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Targets and Air Yards Analysis - NextGen Stats

Deebo Samuel - Fantasy Football Rankings, NFL Injury News, DFS Lineup Picks

Folks, it's time to put on your battle armor and get ready for war as we get ready for the all-important championship week. If you are still in the playoffs, that means you have been been able to stay alive and grind through 16 long weeks. Only one thing can beat you to the finish line: yourself. But hey, don't lose any bit of hope. I'm here for another week to show you how the league is looking entering the final round of the fantasy playoffs so you can make the final pinpoint decisions of the year and bring that championship home.

To gain the biggest edge in your fantasy football league, it's necessary to understand how to apply the advanced statistics being used in sports nowadays. Back in the day, it was all about wins and losses, passing yards, and touchdowns scored. It's not that those stats are now worthless, they just don't offer enough information to savvy analysts. While football is still in its infancy compared to baseball in terms of analytics, the evolution the sport has seen lately in those terms is notable.

Each week, I'll be tackling NFL's Next Gen Stats, bringing you data from the previous week's games with notable takeaways you should consider when assessing fantasy players for the upcoming week. In case you're new to the series, or Next Gen Stats altogether, I recommend you read our NGS-primer. Now, let's get to the data!

Editor's Note: Our incredible team of writers won two writing awards and received 12 award nominations by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. A big congrats to our very own Byron Lindeque (Golf) and Jordan McAbee (NASCAR) for both winning Writer Of The Year awards! Be sure to follow RotoBaller's analysis and advice all year long, and win more. Win More With RotoBaller!

 

Week 16 - TE/WR Air Yards Breakdown - NextGenStats

If you remember the introductory post to the series, you already know air yards tells us the vertical yards on a pass attempt from the line of scrimmage to the point where the ball was caught by the receiver (or the catch failed to be completed). I will be using mainly two metrics here: Average Targeted Air Yards (TAY), and %Share of Team's Air Yards (TAY%)TAY tells us how many air yards a receiver is thrown per target. TAY% measures the percentage of air yards a receiver was thrown at over the sum of his team's total air yards.

With seven weeks in the books, we can say that we have enough data to assess what and what not is going on at the wide receiver and tight end positions. This doesn't mean air yard values are already stabilized but it is highly probable that what we see in Weeks 1-7 stays mostly the same at least in the short-to-mid-term future, with high chances of staying on similar levels for the full season.

Today, I'll present each of the stats from the NFL's advanced metrics site, its correlation with receiver fantasy points, and a list of leaders and trailers in each category along with some notes and takeaways on both the players' and the metrics' impact on fantasy football as a whole.

So let's dive in. Note: The cutoff is set at 40 targets for both WR and TE.

 

Cushion / Separation

Correlation with Fantasy Points (based on the 2020 season): negative-20% / negative-9%

Leaders and Trailers:

Leaderboard Notes:

