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The unsung heroes of the gridiron, offensive linemen are some of the most valuable assets in the NFL. No matter how talented a team’s skill-position players are, it’s almost impossible for any offense to succeed in today’s NFL without a capable offensive line. They create holes for running backs and protect the quarterback, buying him precious time to survey his options and complete throws downfield.
While offensive linemen are often overlooked (except when they make mistakes or are involved in fluke plays), they are vital to a team’s success and impact every offensive play. Better blocking also results in more offensive production and can pay big dividends in fantasy football.
In our NFL Picks Of The Day Series, here’s how all 32 offensive lines stack up heading into the 2021 NFL season.
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NFL Offensive Line Rankings 2021
1. Cleveland Browns
Cleveland revamped its offensive line prior to the 2020 season and it paid immediate dividends, as the Browns ranked third with 2,374 rushing yards and allowed the eighth-fewest sacks (26) despite having a QB in Baker Mayfield who held onto the ball for the second-longest amount of time in football.
All five of Cleveland’s starters from last season, LT Jedrick Willis Jr., RT Jack Conklin, LG Joel Bitonio, RG Wyatt Teller, and C J.C. Tretter, return in 2021. The Browns also added Cincinnati OT James Hudson in the fourth round of the 2021 NFL Draft, which gives them some depth beyond their elite starting five.
2. New England Patriots
Last season was a disappointment for New England, but its offensive line was stellar. The Patriots ranked fourth in the league with 2,346 rushing yards despite getting very little help from subpar quarterback and wide receiver play. LT Isaiah Wynn was a top-10 tackle and the club re-acquired Trent Brown to shore up the RT spot.
New England’s interior line excels at run-blocking, which is good news for QB Cam Newton, who is back under center. Bill Belichick invested a lot of the club’s salary cap space on bolstering the offense at tight end and wide receiver via free agency, which should help improve what was a lackluster passing attack last season.
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
All 22 starters from Tampa Bay’s Super Bowl-winning roster return, including all five from an offensive line that surrendered just 22 sacks last year — fifth-fewest in the NFL. 2020 No. 13 overall pick Tristan Wirfs allowed only 24 pressures at right tackle in an outstanding rookie campaign, while the rest of the Buccaneers’ front five all notched above-average grades in pass protection. They also added reinforcement via the draft with third-round Notre Dame tackle Robert Hainsey offering flexibility and depth.
4. Kansas City Chiefs
After their Super Bowl loss to Tampa Bay, Kansas City’s primary offseason goal was to revamp a once-strong offensive line that had deteriorated due to injuries. All five starting spots for the Chiefs have changed, but the unit looks like it could develop into one of the best in the league.
Mitchell Schwartz and Eric Fisher were released and the club traded for elite LT Orlando Brown and spent big money on LG Joe Thuney via free agency. Other additions include Laurent Duvernay-Tardif — who opted out of the 2020 season — and Jake Long, who has experience at guard and tackle. Second-round Oklahoma rookie Creed Humphrey and Austin Blythe will compete at center, but overall this unit looks much improved.
5. Indianapolis Colts
After being released by Kansas City, Fisher signed with Indianapolis and should slide into the left tackle spot vacated by the retirement of Anthony Castonzo as soon as he’s fully recovered from an Achilles injury. The presence of All-Pro LG Quenton Nelson ensures the Colts will be an elite run-blocking unit again after ranking in the top-5 in generating rushing yards before contact. They also allowed just 21 sacks a year ago, which was the second-lowest in the league.
6. New Orleans Saints
Even with an aging QB Drew Brees under center, New Orleans ranked sixth in the league in rushing yards and fared well in pass protection last year. With Brees now retired, it will be a drastically different look for the Saints’ offense, but a deep and talented offensive line should help with the transition. Terron Armstead and Ryan Ramcyzk are an excellent pair of bookend tackles, and 2020 first-rounder Cesar Ruiz should improve in his second season at guard.
7. San Francisco 49ers
LT Trent Williams is the centerpiece of a group that is annually one of the best run-blocking units — a huge prerequisite in a Kyle Shanahan-coached offense. Williams only allowed 19 pressures in 2020 and parlayed his elite play into the largest offensive lineman contract in NFL history.
Opposite of Williams, RT Mike McGlinchey also adds stability. Newly-signed C Alex Smith is a good fit in Shanahan’s zone-blocking scheme and should be an upgrade over Weston Richburg, who retired after seven seasons. The addition of No. 3 overall pick QB Trey Lance opens up all kinds of different looks for Shanahan, and Lance’s athleticism should help a strong O-line be even better.
