Identifying 2023 Fantasy Football Week 2 Trends Through Air Yards

by Daniel Johnson
2023 Fantasy Football WR Do Not Draft List

Not much gets me more excited than opportunity scoring. And, as many of you know, I like no position in the NFL better than wide receiver. So you can imagine why digging into advanced pass-catching metrics gets me so teed up. In the first of what will be a regular series going forward, we're going to take a look at this weekend's potential pass-catching usage by Identifying 2023 Fantasy Football Week 2 Trends Through Air Yards.

Air yards is, as a statistic, among the better weathervanes we have for determining potential pass-catching value based on opportunities in a game. Simply put, an air yard is any receiving yard intended; this includes both complete and incomplete passes thrown to that receiver. This also accounts for yardage wiped away on PI penalties.

Knowing that, let's take a look at some trends from Week 1 to see what conclusions we can draw based on the opportunities some pass catchers were given, but might not have cashed in on.

Identifying 2023 Fantasy Football Week 2 Trends Through Air Yards

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Nico Collins is a Fantasy Starter

You can imagine how floored I was to see that Collins ranked third-overall in opportunities from air yards in Week 1, what with all the flashier and higher-scoring performances from wideouts. But there he was.

He was a popular high-upside late-round target in redraft leagues, and Collins seemed to draw the sort of looks we were hoping a dynamic rookie arm like C.J. Stroud's would sling him. At 158 total air yards for Week 1, Collins also posted a nothing-to-sniff-at 14.7 average depth of target (aDOT) against the Ravens.

Injuries are flying fast and furious around the NFL; it looks like Puka Nacua and DeAndre Hopkins have legitimate chances of missing Week 2. Collins is going to find himself in many FLEX slots this week, whether because people believe in him or because folks need to use him because of an injury.

Against a middling Colts defense, Collins projects for WR2 numbers this week, with upside for much more. And, if this usage continues, he'll be a Fantasy starter for the rest of the year.

Fear Not, Tee Higgins Owners

Big yikes, right? The Bengals disappointed everyone on Sunday, and perhaps no one individual disappointed Fantasy managers than Tee Higgins, who posted a flabbergasting goose egg.

Football is weird, man. Joe Burrow can't seem to get the Browns right. But Higgins investors will be pleased that he garnered the fourth-most air yards this past week with 151. If you watched the game, this was apparent. Joe Burrow was doing his best to air it out to his big-framed 1B receiver while playing catch-up in Cleveland.

Weather conditions were sloppy all over the eastern half of the country for Sunday's Week 1 games. This was the case for the Bengals. Burrow said they might not have been ready for the elements. Higgins sure had trouble securing even a single contested catch in the rain.

But you can bet your bottom dollar that next time Higgins gets 150 yards of opportunity thrown his way, he's not going to end a game with zero points. The Bengals always correct themselves. Expect Higgins to do so as well.

A.J. Brown is Going to Be a (the?) WR1

You all know how high I was on Brown coming into the season. I had him ranked above guys like CeeDee Lamb and Davante Adams. Happy to report that Brown was second in air yards in Week 1 (171) to Tyreek Hill's 227.

It was a quiet if not quite ignominious debut for OC Brian Johnson's scheme in Foxboro, and DeVonta Smith ended up pacing the Eagles in Fantasy points with 17.7. But Brown's opportunities were there, and they'll continue to be so. The next time A.J. Brown vacuums over 150 air yards, it probably won't be as sloppy as it was at Gilette Stadium this past Sunday.

Brown will certainly have his frustrating weeks, but his productive weeks project to be frequent and absolutely explosive for managers who were savvy enough to draft him. If you were worried after a slow Week 1 (and, edit: I'm seeing this now after Week 2's TNF, when Brown only scored 6.9 PPR points), don't be.

Stay the course; spectacular days are ahead.

Other stats I found worthy of note:

    • Terrace Marshall, Jr. (100) actually ended the game with more air yards for the Panthers than Jonathan Mingo (87), who finished with more Fantasy points.
    • Even though Ja'Marr Chase finished the week with more points than Tee Higgins, Higgins finished fourth in air yards; Chase finished 24th with 89.
    • Kendrick Bourne is an intriguing deep bench stash; he's a veteran who's been around the Patriots offense for a few years, and he finished eighth in air yards on Sunday with a total of 129.
    • It wasn't all Puka Nacua for the Rams on Sunday. Tutu Atwell finished tenth last week in air yards with 126, only 18 fewer than Nacua's 144.

Want more help with your starting lineups beyond the 2023 Fantasy Football Week 2 Air Yards Update? Stay up to date with our award-winning rankings!

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