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Fantasy Football Air Yards Analysis & Takeaways: Week 7 (2023)

Fantasy Football Air Yards Analysis & Takeaways: Week 7 (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 Week 6 to see if we can uncover any hidden gems.

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Fantasy Football Air Yards Analysis & Takeaways

Stats via FTNFantasy.com

The Top 10 Quarterbacks

Name Team Att Air Yds aDOT
Derek Carr NO 50 518 10.36
Baker Mayfield TB 37 443 11.97
Joshua Dobbs ARI 41 426 10.39
Desmond Ridder ATL 47 409 8.7
Gardner Minshew IND 55 394 7.16
Jalen Hurts PHI 45 364 8.09
Geno Smith SEA 41 349 8.51
Bryce Young CAR 38 319 8.39
Tua Tagovailoa MIA 31 274 8.84
Jared Goff DET 44 270 6.14

Last week was one of the lowest-scoring weeks in recent NFL memory. That translated to the fantasy realm as well. Only four quarterbacks scored at least 20 points, while only a dozen signal-callers scored at least 15 fantasy points. Most of the air yards leaders struggled from a fantasy perspective as well. In most instances, these were quarterbacks whose teams fell behind early, forcing them to throw more than normal.

That led to some inflated air yards totals for a few of this week’s quarterbacks. However, there are still some things we can glean from what we saw last week, so let’s get to it.

Desmond Ridder is this week’s poster child for fantasy production versus real-life play. Ridder was the overall QB6 but threw three interceptions and posted a 32.1 QBR. It has not been the most aesthetically pleasing brand of ball, but Ridder has now posted top-six fantasy finishes in back-to-back weeks.

With six teams on a bye in Week 7, it may be tempting to keep riding Ridder. But it feels like Ridder will have a difficult time replicating his recent success. He and the Atlanta Falcons will face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this week. They have only allowed six touchdown passes through five games this season. It feels like the kind of game where Ridder will have to score a rushing touchdown to earn QB1 status. That is possible but not necessarily likely.

Jared Goff is now the overall QB5 in fantasy for the season after a QB4 performance last week. Running back David Montgomery left the game early due to injury, which resulted in Goff attempting a season-high 44 throws. Montgomery will miss this week’s game, which should mean more passing opportunities for Goff. The downside is that Detroit is facing the Baltimore Ravens. Baltimore enters Week 7, having allowed the second-fewest fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks.

They have given up just four passing touchdowns in six games as well as a miniscule 5.44 yards per attempt. Lions’ offensive coordinator Ben Johnson has put Goff in positions to succeed, and Goff has responded in kind. This will be a fascinating matchup. Goff is shaping up to be a volume-based QB1 in Week 7, though his efficiency is expected to take a hit.

The Top 10 Wide Receivers

Name Team Tar Rec Rec Yds Air Yds aDOT Air % Tar %
Marquise Brown ARI 11 4 34 183 16.64 47.78% 28.95%
Brandon Aiyuk SF 10 4 76 158 15.8 68.10% 43.48%
Chris Olave NO 10 7 96 157 15.7 32.91% 21.74%
Trey Palmer TB 7 2 47 154 22 34.76% 18.92%
DeVonta Smith PHI 11 5 44 154 14 43.26% 25.58%
Stefon Diggs BUF 16 10 100 153 9.56 65.11% 55.17%
A.J. Brown PHI 9 7 131 149 16.56 41.85% 20.93%
Michael Pittman IND 14 9 109 147 10.5 37.50% 26.92%
Tyreek Hill MIA 10 6 163 146 14.6 56.81% 33.33%
DK Metcalf SEA 10 4 69 143 14.3 40.97% 27.03%

Marquise Brown was last week’s big air yards tease. Brown led all wide receivers with 183 air yards yet secured just four catches for 34 scoreless yards. Brown had posted top-20 weekly fantasy finishes in three straight games before last week, so the usage was encouraging. Having said that, syncing up air yards with fantasy production is often a referendum on quarterback play. And it looks as though the clock is close to striking midnight on the feelgood story of Joshua Dobbs.

Over the past two weeks, Dobbs has completed less than 50% of his throws. During that span, he has thrown three interceptions and averaged just 5.49 yards per attempt. No team has allowed more fantasy production out of wide receivers than Seattle, who is Arizona’s Week 7 opponent. Expect a bounce back from Brown as long as Dobbs can play a competent game.

Tampa Bay rookie wideout Trey Palmer makes his first appearance on the air yards report this week. Though he did not respond with a huge fantasy day (WR52), I am very intrigued by his usage. He ran as the clear WR3 in Tampa Bay’s offense coming out of the team’s bye week. Palmer was targeted seven times last week after only earning nine targets over his first four games.

I want to see Palmer continue to develop and see more targets before fully buying in. But he makes for an interesting speculative add depending on your league specs. The speedy sixth-rounder faces a difficult Week 7 matchup against the Atlanta Falcons. I am treating Palmer as a WR5 for this week, but I think he has more upside than many of the wide receivers in his range.

