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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
Titans OL Taylor Lewan pleads guilty to two misdemeanor charges
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10:26 am ET) Titans rookie tackle Taylor Lewan pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor charges Thursday in Michigan stemming from an incident that took place last year following a Michigan-Ohio State game, according to The Tennessean. Lewan entered pleas to charges of disturbing the peace and being drunk and disorderly.

Under an agreement with prosecutors, Lewan is expected to get probation when he's sentenced Dec. 15. Lewan was initially charged with one count of misdemeanor aggravated assault and two counts of assault and battery. Two Buckeyes fans said Lewan assaulted them. Lewan had previously stated that he was breaking up a dispute and wasn't involved in a fight.


Jaguars might consider changing up linebacker corps
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10:17 am ET) While the Jaguars were pleased with how J.T. Thomas performed at middle linebacker Week 8 against the Dolphins, coach Gus Bradley is considering making a change to the linebacker corps because rookie Jeremiah George is making a strong impression on the coaching staff. 

"We’re looking at the linebacker spot, what’s our best three on the field?" Bradley said, per The Florida Times-Union. "We know J.T. played well. [Otto] Dekoda Watson played pretty well. Jeremiah George is showing up a little bit in practice, so a chance to see him in there and throw him into the mix. We’re trying to find a way to see as of right now, what gives us our best opportunity and what guys are playing the best on the field."


Bills' Kiko Alonso starts to run, but still has ways to go in recovery
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10:11 am ET) Bills linebacker Kiko Alonso is pleased with his progress as he is three months removed from ACL surgery.

"I’ve started running already," Alonso told Buffalobills.com. "I’m just doing straight line running, so I’m doing everything but cutting right now. Obviously I’m progressing to full speed running. I’m doing everything, but I’m limited."

Alonso said his knee feels great. However, he is being cautious with his recovery, which usually takes 7-9 months after surgery.

"My knee feels great," he said. "It definitely doesn’t feel like there’s anything wrong with it. It’s just a matter of time. You’ve got to let that ligament heal and strengthen the muscles around it. It feels probably where it should be right now."


Ben Roethlisberger deserves to start
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(10/29/2014) It goes without saying that Ben Roethlisberger's six-touchdown, 522-yard performance Week 8 against Indianapolis was a once-in-a-blue-moon thing, and I stand by my earlier assessment that he's too inconsistent to start in standard 12-team leagues. But that's more for those weeks when every quarterback is available. With six teams on bye, that's certainly not the case in Week 9.

For those owners accustomed to starting Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford, Matt Ryan or Jay Cutler, Roethlisberger may be the best choice. His matchup against Baltimore isn't great. The Ravens rank a suspect 22nd against the pass, giving up 256.0 yards per game, but having allowed just seven touchdowns through the air, they've surrendered the second-fewest Fantasy points per game to quarterbacks. Regardless of the matchup, though, Roethlisberger has a better chance than most of the quarterbacks who might be available of putting up the numbers you're accustomed to.

I'd prefer Carson Palmer, Nick Foles and Cam Newton to him, to name just a few fringy types, but Jamey Eisenberg and Dave Ricahrd both have Roethlisberger in their top 10 for this week.


Brandon LaFell not the only Patriots WR to consider
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(10/29/2014) It's time to give Patriots wide receiver Brandon LaFell a shot in Fantasy -- as in not just owning him, but starting him. If his 11 catches for 124 yards and a touchdown Week 8 against the Bears weren't enough to convince you, his matchup Week 9 against Denver should be.

It's not that the Broncos are so bad against the pass. They rank in the middle of the pack, allowing 242.9 yards per game. It's just that the Patriots' only hope against them is to beat Peyton Manning at his own game. Their passing attack -- at least the version they've shown in the last four weeks -- is good enough to beat anybody when they're motivated to use it.

LaFell appears to have leapfrogged Julian Edelman in the pecking order, but frankly, Edelman might not be such a bad play either. Tom Brady is going to need every weapon at his disposal to outscore Manning and company. Edelman is more of a desperation play than LaFell, I think, advisable only if you're short on startable wide receivers, but Dave Richard likes him enough with this matchup to rank him 24th at the position.


Shane Vereen a better choice than Jonas Gray
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(10/29/2014) By giving the previously unknown Jonas Gray 17 carries for 86 yards Week 8 against Chicago, the Patriots revealed that they'll stick with a two-man backfield even with preferred rusher Stevan Ridley out for the year with a torn ACL and MCL.

But Week 9 against Denver might be a better matchup for preferred receiver Shane Vereen, who also thrived in Week 7 against the Jets. The Broncos, like the Jets, have done a good job stopping the run this season. They rank No. 1, in fact, allowing 72.4 yards per game.

Plus, the Patriots will most likely have to throw more than usual just to keep up with the league's highest-scoring team. These days, a team's only real choice against Peyton Manning is to beat him at his own game.

