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Best And Worst O-Lines & Their Impact On Fantasy Football

Matt Citak
August 24, 2018 - 4:34 pm
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We are officially less than two weeks away from the opening game of the 2018 NFL season, which means if you haven't already began preparing for your fantasy football draft, now is the time.

Over the last few weeks, we have taken a look at some players at each position that are in great shape to outperform their preseason rankings. 

You can find the positional sleeper picks here: QB | RB | WR | TE 

An often overlooked aspect of fantasy football is the impact an offensive line has on the success of an offense. In order for a quarterback to be able to drop back in the pocket before finding a receiver down the field, he must be provided with a few seconds of protection.  Similarly, a running back will find it extremely difficult to gain positive yardage without his line opening up a hole or making a big block. 

While offensive linemen won't find themselves on any fantasy football rosters, enough can't be said about how important they are to the success of their teammates playing quarterback, running back, wide receiver, and tight end.

With all that said, here are some of the NFL's best and worst offensive lines, and how their performance this season could impact the skill players being found on fantasy football rosters.

Top Tier O-Lines

1. Philadelphia Eagles

Projected Starting O-Line: LT Jason Peters, LG Stefen Winsiewski, C Jason Kelce, RG Brandon Brooks, RT Lane Johnson

There is a reason why they are the reigning Super Bowl Champions. While the defense obviously played a significant role in that, they were not the ones giving Nick Foles the protection that allowed him to evolve from a journeyman backup quarterback to a Super Bowl folk hero.

Assuming Peters can return to his old, 9x Pro Bowl self after tearing his ACL last October, the Eagles should once again boast one of the NFL's top tackle tandems as Johnson is coming off his first Pro Bowl and All-Pro selection. And with both Kelce and Brooks ranking in the top 10 at their respective positions last season, there is no reason to believe this offensive line won't be just as dominant as it was last year.

Interestingly, even with the dominant o-line and Carson Wentz being the MVP-favorite before tearing his ACL last season, Philadelphia does not have many top fantasy options. Barring a setback, Wentz will likely miss only a game or two to start the year, after which this offensive line should help him return as a top 5 quarterback. Zach Ertz has solidified himself as one of the league's top tight ends, and won't have trouble finding success regardless of who's under center. As for the rest of the offensive weapons, I would not feel too comfortable rostering any of them as anything more than backups.

Jay Ajayi has the potential to be a fantasy starter, but with how crowded the Philly backfield is between him, Corey Clement, and Darren Sproles, it's hard to say how many touches he'll get on a weekly basis. Alshon Jeffery can't seem to stay healthy enough to remain on the field for a full season, and has a chance of starting the year off on the PUP. I wouldn't be surprised to see Nelson Agholor finish the season with more fantasy points than Jeffery, which makes him an interesting sleeper pick. 

2. Atlanta Falcons

 Projected Starting O-Line: LT Jake Matthews, LG Andy Levitre, C Alex Mack, RG Brandon Fusco, RT Ryan Schraeder

Atlanta's starting line is not yet set in stone, as there still seems to be a competition for the starting RG spot between Fusco and last year's starter Wes Schweitzer. But considering guard was this line's biggest weakness last season, and the fact that Fusco has played well during the preseason, it appears as if the former 49er is the front-runner to win the job. 

The rest of the o-line grades out very well. Alex Mack is one of the top centers in all of football, while Jake Matthews just received a monster contract extension from the Falcons, who clearly appreciate his performance over the last four seasons. One of the biggest things going for this Atlanta o-line is consistency- Fusco is the only new member to the unit, and still isn't even guaranteed the starting spot. The team will return 100 percent of their offensive line snaps from last season, which is not something many teams can say.

The familiarity of the offensive line should do wonders for Atlanta's high-powered offense. I'm going to chalk last year's struggles up to the Super Bowl hangover, because honestly, after the heartbreaking loss to the Patriots in Super Bowl LI, everyone expected Atlanta to take a big step back last season. The Falcons schedule is by no means favorable, but I expect Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, and Devonta Freeman to look more like the elite, 2016 versions of themselves, rather than what we saw on the field last season.

3. Tennessee Titans

Projected Starting O-Line: LT Taylor Lewan, LG Quinton Spain, C Ben Jones, RG Josh Kline, RT Jack Conklin 

It would not be surprising at all for the Titans to find themselves at the top of this list at this time next year. If Philadelphia's tackle duo of Peters and Johnson is the top in the league, then Tennessee's Lewan and Conklin are not far behind. Of course, this ranking assumes that Conklin can make it back on the field sooner rather than later- the 2016 first round pick suffered a torn ACL in the team's January playoff loss to the Patriots. 

The Titans' strength is clearly on the edge, but the team's interior linemen can hold their own as well. Spain and Kline each graded out in the top 20 among guards in pass blocking last season, while Jones was one of the best centers in blocking the run. Tennessee's biggest concern will be the performance of Dennis Kelly in Conklin's absence. 

Tennessee should feel good with the state of their offense as the regular season approaches. Even if Conklin misses some time, the rest of the line managed to post near-elite pass-blocking grades last season. Combine that with new offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur's aggressive passing attack, and we're looking at potentially huge seasons from Marcus Mariota, Corey Davis, and Delanie Walker. While the line's run blocking could use a little bit of work, Tennessee has one of the most favorable rush-defense schedules in the league, making both Dion Lewis and Derrick Henry good value picks.

