Offensive line rankings & review

Offensive line rankings & review

Team Analysis

Offensive line rankings & review

Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Rank Team Run Pass Overall LT LG C RG RT
1 SAINTS 4.5 4.5 4.5 Terron Armstead Andrus Peat Max Unger Larry Warford Ryan Ramczyk
2 COWBOYS 5 4 4.5 Tyron Smith Connor Williams (R) Travis Frederick Zack Martin La’el Collins
3 FALCONS 5 4 4.5 Jake Matthews Andy Levitre Alex Mack Brandon Fusco Ryan Schraeder
4 EAGLES 4 4.5 4.25 Jason Peters Stefen Wisniewski Jason Kelce Brandon Brooks Lane Johnson
5 STEELERS 4 4.5 4.25 Alejandro Villanueva Ramon Foster Maurkice Pouncey David DeCastro Marcus Gilbert
6 RAIDERS 4.5 4 4.25 Donald Penn Kelechi Osemele Rodney Hudson Gabe Jackson Kolton Miller (R)
7 RAVENS 4 4 4 Ronnie Staley James Hurst Matt Skura Marshal Yanda Orlando Brown Jr. (R)
8 RAMS 4.5 3.5 4 Andrew Whitworth Rodger Saffold John Sullivan Jason Brown Rob Havenstein
9 PATRIOTS 4.5 3.5 4 Trent Brown Joe Thuney David Andrews Shaquille Mason Marcus Cannon
10 JAGUARS 4 3.5 3.75 Cam Robinson Andrew Norwell Brandon Linder AJ Cann Jermy Parnell
11 TITANS 3.5 3.5 3.5 Taylor Lewan Quinton Spain Ben Jones Josh Kline Jack Conklin
12 CHIEFS 3.5 3.5 3.5 Eric Fisher Parker Ehinger Mitch Morse Laurent Duvernay-Tardif Mitchell Schwartz
13 PACKERS 4 3 3.5 David Bakhtiari Lane Taylor Corey Linsley Justin McCray Bryan Bulaga
14 GIANTS 3.5 3.5 3.5 Nate Solder Will Hernandez (R) Brett Jones Patrick Omameh Chad Wheeler
15 BEARS 3.5 3 3.25 Charles Leno Jr. James Daniels (R) Cody Whitehair Kyle Long Bobby Massie
16 VIKINGS 3 3.5 3.25 Riley Reiff Nick Easton Pat Elflein Mike Remmers Rashod Hill
17 49ERS 3.5 3 3.25 Joe Staley Laken Tomlinson Weston Richburg Joshua Garnett Mike McGlinchy (R)
18 CHARGERS 2.5 4 3.25 Russell Okung Dan Feeney Mike Pouncey Forrest Lamp Joe Barksdale
19 BROWNS 4 2.5 3.25 Austin Corbett (R) Joel Bitonio JC Tretter Kevin Zeitler Shon Coleman
20 COLTS 3 3 3 Anthony Castonzo Quenton Nelson (R) Ryan Kelly Matt Slauson Austin Howard
21 BUCCANEERS 3 3 3 Donovan Smith Ali Marpet Ryan Jensen Evan Smith Demar Dotson
22 REDSKINS 3 2.5 2.75 Trent Williams Ty Nsekhe Chase Roullier Brandon Scherff Morgan Moses
23 BENGALS 2.5 3 2.75 Cordy Glenn Clint Boling Billy Price (R) Trey Hopkins Jake Fisher
24 DOLPHINS 2 3.5 2.75 Laremy Tunsil Josh Sitton Daniel Kilgore Jesse Davis Ja’Juan James
25 LIONS 2 3 2.5 Taylor Decker Frank Ragnow (R) Graham Glasgow TJ Lang Ricky Wagner
26 BRONCOS 3 2 2.5 Garrett Bolles Ronald Leary Matt Paradis Connor McGovern Jared Veldheer
27 PANTHERS 2 3 2.5 Matt Kalil Taylor Moton Ryan Kalil Trai Turner Daryl Williams
28 CARDINALS 3 2 2.5 DJ Humphries Mike Iupati AQ Shipley Justin Pugh Andre Smith
29 SEAHAWKS 2.5 2 2.25 Duane Brown Ethan Pocic Justin Britt DJ Fluker Germain Ifedi
30 JETS 2 2.5 2.25 Kelvin Beachum James Carpenter Spencer Long Brian Winters Brandon Shell
31 TEXANS 2 2.5 2.25 Julie’n Davenport Zach Fulton Nick Martin Senio Kelemente Seantrel Henderson
32 BILLS 2 1 1.5 Dion Dawkins John Miller Russell Bodine Vladimir Ducasse Jordan Mills

It’s easy to forget about offensive lines when assembling your fantasy football team. After all, they’re the anonymous guys in the trenches doing the heavy lifting while you’re drafting the sexy quarterbacks, the stud backs, and the diva receivers to put fantasy points on the board.

But then you watch the Rams upgrade at left tackle and suddenly Todd Gurley is putting trophies on mantels across the country. Or Cincy’s line is gutted by free agency and Joe Mixon puts up fewer fantasy points than Orleans Darkwa and Isaiah Crowell.

And now you’re paying attention.

If you rode Gurley’s coattails to a title, send a thank-you basket to Andrew Whitworth, Rodger Saffold, John Sullivan, Jason Brown, and Rob Havenstein. If you were burned by Mixon, blame the Bengals front office for letting Whitworth and Kevin Zeitler walk. And vow to pay closer attention to the guys clearing a path for the fantasy commodities you’re investing in.

The Bengals certainly realized their mistake. Not only did a draft-day trade net two o-line upgrades, they also brought in the Cowboys’ offensive line coach to mold a unit capable of springing Mixon for something more than the 3.5 yards per carry he averaged last season.

They weren’t alone; a third of the league will employ a new offensive line coach in 2018, and half of them are expected to make significant tweaks to their team’s primary blocking scheme. That’s important to track, because while every team runs a mix of power/gap and zone schemes many are constructed—and coached—to run one more effectively.

