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Air Yards Definition: How This Stat Can Help in Betting, Fantasy Football

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Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Tom Brady

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Air Yards Definition

Air yards are defined as the amount of yards the ball traveled in the air on a passing play, from line of scrimmage to contact point. If the quarterback throws the ball at the 25-yard line and the pass is caught at the 20-yard line, the amount of air yards on the pass was five yards.

NFL Air Yards Statistics 

Air yards is a statistic that can be measured for multiple positions, mainly wide receivers, tight ends and quarterbacks. It is a statistic that is primarily used for players that engage in passing attempts on a consistent basis, though they also encompass anyone that catches passes, such as running backs.

The leader in air yards from the 2020 NFL regular season was Tom Brady. Calvin Ridley led the NFL in air yards for wide receivers. The top-10 leaders in air yards from the season for quarterbacks and wide receivers are listed below.

Player Air Yards
Tom Brady 5591
Josh Allen 5009
Patrick Mahomes 4832
Matt Ryan 4822
Russell Wilson 4740
Justin Herbert 4620
Deshaun Watson 4507
Derek Carr 4500
Matthew Stafford 4416
Kyler Murray 4374
Player Air Yards
Calvin Ridley 1969
Tyreek Hill 1806
Stefon Diggs 1761
DK Metcalf 1627
D.J. Moore 1571
Jerry Jeudy 1524
Justin Jefferson 1524
D.J. Chark 1509
Chase Claypool 1467
Marvin Jones 1445

Why Do Air Yards Matter?

Because air yards account for both complete and incomplete passes, they give you an idea of how many passing yards or receiving yards a player could have garnered if 100% of the passes were completed. Of course, this does not account for yards after catch, but in theory, if every NFL pass was completed without the receiver gaining any yards after the reception, air yards depict what passing yards and receiving yards would look like.

Because of this, air yards can give you an idea of what numbers a quarterback or receiver may generate. This statistic can be used in congruence with WOPR, which can serve as a metric that combines targets and air yards, two important fantasy football metrics.

Can Air Yards Help Me With Betting?

Realistically, air yards is a statistic that is going to help you far more with fantasy and daily fantasy games than betting on teams in a point spread or moneyline fashion. It’s far more of an indicator of how well an individual will score in a fantasy setting than a team will score in a competitive game situation.

For example, the top-10 quarterbacks in air yardage from 2020 compared to their fantasy outputs are listed below.

Player Air Yards Average Fantasy Output
Tom Brady 5,591 21.87
Josh Allen 5,009 25.32
Patrick Mahomes 4,832 25.36
Matt Ryan 4,822 18.34
Russell Wilson 4,740 23.3
Justin Herbert 4,620 22.86
Deshaun Watson 4,507 23.52
Derek Carr 4,500 17.57
Matthew Stafford 4,416 16.91
Kyler Murray 4,374 24.42

Seven of the top 10 average fantasy quarterback scorers are in the top 10 of air yards. The same comparison is listed for wide receivers in a standard scoring league below.


Player Air Yards Average Fantasy Output
Calvin Ridley 1,969 12.8
Tyreek Hill 1,806 16.1
Stefon Diggs 1,761 12.6
DK Metcalf 1,627 11.8
D.J. Moore 1,571 9.7
Jerry Jeudy 1,524 6.6
Justin Jefferson 1,524 11.6
D.J. Chark 1,509 7.7
Chase Claypool 1,467 9.6
Marvin Jones 1,445 9.5

Only five of the top 10 leaders in the league for air yards are in the top 10 of average fantasy output for wide receivers.

As you can see, there is no direct correlation between air yards and points, but it can be a helpful statistic in predicting the output of a player for fantasy purposes.

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