Dynasty RBs with Strong Offensive Lines (Fantasy Football)
A fateful decision by the Dallas Cowboys to draft Zack Martin instead of Johnny Manziel crystallized the importance of strong offensive line play a few years ago. We’re going to look at some lines that might not get the credit they deserve (or will deserve) and give you another factor to consider when drafting or trading for a running back this year. We all know how good the lines are in Philly and Dallas, but the following units are a nice mixture of youth, talent and reasonable cap hits which means they could be paving the way for your stud running back for the next several years.
L.A. Chargers: Melvin Gordon (RB – LAC)
The Chargers were a sneaky good team last year, and you could describe their line in a similar manner. Depending on which site you trust for offensive line ratings, the Chargers clocked in at solid-to-good. I like their upside for a couple of reasons: they are adding Mike Pouncey and Forrest Lamp; they have returning starters at tackle, including the underrated Russell Okung. Feeney will have a chance to improve on his rookie performance between a couple of quality veterans, and Lamp was a coveted draft pick last year. There are more injury concerns on this line than most – Lamp must prove he is fully healthy and Okung and Pouncey have their own keys to the trainer’s room, but they look to have three studs and two solids, which is more than most teams can say. Philip Rivers should still keep defenses honest, and if this line gels, Gordon could easily enjoy his best season this year.
Baltimore Ravens: Alex Collins (RB – BAL)
This is a faith-based pick, more than the other units in this article. For a team that’s lost Kelechi Osemele, Ricky Wagner, and Ryan Jensen recently, the Ravens have a next-man-up mentality that rivals the Patriots and Eagles. A case in point is Jensen who went from an unheralded sixth-round backup to starting center, to a coveted free agent center (signing a $42 million dollar deal with the Bucs). I’m not sure who will step up this year, but the Ravens were very high on Alex Lewis last year before his injury and may have made a great pick with Orlando Brown in the third round. Greg Senat and Bradley Bozeman were intriguing late round picks, and Nico Siragusa could surprise if healthy. Ronnie Stanley is a great young left tackle and should solidify that side of the line for years to come. Collins looks to be the starter after surprising the Ravens as a waiver find last year.
Chicago Bears: Jordan Howard (RB – CHI)
While teams like the Cowboys and Raiders have made some splashy picks and free agent signings to bolster their lines, the Bears have covertly assembled a pretty good unit. The key is Charles Leno Jr., a six foot three tackle from Boise State who transitioned from a hold-the-fort guy to a viable long-term answer at left tackle. Cody Whitehair can be dominant at guard and looks to be moved there with a key development – the drafting of Iowa center James Daniels. Regarded by many as a first-round talent, the Bears may have an Olin Kreutz clone for years to come. Bobbie Massie’s okay at right tackle and Kyle Long has gone from All-Pro to falling apart, but if he can regain his health and form this line could transition from a team weakness to a strength. Hroniss Grasu provides excellent depth and could push for a starting role.
Detroit Lions: Kerryon Johnson (RB – DET)
Much like the Bears, the Lions have steadily retooled their line. It appears as if this was Job One for newish GM Bob Quinn as he gave mega deals to right tackle Ricky Wagner and right guard T.J. Lang and spent first round picks on left tackle Taylor Decker and center Frank Ragnow. He also spent a third-round choice on guard/center Graham Glasgow and another fifth rounder on sleeper tackle Tyrell Crosby. The hope here is that Matt Patricia can scheme up the defensive unit, and the big uglies can help establish a long-lost running game in Detroit. Decker is an up and coming tackle and Lang and Wagner both played well as they secured the former shaky right side of the line for Detroit. There is a bit of a logjam at running back, but they used a high draft choice on Johnson and he has the chance to run through some gaping holes this year.
Sheldon Curtis is a correspondent at FantasyPros. For more from Sheldon, check out his archive.