From pass protection to run blocking, every aspect of the modern NFL offense runs through the O-line. Aside from skill position players themselves, nothing has a larger impact on the outcome of a play call than the battle up front. In the Offensive Line Overview series, we look at which of the league’s 32 offensive lines are trending up and down.
Without further ado, let’s check in at which O-lines around the league are looking up and which are holding their team back.
Vikings: Attempts to repair the offensive line appear to have finally paid off. That success is coming largely on the backs of Brian O’Neill, who’s surprisingly emerging as a top tackle in the league, and Pat Elflein, back in his natural position as a guard. Rookie first-round pick Garrett Bradbury has struggled in his transition to the NFL-level, but if he’s able to put it all together by the end of the year, Minnesota’s O-line could crack the league’s top-ten units.
What to watch: For three straight weeks, the Vikings have accumulated at least 170 rushing yards. Most of that total has come on the back of Dalvin Cook, who isn’t showing any signs of slowing down. Barring injury, Cook is in the conversation with Christian McCaffery to lead the league in scrimmage yards.
Raiders: Oakland’s offensive line has seemingly improved with each passing week. That recently culminated in a convincing win over the Chicago Bears, in which Khalil Mack was held entirely in check and Josh Jacobs notched the first 100-yard rushing performance of his young career. The O-line has dominated in run blocking, which is exactly what the Raiders need to excel in with Tyrell Williams nursing an injury, and little star power behind him. After their bye week the unit will face off against Green Bay, a team that’s shown weakness in defending the run. Expect a similar gameplan going forward, and as long as it remains effective.
What to watch: Derek Carr has underwhelmed for fantasy purposes through five games, averaging only 223.4 yards and 1.2 TDs per contest to go with 0.6 INTs. Those numbers are exactly as mediocre as Carr’s weekly fantasy finishes have been, and it’s in large part due to what little he’s being asked to accomplish under center. His YPA is at a near career-low (only his 2017 season was worse), and he’s attempted just one deep pass (of 40+ yards) all season. Given that the Raiders have only found success leaning on the running game, Carr possesses minimal value outside of 2QB formats.
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Rams: Coming off a long offseason of turnover at the O-line, the Rams embraced the risky approach of relying on young, inexperienced starters. Second-year pros Joseph Noteboom and Brian Allen have, in essence, been clear liabilities through five starts. That isn’t to say the book is out on either player’s career, but both will require more time to transition to the NFL-level before serving as reliable starters. Regression across the board from starters Rob Havenstein, Austin Blythe and Andrew Whitworth. For Whitworth — who made the Pro Bowl each of the last three seasons — to struggle notably is a particular surprise. L.A.’s worst-case scenario may be manifesting: young players unable to make the leap, surrounded by veterans on the decline.
What to Watch: With Todd Gurley nursing a bruised quadriceps, the Rams could finally cede notable offensive snaps to rookie Darrell Henderson. To this point in the season, he’s only played two snaps on offense. Of course, Malcolm Brown would stand to be the main beneficiary of Gurley missing time, but with how the O-line has struggled in pass protection, Henderson could realistically have value as a passing-down option if Gurley can’t go.
Buccaneers: The story here is simple. Neither Demar Dotson or Alex Cappa is travelling with the team to London, guaranteeing that the Bucs will be without both starters along the right side of the offensive line. Entering a matchup against Carolina’s defense, which boasts one of the best pass rushes in the NFL through five games, that’s nothing short of a recipe for disaster.
What to Watch: Paradoxical as it may seem, through his career Jameis Winston has been remarkably consistent in his inconsistency. The 25-year-old has shown an ability to thrive when given ample protection in the pocket, along with a tendency to break down when battling consistent pressure. Given the health of his O-line heading into Week 6, things appear to be trending towards Winston facing the latter scenario.