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Draft Prep 2011: Setting the lines

Dave Richard
Senior Fantasy Writer

Unless you're really, really into Fantasy Football, offensive lines aren't a part of your annual Draft Day routine. Nor should they be -- but they should be part of your preparation before you make picks.

The big fellas up front are responsible for giving running backs gaps to run through and holding off defenders so quarterbacks have a few seconds to throw to their intended targets. When a team's offensive line gets worse, be it over the course of an offseason or a game due to an injury, the other offensive players struggle.

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So we've taken the liberty of grading the offensive lines for you as they stand headed into the preseason. We grade every starting lineman individually on a scale much like your basic school report card. We also give slightly higher grades to linemen who have been in the same scheme and/or with the same team for several seasons. Coaching has also become a big factor in how offensive lines are judged. We also improve grades if the starter listed has a capable backup behind him -- depth is a huge key to success in the NFL. And as we've done in the past, no rookie is eligible for a grade higher than a 'B.'

Once every lineman was graded, we computed the cumulative average without a curve or weighing blind-side tackles more than others. As any offensive line coach would say, a line is as strong as its weakest link, so we grade accordingly.

We also added the number of false start and offensive holding penalties charged to each team. Though the numbers reflect the total amount of penalties, meaning that skill-position player penalties are included, we strongly believe that the overwhelming majority of these penalties were committed by linemen. Coaches have seen these stats and will undoubtedly move to make these numbers drop. The higher the total, the more work that needs to be done.

Is this a secret to winning at Fantasy Football? It can be. Last year we had a pretty high grade on the Texans offensive line and they helped carry Arian Foster to a rushing title. Then again, we had an awful grade on the Bears' O-line -- and they were awful -- but Matt Forte had a solid season anyway (not so much for Jay Cutler). At the very least, consider them "tiebreakers" just as you might with our schedule analysis. For instance, if you find yourself debating between Shonn Greene and Ryan Mathews, at least you know the Jets have the stronger O-line.

Offensive line rankings
Rank Team GPA Grade '10 Grade
1 Carolina Panthers 3.33 B+ B
2 Philadelphia Eagles 3.264 B B
3 New England Patriots 3.13 B B
4 Houston Texans 3.062 B B
4 Miami Dolphins 3.062 B B
6 New York Jets 2.996 B B
7 New Orleans Saints 2.93 B B+
7 San Francisco 49ers 2.93 B B-
7 St. Louis Rams 2.93 B C+
10 Baltimore Ravens 2.864 B- B+
10 Cleveland Browns 2.864 B- B-
10 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2.864 B- B
13 Tennessee Titans 2.862 B- B
14 New York Giants 2.796 B- B
14 Cincinnati Bengals 2.664 B- B
14 Denver Broncos 2.664 B- B-
17 Green Bay Packers 2.6 B- B-
18 Dallas Cowboys 2.596 C+ B
18 Jacksonville Jaguars 2.596 C+ B-
18 Minnesota Vikings 2.596 C+ B
18 San Diego Chargers 2.596 C+ B
22 Atlanta Falcons 2.594 C B
23 Kansas City Chiefs 2.53 C+ B-
24 Washington Redskins 2.528 C+ C+
25 Indianapolis Colts 2.462 C+ B-
26 Detroit Lions 2.396 C+ C+
27 Pittsburgh Steelers 2.328 C+ B-
28 Seattle Seahawks 2.262 C B-
29 Arizona Cardinals 2.064 C B-
30 Oakland Raiders 1.93 C- C+
31 Chicago Bears 1.928 C- C
32 Buffalo Bills 1.464 C- C-

