Advice

Wide Receivers to Target – Using Air Yards to Identify Buy Low Candidates

Each week I will be breaking out wide receiver air yards and using the data to attempt to spot undervalued WRs.

Air yards explained

Air yards give us a complete view of a WR’s game. They show us what volume of yards are thrown at a guy, what amount he caught, and how many yards after the catch he created on passes he did catch. The NFL has tweeted out some very cool route visualizations recently. Below is one for Kelvin Benjamin.

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What I love about these visualizations is that they graphically depict the information captured in air yards.

From the above photo, here are the corresponding air yards data:

Completed Air Yards (white): 65
Incomplete Air Yards (gray): 42
YAC (green): 26
aYPT: 8.9
RACR: 0.85
Market Share Air Yards: 0.46

Air yards in-season

Air yards stabilize quickly in-season. NFL coaches deploy their WRs in very consistent ways from week to week. One way to measure that stability is to look at how well Week 1 air yards predict the remainder of season air yards. We can also compute market share air yards and compare both to how well standard receiving yards in Week 1 predict remainder-of-season receiving yards.1screen-shot-2016-09-13-at-9-52-33-amWhat this table tells us is that given just one week of data to work with, MS air yards are 38 percent more predictable compared to receiving yards.2 In fact, if we see how well just MS air yards predict receiving yards, we find that the r-squared is 0.266. In other words, in Week 1 the best predictor of future receiving yards is not actually receiving yards, it’s MS air yards. This is an important finding, and should give us an edge predicting future WR production compared to using just standard box score stats.

WR to Buy in Seasonal Leagues

If we create a model predicting future PPR points for WRs based solely on Week 1 results, the following players have the best shot at returning excess value (relative to their Week 1 PPR fantasy totals) moving forward.

full_nameteamrectartdyaccomp_airincomp_airair_yardsrec_yardsrush_yardsteam_air_yardsms_air_yardsaYPTRACR
Allen RobinsonJAC615017551872427203700.6516.10.30
Marvin JonesDET41002956731298502070.6212.90.66
Terrelle PryorCLE370563591226802870.4317.40.56
Odell BeckhamNYG480165727847301900.4410.50.87
Brandon MarshallNYJ38072559843201970.4310.50.38
Sammy WatkinsBUF46073625614301250.4910.20.70
Michael FloydARI370164550956103770.2513.60.64
Demaryius ThomasDEN460202812404801250.326.71.20
Tyrell WilliamsSD250551657737102180.3314.60.97
Kevin WhiteCHI37072762893403040.2912.70.38
Corey ColemanCLE250762631256902870.4425.00.55
Tavon AustinLA412013072721322040.356.00.18
Kenny StillsMIA1500161381541602370.6530.80.10
Chris ConleyKC47093448824303110.2611.70.52
Andre JohnsonTEN37082263853003140.2712.10.35
Vincent JacksonTB27011775921803270.2813.10.20
Malcolm MitchellNE250211254663302100.3113.20.50
Charles JohnsonMIN160509898503430.2916.30.05
Dez BryantDAL150-311116127804060.3125.40.06

Notes

  • Allen Robinson tied for the highest air yards of the week and also led the league in targets. These are the two best predictors of future production. If you can somehow pry him away from one of your league-mates after his rather pedestrian Week 1 fantasy total,3 I highly recommend doing so.
  • Marvin Jones saw 62 percent of his team’s air yards on 10 targets. His projected PPG moving forward is almost 16 points. I would certainly keep my mind open to the idea that Golden Tate owners might end up being disappointed this year, and Marvin may end up being the Detroit WR to own.
  • Terrelle Pryor only caught three of his seven targets, but he still saw 122 total air yards directed at him, good for a 43 percent market share. His aYPT was 17.4, which indicates he is a boom or bust play, and with RGIII gone for perhaps a long period, it is hard to know if these volume indicators still carry any predictive value. I would advise some caution until we see how his volume shakes out with Josh McCown under center.
  • Tyrell Williams is probably on your waiver wire, and you should probably buy him. Right now.
  • Kevin White is a rather surprising name on this list. He scored only six points in Week 1, but the model has him pegged for double that total on average moving forward due to his decent combination of MS air yards and targets.
  • Kenny Stills had a terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad day. But Ryan Tannehill and Adam Gase seem to really want to get him the ball. Stills saw 65 percent of the Dolphins’ air yards. If that continues, even if he is #bad at football, he is worth your attention.
  • Charles Johnson could rebound from his dismal Week 1. He saw ample air yards (98) and targets (six). The question will be whether this volume continues when Shaun Hill cedes QB duties to Sam Bradford.
  • Dez Bryant will be fine. Dak Prescott threw more air yards than anyone not named Andrew Luck this week, and Dez lead the team in MS air yards.
  • Finally, though he isn’t on the list above, buy Will Fuller. He is drinking Deandre Hopkins’ milkshake, seeing 60 percent of Houston’s air yards in Week 1. Nuk will have a very hard time returning value with so much volume going to Fuller, and in return Fuller will have almost no problem becoming an absolute fantasy stud with that kind of market share. Chalk up another win for Shawn Siegele who saw this coming a mile away.

