After free agency and the draft, the lineups for the league's offensive lines have notable differences from where last season ended. Let's dig deeper and look at the "big guy" situations for all 32 NFL teams.
TOP TIER LINES
2015 rank: 1st. Difference from final 2014 rank: 0.
Overall: A+ Run: A+ Pass: A.
The Eagles' offensive line starts 2015 where it ended last season: at the top of the rankings. It was a bumpy ride for the unit last year, as it had to deal with several injuries and a suspension but by the time the season ended, they were all healthy and dominant. The line was the best run blocking unit last season and a top ten ranking in pass protection. The strength of this unit continues to be the left side of the line, where left tackle Jason Peters and left guard Evan Mathis combined for another All-Pro level performance. Peters is a rock and his nickname in the locker room is actually "the franchise." He's a physical freak that should be performing at a high level for several more years. The left guard position with Mathis could be a situation to watch. Rumors had the team wanting to trade this player before the draft, as he is getting older (33) and has a relatively high cap number. 33 might not sound too old (especially for those of us well above that age) but Mathis is actually the oldest starting guard in the NFL this season. However, the team lacks in obvious replacement candidates, and fans can expect Mathis to remain for at least another season. This situation could change, but for 2015 it seems stable. At center, Jason Kelce is among the league's better starters and is just hitting his stride at the age of 27. Right tackle Lane Johnson is a very good player, and could be on his way to amazing. A former top ten draft pick, Johnson is blessed with rare physical attributes. It's safe to call the Peters/Johnson bookends the best in the league. If the line has a weak spot it is at right guard, where Allen Barbre is currently penciled in to start the season. Barbre had been a super sub for the Eagles in years past but spent most of last season injured. Barbre will have to hold off Andrew Gardner and Matt Tobin for the spot, and should do so if he remains healthy. While some fans are concerned about the depth of the unit, (and the fact that they haven't drafted a lineman for the last two seasons), the starting five are currently graded out as the best in the league.
2015 rank: 2nd. Difference from final 2014 rank: +3.
Overall: A Run: A Pass: A-.
The last time we saw the Ravens' offensive line, they were limping through the playoffs without several starters. But with everyone back and healthy, this line is slated to be among the league's best. The unit is led by right guard Marshal Yanda, who made his fourth consecutive All-Pro team last season. Yanda subbed at left tackle when the team needed, and he can also play right tackle. Yanda is an absolute beast at the point of attack. He is also entering a contract year which usually means that the player will be going after it even harder than usual. Left tackle Eugene Monroe should be fully back from a knee procedure and does an above average job in both phases of the game. Left guard Kelechi Osemele is also entering a contract year and is an outstanding run blocker. It is not clear if the team can keep both of these players long term. But in the short term this will be an extremely good line. Center Jeremy Zuttah was acquired just prior to last season for a 5th round draft pick, and immediately cemented himself as a stalwart, playing every single offensive snap last season, except one. Zuttah is known as a steady run blocker but can be beat in pass protection. Right tackle Rick Wagner vastly outperformed his contract last season, grading as one the league's best at the position in pass protection. Wagner received an almost $250k bump in salary from the league's performance based system, which was the largest bonus of any 2014 Ravens player. The Ravens also have interesting depth including guard John Urschel and tackle James Hurst, both of which saw significant snaps while the starters were battling injuries. Overall this is one of the league's best units and could make a move for the top spot, should they stay healthy.
2015 rank: 3rd. Difference from final 2014 rank: 0.
Overall: A Run: A Pass: A-.
In half of the games last year, quarterback Tony Romo was sacked once or less. Romo ended up throwing for more yards than any other quarterback in the league. A great deal of that success was due to the offensive line, and specifically, left tackle Tyron Smith. Smith made his second All Pro team, and is blooming into one of the best blind side protectors in the league. The line also featured well above average play from center Travis Frederick and right guard Zach Martin. These players are on the cusp of Pro-Bowl level play. With the addition of UDFA superstar La'el Collins, the Cowboys could have a really special unit on their hands. Collins was going to be a mid first round pick, prior to all sorts of legal red flags that appeared the week of the draft. Collins was eventually cleared and the Cowboys got a potential starter without spending a draft pick. The logical position for Collins is left guard, replacing Ron Leary. I am comfortable projecting Collins as a starter at this time, although he definately has to beat out the veteran. If Collins can win this job and reach his potential, he could be a dominant player. Certainly the team will give him every opportunity to win a starting job. In the future, Collins could also compete at right tackle where Doug Free currently does an underrated job. Bottom line, the Cowboys have one of the best lines in the league, and if Collins can play like the first rounder he was projected to be, a further upgrade to the top of the ranks is entirely possible.
2015 rank: 4th. Difference from final 2014 rank: +7.
Overall: A Run: A- Pass: A.
