I’m going to give you two lists. Each set will be comprised of five starting NFL offensive linemen. While you will not get the names of these linemen, you will get their position, height, weight, draft position, years of experience, professional accomplishments, and 2012 cap number. From this information, you must determine which group is the better. That is, which group, when lined-up in a fashion that is befitting of offensive linemen (typically shoulder to shoulder), would perform better under game-like situations?

Group One

Pos. Ht. Wt. Draft Exp. Pro. Accomp. Cap # ($)
LT 6-08 315 Rd. 3/Pk. 9 2 None 713,750
LG 6-03 313 Rd 2/Pk. 48 1 None 1,380,000
C 6-03 313 Rd 2/Pk. 48 1 None 841,750
RG 6-05 295 Rd. 4/Pk. 113 11 None 3,000,000
RT 6-06 305 Rd. 2/Pk. 52 6 None 2,000,000

Group Two

Pos. Ht. Wt. Draft Exp. Pro. Accomp. Cap # ($)
LT 6-05 315 Rd. 1/Pk. 28 5 Pro Bowl/All Pro in 2011 2,000,580
LG 6-05 329 Rd. 1/Pk. 17 2 None 2,031,000
C 6-03 318 Rd. 5/Pk. 154 9 Super Bowl winner 3,716,667
RG 6-07 330 Undrafted 11 None 795,000
RT 6-05 323 Rd.1/Pk. 11 2 None 2,791,667

 

So which group performed better? Is it the group that boasts three first round draft picks? The same group that gets paid well-over $11 million annually? Or is it the group cobbled together with mid-round selections that earns nearly half the salary of Group Two?

Well, if last year is any indication, it is Group One, or as they are more commonly known, the Oakland Raiders.

Gasp.

I had assumed that a group of linemen would be subpar if composed of such players as Samson Satele, Cooper Carlisle, and Khalif Barnes. I was wrong, which commenter Tru was quick to point out.

According to Tru, “The Raiders O-line pass rank was 17th and the run was 15th, they weren’t great but with players like little Wiz and Veldheer they are trending in a positive direction.

“The Raiders o-line is ranked 5th in stats by NFL.com. In 2011 the Raiders gave up 25 sacks and 66 QB hits. The 49ers gave up 44 sacks and 82 hits.”

Salient points, to be sure, but I’m afraid they are understated. The Raiders were much better than Tru suggests.

Run Blocking

Adjusted Line Yards (ALY): This is a somewhat difficult stat to explain. For a more comprehensive understanding, go here. For a basic understanding, continue reading.

ALY is essentially yards per carry for offensive linemen. The staff at Football Outsiders has determined a way of assigning responsibility for gains on a running play. It is based on the following percentages:

  • Losses: 120% value
  • 0-4 Yards: 100% value
  • 5-10 Yards: 50% value
  • 11+ Yards: 0% value

Offensive linemen take all the credit and then some for lost yards, but get no credit for longer gains. The system is imperfect, which Football Outsiders is quick to point out, but it is still a good barometer for offensive line performance.

Power Success: Percentage of successful conversions on third or fouth-and-short. Also includes runs on first or second-and-goal from the 2-yard-line or closer.

Stuffed: Percentage of runs in which the running back is tackled at or behind the line of scrimmage. Teams are ranked from least often (#1) to most often (#32).

Team Adj. Line Yards Power Success Power Rank Stuffed Stuffed Rank
Raiders 4.13 67% 8 16% 3
49ers 3.96 51% 29 20% 22

 

The stats speak for themselves. The 49ers were outrageously bad on third or fourth-and-short. The most obvious example of this was Anthony Dixon’s failed third-and-1 rushing attempt in the NFC Championship Game. Most seem to blame Dixon’s foxtroting for the failed conversion. However, as ESPN’s Mike Sando illustrates, Dixon’s footwork was hardly the problem.

“The blocking was not very good,” Sando writes. “Mathias Kiwanuka shed (Justin) Smith immediately and blocked Dixon’s path off tackle. Chris Canty got between Anthony Davis and (Joe) Staley in time to affect Dixon. Dixon did hesitate and step to the side as he sought an opening. Again, though, the blocking was not great.”

So, while two former first round picks could not contain a defender, the Raiders hodgepodge of players excelled. As a unit, the Raiders were stuffed the third fewest times while converting on 67% of attempts. Surprising. But not as surprising as how well they did in pass protection.

Pass Blocking

Adjusted Sack Rate (ASR): ASR is sacks divided by pass plays, including passes, sacks, and aborted snaps. It is adjusted for opponent quality, as well as down and distance. More here.

Team Rank Sacks Adj. Sack Rate
Raiders 5 25 5.0%
49ers 25 44 8.4%

 

Again, there is little explication needed. The Raiders were good; the 49ers were not. This is not surprising. As Tru noted, the 49ers gave up 19 more sacks than their cross-bay rivals.

Conclusion

Both offensive live units have undergone slight changes from their 2011 compositions. The Raiders shifted Stefen Wisniewski from left guard to center, replacing him with Mike Brisiel, formerly of the Houston Texans. The swap is essentially Samson Satele for Brisiel, which is equitable trade. Pro-Football Reference gave both players Absolute Values of six.

The 49ers lost Adam Snyder to the Cardinals, and have yet to formally name a replacement. Pro-Football Reference gave Snyder an Absolute Value of six, but Pro-Football Focus called Snyder the “75th worst offensive guard out of 77.” Even though his play left a lot to be desired, there are no guarantees that his presumed replacement, Alex Boone (or Daniel Kilgore or Joe Looney), will fair much better. At least with Brisiel, the Raiders are getting a proven player.

So who’s got it better: The Raiders.