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Air Yards Analysis (2021 Fantasy Football)

Sep 23, 2021
Jakobi Meyers

Air yards are the total yards the Q.B. threw the ball in the air toward the wide receiver. Why is this important? It helps us differentiate targets, weighing targets deeper downfield heavier than shorter throws. Since yards are a fantasy football stat, having players who need only to catch the ball to accumulate the most yards is a tried and true strategy.

Everyone is trying to gain an edge on their league. Therefore, it is advantageous to know which players are garnering the opportunities to have monster weeks before they put it all together. Every week, we will give you the top receivers (not just W.R., but R.B. & T.E. too) according to air yards for every NFL team. Additionally, we will provide an evaluation of those numbers and what fantasy football actions are warranted.

Statistics courtesy of PFF Premium Stats page.

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Arizona Cardinals

PLAYER WEEK 2 AIR YARDS WEEK 2 aDOT
Christian Kirk (WR-ARI) 97 24.3
A.J. Green (WR-ARI) 58 9.7
Deandre Hopkins (WR-ARI) 48 12.0
Rondale Moore (WR-ARI) 31 3.9

 
Evaluation: There are plenty of Air Yards to go around in Arizona. If you are looking for a deep play/stash, consider A.J. Green. He has been involved in the passing game. He just hasn’t turned those opportunities into a big fantasy week yet.

Atlanta Falcons

PLAYER WEEK 2 AIR YARDS WEEK 2 aDOT
Calvin Ridley (WR-ATL) 115 11.5
Kyle Pitts (TE-ATL) 39 7.8
Russell Gage (WR-ATL) 21 2.3
Olamide Zaccheaus (WR-ATL) 21 7.0

 
Evaluation: Still plenty of opportunity for rookie TE Kyle Pitts to have a monster performance. If you can somehow still buy-low, do that. The Falcons targeted 12 different pass catchers, not because of their talent depth, but because outside of Ridley and Pitts, they will take production from anyone at this point.

Baltimore Ravens

PLAYER WEEK 2 AIR YARDS WEEK 2 aDOT
Marquise Brown (WR-BAL) 141 14.1
Sammy Watkins (WR-BAL) 71 10.1
Mark Andrews (TE-BAL) 32 6.4

 
Evaluation: When healthy, Sammy Watkins finds his way to the football. While everyone is swooning over Hollywood Brown’s night, maybe take a shot on Watkins — he is currently healthy.

Buffalo Bills

PLAYER WEEK 2 AIR YARDS WEEK 2 aDOT
Stefon Diggs (WR-BUF) 113 14.1
Emmanuel Sanders (WR-BUF) 90 18.0
Dawson Knox (TE-BUF) 16 5.3
Cole Beasley (TE-BUF) 10 2.5

 
Evaluation: Emmanuel Sanders has established chemistry already with his starting QB Josh Allen. The passing offense hasn’t put it altogether yet in 2021, but when they do, Sanders could end up being a precious fantasy asset with Cole Beasley struggling to repeat his 2020.

Carolina Panthers

PLAYER WEEK 2 AIR YARDS WEEK 2 aDOT
D.J. Moore (WR-CAR) 89 8.1
Robby Anderson (WR-CAR) 88 17.6
Dan Arnold (TE-CAR) 42 10.5
Christian McCaffrey (RB-CAR) 8 1.3

 
Evaluation: Missing from this list is rookie WR Terrace Marshall Jr. He drew just three targets with a -0.1 aDOT on the Week. The rookie hasn’t been a factor through two games, and if something is blossoming between QB Sam Darnold and TE Dan Arnold, then Marshall could quickly turn into an easy fantasy cut.

Cincinnati Bengals

PLAYER WEEK 2 AIR YARDS WEEK 2 aDOT
Tee Higgins (WR-CIN) 99 9.9
Ja’Marr Chase (WR-CIN) 83 20.8
Tyler Boyd (WR-CIN) 54 6.0

 
Evaluation: The Bengals struggled for much of the early portion of Week 2’s matchup to get the ball downfield, allowing Tyler Boyd to rack up underneath. That is about the only way Boyd can stay fantasy-relevant in most leagues. Higgins and Chase have proven to be the W.R.s to roster.

Chicago Bears

PLAYER WEEK 2 AIR YARDS WEEK 2 aDOT
Darnell Mooney (WR-CHI) 91 11.4
Allen Robinson II (WR-CHI) 64 16.0
Marquise Goodwin (WR-CHI) 33 11.0

 
Evaluation: Allen Robinson hasn’t lit the fantasy world on fire, but last week’s T.D. helped. Now, as Justin Fields ascends to the starter, the Bears’ W.R. usage will be something to monitor. Most figure Robinson will be the big winner, but perhaps Darnell Mooney can benefit most from Fields’ playmaking abilities.

