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 Post subject: Falcons face favorable pass rushes this year
PostPosted: Fri Aug 03, 2012 11:08 am 
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http://insider.espn.go.com/fantasy/foot ... id=8225265

Redskins O-line hurts RG3's stock
How teams' pass blocking will affect their quarterbacks' fantasy values
Originally Published: August 2, 2012
By KC Joyner | ESPN Insider

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Trent Williams & Robert Griffin IIIGeoff Burke/US PresswireHow well the big guys pass protect RG3 will affect his fantasy value.

Former Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis once famously declared his philosophy on pass rushing -- the opposing team's quarterback must go down, and he must go down hard.

Fantasy football owners usually adhere to that mindset when picking a defense/special teams group on draft day, but in many cases, that philosophy should also be considered when picking a quarterback.

Knowing which teams are going to be able to protect their quarterbacks and which are going to allow them to get hit is a valuable tool. After a multilayered review of pass-blocking metrics, I found some interesting, and in some cases surprising, draft-day tidbits.

Let's start with a look at the top lines in terms of preventing hits on their quarterbacks.

Clean QB Jerseys
Rank Team Sacks + QB hits allowed Attempts + sacks Hit %
1 New Orleans 77 686 11.2
2 Tennessee 76 608 12.5
3 San Diego 80 612 13.1
4 Tampa Bay 89 620 14.4
5 Cincinnati 81 560 14.5
6 Buffalo 90 601 15.0
7 New England 100 644 15.5
8 Oakland 87 549 15.8
9 NY Giants 98 617 15.9
10 Detroit 113 702 16.1

One of the most notable items on this chart is that the New York Giants, a club with an oft-criticized offensive line last season, ranked ninth in the league in the percentage of time they allowed their quarterback to be hit. What's more amazing is that Big Blue led the league in vertical (235) and stretch vertical (106) pass attempts last season. If that is the type of protection this line is capable of in an off year, it speaks volumes for where this team could rank in 2012.

Another item of note is that the Detroit Lions gave Matthew Stafford top 10-caliber pass protection from this perspective. The Lions aimed to make this group stronger by adding offensive tackle Riley Reiff in the draft. As long as Jeff Backus' thumb injury does not cause him to miss any regular-season time -- which does not look likely -- Stafford should once again have a good shot at playing a 16-game slate.

Now let's take a look at the flip side of this equation to see which teams allowed the highest quarterback hit percentage:

Hitting The Deck
Rank Team Sacks + QB hits allowed Attempts + sacks Hit %
23 Arizona 128 604 21.2
24 Denver 100 471 21.2
25 Minnesota 120 559 21.5
26 Washington 142 632 22.5
27 Jacksonville 116 513 22.6
28 Chicago 130 522 24.9
29 San Francisco 125 495 25.3
30 St. Louis 160 604 26.5
31 Miami 141 521 27.1
32 Seattle 161 559 28.8

The Denver Broncos' low ranking in this category was due in part to Tim Tebow's penchant for holding the ball far too long, but it still has to be seen as a bit of a risk factor given Peyton Manning's health.

One of the knocks on Robert Griffin III was his durability and size -- two factors that led Scouts Inc. to give Griffin a low rating in the durability category -- and Washington's penchant for allowing quarterback hits might not bode well for his 2012 prospects.
KC Joyner's Fantasy Draft Guide

Joyner KC Joyner's 2012 Fantasy Football Draft Guide can be ordered online here.

Maybe the biggest surprise on this chart is how low the San Francisco 49ers ranked. The 49ers were a run-first offense and did not try to throw the ball vertical often (only Cleveland had a lower vertical pass percentage), yet their quarterbacks had a higher hit rate than all but three teams.

Alex Smith has a habit of getting jittery under pressure. The combination of San Francisco throwing the ball downfield a lot more this season -- they didn't sign Randy Moss and Mario Manningham for their short-pass-catching abilities --and poor pass blocking could mean Smith will see quite a regression in his performance.

A factor that could be as important as the pass-blocking rates is the relative pass-rush strength each team is due to face this season.

One way to measure this is by tallying the number of sacks and quarterback hits each team's opponents had in 2012 and weighing that mark against other teams in the league.

The 10 teams with the most favorable schedule from this perspective are:

Easy Road Ahead
Rank Team Opponents' sacks Opponents' QB hits Opp Sks + QBH
1 Kansas City 562 1,058 1,620
2 Oakland 556 1,075 1,631
3 Houston 563 1,075 1,638
4 San Diego 561 1,098 1,659
5 New Orleans 567 1,096 1,663
6 Atlanta 579 1,093 1,672
7 Minnesota 558 1,116 1,674
8 Denver 564 1,120 1,684
9 Carolina 566 1,131 1,697
10 Indianapolis 565 1,137 1,702

The Houston Texans' ranking should offer some peace of mind for any fantasy owner considering drafting Matt Schaub as a low-cost/high-upside pick.

This chart also bodes well for those considering Philip Rivers, Drew Brees, Matt Ryan, Peyton Manning, Cam Newton and Andrew Luck.

Now let's look at the other side of this coin and see which teams are due to face the toughest pass-rush schedules in the upcoming season:

Rough Road Ahead
Rank Team Opponents' sacks Opponents' QB hits Opp Sks + QBH
23 San Francisco 607 1,202 1,809
24 Dallas 624 1,194 1,818
25 Seattle 617 1,207 1,824
26 Arizona 609 1,216 1,825
27 NY Giants 617 1,217 1,834
28 Pittsburgh 635 1,201 1,836
29 Philadelphia 625 1,214 1,839
30 Cleveland 636 1,213 1,849
31 Baltimore 630 1,255 1,885
32 Washington 649 1,244 1,893

This just adds even more fuel the argument that San Francisco is playing against a stacked deck this season and is due for a drop-off, which is a point Football Outsiders made in their 2012 season projections.

Even President Barack Obama recently looked out for Michael Vick's health by suggesting to Nnamdi Asomugha that he tell Vick to slide more often, but this schedule strength indicates Vick could be in just as much trouble in the pocket. Andy Reid and offensive line coach Howard Mudd will have their work cut out for them to keep Vick upright all season, especially since the Eagles lost left tackle Jason Peters to injury.

RG3's fantasy prospects take another hit when schedule strength is combined with the Redskins' aforementioned issues in allowing their quarterback to be hit last season. Mike Shanahan has shown no hesitance in opening up the vertical game in his Washington tenure -- the Redskins tied for third in vertical pass attempts in 2011 -- but he might do well to scale things back a bit to keep his franchise quarterback healthy for 16 games.

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