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Draft Prep 2011: Setting the lines

Senior Fantasy Writer
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Unless you're really, really into Fantasy Football, offensive lines aren't a part of your annual Draft Day routine. Nor should they be -- but they should be part of your preparation before you make picks.

The big fellas up front are responsible for giving running backs gaps to run through and holding off defenders so quarterbacks have a few seconds to throw to their intended targets. When a team's offensive line gets worse, be it over the course of an offseason or a game due to an injury, the other offensive players struggle.

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So we've taken the liberty of grading the offensive lines for you as they stand headed into the preseason. We grade every starting lineman individually on a scale much like your basic school report card. We also give slightly higher grades to linemen who have been in the same scheme and/or with the same team for several seasons. Coaching has also become a big factor in how offensive lines are judged. We also improve grades if the starter listed has a capable backup behind him -- depth is a huge key to success in the NFL. And as we've done in the past, no rookie is eligible for a grade higher than a 'B.'

Once every lineman was graded, we computed the cumulative average without a curve or weighing blind-side tackles more than others. As any offensive line coach would say, a line is as strong as its weakest link, so we grade accordingly.

We also added the number of false start and offensive holding penalties charged to each team. Though the numbers reflect the total amount of penalties, meaning that skill-position player penalties are included, we strongly believe that the overwhelming majority of these penalties were committed by linemen. Coaches have seen these stats and will undoubtedly move to make these numbers drop. The higher the total, the more work that needs to be done.

Is this a secret to winning at Fantasy Football? It can be. Last year we had a pretty high grade on the Texans offensive line and they helped carry Arian Foster to a rushing title. Then again, we had an awful grade on the Bears' O-line -- and they were awful -- but Matt Forte had a solid season anyway (not so much for Jay Cutler). At the very least, consider them "tiebreakers" just as you might with our schedule analysis. For instance, if you find yourself debating between Shonn Greene and Ryan Mathews, at least you know the Jets have the stronger O-line.

Offensive line rankings
Rank Team GPA Grade '10 Grade
1 Carolina Panthers 3.33 B+ B
2 Philadelphia Eagles 3.264 B B
3 New England Patriots 3.13 B B
4 Houston Texans 3.062 B B
4 Miami Dolphins 3.062 B B
6 New York Jets 2.996 B B
7 New Orleans Saints 2.93 B B+
7 San Francisco 49ers 2.93 B B-
7 St. Louis Rams 2.93 B C+
10 Baltimore Ravens 2.864 B- B+
10 Cleveland Browns 2.864 B- B-
10 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2.864 B- B
13 Tennessee Titans 2.862 B- B
14 New York Giants 2.796 B- B
14 Cincinnati Bengals 2.664 B- B
14 Denver Broncos 2.664 B- B-
17 Green Bay Packers 2.6 B- B-
18 Dallas Cowboys 2.596 C+ B
18 Jacksonville Jaguars 2.596 C+ B-
18 Minnesota Vikings 2.596 C+ B
18 San Diego Chargers 2.596 C+ B
22 Atlanta Falcons 2.594 C B
23 Kansas City Chiefs 2.53 C+ B-
24 Washington Redskins 2.528 C+ C+
25 Indianapolis Colts 2.462 C+ B-
26 Detroit Lions 2.396 C+ C+
27 Pittsburgh Steelers 2.328 C+ B-
28 Seattle Seahawks 2.262 C B-
29 Arizona Cardinals 2.064 C B-
30 Oakland Raiders 1.93 C- C+
31 Chicago Bears 1.928 C- C
32 Buffalo Bills 1.464 C- C-

Arizona Cardinals
Returning Starters: 3 False Starts: 17 Offensive Holding: 20
LT LG C RG RT
Levi Brown Daryn Colledge Lyle Sendlein Deuce Lutui Brandon Keith
C+ C C+ C C-
Cumulative GPA: 2.064 (C)
Atlanta Falcons
Returning Starters: 4 False Starts: 10 Offensive Holding: 15
LT LG C RG RT
Sam Baker Justin Blalock Todd McClure Garrett Reynolds Tyson Clabo
C+ B- B- C- A-
Cumulative GPA: 2.594 (C)
Baltimore Ravens
Returning Starters: 4 False Starts: 28 Offensive Holding: 14
LT LG C RG RT
Michael Oher Ben Grubbs Matt Birk Marshal Yanda Jah Reid
B A B- B C-
Cumulative GPA: 2.864 (B-)
Buffalo Bills
Returning Starters: 3 False Starts: 21 Offensive Holding: 18
LT LG C RG RT
Demetrius Bell Andy Levitre Eric Wood Kraig Urbik Mansfield Wrotto
C- C C- D D
Cumulative GPA: 1.464 (C-)
Carolina Panthers
Returning Starters: 5 False Starts: 24 Offensive Holding: 24
LT LG C RG RT
Jordan Gross Travelle Wharton Ryan Kalil Geoff Schwartz Jeff Otah
A B- A C+ A-
Cumulative GPA: 3.33 (B+)
Chicago Bears
Returning Starters: 2 False Starts: 24 Offensive Holding: 33
LT LG C RG RT
J'Marcus Webb Chris Williams Chris Spencer Roberto Garza Gabe Carimi
C- C- C- C+ C+
Cumulative GPA: 1.928 (C-)
Cincinnati Bengals
Returning Starters: 5 False Starts: 22 Offensive Holding: 20
LT LG C RG RT
Andrew Whitworth Nate Livings Kyle Cook Bobbie Williams Andre Smith
A C- C+ B+ C
Cumulative GPA: 2.664 (B-)
Cleveland Browns
Returning Starters: 4 False Starts: 14 Offensive Holding: 19
LT LG C RG RT
Joe Thomas Eric Steinbach Alex Mack Shawn Lauvao Tony Pashos
A+ C+ A C- C
Cumulative GPA: 2.864 (B-)
Dallas Cowboys
Returning Starters: 3 False Starts: 29 Offensive Holding: 21
LT LG C RG RT
Doug Free Kyle Kosier Andre Gurode Montrae Holland Tyron Smith
B+ C+ A- C- C
Cumulative GPA: 2.596 (C+)
Denver Broncos
Returning Starters: 4 False Starts: 17 Offensive Holding: 22
LT LG C RG RT
Ryan Clady Zane Beadles J.D. Walton Chris Kuper Orlando Franklin
A B- C B C-
Cumulative GPA: 2.664 (B-)
Detroit Lions
Returning Starters: 5 False Starts: 24 Offensive Holding: 23
LT LG C RG RT
Jeff Backus Rob Sims Dominic Raiola Stephen Peterman Gosder Cherilus
B- B- B C- C
Cumulative GPA: 2.396 (C+)
Green Bay Packers
Returning Starters: 4 False Starts: 21 Offensive Holding: 14
LT LG C RG RT
Chad Clifton Marshall Newhouse Scott Wells Josh Sitton Bryan Bulaga
B C B B C
Cumulative GPA: 2.6 (B-)
Houston Texans
Returning Starters: 4 False Starts: 14 Offensive Holding: 12
LT LG C RG RT
Duane Brown Wade Smith Chris Myers Mike Brisiel Eric Winston
B- B A- C+ A-
Cumulative GPA: 3.062 (B)
Indianapolis Colts
Returning Starters: 3 False Starts: 20 Offensive Holding: 16
LT LG C RG RT
Anthony Castonzo Ben Ijalana Jeff Saturday Mike Pollak Ryan Diem
C+ C- B+ B- C+
Cumulative GPA: 2.462 (C+)
Jacksonville Jaguars
Returning Starters: 4 False Starts: 15 Offensive Holding: 22
LT LG C RG RT
Eugene Monroe Jason Spitz Brad Meester Uche Nwaneri Eben Britton
B B- B C- B-
Cumulative GPA: 2.596 (C+)
Kansas City Chiefs
Returning Starters: 4 False Starts: 20 Offensive Holding: 23
LT LG C RG RT
Branden Albert Ryan Lilja Casey Wiegmann Jon Asamoah Ryan O'Callaghan
C+ B+ B- C+ C
Cumulative GPA: 2.53 (C+)
Miami Dolphins
Returning Starters: 3 False Starts: 19 Offensive Holding: 23
