One of the most underrated aspects of fantasy football is the importance of the offensive line. The hard part about figuring out who has the best line is that there is really are no stats we can turn to in order to rank the them. I am not going to insult anyone and claim I have poured over hours of game footage tallying pancake blocks and breaking down pulling guards, but I have used some offensive stats that I think best show the strength of an O-line – especially when it comes to fantasy football.
The three stats I looked at to compile the rankings were: yards per rush, quarterback hits allowed and sacks allowed. Some of the stats can get over or undervalued because of offensive schemes, poor or excellent quarterback play and other factors, but this should give everyone a baseline on the support the skill position players can expect from the offensive linemen. After looking at last years statistics I went through a number of offensive line transactions and picked out some of the significant moves where guys who had started double digit games for their team in 2011 moved to a new team.
Offensive line key off-season moves:
With only three offensive linemen drafted in round one, only a handful of rookie linemen are expected to make an impact this season. The Vikings upgraded their offensive line by taking USC’s Matt Kalil. Over the next few years Kalil might turn out to be a great left tackle but that is not a position rookies excel in during year one. The same can be said for Reilly Reiff from Detroit. The rookie who has the best chance to upgrade an offensive line is Cincinnati’s rookie guard Kevin Zeitler. Guard is a much easier place for a rookie to make an impact.
On the free agent market, two of last year’s top ten added two of the best offensive linemen in this year’s free agent class. Number one ranked New Orleans lost possibly the top linemen in the free agent class when they lost guard Carl Nicks. They recovered nicely by replacing Nicks with former Ravens’ guard Ben Grubbs who is considered just a half step below Nicks.
Tampa Bay was the team to add Nicks. A dominate performer in New Orleans Nicks will team with tackle Donald Penn – assuming he can come off of the reserve/non football injury list. Penn was named one of NFL Networks’ top 100 players of 2012.
Staying on the inside of the line, Tennessee improved their already solid offensive line by inking guard Steve Hutchinson. One of the best guards over the last ten years, Hutchinson struggled with injuries last year, but if he is healthy he would upgrade nearly any offensive line.
Green Bay, who was surprisingly low on this list added veteran center Jeff Saturday. Saturday has been one of the best centers from the last ten years as the leader of the Indianapolis Colts’ line in charge of – until last year – protecting Peyton Manning. He now shores up the middle of the Packers’ line. Not sure how much this helps the poor Packer running game, but can’t hurt when protecting Aaron Rodgers.
With the drafting of Zeitler, it became easier to replace former Bengals guard Eric Steinbach – whom they lost to the Dolphins. With Miami so low in this ranking, Steinbach will be a welcome addition to help keep whoever ends up behind center in Miami on his feet.
The Rams picked up two guys in free agency that should positively impact their offensive line. Barry Richardson started all sixteen games at tackle for the Chiefs and will be lineing up for the Rams in 2012. Joining him on the line will be center Scott Wells who started all sixteen games for the Pack.
He might not be a household name, but Rex Hadnot started all 16 games at center for the Cardinals, but this year will be blocking for Philip Rivers and Ryan Matthews in San Diego.
Arien Foster might find running lanes a little smaller this year as the Texans lost two starters off their offensive line. Mike Brisiel started thirteen games at guard for the Texans, but now is wearing the black and silver of Oakland. Houston also will have to move on without Eric Winston. After his rookie season, Winston started every single game from then on. This season the Chiefs have added his services.
Coming from the young talented offensive line in San Francisco, tackle Adam Snyder, who started thirteen games last season now will be lining up in Arizona.
Brian covers basically all high school sports, but mainly football and wrestling in Minnesota where he has lived his entire life. Fed up with his day job he decided to try writing as a hobby over ten years ago and that hobby has turned into sort of a second career. He has been involved in some way with football since he was a water boy for his high school team when he was in elementary school and has been playing fantasy football since before he could vote.