We don't talk alot about offensive line positional coaches but the Steelers' line has one of the best in the business in Hall of Famer Mike Munchak. Several beat writers praised the coach for simplifying the line calls and providing quality leadership last season. The line enjoyed very good results under his tutelage and they return all five starters in all the same positions. The best player on the line is clearly center Maurkice Pouncey, who was selected to his fourth career All-Pro team. Pouncey is stepping up as a team leader and has the respect of not only his linemates but the entire organization. The guard situation is well above average as left guard Ramon Foster and right guard David Decastro were rock solid in protecting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Right tackle Marcus Gilbert was signed by the team to a long term contract and has been excellent in the run game. Both he and left tackle Kelvin Beachum could stand to improve their pass protection. Beachum is an overall solid player who didn't miss a snap last season, but at 6'3" he's undersized for the position. As he's heading into a contract year, the team could be looking to move on to a more prototypical athlete. Former second round pick Mike Adams is one possible name that could replace Beachum and he did get reps at right tackle last year when Gilbert was injured for four games. Adams did decently but overall he has been relatively slow to develop and might never be ready for starting responsibility. In the long term this line could have a question at the left tackle position but in the short term expect the Steelers to have one the league's better units up front.
2015 rank: 5th. Difference from final 2014 rank: +15.
Overall: A Run: A Pass: A-.
Joe Thomas is a stud. Let's just get that statement out of the way. The Browns' left tackle is a cornerstone. He's an amazing player and has been rock solid throughout his (likely Hall of Fame) career. However, the rest of the line is where the meat of this ranking occurs. The Browns suffered a tough loss mid way through last season, when All-Pro center Alex Mack broke his leg. Prior to last season, the team had declared Mack as a transition tagged player and was able to match a giant deal when Jacksonville tried to woo him away. Clearly he's important to the franchise. Without Mack, the unit suffered and dropped from a top tier line to a middle of the pack line. That set of circumstances should give some context to the Browns' pick of Florida State's Cameron Erving at 19 overall in the first round. Many on-lookers were surprised by this selection, who the commissioner announced as an "offensive guard." Erving can compete there (John Greco's right guard position is more threatened than Jon Bitonio's left guard position). Erving can also snap if Mack gets hurt (or moves on in the future) or he could also compete at right tackle against Mitchell Schwartz. Erving can actually play all five positions which is an increasingly rare skill in the league. Erving has been getting reps at right guard and right tackle in OTA's and his situation is one to watch in the preseason. I am going to project Erving as the starting right guard, as they probably aren't going to keep their first rounder on the bench. This isn't a huge bump in the rankings however, as Greco is a solid starter in his own right. A move that went under the radar last season was when tackle Michael Bowie was signed off of waivers. Seattle had expected to slip this injured player through on his way to the reserve list but the Browns and three other teams put in a claim. Bowie has legitimate starter potential at right tackle and is another who could challenge Schwartz for the job. If Bowie wins that starting position during preseason, this would likely translate into a rise in the rankings for the Browns' line.
6. New Orleans
2015 rank: 6th. Difference from final 2014 rank: +2.
Overall: A- Run: B+ Pass: A-.
The Saints' lineup is a tough one to project with certainty, at this point in the offseason. But if it all falls right this could indeed be a very good offensive line. The team acquired center Max Unger from the Seattle Seahawks in the Jimmy Graham trade, and Unger is one of the best at his job in the league. The two time Pro Bowler will likely settle in just fine at the center position. However the team lacks a clear starter at left guard. The team drafted Andrus Peat from Stanford at 13 overall in the first round and the latest news has him working at right tackle. If we assume the team wants Peat to start year one, that could mean Zach Strief (who actually had a great year) moving from right tackle to left guard. While not young, Strief is a smart and versatile player who could make that move rather easily. That lineup with the athletic Terron Amstead at left tackle, Streif at left guard, Unger at center, six time Pro Bowler Jahri Evans at right guard and Peat at right tackle, has a ton of potential. The cohesion will be low at first, with Unger having to familiarize himself with the new system and Peat and Strief playing new positions. But down the line, this group could easily rise in the rankings and become one of the league's elite units. If the team can't find a way to get Peat a starting job, a player such Tim Lelito would likely start instead and this group would fall a few spots in the rankings. Certainly how these positions fill out in preseason will be important to watch.
7. Green Bay
2015 rank: 7th. Difference from fnal 2014 rank: 0.
Overall: A- Run: B+ Pass: A-.
The Packers' line starts the 2015 campaign right where it left off, as a top tier unit. The line returns all five starters at all five positions, which is a huge positive when ranking these lines. The strength of this line is at the guard positions, where both Josh Sitton and T.J. Lang are among the best in the game. Sitton is the more well known of the two players, and is coming off his second All-Pro consideration. Lang is more underrated but had an exceptional season at right guard, and is a borderline Pro Bowl caliber player. Between them, Corey Linsley mans the center position capably and is one of the best young players at that position. Linsley earned over $330k in performance based play bonus, the second most in the entire league. Linsley played much better than his fifth round status would indicate. Another former mid round selection, David Bakhtiari, earned over a quarter million in performance based play, the fifteenth highest amount in the league. All this is to say the Packers have a young core at key positions and should be in good shape if they can re-sign these players when their rookie deals are completed. One player the team won't have to worry about keeping is right tackle Bryan Bulaga. Bulaga enjoyed an excellent season, grading out as one of the best right tackles in the league, and was rewarded with a five year contract extension. Don Barklay is an above average swing tackle and J.C. Tretter provides interesting depth at multiple positions. Overall this is an underrated line but one of the better in the league. Should Bakhtari and Linsley continue to ascend, the lines' ranking should do likewise.
2015 rank: 8th. Difference from final 2014 rank: +1.