LT LG C RG RT
Jake Long Richie Incognito Mike Pouncey Vernon Carey Marc Colombo
A+ B- B B- B-
Cumulative GPA: 3.062 (B)
Minnesota Vikings
Returning Starters: 4 False Starts: 31 Offensive Holding: 18
LT LG C RG RT
Charlie Johnson Steve Hutchinson John Sullivan Anthony Herrera Phil Loadholt
C- B+ B- C+ B
Cumulative GPA: 2.596 (C+)
New England Patriots
Returning Starters: 5 False Starts: 16 Offensive Holding: 15
LT LG C RG RT
Matt Light Logan Mankins Dan Koppen Dan Connolly Sebastian Vollmer
B- A+ B+ C+ B
Cumulative GPA: 3.13 (B)
New Orleans Saints
Returning Starters: 4 False Starts: 16 Offensive Holding: 28
LT LG C RG RT
Jermon Bushrod Carl Nicks Olin Kreutz Jahri Evans Jon Stinchcomb
B- A- C+ B B
Cumulative GPA: 2.93 (C+)
New York Giants
Returning Starters: 3 False Starts: 19 Offensive Holding: 26
LT LG C RG RT
Will Beatty David Diehl David Baas Chris Snee Kareem McKenzie
C+ B C- A- B+
Cumulative GPA: 2.796 (B-)
New York Jets
Returning Starters: 5 False Starts: 17 Offensive Holding: 23
LT LG C RG RT
D'Brickashaw Ferguson Matt Slauson Nick Mangold Brandon Moore Wayne Hunter
A C+ A+ B- C-
Cumulative GPA: 2.996 (B)
Oakland Raiders
Returning Starters: 2 False Starts: 32 Offensive Holding: 30
LT LG C RG RT
Jared Veldheer Roy Schuening Stefen Wisniewski Cooper Carlisle Joe Barksdale
B+ D+ C D+ C-
Cumulative GPA: 1.93 (C-)
Philadelphia Eagles
Returning Starters: 3 False Starts: 16 Offensive Holding: 26
LT LG C RG RT
Jason Peters Todd Herremans Jamaal Jackson Evan Mathis Ryan Harris
B A- B B+ B+
Cumulative GPA: 3.264 (B)
Pittsburgh Steelers
Returning Starters: 4 False Starts: 15 Offensive Holding: 37
LT LG C RG RT
Willie Colon Chris Kemoeatu Maurkice Pouncey Ramon Foster Jonathan Scott
B C- A- C- C-
Cumulative GPA: 2.328 (C+)
San Diego Chargers
Returning Starters: 4 False Starts: 12 Offensive Holding: 18
LT LG C RG RT
Marcus McNeill Kris Dielman Nick Hardwick Brandyn Dombrowski Jeromey Clary
B+ B B+ C- C-
Cumulative GPA: 2.596 (C+)
Seattle Seahawks
Returning Starters: 2 False Starts: 22 Offensive Holding: 32
LT LG C RG RT
Russell Okung Robert Gallery Max Unger Mike Gibson James Carpenter
B- B B- D+ C-
Cumulative GPA: 2.262 (C)
San Francisco 49ers
Returning Starters: 4 False Starts: 24 Offensive Holding: 20
LT LG C RG RT
Joe Staley Mike Iupati Jonathan Goodwin Chilo Rachal Anthony Davis
B+ B+ B- B C+
Cumulative GPA: 2.93 (B-)
St. Louis Rams
Returning Starters: 3 False Starts: 29 Offensive Holding: 22
LT LG C RG RT
Rodger Saffold Jacob Bell Jason Brown Harvey Dahl Jason Smith
B- B B+ A- C
Cumulative GPA: 2.93 (B)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Returning Starters: 4 False Starts: 18 Offensive Holding: 27
LT LG C RG RT
Donald Penn Ted Larsen Jeff Faine Davin Joseph Jeremy Trueblood
B+ C- B B+ B
Cumulative GPA: 2.864 (B-)
Tennessee Titans
Returning Starters: 5 False Starts: 23 Offensive Holding: 28
LT LG C RG RT
Michael Roos Leroy Harris Eugene Amano Jake Scott David Stewart
B+ B- B- B- B
Cumulative GPA: 2.862 (B-)
Washington Redskins
Returning Starters: 2 False Starts: 22 Offensive Holding: 21
LT LG C RG RT
Trent Williams Kory Lichtensteiger Chris Chester Will Montgomery Jammal Brown
B- C+ C+ B- B-
Cumulative GPA: 2.528 (C+)

