Evan Silva

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2013 Offensive Line Rankings

Wednesday, May 15, 2013


You'll notice 2012 Run and Pass Block Rankings listed before each lineup projection. The first number is via Pro Football Focus. The second number is Football Outsiders' 2012 rating. While PFF and FO's data is relevant and valued, keep in mind the goal of this column is to project the effectiveness of 2013 NFL offensive lines, as opposed to rank them based solely upon what occurred last season.

The number in parentheses after each team name is that club's number of returning offensive line starters. The asterisk (*) denotes a new projected starter.

 

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1. New England Patriots (5)

2012 Run Block Rankings: 2, 4
2012 Pass Block Rankings: 9, 5

LT: Nate Solder
LG: Logan Mankins
C: Ryan Wendell
RG: Marcus Cannon*
RT: Sebastian Vollmer
Super Sub: G/C Dan Connolly

Overview: The 49ers are better in run blocking, but New England gets a big enough edge in the pass-blocking phase to put position coach Dante Scarnecchia's unit over the top. Despite ranking fourth in the league in pass attempts last season, the Patriots allowed the fifth fewest sacks in football. Pass pro is pretty important in an increasingly pass-first NFL. The Pats didn't lose any key line members and could receive a youthful, physical injection if 2011 fifth-round steal Cannon unseats incumbent right guard Connolly. Cannon is a nimble 6-foot-5 and 360 pounds. Solder and Vollmer were both top-17 offensive tackles in Pro Football Focus' 2012 ratings, while Wendell was a top-five center. Mankins, 31, is gunning for his fifth consecutive Pro Bowl berth.

2. San Francisco 49ers (5)

2012 Run Block Rankings: 1, 1
2012 Pass Block Rankings: 7, 29

LT: Joe Staley
LG: Mike Iupati
C: Jonathan Goodwin
RG: Alex Boone
RT: Anthony Davis
Super Sub: G/T Adam Snyder

Overview: San Francisco fields the most physical front five in football, evidenced by its consensus No. 1 run-block ranking in 2012. Only the Vikings and Redskins paved the way for better team yards-per-carry averages than the 49ers' 5.06 clip. All five starters return with Snyder (83 career starts) back for versatile depth after a failed stint in Arizona. With onetime first-round disappointment Davis turning a corner -- and still improving at age 23 -- the 49ers range anywhere from rock solid to elite at each position. Iupati is the group's strongest member. The returning All-Pro is the best drive-blocking left guard in the NFL and hasn't missed a start in his career. Boone gave the unit a new dimension in his first season as a full-time player in 2012, converting from tackle and actually grading out higher than Iupati in Pro Football Focus' individual guard ratings.

3. Denver Broncos (4)

2012 Run Block Rankings: 20, 12
2012 Pass Block Rankings: 1, 2

LT: Ryan Clady
LG: Zane Beadles
C: J.D. Walton*
RG: Louis Vasquez*
RT: Orlando Franklin
Super Sub: G Chris Kuper

Overview: Peyton Manning's outstanding pocket management typically atones for up-front deficiencies, as was often the case in Indy behind O-Lines that would have been porous were anyone else playing quarterback. But Denver's front five was at the very least well above average last year and will get even better. Clady is the All-Pro mainstay and franchise player at age 26. Beadles and Walton both enter their fourth NFL seasons and are only 26 as well. (Walton missed all but four 2012 games and was replaced by Dan Koppen, who is currently a street free agent.) Franklin, 25, is rock solid in pass protection. Vasquez, 26, is another pass-blocker extraordinaire and adds mass to the unit at 6-foot-5 and 335 pounds. If healthy after fracturing his right fibula, Kuper is an ideal interior reserve with 78 games of starting experience, seeing action at both guard spots.

4. New York Giants (5)

2012 Run Block Rankings: 4, 2
2012 Pass Block Rankings: 18, 3

LT: Will Beatty
LG: Justin Pugh*
C: David Baas
RG: Chris Snee
RT: James Brewer*
Super Sub: G/T David Diehl

Overview: The names aren't flashy, but this quietly was about as good an offensive line as there was in the league last season, and doesn't lose a single starter. As a team, the G-Men ranked seventh in yards-per-carry average (4.55) despite several running back injuries, and allowed the fewest sacks in the NFL (20). Most critically, Beatty unseated Diehl on the blindside and emerged as an elite pass-blocking left tackle. Another consideration for Super Sub was guard Kevin Boothe, a returning starter who -- like Diehl -- I project to come off the bench, providing quality veteran depth. The assumptions here are mauling 2011 fourth-rounder Brewer beats out Diehl and 2013 first-rounder Pugh takes over at left guard, where he compares favorably to Andy Levitre. OT Brandon Mosley, 24, and OG Eric Herman, 23, are young reserve options with upside.

5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5)

2012 Run Block Rankings: 17, 13
2012 Pass Block Rankings: 16, 6

LT: Donald Penn
LG: Carl Nicks
C: Jeremy Zuttah
RG: Davin Joseph*
RT: Demar Dotson
Super Sub: C/G Ted Larsen

Overview: While the Buccaneers' 2012 offensive line ratings were not particularly strong, keep in mind they only got seven combined games from Nicks and Joseph, who form quite possibly the NFL's premier guard duo east of San Francisco. Nicks earned consecutive Pro Bowl trips before arriving in Tampa Bay last offseason, including a 2011 All-Pro berth. Joseph is a brute power blocker. They're healthy now. Despite injuries to arguably their best two linemen, the Bucs still allowed the third fewest sacks in football (26) and ranked 11th in yards-per-carry average (4.42). Depth is somewhat concerning, but there aren't five better starting O-Lines in the league.

