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Does Offensive Line Performance Impact Fantasy Football Production?

By Jared Smola | Updated on Sat, 13 Apr 2024 . 5:40 PM EDT

Should Fantasy Footballers Care About Offensive Lines?

The answer is: “It depends.”

It depends on the position. And it depends on the player archetype.

I’ll explain below.

But first, a quick look at the process I used to evaluate how much offensive line play impacts fantasy production.

I took total half-PPR fantasy points scored by each team at each position over each of the last three seasons. Then I compared those totals to these offensive-line metrics to look for correlation:

Pass-Blocking Metrics

Run-Blocking Metrics

The table below shows the r-squared value for each combination of half-PPR points and offensive line metric. The higher the number, the more useful that metric is in helping us project fantasy football production.

So, offensive line play matters more for some positions than others.

Let’s go position by position and look at the results of this study – and what they mean for your 2023 fantasy football season.

TIP

Check out our 2023 Offensive Line Rankings.

 

Impact of Offensive Line Play on QB Fantasy Production

You’d think a QB’s fantasy production is closely tied to the quality of his offensive line. But you’d be (mostly) wrong.

As you’d expect, adjusted sack rate is negatively correlated to QB fantasy production. (As adjusted sack rate goes up, QB fantasy production goes down.)

But the relationship isn’t very strong. That R-squared value tells us that just 11.5% of QB fantasy production can be explained by adjusted sack rate.

The relationship between pass block grade and pass block win rate and QB fantasy production is even weaker (9.2% and 5.7%).

So while offensive line play is a factor in QB fantasy production, it’s small.

What’s It Mean For 2023?

Use offensive line play as a tiebreaker between two closely ranked QBs. But don’t knock QBs who play behind poor offensive lines too far down your fantasy football cheat sheet.

That means guys like Matt Stafford and Ryan Tannehill, who project to play behind leaky offensive lines, could actually be values if they slip too far in drafts.

 

Impact of Offensive Line Play on RB Fantasy Production

Offensive line play matters much more for RBs than any other position.

Although there’s notably very little correlation between ESPN’s run block win rate and RB production, adjusted line yards explain 24.6% of RB half-PPR production. run block grade is just behind at 20.0%.

That’s significant correlation. So offensive line play should definitely be factored in when evaluating RB outlooks.

But it matters more for some RBs than others …

Offensive Line Play Doesn’t Matter for RB Receiving Production

Not surprisingly, offensive line play has a significant impact on RB rushing production.

But the numbers show that OL play has basically no impact on RB receiving production. 

In fact, there are actually slight negative correlations between PFF pass block grade and ESPN pass block win rate and RB half-PPR receiving points.

In other words, as pass block grade and pass block win rate worsen, RB receiving production increases.

Why? My guess is that, while poor pass blocking hurts overall passing production, it forces QBs to throw more quick-hitting passes to RBs.

What’s It Mean For 2023?

Offensive line play should be a significant factor in our RB evaluations. But how big a factor depends on the RB archetype.

RBs that score the majority of their fantasy points via rushing are most impacted by their offensive lines.

That's good news for guys like Bijan Robinson and Nick Chubb, who will see big rushing volume and play behind strong run-blocking offensive lines. 

Isiah Pacheco, David Montgomery, and Rashaad Penny are three RBs who could see significant ball-carrying volume behind sturdy O-lines.

On the flip side, offensive line play is a potential concern for Derrick HenryTravis Etienne, Dameon Pierce, and Brian Robinson. Those guys project to score the majority of their fantasy points on the ground but play behind shaky offensive lines.

Saquon Barkley and James Conner will also be running behind subpar O-lines. But it's not as big a concern for them because they do so much in their respective passing games.

 

Impact of Offensive Line Play on WR Fantasy Production

There’s a strong correlation between Adjusted Sack Rate and WR half-PPR production …

… but very little signal from PFF pass block grade or pass block win rate.

It seems like the quality of pass protection matters less for WR production than having the QB simply avoid sacks (fewer sacks = more pass attempts = more targets).

What’s It Mean For 2023?

We want WRs from teams who project for the lowest adjusted sack rates. The top 5 last year:

  1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3.4%)
  2. Detroit Lions (4.2%)
  3. Dallas Cowboys (4.7%)
  4. Jacksonville Jaguars (4.7%)
  5. Kansas City Chiefs (4.8%)

Tom Brady had as much to do with the Bucs' adjusted sack rate as the offensive line. Expect that number to climb in 2023.

But the Lions, Cowboys, Jaguars, and Chiefs project to again have strong pass-blocking offensive lines. Good news for Amon-Ra St. Brown, CeeDee Lamb, Calvin Ridley, Christian Kirk, and whoever emerges as Kansas City's top WRs.

The news isn't good for D.J. Moore, who joins a Bears offense that easily ranked dead last with a 13.0% adjusted sack rate last year. With QB Justin Fields back and the offensive line unlikely to be significantly better in 2023, it's a knock against Moore's fantasy outlook.

DeAndre Hopkins and Treylon Burks could also be hurt by what looks like a bad Titans offensive line.

You might be surprised to see where D.J. Moore sits in the WR Rankings.

 

Impact of Offensive Line Play on TE Fantasy Production

There’s not a strong relationship between offensive line performance and TE fantasy production. 

Interestingly, pass block win rate is the most correlated to TE half-PPR points among our three metrics – while being least correlated at WR. But that 0.13 R-squared is not particularly significant.

What’s It Mean For 2023?

Offensive line performance should not be a significant factor in the TE Rankings.

 

Don't Wanna Worry About Offensive Line Performance During Your Draft?

Yeah, we get it.

That's why we do it for you. Offensive line play is factored into our most accurate player rankings.

And you can turn those rankings into a customized cheat sheet with the Draft War Room, the most powerful drafting tool in fantasy football.

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