Rounding out my offensive rankings as we head into training camp is the offensive linemen. Rather than breaking it down into two separate articles, I figured I’d just rank them all at once. Considering there are five positions on the offensive line, it’d be too hard to try and pull out the best 10 out of the hundreds of talented linemen across the NFL. So I ranked the top 10 offensive tackles, and then the top 15 interior offensive linemen (guards and centers).
Just to preface, these rankings are not as easy to make as the skill positions are. Offensive linemen don’t have nearly as many stats as the other positions do. They don’t make the flashy highlight plays. They don’t win your fantasy leagues for you. But they are the anchor of your real life team and make the wheels spin. As Brandon Beane and Sean McDermott say, everything starts up front. So I have to credit PFF and their grading system for helping me construct these rankings.
Top 10 OT
10. RT Taylor Moton (CAR)
Taylor Moton is probably the least known player on this list, but he has quickly become one of the best right tackles in the NFL. After getting drafted by the Panthers in the second round in 2017 out of Western Michigan, Moton hasn’t missed a game in his five-year career, starting every game since his rookie season. He only allowed one sack in 1,149 snaps played last year, giving him a 77.5 PFF grade. It was the fourth year in a row he had an overall PFF (Pro Football Focus) grade of at least 76. Moton should have some help holding down the line this year, as Carolina drafted LT Ikem Ekwonu and signed C Bradley Bozeman and RG Austin Corbett in free agency.
9. LT Rashawn Slater (LAC)
Rashawn Slater had a great rookie season in 2021, as he was named Second-Team All-Pro. In 1,116 snaps, Slater only allowed four sacks and finished with an 83.6 PFF grade. Even more impressive, his pressure rate allowed was just 3.7%, the lowest pressure rate allowed by a rookie left tackle since 2010. It looks like the Chargers found someone to protect Justin Herbert’s blind side for years to come.
8. LT Ronnie Stanley (BAL)
An ankle injury caused Ronnie Stanley to only play in seven games over the last two seasons. However, when he is healthy, he is one of the best tackles in the NFL. In 2019, the last time Stanley played a majority of the games (he played 14 games that year), he did not allow one sack and only had four penalties called on him in 938 snaps. That was good enough for an 88.5 PFF grade, First Team All-Pro honors, and a Pro Bowl nod. Expecting a bounce back season this year, the Ravens announced the other day that Stanley will begin the season on the PUP list (physically unable to perform).
7. LT Terron Armstead (MIA)
Terron Armstead got paid as one of the league’s top left tackles by the Dolphins this offseason (5 years, $75 million) and for good reason. He has allowed just five sacks since 2018. The difference between him and the other LTs though is Armstead will not be protecting his QB’s blind side. That will be RT Austin Davis’ responsibility since Tua Tagovailoa is a southpaw. Regardless, Armstead will be a big piece to the Dolphins offensive line as he looks to bring veteran leadership and stability.
6. RT Ryan Ramczyk (NO)
Now that Armstead has left New Orleans, Ryan Ramczyk becomes that much more important to the Saints offensive line. However, the Saints were able to replace Armstead with Trevor Penning at LT, and still have Andrus Peat, Caesar Ruiz, and Erik McCoy on the interior. In his five years in the league, Ramczyk has never finished a season with a PFF grade below 80.5. His best season arguably came in 2019 when he had a 90.8 grade, allowed only one sack, and was a First Team All-Pro. He also has two Second Team All-Pros on his resume, with the last one coming in 2020.
5. LT Tyron Smith (DAL)
Tyron Smith used to be one of the best tackles in the game. However, injuries have caused him to slip a bit in my rankings though. Always graded highly by PFF, Smith has been named First Team All-Pro twice, Second Team All-Pro twice, and is an eight-time Pro Bowler. Drafted in the first round by the Cowboys in 2011, Smith is the longest-tenured player on the Cowboys roster. Though he missed six games last year, he still finished with a 91.7 PFF grade, the highest in his 11-year career. We’ll see if the 31-year old can stay healthy this year after missing 20 games over the last two seasons.
4. LT David Bakhtiari (GB)
David Bakhtiari is another tackle who I can’t put any higher than four (for now) because he only played in one game last year after tearing his ACL and was recently placed on the PUP list. But, when he is healthy, he is one of the best blind side protectors in the NFL. Before his injury, Bakhtiari was the league’s top pass-protecting tackle from 2016-2020 as he was the only OT with a pass-blocking grade over 92.0. He also ranked first in pressure rate allowed (3.5%) during that timeframe. When he is healthy, he and OT Elgton Jenkins will make a top offensive tackle duo.
