Breaking Down All 32 Offensive Line Situations
No matter which QB was under center, the 49ers offensive line dominated defenses
The offensive line is one of the most important parts of any football team. Yet almost no one has a good feel for what teams have good units and which need help. To get the 2013 NFL Draft season started, I have ranked every team in the NFL’s offensive lines
1. San Francisco 49ers
BEST: LT Joe Staley
WORST: C Jonathan Goodwin
FREE AGENTS: G Leonard Davis
The 49ers have the best offensive line the NFL has seen in years. Listing the worst lineman as C Jonathan Goodwin is insulting to Goodwin, who is a very solid center; he's simply fifth best on this line. RT Anthony Davis and RG Alex Boone exceeded expectations, and LG Mike Iupati is tremendous. The Niners may consider a project pick in the late rounds that they could use down the road when free agency starts to become an issue, but this team is stacked on the line. The Niners have a good history of drafting linemen: Davis and Iupati were both first round picks in 2010 and have become important pieces for this team.
2. New England Patriots
BEST: RT Sebastian Vollmer
WORST: RG Dan Connolly
FREE AGENTS: T Sebastian Vollmer, G Donald Thomas, C Jamey Richard
This is a consistent, deep unit. RG Dan Connolly had some struggles, but if he regresses the team has solid options behind him like LG Donald Thomas. RT Sebastian Vollmer is a free agent, but New England should lock him up. Bill Belichick and company are always thinking ahead, so drafting a value lineman is always a possibility, but this unit is very solid and will be excellent if kept intact. Starting LT Nate Solder was the team's first round pick in 2011 and Vollmer was a second round pick in 2009.
3. Denver Broncos
BEST: LT Ryan Clady
WORST: RG Manny Ramirez
FREE AGENTS: T Ryan Clady, C Dan Koppen, T Chris Clark
This was an offensive line designed to protect Peyton Manning, and they were absolutely fantastic at it. LT Ryan Clady had an awesome season and enters free agency looking at a huge contract that Denver should pony up for. RG Manny Ramirez struggled in the run game, but was solid. The guard play could improve with some run blockers and some depth. The Broncos could throw a mid-to-late round pick at an interior lineman. The team has a solid history in the draft: starters RT Orlando Franklin and LG Zane Beadles were second round picks in 2011 and 2010, respectively.
Joe Thomas anchors one of the must underrated units for any position in the NFL
4. Cleveland Browns
BEST: LT Joe Thomas
WORST: RG Shawn Lauvao
FREE AGENTS: None
This is a great unit that is begging for some offensive weapons. LT Joe Thomas is a franchise tackle, arguably the best in the business. The Browns could definitely upgrade at RG and the outmatched Shawn Lauvao, but the rest of the line is very good. There are bigger priorities for the Browns than replacing Lauvao this year. Starting RT Mitchell Schwartz was a second round pick in the 2012 draft.
5. New Orleans Saints
BEST: C Brian De La Puente
WORST: LT Jermon Bushrod
FREE AGENTS: C Brian De La Puente, T Jermon Bushrod, T William Robinson
Losing Carl Nicks hurt the Saints' pass blocking. LT Jermon Bushrod and RT Zach Strief had below average years in that respect. But this unit, anchored by a great interior of C Brian De La Puente, LG Ben Grubbs and RG Jahri Evans, has a great foundation that should bounce back in 2013. Still, Bushrod, a fourth round pick in 2007, was the last starter on this unit drafted by the Saints. This year may be a good time to look for some depth in the middle rounds.
6. Cincinnati Bengals
BEST: RT Andre Smith
WORST: C Kyle Cook
FREE AGENTS: T Andre Smith, T Dennis Roland
RT Andre Smith may have been the best RT in football in 2012, but he is a free agent. The Bengals need him back. If they retain him their main focus should be at center. The combination of C Jeff Faine and C Kyle Cook was very weak. If Cincinnati can upgrade this position, the Bengals could have one of the league's best lines. Three of the Bengals' five starters were drafted in the last four years (Smith in 2009, LG Clint Boling in 2011 and RG Kevin Zeitler in 2012), so this organization is confident that it knows what it's doing when drafting on the line.
7. Minnesota Vikings
BEST: C John Sullivan
WORST: RG Brandon Fusco
FREE AGENTS: T Phil Loadholt, G Geoff Schwartz, C Joe Berger, G Troy Kropog
Sullivan, LT Matt Kalil and RT Phil Loadholt are what makes this offensive line. Loadholt is a free agent but the Vikings will look to lock up the tremendous run blocker. RG Brandon Fusco was a weak spot, but replacing him with RG Geoff Schwartz is probably a more prudent decision than drafting a right guard. The team could use an upgrade for LG Charlie Johnson and maybe some depth, but this line is good if Loadholt stays. Kalil was the fourth overall pick last year and Loadholt was a second round pick in 2009, so the Vikings have had success drafting near the top of the draft.
