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Fantasy Football Air Yards Analysis & Takeaways: Week 12 (2023)

Fantasy Football Air Yards Analysis & Takeaways: Week 12 (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 11 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
Baker Mayfield TB 45 407 9.04
Aidan O’Connell LV 41 400 9.76
Patrick Mahomes KC 43 383 8.91
C.J. Stroud HOU 37 373 10.08
Justin Herbert LAC 36 346 9.61
Lamar Jackson BAL 26 305 11.73
Trevor Lawrence JAC 32 304 9.5
Kyler Murray ARI 30 297 9.9
Sam Howell WAS 45 297 6.6
Tua Tagovailoa MIA 39 295 7.56

Aidan O’Connell had totaled exactly 400 air yards in two starts against the Giants and Jets. He finished outside the top 20 fantasy quarterbacks in both weeks, though the Raiders were victorious in each game. Then, last week, he threw for 400 air yards against the Miami Dolphins. I found the Raiders’ offensive game plan a bit odd, considering they were not game-scripted into abandoning the run.

Las Vegas never trailed by more than a touchdown, yet dialed up 43 pass plays compared to just 16 rushing attempts. The added volume did not do much for the Raiders or O’Connell’s fantasy prospects. Vegas scored just 13 points, and O’Connell finished as the overall QB21 for the week. With all 32 NFL teams in action this week, there is no reason to consider O’Connell outside of SuperFlex formats.

Justin Herbert has not often been featured in this space. And it feels like he and the Los Angeles Chargers have left plenty of plays and fantasy points on the table this year. Yet Herbert enters Week 12 as the overall QB3 in fantasy. Herbert finished third in fantasy scoring last week, his sixth top-six weekly finish of the season. He and the Chargers passing attack will get perhaps their toughest test when they face the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday night.

The Ravens have allowed the fewest fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks this year. I don’t know if I can bring myself to bench Herbert, but I would temper expectations this week. Herbert has faced three other defenses that rank in the top 10 in fantasy against quarterbacks this season. In those games, his weekly finishes were QB6 (Dallas), QB21 (Kansas City), and QB25 (New York Jets).

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The Top 10 Wide Receivers

Name Team Tar Rec Rec Yds Air Yds aDOT Air % Tar %
Davante Adams LV 13 7 82 195 15 46.32% 34.21%
Mike Evans TB 12 5 43 174 14.5 49.15% 27.91%
Nathaniel Dell HOU 10 8 149 159 15.9 42.97% 26.32%
Odell Beckham Jr. BAL 7 4 116 159 22.71 55.79% 30.43%
Keenan Allen LAC 16 10 116 155 9.69 44.80% 44.44%
Justin Watson KC 11 5 53 142 12.91 40.92% 28.21%
DJ Moore CHI 9 7 96 137 15.22 56.15% 40.91%
DK Metcalf SEA 9 5 94 130 14.44 40.25% 23.68%
Tyreek Hill MIA 11 10 146 121 11 42.16% 34.38%
Jaxon Smith-Njigba SEA 6 3 40 119 19.83 36.84% 15.79%

Justin Watson finished sixth in air yards last week and parlayed that into a tie for 18th place among wide receivers in fantasy points. It was Watson’s first weekly finish inside the top 36 and just his second inside the top 50. Having said that, I think Watson can be an interesting flier going forward. Watson had failed to register more than five targets in a single game this season before earning 11 last week. Sure, he only caught five, and he failed to catch a fourth-and-25 heave that could have extended the game. But Kansas City’s issues at the wide receiver position are well documented.

They need to find a spark, and last week’s usage could be a sign of an increased workload going forward. At the very least, it’s worth using a waiver claim on Watson to see if you can catch lightning in a bottle.

Jaxon Smith-Njigba often finds himself at the bottom of this report, specifically in the “Underperformers” section. So, to see him on this side of the fence is very interesting to me. Before last week, the rookie wideout had a total of 213 air yards on 48 targets spanning nine games. But in the Seahawks’ loss to the Los Angeles Rams, Smith-Njigba had 119 air yards on six targets.

The irony is that it resulted in his worst fantasy finish (WR50) since Seattle’s Week 5 bye. Still, if that is the new floor for Smith-Njigba, that should mean good things from here on out. Seattle plays San Francisco twice in the next three weeks, and the 49ers have been susceptible to third options. San Francisco ranks just 22nd in defense-adjusted value over average (DVOA) against third receivers, and they have allowed the fourth-most touchdowns to opposing slot receivers this year.

