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2021 Offensive Line Rankings

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2021 Offensive Line Rankings

I know what you’re thinking.

“Do I really have to read a former offensive lineman’s article about his offensive line rankings so that I can win my fantasy league this year?”

No, you don’t.

But then again, you don’t have to read all of the other fantasy analysts, injury experts, and analytics dudes either. But you do. Because you want to win, and you know it gives you an edge.

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 this year. Individual talent of the starting five is a critical factor, of course. But continuity, chemistry, and depth were heavily weighed as well. It’s also worth acknowledging my inherent bias: every evaluator has one, and mine is towards offensive lines that play with a nasty edge, constantly trying to finish 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, just like any other position. Last year I thought the Steelers would be a top 10 offensive line, and for various reasons, they clearly were not. Conversely, I thought the Browns lone liability was right guard Wyatt Teller, who shoved that thought right down my throat in a breakout season that saw him become one of the best guards in the entire league.

Still, I feel like I have a really good grasp of where these teams fall as we head into training camp.

The Rankings

The Tiers

ELITE

Only two teams made it into this category, the Browns and the Saints. Not so coincidentally, both teams have all five starters back in the same spots as a year ago. Offensive line play requires working in concert with the men next to you more than any other position group, and having the exact same group bodes well for these units.

The Browns had a terrific season last year in new head coach Kevin Stefanski’s scheme and there is no reason to think the younger players like Teller and left tackle Jedrick Wills won’t continue to get better.

The Saints have a terrific tackle tandem and some young bulls inside in Erik McCoy and Cesar Ruiz who could each make a leap this year given their pedigree.

ABOVE AVERAGE

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.

I have the Buccaneers ranked higher than most, because center Ryan Jensen is my favorite player in the NFL. If you want to be entertained watching a single offensive lineman every snap for an entire game, check out #66 for Tampa Bay. The only real knock on the Bucs is the occasional — and very annoying — lapses by left tackle Donovan Smith. The talent is there with Smith, but it doesn’t always show up when he lacks focus and effort.

The Colts would be in the elite category if Anthony Castonzo hadn’t retired. But he’s gone, and they have a cast of journeymen looking to fill that void until former Chief Eric Fisher can return from the torn Achilles he suffered in the AFC Championship game in January.

How quickly people forget that the Philadelphia Eagles had arguably the best offensive line in the entire NFL in 2019. If Brandon Brooks and Lane Johnson stay healthy, there is no question this is an above-average group, and if one of the two young guys (Jordan Mailata and Andre Dillard) vying for the left tackle spot emerges as a stalwart, the Birds’ big boys might be back in the elite category.

It’s Somewhat similar story in Dallas with the Cowboys, as the primary question is really one of health. La’el Collins, Tyron Smith, and Zack Martin all went down last year in what became a lost season for the Cowboys in more ways than one. If those three guys stay healthy, this Cowboys’ group will once again be above average — at worst.

Joe Thuney leaving New England to go to the Chiefs is a big loss for the Patriots, but Michael Onwenu played well enough as a rookie for me to believe he will be more than fine filling in for Thuney at left guard. The biggest question mark, quite literally given his massive size, is right tackle Trent Brown who is back in Foxboro — where he played his best football — after a rough two-year stint with the Raiders.

The 49ers were already in a good place at both tackles (Trent Williams and Mike McGlinchey) and left guard (Laken Tomlinson). Now they believe they will be good going old at center (free-agent add Alex Mack) and young at right guard (second-round pick Aaron Banks). If the two new additions click, this line could be exceptional.

The Rams don’t have a lot of name value, or really even high-end individual talent, other than the ageless wonder Andrew Whitworth at left tackle, yet they played very well as a unit a year ago. Interestingly, well-respected offensive line coach Aaron Kromer and the team mutually parted ways after the season, so the performance of this group under first year coach Kevin Carberry is going to be one to watch.

The last group that I deemed above average is the Kansas City Chiefs. On the one hand, they have added a ton of talent, like signing the aforementioned Thuney, and trading for Orlando Brown from the Ravens. On the other hand, they’ve got a lot of new and moving parts up front that could take some time to gel.

AVERAGE

Average offensive lines 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. Remember, just like Teller in Cleveland a year ago, question marks aren’t necessarily a bad thing — they are just things about which I am not sure about at this point and will need to look to the season for answers.

