Fantasy Football Rb Discussion with O-Line Impact
Special guest and former NFL O-lineman Ross Tucker joins us today to discuss running backs and the impact of O-Lines in the NFL. The Fantasy Football Counselor asks questions that could really help in your decision to select certain Rb’s this season.
Joseph Robert: Welcome to the show, everybody. Joseph Robert, the fantasy football Counselor. It is off-season but that doesn’t mean we stop rolling out the content. I’ve got a very special guest on this show today. A man that knows football better than pretty much anybody out there because he’s actually played it, Ross Tucker, a former offensive lineman on the show and we’re going to be talking about running backs and of course O-lines pertaining to them. I’ve got inside information with him because he knows O-lines pretty much better than anybody. So I wanted to deep dive with him, get his insight information because he’s been there, he’s been in the O-line and how it pertains to fantasy football. So we’ve got a bunch of questions for him. We’ll get him on, what’s going on Ross, welcome to the show.
Ross Tucker: Joe, my pleasure. Thanks for having me, man. Keep crushing it, I’m loving the show and glad to be on it finally.
Joseph Robert: Thank you and I love what you’ve done. Now if you want to just introduce your podcast, you’ve got Fantasy Feast podcast, you’ve got four other podcasts on top of that. Can you introduce what… Are you on all of those shows or is it just the one or two you focus on or how do you manage five podcasts?
Ross Tucker: Yeah, so I lucked out man. When I retired I was writing for Sports Illustrated and then ESPN hired me away to write for them and they asked if I would host their podcast. This is like 2009 Joe. I had no idea what a podcast was, but I knew they were going to pay me money to talk about football. So I said sure. So I did the ESPN football today podcast for like three years. Then I went on my own with the Ross Tucker football podcast, which is daily. So it’s kind of cool to get a former player’s daily perspective on the news of the day. Then the next year I launched the Fantasy Feast podcast, had Evan Silva. Now I have Joe Dolan. Crushed it this year on the even-money sports betting podcast with Steve Pezdek from pregame. I’m also on the College Rap cast and then the Business of Sports podcast, Andrew Brant does himself and we’ve got some other fun podcasts like the fantasy football ball blast girls. They’re awesome. So we got a nice little network going man, it’s fun.
Joseph Robert: Yeah, you must be definitely busy. I definitely see that and I appreciate you coming on today. So I know you’re busy and let’s just get right to it here. Now you are a former offensive lineman so you know what it’s like. You’ve been there in the NFL on multiple teams and let’s start off with 2020 fantasy football running backs. I want to talk about this.
Joe Mixon Fantasy Football Impact
I’m going to list off some running backs here for you and I want to get your opinion on them in regards to how they potentially could do based on the O-line. And the first name that comes to my mind is Joe Mixon because I think he needs some old-line help. What do you think the Bengal’s need? Aside from a quarterback, do you think they need to beef up that O-line and how could that affect Joe Mixon going into 2020? I want to start off with him because I know he needs help.
Ross Tucker: Well it’ll be interesting because like you, I project that they will have a rookie quarterback in Joe Burrow sooner rather than later. So you wonder what that means for Burrow. I’m sorry, for Mixon, too many Joe’s. Joe the fantasy football Counselor, Joe Mixon, Joe Burrow, you wonder what that means in terms of stacked boxes for Mixon. AJ Green’s also a free agent. So there’s a lot there when it comes to the Bengal’s, but they will absolutely upgrade their offensive line. I mean Joe, they have to. Now the good news is they’re going to get Jody Williams back, their first-round pick from last year who missed the whole season with that shoulder surgery. That should help tremendously. They like Trey Hopkins at center.
Ross Tucker: The question is Billy Price, another former first-round pick is he able to earn the other guard spot because they could have Jonah Williams and Billy Price at the guards. And if you do that with Hopkins at center, then you have something. Now I still think they’d probably like to upgrade the tackles if they can, but Rome wasn’t built in a day. There’s no question though that the Bengal’s offensive line, if they’re going to look to upgrade it and that they will be better. Because to be honest with you, they really couldn’t be much worse. I mean they were really bad.
Joseph Robert: Right, and so let’s just have some fun with this, and I hate to put you on the spot here, but if you can grade, give me a rating out of one and 10 on Cincinnati’s O-line as of last year. Could you do that? Just give me, how bad are they? Would you say a two out of 10 I want you to grade them.
