What is aDOT and how to use it in Fantasy Football?
The term aDOT refers to an NFL receiver’s average depth of target. The metric is meant to track how far downfield the ball is traveling, on average, for a specific player on the total sum of his targets. For fantasy football purposes, it is an important stat from the standpoint that it can give us a sense of where and how a wide receiver, running back, or tight end is being used when he’s on the field.
For example, a player with an aDOT of 5.0 yards is likely seeing most of his targets come around the line of scrimmage (on screens, slants, or quick outs). On the other hand, a player whose aDOT exceeds 15.0 yards is likely to see plenty of downfield targets where the ball is traveling over 10+ yards in the air before it reaches him.
This is important for fantasy football purposes as it gives us a good sense of what kind of potential a player has. Players with higher aDOT’s tend to have lower catch rates but more potential for big plays and landing you fantasy points in bunches. These types of receivers can be inconsistent but can also be good spike week candidates making them valuable in larger best ball and salary cap-style daily fantasy football tournaments.
Players with lower aDOT’s, who also average a high volume of targets, will be more valuable in leagues with full point PPR scoring. These players usually have less bust potential as they’re likely to grab us a handful of catches even on a slow day. Receivers don’t necessarily need high aDOTs to be elite in fantasy football as long as they’re efficient with their targets (high catch-rate) and have a big market share of their team’s targets.
What is aDOT?
The metric was created by Mike Clay while at PFF in 2012 as a response to the somewhat unreliable yards per reception metric. While a player's yards per reception metric can spike when they take a short pass for long after the catch gains, a player's aDOT will only rise if they are consistently seeing passes thrown to them downfield.
- Players A:
- Catches a ball that travels one yard through the air but runs with the ball for 18 yards after the catch. His yards per catch for the play would be 19.0 but his aDOT would be 1.0 yard.
- Player B:
- Catches a ball that travels 18 yards through the air and goes for 1.0 extra yard after the catch. His yards per catch for the play would also be 19.0 but his aDOT would be 18.0.
Additionally, while yards per reception only tracks a player's yards gained when he catches the ball, aDOT, or average depth of target, tracks the depth of a play on all balls thrown to a receiver, regardless of whether they have caught the ball or not. This gives us a bigger sample size to work with and provides more reliable data.
To calculate aDOT we simply take the number of yards the ball traveled to get to the player through the air (his “air yards”) on all of his targets and then divide it by the total number of targets he received. A player who received 1000 air yards, and saw 100 targets, would then have an aDOT of 10.0 for the season.
aDOT = Total air yards (divided by) the total number of targets
Is aDOT predictive for fantasy football?
As a metric, aDOT tends to be a reliable indicator in the sense that a player’s aDOT, year over year, will be more consistent than other stats, like yards per reception. That doesn't necessarily mean though that ADOT, on its own, will be a great predictor for fantasy football success. As an example, let’s look at the ADOTs for some of the leading wide receivers from 2021 (via Pro Football Reference).
As we can see, today’s NFL passing game isn’t necessarily built around players who simply run go routes on every play. Even Tyreek Hill, likely the fastest player in football, barely cracked over 10.0 on his aDOT in 2021. What Hill did do though was convert on nearly 70% of his targets.
Hill was solid in 2021, but he was also still outperformed by two players in Davante Adams and Cooper Kupp, who had aDOT’s well below the 10.0 mark. Kupp’s 8.6 aDOT is the lowest of the top-five receivers from 2021, but his catch rate of 76% is the highest of the group by a wide margin. Kupp essentially made up for a lower aDOT by converting more targets into catches. He also led the league in targets (volume) and, of course, was better at turning those shorter targets into yards–Kupp had the highest YAC (yards after catch) per reception in 2021 from the top-10 names on the list from above.
aDOT can help us understand how a player is being used–in Kupp’s case he was being targeted less downfield than Hill, but more on shorter and intermediate routes. However, it doesn’t necessarily work as a reliable indicator, on its own, as a predictor for future fantasy football success.
Are players with high aDOT’s good or bad for fantasy football?
The average aDOT in the NFL in 2021 among the top-10 wide receivers in football was 9.29 yards. As noted above, players with aDOTs under 10.0 aren’t necessarily bad at getting us fantasy points. Volume is still the leading indicator we need to focus on and that was driven home last year by Cooper Kupp, whose 8.4 aDOT was the lowest of any of the top five ranked WRs in fantasy from 2021, but whose 31.5% team target market share led the league in that category by over 3%.
Player’s with high aDOTs aren’t necessarily bad for fantasy football purposes either, as long as we understand what they are. High aDOT players are most likely going to be more unreliable week-to-week, but also capable of those big spike weeks when they catch a couple of 20+ yard passes and one goes for a TD. Those spike weeks can be very valuable, especially in bigger DFS tournaments.
When looking for low-owned players (or late-round picks) who have high weekly spike potential in best ball drafts or daily fantasy football contests, players with higher aDOTs should generally pique our interest.
While the above list may not jump out to you as elite fantasy football studs, it is worth noting that between Weeks 1-6 last year at least one (and often more) of the top 16 players in aDOT on the season last year ended the week in the top-10 in fantasy football scoring at their position. More often than not, you will find at least one or two players who rank highly in aDOT (but lower in catch-rate) littering the weekly fantasy leaderboards in best-ball or DFS tournaments.
