AdviceCanon

Air Yards and Air Yards Per Target: Completing the WR Picture

If wide receiver were a sex position it would be reverse cowgirl. It’s simultaneously the most fun and also extremely productive, birthing league championships for those who make it their focus.

Still, there’s a lot we don’t know about WRs. For instance, we didn’t know how many targets WRs were getting until fairly recently — and now we know that targets are the lifeblood of fantasy scoring.

I’m happy to report that now we can add a few interesting stats into the “things we do know” side of the ledger: air yards and air yards per target.

Air yards and air yards per target

Standard stats tell us probably the most important facts about how a WR performed. We know how many times they were targeted,1 how many times they caught the ball, and how many yards they were credited with after catching a pass.

Air yards fill in the gaps in our understanding. Now we can see how a WR is used by his team and how he produces his receiving yards.

Top 10 Air Yards, 2015

FirstLastYearcomp_air_ydsincomp_air_ydsair_yardsyacaYPT
DeAndreHopkins201512901378266823113.9
AllenRobinson201510441201224535614.8
MikeEvans20159741183215723714.5
AntonioBrown20151247869211659410.9
BrandonMarshall201510601038209844212.1
JulioJones20151230829205964110.1
CalvinJohnson20159181014193229612.9
EmmanuelSanders20157481119186738713.7
DemaryiusThomas20158411018185946310.5
OdellBeckham Jr.2015860969182959411.5

Air yards completed, air yards on incompletions, and yards after the catch each capture a unique aspect of wide receiver production and put it in the proper bucket. We know how many total yards are thrown at a WR, how many of those yards he caught, and how many yards the receiver created after the catch.

If you add completed air yards to YAC, you get standard receiving yards.

If we sum up all the air yards thrown to a WR and divide by targets, we get air yards per target, or aYPT. Conceptually aYPT is identical to Pro Football Focus’s aDOT. Indeed it correlates to aDOT at 0.97.2 Everything makes sense.

Total air yards correlates to same-season targets at 0.86. And if you run a multiple linear regression of targets and total air yards on receiving yards you get an r-squared of 0.80, leaving only 20 percent of a receiver’s production unexplained by pure volume3. Volume is the key to fantasy scoring, and now we have another way to measure it. This is exciting4.

Are these metrics useful?

It always annoys me when metrics are released and no effort is made to help the reader understand if they are actionable or not. In other words, are air yards and aYPT descriptive only of what happened in the past, or can they be used to better predict the future?

One way to answer this question is to see if the metric in question is stable year over year. If it is, we can assume that there is something intrinsic to a player that the stat is capturing, perhaps even an element of skill.

Here are the year over year correlations for air yards per target, the various flavors of air yards, YAC, and other more familiar receiving metrics for all receivers (both RB and WR) who earned over 50 targets in the year Y season.5

Screen Shot 2016-08-22 at 12.35.00 PM

We can see that air yards related stats are among the most stable performance metrics in all of football. Unfortunately, they are not better in predicting the things we care about in fantasy (receiving yards, and receptions) than what we already have.

The folks here at Rotoviz are working to see if we can squeeze some extra predictiveness out of air yards, but for now it is best to treat them as descriptive of the season that was, and how a team utilizes a player.

Conclusion

Check back at Rotoviz each week during the season. We’ll be posting air yards and YAC for all receivers each Monday. We will also be digging further into play level aYPT data to see what it can tell us about how a receiver is used, and perhaps it may even help us spot breakout candidates before it is apparent in the standard box score.

Finally here are all the various air yards stats for all receivers (RB and WR) who were targeted in 2015.

fnamelnameYeartargetsreccomp_air_ydsincomp_air_ydsair_yardsyacrec_ydsaYPT
DeAndreHopkins2015191111129013782668231152114.0
AllenRobinson201515180104412012245356140014.9
MikeEvans20151487497411832157237121114.6
AntonioBrown201519313612478692116594184111.0
BrandonMarshall2015173109106010382098442150212.1
JulioJones201520313612308292059641187110.1
CalvinJohnson20151498891810141932296121413.0
EmmanuelSanders20151367674811191867387113513.7
DemaryiusThomas201517710584110181859463130410.5
OdellBeckham Jr.2015158968609691829594145411.6
TyHilton2015134697439811724381112412.9
A.J.Green2015132869617261687336129712.8
SammyWatkins201596608647411605179104716.7
TedGinn201597444981071156924173916.2
KamarAiken201512775733830156321194412.3
EricDecker2015132808137071520214102711.5
BrandinCooks2015129846908061496446114011.6
JamesJones20159950661822148322989015.0
JohnBrown2015101656798031482324100314.7
MichaelCrabtree20151468565877714352649229.8
TravisBenjamin201512568612819143135496611.4
MichaelFloyd20158952643766140920684915.8
MalcomFloyd2015693047291213848956120.1
AlshonJeffery20159454632741137317580714.6
AmariCooper2015130726976431340385108210.3
MarvinJones201510365533803133628381613.0
GregOlsen2015124777605321292344110410.4
MartavisBryant20159250435845128033076513.9
JeremyMaclin2015124877345421276354108810.3
LarryFitzgerald2015146109753487124046212158.5
JarvisLandry2015167111621607122853811597.4
RobGronkowski2015120726225821204554117610.0
AllenBailey2015105646615431204369103011.5
TerranceWilliams20159352565630119527584012.8
PierreGarcon201511172612576118816577710.7
DelanieWalker201513394699460115938910888.7
KennyBritt20157236551595114613068115.9
MarkusWheaton20157944591542113315874914.3
GaryBarnidge201512579657468112534610439.0
NateWashington20159547490591108116865811.4
JordanMatthews20151288558347810614149978.3
KennyStills2015632734770310509344016.7
DonteMoncrief201510564466580104626773310.0
WillieSnead20151027064636610123449909.9
BrandonLaFell20157437291720101122451513.7
DougBaldwin20151037862736198844210699.6
BenWatson2015110745773989752488258.9
RandallCobb2015129793935819744368297.6
RuebenRandle2015905759637497020580110.8
ZachErtz2015112755843809642698538.6
DavanteAdams2015945034760495114849510.1
DezBryant2015723126067093014140112.9
TylerLockett2015695141549691124966413.2
DorialGreen-Beckham2015673240549690114454913.4
StefonDiggs2015845242846289029272010.6
AnquanBoldin2015111694973878842927898.0
TorreySmith2015623345041986921366314.0
HarryDouglas2015723628158686713041112.0
VincentJackson201562334453918369854313.5
RobertWoods2015804740243183315055210.4
JermaineKearse2015684945735481122868511.9
DevinFunchess2015633136144880911247312.8
AndreJohnson2015774135643679214750310.3
CoreyBrown201554313664217878144714.6
DontrelleInman2015633529948278118748612.4
MikeWallace2015723930446777116947310.7
GoldenTate2015129902874807675268135.9
ChrisHogan2015593634840875610245012.8
JordanReed2015114874792617404739526.5
JordanCameron201570353044307348238610.5
SteveSmith2015734642730573224367010.0
DeSeanJackson2015493036935472315752814.8
ChrisGivens201554202564667224935313.4
JasonWitten2015104774702447142427126.9
RoddyWhite2015704340130370410550610.1
DarriusHeyward-Bey201539212414617027331418.0
KendallWright2015603626543670114340811.7
BrianHartline201577463433577001805239.1
AntonioGates201585563913056962396308.2
RishardMatthews2015614343226469623066211.4
DeVanteParker2015502639130169210349413.8
JuliusThomas201580463103686781454558.5
KeenanAllen201589674891886772367257.6
BrandonColeman2015493032834667412645413.8
CobyFleener201584543133586711784918.0
JulianEdelman201588613782926703146927.6
MarquessWilson2015512827839166918646413.1
CecilShorts201575422863716571984848.8
JacobTamme201581594611796401966577.9
JimmyGraham201574483712676382346058.6
TavonAustin201587521025346363714737.3
JaredCook201575392663556212154818.3
KyleRudolph201573493023166181934958.5
RileyCooper201541212643526166332715.0
TravisKelce2015103723602516115158755.9
J.J.Nelson201527112473626095229922.6
DannyAmendola201587653842095932646486.8
CharlesClay201578512982895872305287.5
AlbertWilson2015573523234958121945110.2
DevinSmith2015289974775741811520.5
VernonDavis201558382613075681343959.8
