 at worst … Bisi Johnson looks to be the favored option over Justin Jefferson right now, but Tajae Sharpe’s one deep target isn’t enough for me to say the same about him … Mattison’s positive air yards prove that he gets the used in the passing game more than just out of the backfield, which enhances his appeal as a flex option.


New England Patriots

PLAYER WEEK 1 AIR YDS WEEK 1 aDOT
Julian Edelman 59 8.4
N’Keal Harry 22 3.7
Ryan Izzo 17 8.5
James White 8 2.7

Takeaways: Cam Newton only had to throw the ball 19 times against the Dolphins, so these numbers could tick upward in a closer game … that said, only Ryan Izzo connected on a pass for longer than 15 yards, so New England receivers may depend on receptions and touchdowns, not yards, this season … Edelman will need to get more looks or deeper targets if he wants to return to being a weekly starter in fantasy.


New Orleans Saints

PLAYER WEEK 1 AIR YDS WEEK 1 aDOT
Jared Cook 76 10.9
Michael Thomas 44 8.8
Emmanuel Sanders 21 4.2
Josh Hill 12 12
Tre’Quan Smith 5 5

Takeaways: Thomas’ injury makes this data less useful … that said, Drew Brees prefers to throw short-yardage or medium-yardage passes, and his receivers’ aDOTs reflect that … Jared Cook and Emmanuel Sanders should be consistent starters at their position until Thomas returns, while Tre’Quan Smith will either need a lot more targets or considerably deeper ones to be worth starting.


New York Giants

PLAYER WEEK 1 AIR YDS WEEK 1 aDOT
Darius Slayton 102 11.3
Sterling Shepard 35 5.8
Saquon Barkley 30 3.3
Evan Engram 29 4.8
C.J. Board 15 7.5

Takeaways: Slayton was a safe bet to see some negative touchdown regression this year, but he’s already off to a two-score pace this year … he looks like the preferred long-to-mid-range receiving option for New York, while both Sterling Shepard and Evan Engram have short-yardage roles … Barkley’s use beyond the line of scrimmage adds to his value, and it makes him a strong RB1 regardless of the game script.


New York Jets

PLAYER WEEK 1 AIR YDS WEEK 1 aDOT
Jamison Crowder 98 7.5
Chris Herndon 42 6
Chris Hogan 38 9.5
Breshad Perriman 32 6.4
Le’Veon Bell 21 10.5

Takeaways: Crowder was an excellent receiving option on Sunday, and he had a high-volume role in terms of both air yards (98) and targets (13) … that said, he’s nursing a hamstring injury that forced him to miss Thursday’s practice, so keep an eye on his status for this week … Herndon would benefit the most from Crowder’s absence, as he’s the next-best short-yardage receiver in this offense … Sam Darnold failed to capitalize on Breshad Perriman’s talents in Week 1, as the deep-threat receiver only earned 32 air yards on five targets … Le’Veon Bell’s usage as a receiver beyond the line of scrimmage gives him fantasy value despite game scripts, but he landed on injured reserve this week.


Philadelphia Eagles

PLAYER WEEK 1 AIR YDS WEEK 1 aDOT
DeSean Jackson 210 (#1) 30 (#5)
Jalen Reagor 144 (#6) 36 (#1)
Zach Ertz 61 8.7
Dallas Goedert 55 6.1
Greg Ward 37 5.3
John Hightower 33 8.3

Takeaways: You wouldn’t know it from the final score, but the Eagles had two players in the top ten for air yards and aDOT — while Jackson and Reagor combined for only 101 actual yards, they should see some positive regression if Carson Wentz gets more time to throw … Ertz and Goedert saw roughly the same number of air yards, but Goedert out-targeted (9) and out-caught (8) Ertz (7, 3). Ertz should return to TE1 value next week, although it may be a TE1A/TE1B situation in Philadelphia … Greg Ward’s short-yardage role means that he’s only a viable fantasy consideration in PPR formats.


Pittsburgh Steelers

PLAYER WEEK 1 AIR YDS WEEK 1 aDOT
Diontae Johnson 69 6.3
James Washington 42 14
Eric Ebron 39 19.5 (#9)
Chase Claypool 32 16
JuJu Smith-Schuster 30 5

Takeaways: Smith-Schuster may have scored two touchdowns, but the distribution of air yards suggest that he isn’t the clear-cut WR1 in this offense … while Johnson logged the most air yards, his short aDOT suggests that Roethlisberger sees him as more of a mid-range threat or short-yardage option … in contrast, James Washington looks like the deep threat to own after Week 1 … Eric Ebron had the highest aDOT of any tight end on the slate.


