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Fantasy Football Air Yards Analysis & Takeaways: Week 8 (2023)

Fantasy Football Air Yards Analysis & Takeaways: Week 8 (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.

Fantasy Football Air Yards Analysis & Takeaways

Stats via FTNFantasy.com

The Top 10 Quarterbacks

Name Team Att Air Yds aDOT
Josh Allen BUF 41 449 10.95
Sam Howell WAS 42 364 8.67
Jared Goff DET 53 345 6.51
Patrick Mahomes KC 42 343 8.17
Justin Herbert LAC 30 324 10.8
Derek Carr NO 55 322 5.85
Baker Mayfield TB 42 318 7.57
Tyrod Taylor NYG 29 318 10.97
Matthew Stafford LA 29 263 9.07
Tua Tagovailoa MIA 32 259 8.09

There are a couple of new names in this week’s air yards report. Some of that was related to the game script, as teams fell behind and were forced to throw to try to catch up. There were also six teams on a bye last week, which thinned out the player pool. Let’s see what we can take away from last week’s performances.

Tyrod Taylor led all quarterbacks in average depth of target (aDOT) last week, posting a 10.97 mark. Daniel Jones is questionable for this week’s game as he continues to deal with a neck injury. We have to consider Taylor’s relatively small 2023 sample size, but he certainly has looked better than Jones has this season. Taylor has an expected points added (EPA) of 0.04 per play this year. Jones’ mark is -0.22. That is only ahead of Zach Wilson.

Speaking of Wilson, the Giants will face the New York Jets in Week 8. The Jets have allowed the most rushing yards per game to opposing quarterbacks, and both Taylor and Jones can scramble when they need to. Still, with all 32 teams back in action this week, there is no reason to start either Giants’ quarterback in single-QB leagues.

Baker Mayfield threw a season-high 42 times in Tampa Bay’s loss to the Atlanta Falcons. This was a game the Buccaneers never led but also one in which they never trailed by more than seven points. I do not think Mayfield’s extra work was dependent on a negative game script. I suspect it is more based on Tampa’s inability to run the football. Either way, Mayfield should have plenty of opportunities to chuck the ball early and often in Week 8 when Tampa travels to face the Buffalo Bills. Buffalo is an 8.5-point favorite on Thursday night.

Mayfield finished last week as the overall QB11 in fantasy points. That might be more a byproduct of six teams being off than anything Mayfield brought to the table. But we know volume is king in fantasy football, and Mayfield should have plenty of it in this matchup.

The Top 10 Wide Receivers

Name Team Tar Rec Rec Yds Air Yds aDOT Air % Tar %
Stefon Diggs BUF 12 6 58 219 18.25 50.93% 30.77%
Jalin Hyatt NYG 5 2 75 168 33.6 57.93% 18.52%
A.J. Brown PHI 15 10 137 146 9.73 66.36% 50%
Jameson Williams DET 6 0 0 143 23.83 39.39% 12.24%
Jakobi Meyers LV 13 7 50 135 10.38 42.86% 28.89%
George Pickens PIT 8 5 107 131 16.38 63.90% 34.78%
Amari Cooper CLE 8 2 22 123 15.38 45.22% 22.86%
Amon-Ra St. Brown DET 19 13 102 122 6.42 33.61% 38.78%
Chris Olave NO 15 7 57 118 7.87 35.54% 28.30%
Puka Nacua LA 12 8 154 116 9.67 53.21% 44.44%

When Tyrod Taylor was looking downfield last week, his main target was Jalin Hyatt. Hyatt had a whopping 33.6 aDOT on five targets. That is by far the highest aDOT for a receiver who earned five targets in any week this season. The previous high was 25.4 for Marvin Mims back in Week 3. Hyatt hauled in two of his five targets for 75 yards, finishing as the overall WR35.

The overall finish is a bit of a function of fewer teams being active last week. However, I believe Hyatt is worth a stash if you have room on your roster. He is widely available on nearly every fantasy football platform. The third-round rookie wideout has elite burst (97th percentile) and 4.40 speed (91st percentile) and could be a bigger factor in the second half of the season.

Nothing seemed to click for the Detroit Lions in their blowout loss at the hands of the Baltimore Ravens last week. That includes a goose egg for Jameson Williams on six targets. But Williams is another downfield threat who can be a home run hitter. I thought it was encouraging that the Lions targeted Williams on two deep shots in their last drive, with the outcome of the game already decided. Though neither connected, it signified to me the team’s efforts to get Williams more involved.

Williams has only played nine games in two seasons because of injuries and suspensions. The Lions know they will likely need him to be a bigger part of the offense as the season progresses. Williams is not a recommended fantasy starter at this stage, but hopefully, he will pick up his production in the coming weeks.

If you do not have Jakobi Meyers on your roster, you probably do not know that he is the overall WR14 on the season. I’ll be honest – I have him on a team and didn’t know that. Meyers has been one of the most consistent fantasy producers this year. In six games, he has four top-15 weekly finishes and has only finished outside the top 36 on one occasion. He got a bit lucky last week, catching a late touchdown in a blowout loss, but it all counts for fantasy purposes.