Overall: B+ Run: A- Pass: B+
The Texans have a strong offensive line and the best player is clearly left tackle Duane Brown. The three time Pro Bowler is a cornerstone player and one of the best pass protectors in all of football. The line could soon have another Pro Bowler in right guard Brandon Brooks. Brooks graded out exceptionally well last season and the coaching staff has called him out for his hard work in the offseason strength program. The team has high expectations for this player and the bulky Brooks should be ready to deliver. The team let center Chris Myers' contract expire (still a free agent) and will slide last year's starting left guard Ben Jones over to the position. Jones should do a solid (but not spectacular) job. In Jones' place steps Xavier S'ua-Filo, a second round pick from two years ago. S'ua-Filo is another solid player with versatility and has also been taking snaps at center. Finally right tackle will likely see Derek Newton starting. Newton had a pretty good year in 2014 and was rewarded with a five year contract. Newton is one of the more underrated players at the position in the league. Overall this line has a high level of cohesion and they should be among the league's better units this season.
2015 rank: 9th. Difference from final 2014 rank: +16.
Overall: B+ Run: B+ Pass: B.
When discussing the Vikings' offensive line there are two questions that immediately must be answered: 1) how did this line get ranked so low at the end of last season and 2) why is this line ranked so much higher at the start of this season? The answer to both questions is left tackle Matt Kalil. Kalil had an atrocious 2014, and many onlookers believed the player was a high profile first round bust in the making. However in the offseason, the coaching staff praised Kalil for playing hurt and picked up his option. Kalil was apparently playing on two injured knees and received offseason arthroscopic surgery to fix the problem. Assuming Kalil is healthy (a big assumption, granted), this line could be vastly improved this season. Brandon Fusco, a decent guard, is also returning from injury. A related piece of good news for this unit was the departure of left guard Charlie Johnson. Johnson did not play well last season and Joe Berger (who spent most of last year starting for Fusco) will slide to the left guard position and have the lead on taking Johnson's place. There's a rumor that Fusco could compete at left guard and the Vikings drafted several players, including Pittsburgh's T.J. Clemmings who could compete for playing time. David Yankey is another interesting player who could be in the guard mix, after a much needed year in the strength and conditioning program. Throw in the All-Pro performance of center John Sullivan and the perennially underrated right tackle Phil Loadholt and the Vikings could have the makings of a high quality unit. But again it needs to be stressed that this relatively high ranking assumes Matt Kalil playing more like he did his rookie year, as compared to last season's debacle.
2015 rank: 10th. Difference from final 2014 rank: +11.
Overall: B+ Run: A Pass: B-.
The Bengals' line ended last season on a bit of a down note, with starting tackle Andre Smith suffering a season ending injury. Smith is fully healthy and should be extra motivated this season as both he and All Pro left tackle Andrew Whitworth are entering their contract years. Whitworth had an excellent 2014 season but made some interesting remarks during draft season. Over twitter, Whitworth dared the Bengals to draft his replacement. By taking a tackle in round one (Cedric Ogbuehi) and a tackle in round two (Jake Fisher), the Bengals called his bluff. The team has a recent history of sitting drafted players for a year before thrusting him into the starting lineup, and along those lines, I cannot project either to start this season. However in the long term, look for Fisher to start at left tackle, Ogbuehi to start at right tackle, and both Smith and Whitworth to be wearing a different uniform. On the interior, right guard Kevin Zeitler had an outstanding year and is playing at a borderline Pro Bowl level, despite not actually being awarded that honor. The team picked up Zeitler's fifth year option and also resigned left guard Clint Boling, after Boling received a ton of attention from other teams. The weak spot of this line is probably center Russell Bodine, who played decently but not lights out last season. There are rumors that the Bengals could shuffle their line, moving Whitworth to guard, Boling to center and elevating one of the rookies to left tackle. This seems smart on paper but it's not clear this will actually occur in real life. For now the lineup seems fairly set, with all five players returning to start at all the same positions as last year. Line coach Paul Alexander also holds the prestigious assistant head coach title and that's a testiment to the job he does with these players. Look for the Bengals to be one the league's better lines this year; even if they have major injuries, they have the depth to perform at a high level.
2015 rank: 11th. Difference from final 2014 rank: +1.
Overall: B+ Run: B+ Pass: B-.
Washington has an improving offensive line and one of the key reasons is left tackle Trent Williams. Williams is coming off of his third Pro Bowl honor and the team is reportedly working on a long term extension for him this spring. The team also made two significant additions in the offseason: first the hiring of Bill Callahan as offensive line coach, and second, taking Brandon Scherff at 5 overall in the NFL Draft. While Callahan has had his ups and downs as a coordinator and head coach, as an offensive line coach he is considered one of the league's best. Callahan is fresh off of revitalizing the Cowboys' offensive line, and the expectations are that he will do something similar in Washington. In Scherff, many onlookers believed that the team reached for this player. However he is a talented and rugged player who should be able to start quickly on the right side, despite having to switch from left tackle. Iowa lineman have a tendency to be very well coached and Scherff should be able to play either side of the line (not unlike fellow Hawkeye Bryan Bulaga, currently with the Packers). Scherff represents a huge upgrade at the right tackle spot, previously occupied by Tom Compton. The interior of the Washington offensive line is solid but not aamzing. Kory Lichtensteiger graded out above average at the center position, while Shawn Lauvao and Chris Chester continue to do a respectable job with their starting spots. The team hopes that Spencer Long progresses and steals Chester's spot but it's yet to be proven that he's ready for prime time. Morgan Moses will likely be the swing tackle and he's another player that the team hopes gets better, to help with depth issues. Overall, this line should be improved with the addition of Scherff, and can be considered among the league's better units if the he claims that right tackle position long term.
