“Air yards” is defined as the total number of yards that the ball travels in the air on a passing play from the line of scrimmage to the contact point. This metric assists in weighting the importance of a target for fantasy football purposes and helps identify unrecognized potential. For instance, a 30-yard target is more valuable than a 10-yard target.
Looking at individual player air yards is important, but breaking down the stats by team can help discover opportunities from players who may be receiving lower volume than expected and should regress in the upcoming weeks.
Receiver Air yard Conversion Ratio (RACR) is important when identifying over and underperformers. Some players simply do more with targets than others. For example, Cooper Kupp has 629 air yards through Week 6, yet he has 653 receiving yards on the season (RACR: 1.04). Courtland Sutton has 887 air yards through Week 6 but only 471 receiving yards (RACR: 0.53). While both may regress closer towards the 0.7-0.9 range given enough targets throughout the course of the season, a YAC guy like Kupp will always do more with his air yards than a contested-catch guy like Sutton.
Based on how teams are trending regarding air yards, there are some clear buy, sell, and hold candidates entering Week 7.
Calvin Ridley – WR Atlanta Falcons – BUY
Still only 26-years-old, the underperforming wide receiver is an obvious buy candidate based on recent metrics. His bye week has already come and gone this season, and he should physically be rested after not having played a game in three weeks. Atlanta also is trending in the right direction with regard to team air yards:
|Air Yards Weeks 1-3
|Air Yards Weeks 4-6
|Week 4-6 pace
In weeks 4-6, Atlanta’s average air yards per week is 1 yard shy of being the most of any team. After ranking 31st in air yards through the first three games, Atlanta started to figure out their offense. If this trend continues, Ridley should be a safe play with high upside for the remainder of the season.
Ridley’s RACR is down at 0.56 this season, with only 255 receiving yards on 453 air yards. This is down significantly from 2020, where he had a RACR of 0.67 with 1374 receiving yards on 2063 air yards. While Ridley’s RACR will never be exceedingly high, the likelihood of positive RACR and total air yard regression combined with a bye week that has already passed makes him one of the top buy candidates heading into Week 7.
Marvin Jones – WR Jacksonville Jaguars – SELL
Not only has Jacksonville decreased in total air yards over the last three weeks, but Lawrence has not been throwing the ball deep like he was early in the season:
D.J. Chark being out is the most likely reason for the 29 deep passes (2nd) weeks 1-3 dropping down to 13 (31st – once accounting for teams on bye) weeks 4-6. Still, it also is not enough volume for Marvin Jones to be a consistent starting fantasy option if this trend continues. Jones will have more solid games throughout the season, but he has dropped tiers from a weekly starter when Lawrence was airing it out to a high upside streaming option. He may be difficult to sell in dynasty given his age (31), but selling him to a team in win-now mode with injuries and byes is a viable option.
Marvin Jones also has a low RACR through Week 6 (0.58) from 343 receiving yards on 589 air yards, which will likely never increase significantly because he is not a YAC guy. With a low RACR and passing volume on a team that does not score often, Jones should be traded off of his big Week 6 finish while he still holds value.
Mike Evans – WR Tampa Bay Buccaneers – BUY
Mike Evans is currently one of the strongest buy candidates. However, you may want to wait until his bye week in Week 9 to offer up a trade. Evans is facing the Bears next week, which could go either way, followed by Lattimore and the Saints. If he can have a couple more down games against Chicago and New Orleans before his bye, the price tag will likely be lower.
Evans is 7th wide receiver in the entire league in air yards, and Tampa Bay is by far number 1 in air yards and deep passes. There are no positive or negative trends, just high volume across the board:
Evans is also a better dynasty buy than the other receivers on his team. Godwin is the youngest of the three but is on the franchise tag and likely costs the most to trade for in dynasty anyway. Brown is averaging the most fantasy points per game, but he is 33 years old.
With a RACR of 0.6, down from his 0.76 last year with the same quarterback, positive yardage and touchdown regression are headed his way.
Allen Robinson – Chicago Bears – HOLD
There may be hope for Allen Robinson with Chicago’s air yards increasing from 32nd weeks 1-3 to 25th (once accounting for teams on bye) weeks 4-6. A rank of 25th still is not ideal, but a 69% increase from weeks 1-3 is nice. Justin Fields is throwing the ball more with 13, 20, and 27 pass attempts in weeks 4, 5, and 6, respectively. Again, 27 still is not great, but at least Chicago is loosening his leash.
No one will pay up for Robinson now, so now is not the time to sell. People also will likely ask for too much for how he has produced so far, so buying just to sit him is not logical either. His RACR is currently 0.57, which is significantly lower than his 0.84 last year. This is what can happen when a rookie quarterback starts, but his targets and yards should begin to increase more rapidly throughout the remainder of the season.
Temper expectations until he can prove that he still has talent, but do not sell-low on Allen Robinson right now.
Darren Waller – TE Las Vegas Raiders – BUY
Darren Waller has put up unimpressive stat lines ever since his 19 targets in Week 1, averaging under 55 yards per game with only one touchdown in that span. This is not the new normal for Waller. Let’s look at the other top performing tight ends this season:
Waller has the most air yards by far of any tight end on the season yet has an extremely low RACR (for a tight end). Waller had a RACR of 1.03 in 2020 and 1.31 in 2019, exceeding 1100 yards receiving each of those two seasons.
Positive regression is coming in a big way. Other receivers have stepped up around him more this season, but he is still the best receiving option on the Raiders. Now might be the last opportunity to buy before he reminds everyone why they drafted him in the first place.
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