NFL Offensive Line Rankings and Fantasy Impact

by Mike Tagliere | @MikeTagliereNFL | Featured Writer
Jul 10, 2017

The Cowboys offensive line has been among the best in football over the last few years, but they lost a few pieces this offseason.

Things come at you fast in the NFL. It’s hard to keep up with all the player movement, like for instance, did you know that Rueben Randle is on the Chicago Bears? He is indeed. For most, it’s literally impossible to keep up with everything. Of course you need to know where the skill position players moved to for fantasy purposes, but you should also know about the moving parts in front of them, the offensive line.

There have been some big changes over some of the top-tier offensive lines this offseason, and these moves can affect the passing game, as well as the running game. We’ve gone through and ranked all 32 offensive lines, giving you some insight on why they are where they are, as well as what it means for their fantasy prospects.

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  1. Oakland Raiders – There’s good reason why analysts are excited to see Marshawn Lynch play in Oakland, as they’ve assembled a star-studded offensive line that helped produce a combined 4.79 yards per carry between the underwhelming Latavius Murray, undrafted Jalen Richard, and fifth-round pick DeAndre Washington in 2016.
  2. Cleveland Browns – The Browns have quietly built what is arguably the best offensive line in football. Anchored by Joe Thomas at left tackle, the Browns added big name free agents and Kevin Zeitler and J.C. Tretter, and extended Joel Bitonio. The quarterback play is suspect and will create volatility among the pass catchers, but Hue Jackson has built the offensive line to run the ball the way he wants. If the defense can be respectable, they should run the ball at least 25 times per game behind this line.
  3. Tennessee Titans – The build of the Titans offensive line started back in 2014 when they selected tackle Taylor Lewan with the No. 11 pick in the NFL Draft, and continued when they selected their other tackle Jack Conklin with the No. 8 pick in 2016. They have solid guard play inside, too, allowing them to essentially run whatever kind of offense they want. With the additions of Corey Davis and Eric Decker, they’ll likely be throwing more often, but the combination of Demarco Murray and Derrick Henry will not be forgotten.
  4. Dallas Cowboys – In what seems to be overlooked this offseason, the Cowboys have lost two pivotal parts to their offensive line. Pro Bowl guard Ron Leary went off to the Broncos via free agency and right tackle Doug Free retired. This will change the continuity of the line play and will likely lead to more pressure on Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott, so look for an increase in dump-offs if that should happen. The Cowboys have hinted at getting Elliott more involved in the passing game to begin with. Some will scoff and say the Cowboys should be No. 1, but if you look at what the teams above them on the list have done, you’ll understand why they’re here.
  5. Pittsburgh Steelers – If you’ve ever watched Le’Veon Bell run the ball, you know that the Steelers offensive line does a phenomenal job. He’s almost too patient at times, but the offensive line allows that to happen and handles their assignments very well. They’re also the reason Ben Roethlisberger is able to go deep as often as he does. A very underrated unit in Pittsburgh.
  6. Philadelphia Eagles – If Jason Peters can stay healthy and Lane Johnson can avoid getting suspended, the Eagles have solid anchors at the tackle position. I don’t know if their unit is good enough to make LeGarrette Blount look good, but they should provide Carson Wentz adequate time to find his new targets in Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith.
  7. Buffalo Bills – Any time an offensive line produces 2.56 yards before contact for their running backs, they’re good in my book. The Bills offensive line did just that, while the next closest team was the Falcons who created 2.27 yards before contact. They also drafted right tackle Dion Dawkins in the second-round, which was their biggest point of weakness in 2016. If he pans out, they’ll move into the top-five.
  8. Atlanta Falcons – It was just one year, but the Falcons offensive line was phenomenal in 2016. The addition of Alex Mack made a world of difference. If Jake Matthews can continue to make strides at left tackle, the Falcons are going to have a very solid core up front to block for Matt Ryan. Despite the weakness coming at the guard position, they did clear 2.27 yards before contact for their running backs (2nd in the NFL).
  9. New England Patriots – If you’ve ever watched Tom Brady play football (who hasn’t??), you know that he relies heavily on his offensive line. Right tackle Marcus Cannon had been extremely disappointing before 2016, but made massive strides in protection. Left guard is their biggest weakness, though if it’s really that bad, they’ll move on and find someone else. The Patriots play chess while the rest of the league plays checkers.