12. San Francisco
2015 rank: 12th. Difference from final 2014 rank: -8.
Overall: B+ Run: A- Pass: B+.
The 49ers have solid starting tackles in Joe Staley and Anthony Davis. Staley, who made the Pro Bowl last year, has not missed a start since 2010 and has been a rock for this team. The team rewarded Staley with a contract extension through the 2017 season. Davis had a rough year due to several different injuries but he is a veteran who should be much better once at full health. Right guard Alex Boone had a slow start after a lengthy holdout but really turned it on in the second half of the season. Boone never did get that contract extension and should be playing rabid football to earn his paycheck after this season, probably in another uniform. When in form, Boone has Pro Bowl potential. This line used to be ranked higher and the main reason for the drop is because Pro Bowler Mike Iupati defected to the division rival Arizona Cardinals in free agency. Without Iupati (who was better at run blocking than pass protection) the left guard position appears to be Brandon Thomas' to lose. A third round selection in 2014, Thomas sat out last year rehabbing an ACL tear suffered in college. Thomas was a relatively high profile prospect prior to the injury and the 49ers have used the redshirt year concept at several other positions with success. Should Thomas not win the job, other options unclude Daniel Kilgore and Marcus Martin. One of those two will start at center (likely Martin) and Kilgore should be the guard competition as well as first man off the bench. The team has picked up Erik Pears as a possible swing option and they drafted the massive Trenton Brown out of Florida but neither of these players should see significant action. Overall this line is decent and can improve in the rankings if Brandon Thomas can step up and take the left guard position. This is a situation to watch in preseason.
MID TIER LINES
2015 rank: 13th. Difference from final 2014 rank: +18.
Overall: B Run: B+ Pass: B-.
The Dolphins' line receives a huge upgrade from the end of last season, primarily because of the return of left tackle Branden Albert. Albert was having an excellent 2014 season before tearing both his ACL and MCL in week ten. Albert is a well above average left tackle in this league and his return greatly increases the pass protection for Ryan Tannehill. Tackle Ju'Wuan James was subbing for Albert at left tackle at the end of last season, and will be able to slide back to his more natural right tackle position for this season. James played admirably at both positions. Another high quality player on the Dolphins' line is center Mike Pouncey. The two time Pro Bowl player was actually at guard last year, but should improve with a move back to his more natural center position. The team extended Pouncey's contract this offseason, making him the highest paid center in the league. At the guard spot, Dallas Thomas and Billy Turner are penciled into start. Thomas had an up and down year and Turner only played week seventeen, at right tackle. Neither are amazing players but both are relatively young and the team plans on them improving with time. Should the Dolphins need further options, they signed Jason Fox and Jeff Linkenbach as a swing tackle options, and drafted Jamil Douglas as a possible competator with Thomas at left guard. Fox is a former UM star and Linkenbach has started a bunch of games over the last few seasons for the Colts and the Chiefs. Neither player should be overlooked as viable option in the lineup, should the young guards not pan out. This line has two borderline elite players at left tackle and center, and an above average right tackle. It's important to have quality at these key positions, and as a result the team is a mid-tier unit with upside to be ranked higher as the guard situation settles and the overall cohesion improves. In the long term this is a fairly young line and could have their best football in front of them.
2015 rank: 14th. Difference from final 2014 rank: +12.
Overall: B Run: B+ Pass: B-.
The Raiders' line is usually ranked near the bottom of these articles but this year they grade out as a surprisingly decent squad. The main reason for this has been the exceptional play of left tackle Donald Penn. Penn played at a borderline Pro Bowl level last season, giving up only one sack through the first ten games. This is not completely surprising as Penn did make the Pro Bowl in 2010. Even more impressive than his pass protection was the rare offensive tackle touchdown by Penn in the Raiders' signature victory at home over the 49ers. It was a dream come true for Penn, who is reportedly a life long Raiders' fan. Next to Penn, left guard Gabe Jackson had an excellent rookie season, and made a reputation for himself as a nasty and physical player at the point of attack. Another important reason for the Raiders' relatively high ranking this preseason is the acquisition of center Rodney Hudson from the division rival Chiefs. Hudson is known as an athletic and capable young center who is still improving his game. On the right side, Khalif Barnes is likely going to swap inside and allow Austin Howard to man his more natural right tackle position. The team hopes to upgrade upon the penalty prone Barnes with their selections of Jon Feliciano and Anthomy Morris on day three of the NFL draft. Neither player is likely to start in the short term but Morris is a giant and could be a player to watch in the future. Overall this line is a mid-tier unit on the rise and if the left side of Penn and Jackson continue to improve, and the team can find a better starter than Barnes, the line's ranking could soar.
15. New York (AFC)
2015 rank: 15th. Difference from final 2014 rank: -6.
Overall: B- Run: B+ Pass: C+.
