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The relationship between aDOT and WR fantasy scoring

Jan 14, 2018; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown (84) runs onto the field during player introductions prior to the AFC Divisional Playoff game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

We have known for years that average depth of target tells you essentially everything you need to know about completion percentage in the NFL. The correlation between aDOT and completion rate is nearly flawless (R-squared over 0.95).

Two years ago, I looked at the relationship between aDOT and wideout fantasy production and discovered which wideouts were outperforming their aDOT-based expectations.

It’s time for a refresh on that study.

The research

For this version of the study, we used a model (based on data from 2012 to 2017) to find the expected catch rate at every target distance. We then looked at 2017 play-by-play data to see the expected catch rate for all receivers versus their actual catch rate.

For example, A.J. Green saw four targets when he was four yards downfield last year. He caught three of those passes (75 percent catch rate). The expected catch rate on passes thrown four yards downfield is 72.9 percent — which means Green was expected to catch 2.9 of those four targets. So he beat expectations by 0.1 receptions.

We repeated this for every wideout (min. 30 targets) at every target depth from 2017 to compare total expected receptions to total actual receptions.

Make sense? Good. Let’s see who did it best (and who didn’t).

The wideouts who beat aDOT-based expectations

Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers

Not surprisingly, Brown was the top wideout from this study. He caught 101 passes, but his aDOT-based reception expectation was 86. The 15 additional receptions he created led to 44.5 additional PPR fantasy points on the year, most among all receivers.

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