  • Most players with high SEP values are tight ends. That comes down to them not being covered as tightly as other, more skillful receivers. Also, tight ends are often used as security blankets, so they're thrown passes only when they're quite open and only a few steps into their routes at a time defenders have not closed on them yet.
  • Most tight ends also find it hard to really separate from defenders because of their frames and how their bodies are built. Let's say they're not speedsters.
  • No tight ends in the group of players averaging 7+ yards of distance at the line of scrimmage 16 weeks into the season. In fact, Gerald Everett (6.9) and Cameron Brate (6.8) lead the way at the position with no other tight end above 6.6 yards of CUSH.
  • There are 16 wide receivers ranked above the first tight end in CUSH averages, all of them averaging 6.9+ yards with 14 of those already at a 7.0+ CUSH mark.
  • Devin Duvernay snatched the CUSH-lead from Adam Humphries the last time we checked (W13) and he's been able to retain it, though his mark went down from 8.3 to 8.1 yards.
  • Only Rondale Moore was good for the other 8.0+ CUSH among pass-catchers with two games to go. Tied for third: Marquise Brown and Sterling Shepard at 7.7 yards each.
  • Of course, a bunch of tight ends sitting at the other end of the leaderboard with three ranking among the bottom-seven players in CUSH through W16: David Njoku (4.5, league-trailer), Austin Hooper (4.6), and Rob Gronkowski (5.0).
  • Diontae Johnson is the wide receiver with the lowest CUSH (4.5) mark so far this season, and he's gotten a healthy 144 targets to this day. The only tight end close to that number of targets is Mark Andrews, who has a CUSH of 6.5. Travis Kelce (122 targets) is closer to Diontae with a 5.5 CUSH and the second-most TE-targets.
  • As far as fantasy points go, the top-20 CUSH players are averaging 9.2 FPPG while the bottom-20 CUSH receivers are averaging a higher 11.3 FPPG on receiving stats.
  • Miami Dolphins wideout DeVante Parker (1.7) hasn't been able to separate from defenders all year long and it's now the third time in a row he's trailed every pass catcher in the SEP leaderboard.
  • Kenny Golladay tied Parker for the "lead" there, with Donovan Peoples-Jones clocking in third (1.8) and Allen Robinson II ranking four as the last player with a below-2.0-yard SEP through 16 weeks of play.
  • Kyle Pitts, the wide receiver masquerading as a tight end, has the lowest SEP (2.3) among tight ends this season with nobody closer than 0.3 yards to his mark (Cameron Brate).
  • Rondale Moore, obviously, has not surrendered his ridiculous lead on the SEP leaderboard. He is still the King of the SEP with his 5.7 mark through W16, raising it by 0.1 yards since the last time we checked and for the second time (six-week span) in a row.
  • The second-highest SEP boaster, Ryan Griffin, is already down at 4.4 and separated 1.3 yards from Moore. Just imagine! Among WRs, it's a two-way tie for second with Byron Pringle and Braxton Berrios both following Moore at 4.3 yards of SEP each at this point though on low target counts not topping 53 looks.
  • On the manufactured CUSH+SEP leaderboard, nobody is touching Rondale Moore's 13.7 yards (up from 13.3 in W10 and 13.6 in W13).
  • Allen Robinson has the biggest ratio between CUSH and SEP, with 7.1 yards on the former but only 1.9 on the latter. Kenny Golladay is close with a 5.9:1.7 ratio himself, but other than Kenny G, nobody is even close to those heights.
  • Both Cameron Brate and Kyle Pitts have the same 2.6 ratios, though the former is doing it to a 6.8/2.6 combination compared to the latter's 6.0/2.3 marks.
  • Averages for fantasy WR/TE with 16+ FPPG: 5.8 CUSH, 3.1 SEP.
  • Averages for fantasy WR/TE with <8 FPPG: 6.2 CUSH, 3.1 SEP.
  • In a few words: don't rely on CUSH or SEP. Those are a couple of descriptivenot predictive stats and often come in all shapes and sizes without much predictability to them.

 

Targeted Air Yards / % Share of Team's Air Yards

Correlation with Fantasy Points (based on the 2020 season): 0% / 61%

Leaders and Trailers:

Leaderboard Notes:

  • Opportunity trumps everything in fantasy football, and it can be seen in the highly related link between the percentage of yards a team/QB throws toward a player and the fantasy points he scores.
  • This is made clear by the table above, which I have sorted by Targeted Air Yards% (among teammates). Every player among the top-25 in TAY% is averaging double-digit FPPG.
  • In fact, among the top-35 TAY% players, only two (Courtland Sutton and Robby Anderson) are below 10 FPPG 16 weeks into the season.
  • New leader at the top of the TAY% leaderboard as the absence and banged-up play of Adam Thielen opened the door to Justin Jefferson to improve his mark a bit, sitting now at a ridiculous 45.1%. Nobody is even topping 42%, so go figure.
  • Only Jefferson and Terry McLaurin are getting more than a 39% of their teams' air yardage at 45.1% and 42.2%, respectively. Three players follow them with percentages in the 38-to-39% clip: DJ Moore, Brandin Cooks, and DeVonta Smith.
  • Kyle Pitts (30.2%) has finally edged Mark Andrews as the leading TAY% tight ends this season while becoming the first player at the position getting 30%+ of his team air yards. Andrews is down one percentage point at 29.2% himself.
  • Among the 30 pass-catchers with 100+ targets through W16, Cole Beasley trails everyone with a super-low 11.1 TAY%. Hunter Renfrow is second but already more than five percentage points above Beasley with a 16.5% mark.
  • Four of those 20 players are tight ends, with Pitts and Andrews leading all of them in TAY%. Mike Gesicki (22.6%) and Travis Kelce (21.7%) follow them.
  • Ridiculous aDOT that of Marquez Valdes-Scantling, who leads the league at an unreasonable 17.6 TAY. He's approached by Donovan Peoples-Jones (16.0), though it is also true that the two of them have gotten just 51 and 49 targets through W16.
  • Courtland Sutton is the first player with 90+ targets and the highest TAY at 15.6 aDOT, followed by Tyler Lockett's 15.2 on 99 looks.
  • McLaurin leads the aDOT-way among pass catchers with 100+ targets as he's currently boasting a 14-yard aDOT on the year.
  • Somehow, Rondale Moore was able to keep his aDOT grounded to a league-low 1.1 TAY now on 64 targets through Week 16. He's on a league of his own considering the second-lowest mark belongs to C.J. Uzomah and Braxton Berries, both already up 3.5 yards on Moore's average with a 4.6 aDOT.
  • Averages for fantasy WR/TE with 16+ FPPG: 9.7 aDOT, 28.9% TAY%.
  • Averages for fantasy WR/TE with <10 FPPG: 9.5 aDOT, 14.0% TAY%.

 

Receptions / Targets / Catch% / Touchdowns

Correlation with Fantasy Points (based on the 2020 season): 83% / 79% / 33% / 70%

Leaders and Trailers:

Leaderboard Notes:

  • Obviously, receptions trump targets in terms of fantasy-point production (in PPR formats, that is) because well, they hand out actual fantasy points. That's why all of 25 pass-catchers putting up 14+ FPPG so far (min. 65 targets) have caught 57+ passes.
  • Of the 30 pass-catchers with 100+ targets, only six have yet to catch 65 passes on the year with Darnell Mooney sitting at 62 receptions and five others tied at 64.
  • Two more pass-catchers joined Cooper Kupp as 100-reception WRs: Davante Adams (106 on 148 targets) and Tyreek Hill (104 on 146).
  • Cooper Kupp, even on a heavy and league-leading 177 targets, is still posting the highest catch rate among those three 100+ reception players. He's caught 74.6% of his targets compared to Adams' 71.6% and Hill's 71.2%.
  • All players with 100+ targets have scored at least a touchdown through 16 weeks of play. Three of them, though, have only found pay dirt once: Cole Beasley, Jakobi Meyers, and Kyle Pitts.
  • As many as 12 qualified players (40+ targets) have yet to score a TD on the year. Laviska Shenault Jr. leads all of them with 90 targets, followed by Cole Kmet (83), and Kenny Golladay (70). All other players get a slight pass as none of them have seen more than 58 targets this season.
  • Cooper Kupp is leading every receiving category except Air Yards. Seriously. He trails Justin Jefferson (942 to 975 AYD) but holds the lead on all receptions, targets, yards, yards after the catch, and touchdowns.
  • Hunter Henry is now the most efficient pass catcher when it comes to scoring TDs, as he's posting up one every 4.7 receptions. Only Gabriel Davis is close at a 4.8 mark himself (though with six TDs compared to Henry's nine).
  • Cole Beasley is clearly leading the other way, with only one TD on 76 receptions. Meyers is at 71, and Pitts at 64. Those are the only three players with a single score on 55+ receptions.