The Detroit Lions made a statement during their draft by drafting big men with their first three picks. The first of those, offensive tackle Penei Sewell, is a truly unique talent but not a perfect prospect at this point, and his transition to right tackle will be one to watch. Left tackle Taylor Decker and center Frank Ragnow are known commodities but the guard duo leaves a bit to be desired.

The Cardinals and Bills both have a great chance to ascend into the above average category this year because of their continuity. The Bills have the same five guys back, while the Cardinals added perennial Pro Bowl center Rodney Hudson to the same group of guards and tackles.

I like the Baltimore Ravens adding Kevin Zeitler and Alejandro Villanueva to the right side of the offensive line because they are experienced vets, but those guys are descending players at this point of their stellar careers. Meanwhile, the left guard and center positions are up for grabs, and star left tackle Ronnie Stanley is coming off a bad injury, which means this unit is a little bit in flux.

The right tackle spot remains a major question in Tennessee for the Titans, which is exactly what happens when you draft a guy like Isaiah Wilson in the first round and cut him after three total snaps with your team.

The Packers have one of the best offensive lines in the NFL year in and year out, but losing Corey Linsley to the Chargers in free agency really hurts, and with David Bahktiari coming off a torn ACL, there are now major question marks for a team that already is iffy on the right side of the line. I will say I am a huge fan of the versatile Elgton Jenkins and think he will be a stud for a long time.

The Washington Football Team has invested a lot of resources into the offensive line, bringing back Ereck Flowers while signing Charles Leno Jr. and drafting offensive tackle Sam Cosmi. Oh, and then there’s the $18 million they are giving right guard Brandon Scherff to play a second consecutive season on the franchise tag. There are just too many new parts to have them too high on this list, though there is some promise.

Speaking of new parts, the Chargers feel good about their offensive line, and, from a talent standpoint, I can’t blame them. The interior trio all came in via free agency, while the team’s first-round pick was left tackle Rashawn Slater out of Northwestern. Like the Chiefs in the AFC West, the real key will be how long it takes all of these parts to come together as one.

The Seahawks don’t have a top-10 offensive line. They also don’t have a bottom-10 offensive line, which is why Russell Wilson should probably keep his mouth shut and, I don’t know, maybe throw the ball away or throw the ball earlier if he is tired of getting hit so much.

Meanwhile, the Texans were actually much better up front a year ago than I thought they’d be, as their young guys like Tytus Howard and Max Scharping have come along. New GM Nick Caserio has brought in even more bodies like Justin Britt and Marcus Cannon who make you think this group has a chance to be solid yet again.

BELOW AVERAGE

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 line if those questions are answered affirmatively.

I love that the Jets have made the offensive line a priority, moving up to draft Alijah Vera-Tucker and more recently signing Morgan Moses. These five still have to come together and prove they can play at a really good level though.

It’s not a good sign if you have five starters back on the offensive line and I put you in this category, but that’s the case in Jacksonville with the Jaguars because left guard Andrew Norwell had a down year — leading to a pay cut — while the tackles were both disappointing. Honestly, they should change the name of the “franchise” tag after the Jags gave it to left tackle Cam Robinson.

The good news for the Broncos is that, after three bad years, Garett Bolles stepped up and showed why he was a first-round pick. He should give a high percentage of his money from his new four-year extension to legendary offensive line coach Mike Munchak. I like Graham Glasgow and Dalton Risner at guard, but both center and right tackle being a question mark puts these guys just on the outside looking in of the average group.

It feels like the Falcons have invested too many high picks to be in the below average group … and yet here we are. They need right tackle Kaleb McGary, a 2019 first-round pick, to have a Garett Bolles-like epiphany this year.

Meanwhile, the Raiders’ offensive line is a conundrum. What I thought would be the strength of their team heading into the season turned into wholesale changes, as Las Vegas got rid of everybody other than tackle Kolton Miller and Richie Incognito on the left side. Center Andre James and rookie right tackle Alex Leatherwood, in particular, are unknowns.

The Vikings are hoping that they get big upgrades from first-round pick Christian Darrisaw at left tackle and third-round pick Wyatt Davis at right guard. The fact that Darrisaw was still not fully healed from a core muscle surgery he had in January in June is a red flag for me, while Davis had a down year at Ohio State and would’ve been drafted higher had he left school early for the 2020 NFL Draft.

