One of the reasons we love Nick Chubb and I personally love Baker Mayfield is that it’s really hard to fail behind an offensive line that makes you vaccinated from the d-line. Every NFL quarterback is relatively accurate – but with a clean pocket and lots of time, even average throwers can look like Russell Wilson. Baker might not be high volume, but his efficiency should be amongst the league’s best. Baker is a sneaky bet to break out in a major way this year and finish as a QB1 in fantasy. Nick Chubb’s floor is more secure than 4 feet of concrete. People shying away from him in the early 2nd round because he “doesn’t catch passes” are going to feel some type of way when he averages 5.8 yards per carry this year and rips off a 50-yard touchdown on the ground bi-weekly.
The Kansas City Chiefs (7) are massively upgraded on the offensive line. It wasn’t pretty, starting off with the releases of saucy vets Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz, who formed one of the best tackle duos in the league. One step byke, two steps forward. The Chiefs went out and traded for Ravens starting tackle Orlando Brown for their first-round pick this year. The Brown signing only solidified one tackle spot, so KC dropped the guap on Joe Thuney to the tune of a 5-year, $80M purse. Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, the Chiefs starting guard in 2019, opted out of the 2020 season, leaving a void up front. He’s byke this year, but he’s dealing with a broken hand that’ll sideline him 4-6 weeks, he may or may not be ready for Week 1. Brown and Thuney weren’t enough, however, the Chiefs also signed the Rams former Center Austin Blythe who was a top-10 graded center per PFF last year. Then they drafted Creed Humphrey, a three-year starter at Oklahoma, in the 2nd round. Kansas City has both talent and depth on their o-line, a dirty cocktail. It makes you feel really good about Patrick Mahomes staying upright and healthy and I doubt there’s a scarier thing in the NFL than that. Maybe Derrick Henry in the open field, but even needing to have that conversation says enough. It also makes you feel better about Clyde Edwards-Helaire. If CEH can’t perform in 2021, he’s simply not good at football. One of the majorly disappointing aspects of CEH’s rookie season was his lack of finding the endzone on the goal line. This offensive line will prove to make that job much easier for him this year. 12+ touchdowns is not outside of the range of outcomes for the second-year, 1st round running back at Arrowhead Stadium.
After a super letdown year in 2020, the Dallas Cowboys line is healthy again and projected to be once again among the league’s best. People love to call Zeke washed, but by nearly every efficiency metric (broken tackles, yards created, juke rate), he’s the same player he’s always been – but the offensive line simply wasn’t what they were in years past. Their all-pro tackle, Tyron Smith, missed the majority of 2020. On the other side, La’el Collins missed all of 2020 with hip surgery. Zack Martin is an FDA-certified animal and 4th-year guard Connor Williams has gotten better with each season he’s played for the Boys. Their center spot remains a void following Travis Frederick’s retirement, but all-in-all, the return of their two top tackles can’t be understated for both Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott in 2021. Both guys are borderline top-5 fantasy options at their position.
The ranking of the Los Angeles Chargers might look low (18) at first glance, but in relativity, they’re the most improved offensive line in the NFL. They’ve been bottom of the barrel up front for too many years. This summer, they decided to the LA thing and improve what they have upfront, going full tit-job. They signed the best offensive lineman on the free-agent market, all-pro center Corey Linsley, away from the Green Bay Packers. They used their 1st round draft capital on the terrifying mauler Rashawn Slater from Northwestern. They went stealth mode with the additions of Matt Feiler and Oday Aboushi, too – both graded inside the top-32 guards per PFF. They might only rank 18th now, but don’t be surprised when they’re inside the top-12, even 10, by mid-season when this unit really starts to mesh. You want as many pieces of this Bolts offense as you can get – Herbert, Allen, Ekeler, Mike Williams – fuck it we’ll go full send on Jared Cook too.
The New York Jets, while improved upfront, still aren’t good (21). We’re a year away from investing into gang-green in season-long leagues. They have a ton of intriguing dynasty pieces including Zach Wilson, Elijah Moore and Michael Carter, but rookie fever is real and we need to be patient. They’re trending in the right direction, but they’re using a compass in a world of GPS. Don’t reach for anyone here.
The Las Vegas Raiders (25) let everyone on their offensive line go this offseason. They traded starting center Rodney Hudson to the Cardinals. They traded starting guard Gabe Jackson to the Seahawks. They traded starting tackle Trent Brown to the Patriots. They signed some unexciting names, with their only splash addition being the draft pick of (OT) Alex Leatherwood from Alabama 17th overall. Most draft people had Leatherwood pegged as a 2nd-3rd round draft pick. Uhhh. It’s an ugly situation that got uglier and is close to making me avoid anything to do with this ground game altogether. Realistically I never wanted any piece of Kenyan Drake, but even Josh Jacobs free-falling ADP is looking less and less enticing by the day.
Najee Harris and Joe Mixon are two guys whose situation looks wildly similar. Except people don’t realize the Bengals (30) offensive line is barely better than Pittsburgh’s (31). Both offenses sport a devastating trio of WRs and absolute shit offensive lines. I’m willing to draft both guys as low-end RB1s, because their volume is going to be speaker-breaking in 2021. But people acting as if they either have top-3/5 fantasy upside at the position need to switch from coffee to tea.
I’m shocked that the offensive line in Cincinnati is struggling after they passed up on Sewell in favor of Chase. I do like their approach of high-volume offensive line draft picks from round 2 onward, but a couple of rookies and the 38th graded tackle (Riley Reiff) isn’t suddenly going to transform into a top blocking unit. Baby moves convert to baby steps.
Like I wrote in our official all-fade list for 2021, Saquon‘s knee isn’t the only thing that concerns me for his 2021 fantasy outlook. The Giants offensive line ranks 32nd entering the year. It should make you think twice about drafting any player sporting royal blue in New Jersey this fall. Opposing defenders are going to live in the Giants backfield, so if Saquon’s knee is even a smidge less than 100%, he’s going to have a hard time shaking 2-3 defenders on every play. This also lines up for us to witness another miserable offensive output year for Daniel Jones, who struggles heavily under pressure (22nd in adjusted completion percentage and 29th in YPA while under pressure). The Giants offense scored 17.5 points per game in 2020, a pace that only the Jets failed to top. I’m not too confident that we see NYG climb out of the bottom-5 teams in scoring. That’s bad news for all parties: Jones, Saquon and the already-injured WR1 Kenny Golladay.
Offensive lines are sort of like Adderal, they ain’t necessarily gonna make or break what you got going on, but they can push you to the edge. If you ain’t that good, it’ll mask that. Everyone is smart on addy. Except for Snacks. Every running back is good behind a strong offensive line. Except for La’Mical Perine.
As I like to say, unless you have pinpoint accuracy as a QB, which very few do, you’re only going to be as good in fantasy as your rushing ability and your supporting cast. The offensive line is a big piece of that. It’s not the only, but it’s a big reason why non-mobile QBs like Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, succeed year-in and year-out. Good franchises build a good foundation.
For running backs, the fewer passes you catch, the more important the offensive line is. It’s REALLY hard to pull off an RB1 season with fewer than 40 targets. But it can be done if you’re offense is clicking and the o-line is opening things up like a white soccer mom after a glass of chardonnay. We’ve seen it with Ezekiel Elliott, Derrick Henry, Adrian Peterson. What they all had in common was that they weren’t catching shit. But their o-lines consistently ranked as some of the NFL’s best.