Joe Flacco's long-ball throws were great, but the protection he received was even better
8. Baltimore Ravens
BEST: RG Marshall Yanda
WORST: LG Bobbie Williams
FREE AGENTS: T Bryant McKinnie, G Ramon Harewood
The Ravens figured out their unit as the season went out, which accounts for their increased success in the postseason. However, LG Bobbie Williams may retire, which would mean that some interior line help is going to be needed. Aside from drafting RT Kelechi Osemele in the second round in 2012, the Ravens have mostly used mid-to-late round picks to add depth to the line, and have retained all of the linemen drafted in the last three drafts.
9. Houston Texans
BEST: LT Duane Brown
WORST: RT Derek Newton
FREE AGENTS: T Ryan Harris, T Rashad Butler, T Andrew Gardner, G Antoine Caldwell
Houston took a risk letting RT Eric Winston walk after last year and going with RT Derek Newton instead of drafting someone. The Texans lost that gamble. Newton had a poor season and eventually lost the job. LT Duane Brown and C Chris Myers are always going to make this line competitive with their excellent play but the right side of the line needs work. A tackle to replace Newton and a guard to replace the platoon of RG Ben Jones and RG Antoine Caldwell would help Houston's offense significantly. Brown was the last big pick the Texans took on the line. This year might be the time to draft an interior lineman high.
10. Atlanta Falcons
BEST: RT Tyson Clabo
WORST: RG Peter Konz
FREE AGENTS: T Sam Baker, C Todd McClure, G Garrett Reynolds, T Will Svitek
Atlanta has a very serviceable line that was best in the league at avoiding penalties. The Falcons hope that RG Peter Konz will bounce back from a tough rookie season in 2012. With C Todd McClure headed for free agency at age 36, Konz may be moved to center. In either case, the team needs an interior lineman. LT Sam Baker did a good job with a healthy 2012 season, but he's a free agent as well. The team drafted well on the line five years ago, but has had some misses in recent years. Its first two picks in 2012 were Konz and backup LT Lamar Holmes.
11. New York Jets
BEST: LT D'Brickashaw Ferguson
WORST: LG Matt Slauson
FREE AGENTS: G Brandon Moore, T Austin Howard, G Matt Slauson
This line lacks a franchise player, but is otherwise one of the better units in the league. LT D’Brickashaw Ferguson had a great season. LG Matt Slauson struggled in the run game but was very solid pass blocking. The biggest question mark for the Jets is RT Austin Howard, who at times looked like he had developed into a starter while at other times seemed embarrassing when dealing with the pass rush. Both Slauson and RG Brandon Moore are free agents. While the Jets have a lot of problems, allowing Slauson and Moore to walk without a replacement plan would be a mistake. The Jets have not used many picks on linemen in recent years. Backup G/T Vladimir Ducasse was the team's second round pick in 2010, but other than that, they have refrained from drafting heavily on the offensive line.
12. New York Giants
BEST: LT Will Beatty
WORST: RT David Diehl
FREE AGENTS: T Will Beatty, G Kevin Boothe, T Sean Locklear
LT Will Beatty is a well-balanced LT who will get a lot of interest from tackle-needy teams in free agency this offseason. RT David Diehl is the opposite, the weak link in this Giants O-line. The return of RT Sean Locklear will help, but the team could definitely use a player in the draft. LG Kevin Boothe is also a free agent. This line has depth in theory, but losing either Beatty or Boothe makes it look a lot thinner. Aside from picking Beatty in the second round in 2009, the Giants have been content to draft depth in the mid-to-late rounds in recent years. If either Beatty or Boothe walks, drafting a lineman high might be a more pressing concern.
13. Detroit Lions
BEST: RT Gosder Cherilus
WORST: RG Stephen Peterman
FREE AGENTS: T Gosder Cherilus, G Stephen Peterman, C Dylan Gandy, T Jason Fox, T Corey Hilliard
This unit has good pass blockers and good run blockers, but not a ton of overlap. LT Riley Reiff excelled at run blocking but couldn't pass block well enough to take the starting spot from LT Jeff Backus. RG Stephen Peterman similarly excelled at run blocking but was terrible in pass protection. On the flipside, RT Gosder Cherilus had a great year pass blocking but was exceedingly average in run blocking. The team needs more complete offensive linemen to compete for those jobs. Cherilus was a first round pick in 2008, but the jury is still out on Reiff, the team's 2012 first round pick.
