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The men in the trenches

Success in the NFL can be difficult to achieve unless a team can work together as a cohesive unit on a consistent basis. In the world of fantasy football, we cheer for heroes such as Peyton Manning, LaDainian Tomlinson and Larry Johnson to fill the stat sheets and lead our team to victories, but even the most prominent of names can't be productive all alone.

Down in the trenches, where contests are won and lost, lies the athletes that don't receive much media attention but are still some of the most valuable assets on the field -- the offensive linemen. Without effective pass protection or holes to run through, even the best players can struggle to produce -- just ask owners who drafted Edgerrin James last season.

As a result, we've taken a look back at last season and ranked each team's pass and run lines. Since the goal of the offensive line is to afford quarterbacks and runners the time and space to produce numbers, our break down includes four statistical categories -- touchdowns per carry, yards per carry, yards per pass attempt and sacks per pass attempt.

Much like Rotisserie Baseball or Basketball formats, we've assigned point values -- 32 for the best line, 31 for the second-best line, 30 for the third-best line and down to a mere one point for the worst line -- for all four of our categories. This list can be a useful tool for owners to utilize when it comes time to choice between athletes with similar overall value.

1. San Diego Chargers (109.5 points): It's no shock to see the Chargers atop the list of the best offensive lines after the success of Tomlinson, who was the surefire MVP in fantasy football last season. San Diego finished with an NFL-best 32 touchdown rushes, ranked as the second-best run line with 61.5 points and had the fifth-best pass line with 48 points.

2. Indianapolis Colts (106.5 points): The protection of Peyton Manning is paramount to success for the Colts, and their line accomplished that mission in what was a championship season. The top pass line with a total of 63 points, this unit surrendered one sack per 38.1 pass attempts. Indianapolis also finished tied for the 10th-best run line with 43.5 points.

3. Philadelphia Eagles (104.5 points): Pass protection is ultra-important in an Eagles offense that loves to throw the football downfield, and their line did well to watch the backs of both Donovan McNabb and Jeff Garcia last season. Philadelphia finished as the third-best pass line with 54.5 points and ranked third as a run line with 50 points.

4. Jacksonville Jaguars (99 points): One of the more underrated lines in the league, the Jaguars found success on the ground with Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew. The top-rated run line on our list with 62 points, Jacksonville averaged 5.0 yards per carry. This unit wasn't as effective as a pass line with 37 points, but it still ranked in the top half of the NFL.

5. New Orleans Saints (96.5 points): The newfound success of the Saints offense had as much to do with Drew Brees and Reggie Bush as it did with an effective line that allowed one sack per 26.2 pass attempts and had a total of 61 points. However, this unit finished in the middle of the pack as a run line with 35.5 points due to a 3.7 yards-per-carry average.

6. Dallas Cowboys (91 points): The Cowboys offense seemed to click with Tony Romo at the helm, but much of its overall production was based on the success of Julius Jones and Marion Barber. With 21 touchdowns rushes, this unit scored 48.5 points and ranked fifth as a run line. Romo's mobility also assisted the line in the pass attack (42.5 points).

T-7. New England Patriots (84 points): Head coach Bill Belichick knows the importance of a reliable offensive line, and that's what he has built in his impressive tenure with the Patriots. While its 3.9 yards-per-carry average was tied for 18th, New England still had 20 touchdown rushes and 41 points as a run line. Their pass line was a solid ninth with 43 points.

T-7. Washington Redskins (84 points): A lot went wrong with the Redskins last season, but their offensive line wasn't one of them. Washington boasted a 4.5 yards-per-carry average and scored 37 points as a run line, but its real strength was in pass protection. The 'Skins surrendered the third-fewest sacks (17) and ranked sixth with 47 points as a pass line.

9. New York Giants (82 points): Injuries were an issue for the Giants last season, but the line still held its own. While it fielded a middle-of-the-road pass line -- the offense averaged 5.8 yards per pass attempt -- Big Blue did rank seventh as a run line with 47.5 points. That should be a positive for the combination of Brandon Jacobs and Reuben Droughns in 2007.

10. Pittsburgh Steelers (81 points): The Steelers offense has almost always been based on the run, and the success of Willie Parker last season had much to do with a run line that ranked eighth with 47 points. Quarterbacks averaged 7.1 yards per pass attempt, but the line also allowed one sack every 11.6 pass attempts and finished with a mere 34 points.

11. Kansas City Chiefs (77.5 points): The retirement of T Willie Roaf hurt the Chiefs line without question in 2006, but it still remained a top-10 unit as it pertains to Larry Johnson's success in the run with 46 points. Where this unit faltered was in its pass protection, as it surrendered one sack for every 11.9 pass attempts its quarterbacks threw last season.

12. Tennessee Titans (77 points): An offense with a versatile quarterback like Vince Young needs a line of solid run blockers, and that's exactly what the Titans fielded last season. In fact, the Titans run line ranked fourth on our scale with an impressive 49.5 points and helped the success of Travis Henry, but Tennessee's pass protection finished a mere 21st.

