The effect of aDOT on wide receiver fantasy scoring

For most WRs, depth of target and catch percentage are linked. Here's why you should pay attention to the guys who buck that trend.

| 12 months ago
(AP Photo/Ben Margot)

(AP Photo/Ben Margot)

The effect of aDOT on wide receiver fantasy scoring

When examining a wide receiver’s fantasy value, one of the most overrated statistical categories is catch rate. But that’s only because we often look at catch rates in a vacuum. For example, if Player A caught 75 percent of his targets, and Player B caught 50 percent of his targets, which player is a better fantasy option?

That’s an impossible question to answer, because catch rates are only useful when looked at relative to other numbers. In fact, when catch rates are examined in relation to other categories, they become a highly telling statistical category.

One of the most important categories to examine when studying a wide receiver’s catch rate is his average depth of target. For all passes thrown to wide receivers beyond the line of scrimmage from 2007-2015, the relationship between aDOT and completion rate has an r-squared of 0.975, meaning a quarterbacks’ completion percentage (and thus a wide receiver’s catch rate) can be almost entirely explained by how far the ball was thrown down the field.

Tyler Chart

We examined 2015 data to determine which wide receivers had higher- or lower-than-expected catch rates, and also determined how many fantasy points they gained or lost compared to expected. We also adjusted all wide receivers’ actual catch rates based on their quarterbacks to even the playing field (i.e. players with less-accurate quarterbacks weren’t punished for lower catch rates).

The full list can be found below, and we’ve pulled out some of the more interesting names for further examination:

Sammy Watkins, Buffalo Bills

Player Tm aDOT Expected C% QB-Adjusted C% C% +/- Points +/-
Sammy Watkins BUF 18.3 49.1% 66.5% 26.2% 41.6

Watkins was the king of this study. Due to his high aDOT of 18.3, Watkins’ expected catch rate last season was 49.1 percent. However, his QB-adjusted catch rate was 66.5 percent. This meant Watkins caught 26.2 percent more passes than expected (most among all wideouts), which led to 41.6 more fantasy points on the season as a whole (also most among all wideouts).

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Tyler Loechner is a lead writer at PFF Fantasy. He has played fantasy football since 1999 and has been a part of the PFF Fantasy staff since 2010. Tyler was also previously a fantasy football featured columnist at Bleacher Report.

  • Lane Trujillo

    Good info here but just because a player has a QB that isn’t is good and you adjust for this, doesn’t make him any better. If you are an NFL team and searching players, yes this is a big factor, but from a fantasy viewpoint, nothing changes. If his Qb can’t get the ball to him, none of it will matter

    • Tyler Loechner

      Hey Lane, thanks for reading! You definitely need to consider the player’s situation, as always.

      However, quarterback play does change each year, so if you can identify the players that perform above-expected while removing QB play from the equation, then you have identified players that could explode as their QB play improves. (Think of a player like Mike Evans, who played with a rookie last season, or Donte Moncrief, who played with an injured Andrew Luck and Matt Hasselbeck last year.)

      Alternatively, the study also helps you find players who are worth drafting despite subpar quarterback play. Emmanuel Sanders is a good example of this, from this study.