Since 1995, when Mike Shanahan became Denver's coach, the Broncos have rushed for the most total yards of any NFL team -- and what's particularly impressive is that they've done it with a revolving door in the backfield. During that span 12 backs have had a total of 93 games with at least 100 yards on the ground. That record is a tribute to the Broncos' offensive line, and it reinforces this fantasy truism: When in doubt, draft a Denver running back.
Across the league the fortunes of skill players rise and fall with their interior linemen. As the 2008 season approaches, here are five more lines that get votes of confidence, and five that give fantasy players reason to worry.
1. Houston: The most porous line in football not too long ago, the Texans have found a way to stop the pass rush: Their 22 sacks allowed in 2007 were less than a third of their '05 tally (68). This year the run blocking will catch up, thanks to the hiring of zone-blocking guru Alex Gibbs, who worked with Texans coach Gary Kubiak when they were both on Denver's staff. That's good news for running backs Ahman Green and Chris Brown.
2. New York: Jets Five-time All-Pro guard Alan Faneca, formerly of the Steelers, and ex-Vikings fullback Tony Richardson, virtually a lineman himself, will help Thomas Jones rebound from his dismal '07 season.
3. Cleveland: Last year a thrown-together group that included new signee Eric Steinbach at left guard and rookie Joe Thomas at left tackle helped resurrect the career of Jamal Lewis. Having been together a year, this line could become the league's best.
4. Green Bay: The running game will face more pressure if Aaron Rodgers is at the helm, but the offensive line, which plowed its way to the league's third-most yards per carry during the second half of last season, is back in its entirety.
5. Philadelphia: The Eagles gave up 49 sacks last year, fifth worst in the league, but 12 of those sacks came in Week 4, when starting left tackle William Thomas was out. All five starters return (assuming Pro Bowl right guard Shawn Andrews ends his absence from camp); look for a healthier Donovan McNabb to get off more balls than last year.
1. Carolina: They've got Jordan Gross, who is shifting from right to left tackle, and Travelle Wharton, who moves from left tackle to guard, and the three other starters had just four NFL starts among them in '07. This is not good news for anyone on the Panthers' offense.
2. Kansas City: Two of the Chiefs' five projected regulars have never started an NFL game. That's another reason to let someone else draft the battered Larry Johnson.
3. Pittsburgh: Losing Faneca and replacing him with unproven 350-pounder Chris Kemoeatu won't help a line that allowed 47 sacks last year, seventh worst in the NFL.
4. Baltimore: Adam Terry, the replacement for retired left tackle Jonathan Ogden, is out with an ankle sprain, a blow to the Ravens' already suspect pass protection.
5. Minnesota: Left tackle Bryant McKinnie could face an in-season suspension stemming from his involvement in an off-season fight, an absence that could prove fatal to the Vikings' struggling passing game.
These under-the-radar training camp battles bear watching by fantasy players.
Lions RB: Either '07 disappointment Tatum Bell or rookie Kevin Smith will benefit from Detroit's new dedication to the run.
49ers QB: If J.T. O'Sullivan gets the nod over Alex Smith or Shaun Hill, he could be worth a final-round flier, given offensive coordinator Mike Martz's track record with other journeymen (Kurt Warner, Jon Kitna).
Broncos WR: Free-agent signees Darrell Jackson and Keary Colbert are vying to catch balls from the breakout-ready Jay Cutler.