Metric of the Week: Using Average Depth of Target to Value Wide Receivers

by The “Mad Chatter” Ryan MK · Analytics & Advanced Metrics

(In this new Metric of the Week series, one of our writers will choose one of PlayerProfiler’s advanced stats and metrics and lay out a real-world application of the metric in fantasy analysis).

Numbers, numbers, numbers. What do they all mean? Diving into statistics and metrics can be overwhelming, but the analytics movement has helped fantasy football evolve over time. While most fantasy managers are familiar with the “mainstream” metrics (i.e. yards per carry), an understanding of the more obscure data is key in gaining an advantage.

Die hard fantasy gamers have an appreciation for analytics; every numerical detail provides insight into future production (or a lack thereof). In this crazy world of fantasy football, it behooves everyone to gain that aforementioned understanding. Good thing PlayerProfiler is here with its Metric of the Week series to help with that. On to this week’s metric!

Average Depth of Target

Also known as aDOT, Average Depth of Target is calculated by dividing Air Yards by the number of targets. This indicates the amount of yards downfield a player was targeted on average. In addition, it helps to identify the depth of the routes that receivers run and what type of a receiver the player is. For example, slot receivers are more likely to have a lower aDOT, because their routes are run more towards the line of scrimmage.

The aDOT metric is far more predictive than Yards Per Reception. While useful, the YPR stat only accounts for receptions. Looking at targets as opposed to receptions presents a larger sample size; an incomplete pass still provides data. Yards per reception also incorporates Yards After Catch, or YAC, which is not always indicative of a player’s production. Targets, and the quality of said targets, reveal information that slipping a tackle for a 50-yard run simply never will.

In addition, aDOT clarifies the type of receiver a player is. Wideouts that have a higher aDOT will have a lower YAC and lower Catch Rate, but more Air Yards. These types are considered deep threats; they are largely responsible for the big plays that garner hefty fantasy points. While slot receivers will generally carry a lower aDOT, they will maintain the higher YAC and Catch Rate due to running shorter routes.

Applying the Metric

In general, the top producers at receiver tend to have the deeper routes in their inventory. In 2020, all but three of the receivers in the top 12 have an aDOT below 10.0 yards, and all three rank in the top 7 in YAC. One of the top fantasy wideouts is Calvin Ridley, ranking No. 1 in standard scoring and No. 3 in PPR leagues. He currently has a 16.0 (No. 11 among qualified wide receivers) aDOT and ranks No. 1 with 13 Deep Targets. Ridley also ranks No. 7 with 349 receiving yards, but ranks No. 31 with 71 YAC.

Check out Calvin Ridley on PlayerProfiler’s Updated Weekly Rankings and Projections:

On the other side is D.J. Moore; pegged by many fantasy analysts for a big season. The third year wideout comes in with a 12.8 (No. 27) aDOT, having recorded 288 (No. 16) receiving yards and six (No. 14) Deep Targets. Moore ranks No. 40 in standard scoring and No. 31 in PPR formats. While he draws an average of eight targets per game, the 7.2 (No. 22) Target Quality is an issue, especially given his measly 32 (No. 80) YAC.

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Moore would have a greater chance at success if the YAC was higher, as can be seen with DeAndre Hopkins. The new Cardinal has quickly established himself in Arizona, though he has an unimpressive 7.0 (No. 92) aDOT. Hopkins has also only drawn four (No. 27) Deep Targets. Despite those numbers, he ranks No. 4 with 397 receiving yards. One might wonder how, but it’s all about the 175 (No. 3) YAC.

When it comes to the wide receiver position, every fantasy manager wants to roster the most productive and efficient players of the bunch. The aDOT metric is an excellent indicator for future production, especially on high-volume offenses. The fact that the majority of the top producers in 2020 thus far have an aDOT above 10.0 yards proves the importance of the metric. Without a solid aDOT, the player needs to be a producer after the catch, otherwise their fantasy impact will be minimal.