  10. Chicago Bears – It’s odd to put the Bears this high, but if this is based solely off the 2016 season (it is), they massively outperformed expectations. With Josh Sitton and Kyle Long locking up the guard positions, their 2016 second-round pick Cody Whitehair looked really good in his rookie campaign. The tackle positions are still a big concern, which will affect the passing game more than it’ll affect someone like Jordan Howard.
  11. Kansas City Chiefs – They aren’t flashy, but the Chiefs offensive line has been steady run-blocking for quite some time. Eric Fisher may not have turned into the dominant No. 1 pick he was expected to be back in 2013, but he’s made strides and is now at least a starter-caliber type player. With no other big names on their line, it’s unlikely they outproduce this ranking, but they’re solid enough to support a good run game.
  12. Washington Redskins – While they have solid pieces at both tackle positions, the Redskins have slight concerns on the interior, as left guard Shawn Lauvao struggled to pass-block last year, and center Spencer Long didn’t grate as many running holes as you’d like. The continuity should improve, though, as the same five are expected to start, giving them a slight boost in the rankings.
  13. Denver Broncos – Some may be shocked at this ranking, but the Broncos made moves this offseason. They acquired Pro Bowl left guard Ron Leary and right tackle Menelik Watson, as well as drafted tackle Garrett Bolles in the first round. If Bolles is the guy many think he is, the Broncos have turned around what was a bad offensive line in 2016. Their running game is certainly improved by these additions.
  14. Carolina Panthers – The big signing for the Panthers this offseason was bringing in underwhelming left tackle Matt Kalil, who has been a massive disappointment in Minnesota. Maybe working together with his brother (Ryan) on the offensive line will help? The only truly solid players on this offensive line are Ryan Kalil at center and Andrew Norwell at left guard. Their run game should have more room than their passing game at this point.
  15. New Orleans Saints – When healthy, the Saints have a solid core of players up front. Terron Armstead and Zach Strief provide solid protection on the edges, while Max Unger locks down center. They played somewhat of a merry-go-round at left guard last year, but first-round pick Ryan Ramczyk may solidify that problem, or at the very least make up for the loss of right guard Jahri Evans. Armstead was recently diagnosed with a torn labrum, requiring surgery that will have him miss 4-6 months. This is also an offense that will adjust to their strengths, but that’s a huge blow.
  16. Jacksonville Jaguars – We are unclear if left tackle Brandon Albert is actually going to join the team after being traded for back in March, but the team did draft its contingency plan in the second-round when they selected tackle Cam Robinson. The biggest hole is at right guard, providing Albert is with the team. If Albert doesn’t show up and Robinson isn’t ready, you’d need to severely downgrade the passing game. If he does, they are actually better off than people think.
  17. Minnesota Vikings – It may actually be a good thing that Matt Kalil left via free agency, because it opened the door for them to snag tackle Riley Reiff in free agency, as well as tackle Mike Remmers, completely re-working the offensive line. It’s going to take some time, because Reiff is not used to playing left tackle in the NFL and Remmers wasn’t great last year, but hey, at least they realized that the unit they had up front last year simply didn’t work.
  18. Arizona Cardinals – As a team with as many issues as they had last year, you would’ve thought they’d address it with more urgency than they did. They didn’t select a lineman until the fourth-round, and they’ll apparently be relying on D.J. Humphries to move over to left tackle. That’s quite the shock when he wasn’t good in pass blocking at right tackle last year. If they can pass on that, they’ll be better off, but the offensive line is not exactly a strength of this team.
  19. Green Bay Packers – The Packers took for granted the blocking they had before the 2016 season when they let go of guard Josh Sitton, who went to the division-rival Bears. This offseason they lost J.C. Tretter to the Browns, and T.J. Lang to the Lions. They did attempt to rectify part of their issues with the addition of Jahri Evans, but it may take time. This is likely going to be a lesser offensive line than the one that gave their running backs just 1.0 yards before contact in 2016, which was the lowest in the NFL.
  20. Los Angeles Rams – A year after their offensive line was among the worst in football, the Rams decided to do something about it, adding mega-free agent Andrew Whitworth. He’s held down the left tackle position for the Bengals the last few years, and he’ll be replacing one of the worst left tackles in the game, Greg Robinson. I would’ve liked to see them snag a center in the draft to replace Tim Barnes, but we’ll take the massive improvement at the most important position. Jared Goff should have more time to pass in 2017.
  21. Los Angeles Chargers – It’s about time that the Chargers tried to do something with their offensive line. Year-after-year, they have been among the worst in the game, but have spent some equity at the position this offseason. Starting with left tackle Russell Okung (who isn’t great, but an upgrade nonetheless) in free agency, and then two guards in the draft, Forrest Lamp and Dan Feeney. If even one of the rookies can step up, the Chargers are headed in the right direction.