6. Cleveland Browns (5)

2012 Run Block Rankings: 14, 20
2012 Pass Block Rankings: 5, 12

LT: Joe Thomas
LG: Jason Pinkston
C: Alex Mack
RG: Shawn Lauvao
RT: Mitchell Schwartz
Super Sub: G/T John Greco

Overview: An immobile rookie quarterback and injured tailback didn't help Cleveland's rate stats last season, but this is one of the most promising young lines in the league. Perennial All-Pro left tackle Thomas is the group's elder statesman at age 28. Pinkston, 25, Mack, 27, and Lauvao, 25, form an athletic and physical interior. Pinkston and Lauvao are backed up by Greco, a 28-year-old who can play both guard positions and blocked effectively in ten 2012 spot starts. Last year's 37th overall draft pick Schwartz was a top-three pass-protecting right tackle as a rookie, according to Pro Football Focus' ratings. If new coach Rob Chudzinski can work some Derek Anderson magic with Brandon Weeden, this Browns offense could take off in 2013.

7. Minnesota Vikings (5)

2012 Run Block Rankings: 3, 10
2012 Pass Block Rankings: 15, 16

LT: Matt Kalil
LG: Charlie Johnson
C: John Sullivan
RG: Brandon Fusco
RT: Phil Loadholt
Super Sub: G/C/T Joe Berger

Overview: This is another young, rising O-Line. Kalil, 23, Sullivan, 27, and Loadholt, 27, are Minnesota's elite up-front pieces, while improvement can be expected in 24-year-old Fusco's second season as a starter. Johnson, 29, was the weak link last year. He'll face competition from underrated sixth-round pick Jeff Baca and journeyman Berger (27 career starts). In 2011, the Vikings trotted out one of the NFL's poorest offensive lines. The ascension of Fusco and addition of Kalil turned the unit around. It's now a top-ten unit. Christian Ponder is running out of excuses.

8. Baltimore Ravens (3)

2012 Run Block Rankings: 12, 6
2012 Pass Block Rankings: 17, 14

LT: Bryant McKinnie*
LG: Kelechi Osemele
C: Gino Gradkowski*
RG: Marshal Yanda
RT: Michael Oher
Super Sub: T/G Jah Reid

Overview: McKinnie is marked as a "new starter" because Oher spent last season at left tackle, with Osemele on the right and Reid at left guard. Bobbie Williams, who was cut in March, started eight games at guard. Center Matt Birk has retired, giving way to 2012 top-100 pick Gradkowski. McKinnie took over at left tackle in January and performed admirably, surrendering just four quarterback hits across four playoff games. Including postseasons, McKinnie has made 22 starts on Joe Flacco's blindside over the past two years. The Ravens are 17-5 in those games, and Flacco has a combined 35:13 TD-to-INT ratio with a 8.16 YPA. Baltimore's offensive line is not quite elite, but it's an upper-echelon run-blocking unit and strong in pass pro whenever McKinnie is in good enough physical condition to start. 23-year-old Osemele has the potential to be a truly special player after neutralizing both Vince Wilfork and Justin Smith in the playoffs.

9. Cincinnati Bengals (5)

2012 Run Block Rankings: 27, 11
2012 Pass Block Rankings: 2, 28

LT: Andrew Whitworth
LG: Clint Boling
C: Kyle Cook*
RG: Kevin Zeitler
RT: Andre Smith
Super Sub: OT Anthony Collins

Overview: Outside of underwhelming center Cook, Cincinnati's front-five starters are rock solid and backed up by impressive depth. Collins is 27 years old with 18 career starts. He could start on many teams. G/T Travelle Wharton also received consideration for Super Sub. Wharton tore his ACL last year, but is healthy now and can play both left tackle and guard. Cook, returning from high ankle sprain surgery, will have to beat out incumbent seven-game starter Trevor Robinson. Whitworth and Smith each graded out as top-nine tackles in Pro Football Focus' 2012 ratings, while both Boling and Zeitler were top-25 guards, and now enter their second full seasons as starters. Despite this unit's modest run-blocking grades, it often made BenJarvus Green-Ellis look better than he is last year. The Bengals did allow the seventh most sacks in the league (46), though flatlining quarterback Andy Dalton deserves a lot of blame.

10. Tennessee Titans (3)

2012 Run Block Rankings: 16, 31
2012 Pass Block Rankings: 8, 19

LT: Michael Roos
LG: Andy Levitre*
C: Fernando Velasco
RG: Chance Warmack*
RT: David Stewart
Super Sub: OT Mike Otto

Overview: This is where ranking O-Lines gets tricky, because the Titans poured money (Levitre) and a top-ten pick (Warmack) into their most obvious up-front liabilities. The previous strength was tackle play, so it would seem the group has shored up its weaknesses. Theoretically, there is potential for Tennessee's line to leap into the top five. But Warmack is a rookie, Levitre is undersized and not a great run blocker, and right tackle Stewart has recovered more slowly than expected from a fractured right leg. The Titans indicated their concern by flirting with free agents Winston Justice and Eric Winston. Ultimately, a top-ten offensive line ranking is a positive and big jump from how Tennessee performed last year. Now they need Jake Locker to throw the football more accurately from the pocket and Chris Johnson to play harder on a down-to-down basis.


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Evan Silva is a senior football editor for Rotoworld.com. He can be found on Twitter .
Email :Evan Silva



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