Big boys deserve pre-training camp love as well.
That’s why you have to read my offensive line tiers and rankings for the 2022 NFL season.
OK, you don’t have to, but having a good feel for the quality of offensive lines for the various teams around the league is important for two very specific reasons: to provide context to player performance and to be a tiebreaker when draft time comes around. Can’t decide between two running backs in the 9th round? Take the one with the better offensive line. It gives you both a higher floor and ceiling.
I broke down all 32 offensive lines into five different categories to give you a better sense of where I believe each team stacks up going into this season. Tiers are always better in terms of analysis as opposed to straight rankings — as you probably know from fantasy football.
Individual talent of the starting five is a critical factor, of course, but continuity, chemistry, and depth were heavily weighed as well. Every evaluator has an inherent bias, and mine is towards offensive linemen who play with a nasty edge, constantly trying to finish plays and physically punish the defense. I truly believe that has an impact on not only the rest of the offense but really the entire team.
It should be noted that things can and often do change up front during the course of a season, just like any other position. Not only are injuries a major factor but some groups, like the Detroit Lions a year ago, get better as the season goes on while others disappoint for various reasons.
Only two teams made it into this category, the Eagles and the Chiefs. Elite offensive lines have no real question marks in my mind, and have at least a couple of difference makers in the group.
The Eagles have three elite players in center Jason Kelce, right tackle Lane Johnson, and left tackle Jordan Mailata, who all are among the best in the league at their position. Mailata in particular should continue to blossom in his second year as the full-time starter and fifth year ever playing the sport (yes, ever). They also have an emerging bull in left guard Landon Dickerson, get longtime starter Isaac Seumalo back from injury to play right guard, and have enviable depth with a number of back-ups who have started a handful of games or more.
The Chiefs return all five starters, including an awesome left side of the line in Orlando Brown and Joe Thuney as well as two young studs in Creed Humphrey and Trey Smith at center and right guard who should be even better in year two. Right tackle isn’t a strength, but a healthy Lucas Niang should be better in his second year as a starter and Andrew Wylie provides a solid security blanket just in case.
Above-average lines have a chance to be elite but typically have one question, whether that is a position that is still up in the air or the health of a key component or two.
The Lions have decided to prioritize the lines on both sides of the ball, and it should pay big dividends in 2022. They have all five starters back from an offensive line that was quietly very solid last year and arguably get the best of the bunch back in center Frank Ragnow, who missed all but the first four games with an injury. They have a great chance to be elite if Ragnow returns to form and right tackle Penei Sewell takes the next step.
The Browns have a pair of Pro Bowl guards in Joel Bitonio and Wyatt Teller, and the tackles are both very good players as well, but right tackle Jack Conklin is coming off of a major injury and Nick Harris is still unproven as a full-time starter at center now that the team moved on from J.C. Tretter.
The Cowboys have proven studs in left tackle Tyron Smith and right guard Zack Martin, but they are at the stages of their career where they are getting worse, not better. Left guard will be fine, whether it is first-round pick Tyler Smith or veteran Connor McGovern, but you can’t argue they are better letting La’el Collins go and replacing him with Terence Steele. Not only is Steele not as good as Collins, but the depth takes a major hit as a result as well.
The Ravens, meanwhile, have all kinds of depth after the myriad injuries they suffered a year ago, including along the offensive line. If Ronnie Stanley plays at left tackle the way he did before his injury this should be a really good group, although I am very curious to see how first round pick Tyler Linderbaum fits into their scheme at center.
The only thing preventing the Saints from being in the elite category is the uncertainty with first round pick Trevor Penning replacing Terron Armstead at left tackle, although James Hurst provides a solid backstop should Penning not be up to the challenge or suffer significant growing pains as an FCS player starting in Year One.
Zion Johnson was a great pick by the Chargers in the first round and solidifies the interior, but right tackle remains a major question mark even after a season in which Storm Norton’s play hurt the team dearly in multiple outings. The hope is that Trey Pipkins can beat him out and give them better play at that position. He better.
Not only do the Patriots have new starters at guard as Michael Onwenu and Cole Strange replace Ted Karras and Shaq Mason, but there is a new offensive line coach in New England as wel,l which has been a problem in recent years for Belichick’s bunch, most notably after Dante Scarnecchia retired the first time. Luckily, they are solid at the other three positions so the young guards have accomplished vets on either side of them which always helps.
The Commanders’ offensive line played better than many realized a year ago, in large part thanks to a solid performance from some unheralded players, but they are replacing both guards with former Panthers standouts Andrew Norwell and Trai Turner, both of whom have seen better days.
The Buccaneers would normally be higher — much higher — on this list, but the surprise retirement of left guard Ali Marpet leaves a gaping hole that Tampa Bay hopes Aaron Stinnie or rookie Luke Goedeke can fill. If either is adequate, this immediately becomes a top-5 offensive line, but that remains to be seen. I don’t like the unknown when doing these rankings, and that is exactly what the left guard position is in Tampa.
Not only do the Bills have a very solid starting five but they may have the best depth of any offensive line in the league. In fact, they will end up trading or cutting multiple players with double-digit starts in the NFL who will likely end up elsewhere. Depth is a key component for Super Bowl contenders, and GM Brandon Beane has created it with this unit.