Cleveland Browns

PLAYER WEEK 2 AIR YARDS WEEK 2 aDOT
Harrison Bryant (TE-CLE) 36 9.0
Rashard Higgins (WR-CLE) 25 12.5
David Njoku (TE-CLE) 18 6.0
Austin Hooper (TE-CLE) 16 3.2

 
Evaluation: Yuck. This is a chart you can mostly dismiss. Jarvis Landry was injured, OBJ hasn’t played, and Baker Mayfield is just throwing to anyone who is wearing the same jersey as him at this point. The Browns’ T.E.s take away fantasy value from each other, so until Beckham is on the field, Cleveland pass-catchers can be avoided.

Dallas Cowboys

PLAYER WEEK 2 AIR YARDS WEEK 2 aDOT
Ceedee Lamb (WR-DAL) 52 5.8
Amari Cooper (WR-DAL) 49 9.8
Blake Jarwin (TE-DAL) 42 10.5

 
Evaluation: Eyeball emoji for Blake Jarwin. The Dallas TE ran 18 routes, 10 of those coming from either the Slot or out Wide. Michael Gallup’s injury opens the door for another fantasy-relevant weapon within the offense. Cedric Wilson wasn’t as involved this Week, so if Jarwin runs more routes from off the line than inline, he will provide fantasy value at a difficult position to find it.

Denver Broncos

PLAYER WEEK 2 AIR YARDS WEEK 2 aDOT
Courtland Sutton (WR-DEN) 254 21.2
K.J. Hamler (WR-DEN) 52 17.3
Tim Patrick (WR-DEN) 25 6.3
Noah Fant (TE-DEN) 23 3.8

 
Evaluation: That is not a typo. Courtland Sutton solidified himself as the alpha once again in Denver’s air attack. Chances are, he’s not available in your league, but K.J. Hamler might be. Hamler ran 50% of the Broncos’ slot routes in Week 2. If he can continue that upward trend, he has the potential as a nice roster depth piece.

Detroit Lions

PLAYER WEEK 2 AIR YARDS WEEK 2 aDOT
T.J. Hockenson (TE-DET) 85 9.4
Quintez Cephus (WR-DET) 77 11.0
Trinity Benson (WR-DET) 52 17.3
Amon-Ra St. Brown (WR-DET) 45 9.0

 
Evaluation: Here’s a name for you deep-leaguers: Trinity Benson. Benson had a T.D. in his hands late on Monday night that would have led to a few more waiver bids, but a D.B. knocked it out of his arms at the last second. If Tyrell Williams continues to miss time, Benson could be the big play W.R. opposite of target-hog Quintez Cephus.

Green Bay Packers

PLAYER WEEK 2 AIR YARDS WEEK 2 aDOT
Marquez Valdes-Scantling (WR-GB) 112 28.0
Davante Adams (WR-GB) 100 11.1
Randall Cobb (WR-GB) 24 8.0
Robert Tonyan (TE-GB) 12 4.0

 
Evaluation: MVS recorded a goose egg on Monday Night despite leading the Packers in Air Yards. What does this mean? Air Yards do not equal fantasy points, but they signify offensive trends that could hint at big performances in the future. This offense runs through Adams and Aaron Jones, but there is enough volume weekly for someone else to help you win.

Houston Texans

PLAYER WEEK 2 AIR YARDS WEEK 2 aDOT
Brandin Cooks (WR-HOU) 167 11.9
Andre Roberts (WR-HOU) 31 15.5
Chris Conley (WR-HOU) 11 5.5

 
Evaluation: We almost didn’t include any other Texans besides Brandin Cooks. Look, Cooks is options A-Z in the passing attack even with rookie Davis Mills set to takeover in Week 3. There just aren’t any other fantasy-viable options from Houston.

Indianapolis Colts

PLAYER WEEK 2 AIR YARDS WEEK 2 aDOT
Michael Pittman Jr. (WR-IND) 142 12.9
Jack Doyle (TE-IND) 44 5.5
Zach Pascal (WR-IND) 33 5.5

 
Evaluation: Carson Wentz’s ankle injuries put a damper on Pittman’s breakout performance. The Indy W.R. looked like a WR1 against a formidable opponent. Wentz’s timetable is unknown, so temper expectations for Pittman and the rest of the Colt’s pass catchers.

Jacksonville Jaguars

PLAYER WEEK 2 AIR YARDS WEEK 2 aDOT
Marvin Jones Jr. (WR-JAX) 168 16.8
Laviska Shenault Jr. (WR-JAX) 39 5.6
D.J. Chark Jr. (WR-JAX) 51 17.0

 
Evaluation: D.J. Chark was not as heavily involved this week as in Week 1 for the Jags. Instead, QB Trevor Lawrence looked Marvin Jones’ way ten times. The Jaguars are a frustrating group for fantasy managers, and perhaps everyone was just one year too early on this team.