Seattle Seahawks

PLAYER WEEK 1 AIR YDS WEEK 1 aDOT
DK Metcalf 119 14.9
Tyler Lockett 72 9
Greg Olsen 16 4

Takeaways: No other Seattle receiver earned more than 10 air yards in Week 1, including Jacob Hollister, David Moore, and Will Dissly … the Falcons allowed the run-first Seahawks to let Russ cook in Week 1, and it’ll be worth monitoring if this marks an offensive shift for Pete Carroll … Metcalf was the only receiver not to catch all of his passes for the Seahawks, but he still led the team in receiving yards (95) — his deep looks make him a low-end WR1, although he’s a much better option in standard-scoring leagues … Tyler Lockett continues to be a high-floor option with some pop, although Metcalf’s presence caps his upside a bit.


San Francisco 49ers

PLAYER WEEK 1 AIR YDS WEEK 1 aDOT
Kendrick Bourne 60 12
Dante Pettis 34 34 (#3)
Trent Taylor 33 6.6
Jerick McKinnon 32 6.4
George Kittle 27 5.4
Kyle Juszczyk 16 5.3
Raheem Mostert 12 2.4
Jordan Reed 5 2.5

Takeaways: I included nine names here, but only three of them are wide receivers, and only two of them earned more than one target on Sunday … these numbers are of little use to us, as Brandon Aiyuk will assume a big role once he returns (likely in Week 2) … the 49ers also added Mohamed Sanu, who found posted fantasy-relevant numbers with Kyle Shanahan in Atlanta … if George Kittle misses any time, Jordan Reed could become a volume-based TE1 if he got Kittle’s air yards (27) and targets (5).


Tampa Bay Buccaneers

PLAYER WEEK 1 AIR YDS WEEK 1 aDOT
Chris Godwin 71 10.1
O.J. Howard 68 11.3
Scotty Miller 59 9.8
Mike Evans 36 9
Rob Gronkowski 21 7
Justin Watson 11 5.5

Takeaways: Tom Brady didn’t attempt many deep passes on Sunday, and that might be a function of his arm strength — these numbers look less impressive compared to the ones that these receivers posted under Jameis Winston … Chris Godwin looked like the receiver to own in Tampa Bay, but Mike Evans’ injury could have been the cause — with Godwin’s concussion, this is a situation to monitor closely … that said, Scotty Miller could have a fantasy-relevant role in this offense even with them around … O.J. Howard looked like the preferred tight end in Week 1, but I’d give Rob Gronkowski another week to prove himself.


Tennessee Titans

PLAYER WEEK 1 AIR YDS WEEK 1 aDOT
Corey Davis 102 11.3
Adam Humphries 49 7
A.J. Brown 47 5.9
Kalif Raymond 22 11
Jonnu Smith 12 1.7

Takeaways: Of course Corey Davis led this team in air yards … speedster A.J. Brown failed to deliver much on his eight targets, the same number that Davis got, as he caught only five of them — his fantasy relevance depends on his YAC production … Humphries’ air yards (49) and targets (7) suggest that he’ll produce numbers comparable to Cole Beasley’s this season … Jonnu Smith’s fantasy numbers depend on his touchdowns and YAC ability.


Washington Football Team

PLAYER WEEK 1 AIR YDS WEEK 1 aDOT
Logan Thomas 72 9
Dontrelle Inman 69 13.8
Terry McLaurin 67 9.6
J.D. McKissic 24 4.8
Steven Sims 15 5

Takeaways: Thomas was the preferred receiving option for Washington on Sunday, and he led the team in both air yards (72) and targets (8) — he’s a low-end TE1 option moving forward … F1 McLaurin seems like a higher-volume WR2 as a decent mid-range receiving option for Washington … Dontrelle Inman looks like Washington’s deep threat, although you shouldn’t expect Ron Rivera to let Dwayne Haskins take many risks.

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Isaiah Sirois is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Isaiah, check out his archive and follow him @is_sirois.

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