Players like Desean Jackson, who averaged just 2.1 targets per game in 2021, can still produce big weekly scores because of the kind of targets (deep balls downfield) they receive–and of course their ability to convert those targets into big receiving yards and long TDs. For reference, despite catching just 20 passes in 2021, Jackson actually finished as a top-10 receiver in weekly fantasy football scoring twice last season (and with two different teams).
Similarly, players with aDot’s below 10.0 yards, but who have big target market shares, should still be respected. Wide receivers who primarily run short and intermediate routes likely also have higher catch rates and will be more stable fantasy scorers, especially in full-point PPR leagues. While players with higher aDOTs can spike with great weeks from time to time, players with lower aDOTs who also have team target market shares that push 25% or greater will be far more consistent fantasy scorers and the types of player you want to target early in fantasy football drafts.
Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Van Jefferson (12) stretches for a pass before it lands incomplete under pressure from Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Eli Apple (20) in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl 56 between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Los Angeles Rams at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, Calif., on Sunday, Feb. 13, 2022. The Rams came back in the final minutes of the game to win 23-20 on their home field. Super Bowl 56 Cincinnati Bengals Vs La Rams
Can aDOT help me with season-long fantasy football?
For season-long fantasy leagues, aDOT can help us understand what kind of wide receiver we are drafting. Players with big aDOTs can be better late-round gambles than players with lower aDOTs (who also possess lower team target market shares). The high aDOT players may not be reliable week-to-week but they would likely make for better bye week fill-ins based on their tendency to see more downfield targets–and grab us a large amount of receiving yards on one or two big plays. Lower aDOT players who also don’t have huge roles on their teams should be avoided for the most part, unless they’re filling in for another high-volume receiver.
Can aDOT help me with daily fantasy football tournaments?
aDOT can be helpful when filling out rosters for larger daily fantasy football sites like DraftKings or Fanduel, where we are often up against 10,000 or more participants in their largest tournaments. Looking at lower-owned or lower-rostered receivers with good upside potential is often a good way to differentiate your DFS lineups against bigger fields.
Since aDOT gives us such a solid representation of how a player is being used on the field, we can target receivers with cheap salaries and high aDOTs to both maximize upside and maintain our salary flexibility in the salary cap format that most daily fantasy sites employ. It’s worth noting that players like Van Jefferson, Tyler Lockett, and Donavan Peoples-Jones, who all featured in our list of top aDOT metrics from 2021 (see above), all showed up in a winning weekly Millionaire Maker lineup on DraftKings at one point or another last year.
Can aDOT help me with betting and props?
Similar to how aDOT can help us identify spike players for daily fantasy football and best ball, it can also help us in the betting department with player props. Each week, we are offered over/ unders on player totals like receptions, receiving yards, and longest catch. While players with lower aDOTs will have better chances of spiking in areas like total receptions, players with higher aDOTs can often be good targets in areas like longest catch or total yards.
aDot can be a useful tool to help us recognize potential positive regression candidates in the betting market as well. If a player’s prop total has shrunk due to a couple of slow weeks, but he’s maintaining a high aDOT, we know that his slow production isn’t coming from a change in usage. More likely than not, that player will start to convert on more of those deep targets as the season wears on, making him a good betting target to the over side (as his prop totals shrink).
Jefferson ranked in the top-20 in the league in aDOT last year with a 13.6 average. Between weeks five and six though he only averaged 11.0 yards per catch and didn’t catch a reception for longer than 18 yards. His over/under prop for Week 7 would sit around 36.5 yards, despite his aDOT on the season remaining one of the highest in the league. He’d go on to crush the over in Week 7 against Detroit with 43 yards and hit his over on receiving yards in three of the next four games.
What are Air Yards and how do they differ from aDOT
As we mentioned above, air yards are simply the number of yards the ball traveled through the air to get to the receiver. If a player catches a ball one yard past the line of scrimmage but runs for 20 extra yards after the catch, his yards after the catch for the play would be 19.0, but his air yards for the play would be just 1.0.
Conversely, if a player catches a ball 19 yards in front of the line of scrimmage, his air yards for that play (regardless of what he does after the catch) would be 19.0.
Total air yards take the amount of distance the ball traveled to get to the pass-catcher on each play he is targeted (on completions and incompletions) and puts them together to give us an idea of how the player is being used by his team. Players with high air yards are seeing more downfield targets thrown their way, even if their total actual yards on the season remains low.
Air yards can be useful to find positive regression, or breakout, candidates. Pass-catchers receiving large amounts of air yards (both from a long-term and short-term perspective) who have started the season slowly, will often be good breakout candidates later on in the season. The thinking goes that while they have not yet connected on many big plays, the targeting they are seeing remains solid (as indicated by their higher air yards) and, eventually, their overall production will even out with better games.
While total Air yards gives us the number of depth pass-catchers see on the sum of all their targets, aDOT simply gives us the average depth of that amount, per target. The two work hand in hand to give us a better perception of how a player is being used on the field, both from a short and long-term perspective.
For more on aDOT, check out our Advanced Receiving Table.