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2010 Offensive Line Review and Ratings - Summary
John Tuvey
August 5, 2010
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Drafting your fantasy roster—“skill position” players, for lack of a better term—without considering the offensive lines who keep them upright and open holes for them to run through is a dangerous endeavor. It’s like driving your Chevelle SS with the sun visor flipped all the way down in front of you: it can be done, but you’re missing a valuable part of the picture; something could very easily come out of that blocked field of vision and knock you off course.

For example, maybe you overdrafted Matt Forte last season without looking at an offensive line that couldn’t push Forte past four yards a carry and was trending in the wrong direction. Or you didn’t see Ben Roethlisberger’s injury coming despite the alarming number of sacks he was absorbing due in no small part to the Steelers’ Swiss cheese pass protection. Both situations could have been avoided by paying a little more attention to the men up front.

And that, in a nutshell, is why it’s worth paying attention to the offensive lines. Even though names like Nick Mangold, Jahri Evans, and Jake Long don’t show up on your cheat sheet, their value to the fantasy productivity of Shonn Greene, Drew Brees, and Chad Henne is undeniable.

With that in mind, here’s a capsule look at each offensive line in the league. These rankings, while subjective, take into account analysis from the emerging trove of statistical data from sources like the Football Outsiders (FO), the Football Scientist (FS), and Pro Football Focus (PFF), all of whom endeavor to quantify just how much of a team’s offensive performance can be directly attributed to line play.

Note: This article will reference several stats from these sources; without getting too deep (it was my understanding there would be no math), here’s a quick primer on what those numbers measure:

  • Adjusted Line Yards — an FO stat that assigns responsibility for rushing yards to the offensive line based on where those yards were gained in proximity to the line of scrimmage
  • Power Success — an FO stat that tracks the percentage of runs on third or fourth down with two yards or less to go (or first or second down and goal to go from two yards and in) that resulted in a first-down or touchdown
  • Stuffed — an FO stat measuring the percentage of rushing attempts where the back is tackled at or behind the line of scrimmage
  • Adjusted Sack Rate – an FO stat measuring sacks per pass attempt tweaked for down, distance, and opponent
Mv Rank Team Overall Grade Rush Grade Pass Grade Depth Grade Summary
  1 New Orleans A A- A- B The Saints survived the loss of LT Jamaal Brown, even though replacement Jermon Bushrod allowed as many sacks (8) as the rest of the line combined. Don't be surprised if rookie Charles Brown is starting by midyear. New Orleans ranked in the top 10 in every measurable run-blocking category, led by Jahri Evans and Carl Nicks, the NFL's top guard tandem.
  2 New England A- A- A- C- While some chinks in the armor are starting to appear—LG Logan Mankins isn't happy with his contract and the miles are taking their toll on LT Matt Light—the Pats' line excelled in both pass pro (second in FO's adjusted sack rate) and running the ball (fifth in FO's adjusted line yards, second in stuffs. RT Sebastian Vollmer is the LT of the future and a star in the making.
  3 Miami A- A B+ B The Dolphins dominated on the ground, ranking first in FO's adjusted line yards per carry, second in short yardage conversions(79%), and were stuffed behind the line less frequently than any other team—and the addition of RG Richie Incognito improves their interior. Miami also held up well against the pass, though on average no team kept in more extra blockers.
  4 NY Jets A- A- A- D The Jets weren't as dominant up front as you might think, but they were pretty doggone good. It helped having the same starting five for 32 straight games; that will change with the release of veteran LG Alan Faneca, whom the Jets hope to replace with second-round pick Vladimir Ducasse. There's no depth to speak of, but the starting unit is among the best in the game.
  5 Baltimore B+ B+ B+ B- Veteran Matt Birk centers a young unit that is as talented as any in football. All hands are on deck from last year, but Michael Oher may switch to the left side, especially if Jared Gaither remains sidelined. Gaither's absence would tax the Ravens' depth early, but his loss would be felt less on the right side if Oneil Cousins gets healthy himself and can step in.
  6 Indianapolis B+ C+ A B+ The Colts made it a priority to get bigger up front, but in doing so they kicked their most consistent lineman (Ryan Lilja) to the curb. Jeff Saturday still directs this unit like a maestro, but he needs help inside to move the pile and get the ground game going. While Indy's pass protection remains solid, there are still questions about who has Peyton Manning's blind side.
  7 NY Giants B+ B+ B C+ The dropoff in the Giants' ground game success is attributable more to the backs than the line; all five starters graded out on the plus side of the ledger. This will be the fourth consecutive season Big Blue opens with the same personnel across the line, though second-year tackle Will Beatty could take over at LT and move David Diehl inside, where he began his career.
  8 Tennessee B+ B B+ C- Tennessee's run blocking shortcomings are masked by Chris Johnson's speed: they ranked 28 in stuffs (22%), and no team got more of its rushing yardage downfield. Conversely, the Titans' underrated pass protection boasts perhaps the NFL's top tackle tandem. Veteran C Kevin Mawae wasn't asked back, but Eugene Amano and Leroy Harris should fill in admirably.
  9 Cincinnati B+ B+ B B- The Bengals proved they could play the AFC North's unique brand of smashmouth football last year, ranking first in FO's power success in converting 79% of short-yardage situations. Their pass protection faltered late last year, but if they can get any sort of contribution from Andre Smith at right tackle they have the talent to be a dominant group once again in 2010.
  10 Atlanta B B+ B+ C Even Falcons fans would be hard-pressed to identify individual members of this underrated unit, but the entire group returns intact after ranking11th or better in most of the key o-line measurables. There's nary a Pro Bowler among them (yet), but there's also nary a weak link. The only concern might be a lack of depth, unless third-round pick Mike Johnson develops quickly.
  11 Carolina B B+ B- B Carolina's front line battled injuries last year, and they're a tad overrated as a run-blocking unit with much of their statistical success attributable to volume (the second-most RB carries last year). But if tackles Jordan Gross and Jeff Otah stay healthy and mammoth Duke Robinson wins the RG job alongside Pro Bowl center Ryan Kalil, this unit will be worthy of any hype it receives.
  12 Dallas B B+ C+ C- Cowboys fans might miss Flozell Adams: replacement Alex Barron was whistled for more penalties than any other tackle, including Adams, and only two tackles allowed more QB hits than Barron. The rest of the line returns intact, and they're a dominating run-blocking group, though again they'll miss Adams in that capacity. Their pass protection is adequate at best.
  13 San Diego B B- B C+ Proof that LaDainian Tomlinson has lost a step: no team got a smaller share of its rushing yardage downfield than the Chargers. The pass protection was good, but a holdout by LT Marcus McNeill could upset that apple cart. On the bright side, only four teams ran off left tackle less frequently than San Diego, so the running game should be looking up.
  14 Minnesota B B- B C- No returning starting tackle gave up more sacks than Bryant McKinnie, and you saw the beating Brett Favre took in the playoffs; perhaps the lack of upgrades to this unit factored into his retirement plans. This unit is overrated in the running game as well: a team with Adrian Peterson shouldn't rank next-to-last in percentage of carries stuffed at the line of scrimmage.
  15 Denver B B B- C The Broncos' transition from zone blocking wunderkinds to a more power-oriented team caused some problems last year, but Denver now has the personnel in place to field its beefiest line ever. However, with three regulars (LT Ryan Clady, RT Ryan Harris, C Russ Hochstein) coming off surgery and rookie Zane Beadles starting at guard, there may be more growing pains