TylerEifert201574523861745602296157.6
MarquesColston201567453182295471935208.2
RichardRodgers201585582922485402345266.4
OwenDaniels201577462532735262645176.8
BrianQuick20153210634515143910216.1
PhillipDorsett201539181653415066022513.0
SethRoberts201555323501535031304809.1
AndreHolmes201533141583435014320115.2
LadariusGreen201563372072784852224297.7
NelsonAgholor201544231882924809127910.9
JariusWright201550342672094761754429.5
HeathMiller201581603291344632065355.7
CliveWalford201550282082544621213299.2
MartellusBennett201580532232364592204395.7
QuincyEnunwa201546221672884551483159.9
JerrichoCotchery201554392891624511964858.4
DwayneHarris201557362551954501413967.9
QuintonPatton201556301722764482223948.0
JamisonCrowder201578592641814453406045.7
AustinSeferian-Jenkins201539212421974399633811.3
KenbrellThompkins20153317973284256816512.9
LanceMoore20154329278143421593379.8
ScottChandler201542231872324197225910.0
LeonardHankerson201546262082034111193278.9
RyanGrant20154223170219389982689.3
VanceMcDonald201546301422433851843268.4
SteveJohnson201565452321503822654975.9
EricEbron201570472521243762855375.4
KeshawnMartin201537241931813747626910.1
WillTye20156242281863671834645.9
JustinHunter201531222311363673326411.8
BryanWalters201545322511133641173688.1
TaylorGabriel201548281302303601082417.5
ColeBeasley201575522191393583175364.8
MychalRivera201546321611933541192807.7
PercyHarvin201530191352193548321811.8
JoshBellamy201534191561953516822410.3
MohamedSanu201549331891613502053947.1
CrockettGillmore201547331721783502404127.4
JeremyButler201544312171313481463637.9
ChrisConley201531171302093396919910.9
DonteeaDye20153011642753396813211.3
ChrisMatthews201525131092303394215113.6
KeithMumphery201532141092283372012910.5
MarqiseLee201532157026633612119110.5
JustinHardy20153621129201330651949.2
GregJennings20153619115201316932088.8
MarcMariani201533221701433131303009.5
JaronBrown201523111221913132214413.6
ZachMiller20154634217953122224396.8
BriceButler201526121621453079625811.8
CameronBrate20153023235673025328810.1
DevontaFreeman201597731461522984325783.1
MaxxWilliams201548321211772981472686.2
BrentCelek20153527225702951733988.4
DavidJohnson201557361221592813354574.9
MylesWhite20152078119827978814.0
JordanNorwood20153222138138276692078.6
AnthonyFasano201542261381372751512896.5
AdamHumphries201540271371332701232606.8
RyanGriffin201534201381262641132517.8
RashadRoss20151381201412616418420.1
MarlonBrown2015301466193259461128.6
StedmanBailey201525121111462577118210.3
JaelenStrong201524141031502535816110.5
MarcedesLewis20153716611902511652266.8
JermaineGresham20153218140111251832237.8
LouisMurphy20151810161902513719813.9
JeromeSimpson201519538211249165413.1
JaredAbbrederis2015169961532491511115.6
AndreRoberts20152111971492463813511.7
CharlesSims201570511031422454585613.5
LarryDonnell20154129137101238862235.8
LanceKendricks201540251161222381292456.0
JeffJanis201512250175225297918.8
AndrewHawkins20154327149732221272765.2
RashadGreene201535193918222154936.3
JoshHuff20154027131872181813125.5
AndreCaldwell201522105616121716729.9
ChrisOwusu201513658154212228016.3
GarrettGraham20151942118921093011.1
AaronDobson20152113112972092914110.0
GriffWhalen2015261915454208512058.0
BennieFowler2015251611097207932038.3
JeremyLangford20154222511532042282794.9
LukeWillson20152617106962021072137.8
T.J.Jones20151810911031944113210.8
BradleyMarquez201522136113019127888.7
EddieRoyal20155037611251861772383.7
ChrisGragg2015201210086186501509.3
JavonteeHerndon2015332486991851021955.6
DevinStreet201513788961842611414.2
EdDickson2015261768114182531217.0
DwayneBowe201513539143182145314.0
AdamThielen2015181210277179421449.9
DwayneAllen2015291659117176501096.1
GarrettCelek201528198887175981866.3
BlakeBell2015251578921701081866.8
ChrisThompson2015483572961681682403.5
DionSims2015251856111167701276.7
BruceEllington20151913431241671101538.8
RexBurkhead201515106996165259411.0
CameronMeredith2015161169951645112010.3
BrandonMyers2015171210556161221279.5
TyrellWilliams20156239122161519026.8
CharlesJohnson201513999551542812711.8
HakeemNicks201514732118150225410.7
JasonAvant201524157079149491196.2
NickWilliams201525176975144901595.8
CoreyFuller201594677614397615.9
JavoriusAllen2015624566751412773432.3
