Here’s who stands out as we rank the top 10 tackles as well as guards and centers
It’s top 10 season here at CBS Sports as we’re ranking the best of the best at each position in the NFL leading into the 2020 regular season. We’ve already got you covered on quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, and tight ends, and now it’s time to get to the big boys up front as we rank the top 10 offensive tackles and top 10 interior linemen in the league.
This conversation is particularly interesting as we’re looking at multiple positions within each of these rankings below. Specifically at tackle, you’ll find that it was nearly an even split as there were six left tackles and four manning the right side who made the cut. As for the interior, there were a healthy amount of left and right guards along with centers.
As for how this was broken down and determined, we took into account various statistics from Pro Football Focus and other outlets along with age, durability, how the player’s offensive line performed as a unit, and the style of quarterbacks they were blocking for (which specifically came into play in determining the top spot).
Right off the bat, let’s give a quick tip of the cap to some honorable mentions, who just missed the list:
OT: Taylor Lewan, Anthony Castonzo, Jack Conklin, Jake Matthews, and Mike McGlinchey.
IOL: Maurkice Pouncey, Shaq Mason, Brandon Brooks (injury)
With all that out of the way, let’s get to it, starting at tackle.
Offensive tackle rankings
10. La’el Collins, Cowboys
The Dallas Cowboys are lucky enough to have two tackles land inside this top 10 list as La’el Collins has taken the leap after a career year in 2019. He was solid in pass protection, allowing just two sacks and 26 pressures, according to Pro Football Focus’ metrics. He also received the third-best run-blocking grade by PFF among all tackles. As a unit, Collins helped Dallas en route to ranking No. 2 in the NFL in Football Outsiders’ adjusted sack rate and paved the way for a top-five rushing attack. The 26-year-old just signed a five-year extension with Dallas last September and is seemingly just now scratching the surface of his potential.
9. Laremy Tunsil, Texans
Houston gave up a king’s ransom to acquire Tunsil last summer and he did reward them with solid play on Deshaun Watson’s blindside and earned the first Pro Bowl nod of his career. The Texans’ offensive line as a unit didn’t do Watson any favors in 2019, but Tunsil should be looked at as part of the solution more than the problem. No offensive tackle other than Baltimore’s Ronnie Stanley earned a higher pass-blocking grade on straight drop backs than Tunsil, which is encouraging. Penalties were the biggest issue for the 25-year-old during his first season with the Texans. Those 17 infractions were the highest in the league at the offensive tackle spot, but I’m curious to see how much of that was due to inexperience in the system. I’m banking on him fixing those errors in 2020 after being more familiar within the offense to solidify his spot here in the top 10.
8. Lane Johnson, Eagles
You can really make the case for any player on this list to be higher or lower because we’re honestly splitting hairs when it comes to this level of talent along and there’s probably no greater example of that here than with Lane Johnson. When he’s cooking, you could talk about the Eagles right tackle as the very best offensive lineman in the entire league. Pro Football Focus awarded him with the highest run-blocking grade of any tackle last season and he only allowed one sack during pass-blocking snaps. He’s elite. That said, Johnson was limited to 12 games last season and is now entering his 30s, which is what gives me pause from vaulting him up much higher.
7. Terron Armstead, Saints
I wouldn’t fight you too hard if you were making the case that Terron Armstead is too low here too. At the peak of his powers, he’s a top five offensive lineman, a key piece in making New Orleans’ high-powered offense hum and creates a heck of a one-two punch with right tackle Ryan Ramczyk. During his Pro Bowl season in 2019, he continued to show that he’s one of the league’s best pass-blockers, allowing just one sack and 24 pressures, per PFF. What keeps Armstead from going much higher in these rankings, however, is durability. Despite his immense talent, he has yet to play a full 16-game season for the Saints. The closest he came was last year, when he suited up in 15 contests and played in 88% of the offensive snaps.
