Week 2 O-line ranks: Will Chiefs stop James Conner?

KC JOYNER
ESPN PLUS


The fantasy football world has lagged behind when it comes to effectively measuring the impact blocking has on fantasy production, so last year I devised a grading system that uses multiple advanced metrics to project how blocking matchups will impact fantasy football performance in the upcoming week's contests. (The details of the system can be found here).
The entire list of the Week 2 overall matchup grades are posted below, along with a detailed look at some of the favorable and unfavorable blocking matchups fantasy managers should be aware of and how those could impact their start/sit decisions. Subjects here include whether Ben Roethlisberger, Matt Ryan or Amari Cooper can rebound after disappointing Week 1 performances, and an incredibly favorable blocking matchup that could produce a high volume of upside candidates.

Most favorable fantasy blocking matchups



Denver Broncos (vs. Oakland Raiders)
This is easily the most lopsided blocking matchup in Week 2. The Broncos graded out exceptionally well in pass blocking in Week 1, as Denver ranks first in pass pressure rate (PPR) allowed (12.5 percent) and quarterback contact rate (QCR, 2.3 percent). The Raiders missed Khalil Mack's talents, as Oakland did an abysmal job versus the powerful Los Angeles Rams offensive line by placing 29th in PPR (14.7), 31st in QCR (2.8), last in average time in pocket (TIP, 2.7 seconds) and 30th in rush yards per carry before first defensive contact (YBCT, 3.4).



These metrics indicate Case Keenum should have plenty of time to throw long passes to Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, so all three of those players have significantly increased fantasy value this week. It also bodes very well for Royce Freeman to bounce back from last week's subpar showing and for Phillip Lindsay to reward those fantasy managers who were fortunate enough to claim him on the waiver wire this week.



Pittsburgh Steelers (vs. Kansas City Chiefs)
The tape breakdown indicates that Le'Veon Bell's holdout definitely inspired the Steelers run blockers, as Pittsburgh's 51.5 percent good blocking rate (GBR, a measure of run blocking efficiency) was the fifth highest in the league in Week 1. That led to a dominant showing by James Conner that should repeat itself given that the Chiefs' defense ranked 31st in YBCT last week (3.4).
Fantasy managers with Ben Roethlisberger can also take solace in the Chiefs' pass rush ranking 28th in PPR (15.4), 29th in QCR (3.5) and 29th in sack rate (1.9) despite playing with a significant lead for most of the Week 1 contest against the Chargers. Roethlisberger is capable of posting 20 or more points when he is given upper-tier blocking and this matchup indicates he should contend for that production level this week.



Philadelphia Eagles (at Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
Trusting a Nick Foles-led offense is something most fantasy managers are understandably hesitant to do given that Foles can move between a Super Bowl MVP-caliber performance to last week's atrocious 5.1 fantasy points.
If ever there was a matchup that might lean toward the "good" Foles showing up, this one against Tampa Bay could be it. The Buccaneers defense was the polar opposite of their powerhouse passing offense last week, as Tampa Bay placed 26th in PPR (17.4), 28th in QCR (4.0) and 28th in sack rate (2.2 percent). The Eagles came into this season ranked sixth in my preseason offensive blocking wall projections and, thus, should be able to keep the Buccaneers' nonexistent pass rush in check.
That won't be enough to move Foles into fantasy starting lineups (outside of deep, two-QB leagues), but it should help him get significantly more production out of Nelson Agholor and Zach Ertz, who combined to post a meager 81 receiving yards on 20 targets last week. The extra pass protection should allow Foles to send more of those passes further downfield and, thus, result in Agholor and Ertz both posting a double-digit point totals. It could also make Mike Wallace, the Eagles' primary vertical receiver, a good sleeper candidate.


Least favorable fantasy blocking matchups


Oakland Raiders (at Denver Broncos)
Outside of Jared Cook and Marshawn Lynch, the Raiders' fantasy prospects were a collective dud against the Rams. That subpar performance could be the start of a trend if the Broncos' defense plays as well as it did against Seattle in Week 1. Denver currently ranks fourth in PPR (42.5), second in sack rate (15 percent) and eighth in YBCT allowed (1.6). Lynch's workload and goal-line role do keep him rated as a RB2 or flex, but every other Oakland fantasy prospect (a list that includes Jordy Nelson, Amari Cooper and Derek Carr) has to be considered a low-percentage option this week.



Atlanta Falcons (vs. Carolina Panthers)
Any fantasy manager hoping for a bounce-back year from the Atlanta passing game players not named Julio Jones had that optimism dashed against the Eagles, as Matt Ryan, Mohamed Sanu and Austin Hooper posted a combined total of 20 fantasy points against Philadelphia.



A lot of this was due to an offensive line that severely underperformed its preseason pass-blocking expectations by ranking 19th in PPR (30.6), 19th in QCR (13.5) and 21st in TIP (1.9 seconds) in Week 1.



Carolina destroyed the overmatched Dallas offensive line in its season opener by racking up a 38.5 percent PPR (ranked sixth), a 26.7 percent QCR (third) and a 15.4 percent sack rate (first). Ryan could once again end up dealing with a strong pass rush more often than expected, so this is a good week to keep him and every Falcons pass catcher out of the lineup (with the obvious exception of Jones, who is an every-week must-start).