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Fantasy Football Air Yards Analysis & Takeaways: Week 6 (2023)

Fantasy Football Air Yards Analysis & Takeaways: Week 6 (2023)

Advanced stats can help fantasy managers determine potential breakout candidates in fantasy football. Two wide receivers can have similar stat lines in a given week. But they may have gotten there in different ways, and one may have more value going forward than another.

In recent years, targets and target share have become an important part of how we value pass catchers. However, those metrics only tell part of the story. This is because not all targets have the same fantasy value.

Air yards is an important metric because it can often be an indicator of a player’s potential value. Downfield targets offer more big play – and thus big fantasy point – potential. Those players who are being targeted often and also down the field could be in store for more fantasy production down the road.

Let us take a look at some of the top air yards performances from last week to see if we can uncover any hidden gems as we head into Week 6.

Stats via FTNFantasy.com

The Top 10 Quarterbacks

Name Team Att Air Yds aDOT
Josh Allen BUF 40 443 11.07
Lamar Jackson BAL 38 423 11.13
Sam Howell WAS 51 386 7.57
Matthew Stafford LA 37 366 9.89
Kirk Cousins MIN 47 355 7.55
Joshua Dobbs ARI 32 312 9.75
Desmond Ridder ATL 37 305 8.24
Kenny Pickett PIT 32 305 9.53
Dak Prescott DAL 24 304 12.67
Joe Burrow CIN 46 300 6.52

Matthew Stafford has been among the top 10 quarterbacks in air yards every single week so far this season. No other quarterback has made the list more than three times. That is the good news. The bad news is that Stafford has yet to record a top-12 weekly fantasy finish. Expect that to potentially change in Week 6. The Arizona Cardinals have been destroyed by opposing quarterbacks in recent weeks.

In the last two weeks, opposing signal-callers have thrown for 600 yards while completing 83.6% of their passes. With Cooper Kupp and Puka Nacua in tow, Stafford finally threw for multiple scores last week. I expect more of the same on Sunday. Stafford should have plenty of opportunities to sling the football around the yard and rack up fantasy points in Week 6.

Kirk Cousins is one of three quarterbacks (Jalen Hurts and Joshua Dobbs being the others) who have this list three times. He also has arguably the best Week 6 fantasy matchup for quarterbacks when he and the Minnesota Vikings travel to Chicago to take on the Bears. No team has allowed more fantasy points to the quarterback position than the Chicago Bears.

However, fantasy managers may want to consider selling high if Cousins cruises in Week 6. The Vikings placed star wideout Justin Jefferson on injured reserve this week  Between the Jefferson injury and the recent acquisition of Cam Akers. Minnesota may place a greater emphasis on the running game moving forward. They also face some difficult opponents (most notably San Francisco, Green Bay, and New Orleans) in the next four weeks.

The Top 10 Wide Receivers

Name Team Tar Rec Rec Yds Air Yds aDOT Air % Tar %
George Pickens PIT 10 6 130 196 19.6 65.33% 32.26%
Stefon Diggs BUF 11 8 121 182 16.55 42.62% 30.56%
Christian Watson GB 7 3 91 177 25.29 72.84% 24.14%
DeAndre Hopkins TEN 11 8 140 173 15.73 63.60% 32.35%
Zay Flowers BAL 11 5 73 168 15.27 39.72% 28.95%
Ja’Marr Chase CIN 19 15 192 154 8.11 51.68% 43.18%
Marquise Brown ARI 10 4 61 143 14.3 48.81% 33.33%
Cooper Kupp LA 12 8 118 137 11.42 40.77% 35.29%
A.J. Brown PHI 8 6 127 135 16.88 51.14% 23.53%
Michael Thomas NO 7 4 65 126 18 52.50% 28%
Puka Nacua LA 11 7 71 126 11.45 37.50% 32.35%

In his first four NFL games, Zay Flowers had no more than 65 air yards in a single week. His average depth of target (aDOT) was just 6.07 yards. Last week we witnessed a sizable shift in how Flowers operated in the Baltimore Ravens’ offense. Flowers had an aDOT of 15.27 against Pittsburgh, logging 168 air yards. That nearly matched Flowers’ total air yards through the first four weeks (176).

Because of the longer aDOT, Flowers reeled in only five of his 11 targets last week. In his first four games, Flowers and Lamar Jackson connected on all but five of 29 throws. But even with six incompletions, Flowers finished the week as the overall WR28. It was his first top-40 weekly finish since Week 1.

Time will tell if Flowers’ usage last week was game-specific or if the Ravens are beginning to take the training wheels off. I am hopeful that it is the latter. Even if Flowers is slightly less efficient, his ability to make big plays would raise his ceiling if targeted further downfield more consistently. The next few weeks should give us opportunities to find out. Flowers and the Ravens face Tennessee and Detroit in their next two games. Both teams are pass funnel defenses, so Flowers should rack up plenty of targets.

After that are matchups with Arizona and Seattle. The Cardinals have allowed the seventh-most fantasy points to opposing wideouts, including two individual top-eight performances over the past two weeks. And no team has allowed more fantasy points than the Seahawks. If you have a chance to buy low on Flowers, I would do so before the window closes.