Ross Tucker: Yeah, no problem. They were one of the five worst offensive lines in the NFL. So I’ll give them a two. I’ll give them a 1.8 if you want it. They were terrible.
Joseph Robert: Okay. Now-
Ross Tucker: They were very poor. The reality is Joe, there are some elite offensive lines, there are some poor offensive lines. Most of them are somewhere in the middle. You can be high and middle and low middle. But the Bengal’s offensive line was bad enough that it was a significant negative difference maker without question.
Joseph Robert: Okay. Because Joe Mixon still finished 13th in PPR amongst running backs. So that’s really interesting. So that goes to credit to him based on what we’re seeing with the rating. They were terrible. So give some credit to Joe Mixon.
Ross Tucker: Yeah, and part of that I think was they were relying on him, especially when Finley was in the game and also they were trailing so much. So he got a bunch of garbage time check-downs and such as well, which helps.
Saquon Barkley Fantasy Football Impact
Joseph Robert: All right, another O-line, there are a couple of ones I really want to focus on because I’ve got questions about them and we’re deep diving. Another O-line we’re just going to jump over here is Saquon Barkley in the New York Giants. Because Saquon’s a guy I’m actually putting in as the number one running back to take off the board next year, finished 10th in PPR this past season still rushed for over a thousand yards and he only played 13 games with a terrible O-line. So the first question is what do you think of the Giant’s O-line? Where do you rate them out of one to 10 and how do you think Barkley’s going to do behind them, predicated on who they draft or give me a feel of their O-line going into next season where they rank?
Ross Tucker: Yeah, I would say they were more like a four. They were lower-middle is how I would describe them. I kind of like Hernandez and Zeitler at guard. The tackles are the disappointment, they paid so much money for Solder and he really has not delivered on what they were looking for there. Remmers at right tackle is just a guy and he was in that lineup. I would expect them, whether it’s free agency or the draft, to upgrade the right tackle spot. And I would think another year with Daniel Jones at quarterback will only help the O-line in terms of Jones getting rid of the ball faster and Saquon. So I would look at them as like a three and a half, four on a scale of one to 10 with the opportunity to be more like a five, maybe even five and a half depending on how they upgrade the tackle spot.
Joseph Robert: So are you really intrigued with Saquon Barkley next year being a top-three back?
Ross Tucker: Yeah, I mean the guy’s a total freak show. It’s very clear that they want to run the offense through him. He had a dead period of like eight games between his injury and after the injury where it seemed like he did nothing. And yet you already said where he finished up. So if he stays healthy and doesn’t have the dead period, I absolutely think Saquon should be going high off people’s boards again this year even though I’m sure he disappointed quite a few last year.
Leveon Bell Fantasy Football Impact
Joseph Robert: Interesting, very nice. All right, the next O-line here and I’m just picking on certain players because I have particular questions pertaining to them. This is a guy that I have for years thought he’s overrated and a big part of his success you may or may not agree with me, but I think he’s completely overrated. He’s good but he’s a little overrated, a lot of his success and I want you to patent my theory here. One way or another, just to get some feedback on it, is Le’Veon Bell. Okay listen, he was on the Steelers for years. We saw guys like DeAngelo Williams, James Conner performance similarly in regards to production behind the same O-line with the Steelers. And I said, “As soon as he comes on the Jets, he will decline.”
Joseph Robert: A lot of his product and success was predicated on the whole off fence of the Steelers. We had AB spreading the field, Big Ben’s experience releasing the ball on time. That’s what I think a big part of his success is. So let’s talk about the Jets O-line. First of all, I start off with the Jets O-line. Where do you think they’re rated on a one to 10 and is Le’Veon Bell really overrated and was a part of his success because of the Steelers O-line? Can you explain this whole situation to me, please?
Ross Tucker: Yeah, so the Jets offensive line was horrendous. They were extremely poor. They were in the Bengal’s category. I go 1.5 to two range on a scale of one to 10.
Joseph Robert: Wow, that low?
Ross Tucker: So they were really, really, really poor. Yeah, they really hurt him quite a bit and they’re going to totally revamp that thing because almost all their offensive linemen are free agents. But I do believe that Joe Douglas, the new general manager, is going to really make that a high priority. And as a result, I would expect them to be closer to a four, maybe even a five next year. Because I would imagine that he devotes a tremendous amount of resources to that position. You have to understand though he went from a nine or nine and a half O-line in the Steelers to a one and a half O-line and then got worse at quarterback and obviously worse at wide receiver.