Kansas City Chiefs

PLAYER WEEK 2 AIR YARDS WEEK 2 aDOT
Mecole Hardman (WR-KC) 127 15.9
Demarcus Robinson (WR-KC) 50 16.7
Travis Kelce (TE-KC) 29 3.6
Tyreek Hill (WR-KC) 17 4.3

 
Evaluation: This was just an upside-down night for Kansas City. Baltimore’s defense slowed down Tyreek Hill, but Patrick Mahomes still found a way to provide fantasy teams with multiple scoring options, including Mecole Hardman. Five catches for 55 yards isn’t spectacular, but it is nice to see him targeted often as many await his emergence with bated breath.

Las Vegas Raiders

PLAYER WEEK 2 AIR YARDS WEEK 2 aDOT
Henry Ruggs III (WR-LV) 74 12.3
Darren Waller (TE-LV) 68 9.7
Hunter Renfrow (WR-LV) 58 9.7

 
Evaluation: Ruggs showed off his blazing speed in the biggest moments of Week 2, solidifying his place as a popular waiver add. Derek Carr has been on fire to start the season, and as long as he’s playing at this level, Ruggs and Renfrow have legitimate FLEX appeal.

Los Angeles Chargers

PLAYER WEEK 2 AIR YARDS WEEK 2 aDOT
Keenan Allen (WR-LAC) 109 13.6
Mike Williams (WR-LAC) 97 9.7
Jared Cook (TE-LAC) 35 7.0

 
Evaluation: Another week, another step in the right direction for Mike Williams. He’s been a focal point for Justin Herbert in 2021, leading to fantasy gold thus far. A few more weeks of this level of play and Williams will be mentioned amongst the WR1s alongside Keenan Allen.

Los Angeles Rams

PLAYER WEEK 2 AIR YARDS WEEK 2 aDOT
Cooper Kupp (WR-LAR) 95 8.6
Robert Woods (WR-LAR) 78 9.8
Van Jefferson (WR-LAR) 35 11.7

 
Evaluation: Van Jefferson was again running a ton of routes from the outside, most of them of the deep variety. He’s way under the radar in most leagues, but if you have a spot to spare on the bench, Jefferson isn’t far away from being everyone’s number 1 waiver add.

Miami Dolphins

PLAYER WEEK 2 AIR YARDS WEEK 2 aDOT
DeVante Parker (WR-MIA) 94 11.8
Mike Gesicki (TE-MIA) 68 11.3
Albert Wilson (WR-MIA) 20 3.3
Jaylen Waddle (WR-MIA) 5 0.7

 
Evaluation: If you watched this game, you heard the T.V. crew reference Mike Gesicki as a W.R. who they call a T.E., and that is a fact. When Gesicki is on the field, he commands a designed coverage. Any fantasy team struggling to field a T.E. would do well to place Gesicki into that slot.

Minnesota Vikings

PLAYER WEEK 2 AIR YARDS WEEK 2 aDOT
Justin Jefferson (WR-MIN) 121 13.4
K.J. Osborn (WR-MIN) 47 9.4
Adam Thielen (WR-MIN) 23 3.8

 
Evaluation: In last week’s article, we noted K.J. Osborn’s involvement in the air attack. This week he was a waiver darling. The lesson to learn is — always be a Week early.

New England Patriots

PLAYER WEEK 2 AIR YARDS WEEK 2 aDOT
Jakobi Meyers (WR-NE) 54 9.0
Hunter Henry (WR-NE) 40 10.0
Nelson Agholor (WR-NE) 19 6.3

 
Evaluation: Meyers was the top dog again for Mac Jones and the Patriots offense. He finished 2020 well, despite not getting into the end zone. As this QB-WR connection grows, you will want to be the team with Meyers on your bench and not the team spending mega FAAB.

New Orleans Saints

PLAYER WEEK 2 AIR YARDS WEEK 2 aDOT
Deonte Harris (WR-NO) 40 20.0
Juwan Johnson (TE-NO) 40 16.7
Marquez Callaway (WR-NO) 26 6.5

 
Evaluation: A total throwaway game for QB Jameis Winston, as the Saints offense was stymied and the passing attack was nil. If you roster New Orleans pass-catchers, you will want Winston to hang around at Q.B. as long as possible because the Taysom Hill ride will not produce many fantasy thrills.

New York Giants

PLAYER WEEK 2 AIR YARDS WEEK 2 aDOT
Darius Slayton (WR-NYG) 113 18.7
Kenny Golladay (WR-NYG) 111 14.6
Sterling Shepard (WR-NYG) 81 8.1

 
Evaluation: The Giants’ defense combined with Daniel Jones’ fearlessness is turning out to be a nice combination for fantasy players. Fantasy points could be plentiful as the offense attempts to keep pace in their weekly shootout. Never doubt a lousy defense for your fantasy receivers.

