The fantasy blocking breakdown series reviews the impact that run and pass blocking have on fantasy football performance, using methodologies detailed here.
This week's fantasy blocking breakdown reviews whether fantasy managers should panic about the Cowboys' rushing attack, how dominant blocking led three Saints to score 20-plus points, an NFC quarterback who should be high on the list of teams needing help at that position, and whether to throw in the towel on Doug Martin.
The Cowboys' pass blocking is a concern, but don't worry about their run blocking
The eight sacks that the Dallas Cowboys gave up was one of the main reasons Dak Prescott and Dez Bryant each posted their second-lowest single-game fantasy point total of the season (13.2 and 7.9 points, respectively) and Terrance Williams all but disappeared with 1.9 fantasy points only a week after scoring 23.1 points against the Chiefs.
What makes those pass-blocking woes even more worrisome for fantasy managers is that Atlanta came into this contest ranked 31st in ESPN Stats & Information's pass pressure rate (PPR) metric from Weeks 5-9 (19.7 percent). The Falcons spiked their PPR to 40.5 percent in this contest, a pace that ranked fifth in Week 10 through the Sunday games. Atlanta also did this despite blitzing only 11.9 percent of the time, which is the second-lowest blitz pace in Week 10. This could be a significant concern for Prescott's fantasy managers, as the Cowboys' next two foes (Philadelphia and the Los Angeles Chargers) earned A-minus and B-plus grades, respectively, in pass rushing in my Week 10 fantasy blocking preview article.
That pass rush prowess carried over to stopping the Dallas rushing attack on the very first drive of the game, when the Falcons gave up only 5 yards on five rushes by the Cowboys, but that was really the only time Atlanta's defense consistently stopped the Dallas ground game. The Cowboys came into this contest having posted a 55.2 percent mark in Weeks 5-9 in my good blocking rate (GBR) metric that measures how often an offensive blocking wall gives its ball carriers quality run blocking. They didn't quite reach that GBR level against the Falcons, but their 44.4 percent GBR was the Cowboys' sixth-best single-game GBR this season and is more than 3 percentage points higher than the leaguewide GBR average this season (41.3).
These run-blocking metrics indicate that fantasy managers with Alfred Morris or Rod Smith on their rosters should avoid the temptation to bench them since they combined for only 12.2 fantasy points against the Falcons. They may not reach Ezekiel Elliott's production level in future contests, but as long as the blocking is there, Morris and Smith will be double-digit fantasy point candidates soon enough.
Don't blame the Bills' rush defense for what happened against the Saints, as New Orleans is capable of doing that to any defense
The Saints have a well-earned reputation for superb pass blocking, but they have proved to be every bit as adept at run blocking this season, as well. This group rated fifth in GBR through Week 9 (47.9 percent) and fared even better in this metric in Weeks 5-9 (50.5 percent). This latter metric led the Saints to post a 3.9 mark in that time frame in my good blocking productivity (GBP) metric that measures overall rushing game production, a pace that was fifth-best in the league.
New Orleans kept those blocking trends going against the Buffalo Bills, as the Saints posted a 50.0 percent GBR and a 4.1 GBP in that matchup. What makes this performance even more notable is the Bills defense came into this game ranked third in GBR (31.3) and 10th in GBP (2.9) allowed in Weeks 5-9. If the Saints could do that against a defense that had been playing the run this well, there may not be a defense capable of holding this offense in check.
Combine the dominant run blocking with an 11.5 percent PPR allowed that ranks as the best in Week 10 and it is why Mark Ingram, Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas each posted 20 or more fantasy points and could very well post point totals of that caliber again multiple times down the stretch of this fantasy season.
The case for not giving up on Doug Martin
Martin has been one of the most disappointing players in fantasy football this season. He started the campaign by missing the first four weeks (one due to Hurricane Irma, the other three due to a suspension) and followed that up with three games with a double-digit point total, but has since scored only 14.3 points in his past three contests.
The main problem for Martin is the Buccaneers' atrocious run blocking. Tampa Bay ranked 27th in GBR through Week 9 (37.0), 22nd in GBR from Weeks 5-9 (38.3) and has a 33.8 percent GBR during the past three contests. The Bucs' 26.7 percent GBR against the New York Jets really shouldn't come as a surprise since the Jets' A grade in rush defense was the primary factor in why the Buccaneers had a grade of D for matchup blocking in my Week 10 fantasy blocking preview article.
The bad news for Martin's fantasy managers is things don't look that much better in the short term, as the Week 11 contest is against a Miami defense that ranked fourth in GBR through Week 9 (35.8). The good news is matchups against Atlanta and Green Bay in the following two weeks are much more favorable, as the Falcons ranked 26th in GBR (45.1) and the Packers placed 15th (41.4) in that category after Week 9.
This means Martin's fantasy managers should considering holding a bench spot for him until Week 12. Those in leagues where Martin might be available via trade should consider making a reasonable offer given the potential for a matchup-driven turnaround.
Case Keenum's poise under pressure shows why he can be a quality fantasy starter
The Minnesota Vikings' pass blocking left a lot to be desired in the matchup against Washington, as they allowed a 43.3 PPR that ranked next to last in Week 10.
This caliber of pass rush pressure would prohibit most quarterbacks from tallying many fantasy points, but Case Keenum fought through this to rack up 24.1 points, the fourth-highest point total among quarterbacks in Week 10 so far.
A primary factor in this production level is that Keenum went 7-for-12 for 111 yards, one touchdown and one interception when under pass rush pressure in this contest. The resulting 9.3 yards per attempt (YPA) when under pass rush pressure led all quarterbacks in this category in Week 10, but it isn't an anomaly for Keenum. His 7.4 YPA when under pressure this season is second only to Tom Brady's awe-inspiring 10.4 YPA in that category.
This talent shows why Keenum is likely to keep the Vikings' starting quarterback job despite his occasional mental gaffes that lead to turnover chances for the opposing team. Fantasy managers should be of a similar mindset to the Minnesota coaching staff, as Keenum should be under strong consideration for backup duty for teams closing in on fantasy playoff berths.