If paired with Luke Joeckel, Eric Winston may be a part of a very dominant offensive line in 2013-2014
14. Kansas City Chiefs
BEST: RT Eric Winston
WORST: LG Jeff Allen
FREE AGENTS: G Ryan Lilja, T Branden Albert, G Russ Hochstein
RT Eric Winston had a solid season and LT Donald Stephenson has shown enough promise to warrant him keeping the starting job. The team needs a lot of help on the interior of the line, though. LG Jeff Allen needs more seasoning, as he was rushed into the starting lineup before he was ready. C Ryan Lilja is retiring. C Rodney Hudson will be returning from injury, but some competition for the guard positions and some depth can only help the interior. Four of the team's starters were drafted in the last three years in rounds two or three, so there is a lot of youth that the Chiefs hope will develop.
15. Tennessee Titans
BEST: LT Michael Roos
WORST: LG Leroy Harris
FREE AGENTS: C Fernando Velasco, C Kyle DeVan, G Deuce Lutui, G Leroy Harris
The Titans excel at pass blocking but struggle with the run. LT Michael Roos had an excellent season and RT David Stewart was also solid. C Fernando Velasco had a good year but is a free agent. LG Leroy Harris and RG Deuce Lutui were the issues. Tennessee needs to look for guard help in the offseason after the signing of LG Steve Hutchinson blew up in its face due to underwhelming play and injuries. The last time Tennessee drafted a lineman high was when they took Roos in the second round in 2005. A guard should be high on the Titans' list this year.
16. Buffalo Bills
BEST: LG Andy Levitre
WORST: RT Erik Pears
FREE AGENTS: G Andy Levitre, G Chad Rinehart, C Colin Brown
LG Andy Levitre had a very solid season but is a free agent that the Bills should look to retain. RT Erik Pears' injury opened up a spot for RT Chris Hairston, who may have earned himself the starting gig. CJ Spiller makes the run blocking look a little better than it is, but Ryan Fitzpatrick makes the pass block look worse than it is. This unit is pretty good. LT Cordy Glenn, Levitre and Hairston are all recent draft picks that the Bills have built around.
17. Washington Redskins
BEST: LT Trent Williams
WORST: RT Tyler Polumbus
FREE AGENTS: T Jammal Brown, G Kory Lichtensteiger, T Tyler Polumbus
RT Tyler Polumbus was the weak link while playing for the perpetually injured RT Jammal Brown. But it was a year of overall improvement for LT Trent Washington, with Williams stepping up along with C Will Montgomery and RG Chris Chester. LG Kory Lichtensteiger was a weak link and is a free agent, so upgrades and right tackle and left guard will be the primary targets in the offseason. With all of the picks traded last year for Robert Griffin III, Washington has to nail some mid-round picks and play free agency intelligently. All four of Washington's backup linemen are mid-round picks from the last two seasons, so this franchise might have a good feel for those middle rounds.
18. Seattle Seahawks
BEST: C Max Unger
WORST: RT Breno Giacomini
FREE AGENTS: T Frank Omiyale
C Max Unger is excellent, as is LT Russell Okung. But replacing RT Breno Giacomini and adding some competition at guard should be high on the Seahawks' to-do list this offseason. They may opt to go the free agency route for some of these, but the draft could help them as well. Picking RT James Carpenter in the first round in 2011 was a huge misstep as he has an injury history and projects more as a guard. RG John Moffitt was the better choice when taken in the second round that year.
19. St. Louis Rams
BEST: LT Rodger Saffold
WORST: LG Quinn Ojinnaka
FREE AGENTS: T Barry Richardson, G Robert Turner
LT Rodger Saffold had a nice bounce back season, but injuries hurt this offensive line and exposed its lack of depth. LG Quinn Ojinnaka was brutal in his brief stint as a replacement and was cut in October. Saffold projects better on the right side of the line, which means a left tackle should be in the Rams' sights come draft day. The play of the interior line was similarly uninspiring and could also use some help. Saffold, a 2010 second round pick, is the only high pick the Rams have used in recent years on a lineman. A first round tackle to help Saffold and company out seems likely.
20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
BEST: LT Donald Penn
WORST: RG Jamon Meredith
FREE AGENTS: T Jeremy Trueblood
Injuries hurt this unit. Getting top guards Davin Joseph and Carl Nicks back will help and allow RG Jamon Meredith much fewer responsibilities in the rotation. However, RT Jeremy Trueblood will be a free agent, so depth is a concern, despite the solid play of RT Demar Dotson. The Bucs have not drafted a lineman in any of the last three drafts. This may be the year to look towards more depth with Trueblood possibly leaving.
