My last article shined a spotlight on the offensive lines and their Fantasy implications.
This is a follow up piece, focusing on players that may be undervalued based on potentially good offensive line situations, or overvalued based on potentially bad offensive line situations.
This is especially important for players on new teams, teams that made significant changes to their offensive lines, and teams that have a new Head Coach or Offensive Coordinator.
Tight ends and running backs are usually the most affected. Tight ends on poor pass blocking teams often have to stay in more to help in protection. Running backs obviously need holes to run through. The only statistical benefit from playing with a poor pass blocking team is more dump off receptions, usually to the RB. These dump offs rarely result in big yardage, but they can be extremely valuable in PPR leagues.
Here are some names whose production may be strongly impacted by the offensive lines that they play with.
Over/Undervalued Players Due To Their Offensive Line Situations
Undervalued Players Due To Their Offensive Line Situations
Doug Martin, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Martin is entering the fifth year in the NFL and has had two great years (last year and his 2012 rookie season). He also had two bad, injury plagued years in 2013 and 2014. In his two good seasons, where he started all 16 games, Martin averaged 1,428 rushing yards, 4.7 YPC, nine TDs, and 41 receptions. Those are stud like numbers. Martin is one of only six or seven top tier RBs, and he’s being selected near the end of the second round.
The Buccaneers offensive line is unique. In their first year with Dirk Koetter as Offensive Coordinator, they were the best run blocking line in the league last year with 4.8 team YPC. They were also the second worst pass blocking team, despite attempting the fewest passes in the league. They also added Guard J.R. Sweezy from Seattle in free agency and is regarded as a better run blocker than pass protector.
Koetter is replacing Lovie Smith as the Bucs new Head Coach. Koetter had great success as the OC in Jacksonville from 2007-2011, during Maurice Jones-Drew’s glory years (Martin has a very similar skill set as MJD used to have). The Jaguars ranked third in the NFL in rushing over that span.
Koetter’s hallmark is protecting the ball, protecting the QB, and a powerful, explosive running game. It’s pretty clear what the Bucs intend to do. They are going to pound the ball on the ground as much as possible, limiting the potential for Jameis Winston to make mistakes.
This Bucs offense is being constructed very similar to the Vikings; a run first and often philosophy, and a young developing QB they’d like to keep out of harms way. The only slight concern with Martin is his injury history. Drafting his backup Charles Sims as a handcuff is a must. Simms is a very talented runner in his own right.
Matt Forte, RB/Brandon Marshall WR, New York Jets
This is under the assumption that Ryan Fitzpatrick will be back as the starting QB, there’s no reason he shouldn’t be. The Jets have been one of the most underrated offensive lines in football for years. Their longtime stall worth at left tackle D’Brickishaw Ferguson did retire. He’ll be replaced by Ryan Clady, who missed all of last season due to injury. If Clady is healthy, there shouldn’t be too much of a drop off.
Last season the Jets had arguably the best pass protection in the league, allowing Fitzpatrick to get hit only 93 times on 626 drop backs (15% QHSP). They also provided enough running room for the mediocre Chris Ivory to average 4.3 YPC on his way to the first 1,000 yard season in his seven year career.
Forte is a significant upgrade over Ivory. Offensive Coordinator Chan Gaily has been singing his praises all offseason. In 2013 and 2014, Forte averaged over 1,900 total yards, 11 TDs, and 88 receptions. He had a down year last season, playing through injury and missing three games. He still finished with almost 1,300 total yards and seven TDs in 13 games. His YPC actually went up from 3.9 in 2014 to 4.1 last year.
I’m not concerned about Forte’s age or durability, I think he’s got a few good years left. The Jets have few receiving options after Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker, so Forte should catch a lot of passes. I have him as a Top 10 RB in PPR, and just outside the Top 10 in standard.
Marshall isn’t getting much love considering he just came off a 108 catch, 1,500 yard, 14 TD season. Even at age 32, Marshall is still a freakish athlete. He and Calvin Johnson were the first of the massive 230 pound WRs to come in and dominate the NFL, there have been many more since.
If you exclude the 2014 season (in which Marshall dealt with injury), in his last three full seasons, Marshall had over 100 catches each year, averaged 1,400 yards, and had 11, 12, and 14 TDs. He’s being drafted behind guys like Sammy Watkins, Brandin Cooks, and Amari Cooper (based solely on age bias). Like Forte, I have no concerns about Marshall’s age or durability. He also has a good offensive line to help give his QB time to throw him the ball.
Ryan Mathews, RB, Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles have a very talented offensive line. They also added mauling Guard Brandon Brooks from the Texans. The Eagles offensive line numbers looked pretty average last season with a 3.9 YPC and a 20% QHSP. I blame Chip Kelly entirely for this. I can’t image how taxing his ridiculous up-tempo system was on all these 300 pound giants. They had to be exhausted. It’s a miracle they were able to play as well as they did.
Enter new Head Coach Doug Pederson, former Offensive Coordinator of the Chiefs. The Chiefs had great success running the ball under Pederson. Granted they also had Jamaal Charles, but even when Charles went down last year, Charcandrick West and Spencer Ware also experienced success. I feel like Mathews has flown under the radar his whole career. I doubt many people even remember he was a first round pick for the Chargers. Mathews has lacked opportunity and struggled with injuries his whole career.