Ross Tucker: I don’t know if I’d say Le’Veon Bell is overrated, but I would say that a lot of his production was helped by having an elite offensive line. I mean elite, top three in the league as well as having Big Ben and Antonio Brown to spread the ball around. So totally agree with you on that perspective. And even if they’re better next year, we know the head coach doesn’t really like him, doesn’t really want him. So I don’t really know what the usage will be. And even if the O-line’s better and Le’Veon Bell’s production is better, I still don’t think it will approach what it was in Pittsburgh.
Derrick Henry Fantasy Football Impact
Joseph Robert: Very interesting take. Yeah, I think he is pretty good, I agree. It’s just, again, a lot of people were drafting him at the end of the first round for 2019 I’m like, “Guys listen, it’s not the same offense. Let’s try to stay away. He’s not going to be a first-round value running back,” and it turned out he wasn’t. So yeah, he did the best he could with what he had. A couple of other guys here real quickly here and I just want to get your opinion here. Derrick Henry, a guy that I was high on going into the 2019 season, I saw the talent. I know he talked to some mentors including Eddie George saying he had to impose his will on defenders and really make a name for himself and I think he’s going to get paid. What are your thoughts on Derrick Henry? Do you think a lot of his success was based on the O-line or is it just because he’s a beast? What are your thoughts on him?
Ross Tucker: Well, first of all, I think he ends up back with the Titan’s because I think they want to run their offense through him. And I also think that he’s more valuable to the Titan’s than he would be to any other team. I just don’t envision any other team really paying for him like that. So I think he’s back with the Titan’s, and he’s a horse. There’s no way around it. But I got to tell you, his offensive line kicked some serious ass late in the year and in the playoffs. You look at how many times he was getting three yards downfield before he was even touched. It was extremely impressive. Now the good news is those guys are all back with the exception of Jack Conklin, they ran primarily behind the left side of the offensive line.
Ross Tucker: So those guys are back now. Jack Conklin’s going to get a lot of money from somebody. I don’t know if it ends up being… They do have a chance to take a step back upfront based on what happens with Conklin. But most of his damage was the left side and Lawan, Saffold, and Jones will all be back.
Joseph Robert: Interesting. Two more guys real quickly here. Just a quick idea on them. A guy I was high on and I was a little bit wrong and I think it’s part of the O-line, I don’t know exactly. I was watching him a lot. He looks not sluggish I would say, but he just wasn’t able to penetrate and get big runs. A guy by the name David Montgomery, the Bears, was his… I wouldn’t say struggle but I guess he didn’t do as well as advertised as I thought. Because he broke a lot of tackles in college, we know how good he was and I think now you end up using Tariq Cohen, he’s not leveraging Montgomery as much as he should. Did the O-line play a factor in hindering David Montgomery’s upside?
Ross Tucker: It did. Now I’m with you Joe, I was looking for a little more juice from David Montgomery. I didn’t see quite the explosiveness that I was hoping for. I do believe that he’s a guy that has the ability to break tackles and he absolutely showed that. So I’ll give him a lot of credit for that, his ability to break tackles, but he just didn’t hit the hole as hard as I would have thought that he would. To your point, that’s number one. Then number two, the offensive line did struggle. I mean you look at them, I don’t know why they kept moving James Daniels and Cody Whitehair back and forth between left guard and center, but as a former offensive lineman, it drove me crazy. I mean that’s just not conducive to success. I think that hurt them and overall I thought the unit was disappointing. Kyle Long being hurt the whole time hurt as well. But they certainly took a step back from how they had performed in 2018 when they ran the ball much better.
Joseph Robert: Very interesting take. So he probably was what, a three, four out of 10 O-line in regards to rating?
Ross Tucker: Yeah. I’d give them a four and a half. Say they were four, four and a half and they’re going to… We’ll see because Kyle Long retired so they’ve got to get right guard better. They have a new offensive line coach. I don’t know if Juan Castillo is better than Harry Houston. I thought Harry Houston did a terrific job so it’ll be very interesting to see how it all unfolds.
Joseph Robert: Okay, two more quick questions here. Number one is there a running back that you saw that, I know it’s kind of a general question here, that underperformed. That you said, “Hey that guy had a really good O-line, he was on a pretty good team and the guy crapped the bed.” Is there a running back that you can think of off the top of your head that underperformed based on a pretty decent O-line? I’m going to have you dig deep here on this one. I don’t know if there’s anyone coming to your head.