Bottom Tier O-Lines

1. Houston Texans

Projected Starting O-Line: LT Julie'n Davenport, LG Senio Kelemete, C Nick Martin, RG Zach Fulton , RT Seantrel Henderson

Looking at this projected starting line, one can't help but say a prayer for the well-being of Deshaun Watson this season...

The Texans had one of the worst offensive lines in recent memory last season, and honestly, it's hard to tell if this year will be any better. Martin is the only returning starter, fresh off a season in which he graded as one of the worst starting centers in the NFL in both run and pass blocking. Davenport was named a starter at the end of last season, but that seems more because Houston had no one else to start there. The other three linemen are free agent signees, all coming to Houston after being castoff from their former teams following poor performances in 2017. Based off all of this, the Texans are the preseason favorites to once again finish with the league's lowest-ranked offensive line.

With Watson coming off a torn ACL, one must wonder how this offensive line will affect the young QB. The soon-to-be 23-year-old showed last year that he is more than capable of making plays himself, alluding defenders with ease to give himself a little more time to find an open receiver down the field on a weekly basis. But it would not be surprising at all if Watson does not have the same level of mobility as he did prior to hurting his knee. While his upside is through the roof, his ability to stand upright behind this offensive line will be a huge concern throughout the entire year. As for the rest of the team, DeAndre Hopkins has proven to be a top WR no matter how good the rest of the team is, while Will Fuller could once again be a touchdown-hog as Watson's favorite red zone target. As for the running game, Lamar Miller's fantasy outlook scares me behind this offensive line. I wouldn't draft him as anything higher than a RB3.

2. Seattle Seahawks

 Projected Starting O-Line: LT Duane Brown, LG Ethan Pocic, C Justin Britt, RG D.J. Fluker, RT Germain Ifedi

It seems like every year, the talent on Seattle's offensive lines is one of the biggest question marks heading into the regular season. This year is no different. 

The addition of Brown in the middle of last season certainly helped improve the unit's pass-blocking, but it does not make up for the glaring weaknesses throughout the rest of the line. The Seahawks had one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL last season, and while they did make sweeping changes to the coaching staff, the player personnel remains almost the same. Four of last year's five starting linemen will return this season, and the newcomer, D.J. Fluker, graded as one of the league's worst guards in pass blocking in 2017. Opposing defenses are going to pick on the right side of the line, meaning Fluker and Ifedi are going to have to play significantly better this season if Seattle wants to have a chance to succeed on offense.

The Seahawks have several intriguing offensive weapons this season. However it likely won't matter if Russell Wilson has to spend the entire season running for his life. Wilson managed to put together a strong campaign last season, despite Seattle tying for the 10th most sacks allowed. Assuming he can avoid big hits and stay healthy, there's no reason to think he can't repeat last year's performance from a fantasy standpoint and finish as one of the top QBs. Similar to Wilson, Doug Baldwin looks primed for a big year as he is by far and away the most talented pass-catching option on the roster. With Jimmy Graham now in Green Bay, Baldwin could absorb some of the tight end's red zone targets, thus increasing his fantasy value even more. However I am not high on the running game, as Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny both worry me. The talent is there, but these backs likely won't be able to find any running room behind this offensive line. Do your best to avoid this running game.

3. Arizona Cardinals

 Projected Starting O-Line: LT D.J. Humphries, LG Mike Iupati, C Mason Cole, RG Justin Pugh, RT Andre Smith

The Cardinals' line has already taken a big hit this season, as starting center A.Q. Shipley tore his ACL during practice a few weeks ago and will miss the entire season. Third round pick Mason Cole will slide in at center, and might even serve as an upgrade in the run blocking department over Shipley. The rest of the offensive line represents one of the more interesting o-line groups in the NFL. Arizona went out and signed Pugh and Smith this offseason in hopes of revamping their struggling line. While these two linemen have a ton of potential, both have struggled to stay on the field in recent years. Smith has missed 17 games over the last three seasons, while Pugh has missed 15 over that same span. Add in Iupati, who missed all but one game in 2017, and you realize just how much of an injury risk this unit is. But if somehow, these three injury-prone linemen can remain relatively healthy, then this line could wind up finishing in the top half of the league. This is a huge "if" though, and more than likely, this group will miss some time.

Whether it's Sam Bradford or Josh Rosen under center for the Cardinals this season, neither one is likely to find their way onto your fantasy roster. However, David Johnson is projected to be one of fantasy's top performers this season, even with the lack of talent in front of him. Arizona's somewhat favorable rush defense schedule certainly helps his outlook, but with his skills as a receiver along with his speed and power, Johnson should be just fine this season. In the passing game, the never-aging Larry Fitzgerald represents a model of consistency at the wide receiver position. Even with his 35th birthday approaching in just a few days, Fitz has proven to be too good to fall off the fantasy radar, no matter how good his team is around him. With that said, Johnson and Fitzgerald are the only two offensive weapons worth drafting from Arizona, at least until rookie WR Christian Kirk can prove himself ready to play on the biggest stage.

Matt Citak is a Web Producer for WFAN Sports Radio. Follow him on Twitter @MatthewCitak.

 

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