Yards After Catch: What Matters for Fantasy?


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Yards After Catch: What Matters for Fantasy?

Yards after the catch per reception (YAC/R) measures a player’s raw ability to create yards on their own. Especially after adjusting for average depth of target (aDOT) – which explains about 18% of YAC/R for WRs and TEs – it becomes easy to separate the phenoms from the frauds.

Why include aDOT? Players targeted deep down the field often have a harder time generating yards after the catch – mainly because these plays are of higher difficulty and involve more defenders nearby. Shorter throws are often drawn up specifically to get players in space with an open field in front of them.

The YAC/aDOT Relationship

Therefore, having both a high YAC/R and a high aDOT is much more impressive than only doing one or the other. We can plot the relationship between the two metrics for 2022 (via Fantasy Points Data) like so:

Fantasy Points Data will launch with a forward-facing product this summer, so stay tuned.

Players in the top-left quadrant took advantage of low-aDOT touches to post excellent YAC/R numbers. Players in the top-right quadrant managed excellent YAC/R numbers despite a high aDOT – some of the league’s most dynamic threats like Garrett Wilson, CeeDee Lamb, Justin Jefferson, and A.J. Brown reside here. On the flip side, notice how few high-end fantasy players reside in the bottom-left quadrant (those who fail to create YAC on short throws).

I’ve recently made my thoughts known on Deebo Samuel and Christian Watson, the two names who first jump off the page. Let’s instead take a look at some of the other elite after-catch producers from 2022 (circled above).

Dallas Goedert, TE, Philadelphia Eagles

Depth-Adjusted YAC/R: 4th (among WRs/TEs with 40+ receptions)

Underdog ADP: TE6

Are you surprised to learn that it was not A.J. Brown or DeVonta Smith who led the Eagles in YAC/R last year, but Dallas Goedert? The shorter target depth obviously helped with that, but Goedert is no stranger to elite efficiency – he has led all tight ends in depth-adjusted yards per target over expected (YPTOE) in each of the last two years. Goedert’s 2.1 yards per route run (YPRR) was second to only Travis Kelce last year, while his 2.6 YPRR ranked 1st in 2021. This is especially impressive given Goedert’s significantly higher-quality target competition compared to Kelce in 2022.

In fact, if Goedert had run as many routes as Kelce has over the last two years, he’d have compiled 253 more yards. So much of a tight end’s fantasy utility is down to their volume of routes, and Goedert’s 28.3 routes/game last year (compared to Kelce’s 33.7, Smith’s 31.6, and Brown’s 30.2) isn’t likely to allow him to break into the elite tier of fantasy tight ends. The Eagles seem to like Goedert blocking and playing in-line occasionally – Quez Watkins ran the plurality of the team’s slot routes despite being literally half as efficient as Goedert while lined up there (0.55 vs 1.19 YPRR).

That said, Goedert has a big weekly ceiling for best ball formats, is a great tight end to sit on in Dynasty, and would almost certainly put together a career year if Brown or Smith were to miss time. The target competition is mostly priced into his ADP, and every metric we have tells us he’s an unreal talent. Drafting unreal talents and hoping they find a way to overcome an adverse situation will eventually reward you.

Jaylen Waddle, WR, Miami Dolphins

Depth-Adjusted YAC/R: 3rd

Underdog ADP: WR11

Jaylen Waddle’s breakout sophomore campaign was overshadowed by Tyreek Hill in a lot of ways last season. But after the catch, Waddle overshadowed Hill… and literally everybody else who had an aDOT above the median.

Waddle’s year could have been even better had he commanded targets as frequently as during his rookie season – his 24.5% targets per route run (20th) in 2021 slipped to 23.1% (30th) this year – an understandable consequence of competing with Hill. It’s not Waddle’s fault that Hill’s 36.7% first read target share was 4th among WRs – whenever Hill was the first read, it did not matter if Waddle got open.

Could Waddle have trouble maintaining his elite efficiency? I don’t think so – at the college level, Waddle’s career YAC/R (9.8) leads all Power 5 WRs since at least 2014. His entire history suggests he’s a monster with the ball in his hands who will continue terrorizing defenses in Mike McDaniel’s Shanahan-style YAC-friendly scheme.

Rondale Moore, WR, Arizona Cardinals

Depth-Adjusted YAC/R: 9th

Underdog ADP: WR69

It’s a good thing Rondale Moore is a YAC outlier – otherwise, it would be pretty tough to differentiate his performance from that of Greg Dortch, who averaged nearly a yard less after the catch on an even shorter aDOT. But Moore ranked just 41st of 72 qualifying WRs in YPRR from the slot, compared to Dortch’s 50th. Even looking just at Weeks 4-9 with a healthy Kyler Murray, Moore’s slot YPRR actually dropped slightly from 1.42 to 1.33.

