Last week in this space, I laid out the case that, in non-points-per-reception leagues, the number of targets a wide receiver accumulates gives no additional information to fantasy owners above and beyond what they can already glean from simply looking at reception totals. This week, rather than judging whether one wide receiver statistic is better than the other, I'll simply provide you with some information that's not readily available on fantasy football websites.
These days, every pass in the NFL play-by-play is separated into air yards and yards after catch, or YAC. Simply put, air yards is the number of yards the pass traveled in the air, while YAC is the number of yards the receiver traveled after catching the pass -- illuminating, I know. League-wide, about 67 percent of reception yardage this season has been due to air yards, with the remaining 33 percent due to YAC.
Where they come into one's analysis of fantasy football depends on one's league scoring system. All but the most arcane scoring systems give points for yards. However, some give bonus points for long touchdowns, so players who either catch long throws or run a long distance after catching short throws have extra value.
Using Football Outsiders' play-by-play database, I calculated air yards and YAC for each of the top 72 fantasy wide receivers this season, which should cover almost every wideout on a fantasy roster at this point in the season. Because players accumulate more YAC the more receptions they have, I turned both air yards and YAC into per-reception statistics. Air yards per catch tells you which wideouts are gaining most of their yardage on deep routes, whereas YAC per catch tells you which ones are benefitting more from catching underneath routes in space. Below is a table showing the top 20 wide receivers in both air yards per catch and YAC per catch: