The top five best, worst and most improved offensive lines in the NFL

There’s a secret that most good fantasy football owners don’t want you to know: Knowing how good (or how bad) an offensive line is could be the difference between you making the playoffs in your league, and winning the whole damn thing.

The bottom line is that the offensive line is the key to whether or not an offense is going to be successful in any given season. They’re the reason why guys like Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Drew Brews are able to rack up terrific passing yards year in and year out, and why Brandon Jacobs, Michael Turner and Adrian Peterson continue to be solid fantasy backs. So knowing which O-lines are quality and which act like revolving doors to their team’s backfield will give you an edge on draft day.

Below is a ranking of the top five best lines, the top five most improved lines and the top five worst lines in the NFL heading into the ’09 season. Use these rankings as a tool to help you make better decisions on draft day and to also aid you when you’re stuck between a couple of players in later rounds.

Granted, we’re not advocating bumping certain players to the top of your pre-draft rankings just based on these rankings. The Lions offensive line is the worst in football, but if Kevin Smith is there for the taking in the 5th round, by all means jump on him. This article is purely meant to be a helpful aid; obviously you still have to use solid judgment on draft day.

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Jets’ offensive line key to playoff hopes

In the weeks leading up to the kickoff the 2008 NFL Season, I’ll take a look at position groups that could potentially lift teams to new heights, or bury them and their postseason hopes. Today I take a look at how the play of the offensive line can affect the New York Jets playoff hopes.

Obviously Brett Favre is going to dominate the headlines in New York this fall, but the Jets’ playoff aspirations are going to rest more on their offensive line than Favre’s cannon right arm.

In the 2006 NFL Draft, much to the dismay of some of their fans, the Jets selected monster offensive tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson instead of a potential franchise quarterback in Matt Leinart. With their second pick in the first round (acquired from Denver via Atlanta), New York took former Ohio State center Nick Mangold.

Head coach Eric Mangini was making a point. He knew that without a solid offensive line, it wouldn’t matter who he lined up under center.

Ferguson and Mangold went on to have productive rookie seasons, but the entire line under performed in 2007 and the Jets sunk to a 4-12 record. Quarterbacks Chad Pennington and Kellen Clemens struggled, while running back Thomas Jones (acquired from Chicago during the offseason) was largely ineffective.

This offseason, the Jets doled out $40 million, with $21 million in guaranteed money to sign former Steelers’ guard Alan Faneca. New York hopes the former Pro Bowler Faneca will get the underachieving Ferguson and Mangold to play to their high expectations again in 2008.

Also this offseason, the Jets signed free agent right tackle Damien Woody, formerly of the Lions. While Woody was largely a bust in Detroit because of weight issues and is coming off shoulder surgery, he’s a small upgrade over 2007 starter Anthony Clement. Joining Woody on the right side is Brandon Moore, who returns as the Jets’ starting right guard.

If the Jets can get better production out of their offensive line in 2008, it’s hard to imagine a productive runner like Jones will struggle again like he did last season. And it’s no secret that if Favre has time, he’ll pick a defense apart with his incredible release and accuracy. Despite their poor 2007 season, the Jets have enough talent to win this year. But the play of the offensive line is going to be the key in whether or not this team can battle for a Wild Card spot in a tough AFC.

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