13. St. Louis Rams (76.5 points): The loss of T Orlando Pace for half the season due to a torn left triceps muscle was hard to overcome, but the Rams still ranked 12th on our list as a run line with a total of 43 points. Where it faltered was in its pass protection -- St. Louis surrendered one sack for every 13.1 pass attempts and need to improve on that stat.

14. Cincinnati Bengals (74.5 points):Carson Palmer and the Bengals offensive attack averaged the fifth-most yards per pass attempt with a solid 7.3 yards and scored a total of 44 points as a pass line based on our numbers, but a mediocre 3.7 yards-per-carry average caused Cincinnati to rank a mere 19th as a run line with a total of 30.5 points.

15. San Francisco 49ers (67.5 points): The 49ers are headed in the right direction as a franchise, and the success of Frank Gore was aided from a run line that tied for tenth on our list with 43.5 points. The pass line was not as impressive -- it ranked just 22nd with a mediocre 24 points -- but the addition of T Joe Staley in the NFL Draft will be a huge positive.

16. Denver Broncos (66 points): The Broncos run line is heralded due to the success of runners like Terrell Davis, Mike Anderson and Clinton Portis under head coach Mike Shanahan, but it ranked a middle-of-the-road 16th and averaged a mere one touchdown rush for every 40.6 carries in 2006. The pass line was a bit worse, as it ranked 20th with 31 points.

17. Baltimore Ravens (65 points): The addition of Willis McGahee was immense for the Ravens, but the team's run line needed some improvement. It ranked 29th on our list with 12 points, but it was far more effective as a pass line with the fourth-highest point total (53) based on our scale. The addition of rookie Gs Ben Grubbs and Marshal Yanda will help.

18. Green Bay Packers (63 points): Brett Favre remains the centerpiece of the Packers offense, and the pass line did well to protect the future Hall of Fame quarterback last season with 42 points (11th overall). The run line wasn't nearly as effective, however, as Ahman Green (Texans) and the offense averaged just one touchdown rush for every 47.8 carries.

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19. Chicago Bears (56 points): The backfield combination of Thomas Jones and Cedric Benson worked well for the Bears in their quest for a Super Bowl title, but the run line finished just 27th on our scale with a miniscule 14.5 points. The pass line was far more efficient in its protection of Rex Grossman, as it ranked 12th with a solid 41.5 points.

20. New York Jets (55 points): The addition of T D'Brickashaw Ferguson and C Nick Mangold were terrific long-term moves for head coach Eric Mangini and the Jets as a franchise, but the team's offensive line still finished 22nd on our scale with a total of 22 points as a run line and a middle-of-the-road 18th with 33 points as a pass line last season.

21. Atlanta Falcons (54.5 points): The Falcons had a league-best 5.5 yards-per-carry average in 2006, but the pass line allowed a sack for every 9.8 pass attempts, and that's with the versatile and elusive Michael Vick under center.

22. Carolina Panthers (52 points): In what was a forgettable season across the board, the Panthers run line finished an unattractive 25th with a mere 17 points. The pass line was far better, however, as it ranked a decent 14th on our list.

23. Arizona Cardinals (51 points): Believe it or not, but the Cardinals had the seventh-best pass line on our list with 45 points, but the run line was dead last with a miniscule six points. The addition of rookie T Levi Brown should help a lot.

24. Minnesota Vikings (49 points): The Vikings line was far better than the numbers indicate due to a serious lack of talent in the pass attack, but it did allow one sack for every 13.5 pass attempts. He run line was 17th with 31.5 points.

25. Detroit Lions (47 points): Veteran quarterback Jon Kitna had to run for his life for most of last season, as the Lions surrendered one sack for every 10.4 pass attempts. The run line ranked 23rd on our scale with a total of 23.5 points.

26. Houston Texans (46.5 points): Ron Dayne's late-season success pushed the Texans run line to 18th on our list with a total of 31 points, but David Carr continue to struggle behind a pass line that was still ineffective with 15.5 points.

27. Miami Dolphins (45 points): The Dolphins pass line couldn't protect their quarterbacks (one sack for every 15.4 pass attempts) in 2006, and the offense produced one touchdown in every 57.4 carries and finished 20th as a run line.

28. Seattle Seahawks (35.4 points): The loss of G Steve Hutchinson to serious injuries to Matt Hasselbeck and Shaun Alexander hurt the Seahawks line last season -- it ranked 24th in the run and scored a mere 16 points as a pass line.

29. Buffalo Bills (34 points): The addition of G Derrick Dockery and Ts Langston Walker and Jason Whittle is a positive for the offense and should improve a line that finished in the lower half of the NFL in both the run and the pass in 2006.

30. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (29.5 points): The Buccaneers were an ineffective team overall, but this unit was plain awful as a run line for Carnell Williams with 6.5 points and scored a mere one touchdown rush for every 67.3 carries.

31. Cleveland Browns (20 points): The Browns finished 30th both as a pass line (11 points) and a run line (nine points) last season based on our points scale, but the addition of G Eric Steinbach and T Joe Thomas will help.

32. Oakland Raiders (16 points): Oakland quarterbacks were black and blue, not silver and black, throughout 2006 -- the pass line surrendered one sack for every 7.7 pass attempts -- and their porous run line ranked a terrible 28th.

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