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter @CBSFantasyFB . You can also follow Dave at @daverichard . Do you have a question or a comment for our Fantasy staff? Drop us a line at dmfantasyfootball@cbs.com .

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Player News
Andre Williams could surprise again
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(6:58 pm ET) Though I don't know that he's ready for a platoon role, believing his strong showing Week 4 at Washington happened mainly because the Giants saw fit to rest their starting running back in a blowout, rookie Andre Williams has the perfect matchup to make the most of whatever opportunities he gets Week 5 against Atlanta. The Falcons rank 28th against the run, allowing 153.5 yards per game, and have given up nine touchdowns on the ground, four more than any other team.

Even better, they've been sort of the magic elixir for running back tandems this season. Not only did the Vikings' Matt Asiata and Jerick McKinnon both have big games against them last week, the former rushing for 78 yards and three touchdowns and the latter rushing for 135 yards, but the Bengals' Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill both had big games against them in Week 2, the former rushing for 90 yards and a touchdown and the latter rushing for 74 yards and a touchdown.

Of the two lead CBSSports.com Fantasy Football analysts, Jamey Eisenberg ranks Williams the highest for this week, placing him 28th among running backs, so we're talking little more than an emergency flex option in standard 12-team leagues. Still, you wouldn't be completely out of your mind to play him coming off last week's performance.


Rashad Jennings should come roaring back
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(6:39 pm ET) After being limited to just three touches in the second half of a blowout victory Week 4 at Washington, Giants running back Rashad Jennings has a chance to get back in his Fantasy owners' good graces in Week 5. He'll be facing a Falcons defense that just gave up 241 rushing yards to the Vikings, making them 28th against the run. They've also allowed nine touchdowns on the ground, four more than any other team.

Because rookie Andre Williams performed so well in relief of Jennings last week, rushing for 66 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries, you may be worried the two will split carries in some form or fashion going forward. While I don't think that's much of a concern -- Williams was already getting 5-10 carries a game and not doing much with them -- I'm not sure it really matters with this matchup. The Falcons have been the magic elixir for running back tandems this season. Not only did the Vikings' Matt Asiata and Jerick McKinnon both have big games against them last week, the former rushing for 78 yards and three touchdowns and the latter rushing for 135 yards, but the Bengals' Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill both had big games against them in Week 2, the former rushing for 90 yards and a touchdown and the latter rushing for 74 yards and a touchdown.

Jamey Eisenberg and Dave Richard both rank Jennings among their top six running backs for Week 5, and I agree wholeheartedly. He remains a must-start despite the disappointment of last week.


