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Offensive Line Rankings Analysis: Week 12


Apologies for not making it out last week. I welcomed my daughter into the world, and while I would have loved the distraction of looking at the ability of offensive lines, that wasn't going to happen. Moving onto Week 12, the outcome of your season-long leagues is now taking shape and you know if you are in the playoff race or not. Therefore, who you can rely on becomes more and more important, with the games meaning much more with each passing week.

However, many fantasy owners completely overlook the importance of identifying the reasons behind a player's struggles. Is he being handicapped by the protection ahead of him and actually performing as well as possible given the situation, or is he struggling despite effective play from his offensive line? Using PFF's player grading tool, each week I will identify an offensive line that has been trending up and one trending down. More importantly, I will analyze how those trends might be affecting, or might be about to affect your fantasy roster over the next few weeks.

Please Note: When determining individual player ranks I will only be looking at players that have played over 400 snaps, as well as those on IR. If you want to look at the raw data and my applied method, feel free to message me on Twitter @RichKingFF. I'm happy to share!

Editor's Note: Get any rest-of-season NFL Premium Pass for 50% off. Our exclusive DFS Tools, Lineup Optimizer and Premium DFS Research through the Super Bowl. Sign Up Now!

 

Offensive Line to Watch - Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Pass Blocking

The Buccaneers have long been a team that has needed to air it out, due to their poor defense. That has made them a fun team to watch pretty much every week

That need to pass has been combined with one of their teams biggest strengths this season, with the combined offensive line ranking at the top of the league in pass blocking. As with other teams that have been an effective unit, the strength starts at their tackles and center.

Tampa Bay has two tackles that are effective starters, even if they are not among the elite at the position. Donovan Smith ranks 17th amongst all tackles in the league, while Demar Dotson ranks 37th. That combined with their center Ryan Jensen who ranks second in the league in pass blocking gives a solid pocket for Winston to work within. That strength is backed up with the guard play the team is getting. Ali Marpet and Earl Watford each rank just outside of the top-ten guards in the league (Watford hasn't played enough snaps to be truly ranked that high, but he would rank 13th if he met the snaps criteria).

However, looking at the number of sacks that have been given up and interceptions thrown, two statistics that would generally indicate the strength of an offensive line doesn't stack up. Jameis Winston leads the league in both of those metrics, throwing 18 interceptions and having been sacked 36 times this season. Given the struggles that Winston has had this season, and based on the protection he has, his struggles are more to do with his play assopposed to the fault of his offensive line.

 

Run Blocking

The strength of the pass blocking on this line, however, does not translate to run blocking. Overall, Tampa ranks 20th in the league in run blocking. Again, the tackles are the strength of the line with Donovan Smith ranked 33rd in the league, but this time behind Demar Dotson who has been ranked 24th.

Unfortunately, that strength is not then carried into the interior of the line. Center Ryan Jensen is one of the worst starters in the league, ranked 30th at the position. Left guard Ali Marpet ranks a respectable 18th among guards, but Watford ranks a dismal 51st in the league.

These numbers can be seen perfectly in the running charts of Peyton Barber from Week 10, with the running back only able to find success on the ground when getting out wide, or through the left of the interior line. The running backs on the roster for Tampa aren't talented enough to overcome those problems, which is one of the reasons for the sporadic scoring that they have managed this season.

 

Fantasy Impact

Trust: Mike Evans & Chris Godwin

It's not common that you could have two receivers, and feel like you could start both of them in your lineup (if you happened to own both of them). However, that is the case with this duo.

Both receivers have each had over 90 targets in the offense, and they have combined for 121 receptions, 1,880 yards, and 14 touchdowns. With the protection given to Winston, they should continue to have value, even if he continues to struggle with mental errors.

Cause for Concern: Ronald Jones II & Peyton Barber

Jones looks to be the lead back currently, but that isn't worth too much with the struggles the team has with run blocking.  A lack of effectiveness from that unit, combined with a lack of running volume would make me consider moving on from the running backs altogether.

 

Offensive Line to Avoid - Jacksonville Jaguars

Pass Blocking

The Jacksonville Jaguars changed their passing blueprint this offseason, with the team choosing to move on from Blake Bortles to Nick Foles. While that plan had to change with the injury to Foles in the opening game, backup Gardner Minshew is a similar type of quarterback to Foles in the large part.

That style change has highlighted the struggles the team has in their protection, and while the team has been effective this season that is due to the skill players on the roster. Both quarterbacks have been able to mix up their passing targets, with Leonard Fournette becoming an effective pass-catcher out of the backfield this season.

 

Run Blocking

The Jaguars' struggles are even more stark when it comes to run blocking, with the tackles struggling even more than in pass blocking. Rookie Jawaan Taylor (52nd) leads Cam Robinson (57th) at the position, putting pressure on the interior of the line to block.

If there is a strength for the line, the interior us where it is found. Brandon Linder again gives a solid foundation in the middle of the line, ranked 12th in the league with Andrew Norwell (30th) and A.J. Cann (53rd) either side of him. That interior strength has forced running back Leonard Fournette to be limited to short gains unless he has been able to break a tackle.

 

Fantasy Impact

Trust: Leonard Fournette

Fournette has to be trusted, due to his big part in the offense. In previous seasons his work was limited to rushing attempts, but he has become an effective pass-catcher this season.

That cannot be overlooked, even with the lack of protection for the team, anyone that is given that many touches will be valuable for fantasy owners. He may not have the highest ceiling every week, but is floor is among the best running backs in the league.

Cause for Concern: D.J. Chark/ Dede Westbrook

My concern for the team is their downfield threat. The team have an effective quarterback duo, but the inability of the team to protect them means that downfield threats will be inconsistent for fantasy purposes.

 

Top Five Offensive Lines

1) Philadelphia Eagles
2) Indianapolis Colts
3) Dallas Cowboys
4) New Orleans Saints
5) Baltimore Ravens

 

Bottom Five Offensive Lines

32) Los Angeles Rams
31) Miami Dolphins
30) New York Jets
29) Los Angeles Chargers
28) Cincinnati Bengals

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