In the only two seasons where Mathews started 14 games in San Diego, he went for over 1,000 yards and six TDs both years. He also had 50 receptions for 455 yards one year. Mathews has a career 4.5 YPC, including a 5.0 YPC last season. I feel Matthews could be that guy nobody really expects to have a monster season. Considering he’s being drafted in the fourth and fifth rounds, he just might be that pick that wins leagues.
Ladarius Green, TE, Pittsburgh Steelers/Ben Watson, TE, Baltimore Ravens
Both of these TEs are setup for potential success this season. Both play for excellent pass blocking teams, which means they won’t have to help in protection much. Both are very talented receivers. Green is being drafted as about the No. 10 TE, and Watson is mainly going undrafted.
Green has a much higher ceiling that Watson does, mostly because of age. Green spent his first four seasons in the league stuck behind future HOF TE Antonio Gates. In the three games Green played last year without Gates on the field, he had 14 catches for 184 yards and two TDs. At 6’6”, 240 pounds, he has great speed and hands and will finally get a chance to show off his skill set in the potent Steelers offense.
Watson has been a solid, yet unspectacular player in this league for a long time. He had the best season of his career last year at age 34 with the Saints. In the only two seasons in his career where Watson started 16 games, he averaged 71 catches for 800 yards. The Ravens don’t have much talent at the skill positions, and Joe Flacco loves to throw to the TE. Watson could very well lead the Ravens in receptions.
Lamar Miller, RB, Houston Texans
I have a few concerns about Miller and the biggest concern is his offensive line. The Texans had an average offensive line at best last season. They lost their two best interior linemen in C Barrett Jones and G Brandon Brooks on top of that. Miller did overcome sub-par blocking in Miami to be pretty productive. However, Miller is being drafted way too early for the risk involved. He’s going a few spots ahead of Doug Martin. I can’t see any legitimate argument that Miller should be better Martin this year.
Miller started at least 15 games for the Dolphins the last three seasons. He only averaged 893 rushing yards, seven TDs, and 37 receptions in that span. Miller had the best game of his career versus Houston last year, scoring on an 85 yard run, and a 54 yard reception. This may have influenced the Texans some to sign Miller to such a big deal. Outside of the aforementioned Texans matchup, Miller did not have another run or catch of over 40 yards last year.
Miller does have a nice 4.6 career YPC though. It is true that he was not given a large workload in Miami, but is expected to see more touches in Houston. Is it possible that the Dolphins did not feel he could handle 300 touches a year? Or, did they just hold him back for some unknown reason? Who knows? You throw in the unknown commodity of Brock Osweiler at QB as well, and there are just too many risk factors with Miller to use a second round pick on him.
Mike Evans, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
If you read the reasons why I like Doug Martin so much, they are kind of the same reasons I don’t love Evans. The Buccaneers struggle mightily in pass protection and they will likely be near the bottom of the league in pass attempts again this season. Evans dropped from an amazing 12 TDs as a rookie to only three TDs last year.
Despite looking like an ideal red zone weapon at 6’5″, Evans caught only 3 of 17 red zone targets for two TDs. By comparison, Cameron Brate (the backup TE) caught 5 of 7 red zone targets for three TDs. The Bucs spread the ball around in the red zone, with 10 different players combining to catch Jameis Winston’s 17 red zone TD passes.
Evans is a great deep threat despite below average speed. He needs ample time to get downfield to make big plays, and that may be difficult for him. Also, the Buccaneers don’t have much in the way of other receiving threats with Vincent Jackson beginning to show signs of decline. Defenses will be able to roll their coverage towards Evans without much concern about getting beat on the other side.
Evans will surely have a few big, 150-plus yard games, most likely when playing teams with a strong run defense. But I think he will also have too many quiet games to justify how high he is being drafted.
Delanie Walker, Tight End, Tennessee Titans
The Titans had one of the worst offensive lines in the league last year. They did make significant upgrades acquiring C/G Barrett Jones from Houston and T Jack Conklin with the eighth overall pick in the draft. Both of these guys are definitely stronger run blockers than pass protectors. Not to mention the additions of RBs DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry. The Titans are obviously attempting to become a power running team.
Head Coach Mike Mularky has stated that he wants Walker to do more blocking this season. Walker is coming off a career year at age 31, with 94 receptions, 1,088 yards, andsix6 TDs. However, I don’t think you’re going to see those numbers from him again. Walker is also unusually short for a TE at 6’0″, which limits his ability to be a major redzone target. With Walker being drafted as the No. 6 or 7 TE, I would rather take my chances a little later with someone else like a Ladarius Green or Julius Thomas.
Any Player on the San Francisco 49ers or Cleveland Browns
Between questionable coaching changes, questionable QB play, and questionable offensive lines, I’m not touching any player from these two offenses. Gary Barnidge is a quality tight end, and RB Duke Johnson Jr. could have some value in PPR leagues, but I still want nothing to do with these potentially poisonous offenses.
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