Offensive lines are critical to the success of all offenses, and owning a top unit is a significant advantage. The reality is that ranking them is a challenge.
These are players that incur a high rate of injury, and their level of play depends as much on the cohesiveness of the group as it does the play of any one player. The Texans paid a fortune for LT Laremy Tunsil, and he returned to the Pro Bowl. Now they’re a lousy O-line with one great player.
Offensive lines are a complex and dynamic part of any football team. Player injuries, changes in scheme, depth chart moves, schedule challenges, and the like all play into their success.
This ranking considers where each O-line ranked last year in certain metrics, their additions and losses in linemen, the continuity of the unit and scheme, and the impact of the rest of the offense and schedule on them.
Bottom line – offensive line play is like conducting a symphony in the middle of a riot.
The metrics below show the values for the listed category and the rank from 2020. The “% Pass – Hurry, Hit or Sack” indicates how often a quarterback had to contend with the pass rush. It contains the percentage of plays that the quarterback was either hurried, hit, or sacked. Yards per carry and yards before contact only pertain to running backs.
1. Cleveland Browns
Everyone returns from 2020 for a line built to run the ball and keep the pocket clean. Inside blockers of C J.C. Tretter, RG Wyatt Teller, and Pro Bowler LG Joel Bitonio are among the top players in their positions. LT Jedrick Wills Jr. and RT Jack Conklin both rate highly at keeping the pass rush at bay and leading on runs. Wills was the 1.10 pick last year and should only get better. This unit is stocked and even has solid depth in case of injury. The Browns’ investment in their O-line has paid off very well. Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt reap the benefit.
2. Indianapolis Colts
The Colts are another team that invested heavily into their offensive line with spectacular results. Both LG Quenton Nelson and C Ryan Kelly come off Pro Bowl years, and RT Braden Smith is better than most. LT Anthony Castonzo retired and left a big hole that will be filled by ex-Chief Eric Fisher on a one-year, $8 million deal. Fisher had Achilles surgery and may not be ready for the start of the season, but there’s plenty of depth on this team to cover until he can contribute. This is as solid of a line as any in the NFL and becomes improves when Fisher is healthy. They helped Jonathan Taylor to shine as a rookie and Carson Wentz trades a Philly franchise that ranked No. 32 in sacks allowed (65) for a Colts team that was No. 3 (21). That should get his career reboot off on solid footing.
3. New Orleans Saints
The Saints may be without Drew Brees, but the offensive line remains one of the top units in the NFL. Recent years have seen them remain Top-10 in nearly every offensive line category and last year dropped marginally with a less than mobile Brees who missed four games. Pro Bowlers LT Terron Armstead and G Andrus Peat return, and RT Ryan Ramczyk remains valuable asset. RG Cesar Ruiz looks to improve after being selected in the first round last year. The Post-Brees era is still undefined, but this offensive line will be an advantage for either Jameis Winston or Taysom Hill (or both).
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The offensive line was yet another part of the Buccaneers that enjoyed a magic Super Bowl season. After languishing as one of the worst offensive lines for several years, they suddenly rose to Top-10 in nearly every category for 2020. They return all five starters, and last year’s 1.13 pick of RT Tristan Wirfs paid off as a Top-10 right tackle even as a rookie. LT Donovan Smith kept Tom Brady upright despite his throwing 626 passes. The Bucs had been particularly inefficient in rush blocking metrics for years, but the unit came together to improve their running back average of 3.6 yards per carry (No. 30) in 2019 to a respectable 4.6 yards per carry last year. Oddly, they still ranked worst with only a 1.8-yard average before contact. Switching from Jameis Winston to Tom Brady had a positive impact for the offensive line, and this overall unit stepped up in just one season.
5. Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens own one of the best offensive lines, but they traded Pro Bowler RT Orlando Brown Jr. to the Chiefs. They come off a lofty No. 1 ranking last year in yards per carry and yards before contact from their running backs. They get LT Ronnie Stanley back after he missed ten games last year with an ankle injury. Brown will be replaced by ex-Steeler Alejandro Villanueva, who signed a two-year, $14M deal, and added ex-Giant RG Kevin Zeitler to help shore up the middle of the line. Losing Brown leaves a hole that they’ll switch Villanueva over to the right side to fill. The additions should compensate for the loss, and the Ravens will continue to be one of the most run-heavy teams anyway.