8. Detroit Lions
The offensive line was already one of the bright spots for a moribund Detroit squad that once again finds itself starting over. That group should be even more potent with the addition of the top tackle in the 2021 NFL Draft, Penei Sewell. Sewell will open his career on the right side and gives the Lions a formidable duo with LT Taylor Decker.
C Frank Ragnow also made huge strides in his third season and was locked up with a long-term extension. New head coach Dan Campbell plans to rebuild Detroit from the inside out and that strategy is off to a good start with a promising offensive line.
9. Green Bay Packers
Green Bay will undoubtedly miss C Corey Linsley, who signed with the Los Angeles Chargers, but second-round rookie Josh Meyers offers potential as an immediate replacement. Billy Turner will also step in at RT after Rick Wagner was released. David Bakhtiari remains the top pass-blocking LT in the game and is the main cog in a unit that led the NFL in time before pressure allowed.
10. Dallas Cowboys
For many years this has been a strength for Dallas, but injuries decimated this group in 2020. Heading into this season, health isn’t as much of a concern. LT Tyron Smith should be fully healthy after being limited to two games with a neck injury, while RT La’el Collins will return after missing the entire 2020 campaign.
RG Zack Martin remains an elite option, while Connor Williams, Tyler Biadisz, and Joe Looney solidify the interior. Also, the return of QB Dak Prescott will open up more space for RB Ezekiel Elliott and cut down on the 44 sacks the Cowboys surrendered a year ago.
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11. Tennessee Titans
The strength of Tennessee’s line lies in run-blocking, which opened up enough lanes for RB Derrick Henry to top 2,000 rushing yards last year. The Titans weren’t as solid in pass protection but did allow only 25 sacks, tied for sixth-fewest.
That pass-blocking should get better in a hurry in 2021 with the return of LT Taylor Lewan, who missed 10 games last season. Second-round RT Dillon Radunz will be an instant upgrade and help the team move on from the botched Isaiah Wilson selection of 2020. The recent trade for WR Julio Jones should also benefit the entire offense and help slow down blitzes from the edge.
12. Baltimore Ravens
Baltimore boasted the league’s strongest run-blocking unit last year and led the NFL in many rushing categories, including yards (3,071), yards per carry (5.21), and open-field yards. There was, however, a drop-off in pass protection, and trading premier tackle Orlando Brown also hurts.
The return of LT Ronnie Stanley, who was limited to six games by a broken ankle, should help, as will the addition of Alejandro Villanueva, who will shift to RT. RG Kevin Zeitler was also signed and should provide a boost inside. With a small improvement in pass protection, the Ravens have a chance to be a top-10 group again and help add a whole new dimension to an offense that may finally have some pass-catching depth.
13. Los Angeles Rams
Los Angeles allowed just 25 sacks last season and also rushed for the 10th-most yards. Trading for QB Matthew Stafford should help the entire offense, and protecting Stafford’s blind side will be LT Andrew Whitworth, who at 39 is still a top-10 tackle. Guard is a strength for this unit, with David Edwards and Austin Corbett both posting solid blocking grades from PFF. The loss of C Austin Blythe will hurt, as does the lack of elite young talent and depth indicative of a team that has been missing a lot of draft capital.
14. Arizona Cardinals
Arizona posted the eighth-best adjusted sack rate (5.4%) last year and was also top-10 in giving QB Kyler Murray time before pressure. Their run-blocking results weren’t as inspiring, however, as the Cardinals ranked 30th in adjusted line yards.
Enter C Rodney Hudson, who was acquired in exchange for a third-round pick. Hudson, 32, is a top-10 center and brings much-needed experience and prowess inside. Second-round rookie tackle Josh Jones also adds depth and could earn reps as the swing option behind D.J. Humphries and Kelvin Beachum.
15. Buffalo Bills
QB Josh Allen’s running ability helped Buffalo’s O-line post the fifth-best adjusted sack rate, as he was dropped just 27 times last season. The ground game didn’t fare as well, however, as the Bills ranked 19th in rushing yards per attempt and 20th in total rushing yards.
Continuity is important, however, and Buffalo’s line is returning intact. The Bills also added some intriguing depth via the 2021 NFL Draft. Third-round OT Spencer Brown and fifth-round OT Tommy Doyle add reinforcements to a solid tackle tandem in LT Dion Dawkins and RT Daryl Williams.