Fortunately, number-crunchers are gaining interest in line play as well. Throughout these writeups you’ll find references to metrics from Pro Football Focus and Football Outsiders; the former watches every snap repeatedly to break down each lineman’s prowess in run blocking and pass protection, while the latter has created statistics such as Adjusted Line Yards and Adjusted Sack Rate to help determine what share of a team’s offensive productivity can be traced to the performance of his blockers.

Of course, these metrics aren’t fool-proof. Grading is still very much subjective—as are these rankings—and even the NFL teams who use them take PFF’s analysis with a grain of salt. Plus, as every fantasy projector knows, numbers based on last year’s stats are far from guaranteed to repeat themselves.

So this assessment examines both the talent of each unit’s personnel and the results they’ve generated, as oftentimes a line’s success is greater—or less—than the sum of its parts. Consider that last year the Browns devoted the third-largest share of their salary cap to their offensive line and failed to win a game, while the Patriots ranked 18th in o-line cap share and went to the Super Bowl.

Ultimately, it boils down to how much can you trust an offensive line to protect its quarterback so he can generate fantasy stats, or to open enough holes for its running backs to burst through? It’s as much an art as it is a science—one of many tools you can lean on to help you split hairs when it comes to deciding between this player and that for your fantasy lineup.

ARIZONA CARDINALS (28)
LT DJ Humphries
LG Mike Iupati
C AQ Shipley
RG Justin Pugh
RT Andre Smith

RUN:               3
PASS:              2
OVERALL:                5

Changes abound in Arizona, from the coaching staff on down. Ray Brown takes over an offensive line that beefed up the right side in free agency with Justin Pugh and Andre Smith and sports a bounceback left side of DJ Humphries and Mike Iupati; both missed significant time last year due to injuries. Arizona’s line graded out quite well in 2016, when David Johnson was running behind them; Johnson’s absence last year torpedoed the numbers across the board. A healthy left side, where Humphries and Iupati both grade out as top-end run blockers at their position, combined with Johnson running at full speed will provide Steve Wilks with the personnel he needs to establish the run. While this line isn’t exactly what you’d want to place in front of either a rookie quarterback or a veteran with a lengthy injury history, if the Cardinals’ o-line stays healthy they’ll be a far site better than the liability many worry they might be.

ATLANTA FALCONS (3)
LT Jake Matthews
LG Andy Levitre
C Alex Mack
RG Brandon Fusco
RT Ryan Schraeder

RUN:               5
PASS:              4
OVERALL:                9

Atlanta’s offensive line remains a core strength of the team and one of the reasons the Falcons consistently rack up points in both fantasy and real-life football. Atlanta addressed their o-line’s weakest link in the offseason, signing Brandon Fusco to stabilize the right guard position. Including Fusco, every member of the projected startling o-line grades well above the position average in both run and pass blocking; moreover, all five starters grade out at 76.0 or above, according to Pro Football Focus, seven to 14 points above the league average. The success and continuity of this line directs fantasy players to draft and play Falcons with extreme confidence that the production will continue.

BALTIMORE RAVENS (7)
LT Ronnie Staley
LG James Hurst
C Matt Skura
RG Marshal Yanda
RT Orlando Brown Jr. (R)

RUN:               4
PASS:              4
OVERALL:                8

Considering the Ravens’ offensive line was down three potential starters two games into the season, their performance last year was outstanding. Despite playing 14 games without Marshal Yanda, perhaps the best guard in the league, Baltimore ranked top-six in both adjusted line yards and adjusted sack rate—and very nearly paved a 1,000-yard season for Alex Collins. The free agency departure of center Ryan Jensen stings, but the Ravens can patch that hole with Matt Skura, who filled in for Yanda at right guard last year, or sixth-round pick Bradley Bozeman. James Hurst, whose solid fill-in play last year earned him a new contract over Jensen, will battle Alex Lewis, back from a shoulder injury that cost him all of 2017, at left guard. Yanda returns at right guard, where he’ll be instrumental in the development of rookie right tackle Orlando Brown Jr. This unit already has a strong baseline; a healthy Yanda and Brown playing like the first-rounder he once projected to be provide upside for Collins and the Baltimore backs as well as Joe Flacco… or maybe one of the Ravens’ intriguing backup quarterback candidates.

BUFFALO BILLS (32)
LT Dion Dawkins
LG John Miller
C Russell Bodine
RG Vladimir Ducasse
RT Jordan Mills

RUN:               2
PASS:              1
OVERALL:                3

The Buffalo line will look dramatically different from the mauling unit that was the backbone of the offense a couple seasons ago. The Bills traded veteran left tackle Cordy Glenn, and a neck injury forced center Eric Wood into retirement. Richie Incognito retired as well, then was involved in a bizarre altercation in the offseason before deciding he wanted to return to football—just not in Buffalo. What’s left for the Bills? An intriguing young replacement at left tackle in Dion Dawkins, who was the second-best rookie offensive tackle last season according to Pro Football Focus, and a nondescript cast of characters looking to salvage what’s left of LeSean McCoy’s reign as a top fantasy back. While Buffalo graded out as a top-seven line last season according to PFF, they ranked in the bottom six in adjusted line yards and next-to-last in adjusted sack rate. McCoy performed well behind last year’s group in the first year of the new zone scheme, so don’t use this unit as a reason to write him off. But the dearth of supporting skill position talent isn’t in line to receive any upgrades from an offensive line still in the process of finding itself.

CAROLINA PANTHERS (27)
LT Matt Kalil
LG Taylor Moton
C Ryan Kalil
RG Trai Turner
RT Daryl Williams

RUN:               2
PASS:              3
OVERALL:                5

Carolina’s roster has the potential to field a very good offensive line in 2017, but that actually happening is far from certain. The free agency departure of Andrew Norwell doesn’t help; the Panthers will ask 2016 second-round pick Taylor Moton, who played just 70 snaps last season, to fill that void. Right guard Trai Turner and right tackle Daryl Williams graded well according to Pro Football Focus—Williams was PFF’s top-ranked right tackle and third-ranked tackle overall—but Carolina ranked in the bottom six in adjusted line yards running to that side. Left tackle Matt Kalil stayed healthy, but he finished among the league leaders in sacks allowed and penalty yards and no longer has an All-Pro playing next to him. Center Ryan Kalil was around for just a third of the season due to neck injuries. Between the annual punishment Cam Newton absorbs and Christian McCaffrey’s need for space—he ranked 53rd among 59 qualifying backs in yards after contact—the Panthers need to squeeze throwback campaigns out of the Kalils and have Moton live up to that second-round pick potential to carve out offensive productivity.