Perhaps he slows down at some point, but I think he is a WR2 in 12-team leagues in Week 8. Meyers faces the Detroit Lions, who have allowed the 12th-most fantasy points and 10th-most receptions to opposing wide receivers.

The Top 10 Tight Ends

Name Team Tar Rec Rec Yds Air Yds aDOT Air % Tar %
Travis Kelce KC 13 12 179 130 10 40% 32.50%
George Kittle SF 7 5 78 86 12.29 35.68% 24.14%
Darren Waller NYG 8 7 98 76 9.5 26.21% 29.63%
T.J. Hockenson MIN 12 11 86 52 4.33 20.39% 27.91%
Sam LaPorta DET 7 6 52 51 7.29 14.05% 14.29%
Logan Thomas WAS 6 4 51 43 7.17 14.83% 16.67%
Cade Otton TB 6 5 43 42 7 13.77% 14.63%
Mark Andrews BAL 6 4 63 39 6.5 16.39% 23.08%
Dalton Kincaid BUF 8 8 75 37 4.63 8.60% 20.51%
Adam Trautman DEN 2 1 5 34 17 22.08% 8.33%
Evan Engram JAC 7 5 45 34 4.86 17.80% 23.33%

The league celebrated National Tight Ends Day last week, and many of the big boys ate quite well. Nine tight ends scored at least 10 fantasy points. Considering the number of teams on a bye, that is a high number. One of those players was Dalton Kincaid, who finished as last week’s TE9. It was the first weekly top-20 finish for the much-ballyhooed rookie.

Quarterback Josh Allen tied his season high with 41 pass attempts, as Buffalo played much of this game in catchup mode. But Kincaid made the most of his opportunities, securing all eight of his targets. It was an encouraging step for Kincaid, who should continue to become a bigger part of the passing game in the coming weeks. I consider Kincaid a fringe TE1 in 12-team leagues in Week 8.

Though Logan Thomas finished just outside starting territory last week (TE13), it was his fourth outing in six games in which he finished as a top-13 weekly fantasy tight end. Thomas is averaging 5.3 targets per game so far this year. For reference, George Kittle averages 4.6 targets per contest. No, I am not suggesting I would rather have Thomas than the 49ers star. But I do believe Thomas is drastically undervalued based on his role in Washington’s offense.

Thomas has a touchdown and/or 40 receiving yards in all but one game in which he has played. He is available in a majority of fantasy leagues, and that should not be the case. Thomas is a top-20 tight end until further notice and should be considered a TE1 in favorable matchups.

The Top Five Underperformers

Name Team Tar Rec Rec Yds Air Yds aDOT Air % Tar %
Kendrick Bourne NE 7 6 63 13 1.86 13% 23.33%
Demario Douglas NE 6 4 54 21 3.5 21% 20%
DJ Moore CHI 9 8 54 30 3.33 52.63% 33.33%
Christian Watson GB 5 3 27 35 7 15.84% 15.63%
Drake London ATL 7 6 54 36 5.14 20.11% 33.33%

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 aDOT could be worth starting in PPR formats if they get enough volume.

I mentioned last week in this space that Kendrick Bourne could be heavily involved if JuJu Smith-Schuster and Demario Douglas were sidelined. Well, Douglas played, and both Patriots wideouts make this week’s list. And, as can often be the case, both produced well for fantasy purposes. Bourne and Douglas both ended the week as top-30 fantasy wide receivers. The Patriots’ passing game looked a lot more crisp, with Mac Jones getting rid of the ball quickly.

This led to 10 of 13 throws resulting in completions to Bourne and Douglas. Bourne is still the more trustworthy option going forward. He should be a Flex option in 12-team leagues. I am not quite there on Douglas yet. Last week was his first top-50 weekly finish, and he would have landed outside the top 40 were it not for a 20-yard run.

The rest of this week’s list is interesting because it features several name-brand fantasy wide receivers. DJ Moore‘s inclusion can be directly attributed to Tyson Bagent lining up behind center for the Chicago Bears. Moore had an aDOT of 12.67 before last week. Last week that number was 3.33. Still, he finished as a top-40 fantasy producer at the position and nearly missed a touchdown, stepping out of bounds before reaching the pylon. Moore is a weekly starter in all formats, regardless of who is throwing him the ball.

But his upside is likely capped for at least another week, as Justin Fields is doubtful due to his thumb injury. Bagent had a comically low 2.03 aDOT last week. The good news is that Moore faces the Los Angeles Chargers this week. No team in the NFL has allowed more fantasy points to wide receivers than the Chargers.

Drake London has five top-36 weekly finishes in his last six games, including four in a row. Many (myself included) have bemoaned Arthur Smith’s usage of some of his weapons, but London has managed to remain productive and relatively consistent. His aDOT was way down last week, as he had posted a double-digit aDOT in three straight games from Week 4 through Week 6. London should get plenty of chances to produce for his fantasy managers in Week 8.

The Falcons face the Tennessee Titans, who are notoriously a pass-funnel defense. London also gets a favorable matchup in the form of Titans right cornerback Kristian Fulton, whom he should see on roughly half of his snaps. Fulton has been torched to the tune of 2.01 yards per route covered this year. He is Pro Football Focus’ 105th-graded cornerback among 115 qualifiers.

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