 

"Total" Yards (Air Yds + YAC) / "Air" Yards / YAC%

Correlation with Fantasy Points (based on the 2020 season): 88% / 79% / negative-3%

Leaders and Trailers:

Leaderboard Notes:

  • Nothing surprising here, as receiving yardage is factored into the calculation of fantasy points without much hard math involved. Leaders in yardage average the most fantasy points, with the touchdowns and receptions just being a weekly bonus to their tallies.
  • We have gone from four players with 1,000+ yards through Week 13 to as many as 16 (!) through Week 16. Kupp, obviously, leads everybody with his 1,734 yards (115+ per game) and is 283 yards above no. 2 Justin Jefferson. That distance is the same as that between Jefferson and no. 7 Ja'Marr Chase.
  • With the minimum number of targets set at 40 for this week's column, only three pass catchers failed to reach at least 250 receiving yards through this past Sunday: Adam Trautman, Cameron Brate, and Ray-Ray McCloud.
  • Three players putting up 11+ yards per target: Kendrick Bourne, Deebo Samuel, and Dallas Goedert. Only one of them (Deebo with 109) has 70+ targets to his name, though.
  • Five other players with 10.0+ yards per target but only one (Chase) with 100+ targets on the season to date.
  • Along with Cooper Kupp, only Deebo Samuel and Chris Godwin can say they are part of the 600+ YAC Club. Davante Adams, Travis Kelce, and Diontae Johnson are all in the 500-to-600 YAC-clip.
  • God bless Rondale Moore and his 104.4 YAC%. Yes, you read that right. Moore has racked up 454 yards after the catch compared to a negative of minus-19 air yards. Jonnu Smith, who has the highest YAC% among humans, is down at 79.9% followed by Mecole Hardman's 74.5% mark.
  • On the other hand, Keelan Cole has the lowest YAC% at 14.2 percent, the only player below a 15% through Week 16. Rashard Higgins (15%) is the only other player with a below-16.5% mark to this date.

 

Yards After Catch / Expected YAC / YAC Above Expectation

Correlation with Fantasy Points (based on the 2020 season): 6% / 0% / 11%

Leaders and Trailers: 

Leaderboard Notes:

  • Deebo Samuel is definitely a very unique player who can seemingly play either the WR and RB positions without much trouble. The 4.4 YACOE he had back on Week 13 is low compared to his current 4.9 mark. That's absolutely insane and something impossible to approach by anyone in the NFL.
  • Just for context, only six other players are posting YACOE values of 2.0+ yards, and only one of those (Chase) is above 2.8 (!).
  • Now, for the most mind-bending fact: three San Francisco 49ers are posting YACOEs of 2.0+ yards. That's three of six players league-wide. Sheesh.
  • Of course, Deebo Samuel is keeping up a 10.2 YAC/R mark through Week 16 that no freaking body is even remotely close to. Rondale Moore and David Njoku are tied for second (both 8.4 YAC/R) with Jonnu Smith and Hardman the only other players at 8.0 YAC/R this deep into the year.
  • Most impressive fact: Deebo's got an xYAC/R of 5.3 yards compared to a minimum of 6.2 yards from any of the other four players mentioned above. Ja'Marr Chase's 3.8 xYAC/R is the lowest among players posting 6.4+ YAC/R marks (Chase is averaging 7.2).
  • Even split between tight ends and wide receivers at the top-10 of the YAC/R leaderboard. All of them are keeping up marks of 6.8+  YAC/R through 16 weeks of play.
  • The tight-end cohort should be averaging 4.7 YAC given the expectations, and the wide-receiver group should be at 3.9. That compares to tight ends actually averaging +0.5 YACOE as a group while receivers are at a slightly higher +0.6 YACOE mark, same as it happened the last time we checked out the numbers back in Week 13.
  • All qualifiers averaging 3.0 or fewer YAC/R are wide receivers. In fact, of the 27 players averaging fewer than 3.5 YAC/R, only two play at the tight end position: Cameron Brate and Hunter Henry.
  • Adam Trautman is the only player underperforming the expectations by more than a full yard: he's got a minus-1.2 YACOE over 42 targets and 26 receptions.
  • Two more at minus-0.9 in WRs Marvin Jones Jr. and Christian Kirk on rather heavier target numbers (106 and 91, respectively).
  • Receivers averaging 16+ FPPG through Week 16: 1.2 YACOE.
  • Receivers averaging <10 FPPG through Week 16: 0.5 YACOE.
  • Receivers averaging 1.5+ YACOE through Week 16: 10.3 FPPG.
  • Receivers averaging <0.0 YACOE through Week 16: 8.4 FPPG.

