Welcome to the week 3 edition of Jason’s NFL Air Yards Analysis. This article is an attempt to identify wide receivers that are highly involved in a coach’s offensive game plan. Air yards accurately predict a coach’s intention, as even failed attempts to get certain players involved in the game are important. Over the course of the season, players with more air yards offer higher upside, especially when those players are overlooked by the general public. For a more in-depth understanding of what exactly air yards are, please refer to this linked explanation.
Keenan Allen (LAC)
In the first two weeks of the season, Keenan Allen racked up 329 air yards, which is more than any other NFL wide receiver. He converted that into 16 receptions for 221 receiving yards and 1 touchdown on 25 targets. Allen’s standard statistics are impressive, as any WR averaging over 100 receiving yards per game is great, but his advanced metrics are more impressive. His weighted opportunity rating, or WOPR, is currently 0.92. For comparison purposes, the most elite WRs in the league – DeAndre Hopkins, Julio Jones, etc. – average a WOPR between 0.70 and 0.80. Allen leads the league, which shows that he is earning the largest share of team targets and team air yards. His target share is 36%, but his market share of air yards is over 50%. It seems nearly impossible for Allen to sustain this level of production, but with Melvin Gordon holding out and Hunter Henry injured, the Los Angeles Chargers are going to continue to lean heavily on their star. Philip Rivers has developed a special level of trust in Allen, and he should be regarded as a top-5 WR in the league in both daily and season-long fantasy leagues.
Last Week Leader:
Curtis Samuel (CAR)
Last week, Curtis Samuel led the NFL in air yards with 234, but he only converted that into 5 receptions for 94 receiving yards. He failed to convert 8 of his 13 targets, which likely had to do with Cam Newton’s struggles at the quarterback position. Samuel earned 25% of the team’s total target share, as well as 42% of the team’s total air yards market share. His average depth of target, or aDOT, was 18 yards, and his WOPR was 0.68. Samuel undoubtedly impressed fantasy owners with his near 100-yard receiving performance, but based on advanced metrics, he should have performed much better. This week, Kyle Allen will take over for the injured Newton, and while it is impossible to predict who Allen’s favorite target will be, Norv Turner clearly wants Samuel more involved in the game plan. Samuel is far from a consistent option at WR, but he is worth considering as a buy-low target in season-long leagues, as well as an under-the-radar daily fantasy option.
Terry McLaurin (WAS)
The most impressive WR to start the season might be the Washington Redskins’ rookie, Terry McLaurin. McLaurin is fifth in the league in total air yards with 277, and he converted that into 10 receptions for 187 receiving yards. He failed to convert on 6 of his 16 total targets. As an added bonus, McLaurin is seeing 31.2% of total team targets in the red zone, which is a statistic best suited for Jason’s NFL Redzone Targets. Speaking of target share, McLaurin has 20% of the total team target share, but a much more impressive 51% of the total team air yards market share. His WOPR is 0.65, which is comparable to WRs like Devante Adams and Stefon Diggs. McLaurin’s aDOT is 17.3 yards, so when he is targeted, it is generally with the intention of moving the ball down the field quickly. The Redskins should see the return of Jordan Reed soon, but McLaurin has solidified himself as a staple of Jay Gruden’s offense. It is unlikely that season-long fantasy owners don’t know about McLaurin’s breakout, so it will be difficult to get him at value, but in daily fantasy leagues, target him without hesitation.
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