Projecting line play — or for our sake — the line’s impact on fantasy scoring — is one of the more challenging tasks in all of DFS.
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. From Week 5 on, I will be basing these selections almost entirely on Football Outsiders data, including pressure rate and adjusted line yards.
However, we’ll still be taking a glance at qualitative sources. Including The 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.
Below is a table featuring every offense’s combined adjusted line yards and adjusted sack rate combined with the opposing defensive units. Adjusted line yards are a Football Outsiders 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 adjusted sack 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 vise-versa for quarterbacks.
Starting in Week 5, these numbers became matchup adjusted, which should make them far more efficient. Each week, they become slightly more predictive. However, they don’t take injuries into account, so keeping up on those are important. Also, keep in mind that adjusted sack rate takes into account sacks, not pressures.
Therefore quarterback play heavily influences the offensive side of the statistic.
Strong Offensive Line Matchups
Detroit Lions OL (#1 in Combined Line Yards, #2 in Combined Sack Rate) vs. New York Giants DL
Despite not having planned starter at offensive guard Halapoulivaati Vaitai all season, the Lions continue to dominate on the offensive line. They rank fourth overall in adjusted line yards and third in adjusted sack rate as a team. The Packers are the only other team with top-five rankings in both categories.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t always lead to fantasy goodness. They’re a run-first team that essentially has a three-back committee. Jamaal Williams is the lead back on the ground but provides little in the passing game. He’s spelled by De’Andre Swift and, increasingly, Justin Jackson. Swift is obviously the most explosive of the bunch, but the Lions seem intent on limiting his usage.
With all that said, Williams needs to be considered in DFS. He has four multi-touchdown games this season, three of which came with Swift active. He’s very game-script dependent, but the Lions are only three-point underdogs, so it’s plausible he has a good game.
Jared Goff and the passing attack are also in play. It probably makes more sense to just play top receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown though, given his dominance of the target share in the post-TJ Hockenson offense. Goff provides next to nothing with his legs or to other receivers most weeks.
Las Vegas Raiders OL (#2 in Combined Line Yards, #8 in Combined Sack Rate) vs. Denver Broncos DL
The Raiders — as per usual — are in line to have much more success on the ground than through the air this week. Like with Detroit, they have a back in Josh Jacobs who does better with positive game scripts, and they’re slight underdogs to Denver.
With that said, the spot is much better for Jacobs. His role has expanded significantly this year, averaging more than five targets per game from Week 3 on. That makes it less of a concern the game environment will ruin his fantasy day.
Still, his two best games of the season were the two games the Raiders won. If building around him, a positive game script would certainly be ideal.
Chicago Bears OL (#3 in Combined Line Yards, #22 in Combined Sack Rate) vs. Atlanta Falcons DL
The Bears run/pass splits are a prime example of adjusted sack rate being partially a quarterback stat. They have a slightly above average run blocking unit but rank dead last in pass protection based on sack rate. It’s far more likely that’s a reflection on Justin Fields getting himself into trouble than it is due to poor line play.
With that said, I’m still more interested in the running game this week. Both because of the matchup and the injury to Khalil Herbert. The Bears’ backup was placed on short-term IR, so David Montgomery has the backfield to himself. He should have an expanded role and reasonable efficiency in this matchup.
On the other hand, Fields is the Bears’ run game to a large extent. He’ll continue to be in play in an expected shootout, coming off of consecutive 40+ point scores.
Strong Defensive Line Matchups
New Orleans Saints DL (#3 in Combined Sack Rate) vs. Los Angeles Rams OL
While the Saints “only” rank third by the numbers, things could be even worse for the Rams than the statistics indicate. They announced yesterday they’ll be without left tackle AJ Jackson for the remainder of the season. He’d been starting for Joe Noteboom, who’s also lost for the year. Of course, Noteboom was a replacement for the retired Andrew Whitworth — so the Rams are in a bad spot at the line’s most important position.
Not that things could be much worse, but they’ve already ranked dead last in adjusted line yards, adjusted sack rate, and fantasy points allowed to opposing defenses. At a reasonable $3,000, New Orleans looks like the best play on the slate.
Finally, the Rams could potentially be without quarterback Matthew Stafford for another week. If he misses time, the Saints go from “great play” to “must play,” at least in cash games.
Eagles (#2 in Combined Sack Rate) vs. Indianapolis Colts OL
The move to slow-footed Matt Ryan probably helps the case for Philadelphia this week. He’s taken 25 sacks in eight games this season while throwing nine interceptions. The Eagles should be motivated to get back in the win column after suffering their first loss on Monday night and are seven-point favorites traveling to Indy.
At $3,900, they’re one of the most expensive defenses on the slate. That should keep ownership down, which is vital at such a high-variance position. They’re a very strong tournament play with an excellent matchup this week.
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