21. Carolina Panthers
BEST: LT Jordan Gross
WORST: C Geoff Hangartner
FREE AGENTS: G Mike Pollak
Losing C Ryan Kalil for the season hurt the Panthers immensely. Replacement C Geoff Hangartner was a terrible run blocker. While LT Jordan Gross is consistently reliable (albeit aging) and Kalil is returning, the team has question marks. LG Amini Silatolu struggled in his rookie season and RT Byron Bell was inconsistent. The team's line play will improve with Kalil's return, but there is room for improvement. A right tackle and a right guard would be good picks for the Panthers. Silatolu was the only high pick (2012 second round) the Panthers have recently used on a lineman. Some aid for the right side of the line would do Carolina a lot of good.
22. Philadelphia Eagles
BEST: LG Evan Mathis
WORST: LT Demetress Bell
FREE AGENTS: T King Dunlap, G Jake Scott, T Demetress Bell
The Eagles lost four of its five starters to injuries in 2012, dropping from the 2nd offensive in football to the 19th. Getting C Jason Kelce, LT Jason Peters and RT Todd Herremans back will help LG Evan Mathis immensely. However, there is room for improvement. 2011 first round pick RG Danny Watkins is a bust, and the team's lack of depth was exposed all season. There are also questions about Peters' health entering 2013. Drafting a tackle would allow Herremans to move to his natural RG position and replace Watkins. Aside from the Watkins pick, the Eagles tend to look for linemen late in the draft, and found good value in Kelce in the sixth round in 2011.
23. Green Bay Packers
BEST: RG Josh Sitton
WORST: C Jeff Saturday
FREE AGENTS: C Evan Dietrich-Smith
QB Aaron Rodgers’ high sack number has more to do with his habit of holding the ball too long than it does with deficiencies in pass protection. However, this unit is terrible in the run game, and no one exemplified that problem more than C Jeff Saturday, who was benched mid-year. RG Josh Sitton is solid, but the team needs to invest into some linemen who can help the run game. That starts with replacing the retiring Saturday at center. The team drafted LT Derek Sherrod in the first round in 2011 but he has not played since his rookie year after he broke his leg. 2010 first round pick RT Bryan Bulaga’s dislocated hip also didn’t help matters. Despite using high picks on the offensive line in both of those drafts, the need for center help may call for another high pick being used.
24. Dallas Cowboys
BEST: LG Nate Livings
WORST: RT Doug Free
FREE AGENTS: C Phil Costa, G Derrick Dockery
Doug Free's terrible contract has become one of the worst kept secrets in football. In a division with good pass rushers, Free was consistently exposed over the last two seasons. Livings came along nicely, but LT Tyron Smith made it clear he was playing a new position and RG Mackenzy Bernadeau was disappointing. A move to center might be in the works for Bernadeau (C Ryan Cook's days may be numbered), which would mean the team needs a replacement there too. Smith was taken in the first round of the 2011 draft, but other than that the Cowboys have mostly ignore the line in the draft recently. That needs to change in 2013.
25. Miami Dolphins
BEST: C Mike Pouncey
WORST: LT Jonathan Martin
FREE AGENTS: T Jake Long, T Nate Garner
The number one concern for the Dolphins is the free agency of LT Jake Long. LT Jonathan Martin was terrible in place of Long. The decision on what to do with Long will be a key component of Miami's draft strategy. The team could also use some depth at the guard positions that could push LG Richie Incognito or RG John Jerry for snaps. Using a high draft pick on the line has worked out for Miami: its 2008 and 2012 first rounders were Long and Pouncey, respectively. Using another one may be a smart play here.
26. Oakland Raiders
BEST: LT Jared Veldheer
WORST: RT Willie Smith
FREE AGENTS: G Cooper Carlisle, T Khalif Barnes
LT Jared Veldheer is a stud that you can build an offensive line around, and C Stefen Wisniewski does a nice job. But the rest of the line needs to be retooled. Right tackle should be the main focus: neither RT Willie Smith Smith nor RT Khalif Barnes got the job done there in 2012. The failed free agent signing of RG Mike Brisiel didn't help matters. With LG Cooper Carlisle heading for free agency, the team hopes that second-year guard Tony Bergstrom can step up and start. The Raiders have drafted well on the offensive line recently despite a lack of top picks. Having a full slate of picks in 2013 will help Oakland in several personnel groups, including on the line.