JoshHill201530164497141761204.7
DariusJennings201521148059139371176.6
RussellShepard2015932710813512815.0
ShaneVereen2015815977571344184951.7
DexterMcCluster2015413170591291902603.1
JeremyKerley2015261652771291001525.0
DerekCarrier201522175672128851415.8
JimDray20151662710012734617.9
TimWright2015169527512725777.9
CodyLatimer201512627100127325910.6
TyMontgomery201519154580125911366.6
DamienWilliams201528215566121871424.3
CraigStevens201516128041121411217.6
MattForte2015584446741203433892.1
MyColePruitt20151610437611946897.4
NickBoyle2015241966521181001664.9
CooperHelfet201522135166117791305.3
WesWelker201522135463117481025.3
ClayHarbor201520149324117561495.9
DarrenSproles2015835529861153593881.4
TerrellePryor201581377711454214.3
JamesWhite2015544068451133424102.1
DionLewis2015503645681133433882.3
DanielBrown20151164171112236410.2
C.J.Fiedorowicz201524179020110771674.6
RicoRichardson20155001061060021.2
DeonteThompson201532782510338134.3
MarcelReece2015373052491012172692.7
LanceDunbar2015232164361001512154.3
BrentonBersin20151198614100331199.1
ArianFoster201528227424981532273.5
DukeJohnson201574615343964815341.3
AndreEllington20152415761995721484.0
JustinPerillo20151311811495211027.3
TravarisCadet201522175933921552144.2
DougMartin201544334051912312712.1
JonathanGrimes201531265732891161732.9
LeSeanMcCoy20154932682882862921.8
KellenDavis20151138808810188.0
DarrenWaller20156258186131814.3
TylerKroft20151511582785711295.7
DannyWoodhead2015107813945847177560.8
ChrisPolk20152816523183571093.0
JeremyRoss201514916668272885.9
JeffCumberland201514527538050775.7
GavinEscobar201513837427927646.1
RyanHewitt201512844347855996.5
KyleJuszczyk201556415819772633211.4
MichaelHoomanawanui2015161151267725764.8
RicardoLockette201574562177157111.0
MarcusEasley201531423274165824.7
PatrickDiMarco2015171367572431104.2
SeyiAjirotutu201531468720424.0
BrandonBolden201530195714711231802.4
VirgilGreen201515125219711211734.7
KarlosWilliams2015141156157140965.1
BrandonPettigrew201515729417038674.7
JesseJames201511836336920566.3
TheoRiddick201599803929686586970.7
MarlonMoore201510744246837816.8
BilalPowell20156347-3298664203881.0
ChaseCoffman201511850146421715.8
GregSalas201553273562144112.4
BrandonTate201532491059105919.7
AntonioAndrews201529211344571611742.0
C.J.Spiller20154535-1773562642471.2
ChrisHarper201531551561618.7
JamesO'Shaughnessy20159635195452876.0
C.J.Anderson201536253417511491831.4
TevinColeman20151123485111144.6
LevineToilolo201512724244820444.0
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GiovaniBernard201566491629454564720.7
JohnPhillips201511104504524694.1
JayAjayi201511734104456904.0
MattJones20152519385432663041.7
AlfredBlue2015161541243681092.7
PrestonParker201512511324329403.6
JonathanKrause2015425384361110.8
JamesHanna20151492404277793.0
BruceMiller2015141036339991352.8
ChrisJohnson2015136-5443963583.0
KevinSmith20155313253830437.6
TreMcBride20154273037189.3
GeremyDavis20153213243782112.3
AnthonyDixon20157620163624445.1
KhariLee201531332354711.7
MatthewSlater201510034340034.0
LukeStocker201513922103239612.5
BernardPierce20155352732276.4
TroyNiklas201544320321338.0
MikeTolbert20152318238311311541.3
MichaelWilliams20156313183113265.2
JakeStoneburner2015553103116476.2
ReggieBush2015104-4343023193.0
AndrewQuarless201554228309316.0
De'AnthonyThomas20152417-938291491401.2
RyanMathews20152820-129281471461.0
RhettEllison20151911-230281261241.5
ZurlonTipton2015857212850573.5
PhillipSupernaw2015431992813327.0
PaulRichardson20151128028124028.0
RonnieHillman20153524-1744271281110.8
JakeFisher20155112152719315.4
TreyBurton2015432342731546.8
MarcusMariota20151126026154126.0
DanielFells2015762322537603.6
TerronWard201513914102459731.8
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CodyDavis2015212032302011.5
VinceMayle201510023230023.0
JackDoyle201514121662256721.6
MarquiseGoodwin2015222202222411.0
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AndrewTurzilli2015222102142510.5
KevinNorwood201510021210021.0
JerickMcKinnon20152921-1333201861730.7
LeeSmith201513121372057701.5
JamizeOlawale20151191732067841.8
TommyBohanon20158423-32033562.5
NickO'Leary2015310202037376.7
PierreThomas201511921-21963841.7
DanHerron20151091711830471.8
