By Zack Cimini
Scouring newspapers and the internet for fantasy newsworthy tidbits is what we do in this business. Usually it’s related specifically to players but occasionally we stumble across something story worthy. The Wall Street Journal came out with an interesting blurb on trends having to do with the drafting of offensive lineman. That trend is teams that selected an offensive lineman within the first twelve picks of the draft have seen their team’s yards per play increase immediately.
You instantly react to that by thinking, no way, as most of those teams are right back in the top of the draft the next season. Actually though eleven teams since 2001 that have selected a lineman within the first twelve picks have done just that. It’s an absolutely crazy statistic and some of the examples are noted below.
Dolphins, Jake Long, YPP Improvement: 1.1
Browns, Joe Thomas, YPP Improvement: 1.0
Raiders, Robert Gallery, YPP Improvement: .9
Broncos, Ryan Clady, YPP Improvement: .5
There are many variables to this fact but the key is the results. Having that staple on your offensive line is the key to success and always has been for an offense. Also usually when a team decides it’s time to draft a lineman they also look at signing free agents as well on the line. They’ll also maybe even switch offensive line coordinators to get things renewed and refocused. As a quarterback they need to develop that faith and trust in their lineman, which boosts their pocket presence. When he doesn’t have to be under duress that extra split second for the receiver to get open is crucial. The quarterback is allowed to go through his progressions properly and throughout the game will get into a rhythm. This also lets the offensive coordinator have more freedom with play call selection, which means bigger plays down the field.
From the running back perspective, once that elite young lineman is selected that’s where they’re going to turn to run between the tackles. This also helps with the effectiveness of play action. Based on the 2009 draft it’s going to be interesting to see if this plays out again. We’re almost certain all three should, especially the Rams and Bengals. Both teams last year’s normal starting quarterbacks were banged up and out the majority of the season. This led to drives that couldn’t be sustained and poor time of possession.
In Jacksonville, David Garrard really struggled after a solid 2007 season. With Eugene Monroe in there now he should feel a little more comfortable and utilize his newly acquired receiver in Torry Holt. All in all, it’s good to know this if you’re a MJD owner as his productivity should only go up based on the trends of the last eight years.