27. Pittsburgh Steelers
BEST: C Maurkice Pouncey
WORST: C Doug Legursky
FREE AGENTS: G Ramon Foster, C Doug Legursky, T Max Starks
The Steelers hope that this young line will improve with age, but the potential didn't show very often in 2012. The hope is that RT Mike Adams will blossom in his second season. Depth is a concern with the underwhelming but versatile C Doug Legursky and RG Ramon Foster heading for free agency. Pittsburgh has taken four linemen in the first two rounds in the last three years. Allowing projects like RG David DeCastro and Adams develop is likely the plan in Pittsburgh.
28. San Diego Chargers
BEST: RG Louis Vasquez
WORST: LT Michael Harris
FREE AGENTS: G Rex Hadnot, T Brandyn Dombrowski, G Tyronne Green, G Reggie Wells
QB Philip Rivers has demonstrated that he has no faith in his offensive line, and with good reason. LT Michael Harris was the worst tackle in all of football last season and should never have been put in a position where he was a starter. All of the tackles on the roster were bad and the Chargers will have to draft at that position. To make matters worse, the team's two best linemen, RG Louis Vasquez and LG Tyronne Green, are free agents. If the Chargers cannot retain them, things could somehow get worse. The Chargers have almost entirely ignored the offensive line in recent drafts, and it shows.
29. Jacksonville Jaguars
BEST: LT Eugene Monroe
WORST: G/C Mike Brewster
FREE AGENTS: C John Estes, C Steve Vallos, C Brad Meester, G Eben Britton
LT Eugene Monroe is excellent, but he's basically the only competent blocker on this line. RT Cameron Bradfield is not an NFL starter, LG Eben Britton was bad enough to be replaced by undrafted rookie G/C Mike Brewster, who struggled before getting injured. C Brad Meester has also been bad and could be forced into retirement if Jacksonville has lost its patience with him. Monroe and RG Uche Nwaneri are the only linemen who project as solid starters. The Jaguars have only drafted one lineman in any of the last three drafts and could desperately use some help.
30. Chicago Bears
BEST: LT J'Marcus Webb
WORST: RT Gabe Carimi
FREE AGENTS: G Lance Louis, G Chris Spencer, T Jonathan Scott, G Chilo Rachal
LT J’Marcus Webb's development was a pleasant surprise, though he still projects as a more effective right tackle. But RT Gabe Carimi's cementing his status as a bust who can't pass protect, even after a move to guard, and LG James Brown has been ineffective. The Bears are good enough in other places to spend some picks on the line. Carimi was the team’s only major recent offensive line pick and his failure to develop is a major reason the unit is struggling. Expect the Bears to use several picks on the line.
31. Indianapolis Colts
BEST: LT Anthony Castonzo
WORST: RG Mike McGlynn
FREE AGENTS: T Winston Justice, G Tony Hills, G Seth Olsen, G Jeff Linkenbach
The right side of this line was terrible. RG Mike McGlynn and RT Winston Justice proved that picking up Eagles castoffs was not a sound strategy. Both need to be replaced. LG Jeff Linkenbach was also a weak spot. Only LT Anthony Castonzo and C A.Q. Shipley and be relied on for next season. The Colts entered the 2012 Draft thinking they were set at the tackle position, but a second torn ACL for 2011 second round pick RT Ben Ijalana has put his career in jeopardy. After using its first four picks last year on offensive skill positions, the offensive line can be a bigger focus in this draft. However, the team’s defensive needs are just as urgent as the offensive line, which may complicate things.
It is hard to imagine any QB would or will want to play behind the Cardinals' offensive line
32. Arizona Cardinals
BEST: LG Daryn Colledge
WORST: LT D’Anthony Batiste
FREE AGENTS: G Pat McQuistan, C Rich Ohrnberger, T D’Anthony Batiste
LG Daryn Colledge and RT Bobbie Massie are serviceable, but the rest of the offensive line is a dumpster fire. RG Adam Snyder ended up being a bust of a free agent signing at. The return of LT Levi Brown will help a little bit only by default, though Brown has been a disappointment. While quarterback play has been terrible for Arizona, no quarterback can succeed behind this line. The Cards need upgrades all over it should be using several picks to address it. A left tackle should be the number one priority. The Cardinals haven’t used a high pick on a lineman since Brown in 2007 in the first round.
Dan Smith is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism and is an NFL Draft Show Producer. To contact him, email email@example.com.
About the Contributors
Senior / Broadcast Journalism
Dan Smith is the Executive Editor of ComRadio. He is also a producer for the Centre County Report. Dan is from West Chester, PA. He has broadcasted and written about many Penn State sports for ComRadio, including football, basketball, baseball, volleyball and softball. He has interned at 97.5 FM The Fanatic in Philadelphia.