Detroit Lions offensive line gets blasphemous projection from ESPN

SideLion Report

By most accounts the Detroit Lions have one of the league’s best offensive lines, but ESPN’s analytics model does not agree.

Last season, Taylor Decker, Jonah Jackson, Frank Ragnow, Halapoulivaati Vaitai and Penei Sewell played zero snaps together. But the Detroit Lions, fully healthy, are lined up to have one of the NFL’s best offensive lines this season.

That front five, highlighted by three first-round picks and a 2021 Pro Bowler in Jackson who is not among that three, expects to be great this year and it’s hard to argue with the sentiment if they’re all healthy.

ESPN’s analytics department has projected pass block and run block win rates for the league’s 32 offensive lines this season, then ranked them in those categories as well as overall (subscription required).

In the bit about the Lions, writer Seth Walder noted Sewell’s improvement over the course of his rookie season (h/t to

After a rough start to his rookie season, Sewell’s numbers improved when he moved over to right tackle. His pass block win rate jumped from 82% to 87%, and his run block win rate ticked up from 71% to 73%. Neither right tackle number is elite — they’re both right around average — but perhaps it suggests what ought to be a slightly brighter forecast for his 2022 season than his numbers in aggregate might indicate.”

Detroit Lions offensive line gets ridiculous analytic projection from ESPN

Overall, ESPN’s analytic projection for 2022 ranked the Lions’ offensive line No. 26. Their predicted pass block win rate was the same (No. 26), with a projected run block win rate that came in 24th.

To further show the flaw in the rankings, look no further than what Ryan Mathews of Pride of Detroit tweeted.

The Chicago Bears have one of the worst, or at least most unsettled even after a couple recent veteran additions (including former Lion Riley Reiff), offensive lines in the league. Yet ESPN has somehow projected them 15 spots ahead of the Lions, at No. 11.

Analytics can be informative and improve our understanding of the game. But they aren’t perfect, and any process that says the Lions are a bottom-10 offensive line in the league is automatically  flawed.

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