Air Yards Value Index – An Introduction | Fantasy Football 2023

by Edward DeLauter · Best Ball Plays & Strategy

The Air Yards Value Index will return for its fourth season. While we eagerly await Week 1 data, this article will serve as a bit of an explainer for those that are new to this weekly series. First, we’ll discuss Air Yards and why they matter. Next, we’ll discuss how we create the Air Yards Value Score. Finally, we’ll discuss why not all Air Yards should be treated the same way.

What are Air Yards and Why Do They Matter?

Per PlayerProfiler’s glossary Air Yards, is the total target distance from the line of scrimmage to the catch point. Essentially, think of a football thrown by the quarterback from the line of scrimmage and caught, or dropped by a receiver, or otherwise incomplete. The distance between this interaction is Air Yards. This metric was introduced by Josh Hermsmeyer during his time at Rotoviz. Hermsmeyer’s work expanded on Mike Clay’s metric of Average Depth of Target (ADOT). In the context ADOT, Air Yards is the depth of all total targets.

Air Yards matter for two main reasons. First, Air Yards are highly predictive. Air Yards belong to the receiver, in so far as a receiver’s ADOT is generally the same year-over-year. For example, most  receivers like Marquez Valdes-Scantling and D.J. Chark remain high ADOT receivers regardless of whether Aaron Rodgers, Patrick Mahomes, or Jared Goff is their quarterback. In addition to a receiver’s ADOT, Air Yards when coupled with a player’s efficiency metrics can help predict the amount of receiving yards they are likely to get. As such, Air Yards are a useful metric that is part of the process that can be used to project player performance and fantasy points.

Second, Air Yards signify intent. Much like targets, Air Yards are earned. Think of what happens on a specific play. A play is called that is designed to occur a certain way. The quarterback gets to the line of scrimmage, reads the defense, and decides to call the play. The ball is snapped, the quarterback reads the defense again, and makes a decision as to where to throw the ball. Multiple decisions get made each time a play is ran. Multiple decisions coalesce into a player receiving a target, and Air Yards. These decisions signify intent.

Using Air Yards to formulate a “Buy Low” Metric

As Air Yards are both highly predictive and a signifier of offensive intent it can be used with great success to determine a players expected fantasy point outcome. As previously discussed, some projections utilize Air Yards and efficiency metrics to determine fantasy points.  Sometimes a player’s fantasy production is below what we would expect based on their Air Yards. When this happens it creates a potential “buy low” opportunity on that player.

The Air Yards DFS Index goes one step further. This is accomplished by utilizing a player’s Air Yards and Air Yards Share to create a weighted Air Yards metric. We then compare this metric with each player’s DFS salary to create a Value Score. Essentially, the receiver’s DraftKings price is substituted to what their fantasy production has been thus far. If a player is underperforming their Air Yard usage in comparison to their DraftKings Salary, they will have a high Value Score. This signifies that they are a “buy low” and a player you should be considering in you DFS lineups.

Deciphering Air Yards and Prayer Yards

The Air Yards Value Index creates a list of players to consider for your DFS lineup. However, in order to understand what those players might contribute to your DFS lineup a proper context is needed. This is where the Air Yards Value Index comes in. Every week we will add the necessary context to understand why each player has the value score they have. We’ll decipher whether the Air Yards posted are legitimate or if they are a red herring. The hope is to accumulate a list of players that should be considered in every DFS format and help you cash some lineups.

Be on the look out for the the Air Yards Value Index, next week, every Wednesday during the NFL season. Until then May all your Air Yards be realized!