So most likely, Gray will spend much of Week 9 on the sidelines while Vereen spends much of it in the backfield. Jamey Eisenberg and Dave Richard both rank Vereen among their top 20 running backs for this week.


Vincent Jackson not such a great play
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(10/29/2014) On a day when the Buccaneers couldn't get anything going offensively Week 8 against Minnesota, wide receiver Vincent Jackson was barely involved, catching one pass for 13 yards. He was targeted five times, but for a player who misses a lot of the balls thrown his way, both because of his role in the passing game and his issues with drops, that's a pretty low number. He averaged 10.0 targets in his first six games.

Even worse for Jackson, quarterback Mike Glennon has developed a nice rapport with both Mike Evans and Louis Murphy, and the Buccaneers passing attack isn't prolific enough to sustain three wide receivers. Is it more likely to sustain him than those other two? Yeah, probably. But it'll likely cut into his production regardless.

And it could cut into his production in a big way Week 9 at Cleveland. The Browns don't rank especially high against the pass, but they don't give up many touchdowns through the air, allowing the fourth-lowest quarterback rating of any team this season. Cornerback Joe Haden, who has played better in recent weeks after a slow start, is a big reason for that, and he'll likely go up against Jackson on Sunday.

Neither Jamey Eisenberg nor Dave Richard rank Jackson among their top 30 wide receivers -- and that's in a week with six teams on bye.


Time to the roll the dice on Denard Robinson?
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(10/29/2014) Sitting Denard Robinson the week after his breakout 127-yard effort against the Browns was understandable. It was an outlier performance achieved with an especially favorable matchup, and there was some big talk about Toby Gerhart still playing a big role. But now, after back-to-back 100-yard games, taking a conservative approach with Robinson just seems kind of silly.

Especially since his matchup Week 9 at Cincinnati is, at least on paper, a favorable one. The Bengals rank 29th against the run, allowing 140.7 yards per game, and have given up the eighth-most Fantasy points per game to running backs. And as tough as the Jaguars defense has played in recent weeks, you don't have to worry so much about the Bengals running away with the game, compelling the Jaguars to throw every down.

Calling Robinson a must-start is taking it a bit far. Some people have enviable depth at the position. But in Week 9, Jamey Eisenberg and Dave Richard both rank Robinson among their top 24 running backs, with Dave slotting him as high as 15th.


Is starting Andy Dalton a good idea?
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(10/29/2014) Jamey Eisenberg and Dave Richard both rank the Bengals' Andy Dalton among their top 12 quarterbacks for Week 9, presumably because he's facing the Jaguars. But how did that work out for Ryan Tannehill in Week 8, Brian Hoyer in Week 7 or, yep, even Ben Roethlisberger in Week 5?

I don't know about you, but I'm getting tired of the whole "start Player X against the Jaguars because they're bad" argument. Because they're not. At least not anymore -- not on defense, anyway. The Jaguars have allowed an average of 16.5 points in their last four games, and if not for the Dolphins' two defensive touchdowns in Week 8, it'd be 13.0

True, star wide receiver A.J. Green is looking likely to return from a three-game absence for a toe injury, which would certainly improve Dalton's chances. But again, quality quarterbacks -- namely, Tannehill and Roethlisberger -- have had their full arsenals when they faced the Jaguars, and they still underwhelmed against them. I'm not sure this is Dalton's week.

Now, with so many high-profile quarterbacks (such as Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford, Matt Ryan and Jay Cutler) on bye this week, you may want it to be Dalton's week, but I'd give Carson Palmer, Nick Foles, Cam Newton or Tannehill a shot before I turned to him.


Greg Olsen deserves your trust
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(10/29/2014) Panthers coach Ron Rivera mentioned Monday that the reason tight end Greg Olsen had only one catch for 16 yards in Week 8 is because the Seahawks rotated their coverage toward him, particularly in the red zone. You can understand why they'd do that after Olsen averaged 70.4 yards with four touchdowns in his first four games.

Unfortunately, since the Seahawks limited the Panthers to just nine points in that game, they've invited other teams to emulate them, and while the Saints, Olsen's Week 9 opponent, certainly aren't the Seahawks defensively, they've done good job of containing tight ends this season, giving up the second-fewest Fantasy points per game to them. And that's even though they rank 31st against the pass.

But just because you can make a reasonable case to sit one this year's most productive and reliable tight ends doesn't mean you should follow through with it. Week 8 was just the second time in eight games that Olsen's production didn't justify a starting spot -- a terrific ratio for any player, regardless of position -- and the Saints haven't really faced a team with a top-flight tight end until now.

If quarterback Cam Newton has big numbers in this game -- and the data suggest he should -- Olsen will, too. Keep him active.


 
 
 
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