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Offensive Line Rankings: Champs and Chumps

A key factor that is often overlooked in terms of fantasy success is the importance of solid offensive line play. Many of the players that you see inside the Top 10 at their respective positions have the luxury of playing with some of the top lines in the game. Here we point out that studying the play of offensive lines can benefit you while you prepare for your drafts. Being able to point to the best line situations could be deciding factors when stuck between several players. Better offensive lines tend to lead to better scoring opportunities in fantasy, something that we are all chasing.

Just looking back at last year, some of your top-scoring and more competitive teams around the league (Rams. Colts, Patriots, Steelers, and Saints) all sport top offensive lines. Adding to that, these teams also are littered with talent that we target in fantasy drafts. The lines can keep the QB clean, opening holes for the run game, and give ample time for receivers to reach the apex of their routes. While on the flip side, the teams that struggle with consistency along the offensive line (Redskins, Bengals, Buccaneers, and Dolphins) can become hard to buy into from a fantasy perspective. The poor play leads to more three and outs from the offense and fewer opportunities to pile up points.

The biggest beneficiaries from a strong offensive line from a fantasy point of view usually are the running back position. In a year where the depth at the position might be at an all-time low, targeting the backs in the best system will be what pays off for you. Going with these rankings are just another tool that you can utilize to give you a leg up on the competition during draft season.



Some of the teams currently inside my top-10 are mainstays in the fantasy community and present players that many of us are taking inside the first few rounds of drafts. In New Orleans, the Saints offensive line continues to excel in keeping a clean pocket for Drew Brees. Maintaining the high values that we see in Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas, both of whom should finish the 2019 season inside the top-five at their positions.

The Indianapolis Colts, my current number one offensive line, has developed rapidly as the front office has focused on stockpiling players through the draft. The line finished first in sacks allowed last season as well as 7th in yards allowed before contact. This should keep Andrew Luck entrenched firmly as one of the top QBs off the board in drafts. Marlon Mack is the player poised to break out behind this offensive line. Finishing the 2018 season strong, Mack could make the leap inside the top-10 at the position if he can show he can stay on the field. T.Y. Hilton is back as a viable WR1 option while the receivers behind him (Devin Funchess and rookie Parris Campbell) could find themselves as strong matchup plays throughout the season.

The units that we are accustomed to seeing inside the Top 10 (Patriots, Steelers, Rams, Packers, and Eagles) all present high-scoring offenses with players we will be targeting early on in drafts. Each has strong running games and backs that could shoulder the load of a three-down workhorse. James Conner is a borderline first-round pick, while Todd Gurley's questioned usage has seen him slide down into the second round of drafts. Aaron Jones is the darling of the fantasy community and a player that could shine if he stays on the field. Health problems aside, new HC Matt LaFleur has commonly preferred a two-back system which put Jamaal Williams in play late in drafts. Sony Michel and Miles Sanders are two players that you can still draft at a reasonable ADP and could easily outperform their draft stock. But usage could be the issue with both players as each could be locked into the dreaded RBBC for much of the season.

The Cowboys offensive line is an intriguing one. Largely considered one of the best in the league, the team was bottom third in sacks allowed and negative runs. They seem to thrive off of the explosiveness of Ezekiel Elliott. Elliott's patient running style and ability to hit a hole blends in well with how this line plays. If Dak Prescott can receive ample time in the pocket, he has shown the ability to be a startable QB in fantasy.

The Ravens will be the team to watch during the early portions of the 2019 season. We all expect for this team to run the ball more than any other in the NFL. The line ranked 6th in sacks allowed and 5th in negatives runs while finishing outside the top-10 in yards per carry and yards after per contact (12th and 13th). Lamar Jackson will lead the lead in rushing at the QB position, but can he develop enough as a passer to truly become a QB1? I'm still valuing him as a mid-tier QB2 in drafts as I see defenses catching up to Jackson in year two. Mark Ingram, on the other hand, can now show the fantasy world what he can do as the true lead back on a team as he has stepped away from Alvin Kamara. Ingram is sporting RB2 value, but the player to watch in this backfield in Justice Hill. Hill could develop into a solid PPR asset and a player you can use as a Flex during much of the season as Jackson drops the ball off out of the backfield. His ADP will continue to rise as the season gets closer, so take advantage while you can.



The teams that I have listed in my bottom tier all present red flags in terms of what they can bring in fantasy. The Houston Texans and Tampa Bay Buccaneers both could be very fruitful in what they bring to the table in the passing game. Deshaun Watson and Jameis Winston both should perform at QB1 levels in 2019, but their offensive lines both are two of the worst in protecting the QB (Texans last in sacks allowed, Bucs 29th in QB hits allowed). Just imagine how much more productive both players could be if they could stay on their feet?

Both teams also have highly drafted receivers in fantasy (DeAndre Hopkins, Mike Evans, Will Fuller, and the much talked about Chris Godwin). We know what they can bring to the table. The question with these two teams is the offensive line's inabilities to open things up for the running game. Lamar Miller now has no competition early on during the season and has RB2 appeal, but he offers little excitement from a fantasy standpoint. While with the Bucs, we have no clue who will stand out above the others in this backfield (Ronald Jones, Peyton Barber, or longshot Bruce Anderson). The history with Bruce Arians has shown us that he can present a highly productive back in fantasy but this backfield has all the feel of an RBBC. As things stand now, I am buying Anderson late in drafts and seeing how it shakes out.

The Jets and Cardinals both have the potential to be exciting offenses in fantasy in 2019, but will the offensive lines hold them back? Sam Darnold is poised to take another step forward this season and is a good player to own as a late-round QB2. The acquisition of Le'Veon Bell has promise but what can we expect after the year-long layoff? He's being drafted as a first-round RB, but this offensive line could keep him from meeting his draft value.

Many people in the fantasy community are buying into the new-look Cardinals offense under Kliff Kingsbury and Kyler Murray. The "Air Raid" attack that this team will employ could become one of the more fun offenses to watch in 2019. But with an offensive line that ranked near the bottom in all categories, the growing pains may take a few weeks to shake off early on. Nonetheless, Murray could still push to finish as a high-tier QB2 if not sneak into QB1 territory. The big question will be if David Johnson can bounceback and thrive in this system. The talent is there, but once again, the line struggled to open holes for the run game last year (32nd in yards per carry). He's being drafted in the mid-first round and should remain there as he can easily finish as a Top 5 back if this system takes off.

The remainder of the bottom of the offensive line rankings is filled with players that I find myself steering clear from in drafts. The Jaguars and Dolphins both have too many questions to invest in. While other teams like the Vikings and Bengals have some bright spots but could, in the end, be hampered by poor offensive line play.

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Check out all of RotoBaller's fantasy football rankings. Staff rankings are updated regularly for all positions and include standard formats, PPR scoring, tiered rankings and dynasty leagues.

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