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Smashmouth: Offensive Lines Impacting Fantasy Football (Week 6)

Onto Week 6 in the NFL and the season has started to take its toll on tons of players. The Eagles’ Jay Ajayi is out for the year with a torn ACL, leading to an opportunity for both Corey Clement and Wendall Smallwood to pick up the slack and be fantasy assets for the remainder of the season. Fantasy owners need to be able to adjust their lineups just like NFL teams to take advantage of injury situations whenever possible.

Unfortunately for the Jaguars, they are being plagued by the injury bug with two injuries at left tackle, missing starter Cam Robinson and now backup Josh Wells. This rash of injuries certainly impacted their match-up this past week against the Chiefs. It’s not just injuries to the skill position players that can help or hurt your players on your fantasy team.

This week I’ll take a look at the magic of Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs and the Jacksonville Jaguars. Is Mahomes performing so well from smoke and mirrors or is this team even better than last season? Can the Jaguars recover from a massive injury on their left side of the line to Cam Robinson to get back to the playoffs?

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Offensive Line to Watch - Jacksonville Jaguars

Injuries happen all the time in the NFL. Sometimes they are at the skill positions, sometimes they are in the trenches, and sometimes they are both. Unfortunately, for the Jaguars, injuries have occurred both at the skill positions and offensive line. It started early in the preseason with Marqise Lee being lost for the season before stepping on the field for in a regular season game. Leonard Fournette has missed more time than he’s played in 2018 with hamstring issues. In addition, the Jaguars are down to their third left tackle after Cam Robinson was placed on IR earlier season with a torn ACL and Josh Wells left their Week 5 matchup with a groin injury. It can be hard for any team to deal with any injury at a key position let alone three. That being said, the Jaguars will press forward to try and to continue to establish their running game as their main point of emphasis to set up the deep passing game from Blake Bortles and Co.

Heading into last week, the Jaguars were one of the best offensive lines in the NFL pass blocking with just a 4.5% adjusted sack rate according to Football Outsiders. Clearly there were some issues this week in a negative game script against the Chiefs. Both tackles struggled in pass protection as Jeremy Parnell (right tackle) and Josh Walker (new left tackle), were beaten by speed rushes ending at Blake Bortles. Parnell has been solid this season with a 70.4 pass grade according to Pro Football Focus, but he certainly did not live up to that grade this past week. These two will have to be better in pass protection going forward if the Jaguars expect to win the AFC South.

This past week’s struggles at tackle overshadowed what have been solid performances in the passing game by Andrew Norwell and Brandon Linder. Linder is one of the best young centers in the NFL, picking up right where he left off in 2017. He currently sits as the 4th rated center according to Pro Football Focus with an 82.8 passing game grade and 70 running game grade. He should continue to be an anchor in the middle of the Jaguars offensive line going forward. Norwell has excelled in the passing game as well with an 81.6 passing game grade according to PFF.

What has been surprising for the Jags offensive line so far has been how average they’ve been in the running game. After a fairly dominant rushing attack in 2017 and the addition of Andrew Norwell in free agency, conventional wisdom would have dictated that the running game would be that much better in 2018. This has not been the case as the Jaguars are just 19th in Power Success rate according to Football Outsiders, meaning they have not been converting short yardage downs at a high clip. For reference, the Jaguars are converting 67% of rushing attempts from two yards or less on goal to go or 3rd and 4th down situations, while the Eagles (one of the elite offensive lines in the NFL) is converting at a 92% clip. Even though the group has not been dominant by any stretch, there have been some bright spots.

This line should come together in the running game fairly well. They have too much talent in the interior to be just average. Norwell’s 48.7 run blocking grade should improve as he gets more comfortable in this offense. This upcoming week should be a good test for the tackles against the “Hot Boys” of Dallas.


Fantasy Impact

Trust: TJ Yeldon 

Yeldon has been fantasy gold with Leonard Fournette nursing a hamstring injury for the past few weeks with at least 18 touches in each of the last two games. His involvement in the passing game on a weekly basis provides a weekly floor in PPR leagues that few running backs not named Gurley, Elliott, and Barkley can equal. As long as Fournette continues to miss time, expect Yeldon to be a high-end RB2 in non-PPR leagues and low-end RB1 in PPR leagues.

Hold: Donte Moncrief

The last two games have been very, very promising in the resurgent career of Donte Moncrief. Moncrief provides a bigger bodied receiver that can consistently move the chains for Blake Bortles and still make big plays down the field. He has two fairly good matchups of his next three (at Dallas, vs. Houston, vs. Philadelphia) where fantasy owners can consider him a strong WR3 or high-end flex play. He’s a good hold in 12 team leagues or shallower leagues with deeper benches.


Offensive Line to Watch - Kansas City Chiefs

A group that was much maligned heading into 2018, the Chiefs offensive line has been better than advertised. They have performed fairly well in the passing game as a group, giving up just five sacks in their first four games prior to last week, good for eight in adjusted sack rate according to Football Outsiders. No doubt this is helped by the elusiveness of Mahomes, who has avoided his fair share of sacks so far this season like in their games against the 49ers and Broncos. Mahomes has been able to make some miraculous plays on these scrambles for sure. The right side of the offensive line has performed admirably, especially Mitchell Schwartz, who has been a consistently good player since entering the league back in 2012. Schwartz has been the best Chiefs’ lineman grading out as the number 12 offensive tackle according to Pro Football Focus. He’s been consistently in both the run and passing game with an 80.2 in the passing game and 69.2 in the running game.

This team also does a great job realizing that even though their line has performed well, they certainly are not the best group in the NFL. Andy Reid does a great job scheming to help out his tackles against top pass rushers by chipping with their backs and tight ends. On a variety of occasions, especially on 2nd and 3rd and long, the Chiefs would help negate the pass rush using their backs and tight ends.

Not only are the Chiefs doing a great job helping their line when necessary on 2nd and 3rd and long situations, but the play-calling by Andy Reid has helped to alleviate some of the pressure that can be put on offensive lines by using the screen game. On a 2nd and long, the left side of the line, including tackle Eric Fisher and left guard Cam Erving, do a great job getting out to block for Sammy Watkins for a first down.


Fantasy Impact

Trust: Kareem Hunt

There was certainly some concern after the first couple of weeks with Patrick Mahomes, but Kareem Hunt’s role as the workhorse in Kansas City with over 20 touches each of the last two weeks. He hasn’t been involved in the passing game a ton with only nine targets so far this season, but the work has been there overall. Expect Hunt to be able to take advantage of softer boxes with the speed on the exterior for the Chiefs and stay as a locked-in RB1 in both PPR and non-PPR formats.


Top Five Offensive Lines

1) New Orleans Saints
2) Philadelphia Eagles
3) Los Angeles Rams
4) Green Bay Packers
5) Carolina Panthers


Bottom Five Offensive Lines

32) Buffalo Bills
31) Tampa Bay Buccaneers
30) Arizona Cardinals
29) Seattle Seahawks
28) Minnesota Vikings

For any questions about offensive line play in the NFL, feel free to contact me @TheRealHalupka on Twitter.

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