Alfred Morris running into tough matchup
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(5:57 pm ET) For as good as Alfred Morris is, owning him in Fantasy can leave you disappointed at times, given the Redskins' sometimes-inconsistent usage of him. You might want to skip the headache in Week 5, with the Seahawks on the way Monday night.

Morris has been productive in each game so far, and currently ranks fifth in the NFL in rushing yardage through four games. Unfortunately, he faces one of the toughest tests in the league this week. The Seahawks have yet to allow an opposing running back to score even six points this season, and their lone touchdown allowed came from little-used Packers fullback John Kuhn in Week 1. Morris has yet to face Seattle in his career, and they are unlikely to give him a very warm welcome.

Morris is nearly a must-start Fantasy option on a weekly basis, but this is one time you might want to avoid relying on him. The workload should be there, but Morris ranks outside of the top-30 for running backs in both Jamey Eisenberg and Dave Richard's Week 5 rankings.   


Jets add LeQuan Lewis, subtract Brandon Smith
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(5:55 pm ET) The Jets signed cornerback LeQuan Lewis to their practice squad and released corner Brandon Smith from the squad, reports the New York Daily News.

Panthers add Tauren Poole, Horace Miller to practice squad
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(5:50 pm ET) The Panthers signed running back Tauren Poole and linebacker Horace Miller to their practice squad.

Austin Seferian-Jenkins an interesting long-term prospect
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(5:48 pm ET) Buccaneers tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins returned from a foot injury and immediately served as a key part of the offense in Week 4. Does the rookie second-rounder have sleeper Fantasy potential moving forward?

Seferian-Jenkins was targeted on seven of quarterback Mike Glennon's 42 throws in Sunday's game, a number that left him third on the team. He brought in three of those passes, a decent number considering Glennon struggled with his accuracy all game. The fact that Glennon looked his way so often might be a good sign, since it was the pair's first game together.

After a collegiate career that saw him total 1,840 yards in three seasons, Seferian-Jenkins has a chance to become a big part of this Tampa Bay offense. However, he obviously has a lot to prove before you want to rely on him. Keep an eye on Seferian-Jenkins' play in Week 5 against the Saints, and consider adding him if he and Glennon show a good rapport. 


Lions put Montell Owens on IR
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(5:47 pm ET) The Lions put running back Montell Owens on injured reserve with a hamstring injury, ending his season.

LaMichael James signs with Dolphins
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(5:42 pm ET) Former 49ers running back LaMichael James signed with the Dolphins, reports Fox Sports. San Francisco released the oft-injured back following the season opener.

Luke Willson has a lot to prove with increased role
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(5:35 pm ET) The Seahawks will turn to Luke Willson to start at tight end in the coming weeks, with Zach Miller sidelined by ankle surgery. Should Fantasy owners take notice?

Miller had logged 83.5 percent of the team's snaps through three games, so Willson should be in line for a much larger role as the starter. Of course, Miller was nearly a nonfactor in the passing game so far, having been targeted just seven times. Between he and Willson, quarterback Russell Wilson has targeted tight ends just eight times on 87 attempts, after 20.6 percent of his passes went their way a year ago.

Willson might be the better pass catcher of the Seahawks tight end tandem, but we don't have much to go on here. There are better tight end options worth targeting on waivers, at least until Willson proves himself. 


Christian Ponder preparing to start
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(5:28 pm ET) Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder took the first-team reps Monday and Tuesday while rookie Teddy Bridgewater watched with an ankle injury. "I'm preparing to play, but we're hoping the best for Teddy," Ponder told reporters.

"I've talked to Teddy. He's doing everything he can to prepare and be ready to play."

Ponder has started 35 games, but none with Norv Turner as offensive coordinator. He could be under center Thursday in Green Bay. "It's a very different style of offense than what we've ran the previous three years," Ponder said. "Without Adrian [Peterson], it's different. Defenses play us differently without Adrian. I'm comfortable and fit well in it."


 
 
 
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