The Top 10 Tight Ends

Name Team Tar Rec Rec Yds Air Yds aDOT Air % Tar %
Evan Engram JAC 6 4 29 75 12.5 25.86% 19.35%
T.J. Hockenson MIN 7 4 55 69 9.86 30.26% 24.14%
Donald Parham LAC 6 4 57 66 11 19.08% 16.67%
Logan Thomas WAS 8 5 58 64 8 24.71% 19.05%
Travis Kelce KC 9 7 44 57 6.33 16.43% 23.08%
David Njoku CLE 15 7 56 55 3.67 37.67% 36.59%
George Kittle SF 9 8 89 52 5.78 25.87% 36%
Trey McBride ARI 7 5 43 47 6.71 19.26% 24.14%
Dalton Kincaid BUF 7 6 46 45 6.43 26.79% 24.14%
Tanner Hudson CIN 4 4 49 40 10 16.13% 12.90%

Evan Engram has had two of his three worst fantasy games (TE24 in Week 10, TE19 in Week 11) since Jacksonville’s Week 9 bye. But I would not hit the panic button quite yet. Engram has still been the intended target on 13 Trevor Lawrence throws, good for a 21.3% target share. That is relatively close to his 22.3% season-long target share. It did Engram no favors that Jacksonville’s last two opponents were the San Francisco 49ers and Tennessee Titans.

Both teams are among the five stingiest fantasy defenses for the tight end position. I expect Engram to have an easier go of it in Week 12. The Jaguars will travel to Houston to take on the Texans this week. Houston has allowed the second-most fantasy points to opposing tight ends, including a league-high 68 receptions.

Donald Parham was one of the beneficiaries of Justin Herbert’s solid effort last week. Parham got the start ahead of the injured Gerald Everett, and he took advantage. Parham has now posted top-12 weekly fantasy finishes in both games that Everett has missed. He now sits as the overall TE23 for the season, compared to Everett’s current TE26 standing.

Everett missed last week’s game with a back issue, and he is questionable for Week 12. It is not the best matchup, as the Ravens have allowed just one tight end touchdown this season. But if Everett is out for this contest, there are worse streamers out there than Parham. He could sneak into the top 12 for the week once again when all is said and done.

The Top Five Underperformers

Name Team Tar Rec Rec Yds Air Yds aDOT Air % Tar %
Hunter Renfrow LV 5 5 42 15 3 3.56% 13.16%
Rashee Rice KC 5 4 42 19 3.8 5.48% 12.82%
Austin Trammell LA 6 3 23 20 3.33 13.16% 20.69%
Jayden Reed GB 6 4 46 30 5 11.03% 15.79%
Tyler Boyd CIN 6 3 22 35 5.83 14.11% 19.35%

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 point-per-reception (PPR) formats if they get enough volume.

It was a bit disappointing to see Rashee Rice‘s target share remain stagnant following Kansas City’s Week 10 bye. Rice had just five targets on Monday night, compared to 11 for Justin Watson. Rice did his part, catching four of five for 42 yards. It resulted in an overall WR46 weekly finish, which is just outside of Flex territory in 12-team leagues with three starting wide receivers.

Rice had finished inside the top 36 in four of his previous five games, so hopefully, he can step up next week. As I mentioned above when discussing Watson, the Chiefs need someone in their wide receiver room to step up in the coming weeks. Unlike Watson, Rice is already rostered in nearly every league. Those with Rice on their rosters should feel good about his prospects as we head down the stretch of the fantasy regular season.

Tyler Boyd makes the list this week in what was his worst fantasy finish since Week 1. Due to the unfortunate season-ending injury to quarterback Joe Burrow, Boyd may have a hard time maintaining his fringe value (currently the WR46 this year) going forward. I do not believe that Jake Browning can keep three receivers fantasy-relevant. Fantasy managers will have to hope that Boyd’s 6.78 aDOT keeps him in the mix as Browning’s safety valve, increasing his PPR value.

However, I think it is more likely that Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins (when healthy) dominate targets in an altered version of Cincinnati’s offensive scheme. I don’t mind playing Boyd this week if Higgins is out, but both the floor and ceiling are considerably lower than they were with Burrow at the helm.

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