CHICAGO BEARS (15)
LT Charles Leno Jr.
LG James Daniels (R)
C Cody Whitehair
RG Kyle Long
RT Bobby Massie

RUN:               3.5
PASS:              3
OVERALL:                6.5

Despite the departure of left guard Josh Sitton via free agency the Bears still have one of the most talented interior offensive lines in the league—assuming Kyle Long and Cody Whitehair can stay healthy and focus on one position rather than moving around the line. Injuries and repeated shuffling capped this unit’s effectiveness; though individually they graded out 11th according to Pro Football Focus, their productivity metrics in both the run and pass games placed them in the bottom ten. Second-round pick James Daniels should slide into Sitton’s spot, though he’ll need to unseat Bradley Sowell to crack the starting lineup. Charles Leno Jr. was adequate on the heels of signing a contract extension, though he was one of the most penalized offensive linemen in the league. Bobby Massie was the unit’s week link, ranking in the top 15 in sacks allowed. Another reason to be bullish on this unit: new offensive line coach Harry Hiestand, fresh off coaching two top-10 picks at Notre Dame and returning to Chicago, where he developed Olin Kreutz and Ruben Brown into Pro Bowlers a decade ago.

CINCINNATI BENGALS (23)
LT Cordy Glenn
LG Clint Boling
C Billy Price (R)
RG Trey Hopkins
RT Jake Fisher

RUN:               2.5
PASS:              3
OVERALL:                5.5

Over the past decade only two teams have invested more draft picks than the 16 the Bengals have used. While those picks haven’t always panned out—see the struggles of Jake Fisher and Cedric Ogbuehi—Cincinnati went back to the well in May, and an astute trade down with the Bills netted not only left tackle Cody Glenn but Ohio State center Billy Price with the 21st overall selection. Both fit the more aggressive approach new o-line coach Frank Pollack brings with him from Dallas. Those additions join holdover Clint Boling and a wide-open competition on the right side that includes four players who started games last season—Trey Hopkins, Christian Westerman, Alex Redmond and TJ Johnson—with Fisher, Kent Perkins, and ex-Giant Bobby Hart battling at right tackle. Sixth-round pick Rod Taylor could also be in the mix. If the new faces perform as advertised and the competition yields improvement, Cincy’s line will be well on its way to returning to the level of previous units—great news for the fantasy prospects of Andy Dalton (and conjointly AJ Green) and Joe Mixon.

CLEVELAND BROWNS (19)
LT Austin Corbett (R)
LG Joel Bitonio
C JC Tretter
RG Kevin Zeitler
RT Shon Coleman

RUN:               4
PASS:              2.5
OVERALL:                6.5

There are plenty of new faces on the Browns’ roster, but the most important one will be at left tackle. After 10,363 consecutive snaps, the Browns’ offensive line took on a new look last October when Joe Thomas went down with a triceps injury. Thomas retired following the season, launching the five-year countdown to Canton and leaving Cleveland in search of an anchor for their o-line. The hope is that Austin Corbett, the first pick of the second round, holds down Thomas’ former spot—with an assist from left guard (and fellow University of Nevada alum) Joel Bitonio. In Bitonio and Kevin Zeitler the Browns have one of the most talented guard tandems in the league, and JC Tretter is solid in the middle; they ranked seventh in the league in adjusted line yards running between the guards. Cleveland would prefer to keep Shon Coleman on the right side and hope he develops there, as opposed to sliding him to the left side. Coleman surrendered the third-most sacks among all offensive linemen last season and also led the league in holding penalties. Bitonio could also play tackle, but playing all 16 games for the first time since his rookie year revealed just how good he can be at guard. Replacing Thomas won’t be easy, but a Corbett/Bitonio left side offers upside for years to come. A successful deployment there would allow the Browns to focus on squeezing better production out of the right side, where they ranked last in the league in adjusted line yards.

DALLAS COWBOYS (2)
LT Tyron Smith
LG Connor Williams (R)
C Travis Frederick
RG Zach Martin
RT La’el Collins

RUN:               5
PASS:              4
OVERALL:                9

Losing Ronald Leary to free agency and Doug Free to retirement stung the Cowboys more than most anticipated; Tyron Smith playing hurt and missing three games didn’t help, either. As a result the most talented offensive line in the league underachieved—relatively speaking. The Cowboys still ranked in the top five in adjusted line yards and fell outside the top 10 in that category in just one spot along the offensive line (right tackle). Dallas ranked 15th in adjusted sack rate, though giving up six sacks to Adrian Clayborn in one Smith-less game certainly inflated that number. La’el Collins’ adjustment to moving from guard to right tackle wasn’t smooth but his potential there is obvious. The Cowboys using a second-round pick on Connor McGovern, followed by Jason Garrett noting that the team views him as a guard, reinforces Collins’ spot at right tackle—and also gives Dallas yet another blue-chip, pedigreed player alongside Travis Frederick and Zach Martin, who just inked the biggest guard contract in league history. Ezekiel Elliott and his fantasy employers will be hard-pressed to contain their smiles, and Dak Prescott should have time to introduce himself to the Cowboys’ nondescript receiving corps as well.

DENVER BRONCOS (26)
LT Garrett Boles
LG Ronald Leary
C Matt Paradis
RG Connor McGovern
RT Jared Veldheer

RUN:               3
PASS:              2
OVERALL:                5

Thanks primarily to center Matt Paradis playing every snap over the past three seasons, the middle of the Denver offensive line is the fulcrum of their offense. If Ronald Leary, who missed five games with a back injury, can stay healthy the Broncos will have two borderline elite players manning their interior. It’s a group that ranked in the top 10 in adjusted line yards both overall and from tackle to tackle. After that, however, there’s work to be done. Conner McGovern became a regular later in the season and his play improved, but his overall low grades from Pro Football Focus suggest there’s plenty of room for improvement. Rookie first-rounder Garrett Bolles graded out well in the ground game, thought Broncos ranked 25th in adjusted line yards running outside in his direction, and his pass protection remains a work in progress. Jared Veldheer, coming off yet another injury-marred season, was signed via free agency to take over at right tackle. There’s enough talent here to turn Denver’s line into a strength.

