Published On: Tue, Jun 12th, 2018

Fantasy: 3 players to avoid because of their offensive lines

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Get ready for your season with theScore’s 2018 Fantasy Football Draft Kit.

After releasing our Offensive Line Rankings, we broke down some of the players who would benefit most from improved blocking on their teams.

Unfortunately, every story doesn’t have a happy ending. Here are some players whose fantasy stock will take a negative hit because of weak or unproven lines.

Offensive Line Rankings
32-21 | 20-11 | 10-1

Jordan Howard

There are a lot of reasons to be hesitant about drafting Howard in 2018. The new coaching staff has already stated that his former workhorse role will now be game specific, while talking up their dynamic pass-catching back Tarik Cohen every chance they get. But concerns over Howard’s fantasy outlook extend beyond that, following the loss of four-time Pro Bowl guard Josh Sitton in free agency.

Sitton was the Bears’ best lineman and received the fifth-highest run blocking grade from Pro Football Focus for his performance in 2017. Sensing the void on the interior, the Bears used an early second-round pick on James Daniels, one of the top college centers in the draft class. At the moment, Daniels is penciled in as Sitton’s replacement at left guard, with Cody Whitehair expected to start at center. Whitehair is coming off a letdown campaign, after a solid rookie reason.

The uncertainty on the line extends to their other star Kyle Long, who’s been unable to stay on the field, appearing in just 18 of a possible 32 regular-season games the last two years. Long turns 30 in December, and is in the process of recovering from three different surgeries, leaving serious doubt as to whether he’ll be able to recapture his previously elite form. Left tackle Charles Leno has played well, but the same can’t be said for right tackle Bobby Massie.

With Sitton gone, if Long can’t anchor the line, this unit will be far worse than 19th overall where they landed in our recent rankings. Howard’s limited role in the receiving game makes him even more dependent on his blockers, and a backslide from that group could seal Howard’s fantasy fate. Despite his ADP, he’s not worth considering in the first two rounds of your draft.

LeSean McCoy

Based on the current iteration of the Bills’ offense, it’s almost hard to believe McCoy finished as fantasy’s RB7 with 1,586 yards and eight touchdowns last year. Even though Buffalo ended its playoff drought, the team underwent a major makeover in the offseason. Losing a mobile quarterback like Tyrod Taylor – in favor of AJ McCarron and rookie Josh Allen – hurts the Bills’ rushing game, but the changes that will impact McCoy most came on the offensive line.

Left tackle Cordy Glenn was traded to the Bengals and center Eric Wood retired, as did left guard Richie Incognito, before promptly unretiring and demanding his release. No matter how you look at it, the Bills lost the strength of their offensive line and the engine that was powering their entire attack.

Dion Dawkins showed he’s capable of handling left tackle duties, after filling in for Glenn. However, outside of Dawkins it’s a mixture of questionable veterans and unproven youth. Fourth-year guard John Miller is back in the starting lineup after being benched a year ago. Russell Bodine was a problem in the middle of the Cincy line and is now getting the first crack at starting in Buffalo. Jordan Mills’ run-blocking grades are so bad on PFF that it’s not even worth typing out. Vlad Ducasse was at least serviceable at right guard last season, but has moved to the left side in OTAs, and is not someone you want to count on for significant snaps.

Volume might be the most important factor in fantasy football and we know that a healthy McCoy is guaranteed to be among the league leaders in touches. His efficiency with those touches is what fantasy owners should be worried about. Last season, with a decent line, he posted a career-low 4.0 yards per carry average. It’s hard to envision a 30-year-old McCoy improving that mark running behind this starting five.

Tyler Lockett

Jimmy Graham and Paul Richardson left 173 targets behind when they left Seattle in free agency. Doug Baldwin will see an uptick in passes thrown his way, but there’s an opportunity for another Seahawks wideout to emerge as a consistent weapon. Lockett has teased fantasy owners with his talent ever since his 664-yard, six-touchdown rookie campaign. So, is this the year where Lockett takes it to the next level?

No. And the reason has nothing to do with the arrival of veteran Brandon Marshall, who will serve as a run-blocker and red-zone threat. As a receiver, we’ve yet to see Lockett establish himself as a consistent target. His injury history certainly hasn’t helped, neither has the Seahawks’ offensive line, which forces Russell Wilson to tuck and run far too often. Wilson was pressured on 41.4 percent of his dropbacks in 2017, the most of any quarterback, according to Pro Football Focus.

The midseason Duane Brown trade allowed Seattle to stabilize its left tackle position, unfortunately when it comes to pass protection, he’s the team’s only true standout. Germain Ifedi and Justin Britt are adequate in that area, but the projected starting guard duo of Ethan Pocic and DJ Fluker struggle on passing downs. While this group is improving on the whole – Fluker is a strong run blocker – their ability to maintain the pocket will still be a weekly rollercoaster ride.

As enticing as Lockett may seem late in drafts, his special-teams highlights drive up his perceived value. Wilson has managed to overcome his porous line with his scrambling, but for Lockett to be worth a fantasy roster spot Seattle’s blockers will need to give their QB more time to look downfield. Until that happens, Baldwin is the only Seahawks receiver worth owning.

Offensive Line Rankings
32-21 | 20-11 | 10-1

(Photos courtesy: Getty Images)

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