Invest in Teams that Invest in the Trenches
Great running backs make mediocre offensive lines look decent. Great offensive lines make mediocre running backs look otherworldly.
In 2014, DeMarco Murray had a career year running behind a Dallas Cowboys offensive line that graded out as tops, according to Pro Football Focus.
The following season, DeMarco skipped town for a big check and his position rank plummeted from first to 18th. Now, I happen to like Murray at his current ADP (57th overall, RB21) on a comeback year. But there’s no denying that losing his D-Town hogs was a career crippler for Murray.
So who filled his shoes in Big D? Well, it took a couple weeks to materialize, but following RB Joseph Randle’s mid-season injury, it was none other than Raiders washout, RB Darren McFadden.
Despite sitting out for roughly half a season, McFadden finished with 1,089 yards on the ground and three touchdowns, enough to secure the No. 13 overall rating, or five slots ahead of DeMarco.
Murray was being drafted ninth overall. McFadden’s was a 10th rounder, who likely went undrafted in many leagues.
Need more evidence? Here are 2015’s top-rated offensive lines along with the production of their primary running backs:
Alright, Devonta Freeman was the only top-10 finisher. But there were solid bell cows to be had on the cheap in McFadden, Jonathan Stewart and Mark Ingram. The Browns backfield was a sure “running back by committee” from the start of last season. And let’s face it, who’s long the Cleveland Browns… ever.
So, which teams have been investing in their trench warfare this offseason? The teams with the top-five ranked O-lines in 2016 are the Dallas Cowboys, the Oakland Raiders, the Green Bay Packers, the Cincinnati Bengals and the Atlanta Falcons.
The Cowboys and Falcons have running backs in Ezekiel Elliot and Freeman, respectively, who are going ultra-early, making Latavius Murray, Eddie Lacy and Jeremy Hill seem like bargain-basement bell-cow buys in 2016.
Next: When In Doubt, Draft the Offense, Not the Player