DETROIT LIONS (25)
LT Taylor Decker
LG Frank Ragnow (R)
C Graham Glasgow
RG TJ Lang
RT Ricky Wagner

RUN:               2
PASS:              3
OVERALL:                5

The Lions have taken significant steps to upgrade their offensive line—and specifically its athleticism—since Bob Quinn took over as GM. They’ve spent first-round picks on Taylor Decker and Frank Ragnow and invested in free agents Ricky Wagner and TJ Lang. Injuries scuttled those plans last season, with Decker missing the first eight games while Lang and Wagner each missed three contests. As a result, the Lions failed to rank in the top half of the league in any offensive line metric Football Outsiders tracked. Detroit’s new coaching staff includes Jeff Davidson working with the o-line, plus the addition of first-round pick Ragnow. A center by trade, Ragnow is expected to line up at left guard for the Lions while Graham Glasgow remains in the middle. If they’re able to stay healthy, there’s enough talent for this unit to remove the “liability” tag from the offensive line department.

GREEN BAY PACKERS (13)
LT David Bakhtiari
LG Lane Taylor
C Corey Linsley
RG Justin McCray
RT Brian Bulaga

RUN:               4
PASS:              3
OVERALL:                7

When you think of the Packers you don’t necessarily think of efficient run blocking, yet Green Bay ranked fifth in adjusted line yards and finished in the top 10 at every spot across the line. The Packers used eight different o-line combinations in the first eight games and never played a full game with their preferred starting five. They also split the season between MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers and inexperienced Brett Hundley, which certainly contributed to the 51 sacks they allowed. The left side of the line returns intact, anchored by David Bakhtiari at tackle. The right side, on the other hand, sports large question marks. Bryan Bulaga is a talented tackle but has played all 16 games just twice in eight pro seasons and is coming off a torn ACL. Backup options Jason Spriggs and Kyle Murphy also spent time on IR last season, and free agent signee Byron Bell gave up five sacks and was flagged for holding three times in 12 games as a Cowboy. Justin McCray started eight games across the line last season but played only one snap at right guard—and that’s where he’s projected to start. Line coach James Campen consistently does more with… well, whatever’s on hand, which is one of the reasons he received an offseason promotion to run game coordinator. He’s part of the reason the winner of Green Bay’s backfield competition will be a highly sought-after fantasy commodity.

HOUSTON TEXANS (31)
LT Julie’n Davenport
LG Zack Fulton
C Nick Martin
RG Senio Kelemente
RT Seantrel Henderson

RUN:               2
PASS:              2.5
OVERALL:                4.5

Houston’s offensive line play last season was a live-action billboard for paying holdout tackle Duane Brown; instead, the Texans shipped Brown to Seattle… and finished the season ranked 20th in adjusted line yards and 30th in adjusted sack rate. Houston brought in three free agents in the offseason, all of whom are expected to start: guards Zach Fulton and Senio Kelemente and tackle Seantrel Henderson. The hope is that Nick Martin, whose first two NFL seasons ended with him on injured reserve, can stay healthy enough to live up to expectations at center. Julie’n Davenport is slated to start at left tackle, but he’s extremely raw after seeing just 238 snaps in 11 games as a rookie. At least that’s more than Henderson, who has missed 30 games over the past three seasons and saw the field for just 47 snaps last yer in Buffalo. Second-year player Kyle Fuller and third-round pick Martinas Rankin offer depth, and at one point—before he became the nationally televised poster boy for paying Duane Brown his money—the team liked Kendall Lamm as well. Upgraded offensive line play is a necessity in Houston, even more so in front of a second-year quarterback coming off a serious knee injury who likes to throw deep.

INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (20)
LT Anthony Castonzo
LG Quenton Nelson (R)
C Ryan Kelly
RG Matt Slauson
RT Austin Howard

RUN:               3
PASS:              3
OVERALL:                6

Since drafting Andrew Luck first overall in 2012, Colts quarterbacks have been hit 691 times. Luck himself has been sacked 156 times in 70 starts. So with hopes abounding that Luck will be back in the saddle this season, it makes sense that Indianapolis used the sixth overall pick on guard Quenton Nelson—and then followed up by using the middle of their three second-round picks on another offensive lineman, Braden Smith. Last year’s unit surrendered a league-high 52 sacks and ranked last in adjusted sack rate, so significant turnover makes sense. If all goes according to plan, Ryan Kelly—whose 2017 started late following foot surgery and ended early due to a concussion—and Anthony Costanzo will be the only holdovers on the Indy offensive line. Nelson is a lock to start at left guard, while the Colts’ first OTAs saw free agent signees Matt Slauson and Auston Howard at right guard and right tackle, respectively. Smith could factor into one of those spots; so could holdover Jack Mewhort, though he’s ended each of the past two seasons on injured reserve. Denzelle Good, Joe Haeg, and Le’Raven Clark could also be in the mix at right tackle. New line coach Dave DeGuglielmo, who’s worked with the Giants, Dolphins, Jets, Patriots, and Chargers, will oversee the competition as the Colts look for ways to keep Luck upright—and on the field.

JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (10)
LT Cam Robinson
LG Andrew Norwell
C Brandon Linder
RG AJ Cann
RT Jeremy Parnell

RUN:               4
PASS:              3.5
OVERALL:                7.5

Jacksonville’s offensive line paved the way for the league’s most productive running game last year, and the Jaguars surrendered just 24 sacks on the season—third-fewest in the NFL. Nevertheless, the Jags backed up a Brinks truck to Andrew Norwell’s house, inking the former Panther to a five-year $66.5 million deal that at the time made him the highest-paid guard in NFL history. Plugging the All Pro in between Brandon Linder, whom PFF graded as a top-five center last season, and 2016 second-round pick Cam Robinson, whom PFF graded as a bottom-five left tackle despite allowing just two sacks in over 1,000 snaps, solidifies the o-line as a team strength. Jermy Parnell has developed into a solid player on the right side, where Jacksonville posted top-10 adjusted line yard marks in the ground game. AJ Cann graded out below average last year, but the rising tide of talent across the Jaguars’ offensive line is likely to float all boats. This line will not only allow Jacksonville to continue to pound the rock effectively with Leonard Fournette, they’ll also provide a clean pocket Blake Bortles can use to fill your Twitter timeline with fantasy-friendly Blake Bortles facts.

KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (12)
LT Eric Fisher
LG  Parker Ehinger
C Mitch Morse
RG Laurent Duvernay-Tardif
RT Mitchell Schwartz

RUN:               3.5
PASS:              3.5
OVERALL:                7

It’s no coincidence the 2017 season arc of Kansas City’s offensive line play—fast start, midseason doldrums, strong finish—mimics that of Kareem Hunt. Injuries forced the Chiefs into scramble mode much of the season, especially inside as Mitch Morse missed nine games and Larent Duvernay-Tardif missed five. KC hopes Morse can put his foot issues behind him and return to the All-Rookie team form of 2015. LDT tackled his health issues by completing his medical degree in the offseason. Yes, really. He also earned a contract extension, in part because he’s allowed just two sacks over the past two seasons. Tackles Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz both played all 16 games; in fact, Schwartz has yet to miss a snap in six NFL seasons. Left guard will be a competition between Parker Ehinger, who started as a rookie in 2016 but tore his ACL that October and has been limited since, and Brian Witzmann, who saw most of the action there in 2017. KC’s metrics were middle of the road—17th in adjusted sack rate, 12th in adjusted line yards—but Pro Football Focus found an intriguing scheme split: the Chiefs ranked third running outside zone (5.16 yards per carry, 2.21 yards before contact) but were the worst team in the league running inside zone (2.93 YPC, 0.90 YBC). When healthy, this unit has the talent to give Hunt (who saw a league-high 2.6 yards per carry before contact last year) room to run and Patrick Mahomes time to figure things out—and find Sammy Watkins and Tyreek Hill downfield.

LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (18)
LT Russell Okung
LG Dan Feeney
C Mike Pouncey
RG Forrest Lamp
RT Joe Barksdale

RUN:               2.5
PASS:              4
OVERALL:                6.5

The Chargers’ offensive line has been perennially snake-bitten by injuries, and last year was no exception: second-round pick Forrest Lamp tore his ACL in training camp, and Matt Slauson went on IR midway through the season. But for a change the injuries didn’t derail the Bolts, as they surrendered a league-low 18 sacks. Their run blocking remains a work in progress, but adding free agent center Mike Pouncey and a healthy Lamp to the interior provides a major upgrade. A healthy season and a year of development for last year’s third-round pick Dan Feeney should help as well. That trio, along with last offseason’s big ticket free agent signing Russell Okung, give Los Angeles a nastiness that’s been missing from the Chargers’ line in previous seasons. Joe Barksdale returns at right tackle and while he’s hardly elite, if he’s the weak link of this line Los Angeles will be in pretty good shape once again.

LOS ANGELES RAMS (8)
LT Andrew Whitworth
LG Rodger Saffold
C John Sullivan
RG Jason Brown
RT Rob Haverstein

RUN:               4.5
PASS:              3.5
OVERALL:                8

For the key to the Rams’ remarkable offensive turnaround last season, look no further than Andrew Whitworth. The predicted upgrade Whitworth provided over LA’s previous left tackle absolutely came to fruition: the Rams averaged almost two adjusted line yards per carry more running left than they did the previous season. Fellow free agent signee John Sullivan proved his worth as well, leading the Rams to a 0.87 adjusted line yards per carry improvement between the guards. Overall the Rams jumped from 29th to third in adjusted line yards, and Todd Gurley (and his fantasy employers) reaped the benefits. No surprise that line coach Andrew Kromer was promoted to co-offensive coordinator/run game coordinator this offseason. The Rams improved their pass protection as well—nearly cutting their sacks in half, from 49 to 28. Jared Goff was able to develop in no small part because he was sacked fewer times in 15 games of 2017 (25) than he was in the seven games he played as a rookie (26). The left side of Whitworth and Rodger Saffold allowed just seven sacks and eight quarterback hits on the season, while Sullivan surrendered only one sack on the year. After playing 15 games together last season (the Rams rested their starters for the playoffs in Week 17), the entire unit returns intact for 2018—and is a primary reason LA is a Super Bowl favorite and their offensive weapons are sought-after fantasy commodities. Funny how that works.

MIAMI DOLPHINS (24)
LT Laremy Tunsil
LG Josh Sitton
C Daniel Kilgore
RG Jesse Davis
RT Ja’Juan James

RUN:               2
PASS:              3.5
OVERALL:                5.5

For the past several seasons the Miami o-line has gone as Mike Pouncey has gone; unfortunately, Pouncey has been flat-out gone much of that time due to injuries. Last year Pouncey was the only Dolphin o-lineman to start every game, but Miami didn’t want to bet his $9 million salary on chronic hip issues. So when the 49ers made Daniel Kilgore available the Dolphins traded for him, then released Pouncey to save $7 million in cap space. That money was reinvested in the free agent signing of Josh Sitton, settling four of Miami’s five line spots heading into training camp. Laremy Tunsil endured growing pains but also showed flashes of greatness as he kicked outside from left guard to left tackle; the Dolphins are hoping for more of the latter in his third NFL season. Ja’Wuan James ranked among PFF’s top five right tackles in pass blocking last year. Overall the Dolphins’ pass protection is solid, and by the time Miami has a franchise quarterback to protect Tunsil/James should be an established tandem. Jesse Davis, who started 10 games at three different positions for the Dolphins last year, is the favorite to start at right guard. Will Miami’s two-for-one strategy to move forward without the oft-injured anchor of the offensive line pay dividends? Considering they got a full year out of Pouncey last season and still ranked 30th in adjusted line yards, it can’t hurt.

