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Oct 18

Bargains and Busts: Ranking Team Offensive Lines

An little side discussion happened on Twitter between two very respected (at least in my mind) folks regarding the Chiefs’ Defensive Line matching up with the Texans’ Offensive Line. So that got me to thinking about ranking offensive lines using some of the data available at Pro Football Focus and comparing it with some cap values to see what teams are and are not getting good values.

I often use PFF’s numbers to come up with my own take on rankings and this is no different. Last year I tinkered with a way to rank the run blocking of a team’s line by examining Yards Before Contact for a Running Back/Fullback. Often we look at Yards After Contact as a measurement of the effectiveness of a runner so I figured we can begin to look at offensive lines by the opposite measure, which is how much free room the runner gets before getting touched. It’s a pretty easy number to back into with PFF’s wonderful data sets.

Of course run blocking is only part of the value of an offensive line with the balance being pass protection. This is another area where I have my own formula measuring effectiveness, but I thought this would be easier to simply use Total Pressures allowed per dropback to rank the offensive lines. While a sack is much more valuable than a pressure, I thought total pressures will at least help balance out somewhat playing with a good versus poor QB.

To come up with an aggregate score I first calculated the average pressures allowed and the average YBC for each line (the average is 29.8% pressure plays and 1.82 YBC), gave each team a percentile score representing performance above/below the average, and used a 56/44 pass/run weighted average to sum the scores.  The resultant number would give the total benefit above average of an Offensive Line through 6 weeks of the seasons.

Now obviously personnel is different which is also going to affect performance. For example the Jaguars are awful in run blocking (0.9 yards before contact), but when I watch Maurice Jones Drew I see a runner who is stuck in the mud. Similarly while pressures help alleviate some of the QB concerns, greats like Peyton Manning do things before they even get the ball to make sure a pressure is not even going to be registered. So keep that in mind when discussing some of the numbers.

Right at the top of the list is the Broncos who have spent the most and are getting the best performance in the league. I’d imagine a great deal of that comes from Manning, though they also have a great deal of money sunk in IR which makes the performance still quite impressive even with Manning. The best bargains in the NFL would look to be the Lions and Bills. My estimates have their line spending ranked 29th and 27th respectively and both rank in the top 10 in performance. The Packers are also giving the team good bang for the buck this year. The Patriots, Bengals, Chiefs and Cowboys are all big spenders but at least giving well above average performance.

There are a number of major disappointments as well. The Seahawks, Titans, Browns, and Giants are all top 10 spenders and all rank in the bottom 7.  The Seahawks have money tied up on the bench and the Giants have been banged up as well, though to a much lower extent.  The Titans really have no excuses. It just has not worked thus far. Considering the Giants and Titans have a low cost first rounder in the equation its really a lot of wasted resources on their lines.

The Ravens grade out as the worst offensive line in the NFL which could explain some of the problems that team is having.With bookend free agents next year they will have some difficult decisions to make. One of the more interesting squads in the Eagles. They rank first in run but last in pass. I have to think part of that is Mike Vick seemingly holding the ball forever and allowing pressure to occur. With Nick Foles now starting it will be interesting to see if it holds up or not.

The following graph illustrates the performances vs cost and the table below presents the results through 6 weeks of the season

NFL Offensive Line Spending 2013

NFL Offensive Line Rankings, Thru Week 6

TeamYds Before
Contact
% Pressure
Allowed
YBC
Score
Pass
Score
Total
Score
Est. Cap
Spend
49ers2.2029.8%21.1%-0.1%9.2%$18,100,233
Chargers1.7524.7%-3.8%17.2%8.0%$18,207,648
Saints1.4923.0%-17.8%23.0%5.0%$17,962,359
Broncos2.2216.5%22.2%44.8%34.8%$27,041,049
Buccaneers1.5024.1%-17.7%19.2%3.0%$24,919,791
Redskins2.4022.1%32.0%26.0%28.6%$19,874,772
Packers2.4023.8%32.3%20.2%25.5%$17,522,557
Eagles2.6839.5%47.7%-32.3%2.9%$25,658,233
Panthers1.8228.4%0.0%4.7%2.6%$17,843,067
Chiefs2.4027.4%32.0%8.1%18.6%$20,752,237
Lions1.9321.8%6.4%26.8%17.8%$13,102,333
Bengals1.6819.9%-7.3%33.2%15.4%$22,157,559
Patriots2.2527.2%24.0%8.7%15.4%$22,740,578
Bills2.2027.3%21.2%8.4%14.1%$14,657,126
Cowboys1.8623.0%2.4%23.0%13.9%$20,159,110
Dolphins2.0131.9%10.8%-7.0%0.8%$16,966,923
Texans2.2134.8%21.7%-16.7%0.2%$18,571,756
Jets1.8830.7%3.6%-2.8%0.0%$21,528,632
Raiders1.6932.4%-6.8%-8.7%-7.9%$9,886,483
Rams1.4429.1%-20.5%2.5%-7.7%$19,724,644
Colts2.1136.8%16.4%-23.5%-5.9%$18,189,684
Ravens1.0637.4%-41.7%-25.3%-32.5%$18,854,916
Giants1.3538.9%-25.6%-30.4%-28.3%$22,635,459
Jaguars0.9130.0%-50.1%-0.7%-22.5%$14,559,394
Browns1.3033.9%-28.7%-13.7%-20.3%$24,620,289
Titans1.4633.8%-19.7%-13.3%-16.1%$26,610,808
Steelers1.3231.6%-27.2%-6.1%-15.4%$10,525,432
Seahawks1.7536.2%-3.6%-21.3%-13.5%$26,961,049
Falcons1.8837.7%3.7%-26.5%-13.2%$16,079,092
Vikings1.1627.8%-36.0%6.9%-12.0%$20,281,385
Cardinals2.0238.1%11.0%-27.9%-10.8%$19,069,690
Bears1.7834.7%-1.9%-16.5%-10.1%$10,023,405