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 adjusted sack rate are a good way to judge a team’s strengths and weaknesses.
We’ve now officially hit the magical point in the season where our data is matchup adjusted, which lends a tremendous amount of predictive value to the numbers below.
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
Minnesota Vikings OL (#1 in Combined Line Yards, #9 in Combined Sack Rate) vs. Kansas City Chiefs DL
Matchups with the Chiefs present a bit of a catch-22 for opposing run games. On the one hand, Kansas City is very beatable on the ground. They are tied for 30th in adjusted line yards allowed and are somewhat of a run funnel defensively — ranking fourth against the pass and 17th against the run by DVOA.
On the other hand, the Chief’s explosive offense generally leads to negative game scripts for their opponents, which limits the amount of rushing volume.
That looks to be the case again this week, with Kansas City favored by four in a likely shootout. With Minnesota ranking third in pass rate over expectation (PROE), rushing attempts should be somewhat limited.
However, Alexander Mattison ($5,700) has a chance to get there on efficiency. He’s averaged 4.70 and 5.60 yards per carry over the past two weeks against teams with similar adjusted line yards rankings as the Chiefs. That leaves him in play as a GPP option, as he could hit the 100-yard bonus in less than 20 carries, with the potential to add a touchdown or two as well.
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Detroit Lions OL (#2 in Combined Line Yards, #10 in Combined Sack Rate) vs. Carolina Panthers DL
Conversely, we have zero concern about the volume for David Montgomery ($6,600) and the Lions rushing attack. Detroit is a 9.5-point favorite against the Panthers, who rank dead last in adjusted line yards allowed through four weeks.
The Lions also trail only Atlanta for the lowest PROE in the league this season, so they’ll keep it on the ground even if the game flow doesn’t dictate it. Montgomery is averaging an absurd 23 carries per game in his healthy contests this season, and we can reasonably project an uptick in efficiency based on the matchup.
Detroit currently ranks eighth in adjusted line yards on offense, despite two starting offensive linemen missing time (and the direct backup to one of those also going down.) Now, they should be fully healthy and well-rested following their Thursday game in Week 4.
Montgomery should easily see 20+ carries here and is more likely than not to top 100 yards on the ground. He also has the Lions goal line role sewn up, which could be immensely valuable with their 27-point total. He’s a smash play in all contest types.
Miami Dolphins OL (#3 in Combined Line Yards, #1 in Combined Sack Rate) vs. New York Giants DL
It was a rare down week for Tua Tagovailoa ($7,100) and the Dolphins passing attack last week. They took on the Bills, the league’s No. 1 team in adjusted sack rate. Tagovailoa produced just 14.98 DraftKings points.
Now, it’s a far better matchup against the Giants. Their anemic pass rush ranks 31st in adjusted sack rate, and they have as many sacks all season (four) as the Bills recorded against the Dolphins last week. That means Tua should have plenty of time for his downfield weapons, Tyreek Hill ($9,000) and Jaylen Waddle ($7,500) to get open.
Both receivers are in a smash spot, and it could be an ideal time to buy low on Waddle if he’s fully healthy this week. The Dolphins run game is also in an excellent position, though it’s a frustrating running back committee with Raheem Mostert ($6,200) and De’Von Achane ($6,100) getting near-even opportunities.
Still, both can be productive in a limited role thanks to their explosive abilities — as we saw with their dual four-touchdown performances against Denver.
Achane appears to be pulling away a bit, though, and is my preferred option of the pair.
Strong Defensive Line Matchups
Miami Dolphins DL (#1 in Adjusted Sack Rate) vs. New York Giants OL
It’s a pretty bad sign for the Giants that they’re in the worst matchup on offense and defense in the same week. That’s the situation, though, which should lead to increased pressure on Daniel Jones ($5,800) and an increased passing rate thanks to the Dolphins’ projected offensive success.
Miami ($3,600) is expensive, but currently projects as the highest scoring defense. Besides the poor offensive line play, Jones’ mistake-prone nature (six interceptions through four games) makes this one especially appealing.
This could also be an interesting week to play the Jameis Winston Special — that is stacking a QB and their opposing defense. Jones should produce a solid fantasy score in his own right, thanks to his legs and the game script, and almost nobody will roster that combination in tournaments.
Tennessee Titans DL (#8 in Combined Pressure Rate) vs. Indianapolis Colts OL
The Tennessee Defense ($2,400) doesn’t have the better matchup in their own game, but they’re extraordinarily cheap considering it’s still an above-average matchup overall.
The Titans rank tenth in adjusted sack rate on the season, while the Colts are 19th offensively in sack rate allowed. This is more of a floor play than a ceiling one, considering the Titans are underdogs, but it’s one of the lowest-total games on the board.
Both teams involved rank bottom-five in pass rate over expectation, so this should be a relatively slow-paced affair. I’m not banking on a massive score from the Titans, but they’re an excellent cash game option at a low price point.