MINNESOTA VIKINGS (16)
LT Riley Reiff
LG Nick Easton
C Pat Elflein
RG Mike Remmers
RT Rashod Hill

RUN:               3
PASS:              3.5
OVERALL:                6.5

Following the unmitigated disaster of Minnesota’s 2016 offensive line, the Vikings attacked the issue via free agency—signing tackles Riley Reiff and Mike Remmers—and spent a second-round pick on Pat Elflein. While this unit needn’t be fitted for yellow jackets just yet, the one-year upgrade was palpable. Minnesota moved up 11 spots in Football Outsider’s adjusted yards rankings, from 30th to 19th, and climbed a similar number of spots to rank sixth in adjusted sack percentage. Even though Case Keenum saw pressure on 39.3% of his dropbacks, third-most in the league, Pro Football Focus ranked the Vikings 13th in pass blocking efficiency. A disconnect, perhaps? No more so than four projected Vikings starters sporting bottom-five PFF grades at their position—yet NFL.com hailing them as the sixth-best offensive line in the league. Even above-average was an upgrade for the Vikings, and with Remmers moving inside to guard the team returns regulars at all five spots. There was angst amongst Minnesota’s fan base when the team opted for a high upside developmental tackle (second-round pick Brian O’Neill) rather than a plug-and-play lineman to replace the retiring Joe Berger—especially after sinking $82 million into quarterback Kirk Cousins, whose passer rating under pressure drops almost 30 points from its usual number. The hope is that once again the total of the Vikings’ o-line is greater than the sum of its parts, keeping Cousins upright and clearing room for Dalvin Cook to bounce back from his knee injury.

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (9)
LT Trent Brown
LG Joe Thuney
C David Andrews
RG Shaquille Mason
RT Marcus Cannon

RUN:               4.5
PASS:              3.5
OVERALL:                8

New England annually sports one of the league’s most effective lines, and last year was no exception as they led the NFL in adjusted line yards. In fact, the Patriots have finished in the top 10 in that metric 11 straight seasons, 10 of those in the top five and eight in the top three. The Pats accomplish this despite consistently spending less on their o-line than the vast majority of teams, and they’re up to their same tricks once again. Nate Solder and Cameron Fleming left via free agency, so the Patriots traded for Trent Brown and drafted Isaiah Wynn. Brown could step in for Solder but at minimum gives New England their standard depth at tackle to mix and match as necessary. Wynn played tackle in college but lined up at guard next to Brown during minicamp. He may ultimately replace right guard Shaq Mason, whose mauling ways could net a Norwell-sized contract when he hits free agency—and history suggests the Patriots won’t be paying that price. Joe Thuney and Marcus Cannon were limited in OTAs but should return by training camp. David Andrews graded out as one of the league’s best centers. The Patriots struggled last year to protect Tom Brady, who was hit early in the season before the line gelled and then again late as New England allowed 6.6 QB hits per playoff game. The Pats ranked 14th in adjusted sack rate, the second time in three years they’ve fallen outside the top 10. Hence the offseason additions of Brown, whom PFF graded as a top-five pass blockers at his position, and Wynn, rated one of the best pass protectors in this draft class. Minimal investment, maximum return… business as usual for the Pats’ o-line.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (1)
LT Terron Armstead
LG Andrus Peat
C Max Unger
RG Larry Warford
RT Ryan Ramczyk

RUN:               4.5
PASS:              4.5
OVERALL:                9

The Saints take protecting Drew Brees very seriously; hence the consistent investment of draft picks and other resources in their offensive line. A pleasant side effect is an elite run-blocking unit made up of the same components. New Orleans headed into 2017 with question marks as Max Unger, Terron Armstead, and first-round pick Ryan Ramczyk were all banged up. And while injuries forced the Saints to tweak their lineup all year long, they couldn’t prevent another stellar showing from the unit. The Saints ranked second in adjusted line yards, the third time in the past four seasons they’ve finished first or second in that category. They also ranked second in sack rate, the fourth time in five seasons New Orleans has ranked seventh or better. Aside from Andrus Peat recovering from the broken fibula he suffered in the playoffs, the Saints’ o-line enters 2018 both healthy and intact, with all five regulars returning. Zach Strief’s retirement and the free agent loss of Senio Kelemente, who made eight starts at guard last season, sap the depth that salvaged the Saints last season. But after patching together last season’s line, there’s no reason to think o-line coach Dan Roushar can’t continue the success that makes any member of the Saints offense a viable fantasy option.

NEW YORK GIANTS (14)
LT Nate Solder
LG Will Hernandez
C Brett Jones
RG Patrick Omameh
RT Chad Wheeler

RUN:               3.5
PASS:              4
OVERALL:                7.5

Changes in New York started at the top with new GM Dave Gettleman and moved like a road grader through the offense—particularly the ground game. The Giants nabbed Saquon Barkley in the first round and completely overhauled their offensive line in hopes of giving him room to run as well as wringing one more postseason run out of Eli Manning. Gettleman added Nate Solder and Patrick Omameh via free agency and spent a second-round pick on Will Hernandez; that trio will form the crux of New York’s rebuilt o-line. Center Brett Jones was solid in replacing an injured Weston Richburg last season, allowing the Giants to save cap space and let Richburg join Justin Pugh, DJ Fluker and Bobby Hart in a free agent exodus. Right tackle will be a competition between Ereck Flowers, who has been one of the league’s lowest-graded left tackles the past three seasons, and second-year player Chad Wheeler. While the Giants’ o-line performance wasn’t as bad as perceived—they ranked a middle-of-the-pack 15th in adjusted line yards and 10th in adjusted sack rate—Manning’s closing window of opportunity and the presence of elite weapons like Barkley and Odell Beckham Jr. spurned the changes. With the notable exception of the right tackle competition they project to be upgrades, which bodes well for those placing first-round fantasy grades on OBJ and Barkley.

