Projecting line play — or the line’s impact on fantasy scoring — is one of the more challenging tasks in all of DFS. It can also be one of the most valuable.
While quantitative measures exist, they can be lacking to an extent. On the player level, grading services like Pro Football Focus are notoriously challenged with offensive line play. It’s difficult to know which member of a line blew an assignment, for example.
Things are a bit easier on the team level, as assessing the unit’s overall success is more practical. As the season rolls in, metrics like adjusted line yard and pressure rate are a good way to judge a team’s strengths and weaknesses.
However, we’ll still be taking a glance at qualitative sources. Including Action Network’s Brandon Anderson ranking all 32 NFL offensive lines. On the defensive side, PFF’s defensive line rankings will be the main source.
We also have projected sacks in our NFL Player Models.
Below is a table featuring every offense’s combined adjusted line yards and pressure rate combined with the opposing defensive units. Adjusted line yards are a Football Outsiders (now at FTN) statistic that quantifies how much of a team’s rushing yards gained/allowed are attributable to the offensive or defensive lines. Adjusted sack rate measures sacks against down-and-distance rates to quantify how many more or fewer sacks on average a team is recording/allowing.
With adjusted line yards, higher numbers are better for the offensive unit. With pressure rate, lower numbers are better. Both factors should be considered, though. For example, a running back will score more fantasy points on average when his team’s passing attack is functioning well, and vice versa for quarterbacks.
In Week 5 these numbers will become matchup adjusted, and we’ll lean more heavily on them. Until then, we’ll be mixing in 2022 data and the rankings mentioned above to decide on the matchups.
Strong Offensive Line Matchups
Los Angeles Chargers OL (#1 in Combined Line Yards, #15 in Combined Sack Rate) vs. Minnesota Vikings DL
This is an interesting situation for the Chargers, a pass-first team that’s expected to do better in run blocking. Especially if Austin Ekeler ($8,500) is ruled out for a second straight week. With Ekeler out last week, they threw 41 passes to just 21 runs — though that came against the notorious pass funnel defense of the Titans.
Joshua Kelley ($5,400) was a popular pick last week with Ekeler out, but he put up just 3.9 points on DraftKings. That dud could have much of the field shying away from him this week, but the far superior matchup might make this the week to play him.
Of course, these numbers are skewed a bit thanks to small sample sizes. The ranking systems like the overall matchup for the Chargers up front, as they’re a top 10 offensive line in Anderson’s rankings, and the Vikings rank 17th in PFF’s defensive line rankings.
Given the Chargers’ preferred method of attack, it’s also a good week to target their passing game. This game has the highest Vegas total on the board, so we’ll want exposure where we can.
Detroit Lions OL (#6 in Combined Line Yards, #3 in Combined Pressure Rate) vs. Atlanta Falcons DL
This one comes with some major caveats, thanks to injury situations in Detroit. Starting right guard Halapoulivaati Vaitai is already ruled out, which isn’t a big deal in and of itself. The Lions resigned former starter Graham Glasgos this offseason as a backup to provide depth along the interior offensive line.
However, starting left tackle Taylor Decker also missed last week, and losing two starters up front would be a significant blow to Detroit’s line. Fortunately, they draw a Falcons unit ranked 27th by PFF coming into the season, so Decker’s absence would change the matchup from “great” to “good.”
The other key question is the running back position, with early-down starter David Montgomery expected to miss a few weeks. The Lions traded up to draft Jahmyr Gibbs ($6,600) in the first round, but they’ve been easing him in slowly. Even after Montgomery’s injury, he split looks with third-stringer Craig Reynolds.
They could give Gibbs more of the workload out of necessity this week, which would make him an excellent DFS play. He already saw nine targets last week and should see nearly 100% of the passing-down work in Week 3. The Lions’ passing game is also intriguing, as Jared Goff ($6,500) is as dependent on a clean pocket as any passer in the league.
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Kansas City Chiefs OL (#16 in Combined Line Yards, #2 in Combined Pressure Rate) vs. Chicago Bears DL
Could this be the week the Chiefs finally get it together offensively? The defending champs are averaging less than 20 points per game on the season despite facing mediocre (at best) defenses in the Lions and Jaguars. This week, they draw the Bears — PFF’s 31st-ranked defensive line coming into the season.
Nothing Chicago has done so far has done much to change that opinion, as the Bears have just one sack through two games while allowing both Jordan Love and Baker Mayfield to top 20 DraftKings points against them. Now they have to deal with Patrick Mahomes ($8,300).
The sky is the limit for the Chiefs’ passing attack here, and they could stay aggressive all game while trying to prove they still have it. Obviously, the top option is Travis Kelce ($7.200). He looked less than 100% last week while returning from injury, playing just 43 of 67 snaps.
He should be closer to full strength this week and won’t be needed in pass protection. It’s a smash spot for him.
Strong Defensive Line Matchups
Washington Commanders DL (#2 in Combined Pressure Rate) vs. Buffalo Bills OL
The return of Chase Young in Week 2 made a massive difference for Washington. They picked up seven sacks against an (on paper) above-average offensive line in Denver after only recording three against the Cardinals.
Now they draw the Bills, a unit Anderson called “decidedly below average.” Buffalo also has a mistake-prone quarterback in Josh Allen ($8,100), who’s thrown three interceptions and taken seven sacks already this season.
Washington ($2,400) is a risky defense to play given the Bills’ solid Vegas total, but they have massive upside for their price. I could even see an argument for rostering the Bills’ offensive pieces AND the Commanders, as Washington should put up points from sacks and turnovers while still allowing plenty of scoring.
Miami Dolphins DL (#2 in Combined Pressure Rate) vs. Denver Broncos OL
The aforementioned Broncos might not be as good as their preseason rankings indicate, based on their numbers so far and the seven sacks Washington picked up against them.
Miami ($3,600) has a chance to do the same thing this week, and as 6.5-point favorites, the game script should provide plenty of chances to do so. I’m not sure if Denver’s issues are a result of poor line play or Russell Wilson ($5,900) holding the ball too long, but either way, it’s a solid spot for Miami.
They came into the season as PFF’s #4 defensive line and currently rank #6 in adjusted sack rate. It’s a great time to pay up to be contrarian at defense with Miami.