Ross Tucker: Yeah, yeah. I’m just trying to think. You know David Johnson and Todd Gurley come to mind, but I’m not sure it’s because of the O-line. We saw what Kenyan Drake did in Arizona so it’s kind of hard to put that on the O-line based on how Kenyan Drake performed out there. And I will say this, in fairness to Gurley, I thought Gurley still had a lot of juice. I thought Gurley still did some really positive things and that it was actually, a lot was the offensive line taking a big step back at center and left guard. So Gurley would be my answer to your question. I think he underperformed because of the O-line.
Joseph Robert: Okay, but he was preserved. I find they were preserving him thinking, “Oh, we’re going to just automatically by default make the playoffs and then turn him up by week 12,” and I just think they kind of preserved them a bit. His attempts weren’t that crazy. Like week four I’m looking here, he had like five attempts. I’m like, “What the hell is that?” Maybe he was injured, that game, I don’t know. But his attempts could have been better. That was-
Ross Tucker: Well that was certainly what the goal was to try to manage the situation. He might not even be with the Rams. He’s got a very tricky situation they’re going to try to work through.
Joseph Robert: Interesting. And I know it’s another general question here, but how does it feel to be on the field as an O-lineman? Obviously it’s gritty, it’s tough. You’re in there and I just feel that you guys are so underrated because a lot of the attention, especially for us fantasy guys, is like, “Hey, here’s a quarterback, running back, wide receiver.” But how much of a percentage, maybe it’s a stupid question here, but how much of a percentage do you think, or how much importance is the O-line for a running back? Is that a huge factor? Or is it more talent that weighs into the positive production of a running back? So example, let’s just say Carlos Hyde is running behind an O-line. Is that better or is it Saquon Barkley running behind a one O-line? How much does it play a factor?
Ross Tucker: Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, that’s easy. And it is Carlos Hyde behind a nine offensive line. There’s no question in my mind. Yeah, you look at the teams. Look at the Niners, no matter what running back they put in there, you know what I mean? Look at the Eagles, whether it was first Jordan Howard and then Miles Sanders. I just think, you mentioned the Steelers earlier. The offensive line has a tremendous amount to do with that success. There’s no question.
Joseph Robert: Yeah, it is heavily weighted. So yes, definitely. I look at that, I look at the season, that was my deciding factor on whether I wanted Le’Veon Bell this year, him going to the Jets. And that played out in my favor. I did mess up. I messed up on David Johnson, but I think that was completely unforeseen. It is what it is with David, but I feel bad for the guy. He did look sluggish out there. Hopefully, he can revive. And I’ve met him. I’ve been to his house. He was endorsing my brand a couple of years ago when I first started, I started off with the fantasy frame, which is a league prize. I got out of that and focused on podcasting, but I met the guy and I know how competitive he is and I know how much he dealt with haters growing up and I hope he bounces back.
Ross Tucker: Totally agree, Joe. I’m with you on that. He’s a great young man. I hope he still has something left because I saw him carry against Bucks late in the year, and I thought, “Uh-oh, he might be done already.” I hope he isn’t. Joe, thank you so much for having me, man. Cannot wait to have you Friday on the Fantasy Feast podcasts going to be awesome man, to get you, the fantasy football counselor, on my show.
Joseph Robert: I’m excited and hopefully we get you on more as we get on towards the season. It is a little offseason and a lot of people have checked out of fantasy so we’re going to get a lot more listeners to come towards the season where the podcast, and I’m sure your podcast is booming, so thanks for being on the show. I appreciate it and yeah guys, hope you guys got a lot of value out of that. I know I did.
Ross Tucker: Absolutely take care of Joe.
Joseph Robert: Take care. Thank you. There you have it. Ross Tucker from Fantasy Feast podcast and former O-lineman and great to have him on the show and that was a lot of good insight on O-lines and their impact towards running backs. Not a good idea of it, but it’s just nice to get that inside information for someone who’s been on the field, someone who’s very experienced, so great having him on the show. Listen, guys, make sure you guys click subscribe. We’re on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify, we’re everywhere and we’re revamping the YouTube channel and that should be back up. I would say first week of March, we’re coming back, so make sure you guys are staying tuned to the YouTube channel as well @fantasyfootballcounselor. And of course, number one Instagram page @fantasyfootballcounselor. Make sure you guys subscribe and again, great episode here. We’re talking running backs as we start ramping up to 2020 fantasy football. It’s never too early. Thanks for being here guys. And I’m out.
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