Projecting line play — or 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
Dallas Cowboys OL (#1 in Combined Line Yards, #4 in Combined Sack Rate) vs. Houston Texans DL
The Cowboys are favored by a ridiculous 17 points against their cross-state rival Texans, and their superior play in the trenches is one of the many reasons. A game script like that naturally lends itself more towards the rushing attack, making both Tony Pollard ($6,700) and Ezekiel Elliott ($6,100) in play.
Of course, picking between the two of them is a bigger challenge. They aren’t cheap enough where pairing them in smaller-field tournaments is a viable strategy. They combined for 42 points in last week’s blowout of the Colts — a solid score but not enough to justify almost $13,000 in salary.
That game was also close until the fourth quarter, so perhaps isn’t the best example. Both Pollard and Elliott were active in blowout wins over the Vikings (40-3) and Lions (24-6). In those games, Zeke scored exactly 17.70 points both times, while Pollard scored 39.9 (Vikings) and 12.9 (Lions).
That makes Pollard the better tournament option — his big play ability and passing game work raise his ceiling. The uncertainty of the backfield should keep his ownership down as well.
Cincinnati Bengals OL (#2 in Combined Line Yards, #14 in Combined Sack Rate) vs. Cleveland Browns DL
The Bengals are also favored, though this time only by six. It looks like a tougher pass-blocking matchup, so the ground game could rule the day.
Of course, this is another uncertain backfield, with Joe Mixon ($6,900) missing last week’s game. Samaje Perine ($6,300) has an excellent game in his stead, running for over 100 yards while picking up six catches. Mixon is currently listed as questionable but likely to play.
Whether Perine has done enough to earn a bigger role with Mixon in is the bigger question. While it’s a tough question to answer, that should keep ownership down on both backs, making them worth a sprinkle in larger tournaments.
Philadelphia Eagles OL (#3 in Combined Line Yards, #12 in Combined Sack Rate) vs. New York Giants DL
This game sets up nicely for Jalen Hurts ($8,100), partially because of the mediocre pass-blocking matchup. The Giants are reasonably strong at generating pressure off the edge, but that’s a problem against rushing quarterbacks. Hurts should have plenty of scramble opportunities here.
Hurts also get a fair amount of designed run calls, which is where the strong run-blocking matchup comes into play. The Eagles spread running back carries out widely enough that Hurts is the bigger beneficiary.
Hurts is expensive, but this is a near-ideal setup in the trenches. He’s an awesome GPP play and can even be used without one of his pass-catchers since we’re banking on rushing production.
Strong Defensive Line Matchups
Dallas Cowboys DL (#1 in Combined Sack Rate) vs. Houston Texans OL
As mentioned in the offensive side of the article, the Cowboys should dominate both sides of the ball here. Houston’s offensive line isn’t horrible — but they aren’t good either. They rank bottom-10 in both adjusted sack rate and adjusted line yards.
Therefore, Dallas ($3,800) is in an awesome spot. The huge spread means Houston should be playing from behind, letting the Cowboys pass rush pin their ears back and get after the quarterback. Dallas leads the NFL in sacks, with six more than the next closest team.
While the $3,800 price tag is a bit much, they have slate-breaking upside here and should be worth considering in GPPs.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (#4 in Combined Sack Rate) vs. San Francisco 49ers OL
One of the strengths of this article is being able to find cheaper defensive units that have upside beyond their price tag. That’s certainly the case with Tampa Bay ($2,900), who are taking on the Brock Purdy ($5,600) led 49ers this weekend.
They aren’t exactly a sneaky pick, as third-string quarterbacks always draw attention to the opposing defense. However, the Bucs defense ranks third in adjusted sack rate on the season, so it’s a good spot even against a middle-of-the-road offensive line.
Tampa is a slight underdog here, but the game has a total of just 37, making them one of the safer plays as well. They’re a solid cash game play with some upside for GPPs.
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