The Bears’ interior trio is fine. The offensive tackles are not. Throwing rookie Teven Jenkins right into the fire at left tackle is an interesting risk for them to take.

The Dolphins are another team that have a lot of young bodies competing for spots along the offensive line, and I like second-round pick Liam Eichenberg, but frankly all five spots still have some questions at this point, which is never a great feeling heading into the season.

POOR

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.

The Panthers started free agency by signing Cam Erving and Pat Elflein to pretty nice deals to play left tackle and left guard. Yes, I am as confused by this as you are.

The Bengals’ offensive line was a major problem last year, so they solved everything by signing Riley Reiff to play right tackle and reaching for left tackle Jackson Carman out of Clemson in the second round … to play right guard. Wait, what?

The Giants evidently like being near the bottom of my offensive line rankings because they are here every year. The good news is that they are very young, and those players should be improved. The bad news is Shaun O’Hara and David Diehl aren’t walking through those doors.

The Steelers’ offensive line was an enigma to me last season, and evidently to them too, so they went out and replaced basically everyone. Which means they are now an … enigma.

Fortunately for these teams, players can and often do improve, especially young guys that simply lack experience. But that is obviously no guarantee.

The Stats

Key:
  • Pressure allowed: The percentage of times the QB was pressured on his dropbacks.

  • Pass Block Win Rate: A NextGenStats metric that measures how quality a team’s pass blocking is. A “win” is when the OL holds their blocks for more than 2.5 seconds.

  • Yards before contact per carry: How much yardage the RB gained before being contacted on average.

  • Hit at/behind LOS%: How often the RB was hit by a defender at or behind the line of scrimmage.

  • Run blocking tendencies: Man-to-man blocking is when the OL has individual assignments to block on defense. On zone runs, the OL is only assigned to their “zone” and then the linemen reacts to what the defender in their zone does.

(Note: All of the stats are from SIS except for Pass Block Win Rate. All ranks are in the same format where 1st = best and 32nd = worst.)