The Jets' line boasts one of the best centers in the game in Nick Mangold. Mangold is the rare player who is great in both phases of the game and has the agility to get to the second level. At left tackle, D'Brickashaw Ferguson continues to do an underrated job. Ferguson is not amazing but he is long and light on his feet, able to wall off most pass rushers effectively. Between these players, the Jets added former first round pick James Carpenter from the Seahawks. Carpenter never quite lived up to his high draft status but compared to the revolving door the Jets had at the position last season, he is a stable option. The right side of the line has Breno Giacomini at right tackle, who had a mostly decent year save getting owned by Mario Williams of the Bills, and a free-for-all competition at right guard. Last year's starter Willie Colon was surprisingly brought back by the new Jets regime, and he should have the lead on that job. However, Colon will face still competition from Oday Aboushi (who played significant snaps last season) as well as 5th round pick Jarvis Harrison. Harrison is an interesting player as he did man Texas A&M's left tackle position when injury required it. Other options include last year's 4th rounder Dakota Dozier, and previous starter Brian Winters. Look for Harrison and Aboushi to make a significant push for the job and for some of these other names to get cut. James Brewer and Ben Ijalana should compete for the swing tackle role. This rating can improve if Carpenter proves he's worth the money and the right guard position firms up. With those changes, this line could actually push into the top tier again.
2015 rank: 16th. Difference from final 2014 rank: +4.
Overall: B- Run: C+ Pass: B.
The Cardinals improved their lineup by poaching Pro Bowl left guard Mike Iupati from the division rival 49ers. Iupati is a Pro Bowl honoree, known as a mauling run blocker who can occasionally be beat in pass protection. With Iupati and massive left tackle Jared Veldheer, the team has an excellent left side of the line, and that should be where the team will be looking to run behind in short yardage situations. The team added another large body in first round right tackle D.J. Humphries out of Florida. Humphries was known as a pro-ready pass protector and should be able to beat out Bobbie Massie for the starting job. On the interior, the team moved on from Lyle Sendlein and there should be a tough-guy battle between Ted Larsen and A.Q. Shipley. I'm giving the edge to Shipley but it could go either way. Finally former first round pick Jon Cooper looks to have the edge on the right guard spot over Earl Watford. Cooper is reportedly in good shape and if he can live up to his draft selection, this could be a very good ine. For now I am grading him out as a decent starter, but he obviously has the potential to be much better or much worse. Overall this is a mid tier line that could move up to the top tier if the center, right guard and right tackle positions can be locked down early in preseason, and the line has a chance to gel together.
17. Tampa Bay
2015 rank: 17th. Difference from final 2014 rank: -7.
Overall: B- Run: B Pass: C+.
The Bucs used a high second round pick on left tackle Donovan Smith out of Penn State and the team reportedly will give him the lead at taking that job as a rookie. Smith is known for having "dancing bear" tendencies and there's a real shot of him doing a decent job as a rookie. Teams will likely target this player but most rookie left tackles don't have the benefit of playing next to Logan Mankins. Traded from the Patriots last year, Mankins is still one of the best guards in the game and is a stalwart on this line. At center Evan Smith (formerly Evan Dietrich-Smith) has shortened his name, and that's good news for the equipment managers that apply the jersey names. As a player, Smith is actually very good and completely underrated on a national level. At right guard, another rookie, Ali Marpet, will battle Patrick Omameh for the starting job. Look for Marpet to win this job as the team will give him every opportunity to do so. Finally, right tackle Demar Dotson is a load in the run game and provides a decent bookened across from Donovan Smith. Overall this line has some interesting young talent but they will be relying on more rookies than most teams and could have an adjustment process early in the season. As the line settles, this unit could rise in the rankings.
2015 rank: 18th. Difference from final 2014 rank: -5.
Overall: C+ Run: C+ Pass: C+.
Last year, right guard Kyle Long earned his second Pro Bowl nod in as many seasons in the league. Long was a key cog in the league's third ranked rushing attack and he reportedly did not give up a sack all season. Long is an exciting young player and the scary thought is that he could still get better. Long is the best lineman on the team but he is not the highest paid. Although left tackle Jermon Bushrod did not live up to his lofty contract, he was battling injuries and this ranking assumes he experiences a bounce back season. If Bushrod continues to struggle this line quickly can slip to a bottom tier ranking. Left guard Matt Slauson is another who struggled with injury, but when healthy he can be effective in the running attack. The team drafted center Hroniss Grasu with a high third round pick and he should win the job over Will Montgomery. Grasu is Oregon's best center prospect since Max Unger and could end up being a very smart pick for the Bears' franchise. At right tackle, Jordan Mills had a tough season where he battled a chronic foot issue, and the team picked up former Denver Broncos' tackle Paul Cornick off waivers to create competition. Mills should still hold on to the position but he's certainly on a short leash. Overall this line has a great deal of potential but what determines their success will be their ability to stay healthy.
2015 rank: 19th. Difference from final 2014 rank: -16.
Overall: C+ Run: C+ Pass: C+.