NEW YORK JETS (30)
LT Kelvin Beachum
LG James Carpenter
C Spencer Long
RG Brian Winters
RT Brandon Shell

RUN:               2
PASS:              2.5
OVERALL:                4.5

The Jets ranked an abysmal 29th in adjusted line yards last season and fared little better in pass protection, ranking 27th. They have the sixth-largest percentage of their salary cap invested in an offensive line that sports 24 seasons of NFL experience and zero Pro Bowl appearances. Their only offseason upgrades were signing free agent centers Spencer Long and Travis Swanson. The plan under new o-line coach Rick Dennison appears to be hoping that guard Brian Winters returns to form after playing through an abdomen injury last season, that the change at center positively impacts James Carpenter as well, and that the dominos keep falling outward with the improved interior bettering the tackle play. It’s an optimistic plan, certainly, but does it yield the kind of line you want to plant a rookie franchise quarterback behind?

OAKLAND RAIDERS (6)
LT Donald Penn
LG Kelechi Osemele
C Rodney Hudson
RG Gabe Jackson
RT Kolton Miller (R)

RUN:               4.5
PASS:              4
OVERALL:                8.5

The common perception is that the highest-paid offensive line in NFL history underachieved last season, but Oakland’s metrics—10th in adjusted line yards, seventh in adjusted sack rate—were just fine. An offensive coordinator trying to run too much outside zone with an elite power blocking line led to a sluggish start, and in addition to Donald Penn missing two games with a foot injury key personnel played hurt: Kelechi Osemele essentially played one-handed much of the season, and Rodney Hudson played through kidney stones the final few weeks. With Penn ahead of schedule in his return from offseason surgery, the crux of this unit enters 2018 intact and healthy. The lone recent hiccup has been at right tackle; the Raiders spent a first-round pick on Kolton Miller to remedy that situation and have veteran Breno Giacomini as a backup plan. Hand-wringing over a potential poor fit between new o-line coach Tom Cable and the strengths of this unit seem unwarranted; Jon Gruden wants an old-school smash-mouth running game, and the Raiders have the personnel to fulfill that wish. Cable will have to adapt to that talent—and if he doesn’t, Gruden is sure to pull him back on track.

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (4)
LT Jason Peters
LG Stefen Wisniewski
C Jason Kelce
RG Brandon Brooks
RT Lane Johnson

RUN:               4.0
PASS:              4.5
OVERALL:                8

Funny that Lane Johnson has a beef with Pro Football Focus, as four of the Eagles’ five starters graded out at 86 or better overall and rank within the top six at their position. It’s clearly a talented unit that steamrolled the league’s top-ranked defense in the NFC title game en route to a Super Bowl championship. Where there’s a disconnect between talent and performance metrics is in Philly ranking 22nd in adjusted line yards and 12th in adjusted sack rate. Philly running backs averaged 4.52 yards per carry, fourth in the league, but Football Outsiders metrics suggest much of that yardage was gained at the second level. Hey, somebody has to be helping Eagles backs get through the line. Rather than quibble about metrics, Philadelphia should be concerned that 36-year-old future Hall of Famer Jason Peters comes back from the torn ACL that prematurely ended his 2017 campaign, and that Johnson avoids a third PED suspension. Maybe Halapoulivaati Vaitai, who has been a capable fill in for both tackles, develops into a full-time solution, or maybe the Eagles drafted an eventual replacement on Day 3 in massive TCU tackle Matt Pryor or even larger Australian rugby star Jordan Mailata. There are no such concerns over All Pro center Jason Kelce or guards Brandon Brooks and Stefen Wisniewski, and o-line coach Jeff Stoutland has consistently found a way to extract maximum production from the Philly line. Any unit that can shield Nick Foles en route to a Super Bowl shouldn’t induce stress over protection of a mobile quarterback like Carson Wentz, even coming off a significant knee injury.

PITTSBURGH STEELERS (5)
LT Alejandro Villanueva
LG Ramon Foster
C Maurkice Pouncey
RG David DeCastro
RT Marcus Gilbert

RUN:               4
PASS:              4.5
OVERALL:                8.5

Once the team’s Achilles’ heel, Pittsburgh’s offensive line has solidified itself as one of the league’s best. Last season was no exception, as Ben Roethlisberger was sacked 21 times, third-lowest in his 14 NFL seasons, and the Steelers posted the lowest adjusted sack rate in the league. The running game wasn’t bad, either; though Pittsburgh’s overall yards per carry dipped by half a yard from 2016, the Steelers ranked seventh in adjusted line yards. Football Outsider’s metrics don’t support the perception that Pittsburgh’s ground game has become more finesse, as they ranked 12th in power success (converting short-yardage situations) and fifth in fewest runs stuffed at or behind the line of scrimmage. All five starters are back, and only Ramon Foster isn’t under contract beyond this season. More importantly, o-line coach Mike Munchak bowed out of interviewing for Arizona’s head coaching job to remain in his role in Pittsburgh. Valuable backup Chris Hubbard left via free agency, but the Steelers think BJ Finney can be the short-term solution and hope third-round pick Chukwuma Okorafor—the highest draft pick Pittsburgh has spent on an offensive lineman since 2012—can develop into the eventual replacement for Foster.

SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (17)
LT Joe Staley
LG Laken Tomlinson
C Weston Richburg
RG Joshua Garnett
RT Mike McGlinchy (R)

RUN:               3.5
PASS:              3
OVERALL:                6.5

No NFL team has more money invested in their offense than the 49ers, and it’s worth noting that while quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo sits atop the list he’s followed directly by two offensive linemen. San Francisco added Weston Richburg in free agency and Mike McGlinchy in the first round of the draft; both are they’ll team with holdover Joe Staley to form the framework of the 49ers’ o-line. There’s a three-way competition at guard between holdover Laken Tomlinson, ex-Cowboy Jonathan Cooper, and 2016 first-round pick Joshua Garnett, who missed all of last season rehabbing a knee injury. Cooper won’t be available until training camp due to a knee injury, giving Garnett—who dropped 25 pounds to better fit the need for mobile linemen in Kyle Shanahan’s scheme—an inside track on the job. The 49ers’ line was adequate last season, but if Richburg returns to the form he displayed prior to missing most of last season with a concussion and McGlinchy lives up to his draft position this unit becomes a real strength. And with so much invested in the offense, that’s big news—especially if you’re looking to invest fantasy capital in Garoppolo and his supporting cast.