Arizona Cardinals
Returning Starters: 3 False Starts: 17 Offensive Holding: 20
LT LG C RG RT
Levi Brown Daryn Colledge Lyle Sendlein Deuce Lutui Brandon Keith
C+ C C+ C C-
Cumulative GPA: 2.064 (C)
Atlanta Falcons
Returning Starters: 4 False Starts: 10 Offensive Holding: 15
LT LG C RG RT
Sam Baker Justin Blalock Todd McClure Garrett Reynolds Tyson Clabo
C+ B- B- C- A-
Cumulative GPA: 2.594 (C)
Baltimore Ravens
Returning Starters: 4 False Starts: 28 Offensive Holding: 14
LT LG C RG RT
Michael Oher Ben Grubbs Matt Birk Marshal Yanda Jah Reid
B A B- B C-
Cumulative GPA: 2.864 (B-)
Buffalo Bills
Returning Starters: 3 False Starts: 21 Offensive Holding: 18
LT LG C RG RT
Demetrius Bell Andy Levitre Eric Wood Kraig Urbik Mansfield Wrotto
C- C C- D D
Cumulative GPA: 1.464 (C-)
Carolina Panthers
Returning Starters: 5 False Starts: 24 Offensive Holding: 24
LT LG C RG RT
Jordan Gross Travelle Wharton Ryan Kalil Geoff Schwartz Jeff Otah
A B- A C+ A-
Cumulative GPA: 3.33 (B+)
Chicago Bears
Returning Starters: 2 False Starts: 24 Offensive Holding: 33
LT LG C RG RT
J'Marcus Webb Chris Williams Chris Spencer Roberto Garza Gabe Carimi
C- C- C- C+ C+
Cumulative GPA: 1.928 (C-)
Cincinnati Bengals
Returning Starters: 5 False Starts: 22 Offensive Holding: 20
LT LG C RG RT
Andrew Whitworth Nate Livings Kyle Cook Bobbie Williams Andre Smith
A C- C+ B+ C
Cumulative GPA: 2.664 (B-)
Cleveland Browns
Returning Starters: 4 False Starts: 14 Offensive Holding: 19
LT LG C RG RT
Joe Thomas Eric Steinbach Alex Mack Shawn Lauvao Tony Pashos
A+ C+ A C- C
Cumulative GPA: 2.864 (B-)
Dallas Cowboys
Returning Starters: 3 False Starts: 29 Offensive Holding: 21
LT LG C RG RT
Doug Free Kyle Kosier Andre Gurode Montrae Holland Tyron Smith
B+ C+ A- C- C
Cumulative GPA: 2.596 (C+)
Denver Broncos
Returning Starters: 4 False Starts: 17 Offensive Holding: 22
LT LG C RG RT
Ryan Clady Zane Beadles J.D. Walton Chris Kuper Orlando Franklin
A B- C B C-
Cumulative GPA: 2.664 (B-)
Detroit Lions
Returning Starters: 5 False Starts: 24 Offensive Holding: 23
LT LG C RG RT
Jeff Backus Rob Sims Dominic Raiola Stephen Peterman Gosder Cherilus
B- B- B C- C
Cumulative GPA: 2.396 (C+)
Green Bay Packers
Returning Starters: 4 False Starts: 21 Offensive Holding: 14
LT LG C RG RT
Chad Clifton Marshall Newhouse Scott Wells Josh Sitton Bryan Bulaga
B C B B C
Cumulative GPA: 2.6 (B-)
Houston Texans
Returning Starters: 4 False Starts: 14 Offensive Holding: 12
LT LG C RG RT
Duane Brown Wade Smith Chris Myers Mike Brisiel Eric Winston
B- B A- C+ A-
Cumulative GPA: 3.062 (B)
Indianapolis Colts
Returning Starters: 3 False Starts: 20 Offensive Holding: 16
LT LG C RG RT
Anthony Castonzo Ben Ijalana Jeff Saturday Mike Pollak Ryan Diem
C+ C- B+ B- C+
Cumulative GPA: 2.462 (C+)
Jacksonville Jaguars
Returning Starters: 4 False Starts: 15 Offensive Holding: 22
LT LG C RG RT
Eugene Monroe Jason Spitz Brad Meester Uche Nwaneri Eben Britton
B B- B C- B-
Cumulative GPA: 2.596 (C+)
Kansas City Chiefs
Returning Starters: 4 False Starts: 20 Offensive Holding: 23
LT LG C RG RT
Branden Albert Ryan Lilja Casey Wiegmann Jon Asamoah Ryan O'Callaghan
C+ B+ B- C+ C
Cumulative GPA: 2.53 (C+)
Miami Dolphins
Returning Starters: 3 False Starts: 19 Offensive Holding: 23
LT LG C RG RT
Jake Long Richie Incognito Mike Pouncey Vernon Carey Marc Colombo
A+ B- B B- B-