The best offensive lineman on the Broncos is Louis Vasquez. It's good news that the team is moving him back to right guard from right tackle. Guard is his natural position and where he last made All-Pro. Some would say former Pro Bowl left tackle Ryan Clady had a down year and is a player in his decline due to injury. I don't believe that's true, but even if it was, a declining Ryan Clady is above left tackle in the league. Unfortunately for the Broncos' rating, those are the two established players on this line. The line had two high profile departures this offseason, losing Orlando Franklin to free agency and trading Manny Ramirez to the Lions. Of the two players, Franklin is the better player, and there appears to be an open scramble for the left guard position. Journeyman Shelley Smith can provide a decent level of production but he is not among the league's better guards. The team hopes Ben Garland continues to develop and takes this position, but it's not clear that is going to happen this year. Gino Gradkowski arrived from Baltimore via trade and is likely to start over fourth round pick Max Garcia. Gradkowski is a decent zone scheme player with whom Head Coach Gary Kubiak has familiarity with, when they were both in Baltimore. At right tackle there is a three way battle between Chris Clark, Michael Schofield and second round pick Ty Sambrailo. The team will likely give Sambrailo every opportunity to win this job, and that would be the best for the long term prospects of this line. Chris Clark is probably best suited as a spot starter coming off the bench. Overall, this line was on the cusp of being elite when last year ended, but is going through transition and appears to be no better than a mid-tier unit as they enter the preseason.
2015 rank: 20th. Difference from final 2014 rank: +2.
Overall: C+ Run: C+ Pass: C+.
Although he historically has problems staying healthy, the best player on the Seahawks' line is left tackle Russell Okung. Okung is long and does a decent job pushing pass rushers past the pocket. On the interior, the team lost two starters from last season, center Max Unger and left guard James Carpenter. Unger especially will be a loss to this unit. In their place will be super-sub Alvin Bailey at left guard and Lemuel Jeanpierre at center. Bailey is a rugged run blocker who has upside to be a Pro Bowl player while Jeanpierre is a solid contributor who appeared in all 16 regular season games last season. The center position is still upgradable and Patrick Lewis could compete for that spot. At right guard, converted defensive tackle J.R. Sweezy is a quality run blocker and fan favorite but is very beatable in pass protection. Right tackle Justin Britt had a rough rookie season and if he doesn't improve, the team could look to another player. Garry Gilliam is likely the swing tackle and the team did draft three players on day three of the draft to replenish the competition pool. In general the Seahawks organization has different grades on these prospects than the majority of the draft community so just because no one's ever heard of Terry Poole, Mark Glowinski and Kristhan Sokoli, doesn't mean they won't see significant snaps early in their career. This line can rise in the rankings if the new starters gel quickly and some of the rookies perform better than advertised.
2015 rank: 21st. Difference from final 2014 rank: -4.
Overall: C+ Run: C Pass: B.
Left tackle Anthony Castonzo has been a star for the Colts' offensive line. Over eleven hundred snaps he played last season rank highest in the league for all offensive linemen. One of those snaps, a touchdown reception on a tackle-eligible play, complete with hilarious celebration dance, was especially memorable. Castonzo grades out as a borderline Pro Bowl player, despite having never recieved the honor. However the rest of the line is not quite at that level of quality.Right tackle Gosder Cherilus is a solid player, better in run blocking than in pass protection. Going into his second year, left guard Jack Mewhort has a similar profile. Right guard will likely be manned by free agent acquisition Todd Herremmans, who is a solid but not outstanding player at this point in his career. Center Khaled Holmes was injured for most of the early part of 2014, allowing undrafted free agent Jonotthan Harrison to start ten games. Harrison had an extremely rough campaign last year in Holmes' place and most onlookers expect Holmes to win that job back in preseason this year. Notable depth names include Joe Reitz and Hugh Thornton. Overall, this line can climb up the rankings if the center position solidifies.
BOTTOM TIER LINES
22 (t). Jacksonville
2015 rank: 22nd. Difference from final 2014 rank: +12.
Overall: C Run: C- Pass: B+.
Right guard Brandon Linder leads this unit, and some believe him to be the best player on the entire roster. Linder played at a borderline Pro Bowl level as a rookie, and still has the youth to improve his game. Left tackle Luke Joeckel needs to have a bounce back season. Entering his third season, Joeckel wasn't just unsteady, he was outright bad. Zane Beadles was a steady performer at left guard but the team may have drafted his replacement in third rounder A.J. Gunn. Right tackle Jermey Parnell arrived via free agency and the team is eager to get this nasty player in the lineup. Parnell was the swing tackle with his previous team the Cowboys, but he did fill in admirably in spot starts. Center Luke Bowanko started last year well but hit some rough patches as teams targetted the rookie. It is likely the team will turn to Stefan Wisniewski, who arrived via free agency to start at center instead. Overall this is generally a young line and if Joekel can play up to his draft standing, this line can vastly improve.
22 (t). Kansas City
2015 rank: 22nd. Difference from final 2014 rank: -6.
Overall: C Run: B- Pass: C-.
The Chiefs acquired former Pro Bowl guard Ben Grubbs through free agency and he immediately becomes the line's best player. Grubbs is known as a better run blocker than pass protector, and he should be able to help the players next to him in the lineup. Left tackle Eric Fisher has not lived up to his one overall status and can be a liability in the running attack. Fisher has been dinged up with a variety of injuries, and the team hopes this is the reason for his slow development. The team has a hole at center, where Eric Kush and draft pick Mitch Morse will likely battle for the spot vacated by Rodney Hudson. We are projecting Kush at this early point to be the starter but it's far from a settled situation. On the right side, Jeff Allen and Donald Stephenson should hold down those positions. Both are young players but neither have shown elite talent in their playing time to this point. In general this is a young line (except for Grubbs) and their ranking will vastly improve if Eric Fisher can take the next step in his development.