In theory, Moore’s target depth could change after the departure of Kliff Kingsbury and the arrival of new OC Drew Petzing. In practice, Moore’s entire history suggests he’s best deployed as a low-aDOT player. Even before the Kingsbury experience – going back to Moore’s NCAA career – his 2020 aDOT was the lowest out of 350 qualifying FBS WRs. And he ranked 479th out of 499 qualifying WRs during his highly productive 2018 freshman season. This is probably just who Moore is – which means he has a tough battle to become more valuable in non-PPR leagues.

But as I alluded to, the biggest reason to be discouraged about Moore is that his production simply didn’t stand out from Dortch’s. Moore’s assumed spot on the depth chart is his most valuable trait at the moment.

Moore’s draft capital that likely kept his job safe will hold no weight with Arizona’s new staff – especially compared to when former GM Steve Keim would overrule coaches on personnel decisions in order to rationalize his own draft selections.

And after two lackluster seasons in the NFL, I’m also not so sure Moore was the prospect we all thought he was. His production at Purdue wasn’t all that dissimilar to that of David Bell and Charlie Jones.

While Moore’s role made him valuable for fantasy football last year, there is no guarantee that the low-aDOT slot YAC role will still exist in the Cardinals’ new offense. If it does, there is also no guarantee that Moore will hold onto it over Dortch or another player. Even at his late-round ADP and in spite of his YAC prowess, there is more potential downside to drafting Moore than appears at first glance.

Jerry Jeudy, WR, Denver Broncos

Depth-Adjusted YAC/R: 7th

Underdog ADP: WR22

Jerry Jeudy just set career-highs in YPRR (2.26, 13th), TPRR (23.3%, 29th), and FPG (WR21). Infuriatingly, Courtland Sutton continued running materially more routes per game (33.9 to 28.7), which showed in the route participation – Sutton’s 88.2% ranked 10th while Jeudy’s 73.3% ranked 59th, below Hunter Renfrow and Noah Brown.

Health was the main limiting factor for Jeudy’s routes and production. In healthy games (60% snap share or higher), Jeudy averaged 78.7 YPG and 17.0 FPG. Those numbers would have ranked 11th- and 10th-best among WRs last season – well above his WR22 ADP. And Jeudy accomplished all of this on an offense that ranked just 19th in passing YPG – which rose to 222.5 YPG (14th) when Jeudy was healthy and fell to just 190.7 YPG (26th) when he wasn’t.

Russell Wilson averaged 0.15 EPA/play from 2014-2021, which would have ranked top-10 last year between Dak Prescott and Trevor Lawrence. Instead, Wilson fell all the way to -0.005 EPA/play (25th) in 2022. It would obviously help both Wilson and Jeudy if Sean Payton can put together a more competent offense this year – if Wilson isn’t simply washed. Both Sutton and Jeudy have been the subject of trade rumors, so I’ll refrain from overanalyzing this situation until later in the offseason. For now, Jeudy is a solid value with both situational and talent-based upside.

Cole Kmet, TE, Chicago Bears

Depth-Adjusted YAC/R: 21st

Underdog ADP: TE14

The Bears set records with their refusal to pass the ball last year. Their 22.2 pass attempts per game (PA/G) was the lowest of any team since at least 2010 – and it wasn’t close. They averaged 2.2 fewer PA/G than the next-closest team (the 2022 Atlanta Falcons). However, positive regression is likely – every single team with fewer than 27 PA/G from 2010-2021 averaged more the following year, with an average increase of 5.6 attempts per game. The Bears have already signaled their intention to become a more balanced offense with the addition of D.J. Moore.

If the size of the pie grows in Chicago, Kmet becomes an obvious bet to beat his TE14 ADP – after all, he accounted for 20.9% of his team’s receiving yards (5th among qualifying tight ends) and 36.8% of their receiving TDs (2nd). Even with the arrival of Moore, Kmet is likely to maintain his monopoly on shallow targets – Moore’s aDOT was 12.9 to Kmet’s 6.1 last year, and no qualifying Bears WR/TE aside from Kmet had an aDOT lower than 9.0. Moore is much more likely to crowd out targets that previously went to players like Darnell Mooney. Kmet should also keep his stranglehold on TD production – Moore has averaged just 4.2 TDs per year in his career.

The overall sluggishness of the passing offense prevented Kmet from popping in most efficiency stats, but among Chicago’s six WRs/TEs who ran over 100 routes, Kmet was by far the best in depth-adjusted yards per target over expected (0.9, next-best was Equanimeous St. Brown’s 0.0) as well as missed tackles forced per reception (0.18, to 0.11 from Dante Pettis).

The bottom line is that Kmet just posted a top-10 FPG season among all 23-year-old tight ends since 2015 – in an offense so low-volume that he averaged just 22.4 routes per game (22nd among TEs in 2022) despite a 75.1% route share (9th). There is nowhere for Kmet’s opportunities to go but up – and his efficiency shows he is primed to take advantage when they do.

Ryan is a young marketing professional who takes a data-based approach to every one of his interests. He uses the skills gained from his economics degree and liberal arts education to weave and contextualize the stories the numbers indicate. At Fantasy Points, Ryan hopes to play a part in pushing analysis in the fantasy football industry forward.