What are air yards, you say? The name kind of gives it away, doesn’t it? Air yards, irreverently discussed in this air yards primer, matter because we actually get some context of how much a quarterback WANTED to get their receiver the ball, not just how often the receiver could catch it. It’s a stat that gives us much more clarity on what went right and what went wrong in a given team’s passing attack. 

This column will dissect air yards each week, looking for actionable info in the coming weeks. Looking ahead to Week 13, we will analyze the list of the 74 wide receivers who finished last week with at least 30 air yards.

Market Share of Air Yards: Top Five in Week 12

These players received the five highest percentage share of their team’s total air yards in Week 12.

D.J. Moore (139 air yards, 80.3%) – Just a few weeks ago, when Amon-Ra St. Brown had more than 80% of his team’s air yards, I commented on how that was the first time I had seen a number that high in two years of covering this data and we would likely not see it again this year. Welp. The new quarterback apparently only has eyes for D.J. Moore. Moore had six targets against Denver, while the rest of the pass-catchers had nine. Moore had double the amount of target share of any other receiver. His 139 air yards were almost 90 more than every other receiver combined. If this is a sign of things to come, we may get the D.J. Moore of old back for the fantasy playoffs. 

Chris Olave (161 air yards, 57.5%) –  Olave is now just 30 air yards behind Tyreek Hill for the league lead this season. But, you know, he is also about 400 receiving yards behind Hill in that category. That’s what happens when you have Andy Dalton throwing you the ball all year. You’re going to have a lot of games like Olave had on Sunday – 161 air yards but just 62 scoreless receiving yards. 

Olamide Zaccheaus (72 air yards, 55.0%) – Literally, anytime I see a Falcons receiver on this list, I just keep on scrolling, knowing that their passing volume is simply not high enough to justify anyone on standard fantasy rosters. But with Kyle Pitts out, Zaccheaus saw eight targets and 91 yards in a game his team only scored 13 points. In the right matchup, OZ has some PPR appeal for the rest of the season. 

Van Jefferson (77 air yards, 53.5%) –  Van Jefferson decidedly does not have any PPR (or any other format) appeal this season. I suppose you could make the case for value due to sheer attrition and lack of options, but this offense looks hopeless with no Matthew Stafford, Cooper Kupp, Allen Robinson and Darrell Henderson. The fill-in quarterback threw 23 times (not bad) for 100 total yards (awful) in his first start, including two picks. 

Zay Jones (122 air yards, 53.0%) – The Zay Jones breakout game has been percolating for some time now. Including Sunday’s 14-target, 11-catch, 145-yard performance, Jones has six games with at least eight targets, four games with at least six receptions, and four games over 60 yards. With Trevor Lawrence finally starting to look like a competent quarterback, Jones and Christian Kirk are clear buys right now in all formats. 

Market Share of Air Yards: Highlights from the Bottom 20

These are intriguing highlights from the bottom 20 wide receivers with at least 30 air yards.

Allen Lazard (38 air yards, 19.4% air yards share) –  I saw several versions of the “did Allen Lazard retire?” or “did Allen Lazard die?” joke on Sunday when, late into the third quarter, he had no catches against the Eagles despite a big deficit. Lazard managed to find three targets out there for 24 yards before the game ended, but he has lost the race for Aaron Rodgers’ number-one wideout. Christian Watson and his backflips are the objects of desire for Rodgers now, leaving Rodgers to try to grab the scraps, similar to what he had to do with Davante Adams in town. 

Elijah Moore (37 air yards, 22.4% air yards share) –  You know by now that Garrett Wilson balled out with the switch to Mike White at quarterback. But one-time persona non grata Elijah Moore could also benefit from the move. The J-E-T-S were having success running the ball on Sunday, so Moore’s box score doesn’t look great. But he had the second-most air yards on the team and an elite 18.5-yard average depth of target.  