Air Yards Data

Finally, here is a complete table of air yards data of all WRs who saw at least one target in Week 1. Remember it is still Week 1. There is a bunch of noise here, especially for teams that are changing quarterbacks. But if you buy volume, especially early on, you will gain an edge on your competition.

Week 1 WR Air Yards

full_namepositionteamrectartdyaccomp_airincomp_airair_yardsrec_yardsrush_yardsteam_air_yardsms_air_yardsaYPTRACR
Allen RobinsonWRJAC615017551872427203700.6516.10.30
Kenny StillsWRMIA1500161381541602370.6530.80.10
Marvin JonesWRDET41002956731298502070.6212.90.66
Jordan MatthewsWRPHI714128866715311402490.6110.90.75
Will FullerWRHOU5111485918324210704010.6022.00.44
Antonio BrownWRPIT811251212314412602430.5913.10.88
A.J. GreenWRCIN12131691111012118002440.509.31.49
Sammy WatkinsWRBUF46073625614301250.4910.20.70
Emmanuel SandersWRDEN58044516614901250.497.60.80
Jeremy KerleyWRSF7110214055956101950.498.60.64
Kelvin BenjaminWRCAR61212665421079102350.468.90.85
Odell BeckhamWRNYG480165727847301900.4410.50.87
Alshon JefferyWRCHI46015904313310503040.4422.20.79
Corey ColemanWRCLE250762631256902870.4425.00.55
Tajae SharpeWRTEN7110571651367603140.4312.40.56
Eric DeckerWRNYJ27153253853701970.4312.10.44
Brandon MarshallWRNYJ38072559843201970.4310.50.38
Terrelle PryorWRCLE370563591226802870.4317.40.56
Davante AdamsWRGB371644871315003320.3918.70.38
Mike WallaceWRBAL3613853409391112430.3815.50.98
Willie SneadWRNO99156116011617203040.3812.91.48
Mike EvansWRTB571891321239903270.3817.60.80
Julio JonesWRATL481372965946602510.3711.80.70
Brandin CooksWRNO692746940109143113040.3612.11.31
DeSean JacksonWRWAS610036663410010202830.3510.01.02
Tavon AustinWRLA412013072721322040.356.00.18
Amari CooperWROAK61106572199113702640.348.31.51
Stefon DiggsWRMIN790247936115103-13430.3412.80.90
Tyrell WilliamsWRSD250551657737102180.3314.60.97
Demaryius ThomasWRDEN460202812404801250.326.71.20
Malcolm MitchellWRNE250211254663302100.3113.20.50
Dez BryantWRDAL150-311116127804060.3125.40.06
Michael CrabtreeWROAK790167111828702640.319.11.06
Kevin WhiteWRCHI37072762893403040.2912.70.38
T.Y. HiltonWRIND61201564651297904500.2910.80.61
Charles JohnsonWRMIN160509898503430.2916.30.05
Vincent JacksonWRTB27011775921803270.2813.10.20
Phillip DorsettWRIND460589371269404500.2821.00.75
Doug BaldwinWRSEA9111355711689202510.276.21.35
Andre JohnsonWRTEN37082263853003140.2712.10.35
Chris ConleyWRKC47093448824303110.2611.70.52
Mohamed SanuWRATL581493133648002510.268.01.25
Michael FloydWRARI370164550956103770.2513.60.64
Jeremy MaclinWRKC571459197863-13110.2511.10.81
Sterling ShepardWRNYG34163710474301900.2511.80.91
Larry FitzgeraldWRARI8102275437918103770.249.10.89
Robert WoodsWRBUF4500209292001250.235.80.69
DeAndre HopkinsWRHOU58105438925404010.2311.50.59
Keenan AllenWRSD67018455506302180.237.11.26
Randall CobbWRGB680948287657113320.239.50.75
Kenny BrittWRLA460343313466702040.237.71.46
Nelson AgholorWRPHI4514533565702490.2211.21.02
Danny AmendolaWRNE3405434474802100.2211.81.02
John BrownWRARI140087684803770.2221.00.10
Eddie RoyalWRCHI46155215675703040.2211.20.85
Cole BeasleyWRDAL8120234244866504060.217.20.76
Jermaine KearseWRSEA570154211535702510.217.61.08
Jamison CrowderWRWAS6100273127585802830.205.81.00
Brandon LaFellWRCIN44042490499102440.2012.31.86
Julian EdelmanWRNE770244204266162100.206.01.57
Chris HoganWRNE341332714416002100.2010.31.46
Brian QuickWRLA35061722392302040.197.80.59
Torrey SmithWRSF26001323361301950.186.00.36
Steve SmithWRBAL59012737441902430.184.90.43
Michael ThomasWRNO66035540545803040.189.01.07
Adam ThielenWRMIN45054911605403430.1712.00.90
Quinton PattonWRSF55026340346001950.176.81.76
Sammie CoatesWRPIT2301145-3425602430.1714.01.33
Victor CruzWRNYG4414300303401900.167.51.13
Quincy EnunwaWRNYJ78125292315401970.163.91.74
Donte MoncriefWRIND671154921706404500.1610.00.91
Breshad PerrimanWRBAL1206298373502430.1518.50.95
Greg SalasWRBUF010001919001250.1519.00.00
Devin FunchessWRCAR140092635902350.158.80.26
Jordy NelsonWRGB691122027473203320.145.20.68
Eli RogersWRPIT67135249335902430.144.71.79
Adam HumphriesWRTB35026834423473270.138.40.81
Jarvis LandryWRMIA710040199285902370.122.82.11
Rishard MatthewsWRTEN34002611372603140.129.30.70
Tyler BoydWRCIN230141018282402440.119.30.86
Allen HurnsWRJAC45039365417503700.118.21.83
Terrance WilliamsWRDAL34092520453404060.1111.30.76
Seth RobertsWROAK24171217291902640.117.30.66
Travis BenjaminWRSD78011212233202180.112.91.39
Andrew HawkinsWRCLE0300030300-12870.1010.00.00
Pierre GarconWRWAS66020290295102830.104.81.76
Dontrelle InmanWRSD130241822602180.107.30.27
Paul RichardsonWRSEA1202911201102510.0810.00.55
J.J. NelsonWRARI12011019291103770.0814.50.38
Brice ButlerWRDAL12041219311604060.0815.50.52
Jaron BrownWRARI1200189271803770.0713.50.67
Jordan NorwoodWRDEN0100088001250.068.00.00
Golden TateWRDET77032120124122070.061.73.42
Kamar AikenWRBAL2201130131402430.056.51.08
Albert WilsonWRKC3505-42016103110.053.20.06
Harry DouglasWRTEN2501388162103140.053.21.31
Justin HardyWRATL1201-11312002510.056.00.00
Leonte CarrooWRMIA2203110111402370.055.51.27
Andre HolmesWROAK010001212002640.0512.00.00
Marqise LeeWRJAC2401488162203700.044.01.38
Tyler LockettWRSEA38017010101702510.041.31.70
Braxton MillerWRHOU130241115604010.045.00.40
Dorial Green-BeckhamWRPHI22068081402490.034.01.75
Josh DoctsonWRWAS1100909902830.039.01.00
Anquan BoldinWRDET330305053502070.021.77.00
Andre RobertsWRDET1103505802070.025.01.60
Rashad GreeneWRJAC1206358903700.024.01.13
Ted GinnWRCAR11005055202350.025.01.00
Jared AbbrederisWRGB1102606803320.026.01.33
Cordarrelle PattersonWRMIN1100606683430.026.01.00
Chris MooreWRBAL120103141302430.022.03.25
Corey BrownWRCAR12074-221102350.011.05.50
Josh HuffWRPHI0300011002490.000.30.00
Ryan GrantWRWAS0100011002830.001.00.00