Cumulative GPA: 3.062 (B)
Minnesota Vikings
Returning Starters: 4 False Starts: 31 Offensive Holding: 18
LT LG C RG RT
Charlie Johnson Steve Hutchinson John Sullivan Anthony Herrera Phil Loadholt
C- B+ B- C+ B
Cumulative GPA: 2.596 (C+)
New England Patriots
Returning Starters: 5 False Starts: 16 Offensive Holding: 15
LT LG C RG RT
Matt Light Logan Mankins Dan Koppen Dan Connolly Sebastian Vollmer
B- A+ B+ C+ B
Cumulative GPA: 3.13 (B)
New Orleans Saints
Returning Starters: 4 False Starts: 16 Offensive Holding: 28
LT LG C RG RT
Jermon Bushrod Carl Nicks Olin Kreutz Jahri Evans Jon Stinchcomb
B- A- C+ B B
Cumulative GPA: 2.93 (C+)
New York Giants
Returning Starters: 3 False Starts: 19 Offensive Holding: 26
LT LG C RG RT
Will Beatty David Diehl David Baas Chris Snee Kareem McKenzie
C+ B C- A- B+
Cumulative GPA: 2.796 (B-)
New York Jets
Returning Starters: 5 False Starts: 17 Offensive Holding: 23
LT LG C RG RT
D'Brickashaw Ferguson Matt Slauson Nick Mangold Brandon Moore Wayne Hunter
A C+ A+ B- C-
Cumulative GPA: 2.996 (B)
Oakland Raiders
Returning Starters: 2 False Starts: 32 Offensive Holding: 30
LT LG C RG RT
Jared Veldheer Roy Schuening Stefen Wisniewski Cooper Carlisle Joe Barksdale
B+ D+ C D+ C-
Cumulative GPA: 1.93 (C-)
Philadelphia Eagles
Returning Starters: 3 False Starts: 16 Offensive Holding: 26
LT LG C RG RT
Jason Peters Todd Herremans Jamaal Jackson Evan Mathis Ryan Harris
B A- B B+ B+
Cumulative GPA: 3.264 (B)
Pittsburgh Steelers
Returning Starters: 4 False Starts: 15 Offensive Holding: 37
LT LG C RG RT
Willie Colon Chris Kemoeatu Maurkice Pouncey Ramon Foster Jonathan Scott
B C- A- C- C-
Cumulative GPA: 2.328 (C+)
San Diego Chargers
Returning Starters: 4 False Starts: 12 Offensive Holding: 18
LT LG C RG RT
Marcus McNeill Kris Dielman Nick Hardwick Brandyn Dombrowski Jeromey Clary
B+ B B+ C- C-
Cumulative GPA: 2.596 (C+)
Seattle Seahawks
Returning Starters: 2 False Starts: 22 Offensive Holding: 32
LT LG C RG RT
Russell Okung Robert Gallery Max Unger Mike Gibson James Carpenter
B- B B- D+ C-
Cumulative GPA: 2.262 (C)
San Francisco 49ers
Returning Starters: 4 False Starts: 24 Offensive Holding: 20
LT LG C RG RT
Joe Staley Mike Iupati Jonathan Goodwin Chilo Rachal Anthony Davis
B+ B+ B- B C+
Cumulative GPA: 2.93 (B-)
St. Louis Rams
Returning Starters: 3 False Starts: 29 Offensive Holding: 22
LT LG C RG RT
Rodger Saffold Jacob Bell Jason Brown Harvey Dahl Jason Smith
B- B B+ A- C
Cumulative GPA: 2.93 (B)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Returning Starters: 4 False Starts: 18 Offensive Holding: 27
LT LG C RG RT
Donald Penn Ted Larsen Jeff Faine Davin Joseph Jeremy Trueblood
B+ C- B B+ B
Cumulative GPA: 2.864 (B-)
Tennessee Titans
Returning Starters: 5 False Starts: 23 Offensive Holding: 28
LT LG C RG RT
Michael Roos Leroy Harris Eugene Amano Jake Scott David Stewart
B+ B- B- B- B
Cumulative GPA: 2.862 (B-)
Washington Redskins
Returning Starters: 2 False Starts: 22 Offensive Holding: 21
LT LG C RG RT
Trent Williams Kory Lichtensteiger Chris Chester Will Montgomery Jammal Brown
B- C+ C+ B- B-
Cumulative GPA: 2.528 (C+)

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter @CBSFantasyFB . You can also follow Dave at @daverichard . Do you have a question or a comment for our Fantasy staff? Drop us a line at dmfantasyfootball@cbs.com .