That's it for today. Until we meet again next week, I hope you can crush your waiver wire, set up the best possible lineup, and get ready for another weekend full of fireworks!



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Kyle Pitts - Fantasy Football Rankings, Draft Sleepers, NFL Injury News

Positive and Negative Touchdown Regression Candidates: Tight End

Tight end is one of the hardest positions to nail down, especially since different leagues have different settings. Tight End Premium has started to take off, giving an added boost to those top options. Most of the tight end landscape nowadays is boom-or-bust or middle-of-the-pack. Looking at tight ends in 2023 and the touchdowns they... Read More


Patrick Mahomes - Fantasy Football Rankings, DFS Lineup Picks, NFL Injury News

One-Man Mock Draft - Assembling the Greatest Fantasy Football Teams Ever

If you're a longtime fantasy football player, then you have been lucky enough to witness the game's greatest players deliver some incredible performances over the years. Perhaps they even helped you win a few fantasy football titles along the way.  But where would the greatest players and fantasy football heroes stack up if they were... Read More


2024 NFL Draft Bold Prediction: Which Sleeper Team Trades Up To Land Rome Odunze?

Football never sleeps at RotoBaller! With the 2024 NFL Draft just days away, we're digging into some potential teams that could be on the move in the first round. RotoBaller's David Rispoli breaks down the sleeper team that could trade up to draft Washington's star wide receiver Rome Odunze. Win MORE in 2024 with RotoBaller!... Read More


Who Offers The Best Value At Quarterback Right Now? 2024 Fantasy Football Outlook

Football never sleeps at RotoBaller! With some high-stakes best ball drafts already underway, we're digging into what the fantasy football landscape will look like in 2024. RotoBaller's David Rispoli breaks down the Quarterback who stands out as the best value on the board and is already his favorite QB target in early 2024 fantasy football... Read More


Who Offers The Best Value At Wide Receiver Right Now? 2024 Fantasy Football Outlook

Football never sleeps at RotoBaller! With some high-stakes best ball drafts already underway, we're digging into what the fantasy football landscape will look like in 2024. RotoBaller's David Rispoli breaks down the wide receiver that stands out as the best value on the board in early 2024 fantasy football drafts. Win MORE in 2024 with... Read More


Blake Corum - Fantasy Football Rankings, College FB, RB, NFL Draft Sleepers

Best Fantasy Landing Spots for Top Rookie RBs - 2024 NFL Draft

The 2024 NFL Draft is fast approaching. This year's draft class is filled with talented players, especially at the running back position, where there might not be a standout star, but there are a lot of really solid players. There are a number of places where each running back could land, but not all of... Read More


Re-Drafting The 2015 NFL Draft: Entire First Round Do-Over

We're just a few days away from the 2024 NFL Draft and this year's draft is looking like it'll be one of the most stacked draft classes on paper. The same was being said about the 2015 NFL Draft as well, and many analysts claimed the rivalry between Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota would be... Read More