One of the best ways to measure opportunity for wide receivers is by using air yards. It naturally follows that air yards is also one of the best ways to identify opportunities which have been opened up — or lost — from 2017 to 2018. This is especially crucial as we approach the NFL draft.
In the past, we’ve used Kevin Cole’s opportunity scores to help single out the best landing spots for incoming WRs. While this is a different methodology, it should still provide a strong indication of where the best opportunities lie now that we’re through free agency.
It’s not a perfect system. Some quarterbacks and offensive coordinators have been shuffled around, which could affect overall passing volume for those teams. However, there is still plenty of actionable information to take away.
Some quick notes on how to read this table:
- Last year, New England’s WRs had a total of 3,760 air yards.
- Between Brandin Cooks and Danny Amendola leaving, the Patriots have 2,485 air yards outgoing.
- They have 267 incoming airyards thanks to Jordan Matthews, giving them a new total of 1,542 air yards.
- That gives them 2,218 available air yards for 2018, the most in the league.
|Team||2017 Air Yards||Outgoing AY||Remaining||Incoming AY||New Total||2018 Available AY|
We’ll apply these opportunity scores to potential NFL Draft scenarios in the coming days, but here are a few immediate takeaways:
- The departure of Cooks leaves a a big gap in opportunity. The Patriots have the most air yards available in 2018, about 44 percent more freed-up air yards than the second-place team. However, we should note that Julian Edelman will return from injury, and he soaked up 1,415 air yards in his last full season.
- Arizona freed up the second-most air yards opportunity for 2018. They’ve been connected to a number of WRs in the draft, including Christian Kirk. That could be an ideal landing spot for both parties.
By the way, here is another way of visualizing the 2018 air yard opportunity scores.
- Jacksonville’s appetizing opportunity score doesn’t even take into account the enormous hole left behind by Allen Robinson. The Jaguars have added Donte Moncrief, and he’ll get a chance to eat in 2018. It’s doubtful the Jaguars target a WR early in the draft, so there is room for one of their young WRs to step up.
- With Jordy Nelson in Oakland, the Packers would be a prime landing spot for any number of rookie WRs.
- Like Jacksonville, the Bears’ figures are likely skewed. Considering Robinson had 1,974 air yards in his last full season, there isn’t as much WR opportunity in the Windy City is this chart suggests. Still, there should be a decent amount of work leftover for someone to pick up in what should be a more high-tempo offense under Matt Nagy. It could either mean a chance for Kevin White to save his career, or a solid opportunity for an incoming rookie WR.
- Carolina’s second-worst opportunity score is likely deceiving as well. Yes, Torrey Smith and his 877 air yards are incoming, but the Panthers are clearly making a priority of upgrading the WR corps. This week, they brought in RotoViz favorite D.J. Moore for a visit, and if they end up using their first-round pick on a WR, it’s doubtful Smith can do much to block that new WR’s opportunity.
- Between the additions of Jarvis Landry in Cleveland and Cooks in Los Angeles, those two teams represent two of the worst opportunity scores of 2018.