6. Trent Williams, 49ers
I wanted to put Trent Williams higher on this list because I believe in his talent, but this is as far as I could go. That said, when the 2020 season is in the books it wouldn’t surprise me one bit to see Williams atop these rankings. Prior to missing all of last season due to a medical dispute with the Redskins brass, Willams was looked at as arguably the top left tackle in the league, being named to seven straight Pro Bowls. While there isn’t much reason to doubt that Williams can return to elite form in 2020 now that he’s with the 49ers, he does need to show us something before we blindly elevate him inside the top five. We truly don’t know what he’ll look like next season, despite his elite play when last seen, and he will begin the 2020 campaign at age 32.
5. Mitchell Schwartz, Chiefs
This past season was really just a great year for right tackle play in general and Mitchell Schwartz is firmly in the conversation as one of the best in the league. Even before his fantastic playoff run, Schwartz was great in 2019, earning second-team All-Pro honors. Kansas City’s offensive line was a top five unit in pass protection, ranking as the fourth-best group in adjusted sack rate, which is even more impressive when you factor in Patrick Mahomes’ fast paced offense. While Schwartz was strong during the regular season, it was the Chiefs’ run to their Super Bowl LIV title where he really shined as an elite figure along the O-line. Over that three-game stretch and 142 pass-blocking snaps, Pro Football Focus calculates that Schwartz allowed just one hurry. That’s it. Similar to Ryan Ramczyk, he may get overlooked because he plays on the right side, but that would be foolish.
4. Ryan Ramczyk, Saints
Ramczyk and Armstead arguably make up the best right-left tackle duo in the NFL, as New Orleans ranked No. 3 in the league in 2019 in adjusted sack rate, which is especially vital with 41-year-old Drew Brees under center. When healthy, you can make the case for both of these players to be even higher on this list. As things stand specifically with Ramczyk, he was named first-team All-Pro for the first time in his career last season after allowing no sacks and 20 pressures. He was also celebrated for his run blocking ability by Pro Football Focus, who gave him the best run-blocking grade among tackles who didn’t miss substantial time last year. He may be a little underrated because he plays on the right side, but Ramczyk is as elite as they come.
3. Tyron Smith, Cowboys
Injuries are starting to catch up to him a little bit, but when healthy, Dallas’ Tyron Smith should still be looked at as one of the premier tackles in the NFL. He’s been named to seven-straight Pro Bowls and has allowed only four sacks since 2017, including just one in 2019 over 13 games played. Smith was a key piece to Dallas ranking No. 2 in the NFL in adjusted sack rate, only to be outdone by New Orleans. Of course, what stands in the way for Smith to be considered the top tackle in the league is durability. He hasn’t played in a full 16-game season since 2015, which does hamper his value some.
2. Ronnie Stanley, Ravens
Stanley’s 2019 season was sensational. He led the left side of Baltimore’s offensive line during a historic rushing season where they broke the NFL record for most total team yards on the ground. He was also stellar in pass protection too, earning Pro Football Focus’ top pass-blocking grade after allowing just six pressures during the regular season and zero sacks. Given all that, it’s no wonder he was named First-team All-Pro and given a Pro Bowl nod for the first time in his career in 2019. We’ll discuss why he couldn’t reach the top spot below, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see Stanely rival for the label as the league’s best pass protector going into 2020 and beyond.
1. David Bakhtiari, Packers
Even as he enters his eighth year in the NFL, Bakhtiari still sets the standard at blindside tackle, despite a number of worthy players nipping at his heels for the top spot. He’s helped lead the way on a Packers offensive line that ranks inside the top five in the league last year according to Football Outsiders’ adjusted line yards and was a top 10 unit in adjusted sack rate. He was a second-team All-Pro in 2019 (only losing out to Ronnie Stanley) after playing in 100% of Green Bay’s offensive snaps and had the second-best pass-blocking grade, according to Pro Football Focus. The reason why he gets the edge over Stanley this year is because his job is a bit more difficult when factoring in the quarterbacks they block for. Aaron Rodgers holds the ball longer than most quarterbacks and isn’t as elusive as reigning MVP Lamar Jackson, making life a bit more difficult for Bakhtiari than Stanley. That said, you can’t go wrong with either and really should be looked at as 1A and 1B.
Alright, now let’s move to the interior of the offensive line and rank guards and centers.