6. Green Bay Packers
Few offensive lines are as consistently good as the Packers. Three starters return including Pro Bowlers LT David Bakhtiari and LG Elgton Jenkins. This unit was Top-5 in nearly every metric last year but has to replace C Corey Linsley who signed a monster contract with the Chargers. The Packers drafted C Josh Myers with their 2.30 pick this year but will sort through the depth to determine the best replacement. RT Rick Wagner was released in February after just one season of his two-year deal. Depth player Billy Turner is most likely to replace him. This unit has drafted and developed linemen well, even though they often lose a valuable piece to free agency. The quarterback situation will impact the blocking if Aaron Rodgers leaves and Jordan Love takes over. The run blocking should continue to shine but the pass blocking stats will fall with a first-year starter compared to the ability and wisdom of a Hall of Fame quarterback.
7. Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs sport a solid offensive line every year but this year they’ve overhauled much of the unit. They parted ways with Pro Bowler LT Eric Fisher and RT Mitchell Schwartz but then traded for ex-Raven Orlando Brown Jr. and coughed up a mere 5-year, $80 million contract for ex-Patriot G Joe Thuney. They’ve added C Austin Blythe from the Rams who will battle 2.31 pick Creed Humphrey. RT Mike Remmers may be challenged by 2020 third-round pick Lucan Niang. The Chiefs invested a lot of free agency cash and draft picks to maintain their normal standing of an elite set of blockers. The talent talent level remains high, but the offensive line has to find chemistry with all the new blockers.
8. New England Patriots
The Patriots have long had one of the better offensive lines in the NFL, and last season suffered through both COVID-19 implications and the loss of Tom Brady. Despite relying on an ever-changing mishmash of running backs, they remain one of the top run blockers in the above metrics. Losing G Joe Thuney to the Chiefs won’t help, but they resigned C David Andrews. They traded for T Trent Brown who should end up as the new right tackle. G Shaquille Mason is a top run blocker, and Michael Onwenu should replace Thuney. The Patriots always serve up superior blocking, they just need to sort out the quarterback situation as their most critical limitation.
9. Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys offensive line has long been a strength, but declined significantly in 2020. That’s no surprise with T Tyron Smith missing nearly the entire season, and G Zack Martin held out for six games due to injury. RT La’el Collins missed the year due to a hip injury and is hoped to return healthy. The Cowboys lost all direction once Dak Prescott was lost, and the schedule strength was one of the worst in the league. All five starters return, and more importantly, Prescott is back. This unit ranked in the Top-5 in almost every category in 2019 when everyone was healthy. Barring another spate of injuries, the Cowboys should return to their elite status.
10. Tennessee Titans
The Titans offensive line showed improvement last year after all metrics were below average in 2019. Derrick Henry facing a lighter schedule while running like a man on fire certainly helped the blocking as well. LT Taylor Lewan has been an asset but tore his ACL last October. He’s expected back and is only 29 years old. The Titans spent their first-round pick on Isaiah Wilson last year, but he was a bust that got traded to Miami and then released. So right tackle remains an open competition. LG Roger Saffold is rock solid and a gift to Derrick Henry. They are considered a better unit for blocking for the run than the pass, but the metrics show they were more than solid even when Ryan Tannehill dropped back.
11. Los Angeles Rams
The Rams offensive line improved slightly in rushing stats from 2019 but fell from being No. 1 in sacks allowed to No. 7 last year – still a strength. All five starters return for a unit that shined in the latter part of 2020 when the rookie Cam Akers finally got on track and the schedule lightened up from being one of the most challenging. LT Andrew Whitworth hasn’t seen a drop-off yet though he’s 39 years old. RT Rob Haverstein, LG David Edwards, and RG Austin Corbett all turned in better performances. With Matt Stafford replacing Jared Goff, the ability to keep the pocket clean and grant time to throw will pay dividends from their upgrade at quarterback.
12. Detroit Lions
There is optimism in Detroit about the future with a new coaching staff and scheme. And especially with the offensive line that returns four starters, including Pro Bowler C Frank Ragnow. In previous seasons, the Lions O-line has been average at best and lesser when blocking for the run. That’s changing. The run blocking has improved to be an asset to the offense, and bringing in Halapoulivaati Vaitai from the Eagles last year worked out well after converting him to a right guard instead of tackle. The most exciting aspect of the line lies with the drafting of Penei Sewell with their 1.07 pick that should elevate this line into elite status potentially by the end of this year. There is a new offense to install and a new quarterback, so it may not come together immediately. But drafting Sewell should pay big dividends for many years to come.
