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

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

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.

PlayerAir Yards
Tom Brady5591
Josh Allen5009
Patrick Mahomes4832
Matt Ryan4822
Russell Wilson4740
Justin Herbert4620
Deshaun Watson4507
Derek Carr4500
Matthew Stafford4416
Kyler Murray4374
PlayerAir Yards
Calvin Ridley1969
Tyreek Hill1806
Stefon Diggs1761
DK Metcalf1627
D.J. Moore1571
Jerry Jeudy1524
Justin Jefferson1524
D.J. Chark1509
Chase Claypool1467
Marvin Jones1445

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.

PlayerAir YardsAverage Fantasy Output
Tom Brady5,59121.87
Josh Allen5,00925.32
Patrick Mahomes4,83225.36
Matt Ryan4,82218.34
Russell Wilson4,74023.3
Justin Herbert4,62022.86
Deshaun Watson4,50723.52
Derek Carr4,50017.57
Matthew Stafford4,41616.91
Kyler Murray4,37424.42

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.

PlayerAir YardsAverage Fantasy Output
Calvin Ridley1,96912.8
Tyreek Hill1,80616.1
Stefon Diggs1,76112.6
DK Metcalf1,62711.8
D.J. Moore1,5719.7
Jerry Jeudy1,5246.6
Justin Jefferson1,52411.6
D.J. Chark1,5097.7
Chase Claypool1,4679.6
Marvin Jones1,4459.5

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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