Arizona Cardinals
  • Pressure allowed: 27.6% (5th)
  • Pass Block Win Rate: 3rd
  • Yards before contact per carry: 2.19 (7th)
  • Hit at/behind LOS%: 32.5% (7th)
  • Run blocking tendencies: Man — 33.9% (12th) | Zone — 66.1% (21st)
Atlanta Falcons
  • Pressure allowed: 36.9% (24th)
  • Pass Block Win Rate: 16th
  • Yards before contact per carry: 1.85 (18th)
  • Hit at/behind LOS%: 36.5% (14th)
  • Run blocking tendencies: Man — 34.3% (11th) | Zone — 65.7% (22nd)
Baltimore Ravens
  • Pressure allowed: 37.5% (26th)
  • Pass Block Win Rate: 8th
  • Yards before contact per carry: 2.47 (1st)
  • Hit at/behind LOS%: 29.6% (2nd)
  • Run blocking tendencies: Man — 53.4% (2nd) | Zone — 46.6% (31st)
Buffalo Bills
  • Pressure allowed: 37.9% (27th)
  • Pass Block Win Rate: 4th
  • Yards before contact per carry: 1.66 (28th)
  • Hit at/behind LOS%: 43.4% (32nd)
  • Run blocking tendencies: Man — 27.0% (17th) | Zone — 73.0% (16th)
Carolina Panthers
  • Pressure allowed: 34.3% (18th)
  • Pass Block Win Rate: 18th
  • Yards before contact per carry: 1.46 (32nd)
  • Hit at/behind LOS%: 34.8% (10th)
  • Run blocking tendencies: Man — 37.7% (8th) | Zone — 62.3% (25th)
Chicago Bears
  • Pressure allowed: 31.2% (11th)
  • Pass Block Win Rate: 15th
  • Yards before contact per carry: 1.58 (30th)
  • Hit at/behind LOS%: 40.0% (25th)
  • Run blocking tendencies: Man — 14.2% (32nd) | Zone — 85.8% (1st)
Cincinnati Bengals
  • Pressure allowed: 33.5% (16th)
  • Pass Block Win Rate: 29th
  • Yards before contact per carry: 1.69 (24th)
  • Hit at/behind LOS%: 38.0% (21st)
  • Run blocking tendencies: Man — 25.9% (20th) | Zone — 74.1% (13th)
Cleveland Browns
  • Pressure allowed: 29.3% (8th)
  • Pass Block Win Rate: 2nd
  • Yards before contact per carry: 1.87 (16th)
  • Hit at/behind LOS%: 41.4% (27th)
  • Run blocking tendencies: Man — 43.0% (6th) | Zone — 57.0% (27th)
Dallas Cowboys
  • Pressure allowed: 32.6% (13th)
  • Pass Block Win Rate: 26th
  • Yards before contact per carry: 1.53 (31st)
  • Hit at/behind LOS%: 41.5% (28th)
  • Run blocking tendencies: Man — 20.9% (25th) | Zone — 79.1% (8th)
Denver Broncos
  • Pressure allowed: 38.3% (28th)
  • Pass Block Win Rate: 21st
  • Yards before contact per carry: 2.12 (8th)
  • Hit at/behind LOS%: 41.7% (29th)
  • Run blocking tendencies: Man — 45.6% (4th) | Zone — 54.4% (29th)
Detroit Lions
  • Pressure allowed: 28.6% (7th)
  • Pass Block Win Rate: 20th
  • Yards before contact per carry: 1.81 (21st)
  • Hit at/behind LOS%: 35.3% (12th)
  • Run blocking tendencies: Man — 34.8% (10th) | Zone — 65.2% (23rd)
Green Bay Packers
  • Pressure allowed: 25.9% (4th)
  • Pass Block Win Rate: 1st
  • Yards before contact per carry: 1.98 (13th)
  • Hit at/behind LOS%: 37.0% (15th)
  • Run blocking tendencies: Man — 16.1% (31st) | Zone — 83.9% (2nd)
Houston Texans
  • Pressure allowed: 36.9% (23rd)
  • Pass Block Win Rate: 19th
  • Yards before contact per carry: 1.88 (15th)
  • Hit at/behind LOS%: 30.2% (3rd)
  • Run blocking tendencies: Man — 21.9% (23rd) | Zone — 78.1% (10th)
Indianapolis Colts
  • Pressure allowed: 25.6% (3rd)
  • Pass Block Win Rate: 12th
  • Yards before contact per carry: 1.98 (12th)
  • Hit at/behind LOS%: 41.8% (30th)
  • Run blocking tendencies: Man — 25.9% (21st) | Zone — 74.1% (12th)
Jacksonville Jaguars
  • Pressure allowed: ​​33.4% (15th)
  • Pass Block Win Rate: 25th
  • Yards before contact per carry: 1.59 (29th)
  • Hit at/behind LOS%: 37.0% (16th)
  • Run blocking tendencies: Man — 27.2% (16th) | Zone — 72.8% (17th)
Kansas City Chiefs
  • Pressure allowed: 34.6% (19th)
  • Pass Block Win Rate: 6th
  • Yards before contact per carry: 2.10 (9th)
  • Hit at/behind LOS%: 31.3% (5th)
  • Run blocking tendencies: Man — 21.9% (24th) | Zone — 78.1% (9th)
Las Vegas Raiders
  • Pressure allowed: 28.2% (6th)
  • Pass Block Win Rate: 10th
  • Yards before contact per carry: 1.70 (23rd)
  • Hit at/behind LOS%: 38.3% (22nd)
  • Run blocking tendencies: Man — 29.2% (15th) | Zone — 70.8% (18th)