  22. Baltimore Ravens – The Ravens dealt with some injuries on the offensive line last year, leading to a disappointing unit overall. Rookie Ronnie Stanley did show promise at left tackle, and they also drafted two guards in the fourth and fifth rounds. If Nico Saragusa (fourth-rounder) can step in and play guard opposite Marshal Yanda, they’ll be in business, especially in the run game.
  23. New York Giants – The Giants badly need former first-round pick Ereck Flowers to take a step forward in 2017, as he’s disappointed the last two seasons, though he did improve. With all the weapons in the passing game, it’s unlikely opponents blitz as much, which may help. What doesn’t help is that they drafted receiving specialist Evan Engram to play tight end for them, because he can’t block.
  24. Detroit Lions – Losing right tackle Riley Reiff was a big blow to this offensive line in the offseason, and now left tackle Taylor Decker is out for 4-6 months, which is likely the entire season. With that being the case, their entire left side is a disaster, as left guard Laken Tomlinson struggled mightily last year. They traded for Rams left tackle Greg Robinson, but he’s been among the worst in the league. They also attempted to fill Reiff’s void by signing Ricky Wagner in free agency, though it’s still a downgrade overall. This is going to have to be a quick-hitting offense.
  25. Miami Dolphins – Trading away Brandon Albert may have had more with his contract issues than performance, because the Dolphins don’t really know how his replacement Laremy Tunsil will do at left tackle. He played guard most of the year in 2016, but he did pretty well. Even if he steps up, they still have a void to fill at left guard. Not to mention, Jermon Bushrod (the other guard) was awful last year. It’s important to note, because Jay Ajayi wasn’t the same player when their offensive line wasn’t healthy.
  26. Indianapolis Colts – The Colts played merry-go-round at the right tackle position and attempted to address that in the fourth round, selecting tackle Zach Banner who is known to be a run-blocking specialist. If he were to step up, it could also help their combination of right guards that were not very good in 2016. They are on their way to being where they want to be, but still have a little ways to go.
  27. New York Jets – Losing centerpiece Nick Mangold this offseason was a huge blow to a team unit that wasn’t great to begin with. Oddly enough, they also didn’t draft any offensive lineman; opting to instead take four skill position players in the first six rounds. With the way the defense is likely to struggle, expect whoever’s at quarterback to struggle as well.
  28. Houston Texans – Do you remember the hey-day for this offensive line back in the Arian Foster days? Well, they aren’t that anymore. Left tackle Duane Brown is still solid, but he’s also aging and has dealt with injuries. They have also gotten solid play out of former undrafted free agent Greg Mancz at center, the only other positive. Fortunately, Deshaun Watson is a mobile quarterback.
  29. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – It was shocking to see the Bucs ignore the most important position on the offensive line, as well as the weakest one on their unit. With the team seemingly going more pass-heavy, you’d think they’d want an upgrade on Donovan Smith, who is one of the worst pass-blocking tackles in all of football. Left guard Kevin Pamphile also isn’t a great lineman, making the Bucs left side one of the worst in the league. Jameis Winston may not have enough time to get the ball downfield to Desean Jackson.
  30. Cincinnati Bengals – Losing left tackle Andrew Whitworth and right guard Kevin Zeitler is going to hurt their ground game a ton. As far as I’m concerned, they have two glaring holes at both tackle spots, and their interior isn’t good enough to make up for it. Andy Dalton has the best weapons of his life around him, but it won’t matter if he isn’t given the time to get the ball out.
  31. San Fransisco 49ers – Outside of Joe Staley, this offensive line is not good, plain and simple. They were among the worst in the league last year, making it even more impressive to see Carlos Hyde post solid numbers. It was a questionable strategy at best that they didn’t select a single offensive lineman with their 10 draft picks. The only positive here is that they have one of the best players at the most important position, left tackle. It doesn’t help that they play in a division with some pretty dominant defensive fronts.
  32. Seattle Seahawks – Adding a bust from a few years ago at left tackle (Luke Joeckel) isn’t going to solve the Seahawks issues. They had 11 draft picks in the NFL Draft and selected two offensive lineman, but just one of them came in the first five rounds. Russell Wilson will be running for his life once again, but that’s nothing new to him. You have to wonder if the Seahawks are giving him the Philip Rivers treatment, and ignoring what a great offensive line can do for him.

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Mike Tagliere is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Mike, check out his archive and follow him @MikeTagliereNFL.


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