  16 Green Bay B- B C+ B Few teams ran inside with more success than the Pack: they ranked 3rd in short-yardage conversions, 4th in stuffs, and 1st in yards per carry between the guards. It's a good thing Aaron Rodgers is mobile, however, because their pass protection continues to decline as tackles Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher age. The sooner rookie Bryan Bulaga can help, the better.
  17 Arizona B- B- B- B- The plan is for Arizona to transition to a run-first offense, but while new LG Alan Faneca will help this is essentially the same line that ranked 28th in power success and was stuffed at the line more than all but three other teams. The Cards' pass protection for Kurt Warner was adequate at best; now they'll flip around for a left-handed (and slower-releasing) Matt Leinart.
  18 Philadelphia B- B- C+ B- The talented line Philly projected to start last September never materialized, and they'll open 2010 with C Jamaal Jackson already on the PUP list. The line takes a significant hit with Nick Cole sliding over from guard, and RG Stacey Andrews can't be counted on. While that taps into the Eagles' depth, LT Jason Peters and RT Winston Justice can make most guards look good.
  19 Houston B- C B C- This isn't the classic zone-blocking unit Alex Gibbs left behind, but tackles Duane Brown and Eric Winston do a superb job of keeping Matt Schaub's jersey clean. The interior is a work in progress, with five players—C Chris Myers, C/G Andre Caldwell, and guardsMike Brisiel, Kasey Studdard, and Wade Smith—battling to fill three spots. The competition can only help.
  20 Jacksonville C+ B C- B There were growing pains with bookend rookie tackles last year, but the Jags are banking that a year of experience will help Eugene Monroe and Eben Britton solidify their pass protection. No team ran up the middle more frequently than Jacksonville, who has a five-man battle royale to fill three interior spots; if healthy, Justin Smiley could make this unit dominant.
  21 Cleveland C+ B C C- In left tackle Joe Thomas and center Alex Mack the Browns have two of the best young players at their respective positions; the rest of the line needs to play up to that level. Guard Eric Steinbach's play has slipped since coming to Cleveland, but if he gets back to his previous level and Tony Pashos can give the Browns something at right tackle this group could surprise.
  22 Seattle C+ B C- B- The addition of first-round tackle Russel Okung to replace Walter Jones is nice, but Seattle's biggest offseason move was bringing o-line guru Alex Gibbs on board; 10 of his last 14 employers have ranked in the top 5 in rushing. The Seahawks' pass protection was adequate, and Gibbs' zone blocking scheme should greatly improve their bottom-feeding run numbers.
  23 Pittsburgh C+ B C- C Pittsburgh had success in the power running game (converting 72% in short yardage), but much of that success came behind RT Willie Colon, who's out for the year. RT Flozell Adams is a capable replacement, and wherever the Steelers use rookie Maurkice Pouncey will be an upgrade: according to PFF, C Justin Hartwig and RG Trai Essex ranked last at their positions in 2009.
  24 Chicago C C+ C- B Mike Tice is being asked to build a unit that can keep Jay Cutler upright, but there are still plenty of questions. Can LT Chris Williams build on last year's strong finish and anchor the pass protection? Do the position battles at both guards and right tackle indicate depth or just lack of starting-caliber talent? There's still nothing here to suggest more success in the running game.
  25 Detroit C C C D Don't laugh; the Lions' o-line wasn't as bad as the numbers suggest. On the ground they found success running outside the tackles, which bodes well for speedy rookie Jahvid Best. However, no returning tackle tandem gave up more sacks than the 17 surrendered by RT Gosder Cherilus and LT Jeff Backus. Rob Sims represents a significant upgrade at left guard.
  26 Oakland C- C+ D B After handing off play-calling duties to OC Hue Jackson, HC Tom Cable can now direct more attention to an offensive line that struggled mightily last year. Their one area of success? The power ground game (take note, Michael Bush fans). Rookies Jared Veldheer and Bruce Campbell may not start right away, but they couldn't be any worse than Oakland's incumbents.
  27 Buffalo C- C C- C+ There's plenty of young talent on a unit that started two rookies (guards Andy Levitre and Eric Wood) and a second-year tackle with no previous NFL experience (Demetrius Bell) last year. However, there's still work to do: first they'll need to get everyone healthy, and then they'll need to get accustomed to each other in yet another new offensive system.
  28 Tampa Bay C- C- C- C- A late coaching change and a new blocking scheme torpedoed the lofty expectations for Tampa Bay's talented line, especially in the ground game. The same five regulars return this time around, and there's certainly talent here (LT Donald Penn, 2008 Pro Bowl RG Davin Joseph), but after underachieving mightily last year all have to step up their respective games.
  29 St. Louis C- C C- D The Rams' investments in their line—free agent C Jason Brown, first-round RT Jason Smith—didn't pay off; they ranked 25th in stuffs and 30th in short yardage conversion, with most of their rushing yards coming downfield. With Smith in danger of being a bust, not only may rookie tackle Rodger Saffold start, he could very well take over the LT job and push Smith back to RT.
  30 San Francisco C- C- C- C There's a good reason the Niners spent two first-round picks on o-line help: they desperately need it. San Francisco ranked 29th or lower in most of the key run-blocking measurables, and while they climbed out of the basement in sacks there's plenty of work still to be done. Both picks, LG Mike Iupati and RT Anthony Davis, should move immediately into the starting lineup.
  31 Washington C- C- C- D The Redskins finally addressed their aging, banged up offensive line via the draft (first-round LT Trent Williams), trade (RT Jamaal Brown from the Saints), and free agency (ex-Viking RG Artis Hicks. They can't be any worse than last year, and if this unit picks up Mike Shanahan's zone blocking style quickly it will go a long way towards expediting the Skins' turnaround.
  32 Kansas City D+ D+ C- C- LT Branden Albert was supposed to be the building block; instead, he struggled so mightily the Chiefs contemplated moving him inside to guard. The addition of ex-Colt Ryan Lilja helps, and LG Brian Waters still has a little something left in the tank, but for the most part there's little reason to expect a significant upgrade from last year's bottom-feeding performance.

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