JonasGray2015871711859762.3
LeGarretteBlount2015761261831432.6
MikeCampanaro2015653151832353.0
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VincentBrown20152120-2182229.0
ShaunDraughn20153527611171701760.5
AustinJohnson2015857101723302.1
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RooseveltNix2015324121612165.3
DeAngeloWilliams20154740-318153703670.3
KendallGaskins201510818-31551691.5
CoreyGrant201532-2171515135.0
TylerMurphy2015111501511615.0
BennyCunningham2015362617-3142332500.4
BishopSankey2015231468141331390.6
RoyHelu2015169-12261487750.9
MikeGillislee201576-2161431292.0
TysonAlualu201532122147194.7
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MattLaCosse201533130139224.3
MattSpaeth201532211138104.3
BryceBrown20152001313006.5
MarkIngram20155949-3749124373970.2
TonyMoeaki201553571253582.4
AhmadBradshaw201514101011154640.8
ZachLine20159613-21182951.2
Ka'DeemCarey201533110118193.7
B.J.Daniels201522110117185.5
CarlosHyde20151511-8181061530.7
DuJuanHarris2015149-1111098970.7
AlfredMorris2015131013-31042550.8
JalstonFowler201565731037441.7
MikeBurton2015661001029391.7
JoeReitz201510010100010.0
MarioAlford2015111001051510.0
KerwynnWilliams2015229097164.5
LamarMiller20155747-192784163970.1
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JosephRandle2015101080879870.8
MalcolmJohnson201564-19816151.3
StepfanTaylor201531448042.7
TobyGerhart20155307723231.4
AlexSmith201520077003.5
RodStreater201511707187.0
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TomBrady20151170729367.0
LuckyWhitehead201586-17617160.8
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CordarrellePatterson2015226064103.0
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AkeemHunt2015106-1015549390.5
JarrydHayne20157650522270.7
BrianParker201521-165762.5
E.J.Bibbs201521505272.5
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DenardRobinson201530215-321601650.1
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J.J.Watt201510022002.0
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MikeDavis20151273-2135380.1
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RodSmith201521101560.5
AsanteCleveland201511101011.0
TerrenceMagee201511101121.0
Le'VeonBell20152624-3301391360.0
DavidJohnson201521000440.0
TylerVarga20152100018180.0
DerrickColeman201511000000.0
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JohnKuhn2015106-32-15956-0.1
ChandlerWorthy201543-76-12114-0.3
JayProsch2015100-1-100-1.0
MarQueisGray201511-10-132-1.0
MatthewMulligan201511-10-132-1.0
TylerClutts201511-10-154-1.0
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JeremyHill20151915-85-38779-0.2
ChristineMichael201563-2-1-31816-0.5
CameronArtis-Payne201555-30-36158-0.6
AlonzoHarris2015100-3-300-3.0
StevenJackson201511-30-32320-3.0
JoshRobinson201566-40-43733-0.7
BobbyRainey201533-50-52116-1.7
MalcolmBrown201511-50-53-2-5.0
MitchellSchwartz2015100-5-500-5.0
RashadJennings20154029-93-6305296-0.2
RobertTurbin2015107-3-3-62623-0.6
ZachZenner201532-1-5-61211-2.0
CierreWood201511-60-60-6-6.0
CharcandrickWest20153420-1811-7232214-0.2
SpencerWare201566-70-7125-1.2
AnthonySherman201554-5-2-73934-1.4
DonaldPenn201511-70-7103-7.0
MatthewStafford201511-70-71-6-7.0
WesleyJohnson201511-70-72-5-7.0
DavidCobb201521-5-3-83-2-4.0
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T.J.Graham201544-100-102724-2.5
AdrianPeterson20153630-3726-11259222-0.3
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JacquizzRodgers201531-4-7-111410-3.7
FrankGore20155834-6-7-13273267-0.2
TaiwanJones201597-8-5-13114106-1.4
JuwanThompson201596-184-146951-1.6
DeMarcoMurray20155544-3520-15347322-0.3
LataviusMurray20155341-10-5-15242232-0.3
TreMason20152118-4025-1512888-0.7
JamaalCharles20153021-279-18207177-0.6
EddieLacy20152820-257-18213188-0.6
BrandenOliver20151513-232-21135112-1.4
ZacStacy2015129-15-6-218065-1.8
ToddGurley20152621-24-2-26212188-1.0
KenjonBarner2015129-21-8-294322-2.4
FozzyWhittaker20151512-4817-3111264-2.1
DonaldBrown2015138-22-14-3611088-2.8
KhiryRobinson20152017-403-37155115-1.9
IsaiahCrowell20152219-46-4-50228182-2.3
MelvinGordon20153733-6412-52256192-1.4
JamesStarks20155343-9725-72489392-1.4
MattAsiata20152219-68-10-78200132-3.5