16. Denver Broncos
Denver ranked 13th in rushing yards and 14th in rushing yards per attempt but was 26th in passing yards and allowed 32 sacks. Much of that rushing production was out of necessity, however, as their quarterback play was abysmal. Accordingly, the trade for QB Teddy Bridgewater is expected to provide a significant boost to the Broncos’ offense.
LT Garrett Bolles remains an elite option and OT Bobby Massie should be an instant upgrade following the release of OT Ja’Wuan James. Guards Dalton Risner and Graham Glasgow are solid, but Denver would be delighted if third-round UW-Whitewater rookie Quinn Meinerz beat out underperforming C Lloyd Cushenberry this summer.
17. Washington Football Team
Ron Rivera’s impact on Washington was instant last season, as the Football Team showed immediate and dramatic improvements in their line’s play (although sacks were still an issue). Not resting on their laurels, GM Martin Mayhew engineered a trade for OT Ereck Flowers, signed LT Charles Leno, and drafted Texas OT Samuel Cosmi in the second round. Mayhew also franchise-tagged RG Brandon Scherff, one of the top pass-blocking guards in the league.
18. Philadelphia Eagles
Philadelphia’s line regressed badly in 2020, but injuries had a lot to do with that. Overall, the Eagles were third in rushing yards per attempt but allowed a league-worst 65 sacks. The speedy Jalen Hurts will take over for Carson Wentz under center, which should help, as will the healthy returns of LT Andre Dillard and RT Lane Johnson.
Jason Kelce has been a dependable option at center and second-rounder Landon Dickerson will help solidify at guard. If they can stay healthy, the birds have a good chance at being an above-average unit once again in 2021.
19. Los Angeles Chargers
Blocking has been a major issue for Los Angeles for some time, but one of the primary focuses for new head coach Brandon Staley was to provide better protection for QB Justin Herbert. This required a major reworking of an underperforming line, which involved free-agent additions such as C Corey Linsey and guards Matt Feiler and Oday Aboushi.
No. 13 overall pick Rashawn Slater was considered by some to be the top tackle in the 2021 draft and should start on the left side right away. The only returning starter, RT Bryan Bulaga, was limited by back and foot injuries a year ago. It may take some time for the Chargers’ overhauled line to build chemistry, but the pieces are in place for them to be a solid group.
20. Seattle Seahawks
QB Russell Wilson has never had an elite line, and that trend continues in 2021. LT Duane Brown remains one of the better players at his position and RT Brandon Shell allowed just 24 pressures in his first season in Seattle. GM John Schneider sent a 2021 fifth-round pick to the Las Vegas Raiders for RG Gabe Jackson while the left side was fortified by third-round rookie Damien Lewis, who stood out as a run-blocker at LSU.
21. Minnesota Vikings
Minnesota seems to perpetually have blocking issues and is currently undergoing a transfusion of youth in an effort to rectify that. The Vikings invested two early 2021 draft picks to address the offensive line via first-rounder Christian Darrisaw — an excellent run-blocker who will open the season at left tackle — and Ohio State guard Wyatt Davis, who could start next to Darrisaw. A slight improvement in pass protection for this inexperienced but promising group could result in Minnesota moving up several spots.
22. Houston Texans
Houston’s much-maligned line probably isn’t as bad as people think, as QB Deshaun Watson held onto the ball for 2.85 seconds per play, which ranked 29th and contributed to some of the team’s 50 sacks allowed. LT Laremy Tunsil earned his second consecutive Pro Bowl nod in 2020 and will be joined by newcomer Marcus Cannon on the right side. 2019 first-rounder Tytus Howard will play swing tackle or, more likely, move to guard. With decent depth and an improved backfield, the Texans’ O-line is finally moving in the right direction.
23. Carolina Panthers
Carolina’s front five took a step back last season, but a lot of that had to do with losing RB Christian McCaffrey. The Panthers signed Pat Elflein to stabilize the interior, as he can play either guard or center. BYU OT Brady Christensen stood out in pass protection and is a candidate to open the season as the starting left tackle. New starting QB Sam Darnold was frequently under a lot of duress with the New York Jets, so Carolina’s evolving line will have to gel quickly.
24. Miami Dolphins
Miami’s offense is predicated on quick reads and getting rid of the ball in a hurry. This helped the Dolphins improve from a league-worst 58 sacks allowed in 2019 to just 34 in 2020. Miami’s young line features three sophomore starters in LT Austin Jackson, RG Robert Hunt, and LG Solomon Kindley, plus (presumably) 2021 second-rounder Liam Eichenberg. While there’s a lot of promise here, the lack of experience could pose problems.