22 (t). Buffalo
2015 rank: 22nd. Difference from final 2014 rank: +7.
Overall: C Run: D+ Pass: B-.
The Bills look to be a run-first unit under new head coach Rex Ryan and the team took a positive step toward this goal by signing former Pro Bowler Ritchie Incognito in the offseason. Incognito spent last year out of football but he should be an effective run blocker who can be beat in pass protection. A similar player to Incognito (at least on the field) is left tackle Cordy Glenn. Glenn is a massive human being and the team can often find tough yards running behind this player. Next to him, Chris WIlliams hopes to shake off his various injuries to hold the left guard spot down this season. He will have competition in the form of veteran Kraig Urbik. Right tackle Seantrel Henderson was a pleasant surprise last season, as the seventh round pick won the job as a rookie and never gave it up. Henderson is a well balanced player and the team hopes his continues his development. Henderson earned over $370k in performance based play bonus, the most in the entire league. Cyrus Kouandijo should benefit from the change in coaching and he could be a depth name at several positions. Overall this Bills' line has good talent but none that we can point at and call elite. Their ranking can improve if Williams stays healthy and Henderson continues to get better.
25 (t). Tennessee
2015 rank: 25th. Difference from final 2014 rank: -1.
Overall: C Run: C Pass: C.
The Titans' line have above average starters at three spots. It's those other two spots that are holding back their overall grade. At left tackle Taylor Lewan is both nasty in the run game and solid in pass protection. He's still improving and could feasibly take the next step to borderline Pro Bowl level with a strong season. Left guard Andy Levitre is the highest paid lineman and he's also the best on the team. Levitre is a beast in run blocking but also the best pass protector on the team. At right guard Chance Warmack is another road-grading type but he can be compromised in pass protection. Warmack is also still relatively new to the league and should improve. At center Brian Schwenke is somewhat of a liability and the right tackle position is a multi-way competition between Byron Bell, Byron Stingley, Terren Jones and third round draft pick Jeremiah Poutasi. I am projecting Poutasi to win this battle, but this is far from certain. Overall this line can improve in the rankings if the young players (Lewan, Warmack and Poutasi) improve their games. The team also needs to upgrade their center somewhere along the way, before they can be considered an upper tier unit.
25 (t). Carolina
2015 rank: 25th. Difference from final 2014 rank: +7.
Overall: C Run: C+ Pass: C-.
The Panthers' best lineman continues to be center Ryan Kalil. Kalil is a balanced player who is effective in both phases of the game. Other than Kalil however there are many questions up and down the lineup. The team signed Michael Oher and Jonathan Martin to compete for the left tackle spot, sending Nate Chandler over to the right side to compete with Mike Remmers and fourth round pick Daryl Williams. Of this group it's like picking out of a hat to call this lineup but Oher and Remmers should win these jobs at least initially. The team hopes Williams wins the right tackle job and he profiles like a poor man's Phil Loadholt. Right guard Trai Turner is a young player who showed rookie flashes as an excellent pass protector, however left guard Andrew Norwell is barely a starter quality player at this point in his career. Norwell will see competition from Amini Silatolu and Tyronne Green for that left guard spot and no matter who wins, it's probably the weakest of all the positions. Overall this line has a ton of uncertainty, other than at the center position, and for the Panthers to improve in the rankings several starters have to emerge and play solidly for a decent period of time.
27. San Diego
2015 rank: 27th. Difference from final 2014 rank: -4.
Overall: C- Run: D+ Pass: C-.
The Chargers' line actually has some interesting players and their stay near the bottom of the rankings could be a short one if these players settle into their new roles. Left guard Orlando Franklin arrived via free agency from the Broncos, and he immediately becomes the line's best player. Frankln is known as an excellent run blocker and he should stabilize the position between massive left tackle King Dunlap and up and coming center Chris Watt. Right tackle Joe Barksdale recently arrived from St. Louis and he should allow D.J. Fluker to slide over to right guard. If Barksdale can't crack the lineup, and Fluker remains at tackle, replacement level players such as Johnnie Troutman and Kenny Wiggins will likely be in the lineup at guard. With Fluker at guard the Chargers' line would be incredibly massive at every position but center and that would be good news for the teams' skill players. This line is seeing new starters at potentially three positions, which lowers their cohesion score. Should this line gel together they have the potential to rise up to middle tier or even higher as the season progresses.
2015 rank: 28th. Difference from final 2014 rank: -12.
Overall: C- Run: D+ Pass: B-.
The Lions' best player is right guard Larry Warford. Warford is one of the best interior linemen in the conference and he is effective in both phases of the game. The team hopes to have drafted a similar player in first round pick Laken Tomlinson. Tomlinson is reportedly a very safe prospect and he should be able to lock down the left guard spot. If either Tomlinson is not up to the task, the team traded for Manny Ramirez from the Broncos and this player has starting experience at both guard and center positions. At this point I am projecting Ramirez to start at center, although that is far from certain. The team will also give Travis Swanson a real chance to win that center job. The tackles are good but not great players; there were rumors that Riley Reiff would shuffle inside if a highly rated tackle fell to the Lions during the first round. That didn't occur, the Lions went guard and Reiff remains at left tackle. Right tackle LaAdrian Waddle is a massive but raw player. Waddle could also be pushed by Cornelius Lucas, who looked decent in several spot starts last season. Overall this line dwells near the bottom of the rankings because of change at several interior positions and a lack of elite talent at the tackles. This line can improve if the young players get better and the line as a whole avoids injury.
