Glenn Guzzo

 

What is Your Offensive Line Worth?

 

By Glenn Guzzo

 

Strat-O-Matic games reflect the real ones in so many ways, including the low-esteem for the NFL’s offensive linemen. In Strat-O-Matic, they don’t have their own cards and each man’s run-block rating comes into play just once or twice each game. That can be a helpful block, but it’s not going to spring a breakaway run.

 

Still, the wise Strat coach, just like the NFL coaches, knows that football games are won on small margins – the timely play that keeps a scoring drive alive or the untimely failure that means an early punt and weaker field position for several possessions.

 

The wise Strat coach makes strategy decisions based on where his 6-rated (or 0-rated) blockers are (or where his opponents’ are). So we’ve crunched the numbers to help coaches see how much difference a 0, 4, 5 or 6 at each blocking position will make on each of the three SOM run types.

 

These numbers can be used to show the comparative value of, say, a 6-rated tight end vs. a 5-rated guard. They can be used to evaluate each team’s advantages and disadvantages running right or left on end runs or off tackle. They can help you calculate how many extra yards good blockers will deliver – maybe, even, how many extra wins good blocking can help achieve.

 

The chart below contains several worthwhile findings:

 

The numbers under each run show how many extra yards per carry a runner can expect for that type of run, depending on the quality of the center, guard, tackle, end or blocking back. The yardage is the amount over what that runner would get if his blocker was rated 0.

 

We see, for instance, that a 6-rated end will deliver more bang for an end run in his direction than a 6-rated tackle will for an off-tackle run or a 6-rated center will deliver for a linebuck. That’s because the difference for a successful block is 6 yards for an end run, 5 for off tackle and 4 for a linebuck. And because the end has the most-called-upon rating for sweeps, just as the tackle is king on off-tackle runs and the center is No. 1 on linebucks (where ends and offensive tackles have no influence).

 

We also see that a guard’s influence on any of these plays is less than the most important lineman for that play. However, because only a guard can influence all three runs, the guard’s cumulative value is greatest of all.

 

Use these numbers in context. Your No. 1 back might not be running many more end runs than linebucks, or vice versa. Consider your own play-calling tendencies when choosing between that better-rated tackle, guard or end.

 

The chart shows that each position has a small effect on a particular run, adding no more than 1 or 2 tenths to a back’s average. But the cumulative effect of your line can be strong.

 

Because Kansas City has a 6 at left tackle and left guard, plus a 5 blocking back, Larry Johnson can expect an extra 4 tenths of a yard on a sweep around left end, even with the typical 0 at that end.

 

Similarly, this chart can help you decide which running plays will work best for your team. Should Johnson run left, with those twin 6s but a 0 at end, or right, where there is a guard 6, tackle 5 and end 4?  Answer: All else equal, go left, where the blockers add 0.4 to Johnson’s average, rather than right, where it’s 0.36.

 

Those are small numbers, but a 10 percent difference. A consistent 10 percent difference all season gives Johnson an extra 175 yards. Those extra 11 yards in a game could be the difference in three extra first downs, or a touchdown.

 

Considering that about one-third of all NFL games are decided by a touchdown or less, a TD per game can make all the difference in a team’s record. Wiping out one-third of a team’s losses turns a 7-9 team into a 10-6 playoff contender, or a 10-6 team scratching for a playoff spot into a 12-4 favorite with home-field advantage.

 

 

RUN BLOCKING VALUE BY POSITION + RATING

 

 

extra yards per carry above a 0 rating for each position

 

 

weighted by percentage of time player's rating will

 

 

 

come into play and be successful

 

 

 

 

LB

OT

ER

 

Total*

 

 

End-0

xxx

0

0

 

0

 

 

End-4

xxx

0.05

0.08

 

0.13

 

 

End-5

xxx

0.9

0.17

 

0.26

 

 

End-6

xxx

0.14

0.25

 

0.39

 

 

Tackle-0

xxx

0

0

 

0

 

 

Tackle-4

xxx

0.07

0.06

 

0.13

 

 

Tackle-5

xxx

0.14

0.11

 

0.25

 

 

Tackle-6

xxx

0.21

0.17

 

0.38

 

 

Guard-0

0

0

0

 

0

 

 

Guard-4

0.4

0.05

0.06

 

0.15

 

 

Guard-5

0.7

0.09

0.11

 

0.27

 

 

Guard-6

0.11

0.14

0.17

 

0.42

 

 

Center-0

0

0

xxx

 

0

 

 

Center-4

0.06

xxx

xxx

 

0.06

 

 

Center-5

0.11

xxx

xxx

 

0.11

 

 

Center-6

0.17

xxx

xxx

 

0.17

 

 

Bback-0

0

0

0

 

0

 

 

Bback-4

0.02

0.02

0.03

 

0.07

 

 

Bback-5

0.04

0.05

0.06

 

0.15

 

 

Bback-6

0.06

0.7

0.08

 

0.21

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All 0's

0

0

0

 

 

 

 

All 4's

0.15

0.19

0.22

 

 

 

 

All 5's

0.3

0.37

0.44

 

 

 

 

All 6's

0.44

0.56

0.67

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

* "Total" shown as cumulative value, but yards per

 

 

 

carry depends on percentage of carries for LB, OT, ER

 

 

 

Looking at the influence of “All 4s,” “All 5s,” or “All 6s,” remember that on a sweep, that’s one end, one tackle, one guard and one blocking back. Same for off tackle, except that the tackle has more influence than the end. For linebucks, that’s the center, both guards and the blocking back, but not the tackles or ends.

 

To achieve the nearly 0.7-yard advantage on sweeps (turning a pedestrian 4.0 back into a Pro-Bowl-caliber 4.7) a line needs only a 6 Tight End, Right Tackle, Right Guard and Blocking Back, not 6s across the whole line.

 

            These numbers are additionally important to evaluating a running back’s card. Backs with identical rushing averages do not have identical card values because their offensive lines add different value.

 

            If a back’s card is less impressive than his numbers suggest, check for strong run-blocking. Conversely, a surprisingly good card might have to be better to compensate for little help up front.