25. Atlanta Falcons
Another team that is trotting out a youthful line, Atlanta was next to last in rushing yards per attempt, 26th in adjusted line yards, and allowed the 11th-most sacks last year. LT Jake Matthews has anchored the line since 2014, but the loss of C Alex Mack hurts. 2020 third-rounder Matt Hennessy will get the opportunity to take over that spot and join third-year starters RG Chris Lindstrom and RT Kaleb McGary. The Falcons should also feature an improved ground attack this year with RB Mike Davis replacing Todd Gurley as their primary tailback.
26. Jacksonville Jaguars
The tackle position is the main concern for Jacksonville, as the guard and center positions are actually strengths. All five starters from a year ago will be back and the underperforming tackle position was reinforced in the draft with the addition of second-round Stanford tackle Walker Little.
The Jaguars didn’t run a lot last season, but the line performed well in that area. They’ll have to continue to develop as pass protectors for new franchise signal-caller Trevor Lawrence, so cutting back on the 44 sacks allowed last season will undoubtedly be the top priority.
27. Las Vegas Raiders
Mike Mayock and Jon Gruden invested heavily in building a strong offensive line, but after that unit regressed and battled injuries last season they were quick to move on and will replace three starters from a year ago. 2018 first-round LT Kolton Miller returns to protect QB Derek Carr’s blind side. His counterpart will be Alabama rookie Alex Leatherwood, who was a surprise pick at No. 17 overall.
LG Richie Incognito, who played just 74 snaps last season, was released but ended up re-signing with Las Vegas. Last year’s group posted a solid 4.84% sack rate, but that number is likely to go up with so much turnover. With RB Kenyan Drake joining Josh Jacobs in the backfield, run-blocking will be key to this reconstructed unit’s success or failure.
28. Cincinnati Bengals
Cincinnati is making a concerted effort to improve what was already a glaring weakness in the wake of QB Joe Burrow‘s season-ending injury last year. It’s still a work in progress, but the offseason was a step in the right direction. RT Riley Reiff was a big signing and will pair well with LT Jonah Williams. The Bengals also attacked the O-line in the draft, which included second-round guard Jackson Carman, fifth-round OT D’Ante Smith, and sixth-round center Trey Hill.
29. Chicago Bears
It’s never good to be breaking in a franchise quarterback with two brand new tackles, but Chicago fans will take that tradeoff if QB Justin Fields can develop into the player they’ve been coveting for decades. The Bears nabbed Oklahoma State’s Teven Jenkins with the 39th pick and he looks like a good bet to start at left tackle, while Germain Ifedi is penciled in at right tackle next to solid RG Cody Whitehair.
Ryan Pace’s third draft pick, fifth-round OT Larry Borom, could challenge for a starting spot at center, which has been a revolving door of late. A lot of work will need to be put in by Fields and whoever snaps the ball, so watch how this new group meshes throughout training camp.
30. New York Jets
New York posted bottom-10 marks in a lot of categories last year, including pass protection and run blocking. While No. 2 overall pick Zach Wilson brings hope, the rookie quarterback is likely to face a ton of pressure all season. LT Mekhi Bekton and No. 13 overall pick Alijah Vera-Tucker give the Jets a promising young left side of the line, but the right side looks like a major concern. RT George Fant and RG Greg Van Roten are both well below average, while newcomer Dan Feeny will compete with Connor McGovern at center.
31. New York Giants
PFF has given New York poor marks in each of the past two campaigns, and those struggles are likely to carry over into 2021. 2020 first-round LT Andrew Thomas (10 sacks allowed) was completely overwhelmed as a rookie at the most important position and will have to get better in a hurry. Nate Solder opted out last season and will compete with Matt Peart for right tackle duties. Incumbent LG Will Hernandez has underwhelmed and C Nick Gates is largely ineffective, leaving the Giants’ O-line woefully thin.
32. Pittsburgh Steelers
Pittsburgh gave up the fewest sacks in football last year, but that was more attributable to QB Ben Roethlisberger typically getting rid of the football in a hurry. Run-blocking was a major concern as well, as the Steelers ranked dead last in rushing yards and now must integrate three new starters into an already fading front line.
Chukwuma Okorafor struggled at right tackle and now will attempt to protect Roethlisberger’s blind side. C Maurkice Pouncey retired and could be replaced by third-round rookie Kendrick Green. While Pittsburgh’s once-vaunted O-line is certainly in a state of flux, the arrival of first-round rookie RB Najee Harris could help the group immensely.