The Top 10 Tight Ends

Name Team Tar Rec Rec Yds Air Yds aDOT Air % Tar %
Sam LaPorta DET 11 4 36 101 9.18 35.44% 26.83%
Mark Andrews BAL 6 4 69 90 15 40.72% 21.43%
Travis Kelce KC 9 9 131 84 9.33 48.55% 23.08%
Chigoziem Okonkwo TEN 4 2 18 66 16.5 38.82% 20%
T.J. Hockenson MIN 8 6 50 63 7.88 32.47% 26.67%
Kyle Pitts ATL 6 4 43 57 9.5 13.97% 13.64%
Dalton Schultz HOU 7 4 61 52 7.43 23.53% 29.17%
Kylen Granson IND 4 3 67 50 12.5 12.76% 7.69%
Michael Mayer LV 6 5 75 49 8.17 19.52% 19.35%
Jonnu Smith ATL 5 4 36 48 9.6 11.76% 11.36%

Stop me if you’ve heard this before. Kyle Pitts and Jonnu Smith finished in the top 10 in air yards among tight ends last week. The good news for fantasy managers is that it finally paid off in the box score for both players. Pitts ended the week as the TE3 in half-PPR scoring, while Smith finished as the TE4. Both players found the end zone, and both secured four receptions. While the touchdowns may not be there from week to week, the volume should be. And that is all we can ask for when it comes to tight ends for fantasy purposes.

The Falcons get an interesting Week 7 matchup against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Tampa Bay is allowing over eight tight end targets per game this year. That is one of the highest numbers in the league. Both Falcons tight ends should see plenty of usage in this matchup.

One of the position’s popular sleepers heading into the season has been one of its biggest disappointments thus far. I am referring to Chigoziem Okonkwo of the Tennessee Titans. Okonkwo has yet to crack the top 18 in a given week this season. Tennessee has a Week 7 bye, which means many fantasy managers may cut bait with Okonkwo, given his lackluster output.

However, I see a potential buying opportunity. Okonkwo has set season-highs in air yards in consecutive weeks. I am interested to see if the Titans can find ways to get Okonkwo more involved in the offense. Coming out of the bye, Tennessee will face the Atlanta Falcons, who have allowed the sixth-most fantasy points to tight ends this season. I am looking to add Okonkwo, where I have the roster flexibility to do so.

The Top Five Underperformers

Name Team Tar Rec Rec Yds Air Yds aDOT Air % Tar %
Rondale Moore ARI 7 4 30 1 0.14 0.26% 18.42%
Kadarius Toney KC 6 3 9 8 1.33 4.62% 15.38%
Tyler Boyd CIN 7 7 38 21 3 10.71% 20%
Kendrick Bourne NE 11 10 89 22 2 13.10% 35.48%
Jerry Jeudy DEN 5 3 14 35 7 29.91% 22.73%

For this section of the air yards report, I wanted to specifically highlight the wide receiver position. We know that generally, running back and tight end targets occur within close proximity of the line of scrimmage. I also wanted 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 average depth of target (aDOT) could be worth starting in PPR formats if they get enough volume.

This week’s list is interesting in that it has a few of the usual suspects as well as names we have not yet seen. A name we have seen on this list quite a bit in recent weeks is Tyler Boyd of the Cincinnati Bengals. The good news is that Boyd is getting targeted with regularity. He has earned seven or more targets in five straight games. The problem is that he is not being targeted downfield at all. His 5.27 aDOT is far and away the lowest of any wideout who has at least 30 targets this year.

Josh Downs (6.44) is the only other wide receiver targeted that frequently with an aDOT below 7.3. Because of how he is being used, Boyd’s fantasy upside is extremely limited. Fantasy managers will have to hope that changes coming out of Cincinnati’s Week 7 bye.

Kendrick Bourne predictably came down to earth following his two-touchdown performance in Week 1. Bourne had finished outside the top 50 in fantasy points in each of his last four games before last week. Then last week, he ended up as the overall WR14. The volume was largely attributed to the absences of JuJu Smith-Schuster and Demario Douglas. And I would argue how Bourne was used was affected as well.

Bourne had an aDOT of 10 or higher in four of five games before last week. If Smith-Schuster and Douglas are sidelined for New England’s Week 7 tilt against the Buffalo Bills, Bourne could find himself heavily involved once again, particularly near the line of scrimmage. That would increase his PPR upside, even if it results in fewer big plays down the field.

In five games this season, Jerry Jeudy has as many weekly finishes (two) as the overall WR80 as he does top-36 finishes. That is not exactly what fantasy managers had in mind when they drafted the Broncos’ would-be star. We know how talented Jeudy is, and it is always difficult to bench players with Jeudy’s talent. However, we cannot take for granted that Jeudy is a must-start every week either.

Fantasy managers will have to hope that some positive touchdown regression comes Jeudy’s way. Fellow Broncos wideouts Courtland Sutton (four) and Brandon Johnson (three) have buoyed their fantasy production by finding paydirt. Jeudy will have to start doing the same, and soon. Denver faces two of the leaders in limiting fantasy production from the wide receiver position in Green Bay and Kansas City before a Week 9 bye.

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