I’ve got the Bengals as above average based entirely on their free agent additions this off-season. Cincinnati made it all the way to the Super Bowl despite a horrid offensive line, so they went out and signed Ted Karras, Alex Cappa, and La’El Collins. That trio, along with Jonah Williams and probably second-year man Jackson Carman, should be enough to get them all the way to this category.
Average offensive lines are really just that: mediocre. They probably won’t impact the skill guys on your fantasy team significantly, either positively or negatively. Usually, they will have three guys that I feel really good about but a couple of question marks that hold them back in my rankings right now.
The Packers have had a very good offensive line for years, but the uncertainty surrounding David Bakhtiari’s knee combined with Elgton Jenkins coming off a major injury of his own plus the departures of both Lucas Patrick and Billy Turner gives this group more questions than answers right now, although I expect them to still be solid under a great coach in Adam Stenavich.
The losses of Andrew Whitworth and Austin Corbett put the Rams in a position where they may take a step back. Joseph Noteboom will likely be fine at left tackle as he has done well in the past, but the right guard spot is up for grabs.
The 49ers’ offensive line is fascinating. The tackles are studs, but the free-agent departure of Laken Tomlinson and the retirement of Alex Mack has San Francisco in a position to break in a couple of newbies up front at those two spots. Fortunately for Niners fans, there is a long track record of young guys being up to the task in the Shanahan system, especially if they have worked in it for a couple of years.
The Colts have studs at left guard, center, and right tackle, but right guard and left tackle are major concerns. Matt Pryor starting at left tackle? Seriously?
The Jets’ offensive line will go as far as mammoth tackle Mekhi Becton takes them. If he returns to his rookie season form, the sky is the limit. If he doesn’t, Gang Green has problems.
The Broncos’ offensive line is perfectly average, and they added the likewise average Billy Turner to the line-up at right tackle, so I rated them “average.” Makes sense, right?
The Dolphins are doing everything possible this season to find out what they have in Tua Tagovailoa, and that includes adding both left tackle Terron Armstead and interior starter Connor Williams to the mix. Those two additions give Miami the chance to put a very solid group in front of Tua so he can get the ball to Tyreek Hill and these impressive weapons.
Below-average offensive lines typically have more questions than answers at this point, but have the potential to be an average or even above-average lines if those questions are answered affirmatively.
The Panthers offensive line was a major problem last year, which really just exacerbated the inconsistent play at quarterback. The good news is they recognized that, adding Bradley Bozeman and Austin Corbett in free agency before drafting Ickey Ekwonu in the top 10. If Brady Christensen can get it done at left guard, this group could go all the way from below average to above average.
I’m not sure there’s an organization that has gotten less out of their resources allocated to the group than the Falcons and their offensive line. The entire group is homegrown with premium picks, and yet both left guard Jalen Mayfield and right tackle Kaleb McGary leave a lot to be desired.
The Giants, much like the Panthers, threw resources at the big problem that has been their offensive line. Guys like Jon Feliciano, Mark Glowinski, and Max Garcia may not go to the Pro Bowl anytime soon, but they do give the G-Men both depth and competent play. Meanwhile, Evan Neal should start from Day One and play well at right tackle.
The Texans are another team with a chance for improvement after they added AJ Cann in free agency and Kenyon Green in the first round to man the guard spots. Those two, along with a good pair of tackles in Laremy Tunsil and Tytus Howard, give the Texans a chance to be average quickly.
The Vikings are like the Giants in the sense that I can’t remember the last time their offensive line wasn’t a problem at this point. The hope is Christian Darrisaw will be better in Year Two and that rookie Ed Ingram will start and be a force from the start. Hope, however, is not a plan or a guarantee.
I take back what I said about the Falcons. The Jaguars are actually the team that has invested the most resources, time, and money into the offensive line for the worst return on investment. Brandon Scherff should help at right guard, but center and left guard are still concerns and I’ve never liked their tackles as much as they appear to.
The Titans’ offensive line used to be a strength. That is simply no longer the case, and in fact it is getting close to being a liability, especially at both left guard and right tackle.
The Cardinals have issues. Their right tackle and left guard are descending players. Their center hasn’t shown up for anything this off-season. And their right guard couldn’t start for the Giants. Yes, the New York Giants. They were oh so close to being in the poor category which is exactly where they’ll find themselves if Rodney Hudson isn’t in the pivot for them in Week 1 (he told them on July 18 he plans on playing, but let’s see him get through camp).
Poor offensive lines have lots of question marks, which is not good for your fantasy quarterback, running back, or wide receiver. They might end up being fine… but I wouldn’t count on it.
Fortunately for these teams, players can and often do improve, especially young guys that simply lack experience. Unfortunately, sometimes they don’t.
The Raiders retooled their offensive line last offseason, including several moves that made little sense at the time and even less sense now. Other than left tackle Kolton Miller, who do you really feel good about up front in the Silver & Black?
The Steelers’ offensive line was predictably really bad last year, so they fixed the problem by bringing in Mason Cole and James Daniels. Wait, what? If those guys are the answer, you are likely asking the wrong question.
The Seahawks’ offensive line is highly concerning but, then again, if the quarterback is either Drew Lock or Geno Smith does it really matter?
The Bears have the potential to not only have the worst offensive line in the NFL this year, but maybe even the worst offensive line we’ve seen in the NFL in quite some time if their young tackles don’t come through. So they have that going for them, I guess?