Week 3 O-line ranks: Can you trust Lamar Miller?

KC Joyner

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 3 overall matchup grades are posted below, along with a detailed look at how those blocking grades could impact certain start-sit decisions this week. Subjects here include the most favorable and unfavorable blocking matchups in Week 3, as well as how blocking impacts the start-sit status of Matthew Stafford, Kenny Golladay, Kenyan Drake, Kenny Stills and Ben Roethlisberger.

Most favorable Week 3 fantasy blocking matchup

Houston Texans (vs. New York Giants)

Lamar Miller ranks 30th in running back fantasy points and has given his fantasy managers a headache when deciding whether to place him into the starting lineup.

A matchup against the atrocious Giants rush defense should make that start decision quite easy this week. Big Blue earned the lowest mark in my post-Week 2 run defense grades, as the Giants placed 29th in my good blocking rate (GBR) metric that measures how often a team's blockers give their ball carriers quality run blocking (52 percent). They also ranked 31st in my good blocking productivity (GBP) metric that gauges overall rushing production (4.8) and rated 31st in yards per carry before first defensive contact (YBCT, 3.6). Houston's run blocking is the polar opposite of this, as the Texans offense ranks first in GBR (57.1) and fifth in GBP (4.3).

Those metric combinations make this by far the biggest blocking mismatch in Week 3, so Miller should absolutely be in all fantasy starting lineups in Week 3.

Other favorable blocking matchups for Week 3

Detroit Lions (vs. New England Patriots)

The Lions graded out as the best pass blocking team in the first two weeks of the season due to ranking third in pass pressure rate (PPR) (19.3 percent), third in quarterback contact rate (QCR) (5.2 percent) and third in sack rate (1.8 percent). This superb pocket protection is part of why Matthew Stafford ranks seventh among quarterbacks in fantasy points on vertical passes (16.6 on aerials thrown 11 or more yards downfield) and Kenny Golladay rates tied for eighth among wide receivers in vertical fantasy points (25). The Patriots' defense does lead the league in PPR (48.4), but Detroit's blocking wall should be able to battle them to a stalemate that keeps Stafford and Golladay in the starter tier at their respective positions this week.

Miami Dolphins (vs. Oakland Raiders)

Miami came into this season with huge run blocking question marks and compounded those potential issues when left guard Josh Sitton was lost for the season due to a torn rotator cuff, but the Dolphins currently rate eighth in my run blocking grades. They earned this rating due in part to placing seventh in GBR (50 percent) and sixth in GBP (4.3). The Raiders placed 26th in my rush defense ratings because of a No. 26 ranking in GBR (49.1) and being last in YBCT (4.1).

These indicators suggest that Kenyan Drake should have an excellent chance of reaching the 100-yard mark for only the third time in his pro career, so all fantasy managers should be sure to get him into the starting lineup this week. The Raiders also easily rank last in my pass rush grades, so Ryan Tannehill is a potential starter in two-quarterback leagues and Kenny Stills has a good chance to post one of those high ceiling flex days that he is capable of posting under the right circumstances.

Pittsburgh Steelers (at Tampa Bay Buccaneers)

Ben Roethlisberger is considered by many fantasy analysts to be a risky start prospect this week because of his penchant for posting terrible metrics in road games, but the blocking metrics overwhelmingly point toward his being a dominant start this week. The Steelers rank 10th in my pass blocking metrics and face a Buccaneers defense that placed 30th in my post-Week 2 pass rushing grades. Tampa Bay had to start two rookie cornerbacks against the Eagles last week and may have to do that again in addition to dealing with a knee injury to starting strong safety Chris Conte.
All of these factors should offset Roethlisberger's penchant for subpar road showings and make him an upper-tier QB1. They also make JuJu Smith-Schuster a must start and could open the door for Jesse James to make an appearance among the top 10 fantasy tight ends in Week 3.

Least favorable Week 3 fantasy blocking matchup

Seattle Seahawks (vs. Dallas Cowboys)

Seattle made wholesale changes to their offensive blocking wall this season with multiple personnel alterations to go along with a new offensive line coach. None of them has worked so far, as Seattle grades out as the second-worst blocking wall after two weeks, They have the lowest run blocking grade and a No. 30 ranking in pass blocking. These issues have certainly held the Seahawks back from a fantasy production perspective, as Russell Wilson ranks 16th in quarterback fantasy points, and Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny have a combined 22.6 points between them (ESPN standard scoring).

That is not a good place to be when facing a Dallas pass rush that ranks 11th in PPR (30.0), third in QCR (22.0), third in sack rate (11.3) and has allowed only 117 rushing yards on 32 carries by running backs this season.

Wilson's rushing ability can still allow him to be justified as a low-tier starting quarterback, but the unfavorability of this matchup makes Tyler Lockett and Brandon Marshall risky flex options at best and causes Carson and Penny to be very risky low-ceiling options who may be better suited for bench duty this week.