13. San Francisco 49ers
Injuries ravaged the 49ers last year, and the offensive line was no exception. This run-heavy unit is usually above average in all metrics if not Top-10in past seasons. The 49ers replaced Joe Staley last year with LT Trent Williams who turned in a Pro Bowl season. For 2021, Ex-Falcon Pro Bowler C Alex Mack rejoins Head Coach Kyle Shanahan after their time in Atlanta. The 49ers also used their 2.16 pick to grab C/G Aaron Banks who will compete for right guard. RT Mike McGlinchey and LG Laken Tomlinson are both rock-solid in the run game. If the 49ers can stay healthy this year, the offensive line will be above average.
14. Arizona Cardinals
The offense – and offensive line – continues to mature with an upward trajectory. After ranking No. 25 in sacks allowed rate (8%) in 2019, a better O-line and older Kyler Murray improved and ended as No. 9 (5%). For the second year, running backs combined for a Top-3 rank in yards before contact on rushes that reflects the impact of Kyler Murray terrifying defenses. The Cardinals are still below average in the number of rushes, which is troublesome with the amount of negative runs by running backs. Both RG Justin Murray and LG Justin Pugh were above average with pass protection but lagged against the run. Ex-Raider C Rodney Hudson signed a three-year, $30 million contract with the Cardinals to upgrade the interior. This team is mostly about Kyler Murray as both a runner and passer and the offensive line improved in just one year.
15. Las Vegas Raiders
The Raiders posted nearly the same ranks in blocking categories as they did in 2019, and they’ve been much better in pass protection than with run blocking. This year, they only return two starters in LT Kolton Miller and LG Richie Incognito. Denzelle Good moves up to start as the right guard, and the rookie Alex Leatherwood (1.17 pick) will play right tackle. C Rodney Hudson was part of the purge, and his spot will likely end up with undrafted second-year center Andre James. The moves hope to improve the run game in particular, and drafting Leatherwood out of Alabama will pay off if only later in the year when he gets up to speed.
16. Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles return four starters, and RG Brandon Brooks and C Jason Kelce are both standouts. LT Andre Dillard was a 1.22 pick in 2019 but disappointed as a rookie and then missed last season with a biceps injury. He should be back and take another stab at living up to expectations though Jordan Mailata could end up in his spot again this year. Problems at left tackle had obvious impact with the Eagles ranking dead last in both Sacks Allowed (65) and Sack Rate (11%). C Jason Kelce comes off another Pro Bowl season. The Eagles are installing a new offense under head coach Nick Sirianni and second-year quarterback Jalen Hurts opens the year as a starter. The Eagles own a solid rush blocking unit but have to figure out how to lock the door and keep the rushers out of the backfield.
17. Buffalo Bills
The Bills only rushed the ball 290 times last year, and the offensive line offered little help when they did. They ranked dead last with negative yardage on 14% of their running back rushes. They were No. 29 in the metric in 2019. The offensive line improved against the pass with Top-10 results in sacks allowed though that was aided by the magic season by Josh Allen. All five starters are expected back. LT Dion Dawkins and RT Daryl Williams pair well in pass protection but are only average blocking the run. There is depth to cover injuries and overall, they are just average with higher marks stopping the pass rush but with obvious problems against the run.
18. Washington Football Team
The Redskins offensive line was a liability for a few years, even ranked No. 32 in the ratio of passing plays that had a hurry, hit or sack (35%) in 2019 along with 50 sacks allowed (No. 28). Those 50 sacks repeated in 2020 though the metrics improved marginally. Expect improvement for this season with Pro Bowler RG Brandon Scherff staying on the franchise tag and drafting OT Samuel Cosmi (2.19). The rookie will compete with Cornelius Lucas as the replacement for RT Morgan Moses. C Chase Roulier, LC Wes Schweitzer returns and LT Charles Leno comes over from Chicago. This is a capable unit with depth that should see improvement in Year 2 with Scott Turner’s offense.