New York Jets

PLAYER WEEK 2 AIR YARDS WEEK 2 aDOT
Elijah Moore (WR-NYJ) 115 14.4
Braxton Berrios (WR-NYJ) 63 7.0
Corey Davis (WR-NYJ) 31 6.2

 
Evaluation: Give Zach Wilson some credit. He did try to get the ball to his young WR Elijah Moore despite throwing 4 INTs on Sunday. But, then, immediately take away all of that credit for allowing Braxton Berrios to be the top target getter. Corey Davis deserves better.

Philadelphia Eagles

PLAYER WEEK 2 AIR YARDS WEEK 2 aDOT
DeVonta Smith (WR-PHI) 165 23.6
Jalen Reagor (WR-PHI) 91 18.2
Quez Watkins (WR-PHI) 58 29.0

 
Evaluation: Philadelphia was stifled by San Francisco on Sunday, but there were some positive signs for their young W.R. corps. DeVonta Smith continued his dominance of the Air Yards from Jalen Hurts, while Quez Watkins found himself playing the part of DeSean Jackson. Better days are ahead for this offense.

Pittsburgh Steelers

PLAYER WEEK 2 AIR YARDS WEEK 2 aDOT
Chase Claypool (WR-PIT) 173 21.6
Diontae Johnson (WR-PIT) 136 11.3
JuJu Smith-Schuster (WR-PIT) 14 2.3

 
Evaluation: Claypool and Johnson’s ability to turn every pass into a T.D. severely hinders Smith-Schuster’s fantasy upside. He’s become the safety valve instead of a playmaker. Barring an injury to one of the others, JuJu is a PPR FLEX option only.

Seattle Seahawks

PLAYER WEEK 2 AIR YARDS WEEK 2 aDOT
Tyler Lockett (WR-SEA) 165 15.0
D.K. Metcalf (WR-SEA) 97 8.8
Freddie Swain (WR-SEA) 37 7.4

 
Evaluation: Who is Freddie Swain, and why should he be on your fantasy team? Easy. Seattle doesn’t have a clear number 3 pass-catcher behind Lockett, and Metcalf and Swain could fill that role. If he does, he has immediate fantasy value in this offense. Stash away.

San Francisco 49ers

PLAYER WEEK 2 AIR YARDS WEEK 2 aDOT
Deebo Samuel (WR-SF) 47 5.9
Trent Sherfield (WR-SF) 34 11.3
Brandon Aiyuk (WR-SF) 23 11.5

 
Evaluation: At this point, Brandon Aiyuk is a fantasy bench player. Kyle Shanahan is a master of destroying fantasy value for the good of his team (not a bad thing for 49ers fans). Until Aiyuk fully emerges in the offense (just two targets last week), avoid the temptation of playing him, trading for him, or adding him from your waiver wire.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

PLAYER WEEK 2 AIR YARDS WEEK 2 aDOT
Mike Evans (WR-TB) 174 19.3
Chris Godwin (WR-TB) 60 12.0
Rob Gronkowski (TE-TB) 49 9.8
Antonio Brown (WR-TB) 70 23.3

 
Evaluation: Rob Gronkowski will finish as the number 1 T.E. in 2021, isn’t he? Gronk remains a nightmare for opposing defenses, as do all of the four pass-catchers listed above for the Bucs. It’s hard being Tom Brady. I’ll tell ya.

Tennessee Titans

PLAYER WEEK 2 AIR YARDS WEEK 2 aDOT
A.J. Brown (WR-TEN) 174 19.3
Julio Jones (WR-TEN) 128 16.0
Chester Rogers (WR-TEN) 32 8.0

 
Evaluation: This is more like it from Tennessee, Ryan Tannehill, and especially Julio Jones. After being absent from the plan in Week 1, Jones bounced back as the Titans’ leading receiver in Week 2. When everything is clicking in Nashville, this offense will be a joy to watch.

Washington Football Team

PLAYER WEEK 2 AIR YARDS WEEK 2 aDOT
Terry McLaurin (WR-WAS) 113 8.1
Dyami Brown (WR-WAS) 91 15.2
Logan Thomas (TE-WAS) 68 9.7
Adam Humphries (WR-WAS) 18 2.3

 
Evaluation: The final stat line for rookie Dyami Brown was three catches for 34 yards, easily lost in the week that was. However, QB Taylor Heinicke sized up his young wideout six times on the night, showing some confidence in the rook. Washington’s receiving tree currently has two branches (McLaurin and Thomas), but perhaps Brown is a sapling that will take root.

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