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  1. Although this is still, inexplicably, an unofficial stat  (back)
  2. Both aDOT and aYPT are the result of charting, so slight differences are to be expected.  (back)
  3. catch rate and YAC explain the rest  (back)
  4. For a nerd like me at least.  (back)
  5. The data is from 2009-2015. Self means how well the metric correlates with the same metric the following year.  (back)
By Josh Hermsmeyer | @friscojosh | Archive

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  1. If wide receiver were a sex position it would be reverse cowgirl. It’s simultaneously the most fun and also extremely productive, birthing league championships for those who make it their focus.

    I spit up my drink. That is the most accurate statement ever made on the subjects of sex or fantasy football. Also, great to hear that you guys are tracking this info.

  2. Are Air Yards or aYPT predictive of QB production?

  3. PaulC says:

    This is excellent and makes a lot of intuitive sense. I don't want to go overboard, but the this framework has the potential to be really useful. If there were a mean that could be determined for the 20% "skill" unexplained by volume, you could assume regression toward that to connect air yards and targets to production to predict year n+1. Obviously lots of open questions as far as how much variance there is year to year in that 20% and how many reps/years would be needed to determine a player's natural/background "skill" if such a thing exists, but the concept is very interesting.

    A QB's tendencies would also seem to need to be considered, both his own tendencies/style and his rapport with the particular WR, as that could heavily influence air yards directed toward that WR. Looking forward to future work on this topic.

  4. Finally catching up on my weekly RV reads and this concept has my excited for where it may lead.

    I'm curious if you've noticed any correlation for comp to incomp AY ratios year-to-year and if this may allow us to tease out inefficiencies that may be injury, QB play, or team play dependent. It sounds like the predictive nature so far has been minimal, but I'm curious if it may be another tool to help identify regression candidates (both + and -). This idea is coming from seeing the larger inefficiency in Sanders season and wonder if this may indicate poor QB play and thus may be due for regression with change in QB play?

  5. Hi Paul,

    Lots more work to do but I agree it seems to show promise. In my latest article I try and further refine the framework and introduce an efficiency metric to attempt to account for that 20%. I call is RACR. We will see where it leads.

    @MadJJ29

    Looking at QBs is definitely on my list. The hope was/is tot ry and come up with some predictive framework prior to the season starting. After that I'm going to do a deep dive into team air yards and QB air yards. I'll have a look at the ratio and report back.

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