19. Minnesota Vikings
After posting Top-10 stats in most blocking categories in 2019, this unit declined in pass protection last year, including a No. 31 ranking in how often Kirk Cousins wasn’t allowed a clean throw (34%). That led to rebuilding the left side by drafting LT Christian Darrisaw (1.23) and LG Wyatt Davis (3.23) last April. Dalvin Cook helps make any offensive line appear better than they probably are and it was impressive when they only allowed 21 negative rushes (No. 2) despite running the ball 432 times to trail only the Titans in the volume of carries. This offensive line performance depends on how quickly the two rookies can get up to NFL speed.
20. Seattle Seahawks
The Seahawks return four starters, but ranked low in pass protection categories for many years. Russell Wilson suffered a sack on 9% of his pass attempts for the second season in a row but the run blocking has improved to roughly average. LG Mike Iupati retired, and they traded with the Raiders to gain Gabe Jackson who will either move to the left or RG Damien Lewis shifts over. LT Duane Brown has been the best of the bunch, but the shortcomings of this offensive line in pass protection make Russell Wilson’s performances even more impressive.
21. Denver Broncos
The Broncos sport an average offensive line with no holes but no standouts. They played without RT Ja’Wuan James last year when he opted out under the COVID-19 allowances but then tore his Achilles and was released. They signed ex-Bear Bobby Massie to a one-year contract for a replacement. C Lloyd Cushenberry III was a third-round pick out of LSU last year but remains the weak link in the unit. He’ll likely have to battle to keep his job on this otherwise mundane unit. Drew Lock enters his third season in Denver but there’s speculation that Aaron Rodgers might end up with the Broncos. He’d be leaving last year’s No. 1 offensive line for keeping a clean pocket to the No. 25 ranked unit.
22. Cincinnati Bengals
This offensive line has been below average for years. But the Bengals have worked on their blockers by acquiring former first-round pick LT Riley Rieff from the Vikings, who will become the new right tackle. They spent their 2.14 pick on OT Jackson Carman from Clemson to compete at right guard, but he’s a talent that could be used elsewhere if needed. There were expectations – or at least hopes – that the Bengals would draft the premier lineman in the draft of Penei Sewell with their 1.05 pick but opted for wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase instead. That would have dramatically remade the line but even the moves with Rieff and Carman should be upgrades, if only eventually.
23. Miami Dolphins
The Dolphins owned the worst offensive line in the NFL coming off the 2019 season ranked dead last in yards per carry, and sacks allowed. One in every three pass attempts were hurries, hits or sacks. The Fins went to work in the 2020 draft grabbing LT Austin Jackson (1.18) and RG Robert Hunt (2.07). This year they drafted RT Liam Eichenberg (2.10) and brought in RG Matt Skura from the Ravens. This is a young crew, but the Fins are investing in their blocking with positive results. If it all comes together well, this unit could rise to being average which was unimaginable just a year or so ago.
24. Jacksonville Jaguars
All five starters return for a mediocre unit that improved slightly in metrics from 2019 to 2020. That continuity plus adding OT Walker Little with their 2.13 pick should see an incremental improvement again this year. If Trevor Lawrence can get up to NFL speed quickly, that will also improve the blocking that hasn’t protected much talent in the quarterback spot for years. LT Cam Robinson drew the franchise tag, and that’s prudent with a rookie quarterback to protect. The middle of the line is considered solid, and that helps the rushing effort, which allowed an undrafted rookie back in James Robinson to surprise in 2020. While not yet a strength of the offense, the offensive line is no longer a liability.
25. New York Jets
The Jets O-line ranked poorly for years and remain in the Bottom-5 yet again. They brought in RT George Fant, C Connor McGovern, and RG Greg Van Roten last year with less than stellar results. They drafted LT Mekhi Becton with their 2020 1.11 pick as well. For 2021, that unit returns changed only with the drafting of LG Alijah Vera Tucker with their 1.14 pick. They invested in their line without the expected return thus far but the team is handed over to head coach Robert Saleh. He brings line coach John Benton with him from San Francisco where he controlled an offensive line that produced Top-5 production. The entire offensive line has been made over in the last two years and now has better coaching. This unit should finally show improvement in 2021 and beyond.