3. RT Lane Johnson (PHI)
Coming in at number three is Eagles RT Lane Johnson. Johnson has been an anchor on the Eagles o-line since getting drafted fourth overall in 2013. He has finished with a PFF grade above 80 five times in his career. He had zero sacks allowed and an 83.3 grade last year, the third highest among qualifying right tackles (Tristan Wirfs and Ramczyk were ahead of him). Johnson has accumulated three Pro Bowls, one First Team All-Pro, and one Second Team All-Pro in his nine seasons, all coming in the last five years.
2. RT Tristan Wirfs (TB)
Speaking of Tristan Wirfs, I have him as my second best tackle in the NFL. Again, if Smith and Bakhtiari both can stay healthy and have big seasons, Wirfs may fall a couple of spots. But he has quickly become one of the best tackles in the game to the point where Smith and Bakhtiari might not even be able to regain their top two or three status. In two years of protecting Tom Brady, Wirfs has only allowed three sacks and has only had six penalties called on him. His 84.1 PFF grade as a rookie in 2020 is the best grade for a rookie tackle over the past decade. He was also named to the Pro Bowl and was a First Team All-Pro last season.
1. LT Trent Williams (SF)
And the best tackle headed into the 2022 season is 49ers LT Trent Williams. The 34-year old was always solid over his nine years in Washington, but he has taken his game to a new level since getting traded to San Francisco. Now the highest paid tackle in the game, Williams recorded an insane 96.6 PFF grade last year and only allowed one sack while pancaking many defenders in the process. It was the highest graded season in PFF history. The 6’5”, 318 pound tackle will play a big role in protecting Trey Lance and helping him develop.
Top 15 IOL
15. OG Michael Onwenu (NE)/OG Chris Lindstrom (ATL)
Take your pick here at 15. Michael Onwenu was drafted by the Patriots in the sixth round in 2020 and has allowed five sacks and has had just four penalties called against him in his two years in the NFL while having at least an 84.3 PFF grade both years. Although he is very versatile, he is expected to be the Patriots right guard this season.
Chris Lindstrom was drafted by the Falcons in the first round in 2019. In his three years, Lindstrom has allowed just four sacks, all of them coming in 2020. Aside from not allowing a sack last year and having just two penalties called on him in 1,034 snaps, he also recorded a PFF grade of 83.7.
14. C David Andrews (NE)/C Ben Jones (TEN)
Another take-your-pick one here. Andrews has always been a solid anchor of the Patriots offensive line since signing as an undrafted free agent in 2015. After dealing with some health issues in 2019 and 2020, Andrews allowed just one sack and had four penalties called against him in 1,087 snaps played last season, giving him a 78.0 PFF grade.
Meanwhile, Ben Jones has always been an underrated center. Although he’s never been a Pro Bowler or All-Pro, Jones has helped pave the way for Derrick Henry since 2016. (He played his first four seasons in Houston.) Last year, Jones allowed just one sack and had five penalties called against him in 1,160 snaps played, giving him a 77.8 PFF grade.
13. C Frank Ragnow (DET)
Frank Ragnow has improved every single year since getting drafted by the Lions in the first round in 2018. He went from a PFF grade of 66.5 (as a LG) in 2018 to an 86.7 last year as a center. He did only play four games last year, but his growth was incremental. Ragnow was also a Second Team All-Pro and a Pro Bowler in 2020.
12. C J.C. Tretter (FA)
J.C. Tretter still remains a free agent after five impressive seasons in Cleveland. Tretter had a 1.79% pressure percentage last year, giving up only 10 pressures on 558 snaps. Since 2017, Tretter holds the highest grade in pass protection for all centers with a 90.6, and his 5,298 regular season snaps during that stretch ranks third among eligible NFL linemen.
11. OG Brandon Scherff (JAX)
Brandon Scherff got a huge deal from the Jaguars this offseason, signing a three-year deal worth $49.5 million. Scherff provides some much needed help to a relatively young and weak offensive line that features LT Cam Robinson and C Tyler Shatley. In his seven years in Washington, Scherff was a five-time Pro Bowler and was also named First Team All-Pro in 2020.
10. OG Shaq Mason (TB)
Coming over from New England to help protect Tom Brady once again, I would expect Shaq Mason to have a huge season playing next to Tristan Wirfs. Mason has finished with a PFF grade over 80 five times in his seven-year career, three of those coming when Brady was in New England. Over the last five years, Mason has allowed just eight sacks.
9. C Jason Kelce (PHI)
Just like Lane Johnson, Jason Kelce has been an anchor on the Eagles o-line after getting drafted by Philadelphia in the sixth round in 2011. Though his career is winding down, Kelce is still playing at a very high level. Last year, the 34-year old had an 89.0 run-blocking grade, the second highest in his career. He only allowed one sack in 883 snaps and finished with an overall grade of 84.4. He was named to the All-Pro First Team for the fourth time in his career, and to his fifth career Pro Bowl.