Tyler Boyd (30 air yards, 12.0 % air yards share) –  In the Week 7 barn burner, when Ja’Marr Chase got hurt, Boyd was electric, grabbing eight of nine targets for 155 yards and a score. Chase then goes down, and the fantasy world reacts by grabbing Boyd. In the four games since, he has fewer combined yards (140) than he did in Week 7 and has scored just once. He doesn’t have more than 44 yards in a game with Chase out, and now the return looms. Does Boyd fall into the same category as Tee Higgins, who actually improves when Chase is on the field to draw away defense? Time will tell. But for now, Boyd is behind Chase, Higgins, Joe Mixon, and Hayden Hurst in the passing hierarchy. 

Positive Regression Candidate

Jaylen Waddle (168 air yards, 85 receiving yards) –  It’s hard to call a player who is fifth in the NFL in receiving yards a positive regression candidate, but Waddle should have had a much, much bigger game on Sunday. He had the targets (10) but ended Sunday with his second-lowest catch rate of the season (50%). 

The Dolphins blew out the Texans in Week 12, but it was a very weird way to go it. A defensive touchdown, a rushing touchdown, a Durham Smythe touchdown, and then the starters were rested. Tyreek Hill and Waddle both finished with 85 scoreless receiving yards, but their air yards and target share numbers relay that they should have been involved in the scoring. 

Not to worry, more shootouts are coming from this team, and the Hill-Waddle combo should get back on track against San Francisco. 

Negative Regression Candidate

Chris Godwin (83 air yards, 110 receiving yards) – Similarly, it’s hard to call someone with Godwin’s talent and pedigree a negative regression candidate. But Godwin’s yards per target (6.5 this year) has decreased in four straight seasons, showing a direct correlation to Tom Brady’s aging and decreased arm strength. 

Godwin basically needed a perfect game with a bushel full of targets plus a low 6.4 aDOT to come away with the success he did on Sunday. Godwin’s 6.4-yard mark was the second-lowest of any of the 30 players who had at least 80 air yards on Sunday. Some masterful runs after the catch helped him get to the top of the wide receiver tier on Sunday. 

To repeat this, Godwin would need to replicate everything that happened on Sunday, and I just don’t see the perfect storm happening for Godwin again like this. 

Deebo Watch

This is the weekly place where we check how Deebo Samuel is producing compared to his model-breaking 2021 season.

As we continue to find new depths for how far Deebo Samuel’s fantasy value can fall, one statistic, in particular, stands out. In his unbelievable (but unrepeatable) 2021 season, Samuel played in 13 games and had at least 50 receiving yards in 13 of them. In 2022, he has played 10 games and has at least 50 receiving yards in four of those. 

His yards per reception has fallen more than seven yards per game from last year, and his yards per target is down around five yards off 2021. We discussed this back in the air yards primer before the season even started, but this was the danger of relying on a player who ranked fifth in receiving yards but just 31st in air yards last year. The 10.1 yards after the catch per reception from 2021 was just not sustainable. 

The rushing has also predictably regressed back to an average position, and Samuel is rushing much less now with an elite talent like Christian McCaffrey in the backfield. 

Considering the draft capital, it’s safe to call Deebo one of fantasy’s biggest busts this season.

Notable Players Under 30 Air Yards

Drake London (24 air yards, 29 receiving yards)  – See Zaccheaus, Olamide. Many thought he might take that next step up without Kyle Pitts around. Hasn’t happened. He has 11 catches for 93 total yards in his last four games. And now games against the Saints, Ravens, and Steelers loom. 

Skyy Moore (24 air yards, 36 receiving yards) – I see two sides of the coin here. Moore now has back-to-back weeks with six targets, trailing only Travis Kelce on his team in that span. His 96 combined receiving yards are pointing him in the right direction on this explosive offense. But his six targets in Week 12 resulted in only 24 air yards, an abysmal four-yard aDOT. If Moore can improve on his yards after the catch ability, we can make that work, but he is going to need some shots downfield from Mahomes in the future to be more fantasy relevant. 

Corey Davis (18 air yards, 9 receiving yards) – Well, I guess Mike White can’t immediately come in and be the savior for all Jets’ offensive skill players. Davis, he of the $37.5 million contract, already looks like the fifth-best pass-catcher on this team, and White basically ignored him on Sunday.