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  1. Data is from 2009-2015. We are running a simple linear regression of Week 1 outcomes for each stat on per-game averages for the same stat over the rest of the season.  (back)
  2. 0.346-0.250/.250 = 0.38  (back)
  3. 33rd in WR PPR  (back)
By Josh Hermsmeyer | @friscojosh | Archive

Comments   Add comment

  1. Very cool! I don't understand why Fuller wasn't on that first list. It would appear that he was tied for air yards with Robinson when sorting the second table. Either way, holy shit batman...just watched his highlights against the Bears.

  2. PatW says:

    So how much do we love Fuller? Would you make this deal?
    Fuller + Lacy for Jamaal + Desean Jackson
    I think at this point in time, Jamaal and Lacy are probably pretty even for me, so it likely comes down to whether you like Fuller or Desean more.

  3. Any idea of how consistent Team Air yards are from week 1 vs rest of season? I guess I'm asking how game script dependent they are, or can we expect some consistency going forward?

    In particular, I'm looking at TY Hilton (high air yards, low MS) vs Sammy Watkins (lower air yards, very high MS).

    I guess we can qualitative try to think about it, but I was wondering what the numbers might show.

  4. He beasted out. I'm incredibly bullish on him. Thanks for the kind words.

    @j2cain I would probably do that given your situation with Keenan.

    @turndownforwatt Do eeeet.

    @wawaqueso I think Fuller could end up having the better year, and even if he doesn't there is a strong chance it won't be that much worse that a healthy Desean season.

    @dkpsports I looked at Air years season over season (~.4 correlation) but not game to game. In general, game to game correlations are very poor. This is a large reason why I do not prefer DFS to seasonal. Too much variance.

    As for Hilton vs Watkins, Sammy had unreal air yards to end the year. But you want to balance that against target volume and health. I think TY is the better play with the information we have right now, but that could very well turn out to be wrong. Sammy's ceiling is probably higher.

    Thanks for the comments! Much appreciated.

  5. @friscojosh Hi Josh,

    I am trying to turn my roster around a bit. I currently have Cobb, and Gordon and through a few trades, I might be able to get Marvin Jones, Jennings ad Decker. Would you do that trade?

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