After much conversation about the health status of Cooper Kupp, we saw the Rams use him basically as if there was zero concern for reinjury. Kupp caught eight of 12 targets and finished with 118 yards. Both he and Puka Nacua finished inside the top 10 in air yards and in the top 12 in fantasy points. All other Rams pass catchers combined for six receptions and 33 yards on 11 targets last week.

This pecking order is likely to stick as long as Kupp remains healthy. He and Nacua will dominate looks in the Rams’ passing attack, with everyone else fighting for scraps. The team even traded wideout Van Jefferson to the Atlanta Falcons this week. Hopefully, that is a good sign for Kupp’s health going forward. Kupp and Nacua should be treated as matchup-proof starters until further notice.

The Top 10 Tight Ends

Name Team Tar Rec Rec Yds Air Yds aDOT Air % Tar %
Kyle Pitts ATL 11 7 87 125 11.36 41.95% 29.73%
Darren Waller NYG 11 8 86 116 10.55 57.14% 36.67%
Dalton Schultz HOU 10 7 65 81 8.1 29.14% 31.25%
T.J. Hockenson MIN 8 5 51 76 9.5 21.41% 17.39%
Logan Thomas WAS 11 9 77 73 6.64 19.47% 22.92%
Mark Andrews BAL 10 6 65 67 6.7 15.84% 26.32%
Dallas Goedert PHI 9 8 117 64 7.11 24.24% 26.47%
Dawson Knox BUF 6 3 17 58 9.67 13.58% 16.67%
Travis Kelce KC 11 10 67 52 4.73 21.76% 28.21%
Hunter Henry NE 2 0 0 48 24 14.08% 6.45%

Once again, Kyle Pitts led all tight ends in air yards last week. Except this time, it actually translated into fantasy production. Pitts caught seven of 11 targets for 87 yards. Though he did not score, Pitts ended the week as the TE9 overall. It was his first weekly top-15 finish of the 2023 season. So, has order been restored to the universe for Pitts managers? Well, not exactly. Jonnu Smith (6-67-0, TE14) does not appear to be going away anytime soon.

The Falcons continue to use Pitts as a de facto wide receiver, targeting him down the field, while Smith is used underneath. As I mentioned last week, Pitts is the preferred option, given his higher ceiling. However, Smith is the one I would choose if I knew I needed a guaranteed five or six fantasy points in a given week.

Logan Thomas finished last week with 73 air yards and 77 receiving yards. It was his first week posting a number higher than 47 in either category. His big day also came in a game in which Washington trailed early and was forced to throw the ball more than usual. Having said that, Thomas enters Week 6 as the overall TE9 on the year. That may say more about the tight end position than it does Thomas.

Still, I think Thomas is an interesting play this week. He will face the Atlanta Falcons, who have allowed the second-most fantasy points to opposing tight ends this season. Thomas leads the team with two touchdown catches and is tied for third among all tight ends with four targets inside the opponent’s 10-yard line. I am treating Logan Thomas as a low-end TE1 in Week 6.

The Top Five Underperformers

Name Team Tar Rec Rec Yds Air Yds aDOT Air % Tar %
Kadarius Toney KC 6 5 26 3 0.5 1.26% 15.38%
Wan’Dale Robinson NYG 6 5 18 14 2.33 6.90% 20%
Rondale Moore ARI 5 3 26 14 2.8 4.78% 16.67%
Rashee Rice KC 5 4 33 23 4.6 9.62% 12.82%
Tyler Boyd CIN 7 6 39 30 4.29 10.07% 15.91%

For this section of the air yards report, I will continue to focus on the wide receiver position. We know that generally, running back and tight end targets occur within close proximity of the line of scrimmage. I will also continue to filter this section to include only those wideouts who earned at least five targets. These are generally the type of players who you may be considering starting in your weekly matchups. Even those with a low aDOT could be worth starting in PPR formats if they get enough volume.

Making this section of the air yards report can be good or bad, depending on your perspective. Since I only include wideouts with at least five targets, the players on this list have some stability in their role in an offense. That could be good for leagues that award points for receptions. However, none of that has helped Wan’Dale Robinson when it comes to fantasy relevance.

Robinson has made this list in all three of his games this season. Yet he has been unable to crack the top 50 in a given week, finishing outside the top 70 in two of three games. The Giants show little chance of getting out of their offensive funk anytime soon. Thus there is no reason to consider adding Robinson or inserting him into your Week 6 lineups.

On the flip side, Rashee Rice is a player who could be interesting this week, depending on your other options. He continues to be targeted near the line of scrimmage in Kansas City. Rice has an aDOT of just 5.58 yards on 24 targets. While that is not ideal, Rice has turned that into 173 receiving yards and two scores. Rice’s weekly fantasy finishes among wideouts have been 25-91-44-67-21.

I’m sure you can guess which two games he scored touchdowns in. The Chiefs host the Denver Broncos in Week 6. Denver has a dreadful defense as it is, so facing Kansas City on a short week could get interesting. This could be a game where Rice makes some noise. Rice is a boom-or-bust option, but he could be in play this week as a borderline Flex play.

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