29. New England
2015 rank: 29th. Difference from final 2014 rank: -2.
Overall: D+ Run: D Pass: C-.
The Patriots' line has interesting players but none that can be classified as elite at this time. The highlights are likely at the tackle positions; on the left side, Nate Solder is a physically gifted player who lacks consistency. He can look like a Pro Bowler one game and be be overpowered the next. When healthy, right tackle Sebastian Vollmer is probably the line's best player. When he isn't healthy, the team has a decent backup in Marcus Cannon. On the interior, the team hopes that mid round draft pick Tre' Jackson beats out Jordan Devey at the left guard spot. If Jackson joins the lineup he will be next to his former college teammate in center Bryan Stork and that would be great for cohesion. Both Jackson and Stork are good young players, with the potential to be better. Ryan Wendell is a steady and versatile starter at right guard (he can also snap) but he isn't notable in any phase of the game. Overall this line can rise up the rankings if Solder gets more consistent as a pass protector and if Jackson can win (and hold) a starting job out of camp.
30. New York (NFC)
2015 rank: 30th. Difference from final 2014 rank: -1.
Overall: D+ Run: D+ Pass: D+.
The Giants' line received some bad news when left tackle William Beatty tore his pec during offseason workouts. Beatty has already had surgery and a six month recovery should have him back in action somewhere in November. Without Beatty the team will either have to accelerate Ereck Flowers' development or move Justin Pugh over from right tackle. It is not clear exactly how this situation will turn out as this goes to press, but if the team used a nine overall pick on Flowers, they might want to throw him in the fire early and see if he can handle the position. Weston Richburg had a rocky rookie campaign and the team needs him to improve, especially in pass protection. Geoff Schwartz will likely start at right guard but the left guard situation looks to be a toss up at this point. Brandon Mosely, John Jerry and Dallas Reynolds could all compete for that spot and in fact the season starter may not be on the roster right now. Ironically it is at guard is where the Beattly injury hurts the team the most. The team had planned on moving Pugh inside and getting players such as Mosely or Jerry back on the bench. Obviously those plans are on hold for now. In the long term this team can rise in the rankings if they get better play out of the center position and when Beatty returns to full strength.
2015 rank: 31st. Difference from final 2014 rank: -1.
Overall: D- Run: D- Pass: D-.
Right guard Jon Asamoah is easily the line's most consistent player, but unfortunately that's not a high bar to reach right now. The selection of Jake Matthews high in the first round has been a dissapointment for the Falcons. Matthews has replaced Sam Baker at the job (Baker could actually still start due to the free for all at left guard) but Matthews needs to be a more consistent pass protector for this line to get any better in the rankings. Matthews is tough, he has played hurt a ton and that has hurt his performance. Hopefully he can be better if he can stay healthy. At left guard, the team will give Mike Person and Harland Gunn a chance to win that job from Baker in preseason. If either player could emerge, it would be a relief for the Falcons' front office, who might just cut Sam Baker. At right tackle there's a similar scramble as Ryan Schraeder, Lamar Holmes and Tyler Polumbus square off for the job. Joe Hawley is a solid and gritty player at center but is not exceptional in either phase of the game. Overall this line has several position battles to be resolved and needs to get better play out of a player they hope will be their franchise left tackle. If these things can happen, look for the Falcons' line to rise up the rankings.
32. St. Louis
2015 rank: 32nd. Difference from final 2014 rank: -13.
Overall: D- Run: D- Pass: D-.
There's several young players on the Rams' line, most notably, left tackle Greg Robinson. A high pick last season, Robinson is a physically elite run blocker who still has alot to learn about pass protection. His career path is on schedule however and he should get better at the job with experience. Next to Robinson, Rodger Saffold should do a decent job at left guard. Saffold is the veteran leadership and the team needs him to stay healthy. Tim Barnes will likely get a shot at starting center, and left guard Barrett Jones could slide over if Barnes isn't up for the task. Right tackle is a battle between Brandon Washington and second round rookie Rob Havenstein. Look for Havenstein to win the position and have a similar scouting report as Robinson: excellent run blocker who has to improve on pass protection. The Rams know they have a problem at the line, and the team loaded up with several prospects in the most recent draft. The team took tackle Jamon Brown in round three, guards Andrew Donnal and Cody Wichmann in rounds four and six and that means the team drafted four total linemen this spring. If any of these rookies distinguish themselves and win a job in preseason, the line's fortunes should be on the upswing. Until that happens, and Greg Robinson becomes a more consistent pass protector, they remain the lowest ranked line going into the 2015 season.
Thanks for reading this massive amount of text. If you have specific questions about the rankings, please do not hesitate to contact me on twitter @Draftdaddy or in the Shark Pool. Also note that there will be weekly offensive line updates during the regular season, detailing injuries, lineup changes and notable news for all subscribers.
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