Los Angeles Chargers
  • Pressure allowed: 37.2% (25th)
  • Pass Block Win Rate: 31st
  • Yards before contact per carry: 1.76 (22nd)
  • Hit at/behind LOS%: 39.8% (24th)
  • Run blocking tendencies: Man — 25.4% (22nd) | Zone — 74.6% (11th)
Los Angeles Rams
  • Pressure allowed: 35.7% (20th)
  • Pass Block Win Rate: 7th
  • Yards before contact per carry: 2.32 (4th)
  • Hit at/behind LOS%: 35.2% (11th)
  • Run blocking tendencies: Man — 17.4% (29th) | Zone — 82.6% (4th)
Miami Dolphins
  • Pressure allowed: 33.1% (14th)
  • Pass Block Win Rate: 14th
  • Yards before contact per carry: 1.89 (14th)
  • Hit at/behind LOS%: 37.4% (18th)
  • Run blocking tendencies: Man — 29.4% (13th) | Zone — 70.6% (20th)
Minnesota Vikings
  • Pressure allowed: 40.2% (29th)
  • Pass Block Win Rate: 18th
  • Yards before contact per carry: 2.10 (10th)
  • Hit at/behind LOS%: 37.5% (19th)
  • Run blocking tendencies: Man — 17.6% (28th) | Zone — 82.4% (5th)
New England Patriots
  • Pressure allowed: 34.2% (17th)
  • Pass Block Win Rate: 13th
  • Yards before contact per carry: 2.30 (5th)
  • Hit at/behind LOS%: 30.8% (4th)
  • Run blocking tendencies: Man — 44.4% (5th) | Zone — 55.6% (28th)
New Orleans Saints
  • Pressure allowed: 29.5% (9th)
  • Pass Block Win Rate: 5th
  • Yards before contact per carry: 2.37 (2nd)
  • Hit at/behind LOS%: 31.7% (6th)
  • Run blocking tendencies: Man — 26.9% (18th) | Zone — 73.1% (15th)
New York Giants
  • Pressure allowed: 40.3% (30th)
  • Pass Block Win Rate: 32nd
  • Yards before contact per carry: 1.82 (20th)
  • Hit at/behind LOS%: 34.8% (9th)
  • Run blocking tendencies: Man — 57.8% (1st) | Zone — 42.2% (32nd)
New York Jets
  • Pressure allowed: 40.3% (31st)
  • Pass Block Win Rate: 29th
  • Yards before contact per carry: 1.69 (25th)
  • Hit at/behind LOS%: 38.5% (23rd)
  • Run blocking tendencies: Man — 20.2% (26th) | Zone — 79.8% (7th)
Philadelphia Eagles
  • Pressure allowed: 41.2% (32nd)
  • Pass Block Win Rate: 11th
  • Yards before contact per carry: 2.32 (3rd)
  • Hit at/behind LOS%: 35.7% (13th)
  • Run blocking tendencies: Man — 29.4% (14th) | Zone — 70.6% (19th)
Pittsburgh Steelers
  • Pressure allowed: 22.1% (1st)
  • Pass Block Win Rate: 28th
  • Yards before contact per carry: 1.67 (26th)
  • Hit at/behind LOS%: 41.9% (31st)
  • Run blocking tendencies: Man — 50.2% (3rd) | Zone — 49.8% (30th)
San Francisco 49ers
  • Pressure allowed: 36.7% (22nd)
  • Pass Block Win Rate: 22nd
  • Yards before contact per carry: 2.03 (11th)
  • Hit at/behind LOS%: 40.1% (26th)
  • Run blocking tendencies: Man — 26.9% (19th) | Zone — 73.1% (14th)
Seattle Seahawks
  • Pressure allowed: 35.9% (21st)
  • Pass Block Win Rate: 9th
  • Yards before contact per carry: 1.83 (19th)
  • Hit at/behind LOS%: 37.0% (17th)
  • Run blocking tendencies: Man — 20.1% (27th) | Zone — 79.9% (6th)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
  • Pressure allowed: 24.8% (2nd)
  • Pass Block Win Rate: 17th
  • Yards before contact per carry: 1.67 (27th)
  • Hit at/behind LOS%: 33.8% (8th)
  • Run blocking tendencies: Man — 42.9% (7th) | Zone — 57.1% (26th)
Tennessee Titans
  • Pressure allowed: 32.6% (12th)
  • Pass Block Win Rate: 24th
  • Yards before contact per carry: 1.86 (17th)
  • Hit at/behind LOS%: 37.6% (20th)
  • Run blocking tendencies: Man — 16.9% (30th) | Zone — 83.1% (3rd)
Washington Football Team
  • Pressure allowed: 30.7% (10th)
  • Pass Block Win Rate: 14th
  • Yards before contact per carry: 2.22 (6th)
  • Hit at/behind LOS%: 27.2% (1st)
  • Run blocking tendencies: Man — 35.4% (9th) | Zone — 64.6% (24th)

Ross Tucker is a former NFL offensive lineman who played seven seasons for the Redskins, Cowboys, Bills and Patriots after graduating from Princeton University in 2001. Currently hosts a number of podcasts including the Fantasy Feast podcast with Joe Dolan in addition to his game analyst duties for CBS, the Philadelphia Eagles, and Westwood One Radio.

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