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (29)
LT Duane Brown
LG Ethan Pocic
C Justin Britt
RG DJ Fluker
RT Germain Ifedi

RUN:               2.5
PASS:              2
OVERALL:                4.5

Seattle’s o-line has been an easy target for criticism, and last year was no exception as the Seahawks ranked 31st in adjusted line yards and 26th in adjusted sack rate. However, a little digging reveals actual cause for optimism. Start with last year’s mid-season acquisition of Duane Brown. Prior to his arrival, Russell Wilson was pressured on almost 40 percent of his dropbacks; after inserting Brown at left tackle, that rate dropped to 23.1%. New o-line coach Mike Solari should also help. From 2011 to 2017 no team drafted more o-linemen than Seattle, but Tom Cable failed to develop any of note. Solari’s track record with the Giants isn’t necessarily better, but he’ll use more power/man schemes that fit the Seahawks’ personnel—and desire to run the football. Solari will be working with a pedigreed line that includes three first-round picks and two second-rounders. Justin Britt has developed into a solid player, and DJ Fluker performed well in a six-game stint for Solari with the Giants. Ethan Pocic, who added 25 pounds in the offseason, and Germain Ifedi are young enough to develop as well; during OTAs Brown noted how Ifedi was taking to Solari’s coaching. Brown’s leadership and example set the tone for a revamped Seattle line, so hand-wringing about Wilson scrambling for his life and Rashaad Penny lacking room to run may be unwarranted. Pro Football Focus attributed 31.7% of Wilson’s pressures to non-o-line sources (running backs, tight ends, play design, Wilson running himself into trouble), so Seattle added Ed Dickson—per PFF the best pass-blocking tight end in the league last year—and spent a fourth round pick on Washington tight end Will Dissly, who allowed zero quarterback pressures on 78 pass protection snaps.

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (21)
LT Donovan Smith
LG Ali Marpet
C Ryan Jensen
RG Evan Smith
RT Demar Dotson

RUN:               3
PASS:              3
OVERALL:                6

Three o-line regulars ended last season on injured reserve, and health issues will factor heavily into the unit the Bucs will field in 2018—especially on the right side. Projected starter Demar Dotson wasn’t available for OTAs; if he not ready by September the Bucs can turn to Caleb Benenoch, but that’s not ideal. Guard JR Sweezy was released in June, leaving Evan Smith as the starter Tampa Bay added Ryan Jensen via free agency and is already enjoying the nastiness he brings to this group. Jensen’s arrival at center bumps Ali Marpet to left guard, where he’ll line up alongside Donovan Smith. While the Bucs failed to run the ball effectively much of last season, metrics suggest that was more about the backs than the line; despite a middle-of-the-pack 4.06 adjusted line yards per carry number, the Bucs ranked 31st in both second level and open field adjusted line yards. Tampa Bay also ranked 16th in adjusted sack rate, but the arrival of Jensen and keeping the regulars on the field should go a long way towards giving Jameis Winston time to employ his array of weapons.

TENNESSEE TITANS (11)
LT Taylor Lewan
LG Quinton Spain
C Ben Jones
RG Josh Kline
RT Jack Conklin

RUN:               3.5
PASS:              3.5
OVERALL:                7

The Titans rolled into 2017 with one of the league’s top offensive lines, and they trotted out the same five starters in every game. But underachieving play and an ineffective offensive scheme dropped Tennessee from third in the league in rushing offense and seventh in sacks allowed to the middle of the pack in both categories. Pro Football Focus’ metrics were even harsher: the Titans ranked 23rd in adjusted line yards and 13th in adjusted sack rate. Offensive line coach Russ Grimm retired, but overall the Titans upgraded with a new coaching staff that features offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur and o-line coach Keith Carter. Given that both LaFleur and Carter were recently with the Falcons you can expect to see more zone scheme from the Titans—a sentiment Carter echoed, though he said Tennessee will run a mix of man and zone schemes. Given the disparate skill sets of their primary running backs, it makes sense to be versatile. The Titans added free agents Xavier Su’a-Filo and Kevin Pamphile in prepration for the potential scheme change and to light a fire under their interior players. Dennis Kelly can play tackle if Jack Conklin is not fully recovered from the torn ACL he suffered in the playoff loss to New England. This is unquestionably a talented unit, and the Titans have taken steps to employ the depth and scheme to maximize that talent. If all goes as planned, fantasy owners will be taking their cues from the Tennessee o-line’s celebratory behavior at Predator playoff games; if you’re into catfish beer luges, that’s a good thing.

WASHINGTON REDSKINS (22)
LT Trent Williams
LG  Ty Nsekhe
C Chase Roullier
RG Brandon Scherff
RT Morgan Moses

RUN:               3
PASS:              2.5
OVERALL:                5.5

Only one team used more offensive line combinations last season than Washington, turning a talented unit into an unproductive one. Injury issues are already spilling into 2018, as the team worked through OTAs with both starting tackles and two primary backups on the sidelines. Trent Williams (knee) and Morgan Moses (ankle) are expected to return in time for training camp, but the team is stockpiling depth in case they’re snakebitten again this season. Ideally Ty Nsekhe will kick inside to left guard, but he can play tackle if necessary. Washington spent a third-round pick on Geron Christian, though they’d like time to develop him as an eventual replacement for Williams as opposed to rushing him into the lineup. Shawn Lauvao, Arie Kouandigo, Kyle Kalis, Tony Bergstrom and TJ Clemmings will compete for snaps, but Washington would prefer not to pull a bunch of starts from that group. One benefit of last season’s injuries was the emergence of sixth-round pick Chase Roullier, who started seven games at center after Spencer Long got hurt. Roullier’s play allowed Washington to let Long leave via free agency. Anchoring the line with healthy tackles and allowing the talent to play up to its potential is key for Washington to squeeze fantasy productivity out of new acquisitions Alex Smith and Derrius Guice as well as the rest of their arsenal.

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