8. C Ryan Jensen (TB)
Even though the PFF grades aren’t too kind to Ryan Jensen, he is still one of the best centers in the league in my mind. He’s tough, plays nasty, and finishes all of his blocks. He has only received a PFF grade above 70 just once out of the past four years, but the only NFL centers with a PFF WAR better than Jensen since 2019 are Kelce, Tretter, Jones, and Corey Linsley. Since 2018, Jensen has given up eight sacks, with half of those coming in 2020, a year in which he had just a 64.9 PFF grade. In addition to his aggressive nature, Jensen hasn’t missed a start since 2016 when he was with Baltimore.
7. OG Wyatt Teller (CLE)
Close your eyes Bills fans… The one mistake that Brandon Beane made during his Buffalo tenure was trading away this hog mollie. Just like Jensen, Teller plays nasty, finishes his blocks, and will fling you out of the way if you are in his path. Teller went from a 56.7 PFF grade in 2019 to a whopping 92.9 in 2020, en route to a Second Team All-Pro selection. His grade dipped a bit last year as he allowed four sacks and had 11 penalties called on him, but he played 1,107 snaps, 413 more than 2020. Either way, he put together another great season and was named a Second Team All-Pro once again and earned his first trip to the Pro Bowl.
6. C Creed Humphrey (KC)
Creed Humphrey fell to the Chiefs at 63 in the second round of the 2021 NFL Draft, and he let all 31 other teams know last year that they made a mistake by passing on him. Humphrey finished his rookie season with a 91.4 grade after allowing just one sack in 1,184 snaps played. Out of 752 pass-blocking snaps, he allowed only 10 pressures, which gave him a 1.33 pressure percentage. Humphrey’s 80.4 pass-blocking grade ranked third out of 40 qualifying centers.
5. OG Joe Thuney (KC)
Playing right next to Humphrey at left guard is Joe Thuney. The Chiefs signed Thuney to a five-year, $80 million deal last offseason, making him the then-highest paid guard in the NFL. (Brandon Scherff is now getting $16.5 million from Jacksonville.) Since the beginning of the 2018 season, Thuney has allowed only four sacks. The 29-year old had the best pressure rate out of 88 qualifying guards last year, and his 88.8 pass-blocking grade was the best out of those guards.
4. OG Joel Bitonio (CLE)
Another guard who is making $16 million per year is Joel Bitonio after the Browns gave him an extension last November. Cleveland’s 2014 second round pick has been one of the best guards over the past eight seasons. And the 30-year old continues to get better. He has a streak of six consecutive years with at least an 80.0 pass-blocking grade. He recorded an overall PFF grade of 93.6 last season en route to being selected as a First Team All-Pro for the first time in his career. (Bitonio was a Second Team All-Pro each of the previous three seasons.) He was also nominated to the Pro Bowl for the fourth consecutive year.
3. C Corey Linsley (LAC)
Arguably the best center in the NFL, Linsley finished 2021 with the best pass-blocking grade at his position with an 84.9. He had an overall PFF grade of 85.7, one year after recording an 89.9. Over the last two seasons, Linsley has given up just one sack and has had six penalties called on him. (The one sack came in ‘20 while all six penalties came in ‘21.) Each of those years, Linsley finished in the top of every stable metric category for centers. He was a First Team All-Pro with the Packers in 2020, and then a Second Team All-Pro and a Pro Bowler last season with the Chargers. Linsley is a big reason why Justin Herbert was able to take a big step forward in his second year.
2. OG Quenton Nelson (IND)
One of, if not the most physically imposing interior offensive linemen, Quenton Nelson is the ultimate finisher. In addition to being very strong, Nelson is also very athletic which helps him pancake defenders. In his four years in Indy, Nelson has only allowed four sacks. He had PFF grades of 79.7, 91.2, and 86.2 before dipping down to a 69.1 last season. However, he was still good enough to reach the Pro Bowl and be named to the All-Pro Second Team. Nelson had been a First Team All-Pro (and a Pro Bowler) in his three years prior. He missed four games for the first time in his career last season, causing the slight dip. But when he is 100% healthy, he is arguably the best linemen in the NFL.
1. OG Zack Martin (DAL)
My best interior offensive lineman headed into the 2022 season is Cowboys RG Zack Martin. Martin has the perfect build to be an NFL guard, standing at 6’4, 315 pounds. In his eight seasons, Martin’s lowest PFF grade is an 81.5 (in 2018). Every other year he’s been over an 86.4, including a 91.3 in 2020 and a 93.9 last season. Martin has been named a Pro Bowler and an All-Pro seven out his eight seasons (five times to the First Team and twice to the Second Team), with 2020 being his only season without an honor. The 31-year old has three years left on his current contract which puts him as the fifth-highest paid guard in the league (behind Scherff, Thuney, Bitonio, and Teller).
I will jump into some NFL defensive rankings, taking a look at the defensive linemen.
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