26. Los Angeles Chargers
Here’s another team attempting a sorely needed makeover with their offensive line. The line was about average until last year RT Bryan Bulaga came over from the Packers last year, and he’s the only holdover. The Bolts used their 1.13 pick on RT Rashawn Slater and then brought in ex-Packer C Corey Linsley on a five-year, $62.5 million deal. They added ex-Steeler RT Matt Feiler on a three-year, $21 million payout who’ll likely switch to left guard. Ex-Lion Oday Aboushi shows up in free agency to take the right guard slot. The Chargers are yet another team that is putting in the attempt to improve their blocking. There’s new schemes installed with the change in coaches so any improvement may take some time.
27. Pittsburgh Steelers
This offense changed significantly in the last few years, including the offensive line that once was a major advantage and by now bears little resemblance to the once dominating unit. They lost RT Matt Feiler to the Chargers, Pro Bowler C Maurkice Pouncey retired, and they released Pro Bowler RG David DeCastro for a “non-football injury.” Second-year RT Chukwuma Okorafor will move over to left tackle as the only returning starter from 2020. Ex-Charger Trai Turner signed a one-year contract to likely take DeCastro’s place. This offensive line pulled a rare feat – they ranked No. 1 in sacks allowed (14) and were dead last in yards per carry for running backs. The Steelers are an example of how quickly offensive lines can rise to elite status or plummet downward to be a liability.
28. Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons move onto a new coaching staff headed by the ex-Titan Arthur Smith, and he inherits an offensive line that’s been average with pass blocking and struggled when they ran the ball. That was even worse in 2020 when Todd Gurley proved why the Rams gave up on him. LT Jake Matthews remains the rock and a reason why pass protection is better than the run blocking. In 2019, the Falcons spent two first-round picks to obtain RT Kaleb McGary (1.31), and RG Chris Lindstrom (1.14), and both have shown progress. But the Falcons lost C Alex Mack to the 49ers and will use the preseason to sort out their options. A lack of quality running backs isn’t likely solved by bringing on Mike Davis, so there’s limited hope for much improvement in the rushing effort, even with incremental improvement in the O-line.
29. Houston Texans
The Texans continued to struggle in pass protection even with Deshaun Watson under center. Adding Pro Bowler LT Laremy Tunsil didn’t change the metrics. The Texans top ranking in negative runs reflect that they were No. 32 in running back rushes (262) and defenses were more concerned with Watson as a rusher. Now that Watson’s season is in question, falling back to Tyrod Taylor or the rookie Davis Mills isn’t likely to promote any improvement. Ex-Patriot Marcus Cannon was added this year for an upgrade and will likely move from guard to right tackle. The middle of the line continues to be a weaker spot, and the rushing offense suddenly is jammed with new and marginal backs that won’t be any better than whatever the offensive line can block. So far, the Texans have proven that adding just one great lineman doesn’t have a dramatic effect to an otherwise mediocre unit.
30. Chicago Bears
Losing both starting tackles poses a problem for this already below average O-line. The Bears used their 2.07 pick to draft OT Teven Jenkins who needs to hit the ground running as the new left tackle. Germain Ifedi will take over as the starting right tackle but he’s only been average at best. The Bears should go to their rookie quarterback at some point, so the tackles matter even more this year. The middle of the line won’t be certain until the season starts and gives no reason to expect much. Short of inspired play by the new tackles – including a rookie on the left – this unit can only aspire to become average.
31. Carolina Panthers
Losing Christian McCaffrey didn’t help the run game last year that had ranked No.2 in yards per carry in 2019, but that ranking was far more about McCaffrey than what the O-line gave him. RT Taylor Morton is the best blocker but the left tackle spot is open with third-round rookie Brady Christensen likely to grab. There are no stand-outs in this group and they need McCaffrey to resume his productive ways to reach respectability again. So far, this is a continuing collection of blockers who have lacked synergy but 2020 was also the first season for head coach Matt Rhule. The second year needs to show improvement or 2022 has to focus on improving the offensive line.
32. New York Giants
The Giants’ offensive line not only posted bad marks across the board last year, they didn’t add any notable blockers through the draft or free agency to improve anything. Daniel Jones’ promising play as a rookie evaporated with a league-worst 34% of his pass attempts under pressure. Losing Saquon Barkley had an expected negative effect and the Giants faced what would be the worst schedule in the NFL. But they did nothing to improve the line that has long been a liability. Nate Solder returns after opting out of 2020 which should help. Head coach Joe Judge enters his second season, and team health could yield improvement over a disastrous 2020.