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. Once we get further into the season, I will be heavily leveraging Football Outsiders data, including pressure rate and adjusted line yards. Those stats usually need four weeks of data to become matchup-adjusted.
Once we get in the swing of the 2022 season, this column will feature a pair of tables: one ranking all line matchups in the passing game (using adjusted sack rate) and one in the rushing game (adjusted line yards).
Without further ado, here are some potential Week 1 mismatches.
Strong Offensive Line Matchups
Philadelphia Eagles OL (#1 in Anderson’s Rankings) vs. Detroit Lions DL (#26 in PFF’s D-line rankings)
To quote Anderson, “the Eagles are number one with a bullet.” They check all of the boxes we’re looking for in an offensive line, Four of their five starters ranked top five in run-block win rate last season, and they’re returning all five starters from last year.
That continuity is important in line play, which is highly collaborative. The Eagles’ line was banged up for much of last year, and they’re an aging unit, but at least for Week 1 should still be one of the best groups in the NFL.
The Lions’ defensive line is far more questionable. Despite adding Aidan Hutchinson — the favorite for defensive rookie of the year — with the No. 2 pick, this is a fairly weak unit overall. Most of their talent is on the edges — with a fairly weak — or at least unproven — group up the middle.
That creates a better situation for the Eagles’ run game that has its own set of question marks. They should be a highly efficient unit in Week 1, even if touches are maddeningly split among Miles Sanders, Kenneth Gainwell, and Boston Scott.
Still, it’s a strong spot overall for the Eagles in Week 1. Jalen Hurts should have plenty of time to throw, and lanes will be open for the backs.
Kansas City Chiefs OL (#2 in Anderson’s Rankings) vs. Arizona Cardinals DL (#27 in PFF’s D-line rankings)
After an embarrassing showing in the 2021 Super Bowl, Kansas City totally revamped its line last season. All five starters were new, but it worked; Kansas City ranked eighth in adjusted line yards and fourth in adjusted sack rate in 2021. They should be even better this season, with a full year of working together under their belt.
They have a great chance to prove that in Week 1. They’re facing the Arizona Cardinals, who are fairly weak up front behind an aging JJ Watt. They lost Chandler Jones and added two rookie edge rushers. Jones was an impact player last year, so it should be a notable dropoff.
Patrick Mahomes ranked 37th among quarterbacks with at least 200 snaps last season in completion rate under pressure. Finding situations where he has a clean pocket is especially important for Mahomes. Obviously, the run game should benefit from the mismatch too.
Like Philadelphia, the Chiefs’ backfield situation is a bit murky at the moment. Still, Week 1 might be the best time to take a swing at a Clyde Edwards-Helaire breakout. Or from a contrarian standpoint, Ronald Jones (somewhat surprisingly) made the Chiefs’ roster and is probably their best between-the-tackles rusher.
San Francisco 49ers OL (#13 in Anderson’s Rankings) vs. Chicago Bears DL (#31 in PFF’s D-line rankings)
San Francisco features a solid group anchored by all-world left tackle Trent Williams. They have a new left guard and center on the unit, though, which could be an issue early in the season.
Last season, they were far better in run blocking than pass protection, ranking top 10 in adjusted line yards but below league average in pressure rate. That’s likely to continue here, with two new interior linemen. That’s probably not the worst thing for a run-heavy team like San Francisco though.
On the other hand, this pick is more based on the futility of the Bears’ unit than the strength of the Niners’. The post-Khalil Mack Bears are extremely thin behind Robert Quinn, who’s more “above average” than a star. With Quinn occupied by the Niners’ tackles, don’t expect much from Chicago in Week 1.
Elijah Mitchell should handle the bulk of the running back snaps for San Francisco, making him an excellent Week 1 option.
Strong Defensive Line Matchups
For the defensive line mismatches, I’ll try to limit the analysis to teams that DFS players might actually have some interest in. For example, Anderson has the Bears’ offensive line ranked dead last, but it’s unlikely there’s much Week 1 interest in David Montgomery or Justin Fields anyway.
This section also highlights some units that are worth considering for your Week 1 DST on DraftKings. Sacks and pressure are far more important for fantasy scoring than point prevention.
Washington Commanders DL (#2 in PFF’s D-line rankings) vs. Jacksonville Jaguars OL (#27 in Anderson’s Rankings)
The Commanders have an extremely talented group up front that was largely disappointing in 2021. Much of that was due to losing 15 games from Chase Young and Montez Sweat, who combined to miss 15 games last year. When healthy, both were in the top 10 among edge rushers in PFF’s Wins Above Replacement.
They’re strong in the middle, too, with interior lineman Jonathan Allen ranking top five in pass-rush win rate since 2020. Assuming they’re healthy — which is safer in Week 1 — they’ll challenge for the most productive unit in the league.
The Jaguars line remains one of the league’s worst units and, at best, will be similar to last year’s group. They signed Brandon Scherff but only drafted one lineman, and not until the third round. There will be spots to play Travis Etienne, Trevor Lawrence, and the rest of the Jags offense, but Week 1 probably isn’t it.
Larence ranked 36th among QBs with at least 200 snaps in The 33rd Team’s pressure rating last season.
Los Angeles Chargers DL (#7 in PFF’s D-line rankings) vs. Las Vegas Raiders OL (#28 in Anderson’s Rankings)
The Raiders offense overall should be much improved in 2022, thanks to the addition of Davante Adams. Those improvements might not show in Week 1, though, thanks to the struggles of the offensive line.
Quarterback Derek Carr isn’t exactly mobile and ranked 26th in the 33rd team’s pressure rating among quarterbacks with at least 200 snaps last season. The Chargers defense added Khalil Mack to an already dangerous unit with Joey Bosa, so expect a lot of throwaways from Carr in Week 1.
With the Raiders’ offensive line ranking near the bottom of Anderson’s rankings, I’ll be careful to only play them when facing less ferocious pass rushes. That’s not the case this week.
With the Chargers as 3.5-point home favorites in Week 1, their defense could be a sneaky tournament option.