Fantasy Points Under Pressure: Changing OL

Nathan Jahnke examines quarterbacks with new offensive linemen and how those changes will impact his fantasy performance.

| 3 years ago

Fantasy Points Under Pressure: Changing OL

CamRecently I have looked at how pressure effects quarterbacks fantasy performance, as well as looking at how it should specifically effect quarterbacks who have joined new teams. Here I will look at six teams who made some changes to their offensive line, and how it will impact the quarterback going forward.


The Panthers lost Jordan Gross and Travelle Wharton this past offseason. They had a combined PFF Pass Block rating of +26.6 last year while the rest of the offensive line had an overall rating of -13.8. Replacing Gross at left tackle is Nate Chandler. Gross allowed pressure on 5% of his dropbacks, while Chandler did on 9.4%. Typically when someone moves from guard to tackle they give up even more pressure. If Chandler performed exactly the same as he did in 2013, and Cam Newton had 575 dropbacks like he did last year, that is 25 additional plays where he will be under pressure when he wasn’t last year.

Doing a similar analysis at left guard with Amini Silatolu being the likely replacement for Travelle Wharton, that change is an additional 11 plays that Newton will be under pressure. At right guard Garry Williams is a bit of an unknown, but if he plays like he did in 2012 that will be a slight improvement to Chandler at right guard.

Overall it equates to Cam Newton playing under pressure more often. Luckily for Newton owners, Newton’s fantasy performance doesn’t change much if he is or isn’t under pressure. His passing drops off significantly, but he scrambles more. In 2013, Newton scrambled when not under pressure just 3.8% of the time. When he was under pressure, he ended up scrambling 13.2% of the time. If you’re in a league that favors running quarterbacks, than Newton could be even better. There is a higher concern of him getting injured as more pressure and more scrambles leads to Newton getting hit more.


This off-season Denver played a little musical chairs with their offensive line. Ryan Clady is expected to return from injury and take over at left tackle. This would more Chris Clark from left tackle to right tackle, Orlando Franklin from right tackle to left guard, and Zane Beadles from left guard to Jacksonville.

Just looking at the switch from Clady instead of Beadles, Clady allowed pressure on 3.4% of his pass blocks in 2012, while Beadles allowed pressure on 5.7% of his pass blocks this year. Assuming Clady plays like he did in 2012, and Manning has 719 regular season drop backs like he did in 2013, that is 16 fewer plays that Manning is under pressure. That number should grow larger, as Franklin will likely allow less pressure as a guard than he did as a tackle.

While Manning is an excellent quarterback, he does get brought down to earth a little bit when the pressure is on. He had an NFL Passer Rating of 118.0 when not under pressure, and 88.0 when under pressure. It’s hard to think that there will be even more reason to like Manning than there already is, but this is potentially the best pass blocking offensive line he has ever had in front of him.

Kansas City

In 2013 there were three offensive linemen in Kansas City who had a PFF Pass Block Rating above +5.0. The one with the highest rating was Branden Albert who is now in Miami. The next highest was Geoff Schwartz who is now a New York Giant. The third highest was Jon Asamoah who is now in Atlanta.

The Chiefs added Jeff Linkenbach, but now have very little depth and not nearly as good of starters. Last year all of the Chiefs linemen combined gave up 176 pressures. If the projected starters play as well as they did last year and the Chiefs have the same number of dropbacks, they are projected to put Alex Smith under pressure an additional 46 times. Smith’s completion decreased from 66.5% to 47.5% from when he wasn’t under pressure to when he was.

Alex Smith is a typical quarterback in that his fantasy points per dropback decreases by roughly 0.2 when under pressure, so that leads to roughly a 10 point dropoff in his fantasy points just by his offensive line. That doesn’t take into account the pressure will be the Chiefs in worst situations which will lead to more punts and less offensive opportunities. The loss of those three linemen spells bad news for Alex Smith and Dwayne Bowe.


The problems with the Dolphins offensive line last year were well known, and they had a large effect on Ryan Tannehill. When he was not under pressure he had an NFL QB Rating of 94.2. When he was under pressure that dropped all the way down to 46.3.

The only linemen who was in the starting lineup last year that should remain this year is Mike Pouncey who was their best pass protector after allowing two sacks, three hits and nine hurries over the season. Branden Albert will be a huge upgrade at left tackle over what they had last year. Shelley Smith is a big improvement for their run blocking and a slight downgrade in pass protection. That left side of the line should result an improvement for the Dolphins in terms of pressure allowed. The right side of the line will likely consist of 2013 third round draft pick Dallas Thomas at right guard, and first round rookie Ja’Wuan James at right tackle.

If the young players play well, it should be an upgrade for Miami with less pressure being allowed. Even if they don’t play great, it should be a decent improvement in run blocking which should somewhat help the pass.

New York Giants

One of the biggest problems with Eli Manning is that he was under pressure more often than he was used to. He had a PFF pass rating of +5.4 when not under pressure, and a rating of -14.0 when he was.

They had a bit of addition by subtraction with David Diehl retiring. Kevin Boothe went to the Raiders, and ideally James Brewer is going to the bench. One replacement is Geoff Schwartz who most likely will play left guard. He allowed just two sacks, two hits and six hurries on 340 pass blocks last year playing at both guard and tackle. He instantly becomes the Giants best linemen. Free agent addition JD Walton and second round rookie Weston Richburg will fight it out for the center job.

There is also reason to be optimistic about the tackles. At right tackle Justin Pugh improved as the season went on. He allowed four or more pressures in each of his first five games. In the following 11 games he only did that three more times. William Beatty was excellent in 2012 allowing three sacks and 22 hurries, but then took a step in the wrong direction last year. If he can return to his 2012 form, the Giants line can look much improved.

St. Louis

Like the last two teams it is hard to predict exactly how things will change since there is possibly a rookie entering the lineup, but for the Rams you would like to expect if a second overall pick is playing guard that he will do it well.

In 2013 the Rams had eight different offensive linemen play at least 200 snaps. Four of them had Pass Block Ratings of +4.5 or better. The other four had negative pass block ratings. The one with the worst rating was left guard Chris Williams who is now in Buffalo and is being replaced by rookie Greg Robinson. Next lowest was guard Shelley Smith who is now in Miami. Harvey Dahl was released, and Tim Barnes is projected to be a backup. The four linemen with good ratings are the projected four starters that will go along with Greg Robinson. If the Rams linemen can remain healthy, they will have one of the best pass blocking lines in the league. That is very important as Sam Bradford completed 71.2% of his passes when not under pressure, and just 38.8% when he was under pressure.

| Director of Analytics

Nathan has been with Pro Football Focus since 2010. He is the Director of Analytics, an NFL analyst, and a fantasy writer.

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